Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Ranking the Giants of the 2000s

With the decade coming to a close (can you believe it's already been ten years since Mays Field opened? Scary), I thought I'd go through and rank each Giant team of the decade. The aughts were split into sort of two parts. The first half was the power years of the Bonds/Kent glory era, featuring a near-miss World Series appearance and a buttload of hitting. The second half was a more depressing slide into sub-mediocrity, as Brian Sabean tried his best to run the team into the ground in a sea of gawdawful veteran free agent signings.

Despite the losing in the latter half of the decade, I think we can all agree that it was a pretty fun ten years, featuring six winning seasons against four losers. That's nothing to complain about. Just ask any Pirates fan if they'd accept that level of success. With no more need for useless banter, let's start the ranking, from worst to first.

10. 2007 Giants (71-91)

Without a doubt the worst, most unwatchable team the Giants trotted out all decade, and probably the most uninspiring since the horrible 1996 squad. This team was the result of several years' worth of poor front office decisions and an offseason free agent spending spree that degenerated into a smoldering pile of WTF. Barry Bonds's home run record and Tim Lincecum's debut were the only reasons to watch, but even then, it was pretty hard to take. I think the point of the season where it became clear how bad it had gotten was at a game I attended where the team got shut out 1-0 by Lenny freaking DiNardo.

9. 2005 Giants (75-87)

What would the Giants ever do if Barry Bonds got hurt? Well, we found out the hard way when he missed almost all of the season, and Pedro Feliz had to take his place in left field. The answer was: lose a lot of ball games. Due to a horrible NL West, they inexplicably stayed in the race until the last week of the season, but they had no business sniffing the playoffs. Two miserable free agent signings (Armando Benitez and Mike Matheny), a bad year from Jason Schmidt, and several veterans falling off a cliff mixed together to provide one hell of a bad, boring team.

8. 2006 Giants (76-85)

They barely edge the '05 squad just because Bonds was around to provide a modicum of respectability, but they were still pretty terrible. A midseason winning streak led to an ill-advised trade for Shea "Why In Blue Hell Do People Think I'm Good?" Hillenbrand, and it was all downhill from there. Ray Durham's monster year and Schmidt's semi-return to form made things a little more watchable, though we had to sit through a full season of Matt Morris and Armando Benitez, which is no one's idea of a good time.

7. 2008 Giants (72-90)

It was a season that started off with a series of Bocockian question marks and ended with everybody on their feet at Mays Field, eagerly looking forward to the next season. Their record was worse than the '05 or '06 versions, but they rank higher because management was finally letting some young guys play and they ended the season on a high note, nicely foreshadowing the 2009 resurgence. Oh, and there was Tim Lincecum mowing batters down left and right, winning his first Cy Young and single-handedly making this team entertaining.

6. 2009 Giants (88-74)

It was a fun, inspiring season, but this squad was clearly the worst of the winning Giants teams, simply because they couldn't freaking hit. An insanely good pitching staff and defense led the team to a surprising run to 88 wins, albeit peppered with more than its fair share of emotionally devastating losses (dare I bring up that game in Colorado?). All I have to say about next year is: beware the Plexiglass Principle.

5. 2001 Giants (90-72)

You know your supporting cast sucks when you get historic performances from your left fielder and shortstop, and another All-Star-caliber year from your second baseman, and you still don't have enough offense to make the playoffs. This was probably the most underachieving Giants team I've ever seen. Black holes at center field, right field, catcher, third base, and first base, not to mention Livan Hernandez imploding in on himself, combined to sink a team that, talent-wise, really had no business missing October.

4. 2004 Giants (91-71)

A fun team that would just make you tear your hair out. The last Giants squad that could actually plate runs, they were an offensive machine with an ace pitcher and no bullpen to speak of. With even an average bully, this team would have blown by the Dodgers to win the NL West. Even with that carnage ensuing, the team still pushed the Dodgers into the last weekend of the season, before Wayne Franklin's last night on earth sank things for good.

This season is especially memorable for me since, in my need to vent after watching the Giants crap the season away, I was inspired to start this blog the following offseason. It was just a weird year, starting with the acquisition of A.J. Pierzynski, then one of my favorite players, and a guy who I was thrilled was going to be on the team (it obviously didn't end well). The Giants got off to a miserable start, but then hit a hot streak, touched off by a Jeff Weaver bitch-fest, and rolled into a classic rivalry race with LA. It was up and down until the devastating final weekend of the season. Oh, and we had to tolerate 319 Neifi Perez at-bats. Can't forget to mention that.

3. 2003 Giants (100-61)

A wire-to-wire, 100-win season, and it was just a crying shame that it ended with J.T. Snow sucking dirt as Pudge Rodriguez bellowed in triumph behind him. They weren't as good as their record indicated, which perhaps says something about Felipe Alou's managerial qualities, or maybe just dumb luck.

Looking at it now, this isn't a team that looks like they had any business winning 100 games. They had a superstar hitter in Bonds, and a supporting cast that could hardly be called world-beating. They had a stud ace pitcher in Schmidt, but the rest of the rotation was spotty and they had to bring in Sir Wide Load to bolster the staff for the playoffs. They essentially relied on a good bullpen, a terrific defense, two superstars, and some timely breaks (remember Jose Cruz's catch in this game?). Not a bad formula, but they were maybe the most vanilla 100-win team you'll ever see.

2. 2000 Giants (97-65)

Probably the most disappointing Giants team in memory. I mean, this team was good. They got off to a miserable start, but once the All-Star Break hit they started destroying everybody. Their pitching was solid, anchored by ace Livan Hernandez (yeah, you read that right), but it was the offense that carried them. Oh, that offense.

I seriously start to go gaga when I even start thinking about this team's ability to flat out hit the living shit out of the ball. I mean...look at this. Not only did they lead the league in OPS+, they absolutely lapped the field. No one could touch this offense. The lineup was a veritable Murderer's Row, filled with guys who bashed homers, took walks, and did just about everything you want in order to produce runs. With the paltry offense we have now, I look back at this with a nostalgic tear dripping down my cheek. God, look at Ellis Burks's batting line, then remember that he did this when Mays Field was playing like a pitcher's haven. That's insane.

Of course, once the playoffs hit, they forgot how to hit and Bobby Jones basically made them his bitch. Fans of other teams, you have no idea how embarrassing it is to type that. J.T. Snow's dramatic home run off of future Giant pariah Benitez made it look like the year was going to be magical, but instead it ended in a crumpled heap, much like Shawn Estes in Game Two. Just a friggin' tragedy.

1. 2002 Giants (95-66)

This team would garner the top spot simply because they came so close to the championship but, really, they were the best team in the NL that year. They were third in the league in ERA+ and first in OPS+ (it wasn't close), and they had a rock-solid defense, bolstered by some astute offseason moves by Sabean. Their Pythagorean record showed them to be a 98-win team (they won 95 in reality), and they had to fight in an extremely tough division. They proved their might by smoking through the Braves and Cardinals and then nearly beating a red-hot Angel team. All I have to say is...Damn you, Sandfrog!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


All I Got For Christmas Were Two Redundant Utility Players

I can't really tell if the Giants were naughty or nice this year because all Santa left was the signing of one solid, albeit 35-year-old, infielder and the rumor of the re-signing of a similarly skilled utility player. Today, the Giants signed super-utility man Mark Derosa to a two-year, $12 million deal, and there are rumors flying around that they're about to bring back Juan Uribe. Derosa can hit, he can play just about anywhere on the diamond, and he may make it so that we don't have to look at Edgar Renteria so much. Uribe, of course, turned down the Giants' original offer after having a solid year off the bench, but has now apparently had a change of heart.

Derosa is one of those guys who the Giants wouldn't have touched when he was struggling to prove himself as a younger player back in 2003 or so. It took a couple of years of decent production and enough veteran grizzle to get the Giants to even give him a second glance. I guess a nose-breaking defensive play and/or veteran neck beard is required before the Giants will extend you any kind of offer. Derosa's always been a good player, but he had a semi-inexplicable power spike two seasons ago, and his ability to pretty much fill in adequately at any position makes him an asset.

Yes, he's 35, and this won't stop the wags from taunting us by waving Depends wrappers any time soon, but he does improve the lineup, and if he craps out Renteria-style, no two-year contract can really hamstring a team. Plus, despite a poor showing in his time with St. Louis last year (likely brought on by a bum wrist), there isn't really any sign of a decline, not like the flashing red lights that should have kept the Giants away from Renteria a year ago. In the Stankeye book, without the safety net of hindsight, this signing gets the thumbs up.

If the Uribe rumors are true, it's another positive step. I had a long-standing hatred of Uribe for a long time after looking at his gawdawful hitting stats with the White Sox over the years, but after he came in and started mashing home runs for the Giants, my scowl quickly turned upside down. Uribe's deal is supposedly for one year with a club option for a second, which is just perfect. No one expects him to repeat his .824 OPS from last season, but if he completely craps out the team isn't on the hook for very long, and he's still a fine fielder. Hell, he can't be much worse than Renteria at this point.

I'm just wondering if the Giants need both of these guys. Don't they sort of fill the same role? Derosa is the better hitter, and he can fill in at several positions, and he isn't stretched as a regular. If he starts at third and pushes Pablo Sandoval to first base, where exactly does Uribe play? Unless Renteria just completely goes into the tank, I can't see him getting anywhere close to the 432 plate appearances that he got in 2009. Perhaps the Giants are keen to his limitations and don't intend to tempt fate by thinking he's got another 2009-caliber offensive season left.

I'd say it makes the most sense to give Derosa the majority of the time as the regular left fielder. First off, it monumentally improves what is now a brutal outfield situation. Second, it keeps Sandoval at third, where his bat has more value (and where his glove isn't, well, too terrible). It would also free the Giants from Eugenio Velez's Svengali-like hold on the team's brain trust. I have no idea how good of a defender Derosa is out there, but all reports say he's at least average. It would give the Giants a lineup scenario that goes something like this...

2B Sanchez
RF Schierholtz
3B Sandoval
LF Derosa
CF Rowand
C Posey
1B Ishikawa
SS Renteria

(/runs dry heaving into bathroom)

Yes, that offense still blows (and that's with me being insanely naive thinking Posey will be in there), but just picture that lineup with Velez at the top. I shudder to think. Derosa serves as an unquestionable upgrade, at a reasonable price, and it'll make the team better. There's still a long, long way to go, however.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Giants Can't Find Their Johnson

So Nick Johnson won't be a Giant after all. This weekend the brittle first baseman took a one-year deal to stage a heartwarming reunion with the Yankees, where he'll DH and add to a ridiculous Bronx lineup. Johnson apparently spurned a larger offer from the Giants, and when a man takes a deal like this in lieu of more money and more security, it's clear that he just plain wants to be a Yankee. There's really not a whole lot the Giants could have done here, other than try to convince NJ that they were moving back to the Polo Grounds or something.

Johnson was seen as the sort of Holy Grail of this offseason, the relatively cheap option that would provide a quick and dirty upgrade to the team's offense. Now it's back to square one. Options like overpaying crappy Adam Laroche or giving up something of value for Dan Uggla seem unappetizing. Jason Bay, who probably wouldn't have been a good fit anyway, turned up his nose at a five-year offer. No other free agent options are both cheap and appealing. The team still refuses to give Buster Posey the time of day. What to do?

Of course, the Giants can always go down the Matt Holliday road, swallowing their pride and shoveling oodles of money at the still-unsigned free agent. If all it takes is a five-year deal, it just might make sense. The team is serious about contending now, Holliday would be relatively young and still useful over the course of the contract, and he'd be a monumental upgrade to what is now looking like a lifeless outfield situation.

Of course, the Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand albatross contracts make that difficult, and that's where we always end up, anyway, isn't it? If Holliday really is demanding an eight-year contract (as rumored), then yes, the Giants should look elsewhere, but they've got to do something. Relying on what was tantamount to an historic performance by the pitching staff to repeat itself is a fool's errand. If just one of the pitchers slips or gets hurt, this is an offense that can't make up for it. I'm sure Sabean knows this, but it's not clear where any palatable upgrade will come from (not Jack Cust...please). There's only so much more Ish we can take.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Hot Stove Yawnfest

The baseball world has been abuzz with activity in the past week, with many teams making major moves involving ace pitchers, big free agent pickups, and even the obligatory asinine Kansas City player signing. Amidst all this hustle and bustle, the Giants have done...absolutely nothing. Brian Sabean hemmed and hawwed his way through the Winter Meetings with nary a new player to show for it, and now we're left with the same bad offense that we know so well, albeit now minus one player who would have probably helped. Here are some stray thoughts on the recent developments, or lack thereof, in Giants Land.

-I swear I thought the Giants would offer Ryan Garko arbitration simply because they didn't want to end up surrendering a decent prospect for two months of nothing. Many have surmised that this is a case of the front office not being able to distinguish sample size fooferah from Garko's true performance level, but I think it's just the Giants being cheap and not wanting to pony up for a guy they consider a platoon player. Not to mention, the Giants are all about defense, perhaps even taking it to an extreme, and Garko was just terrible in the field. Perhaps the non-tender is a sign they're looking to upgrade to a Nick Johnson or something.

-I'm constantly confused by this perception that a) Eugenio Velez is some kind of prospect growing into his talent and b) he's in any way adequate as a leadoff hitter. Velez is 28, and last I checked, when baseball players get to be that age, what you see is generally what you get. Also, Velez just isn't very good. His speed, which the Giants evidently love, hasn't translated into an ability to consistently get on base at the major league level.

This Velez/Andres Torres dancing bear act they have slated to start in left field has disaster written all over it. Don't get me wrong, I love Andres Torres. He can get on base and has a wonderful glove, but he ain't a regular. There's a reason he languished in the minors for the majority of the decade. Putting either of these guys at the top of the lineup is pretty much a death knell for any kind of run production. Do the Giants even realize how run-scoring works?

-The Giants signed erstwhile living Joe Posnanski punchline Tony Pena Jr. to a minor league contract, causing me to do an epic spit take. Now, when I heard this, I hadn't realized that Pena had already made the conversion from legendary offensive eunuch to budding reliever; I thought the transition was still in the rumor stages. Thus, I rolled my eyes when I heard the news, figuring here was a guy with a good defensive rep who the Giants would find way too much playing time for. Think Neifi Perez from Hell, if you can even begin to comprehend that.

In reality, the Giants signed him to give him a shot to contribute out of the bullpen. I guess it could work out, in theory. The guy has a good arm. Still, it's sad that this is the most exciting bit of Giants news right now as the baseball world is bustling with blockbuster moves. It does give me the chance to repeat my favorite Tony Pena Jr. factoid though, that in the midst of a season where he was hitting .169/.189/.209, he was for some reason intentionally walked twice.

-With the decade winding down, the trendy thing to do now is give out an All-Aughts list, so here's mine for the best Giants of the 2000s, admittedly mostly just off the top of my head.

1B J.T. Snow
2B Jeff Kent
SS Rich Aurilia
3B Pablo Sandoval
LF Barry Bonds
CF Marquis Grissom
RF Randy Winn
C Benito Santiago

SP Tim Lincecum
RP Robb Nen

Crotch-Kicking Malcontent: A.J Pierzynski
Player Inspiring Most Burned Effigies: Neifi Perez

The no-brainers here are Bonds, Kent, and Snow, though Snow gets minus points for his contrived "comeback" in 2008. Aurilia's ridiculous 2001 season and his awesome goatee help him edge Omar Vizquel, who gets docked for two truly horrible years with the bat in 2007 and 2008. Since I refuse to nominate Pedro Feliz for anything praiseworthy, we'll cheat a little and give Sandoval the nod due to his brilliant 2009. I'd love to give the honor to Bill Mueller, but he only served as the regular for one season this decade (and wasn't nearly as good as Pablo, obviously), which is kind of weird when you think about it.

Grissom leads a surprisingly uninspired group of center fielders. That will happen when you enter the century with Marvin Benard penciled in the lineup card every day. Also a bit of a surprise is Randy Winn, who was solid offensively, spectacular defensively, and edges single seasons from Ellis Burks, Reggie Sanders, Jose Cruz Jr, and Michael Tucker. Santiago's home run in the 2002 NLCS, perhaps the biggest in San Francisco Giants history, plus two solid years with the bat, give him a photo finish win over Bengie Molina.

Picking between Tim Lincecum and Jason Schmidt for best starter was a doozy, but in the end I had to go with Lincecum's two Cys and the two seasons leading the league in strikeouts. It's certainly arguable, though. Less debatable is Nen, who may be the Giants' best closer ever and literally gave his career to trying to get the Giants a title.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


A Look at Giants Managers

Trying to quantify how much impact a manager has on a baseball team is an endeavor that has driven many a baseball analyst into insanity's cold grasp. How much of a manager's performance is based on personnel, and how much is due to skill? How many games does a great manager win for his team over the course of a season, and how many does a moronic one lose? Are laid back managers more effective, or do dictators in spikes get more out of their teams? Is Joe Torre really a genius destined for the Hall of Fame, or was he just in the right place after Buck Schowalter made some really stupid moves in the 1995 ALDS?

I don't know the answers, but luckily Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times has done some painstaking research into the realm of baseball managing, and has written a book detailing every manager in the history of the game who spent significant time at the helm of a team. The book hit stores today, and fortunately for me and the Stankeye readers, Jaffe himself was kind enough to send me a sort of sneak preview of the book, to share with you Giants fans.

For each manager, Jaffe has written a brief profile of their tendencies, their in-game strategies, their lineup constructions, their interaction with players, and the characteristics that their teams consistently displayed. I was given a chance to check out Jaffe's writeup of each Giants manager, from Cap Anson to Bruce Bochy, and give you Giants fans kind of a mini-preview. The excerpts include stuff on managers from the New York Giants, of course, but I figure most readers will be more interested in the managers of the San Francisco incarnation, so the bulk of my comments will focus on that. Here are some of the interesting tidbits I came across as I read through the material.

-The section on John McGraw is probably my favorite, and it goes into how McGraw was essentially an authoritarian who demanded that everybody play strictly by his rules. Think that would fly these days? He was a hardass who rarely had the benefit of having Hall of Fame players on his team, with really only Christy Matthewson and Mel Ott being bonafide all-time greats who played under his wing.

McGraw was apparently one of the great managers, if not the greatest, at developing young talent and giving unproven guys a chance. In other words, he's like the anti-Dusty Baker, and he would never be seen running a Brian Sabean-led organization. The laundry list of good players who developed under McGraw is astonishing, including more than one Hall of Famer (though most of those are in only because of the outright cronyism permeating the Veterans Committee in the '40's and '50's). Hint to Bruce Bochy: take some advice from this guy.

-Al Dark, who led the Giants to within one screaming line drive of a World Championship in 1962, and who led the A's to a title 12 years later, is portrayed as somewhat of a cipher who hadn't mastered race relations. Many of the hispanic players on the Giants despised him and Willie Mays wouldn't talk to him by the end of his tenure. To be fair, though, apparently many of the players ended up mending ways Dark in later years. In Jaffe's words, he probably gained as little respect as humanly possible for a guy who led two teams to pennants.

-Jaffe's study on Roger Craig reveals that Ozzie Smith might have Craig to thank for being a Hall of Famer. Seriously. In San Diego, Smith, despite his miserable hitting, was such a good fielder that Craig stuck with him to the bitter end when many managers wouldn't have. Craig loved defense up the middle, especially the ability of his infielders to turn a double play, and thus loved Ozzie, who may be the best defensive player ever. Smith, of course, eventually blossomed as a hitter and Craig may be the reason he got a chance as a regular at all.

Of course, we all remember Craig as the manager who helped pull the Giants out of the dark ages in the 1980's and led them to two playoff berths. According to Jaffe's research, he had quite an obsession with avoiding (and turning) double plays, and ordered more hit-and-runs than almost any manager. Having a staunch hatred of the hit-and-run play, I would probably have been driven nuts by this. Craig also coaxed career years out of many veteran pitchers (perhaps most notably our favorite announcer Mike Krukow), and must have been doing something to get his pitchers to stay in the strike zone. He's apparently the only (long-tenured) manager in history to never have any starter walk 80 batters in a season. (!)

-Ah Dusty Baker. Jaffe's argument for why Baker suddenly turned from a genius into a doofus upon leaving San Fran for Chicago is essentially due to context. Baker was in a situation in San Francisco that played to his strengths. It was a veteran-loaded team, a team that was offense-oriented, a team that had a star player who you would be crazy to screw with, and a team that had hardly any public disputes during Baker's tenure (the Kent-Bonds dugout scuffle notwithstanding).

In Chicago it was basically the exact opposite, and Baker couldn't hang. It was loaded with young players who deserved a chance, it was led by a young starting pitching staff, and it was a team made up of, according to Jaffe, a bunch of thin-skinned ninnies, as seemingly every clubhouse dispute spilled out into the media (including one ridiculous incident that resulted in a tiff with Cubs announcer Steve Stone). The Cubs situation just didn't play to Baker's strengths at all, and thus he's seen in Chicago as something akin to Mao Tse Tung.

-Regarding Felipe Alou, Jaffe asserts that the only reason Alou isn't considered a Hall of Fame manager is because of racism. You read that right. We all remember Alou as the ancient manager from 2003-2006 who often looked lost in the dugout and had an episode of epic crazy when he called Larry Kruger the "messenger of Satan" on KNBR, but it's easy to forget how highly-regarded he was when managing the Expos in the '90's. His team almost always outperformed their Pythagorean record (the 2003 Giants beat it by eight games), and he was well-liked wherever he went.

Jaffe's argument that racism cost him a plaque is based on (admittedly circumstantial) evidence taken from the fact that Alou didn't get a chance to start managing until he was in his late-50's, as baseball didn't make a push to integrate black managers until the 1990's, after Al Campanis's buffoonish remarks on Nightline. Since most managers are winding down their careers by that age, Alou probably lost a good 15-20 years of managerial service in the prime of his career, a timespan that could have cemented his standing as one of baseball's great managers.

-Two things about Bruce Bochy. One, he has a terrible--terrible--track record of developing young players, which should bring a shudder to any Giants fan hoping Buster Posey will blossom under his wing. Two, Jaffe calls him the greatest manager ever with a career losing record, which seems like a back-handed complement, but he really did get decent performances out of some Padre teams that had zero talent. He does neglect to mention how Bochy royally screwed up two games of the 1998 World Series.

I'm always a little skeptical of the many saber-books that are now becoming ever more plentiful on bookstands now, because a lot of them have a tendency to devolve into mind-numbing, uninteresting number crunching and aren't particularly well-written. A few of the BP books (not the annuals, mind you), I found nearly impossible to sit through, and some others, like J.C. Bradbury's Baseball Economist and Dayn Perry's book about winning teams, were about as insightful as reading coffee pot instructions.

However, from what Jaffe provided me here, this doesn't seem to be the case. There is a fair share of saber-talk, but it doesn't overwhelm the narrative, and if you aren't a big stat nerd, it appears you'll still get a lot out of it. The work going on at THT is some of the most interesting (and lucid) modern baseball analysis you'll see, and Jaffe's book appears to be a solid extension of that work. It's already on my Christmas list, and I'll be doubly excited if he found the time to include a writeup on Maury Wills' disastrous (and hilarious) stint as manager of the Mariners.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


So Many Rumors, So Little Time!

The Giants have been linked to seemingly every crappy free agent the past couple of days as the Winter Meetings have raged on, but absolutely nothing has gone through, and the Giants as of right now have made no major transactions. Judging from the caliber of player they've supposedly been coveting, perhaps we should be thankful for that fact. Here is a quick rundown of some of the more horrific possibilities that have been thrown out there.

-Miguel Olivo. The Giants "need" a catcher, so why not sign Bengie Molina's clone? On the plus side, he's got a cannon arm and is solid defensively. On the down side...everything else. A prime candidate to hit more home runs than he takes walks, and that's not a good thing. If the Giants think one year of Olivo is better than starting Posey early, methinks it's a sign that they don't know what they're doing.

-Jose Molina. I'm hoping one of the Giants' beat writers just had too much to drink one day and threw this out there just to have some fun with us. Cruel bastards. I mean, why on Earth would any team be interested in giving a major league deal to one of the worst players you'll ever see grace a baseball field?

-Mark Derosa. This isn't horrible, per se, but still unneccessary. Derosa plays six positions, has some power, and is a decent all-around hitter, which is all well and good. It's just that the 20+ home runs he hit in each of the past two seasons might up his price to where he's asking for a multi-year deal. At 34, he's the type of guy who suddenly gets old and leaves you wondering what the hell you're paying for, kind of like Aaron Rowand. No thanks.

-Scott Podsednik. Just a perfect Brian Sabean player. Short, scrappy, fast, and carrying a "gamer" reputation that masks the fact the he really sucks. In a sane world, signing him wouldn't make any sense just from a roster standpoint, but this is the Giants we're talking about. If Podsednik is brought in, it's a sign that this offseason has gone off the rails.

-Kevin Kouzmanoff. The rumor had the Giants offering Kevin Frandsen and Fred Lewis for the Kouz, but apparently the Pads turned it down. Kouzmanoff is a bad fielding, hacktastic slugger who would push Pablo Sandoval to first base, thus making him less of an asset. He's probably not worth bothering with. Lewis should be the everyday left fielder, but the Giants hate him, and the same goes for Frandsen.

-Adrian Beltre. The Giants aren't going after him, but this was my favorite little story from the Winter Meetings. In response to Sabean's stated lack of interest in Beltre, agent Scott Boras griped that the Giants should be interested in his client since they need the offense. Sabean came back by saying that if Boras is so smart, perhaps he should run his own team. The two then got into an effeminate slap-fight. Sabean should have told Boras that the fact that the Giants need offense is exactly why they aren't going after Beltre.

-Nick Johnson. He's still being linked to the Giants on a daily basis. He's the only free agent option here that makes sense, although his market value is still impossible to figure out. It looks like Ryan Garko is almost certainly going to be non-tendered, so an NJ signing definitely looks like a distinct possibility, and I'd be all for it.

Monday, December 07, 2009


From the Files of WTF?!?!: Buster Posey

I took Bengie Molina's departure to mean that the Buster Posey era had begun in San Francisco, but evidently not. After a "raging debate" at the round table, the Giant front office decided that Posey isn't ready to be the every day catcher, and will be sent to AAA to start the 2010 season. Thus, the Giants will turn toward free agent options to fill their catching hole for next season. Some names that have been thrown out include Ivan Rodriguez, Henry Blanco, and, God help us, Jose Molina. This group of washed up veterans and/or ne'er-do-wells is seen as a more viable alternative to one year of an inexperienced Posey. Urge to kill...rising...

Before I consider taking up a new hobby in axe collecting, let me step back and consider two perfectly legitimate reasons why the team is not declaring Buster Posey to be their starting catcher next season. One, having already been bitten in the ass by Tim Lincecum and his oncoming nightmare arbitration case, perhaps they'll wait a month to bring Posey up and thus delay his potential "Super Two" status should he come up and immediately start playing like Johnny Bench.

This makes perfect sense, though I doubt most fans will be very patient with this penny-pinching approach. If the Giants miss the playoffs by one game because Eli Whiteside was crapping it up for a month when Posey could have been in the majors, I doubt anybody is going to want to hear Brian Sabean's excuse of getting to save a few bucks.

Second, perhaps the team has every intention of entering 2010 with Posey as their starter, but are hand-wringing in the press now because they don't want to heap too many expectations on the kid and psych him out. If that's the case, fair enough, and it actually makes some sense. Let Posey go into Spring thinking he's battling or a starting job, let him "earn" his place as the everyday catcher, and prevent him from putting too much pressure on himself under the belief that the team considers him the savior of the offense.

I can live with that. What I can't live with is the chance that the Giants legitimately don't believe that he's ready for the major leagues. Posey has had 592 plate appearances in the minor leagues, so there shall be no small sample size arguments here. In those plate appearances, he's hit .327/.421/.538, including a quick .902 OPS at AAA. We aren't talking about a guy who simply held his own, or had a nice showing or two in the minors. There isn't a debate about whether or not his bat will translate to the majors. This is a guy who blasted the ever-loving crap out of the ball at every level and has nothing else to prove. Not a bloody thing.

An argument I hear all the time is that he isn't ready to call games for major league pitchers, especially pitchers with electric stuff like those on the Giants' staff. I really doubt a pitcher's game-calling ability makes much of a difference, but, assuming that it does, my question is: even if that's true, how is stashing him at AAA going to teach him to be a major league game-caller? How does catching Kevin Pucetas and Matt Kinney for 180 innings a year prepare him for Tim Lincecum? I mean, what sense does that make? Wouldn't the best way to gain experience calling pitches for major league pitchers be know...catch pitchers in the major leagues?

The Giants gave Posey a $6 million signing bonus because they thought he was a premium talent who would be a key member of a championship-caliber baseball team. This dicking around with his status on the 25-man roster is just confusing and senseless. If he's not ready now, when is he ever going to be? At 22, it's not like he's some skinny kid right out of high school who needs to grow into his talent. He's here, he's a major league player, and the Giants should just give him the catching reins and back off. If Sabean seriously thinks a year of Jose Molina is a more appetizing option than a green Posey, we need to pray there's some hidden termination clause on that contract extension he just signed.

Thursday, December 03, 2009


TGIAF Ramblings

Thank God it's almost Friday, which means I still have to slog through another day at work. Let's see, it's Friday eve, I've got beer at my hip, a classic 2002 NBA game between the Chris Webber-era Kings and Mavs going on NBATV, a pirated U2 concert from Las Vegas going on the iTunes (a show where they screwed up almost every song), and I'm ready to ramble about the Giants. Could life get any better right now? Well, I guess if a horny Ziva from NCIS burst through my door and savaged me. But I digress...

-I've been pondering Tim Lincecum's looming arbitration case some more in my spare time (yes, I think about these things a lot as I go about my day, sadly). A lot of fans are speculating that Lincecum might invoke an extremely rare clause in the arbitration process that allows for a player to cite a "special accomplishment" (i.e. winning the Cy Young Award) in order to compare his market value to other free agents, as opposed to other first year arb eligibles. The thinking goes that Lincecum will use this to request a $23 million figure (stacking himself up with C.C. Sabathia's record contract for a pitcher), and since the Giants have no case against his performance on the field, he'll win easily and the team will be forced to pay two pitchers around $20 million in 2010. A terrifying thought, indeed.

There are two problems I see here, though. First, the "special accomplishment" provision is a little nebulous here. It doesn't specifically state winning the Cy Young, and you can expect the Giants to nitpick this to death trying to get out of paying Lincecum an exorbitant sum. The team could theoretically argue that the provision pertains to winning a World Series MVP or the NL MVP or something regarded as more team-related, not an "individual" award like the CY. Yes, a convoluted stretch, but it gives the Giants a better argument than they have going purely against his numbers.

Second, there's just no precedent for this, at all. I think the only way Lincecum loses an arbitration case is if he submits an insanely high number, because the Giants can simply argue that no one has been awarded anywhere near this type of money in arbitration, special provision or no, in the history of the game. I'd guess that Lincecum's agent realizes this, and I really doubt that we'll see any outrageous monetary demands out of the Lincecum camp.

If I had to guess, I'd say the Giants offer Timmy $9 million (citing that it breaks Jon Papelbon's record for first-year eligible pitchers), Lincecum comes in with a request of $15 million, and the two settle at $11.5-$12 million, still comfortably shattering Ryan Howard's record for first year eligible players. Make no mistake, Lincecum is going to make a crapload of money, but it's probably not going to be the cataclysmic amount some are predicting, and I doubt this goes before an arbitration panel.

-When you follow Tim Dierkes's peerless MLB Trade Rumors site on Twitter, you stay in tune with all of the latest rumor-mongering going on around baseball. That part's awesome, but you also get exposed to terrifying reports like this, that the Giants are interested in free agent Brad Ausmus, aka every sabermetrician's idea of a bad joke. The Giants are in the market for a Crash Davis to Buster Posey's Nuke LaLoosh, so why not a guy highly regarded for his veteran savvy and genius behind the plate?

Sigh. Let's not mince words here. Ausmus is fucking terrible. He's inexplicably carved out a long career despite having no discernible talent for playing the game of baseball. Other than a total fluke last year, he's been a nothing with the bat for ten years and even his catching game has deteriorated to the point where he just isn't a major league-caliber player anymore. Unfortunately, he has a reputation that outweighs his actual on-field performance and that's been like crack to Brian Sabean in the past (think Mike Matheny or Aaron Rowand).

There were rumors that the Giants were also interested in bringing back Yorvit Torrealba, who would have some value as a backup, because at least he can still play. I'd rather the Giants throw some money at him and play him part-time with Posey than have to waste precious moments of my life watching Ausmus 60 games a year.

-Speaking of arbitration eligibles, what about Ryan Garko? Looking solely at his catastrophic half-season with the Giants, he'd seem like a prime non-tender candidate. Unfortunately, the Giants gave up a decent pitching prospect to get him, and they're probably loathe to let Garko leave after getting just two months of zero production for a quality arm.

Make no mistake, Garko was miserable with the Giants last season. He looked off balance just swinging at fastballs down the middle, and he certainly looked like a nightmare fielding his position at first base. He's not this bad, though, and since the Giants need power and patience any way they can get it, it's probably worth offering arbitration and bringing him back. He's not likely to get a substantial raise, and a Garko/Travis Ishikawa platoon scenario isn't the worst thing in the world, with Garko getting the bulk of the playing time against lefties and being spelled by the Ish late in games for defense. I can think of worse options.

-TGIAF Video before I go. This is my reaction when the news breaks that the Giants have signed Henry Blanco to be their starting catcher and will have Buster Posey start 2010 in AAA.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


They Call Him Mr. Glass

Well, forget my last post ever happened, because I was completely wrong about Bengie Molina being offered arbitration, as the Giants let him walk and won't bother doing the dance to try to wrangle a draft pick from him. Apparently the fear of Bengie accepting and being awarded an $8 million contract or something was too frightening a concept. The team also neglected to offer arbitration to any of their other free agents, including Juan Uribe, who I thought was the only other player the team might take a chance on.

So our favorite chubby catcher glides slowly (very slowly) off into the distance. Let's set our sights on another free agent who was (somewhat surprisingly) refused arbitration today, and who has also been linked to the Giants: Nick Johnson. Johnson has been mentioned as a possibility for the Giants to fill their offensive black hole at first base. Johnson is an OBP machine with a hint of power who would immediately come in and qualify as the team's second-best hitter. The upside is the monster 2006 season he dropped, and when he's healthy he's a genuine offensive force.

The problem is, the guy is never, ever healthy. Take it from me, a guy who has Johnson on his fantasy keeper league team, and who had to sit through two years of nothing in 2007 and 2008 while he recovered, slower than dripping glue, from various injuries. Screw hurting himself getting out of bed; Johnson breaks his wrist counting sheep in the middle of the night. The over/under on games played in a full season for him is like 80. He just cannot freaking stay on the field. I saw him dive headfirst into second base on a double last year and had to put my hands over my eyes, so sure was I that he'd come away with a dislocated shoulder or something.

Johnson's health concerns make trying to gauge his market value nigh-impossible. I have no idea what Johnson stands to get this offseason, other than to say that he's going to be marginally more expensive now that he won't cost a draft pick. Are enough teams going to be scared off due to his injury history that he'll only land a one-year deal? Is some team going to bite the bullet and give him a multi-year deal, risking throwing money into a sinkhole just to have his bat?

My guess is that he'll end up getting a two-year deal, worth around $13 million, loaded with playing time incentives. His bat is worth more than that, but the still-rough economic climate and the aforementioned injury concerns will drive down the dollars. Will the team that signs him be the Giants? Well, Johnson is a local boy (Sacramento represent!), and Bruce Bochy seems to adore him, so it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. If anything does happen, I'm guessing it won't be until late in the offseason.

-Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times is releasing a new book studying managers throughout baseball history and attempting to quantify (if it's even possible) how much effect they have on their team's performance. To plug his book, Jaffe is releasing excerpts on THT, and his most recent one should have a place close a Giants fan's heart, as it focuses on the career of Dusty Baker. It's a very interesting read, and focuses on the reasons Baker went from being hailed as a genius manager with the Orange and Black to being regarded as a dimwit with the Cubs.

Baker, of course, won three Manager of the Year Awards and was generally regarded as one of the best managers in the game when he was with the Giants. If you ask any Giants fan, they'll generally sing Dusty's praises when asked if they liked him. When he went to Chicago, though, things went to hell the second Steve Bartman intervened and now Baker is seen as a war criminal who ruined the careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. He's now been exiled to Cincinatti, a fate worse than death, probably, where his worst sins now involve batting Wily Taveras leadoff full time.

I remember Baker very fondly, but he had some annoying traits when he was with the Giants, including his veteran fetish and an over-reliance on goofy "hunches". The one thing I found most infuriating, though, was his penchant for falling in love with bizarre pet players, and playing them way, way more and in higher-leverage situations than they ever deserved. Solomon Torres is the most obvious one, but the Baker man-crush that drove me totally nuts was with a guy named Manny Aybar in 2002.

Aybar was a crappy pitcher who had a string of like three good games down the stretch that year, and Baker decided he was integral enough to include on the playoff roster. I'm still wondering why, exactly. Against the Braves in the first round, Aybar was brought in to a bases loaded situation in a close Game 3, and threw exactly two pitches. One was lined for a run-scoring single, the other was crushed for a grand slam by Keith friggin' Lockhart. That was it for Aybar in the playoffs. He was yanked from the playoff roster after the series and was never seen again. Of all of Baker's nonsensical pet players, this guy was the most perplexing.

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