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.