Archive for July, 2004
The Giants made a deadline deal, and all I can say is, “What!?” Sabean trades Felix Rodriguez, a modestly priced, 98 MPH throwing pitcher, and all he can get is Ricky Ledee? Ricky Ledee?! Ledee’s best season was a 13 home run campaign in 2000. He plays rightfield, which means now we have three of those, none of whom has ever played well enough to start for a championship-caliber team.
Sabean must be losing his marbles, because he got fleeced in this deal. Felix had to be the single most valuable trade commodity the Giants had, (other than Jerome Williams), and to not be able to turn him into a starting pitcher or an everyday player is a disgrace.
I was scrolling through some of my favorite blogs when I came upon this link to a Dan Le Batard column on Barry Bonds. I found it at the always excellent El Lefty Malo, and I had to share it with all of you. As Lefty says, it’s the best Bonds piece you’ll ever read. Go, now.
Henry Schulman has a rumor and innuendo filled story in which the Giants appear as players in trade rumors for no less than Randy Johnson, Steve Finley, and Ugeth Urbina.
OK. Do it. You want to win a championship? If any of those rumors are true, good for Sabean, and good for us fans. Do it. Get ‘em all. Trade whoever we got in the minors, trade Edgardo Alfonzo, Neifi Perez, whoever, and get ‘em all.
Other rumors I’ve heard lately include Pudge Rodriguez. Maybe we can trade Double Play AJ for Pudge and Urbina…… Aaaaaaaa-hahahahahahaha.
OK, I’m back. Go Giants.
The Giants finally beat the Padres. They finally picked up a game on the Dodgers (the first since July 9th). Jason Schmidt finally beat the Padres. Matt Herges finally saved a game again. Finally.
The time is now. Now. Sabean needs to pull the trigger. Get another pitcher. A starter, a reliever, who cares. Get an arm to help this beaten into submission pitching staff. These guys are exhausted, especially the bullpen. Sabean needs to get them some help. I say we need a starter, because we have too many 5 inning pitchers right now. Somebody who can go 7 innings with something resembling consistency will go a long way to making everybody in the pen better. Who goes, if he gets a starter? Move Hermanson into long relief…. Whatever. Do something, before the season is lost.
The Betting Fool asked for email responses to the following question: What do the Giants need to do some damage in the playoffs? Best responses are in his column, here’s my favorite:
The Giants need to act as realists. With their current roster, minor league system, and budget, considering the trade market and Giants front office policy, nothing the front office can do this year will substantially improve the Giants’ chances in the 2004 post-season. The 2004 Giants need a starter, a closer, and an RBI guy. That’s at least $15 million.
The Giants front office shows symptoms of disease. Sabean has earned praise for maintaining a decade of winning baseball in San Francisco. In reality, he has destroyed the natural order of team development in favor of dependable attendance figures. Trades favor overpriced veterans instead of promising minor leaguers. Reliance on older free agents stunts development of younger players. High roster turnover every year prohibits landmark free agent signings.
The artificially forced streak of winning seasons makes the draft a waste of time and money. Sabean knows what he’s doing; by limiting failure, he denies success. This aspect of front office policy receives little consideration because money, not a championship, motivates the GM and owners. — J.P.
I’d love to tell you all that’s me, but it ain’t. What it is, however, is an excellent analysis of the Giants front office flaws. The only defense for Sabean, the only one that matters, is that he is following a plan that was designed to do just that; ensure sellouts at the new ballpark for as long as Bonds is around. Sell the future for the present.
Here’s hoping Sabean sells the future one more time, and gets us the starter and hitter we need.
Did I say cooling down? I meant, cooling up, as in….. ah, whatever. The Giants continued their journey during this strange season, taking the first two games in St. Louis, after yesterday’s 5-3 win. Coming into the series, the Cardinals were surging to the best record in the league, and the Giants had fallen behind the Padres and the Dodgers. After two nice wins, the Giants have leap-frogged back over the Padres into second place, and the Cards have a taste of a possible first-round opponent might look like.
The Dodgers, by the way, have won 17 of their last twenty, and still have five games in the loss column over the Giants. While the Giants have won on each of the three days the Dodgers have lost during this stretch, they’ve given back seven full games in the standings. Five games in the loss column is a decent amount at the end of July. There’s still time, but you need a nice stretch to get back in it. Let’s hope this Cardinal series jump starts the team.
While I watch the SF Giants battle it out with the Dodgers and the Padres in a nip-and-tuck sprint for the NL West title, my brother and father are watching the Yankees blow the Al East away to the tune of an 8.5 game lead over the Red Sox heading into this weekend’s series in Boston, and my cousins watch the Mets stumbling around in the NL East’s equally tight race. It’s an interesting way to view baseball, my NY roots and my West Coast roots intertwined, allowing me to see a team whose fortunes I follow doing well pretty much all the time.
However, the Mets falling apart has my family and many New Yorkers calling for a tribunal, or at least a recount. In fact, after testerday’s loss to the lowly Expos, the NY Daily News online edition has a insta-voting device asking the question of whether Mets’ reliever John Franco (who gave up a tie-breaking two-run home run to Tony Bautista last night), should retire and let the Mets win in peace. 90% say he should. My two cents? Art Howe is the one who should be taking the heat for Franco’s recent failings. Here’s the Daily News’ version of the eighth inning:
Franco replaced Glavine to open the eighth inning of a 1-1 game, and quickly retired Brad Wilkerson and Endy Chavez, dropping the average of lefty batters against him to .145 this season. Art Howe and pitching coach Rick Peterson intended for Franco to face the first four batters of the inning, despite the fact that righties are hitting an atypical .320 against him and switch-hitting Jose Vidro and the righty-batting Tony Batista were due up.
Vidro singled to left and only then did Orber Moreno begin warming, as Peterson visited the mound. Batista followed by belting a two-run homer to left on a fat, 85 mph fastball after Franco fell behind, 3-and-1.
What was Howe thinking? The only reason Franco is still in the league is because he get’s left-handed batters out. Allowing him to pitch innings at a time, facing both lefties and righties, is idiotic. He’s a batting practice pitcher to righties, while he owns some of the best lefties in the league, including Superman, who is something like 5 for 40 against Franco.
Howe didn’t show me much in Oakland, (where he was known to be Billy Beane’s puppet), and he hasn’t shown me much in New York either. Other than the fact that the Mets have proven to be able to come back from devastating losses, (in and of itself a good thing, but how many devastating losses should any team have in one season?), his team has been anything but consistent. What is strange to me is that in NY, the pressure cooker for sports figures, Howe has gotten a free pass from the media for most of his tenure. Almost all of the bad press on the team has focused on the players, and not the manager. I’m not saying he should be roasted, I’m just saying it’s strange that he hasn’t.
Meanwhile, the Giants continued their recent meanderings, losing again to the Padres, this time to the tune of 9-4. The loss was particularly galling because the Padres beat Schmidt, ending his 12 game winning streak. The big righty gave up 8 runs, the most he’s given up wearing the black and orange, and said he felt fine, they just got to him. OK, he’s gotta lose occasionally, but it was a bad game to get blasted.
The Giants need Schmidt to continue carrying them while their pitching staff flops around, sometimes awesome, but mostly awful. If it’s not the starters getting blown out, it’s the exhausted relievers melting down leads. And don’t get me started on Reuter, who is showing no sign of regaining the form that gave Sabean the idea of giving him a four year deal instead of Russ Ortiz.
Anyway, the loss drops the Giants into third place in the West, a suddenly stunning 5 games back in the loss column, and the team is on the verge of letting the season get away from them. When the Giants lost to the A’s on June 25th, a game in which the bullpen allowed the A’s to steal a game the Giants could have won, (allowing the A’s to twice break a tie game the offense had worked so hard to forge); here’s what Jim Brower had to say at the time; “A one-run loss is nothing to cry about. We wanted to win the game, but all the signs of our winning streak are still there.” Uh, no. All the signs of the winning streak weren’t there, and haven’t been since. The Giants are 12-10 since that loss, treading water while the Dodgers have gone 18-5, and the Padres are 15-8 over the same span.
So, just when the summer’s heating up, the Giants have cooled off. They need a boost, something to pick up the team, and it’s up to Sabean to give it to them, now. Another week or two of .500 ball, and the season could be over.
Some new sites to see, and some old ones to revisit on today’s to-do list. First up, the old guard.
Alex Belth continues to add impressive names to his list of interviews. Today, you can hear him chat up Will Carroll, who has a new book out called Saving the Pitcher. Both Alex and Will are among my earliest supporters and colleagues. They are also among the best baseball writers in the blogosphere, so go, now.
Also in the news, Al Bethke has a mid-season roundtable on the Brew Crew, a must read for those who love Seligula’s team.
On to some new stuff…
John from Baseball Sites is going to review OBM in the near future, (cause that’s what he does). If you want to see how me and all of my friends are doing, go check out his work. Hope I make the cut.
And finally, OBM reader and new best buddy, Thomas, started his own Giants site, called Giants Matters. His initial efforts have been focused on the debacle better known as Matt Herges, which brings us to last night’s game….
The Giants beat the D’backs 3-1 behind the stellar pitching of Jerome Williams (who now has a career record of 3-0 against the Big Unit). Herges seems to be pitching his way back to the minors, after another horrible, horrible performance, in which he needed to be saved from himself, again. This time, it was Jason Christiansen who relieved Herges’ bases loaded, one-out disaster waiting to happen. Watching Herges, I couldn’t help but wonder how he has 22 saves. He was just waiting for something bad to happen, and sure enough, after a leadoff double, (on a 2-2 pitch), he gave up the dreaded shallow pop up that Grissom couldn’t reach. Ugh.
You’ve all read everyone talking about how Herges is having such a terrible season, 43 1/3 innings pitched, 63 hits and 15 walks. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s gotten way worse than that. His last six appearances have been beyond belief bad. His ERA has gone up a run and a half in that short span of time (4.46 to 5.82), in which he’s pitched three innings and given up 15 hits, 4 walks (that’s 19 baserunners in three innings!!!!), 11 runs, 3 home runs…. I mean, oh my God, is that bad.
Starting with the Oakland game on July 3rd, (4 runs, blown save), Colorado on the 6th, (second and third with 2 outs, he gives up a single, a home run, a walk, a single, and another walk before finally getting the one out he was brought in to get). Against the D’backs on the 10th, he seemed poised to put the bad streak behind him with a perfect inning of work, but 5 days later, the Rockies sent him right back to the psychaitrist’s couch. 2/3 of an inning, 3 baserunners, and Scott Eyre had to bail him out. Three days later, Alou decided to let him work it out with a three run lead, and BAM! Two home runs later, the Giants suffered one of their worst defeats since May, and their closer was thatmuchcloser to Triple A.
And really, after last night, that’s exactly where he is right now. The Giants cannot afford to keep sending him out there, they’re in a pennant race, for crying out loud. He needs to go down and work it out, because he’s so bad right now, it doesn’t matter what inning it is, Alou can’t use him.
Oh, and speaking of Alou, how the hell does he let Neifi Perez to hit in a two-out, first and third situation in the top of the ninth? Does he have no pinch-hitters at all? Where has Deivi Cruz been lately? Is he dead? He’s got one start since the All-Star break, a sure-fire way to cool off one of the hottest hitters on the team. In the meantime, Perez is getting a key at bat (one in which the only chance the Giants had to get that runner home would have been a second wild pitch) with a chance to put the D’backs away and make all that BS in the ninth meaningless. I don’t get it.
The venerable El Lefty Malo notes that the Mariners released John Olerud and that the Giants might be interested. He also suggests that Olerud wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over JT the Outman. Well, I love the Lefty, but he’s out of his mind on this one. Sure, Olerud’s only got 5 home runs this season, and his numbers are way down, but he’s still better than Snow!!!, who isn’t even listed among the 24 first-basemen at ESPN’s MLB stats page. Here’s their 2004 comps:
But a more reasonable assessment could be made by comparing their last three seasons, 2001-03:
Snow 1037 AB’s 22 HR .255/.365/.384 .749 OPS
Olerud 1664 AB’s 53 HR .291/.392/.451 .843 OPS
They’re not in the same league. And now that Olerud’s been released, I don’t see why the Giants wouldn’t try and pick up one of the best first-basemen in the game for the last decade at a bargain price, and he’s a lefty to boot.
Defensively, Olerud ranks as one of the most sure-handed first-basemen in history, having made as many as 10 errors in a season but once in a 16 year career. This year, he has one, (1) error in 602 total chances. Now, I’ve been convincing you for a long time that defense at first is over-rated, but that ain’t too shabby. Last season, Olerud won his third Gold Glove award, Snow has won six.
You think he’s done? Fine, maybe he is. He’s better than JT, and has been for his entire career. If you can get him for the waiver wire price, you’re a lousy GM if you don’t when your trotting the Outman out there every day (Not to mention the inexcusable error of batting him third, ever!!!!). For crying out loud, JT’s so bad, they’ve been playing Pedro Feliz at first! Sabean should pick up Olerud and Aurilia. They’re essentially free!!!
Editor’s note: Backtalkers, he is the Outman, I don’t give a crap about his .353 OBP. He has no power whatsoever, and the outs he contributes for the tiny number of runs he creates makes him first-base’s answer to Neifi Perez. First base is first and foremost an offensive position!! It’s where you put your big, slow, powerful hitter. It’s the last place you can hide a defensively challenged, good hitter (without the DH, of course). Snow is an absolutely pathetic offensive player, and it doesn’t matter how many great defensive plays he makes. He makes a huge number of outs to create a tiny number of runs; which makes him a losing proposition as a hitter.
And forget about what he actually produces and WATCH HIM. He has no ability to handle anybody’s fastball, he fouls off more batting practice fastballs than anybody in the league.
Editor’s note, Part II David Pinto writes about Jack Wilson, a player whose OBP is made up almost entirely from his batting average:
I always wonder about the long term viability of hitters like Jack Wilson. Through the 4th, he’s 1 for 1 with a walk to raise his BA to .334 and his OBA to .357. It was only his 12th walk of the year, and he’s never drawn more than 37 walks in a full season. It strikes me that players who hit but don’t walk should have a hole that pitchers can exploit. These players are surely swinging at pitches out of the strike zone; it seems to me that pitchers can move the ball farther from the plate and get these guys out.
I’ve always wondered about players like Snow, whose OBP is significantly higher than his batting average, despite his inability to pose any real threat to go deep. What I notice watching Snow, is that he fouls off tons of pitches, which I will admit, can be beneficial, but it also means that he cannot get good wood on the ball with any consistency, and this has been true for going on four straight years now. To me, Snow’s walks aren’t a testament to his good eye, pitchers aren’t nibbling against him; they are evidence of his inability to be a productive hitter, as he misses one pipeline fastball after another. That’s why we seem to see Snow have more of those epic ten-pitch at-bats than almost anybody. He can’t hit the pitcher, all he can manage is to foul him off til the pitcher finally misses four times.
Players like Snow expose just how many people in baseball still don’t pay attention to statistics. After years of no production, these “gamers” are still getting paid vast sums of money, and they are still not hitting, not producing runs, not actually contributing to winning baseball games. But these guys “play hard” and “get their uniforms dirty,” and they “hustle” and “know how to play the game.” That’s all smoke and mirrors. Real baseball players produce runs, they don’t just look like real ballplayers. They actually “are” ballplayers. Snow, the focus of this rant, is a replacement-level player who has been paid more than $25 million dollars over the last four and a half seasons to produce a paltry 44 home runs in something like 600 games. A real hitter at first-base, like say, Jim Thome, has hit that many in a single season, more than once.
The Giants lost 10-9 to the Rockies yesterday, as four diferent pitchers were unable to protect a lead given to them by the offense for a single inning; highlighted by Matt Herges ML-leading 7th blown save. Hereges gave up a three run lead in the ninth without recording a single out, (he was on the verge of doing the same thing two nights ago before Alou took him out and had Eyre retire Helton for the final out).
The Giants are treading water for their last fifteen games, nothing to panic about; but the good vibrations of their 30-11 surge are gone. Blown saves and blown out starters make it clear that the pitching staff is in disarray, the trading deadline is coming up fast and our man Sabean needs to get it done. As much as I hate to say it, pitching is the only real need the Giants will be able to address. Kris Benson, Randy Johnson, whoever, this team needs at least one real seven inning starter, badly.
Update:David Pinto thinks the Giants (actually, all teams) have a responsibility to aggressively pursue a championship whenever they are in serious contention. He’s right, as usual. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Magowan & company owe Giants fans a championship; but I will say they need to demonstrate their committment as fans have shown theirs. In this case, their committment to take advantage of the last couple of years of Barry’s career, as we fans spin the turnstiles as never before in SF Giants history. A Triple A call-up is not adequate, in fact, it borders on insulting.
Here is more on baseball in Italy, from our Italian friend, Giampaolo….
With everyone concerned about the failure of the National Soccer Team in the recent European Nations’ Cup held in Portugal, few can understand a telling statistic’s percentage that came out in a market research made by a publicity agency here in Italy last month. In the Italians’ sports preferences, soccer unfortunately remains at the top but not as much as in the past. Growing sports are rugby union, up 7%, and listen to this, baseball is up 71%. I repeat: plus seventy-one per cent. You may guess that the surge is from MLB. Italian baseball has poor attendance, usually TV cameras don’t show many little but important aspects of the game etc.
But you can tell the difference immediately when American baseball is on. This huge growth of baseball in the Italians tastes is logically supported by a pay TV that has the rights to broadcast the MLB. Unfortunately, not all people can afford it so, like myself, a lot of them have to depend on recorded games and highlights. Often they ask someone to record a game, even though that person may not care at all about baseball.
So many Italians still prefer “easy” sports like soccer or basketball or, worse, volleyball, motor racing and skiing. Sometimes I am asked: “What the hell do you like about that strange American baseball…..”. Poor but good dears (I like them all, but more importantly, I need them to record the game for me!) Among my friends who take the time to record games for me are two who are particularly dear to me, They work with me (in a bank), Vladimiro and Pino. Vladimiro records my weekly MLB games. Actually he loves all sports Italy is involved in.
He knows of my love for six MLB clubs (Yankees, White Sox, St Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and San Francisco) and, I must confess, he’s recently taken the time to learn a bit more about baseball. I suspect, and fear, one day he will tell me he is a Red Sox fan (aaaagh, let’s hope not, for God’s sake) or, even worse, a Dodgers or a Cubs supporter.
Anyway, on to some baseball notes:
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter wasn’t selected for the All-Star Game but I think he deserved it. He is pitching so well that it’s a wonder to look at him in action and a 9-3 record doesn’t need any further comment. In a rotation with Morris, Williams, super-Suppan and double/super-Marquis, it’s easy to overlook him. After the last two troubled seasons (due mostly to injuries) Carpenter is back to form and has a promising season in front of him.
The SF Giants have lost six of their last eight and after the 7-4 loss against Colorado on the 5th of July I wondered why Felipe Alou kept Brett Tomko in until the end of the sixth inning after he had allowed five runs in the first inning. I remember a game from last June, when the poor Jose Contreras having a damn first inning in the Bronx against Baltimore. He lasted only two-thirds of it with two hits and five runs allowed plus four walks and no strikeouts. Then Torre decided to replace him. The Yankees won 6-5 with Sturtze, Prinz, “Flash” Gordon and Rivera on the mound.
As usual good luck Giants. The road to the postseason is still full of traps and tricks for you.