Tuesday, March 31, 2009


From the Files of WTF?: The Continuing Plight of Kevin Frandsen

The Giants hate Kevin Frandsen. That's the only reason I can find for why they just refuse to let him play second base. After rehabbing his butt off trying to come back from an Achilles injury last season, the reward Frandsen gets is losing the spring second base battle to Emmanuel Burriss. This isn't the first time he's been slighted. Instead of trying him out as a starter in 2007, the team re-signed Ray Durham, a move that blew up in their faces. In 2008, with a third base vacancy, Frandsen never seemed to be regarded as much of an option before he got hurt, then the Great Jose Castillo Fiasco ensued.

I've made the Frandsen argument before, but it seems like it's worth repeating. Look at the Giants' lineup, with either Frandsen or Burris, take your pick, at second base. It's probably not going to be good regardless of who you put there. However, when I look at Frandsen's minor league line, I see a whole lot of hitting. When I look at Burriss's minor league totals, I see a whole lot of not hitting, especially not for any kind of power. Not to mention that Frandsen never hit below .300 in AAA, while Burriss barely played above that level before getting the recall.

Granted, Burriss held his own in a decent number of major league at-bats last season, but "held his own" doesn't equate to future success at all. I'd wager that past minor league performance holds more water than brief major league success, especially since said success is based totally on a punchless .357 OBP. The Giants' number one, unmistakable problem is going to be an inability to score runs, and it would seem to me that Frandsen just adds a little more offense.

Okay, so Frandsen losing out to Burriss kind of sucks, but at least I can stomach it if Frandsen is around as a backup. Um, he is still around as a backup, right?

Ohhhh, sorry! Frandsen got demoted to AAA so that the Giants could keep Eugenio Velez and Juan Uribe on the roster. Note to the Giants' powers-that-be: Velez and Uribe are terrible! Uribe can't hit and Velez can't do anything. Crazily, they're apparently keeping Velez around as a sixth outfielder. Has the team really forgotten that Velez committed the cardinal sin last year of blowing a win for Tim Lincecum? What. The. Hell.

And here I thought the Giants were done doing stupid things. Silly me.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Ronny Paulino, We Hardly Knew Ye

I mean, seriously, he was a Giant for like eight seconds. The team dealt lame-duck LOOGY Jack Taschner (proving his fortune-telling abilities to be quite adept) to Philadelphia for the erstwhile Pirate catcher Paulino, then turned around and immediately traded Paulino to Florida for A-ball pitcher Hector Correa. Paulino would have nicely filled the Giants' quota of slow catchers who don't know how to take a walk, but alas he never would have made sense given the presence of Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey.

The funniest part of this flurry of swapping is that the Giants look like they may have miraculously turned a totally interchangeable (not to mention bad) bullpenite into a real life prospect. Correa had a lost season in 2008, fighting blister problems and throwing only 13 innings all year, but in 2007 he showed promise. He struck out an eye-popping 83 batters in 58 and 2/3 innings as a 19-year-old in low-A. He then went to high-A and stunk it up, but whenever you show the ability to strike that many hitters out, anywhere, that's a sign of some kind of talent.

So basically the Giants got an incredibly young pitcher with promise for a guy who is likely to wash out of the majors in like a year. Sounds good to me. To replace Taschner, there's talk of bringing tragic hero Will Ohman (Bay City Ball and Lefty Malo have the dirt).

My thoughts: the Giants already have Jeremy Affeldt, and LOOGYs are just terribly overrated in general. The Angels won for a few years (sigh) with a great bullpen that didn't include a single lefty, and using up a roster spot on a pitcher who can only face one batter a game seems like a waste. Alex Hinshaw would seem to have dibs on the LOOGY role, but he has no control and hasn't been good this spring. Once again, the Giants are a team on the rebuild and at this point should probably just focus on filling the bullpen with the best pitchers they can find, regardless of which arm they throw with.

--This (scroll waaaaay down to the bottom) might be my favorite news of the year so far. The Giants have hired Steve "Bye Bye" Balboni as a major league scout. For those who don't remember, Balboni was the hulking first baseman for the Royals' 1985 championship team who developed a sort of weird cult following. He was a guy who could hit massive home runs and do little else. He ran like he was immersed in a vat of super glue, he lumbered around in the field with the grace of a drunken rhino, and he sported one of the all-time great mustaches.

Not surprisingly, he became a quirky fan favorite, a guy like Jack Cust, beloved for his odd talents and flaws. He also played a key role in the infamous Don Denkinger rally in Game Six of the '85 Series. I have no idea how good his advanced scouting abilities are, but I will say that it's great to have you on the team, Balb!

Friday, March 27, 2009


Friday Pablos

As we get closer to the season, the Pablo debate rages on. Will he continue his torrid hitting? Can he play an adequate third base? Can he even impersonate an animate object out there? If not, then who? Don't even go there. What the Panda will turn into is clearly the most interesting Giants storyline going into the season.

One thing is for sure: pictures like this don't inspire too much confidence in Sandoval's mobility. I mean, look at that. When a guy comes into Spring Training sporting an extra pillow under his shirt, ours fears of a porous left side infield defense aren't exactly allayed. The minute a ball is hit in the direction of the shortstop/third base hole, forgive me if the first image that comes to mind is of Homer Simpson jogging on a treadmill. Even Brian Sabean is expressing concerns about how long Sandoval will be able to stick there. The ghosts of Brenly aren't exorcised easily.

Sandoval's bat has to be in the lineup, though, especially if the Giants have any dreams of contending, but you knew that. The question is where to put it if the defense goes sour. First base is an option, but a platoon with Travis Ishikawa isn't, because Sandoval doesn't hit lefties. Bengie Molina is entrenched at catcher and I don't see him being traded, so rule that out. You don't want to bench him. Geez, when was the last time the Giants had a hitter this good who they just didn't have a place for?

One plus is that every Giants starter is a fly ball pitcher, and the Giants project to have an excellent defensive outfield (especially if Aaron Rowand returns to form), so maybe the team can endure the potential pratfalls at third base better than most. Maybe the coaching staff realizes this and that is why they're so willing to put an unproven, unathletic catcher at the position. Or maybe we'll see Conor Gillaspie up in June. You never know.

--TGIF Vid. I saw these guys open for Modest Mouse in Oakland last month, and they're pretty good. A little on the depressing side, but if they can lay off the painkillers they should develop a nice following.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Kiss My Tasch

Special Agent Jack Taschner may be close to turning over his gun and shield, as he's on the outs with the Giants and, by his own admission, probably won't be with the team come Opening Day. This begs the question: why the hell did the Giants even bother offering him arbitration in the first place? His spring has been a walk-infested nightmare and has he done anything good since 2005 anyway? Not really. All they get out of it now is the right to pay him $206K to go away.

Taschner came up in late '05 as part of that Bullpen Revolution that also included Scott Munter and Jeremy Accardo. Since that small stint, he's been just terrible, but when God graces you with a left arm that can pelt baseballs at 90 mph, you're bound to get several mulligans. Teams tend to be willing to put up with a lot of crap if there is even a hint that you can get the Ryan Howards and Carlos Delgados out in key situations on a consistent basis.

The only problem is that Taschner can't. Left-handed batters have hit .288/.349/.409 against him in his career. That's not terrible, per se, but if you're taking up a roster spot for the sole purpose of getting lefties out, you better be holding them to numbers threatening the Bocock line. So basically, Taschner just embodies that age-old conundrum: if you're a LOOGY who can't get lefties out, why are you even here? Why are you wasting our precious time?

He's about as pointless as early Joy Division. Expecting good music or something different, we're subjected to four guys who can't play their instruments worth a crap and Ian Curtis' uncontrollable screeching. With Agent Jack, we expect some left-handed one-out getting, but instead watch him walk the park before Bruce Bochy death marches out to retrieve him.

Of course, Joy Division eventually developed into a brilliant and enormously influential band. The chances of Taschner having a similar epiphany? Eh, not so much. He's 31 and still can't find the strike zone, and really not worth bothering with anymore (hell Curtis was 20 when his band broke through...he had room to grow!). The Giants added Jeremy Affeldt to the bullpen mix, and he's a guy who can pitch to lefties and stay in to face right-handers. Therefore, it just doesn't make much sense anymore to kowtow to dumb, super-specialized bullpen roles. The Giants just need to focus on getting good pitchers in the bullpen and worry about LOOGYs and whatnot later.

Taschner = not a good pitcher. The Special Agent will probably latch on somewhere. He has that sparkling left arm, after all! But really, folks, I never understood the fascination with the guy. Other than his cool name, that is.

Monday, March 23, 2009


The Little Utility Infielder That Could

It seems like only yesterday that Cody Ransom was run out of San Francisco after making a critical error in the ninth inning of that notorious Steve Finley/Wayne Franklin game in 2004 that ended the Giants' season. After that debacle, Ransom was unceremoniously cut, then spent the next few years bouncing around DFA lists, and we figured we'd never hear from him again, and so much the better. He was just a bad blip in Giants history, like Candy Maldonado's ole' in '87 or Alvin Mormon's short-lived antics in '98.

Now, in one of those inexplicable events that makes you seriously question whether there is any tangent meaning in the universe, Ransom is the talk of Gotham, as he'll be taking over for ARod for the duration of the latter's DL stay. Those of us who remember Ransom as the Fresno whiff-master extraordinaire and perennial hopeless September call-up are speechless, to say the least.

Yes, the ARod hating has reached such a fever pitch in New York that there's now an intense sense of excitement for our old friend Cody, a journeyman cast-off with a career minor league OBP of .322. The New York media mythmaking has already begun, as rumors are swirling of Ransom's ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Hey, at least it's better than talking about Mike Piazza's zit-infested back (seriously, Chass, we're getting worried about you).

After a few years toiling as an all-or-nothing hitter in the Giants' farm system (look at that 2002 line...eeeaagh), Ransom was brought up in 2004 as a late-inning caddy for the not-so-rangy Deivi Cruz. The only problem was that Ransom developed a horrible habit of flubbing ground balls in crucial late-inning situations, and it's hard to get much more worthless than a defensive replacement who can't, well, play defense.

After his fumbling of a double play ball that would have ended the disaster game that shall not be named (and, wouldn't you know it, the last time the Giants were good), Ransom was excommunicated from Giants-land. I had some not-too-kind things to say about him, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one. The Giants' bullpen was enough of a disaster that season on their own; they didn't need Ransom in there fucking things up even more.

So off Ransom went, not to resurface in the majors until 2007 with Houston, to the sarcastic grunts of the Orange and Black faithful. While still displaying the all-power, no-average minor league bat that he always had, he landed in New York, then seduced Yankee brass with a ridiculously small-sample-sized hot streak last season.

Since then, ARod got hurt, was outed as a steroid user (and an indiscriminating one, at that) and everybody has a completely irrational hatred of him anyway, so here we are. With a gaping hole at third base, the Yankees were content to go the Bocockian route instead of trading someone promising for a stopgap. Ransom happened to be standing there, and with the memories of his .621 slugging percentage in 82 major league at bats still fresh in the minds of Yankee brass, he was handed the everyday job.

Ransom now has the opportunity to become a sort of Yankee folk hero, like Shane Spencer or Scott Brosius, a player who isn't that good but has a stretch of unexpected competence under the spotlight that draws attention away from his flaws. Yankee fans are chomping at the bit to prove once and for all that the team doesn't need their overpaid choke artist of a third baseman. I can imagine Ransom coming in, hitting some home runs, and the Yanks treading water for a month with a weak schedule. Then ARod comes back, the Yanks play well, but miss the playoffs in a tough division, ARod is dismissed some more as a self-centered loser, and Ransom is turned into the Man Called Jayne due to his early not-so-horrid performance.

As a gallows postscript, sometimes I wonder: what if the Giants, in 2004, had just not even messed around with Neifi and had installed Ransom at shortstop for the first half of the season before Cruz came in? Would they have won the NL West? The Wild Card? Remember how mind-blowingly awful Neifi was. I'm not so sure I want to know the answer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Get Out of My Dreams, and Into My Third Base Opening

Jesus Guzman is making a case for himself to be on the Giants' Opening Day roster, maybe even as the starter at second or third. He's lighting up everything in sight this spring, batting .421 with four homers, one of them a monstrous blast that opened eyes all over the Cactus League. Is this Jesus the savior that will descend from the heavens and take us to the promised land? Is he the Jesus that will stick the gun in unmentionable places of opponents and pull the trigger 'til it goes "click"?

Well, if he is, it's a godsend not only for the Giants offense and Big Lebowski dweebs, but also for us blasphemers who take delight in dropping semi-offensive biblical wisecracks at every opportunity. I've seen enough Jesus puns in the last few days to last me a lifetime. That isn't to say they aren't entertaining.

You can do it with other Giants, also. Tim Lincecum is the tiny David slaying the Goliaths of the NL. Randy Johnson is Samson: long hair and indestructible (I don't want to know what his ERA will do if he cuts it, though). Randy Winn is like Job, having his faith tested by having to play on crappy teams his whole life. Brian Sabean is John the Baptist, signing Guzman and thus foretelling the coming of Jesus. Ryan Rohlinger is Onan, blowing his load early.

Okay, so that can get offensive and just plain...disturbing, especially if your mind is in the gutter like mine and you grew up exposed to The Residents. Let's get back to talking actual baseball and other things that won't get me a ticket on board the bullet train to Hell.

Is Guzman really this good? Obviously these are sample size shenanigans against awful spring pitchers, but it's clear the guy can play. He has always hit in the minors, so this torrid streak is hardly anything unusual. His defense is supposedly atrocious, but if his bat is anywhere near this good he's a guy you make room for and try to live with the circus act in the field.

The question is where to put him? Travis Ishikawa seems entrenched at first base, which means Pablo Sandoval won't be able to move there from third to make room for Guzman (and apparently the Giants are having second thoughts about Pablo's defensive acumen). If Guzman can't handle third base competently, he'd probably be a ten-car pileup at second base. Then again, the Giants lived with Ray Durham's phantom glove for a few years, so they might be willing to stomach Guzman if his bat is the real thing.

Personally, I'd rather just start Sandoval at first, Guzman at third, and send Ishikawa wherever. The Giants seem to like the Ish, however, so the best bet is to probably stick Guzman at AAA and see if his bat stays hot there. If someone slumps, Guzman is always there to take his place.

Then again, maybe we're getting worked up over a bunch of hooey. I mean, Rohlinger looks like Mike Schmidt out there and no one thinks anything of his bat. Spring stats do this to us every season and yet we never learn. Maybe Guzman is for real, maybe not. One is that is for sure is that he deserves a chance, somehow, someway, and the Giants are certainly a team that can afford to give it to him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Mays Field Death Slide--Fun For All Ages!

Remember those sunny days at Mays Field, where you'd go with your old man or your girlfriend to catch some rays in the bleachers? You'd take in the scenic bay view, kick back for some garlic fries and a brew, and just relax and watch some baseball. Just an idyllic scenario, something that would make W.P. Kinsella wipe the tears from his eyes and on to the paper where he writes his unreadable and pretentious prose.

Remember also the time when you decided to take your little lady up for a ride down the Coke slide behind the left field bleachers, and, as you went down, you caught your foot on a turn, broke your ankle, and were left totally unable to walk? Ah, baseball at the park. It just brings families together.

Wait, what? That's right, the Coke slide at Mays Field is apparently a veritable death trap, as several people have gotten seriously injured while riding on it and have made their voices heard through law suits. One person was already awarded $177,000 after getting hurt, and now it looks like the Giants and Coca-Cola are going to be dishing out more money for their contraption that would make Arcade proud.

Now Bill Neukom has to figure out what to do about the damn slide before the gates open and thousands of fans risk mortal injury on the Guzzler. I can't help but think of the mayor in Jaws, who knows there's a man-eating shark out there, but he keeps the beaches open in search of a profit, and poor Alex Kintner* gets eaten. If Neukom dismantles the slide, he'll save some people from injury and save himself from court. If he doesn't, many kids (and kids-at-heart) just won't get to have their fun, and isn't Coca-Cola paying a lot of money to advertise on that thing?

It personally have never gone on the slide. I figured it's only for kids and, I mean, just look at the thing. It looks like a monstrous medieval torture device. It's crooked, narrow, and just screams pelvic injury from the moment you lay eyes on it. So with the latest injury news, excuse me if I stick to my old Mays Field pastime: going twelve rounds with Lou Seal in the bleachers.

* Okay, how unbelievably pathetic is it that I know, without having to consult IMDb or anything, the name of the kid who got killed by the shark in that one scene in Jaws? I mean, yeah, it's like one of my favorite movies, but should only mean that I know most of the lines to Quint's U.S.S. Indianapolis speech (which I do by the way). But the kid on the raft? I think I may have just had what alcoholics refer to as "a moment of clarity".

You didn't think I was going to let you get away without an Irish-related St. Patrick's Day video did you? Before you freak out and think I'm going to indulge my U2 obsession again, no, we've got something that just might make you cry.

Monday, March 09, 2009


It's All Over Here Except for the Paulie

OK, something drastic happened. Unfortunately, Bugs and Cranks is changing their site around and is no longer doing team-by-team coverage, which means no more Giants, which means no more Paul Rice. So that means I'm reviving the ol' Stankeye, at least until the next ill-fated writing endeavor comes along. For those interested, all of my B&C work can be found here.

In my time there I probably managed to exhaust every Simpsons and U2 reference imaginable ("Drowning Man" on Valentine's Day? If only they break that out on the 360 tour). I also got mentioned by Rob Neyer, Baseball Think Factory, and Wall Street Journal online, so I gotta say, it was pretty cool while it lasted.

Anyway, enough of the past. While we're getting reacquainted, let's talk some Giants. We're going to laze ourselves back into this thing with a hacky bullet point post. Here are some goings-on in Giants-land and the baseball world, which is inching ever closer to games we can actually care about.

-- Dave Roberts is gone. I'm honestly shocked. I figured the Giants would rather bend over backward trying to find Roberts a spot on the roster as a fifth outfielder at the expense of a young guy than cut him outright and admit that giving him that three year/$18 million contract was a mistake.

I'd argue that the Roberts contract is almost on par with Zito's in terms of sheer idiocy. I mean, at least Zito was a star at some point. It made no sense to break the bank for him, given his declining numbers, but at least the Giants were in a bidding war with someone, indicating that they weren't the only ones who were still star-struck by the echoes of 2002.

Roberts, though? He was a good fourth outfielder on his best day, he was never anything close to a star, he had had three good years, and he was 35. The team had also just given Randy Winn a dubious contract extension, only to convince themselves that he couldn't play center field regularly, and had Fred Lewis, a better player than Roberts ever was, toiling away in the minors. Kenny Lofton would have also been available for just a one-year rental if they were really that desperate.

Instead, the Giants shelled out $6 million per year for Roberts and his ability to teach the young kids who didn't exist on the team's major league roster. Shockingly, the aging speedster didn't hit, got hurt, missed almost all of 2008, and Lewis came up and proved he was twice as good at a fraction of the cost. It was a move that was just a complete failure of brainpower at all levels. Just a complete fucking waste.

-- The OC. Orlando Cabrera signed with the A's for one year/$4 million, which makes the Giants' haste to ink Edgar Renteria questionable, to say the least. I'm no Cabrera fan, but he's superior to Renteria with the glove and probably his equal with the bat, so it may have been prudent to wait around and see how the market fleshed out.

I get the feeling the Giants are like some Walmart shopper camping out for Black Friday to get that XBOX 360 at a reduced rate, when he probably could just wait a few months and get it at an even lower price (I don't know if that's an apt analogy, but I had to work one of those a few years ago, and the emotional scars are still there).

In fairness, it would have cost a draft pick to net Cabrera and it's not like two years of Renteria is a big sinkhole. Even if he hits like 'twas 2006, he'll probably be worth the $9 million he's getting. Just think of Brian Bocock swinging feebly at belt-high fastballs and Renteria starts to look a whole lot better.

-- Hacktastic Panda. Beyond the Box Score shows us that Pablo Sandoval swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone than he laid off. I know a lot of fans are expecting Pablo to be one of the heavy hitters who will bring the Giants back to the promised land, but this is insane. Maybe he's like Roberto Clemente in that he can hit everything in his wingspan with authority, but those kinds of guys are extremely rare birds. Also, comparing a catcher with 140 major league plate appearances to one of the all-time greats is quite the bit of sacrilege.

All I'm saying is, if Sandoval hits .250 with no walks and starts cursing the bastard who brought BABIP into our national consciousness, don't say you never saw it coming.

-- Season starts...when? Ryan Rohlinger continues to prove why Spring stats are almost entirely meaningless, the strange Eugenio Velez fascination rolls on, and the only reason I care about the WBC is to make sure Jonathan Sanchez's arm doesn't fly from its socket. Sigh, can the season start already?

--Murray Chass has an unhealthy obsession with naked mens' backs. You know the steroid craze has gone too far when we're now obsessing over Mike Piazza's bacne. Just kill me now.

-- Let's see if I can remember how to plant a dumb celebratory video here once again.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?