Archive for December, 2004

…. Merry Christmas

And a Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for a great year at OBM, and Best Wishes for the New Year coming up.

…. Slammed

That’s what I got for my last post. My response?

Matheny got $12 million for 3 years, Vizquel got $12 for three years, Alou got just shy of $14 for 2 years. Forget about the backloading and all that crap. The average cost of these players is $6, $4 and $4 million, or $14 million. So, yeah, you could easily have made a real pitch for Beltran, (as it is the Giants are still below last season’s payroll), instead of these “veterans.”

And, please, enough with the ‘calling a game’ bullshit already. The entire management team is involved in how the gameday pitcher will plan to go after the hitters. If Matheny’s so great, why were the Cardinal pitchers so mediocre? Are you trying to suggest that Schmidt was as dominant as he was because of Pierzynski?

Calling a game is another one of those “insiders” type of things that are used to explain why a “gamer” like Matheny can get $4 million a year even though there are probably fifteen minor league catchers who can hit just as well.

It’s just like Shawon Dunston’s ‘hustle.” There’s no way to defend the decision to spend that $14 million on these players pushing 40. It’s a mistake that the team will rue, as one or more of these guys will spend major time on the DL, forcing the Giants once again to pay players (Nen, Reuter, Snow, Benard) who don’t play or produce.

It’s a recipe for disaster to go into a season pinning your championship contention on even one key player who is in the decline phase of his career. To have a starting lineup with a 34-year old catcher, a 37-year old first baseman, a 33-year old second baseman, a 37-year old shortstop, a 31-year old third baseman, a 40-year old left fielder, a 37-year old center fielder, and a 38-year old right fielder…. well, that’s just ridiculous.

Are the players in question solid major leaguers? Sure, they all have track records of success to some degree. Sure, Matheny’s probably a joy to behold behind the plate. I’ve no doubt that Vizquel will run circles around Cruz. That ain’t gonna matter if he pulls a hamstring, or strains his groin or throws up a .690 OPS.

I’ll do the research in the morning, but there can be no doubt that these players, as a whole, will decline. The team was far more likely to see Torrealba bat .300 than they are to see Matheny do so. Alou’s runs created number will almost certainly be little more than what Mohr and Tucker combined to produce last season. See, it’s offense that separates the winners from the losers.

For $14 million, we did very little to strengthen the team at all. Great glove and all, these guys aren’t gonna hit any better than what we had. If they’re not gonna do that, then who cares how many errors we don’t make. It’ll never be enough. As I pointed out last week, the difference between the worst and the best defenses in the league is barely 75 unearned runs, make it a hundred, and you still can’t argue that any one player can overcome 400 outs made with his bat, with his glove. YOU CAN’T MAKE THAT ARGUMENT HOLD WATER. At least not here. Go congratulate Sabean if you’re gonna try, cause I ain’t listening.

Update: Kyle did some numbers-crunching, so I thought he should get some publicity.

Just so we’re all on the same page here:

Grissom – $2.75 mil
Benitez – $7.17 mil/year
Alou – $6.8 mil/year
Matheny – $3.5 mil/year
Vizquel – $4.08 mil/year
Tucker – $1.75 mil/year (last year and this)
Pierzynski – $3.5 mil last year
Hammonds – $1 mil last year
Guerrero – $14 mil/year

I averaged multi-year deals to the per year rate. Feel free to correct me if I have something wrong. Essentially, this offseason, the Giants spent $24 million and apparently have a little more they can spend.

Looking at this, I don’t see how they couldn’t have signed a Beltran and Benitez with a little backloading, and done without Grissom, Matheny, Vizquel and Alou. Mohr and Beltran replace Grissom and Alou and Torrealba and Cruz replace Matheny and Vizquel.

It gets a little more complicated, but I’ll bet if we do without AJ, Tucker and Hammonds last offseason, we probably could have arranged a contract for Vlad.

…. Your San Francisco Giants

So that’s it. For the second time in his career, Moises Alou will be playing for his father, according to this AP story that says the Giants had signed him to a two-year, $13.25 million dollar contract. It would seem that any further moves made by the team would be directed at improving the bench, as the team has pretty much put together one of the oldest starting lineups in baseball history. The starting outfield will certainly be one of the oldest ever, with 40-year old Bonds, 38-year old Grissom and the 39-year old Alou manning PacBell’s strangely configured grass.

I guess Michael Tucker and Tony Torcato would be late inning defensive replacements, (picture me laughing and weezing as I write these words), for the AARP outfield.

I mean, what else is Sabean gonna do? Here’s a suggestion…. Get some speed and leather to do just that, take over during the latter innings as the Giants try to protect a lead.

Update: Over at the Bad Lefty, you can see that the Giants are o-o-old. I mean, O-O-O-OLD! This team is so primed to lose hundreds of games to injury, I don’t know what to say.

Sabean makes no effort to get a player like Guerrero, or say, Garciappara, or Drew, or Ordonez, or virtuall any number of players under the age of 40 who could have been had. Instead of keeping Tucker and Mohr in right, and getting a real, young, fast player to man center, he’s gonna waste almost $14 million dollars on a guy who could get real old, real fast. Why?

Let me point out that the money wasted on Matheny, (whose production we would have easily matched with Torrealba), Vizquel, (whose production we would easily have matched with Cruz), and Alou, (whose production advantage over Mohr/Tucker would easily have been offset by the superstar Beltran), adds up to something in the range of $12 or $13 million per season. FOR THAT KIND OF MONEY, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO SIGN BELTRAN!!!!!

No matter how you look at it, a lineup that looks like this:

Durham 2B
Snow/Feliz 1B
Beltran/Grissom CF
Bonds LF
Feliz/Alfonzo 3B
Cruz SS
Tucker/Mohr RF
Torrealba C

Would have been just as potent (if not more) as the actual lineup that looks like this:

Durham 2B
Snow 1B
Grissom CF
Bonds LF
Alou RF
Alfonzo/Feliz 3B
Vizquel/Cruz SS
Matheny/Torrealba C

And it would have had the same payroll number, give or take a few million. It is an error that will probably haunt this team forever; because as I have written before, should this team fail to win a championship during Bonds’ historic run, Brian Sabean’s decision to surround Bonds with a bunch of thirty-somethings and has-beens will go down in baseball history as one of the biggest blunders of all-time.

…. Status quo

Are you prepared to see Tony Torcato playing right-field in 2005? According to this MLB report, Torcato, 25 years old, has continued to tear up the PCL, and will probably be given a chance to make the roster this spring. The Giants’ former first round pick in 1998 is batting .315 in winter ball. Perhaps that’s the reason Sabean chose to let Mohr go away.

In my book, that’s a poor reason; the odds that Torcato could match Mohr’s production would seem to be lo-o-o-ng.

Dustan Mohr’s career stats: .262/.339/.415 .754 OPS

Last year was his best, (.274/.394/.437 .831 OPS) as Alou deftly platooned him with Michael Tucker. Sadly, he’s gone, and as I have complained about this team long and hard, I though I’d look at what we have, instead of what we don’t.

Looking at the Giants’ depth chart, I like the way the bullpen looks. Brower, Eyre, and most interesting is the team’s apparent intentiom to use Foppert in long relief. After all the BS I’ve been sending Brian Sabean’s way, should this team land a real outfielder, this team will look pretty damn good. I still wish we’d gotten younger, but all in all, you can’t deny that we have upgraded ourselves in three areas that we were fairly deficient in last season; the bullpen, and defense up the middle, (SS and C). Of course, this doesn’t take into account our need for youth and speed, but, let’s not be greedy. The biggest caveat is that this is a one or two year team. And before we talk about what’s left this off-season, I believe I have finally seen the logic in Sabean’s madness.

This team is set to explode at the same time Bonds will retire. That’s it. That’s why the Giants have signed a bunch of thirty-somethings instead of getting younger and faster. The Giants have positioned themselves to be big players in the free agent market in the 2006 off-season. Remember, you read it here first.

So, who’s left to get as a banging outfielder? I don’t know, here’s Michael Dowd’s free agent outfielders list. In reality, it’s really down to these four guys:

Carlos Beltran, Houston .926 OPS
Jeremy Burnitz, Colorado .916 OPS
Magglio Ordonez, Chicago White Sox .836 OPS
Moises Alou, Chicago Cubs .918 OPS

As far as who’s left, these are the only guys with any pop. Anybody stand out as a possible Giant? Ordonez is coming off an injury year, Beltran wants the keys to the mansion, and Burnitz is a zero away from Coors. As much as I’d love to see the 30-year old Ordonez recover from his injury as a Giant, there’s almost no chance Sabean would do that. Ordonez isn’t old enough. So, of course, Sabean is gonna sign Alou. The guy’s old, he has ties to the manager, (duh), and he’s old. Did I mention he’s a veteran? Well, he is an excellent hitter, and we would have some backup, (Torcato and Tucker). As far as I can see, that’s all that’s left to do.

Update: Well, not that I’m Nostradamus, but I called this signing probably within an hour or so of it going down. And I have no inside information or contacts or anything. Well, enough of tooting my own horn.

…. Responding or despondent?

Many of you have been taking me to task for my criticism of the Giants recent moves. Basically, you’ve been saying that I have been one of the most vocal critics of the Giants when they have done nothing; why am I bitching now that they are doing something?

Well, doing something isn’t what I’ve been advocating. I’ve been advocating doing something to strengthen the team, to address the weaknesses that have been derailing them in their efforts to return to the WS. The Benitez signing is just that type of deal (albeit a bit expensive, but forget that for a moment), and I promptly recognized it as such. Benitez shores up the bullpen, and in fact; his signing makes it stronger in every area, as his work as a true closer will allow the other guys to operate within their most effective comfort zones.

However, the other moves made by the team seem, to me, to be wasting what limited resources (as we’ve been told) the team has. Jim Adams says that this is an appropriate response to the demand from fans to win now, as Barry Bonds is certainly playing his last season or two. I respect (and agree with) virtually everything Jom has had to say here at OBM, but on this point, I don’t.

The Vizquel and Matheny signings represent the worst of what I would call the “bad I know” syndrome that is part and parcel of the old way of doing business in this game. The “bad I know” is what had the Giants give Neifi Perez $4 million dollars. The “bad I know” is how Tony Womack is getting the same from the Yankees. The “bad I know” is how so many of you can argue that Vizquel is better than Cruz, or that Matheny is better than Torrealba.

No statistic or metric I’ve seen or heard about suggests that either position holds water, but Matheny and Vizquel have been starters for most of their careers, and Cruz and Torrealba have not; so there. Well, not so fast. The Giants needed, among other things, to get younger and faster. Torrealba meets that need, (although Cruz less so). Vizquel and Matheny may have been superior defensive players five years ago, but right now, they are marginally better at best, (according to Baseball Prospectus, the guys over at the Hardball Times, ESPN, and essentially anyone with a calculator).

In terms of expectations, there can be no doubt that the 26-year old Torrealba has far more potential to exceed expectations than the 34-year old Matheny. And as for Cruz, the money saved by sticking with him over Vizquel could have been used to put together a better offer for whichever outfielder we’re gonna make a pitch for.

In the end, yes, the team is better. I simply don’t agree with Sabean’s approach as he retools his starting nine. The market has reset itself, so looking at the money thrown around lately, I guess these deals look less expensive. But without a real hitter in this lineup for another year, the team will find it almost impossible to compensate for two blackholes (and don’t forget the pitcher), regardless of Superman’s exploits. And that’s my main concern. If we end up without a real banger, you’re gonna hear how it was because we couldn’t afford it. Well, take the $5 million or so these two “defensive superstars” are making, add it to the $3 or $4 million we have left, and presto, you can land a real player.

Add a JD Drew or a Maggio Ordonez, or God forbid, a Carlos Beltran; and sure, then we’d have a remarkable transformation. If we end up with Jeremy Burnitz or Cliff Floyd in right-field, (or worse, a full-time Michael Tucker); well, 2005 won’t look so rosey.

Update: Well, looking at some of the past comments, I guess Jim wasn’t the one I had in mind. OK. Sorry, Jim. I guess we do agree on everything.


But there have been more than a couple of readers who have taken me to task for my seeming conflicted views… ’nuff said. I want a Beltran, Santa.

…. No Mohr

The Giants severed ties with Dustan Mohr. Although Mohr’s OBP (.394) was third on the team, and he was both young and inexpensive, the team felt (inexplicably) that they needed to move forward without him.

…. assistant general manger Ned Colletti said the front office will continue to search for more experienced outfielders through trades and free agency. Colletti called the decision to “non-tender” Mohr one of the toughest calls the club has made over the past few years. Because the 28-year-old earned only $342,500 in 2004, money was not the overriding issue.

“He did a lot of good things for us, and he played hard and with a lot of energy,” Colletti said, “but this gives us a chance to look at other options.”

Um, yeah. What am I supposed to say about this? He probably could have been signed for $500,000 or so. Even if they get another veteran outfielder, he’d have been an excellent option off the bench. Is Tucker batting .600 in winter ball somewhere? Do Sabean and Colletti feel that there is just no way Grissom or Bonds could possibly miss any time?

Update: The boys at BP chime in on the Giants off-season moves to date in this Premium sunscriber article. They note that Matheny is hardly worth what the Giants are paying, particularly as the Giants have Torrealba, cheaper, younger, faster, Matheny’s equal with the glove, and certainly a better hitter. I can’t figure this team out right now.

…. Ch-ch-ch-changes

I’ve made some changes to OBM’s layout. Any and all comments are welcome. Like it? Hate it? Let me know. Of particular interest to me is bringing the newspaper coverage into a more prominent location. Does anyone use that, or is it better to focus on the blogs? Anybody care but me? I know some of you, (perhaps more than I realize) use OBM as a home page. I’d appreciate some feedback on this.

…. Odds & ends

Curt Schilling, a player who never met a microphone (or telephone or website or out of work reporter or high school newspaper) he didn’t like, simply cannot keep his mouth shut, for any reason, under any circumstances. Hey, Curt, if you’re so above it, shut the hell up.

And OBM friend and supporter, Frank in Santa Rosa, put some time in figuring out the free agents for each team next season. Looking at the Giants, it’s interesting to see some of the dead weight we’re gonna be free of. Of course, with Beltre and Beltran both going to be off the market, big-time impact offense may not be available, regardless of how much bling-bling we’ve got to work with.

…. Sad state of affairs

Notwisthstanding the tragedy inherent when a young person decides to commit suicide; the SF Chronicle and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this sensationalized story about the death of this troubled young athlete. Hypocrisy and ill-placed moralizing can be the only explanation for the decision to cast Bonds and McGwire as the culprits in a real-life tragedy that was so obviously filled with far more complexity and stress than this article would have you believe.

I find it disgraceful to attempt to draw a correlation between the current hysteria surrounding baseball’s greatest stars, and the failed efforts of an obviously distraught and confused young man.

…. I must be in the front row

David Pinto noticed my post on the Giants finances, and threw in his two cents.

I suspect the Giants have pretty good cash flow numbers, also. They fill their park and Giants jersey’s and hats have always been popular. With interest rates low, I suspect they’ve greatly reduced their debt service over the last few seasons. San Francisco has never had a world championship in baseball, and the franchise has not won a title in 50 years. The new Red Sox ownership knew they had an obligation to their fans to deliver a trophy to the town; the Giants, Indians, White Sox and Cubs have that same obligation to their long suffering fans. It’s a good time for the Magowan and company to take out that home equity loan.

My feelings exactly. It’s one thing to sit there and say that you are committed to fielding a championship contender year after year, but only under the condition that you don’t exceed some financial limitations. That’s fine if you’re a team that has given your long-suffering fans something to hang their hats on. The Mets, for crying out loud, won a title 18 years ago. Do they have some leeway as they stumble around for going on two decades? Compared to the Giants they sure do. There comes a time when all of the good intentions in the world amount to a hill of beans. Contending year after year is great, don’t get me wrong. But this Giants organization has gone backwards, and they’ve done so when they’ve had the chance to capitalize on the greatest player to ever put on spikes.

Bonds’ run to history is coming to an end, and this Giants team is far less impressive than the one that came within 9 outs of a title in 2002. Finances have been given as the reason that many of the key components of that team are elsewhere, and finances are the reason their replacements are so weak.

Why not push for a title right now? Why not? After Bonds retires, if you’ve won a title, (jeez, even if you fail) you can drop your payroll for a couple, three seasons, and presto, you’re right back where you would have been. Instead, (with so many of the NL teams they are competing with making one blockbuster deal after another) the Giants are facing the very real possibility that they will watch Bonds make history again, and then watch the playoffs from home. As David points out, Steinbrenner could get a massive loan from almost any bank in the world right now, I guarantee you Magowan could do the same. One bat could make all the difference in the world right now, and Carlos Beltran is still waiting for a call. 50 years is long enough.

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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
None of the opinions expressed should be construed as being endorsed by the
San Francisco Giants, Major League Baseball, or any other organization mentioned herein.

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