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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