Archive for May, 2005

…. Hypocrisy, ad infintum

Dave Fairbank throws his weight around in this column, ripping the hypocrites in Congress for their insincerity and blow-hardedness.

…. Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, introduced legislation aimed to bring drug testing and penalties in professional sports in line with the Olympic model.

Stearns said, “I am not convinced that an effective solution to this problem can be found in a system that allows those with a vested interest in the performance of the players and leagues to simply police themselves.”

Remarkably, no one laughed, nor did his head explode, when he said it. Congress is synonymous with “vested interest.” It attempts to police itself all the time, with various ethics and reform committees.

How big a hissy fit would our D.C. legislative heroes throw if some outside group started recommending and levying penalties against them for various transgressions?

I can hardly contain my joy.

UPDATE: Scott Ostler surprises in todays column:

…. The congresspeople asked a lot of questions. Here are some questions I’d like asked. And answered.

Of Congress:

If you regulate steroid abuse in sports as well as you regulate, say, cheating in big business, how soon can we expect to see a lineup of 500-pound sluggers? Next week?

Because this is the most anti-regulatory, de-regulatory government in recent history, wussup with the rush to regulate drug detection in sports?

Under the banner of less government, you’re downsizing or simply killing off every environmental protection law or agency, every protection for citizens against victimization by corporate greed, every protection against assault weapons wielded by criminals, so why the tizzy to regulate the biceps of baseball players?

He also asks why the union is so opposed to more testing. So here’s my question:

How can Ostler, (or any of these so-called moralists) not see how intrusive and anti-American the very idea of random, year-round testing is? Any athlete who excels is suspected of cheating, in Ostlers’ and ESPN’s brave new world. Comparing today’s athletes to those from 10 or 20 or 30 years ago is absurd. Advances in nutrition, weight-training, and natural, legal supplements are but a few of the reasons why the athlete of today is larger and faster. Are some athletes cheating? OF COURSE!!!!

But to sit around and blithely assume that all athletes must prove their innocence, by subjecting to year-round tests, peeing in a cup in front of a stranger, any time, day or night, anywhere in the world, is insane. Ostler suggests that no one is above suspicion. Huh? Everyone is a suspect?

Thank God for the NFL. I think it’s absurd for the league to suspend players for testing positive for marijuana (seriously, smoking pot is supposed to be a PED?), but listening to Tagliabue pretty much telling Congress to go to hell yesterday reminded me what a real Commissioner should look like:

…. The NFL commissioner and the NFL Players Association executive director told members of a House Commerce subcommittee yesterday they should be allowed to continue administering their own policy, and dismissed the idea that a federal law should require them to adopt the World Anti-Doping Agency’s standards.

“We have great respect for WADA and the (International Olympic Committee),” Tagliabue said. “But we also know we were there with testing before WADA existed.”

It’s about time. All of a sudden these stuffed shirts know all their is about PED’s and drug tests and athletes? Please. Go back to jerrymandering your districts to make sure no one with real integrity can beat you in the next election.

…. Hypocrisy, ad infintum

As Congress moves forward in their from the deadly scourge of athletes using steroids, The Fort Zumwalt School District in St. Charles County, St. Louis, will begin voluntary testing of its athletes for performance-enhancing drugs in the 2005-06 school year. “It’s not a situation where we feel we’ve got a lot of abuse, but it is obviously going on in pro sports and we felt it would send a good message, not only on street drugs but on performance-enhancing drugs.”

A good message? It’s not a situation where we have reasonable suspicion, but we’re gonna ask you kids to pee in a cup anyway. That’s a good message? Unbelievable.

Meanwhile, Bud Selig, Paul Tagliabue, David Stern and Gary Bettman must assert, over and over, that they are, in fact, not in support of all that is wrong and evil in the world, to people who don’t believe or listen to what they have to say anyway. Upon learning that Congress intends to introduce a new all-encompassing drug testing program for the four major sports, the NFL Commissioner found himself being asked what he thought about the subject, which would lead one to believe (mistakenly, of course) that what he might have to say would merit some consideration. Tagliabue said he “would respectfully urge that it not be enacted into law in its present form. The drug testing program in the NFL is not a ‘problem’ that needs federal legislation in order to be ‘fixed’.”

But who cares if there is an actual ‘problem’ at all? Rep. Tom Davis certainly doesn’t, “Certainly, the NBA is not suffering under the same cloud of steroid use suspicion that has been hovering over other professional sports,” (but) how do we know for sure there’s no steroid problem in the NBA if its testing policies are so weak? If there’s little or no upside to using steroids in basketball, why doesn’t the NBA have the strongest policy in all of sports?” Yeah, well, that’s some line of reasoning. How do we know you’re not doing drugs if you won’t let us test you all the time? Do these people really think this way? These are the guys running the country?

I watched a little of Outside the Lines last night, and again saw Rep. Cummings telling us that he had no sympathy for “cheaters” and that he was all for kicking them out of the game the first time they failed a test. In what world does this guy live? Who the hell would put somebody like this in charge of anything?

Here’s another complete moron, Representative Joe L. Barton, the Texas Republican who is the chairman of the overall committee, “How in the world did we ever get in a position where steroids were swallowed like M&M’s and adults winked at each other when baseball players started growing arms as big as tree trunks?”

Of course, the fact that none of what he says is true doesn’t matter, does it? We’ve never been in a position where steroids were ‘swallowed like M&M’s', but who needs facts when hyperbole will suffice?

You want to know what it’s really going on? Here’s Bill Romanowski talking honestly about using PED’s.

As soon as they found out that something could be tested for, I stopped taking it. I didn’t want that embarrassment, but I pushed that envelope ethically and morally because if I could take something that would help me perform better and it wasn’t on the list, I was going to take it. I had two criteria: Would it hurt me? And would I test positive? In the end, there’s been some embarrassment at what I had to deal with.

…. What now?

Barry Bonds’ pre-season declaration that he could miss the whole season is looking more and more accurate, as we learn today that he has just gotten off a course of intravenous antibiotics to fight the infection in his knee. As Jayson Stark points out, an infection in his knee is career-threatening for a 29-year old, let alone a guy my age.

Sure some of Bonds’ reps say he’s gonna be fine, but this is not good.

Meanwhile, the Giants beat the Rockies 3-2 to even their current road trip at 3-3. Pedro Feliz hit a home run, and a passel of pitchers (including Brad Hennessey, again) held the Rockies in check, including our new closer(?), Tyler Walker, who earned his fourth save with a 1-2-3 ninth.

…. Let’s talk about baseball

Professional OBM reader Jim Adams says it all, in a way that deserves the front row:

It’s tough to evaluate Sabean, because this involves balancing a bleak present (and even bleaker future) against a very successful past. In terms of the past, Sabean took over a team that had lost 186 games over the previous two years — with Bonds already on the team — and constructed a team that has gone on to eight straight winning seasons. Not only that, but Sabean did this without raising team payroll relative to the rest of the league. This record is so good that I am inclined to cut Sabean some slack.

But in terms of the present and future, the Giants are an extremely old, mediocre team with a barren farm system. The “prospects” in our system — Ellison, Niekro, Todd Linden, and Fred Lewis — are unlikely to become even average major league regulars, and we have absolutely no young position players with star potential. Combine this with the fact that we will probably need to replace every starting position player on the team in the next two years, and you have a really bad situation.

So I’m conflicted about Sabean. It’s a little like trying to decide what to do with the guy who has been the top sales rep in your company for five years running, but who starts showing up for work drunk and sporting a three-day stubble: looking back you see he has a great track record, but looking forward, do you really want to put your company’s future in his hands?

Ummmmm, yeah, what he said.

…. Hopeless

Kent and Steve were going at it in the backtalk for this post, and I thought I’d reply to some of the (nicer) things they were saying about Sabean. ;-)

Sabean is on the line here. This is his team. It wasn’t neccessary for him to keep signing older and older players in order to remain competitive. Many of the recent choices that Sabean has made, particularly at pitcher and catcher, have been total disasters. And yes, to some degree, the injuries are his fault. You cannot populate your team with the oldest everyday lineup in baseball history and think no one is going to get injured.

Player by player I’m not gonna do here, but Sabean has been on a dry spell for quite a while now, and this is his team. Play below expectations? On him. Injured? On him. Trade one guy who blows up while keeping the other guy who sucks? On him.

I don’t give one shit about the last ten years. Every year is brand new. Assess where you’re at, make decisions, make moves, new season. At the end of last season, the Giants were Bonds and a bunch of stiffs, no speed, no leather and no bullpen. Sabean got us an older, over-priced catcher when we already had a younger one, an old, over-paid shortstop when we already had a younger one, an old and expensive outfielder, and an old, super expensive closer when there were still plenty of choices available, including the guy we’d already asked to go back to closing after being a starter for the last couple of seasons.

We didn’t get younger, or faster or (very much) better defensively (although I’ll give you Vizquel, he’s an awesome SS), our bullpen is, if anything, worse than last season, and several pitchers and/or players that were available that we didn’t sign and/or keep are doing terrifically while we wait for Bonds’ return. That’s on Sabean. It’s ALL on Sabean.

Two years ago, we could have made run on Vlad. Instead, we signed about six guys who are already playing for another team. Make a play for Beltran? Let’s spend that $10 million per on two guys who are on their way to the old folks home instead. Sabean chose Kirk Reuter over Russ Ortiz. Sabean chose to trade Felix Rodriguez for Ricky Ledee. Sabean chose Moises Alou over any number of possible players who weren’t my age. Sabean chose Edgardo Alfonzo. Sabean chose to give Neifi Perez $4 million dollars. Sabean chose to trade Joe Nathan for Double PLay AJ. Sidney Ponson. Damian Moss. Matt Herges. Tim Worrell. These are old gripes, you say? We’ve finished first or second 10 years in a row, what more could Sabean do?

He could have spent the last four years making this team younger and faster and better, instead of continuing to throw money at ‘veterans’ whose best days are way behind them; in the process sucking the life out of the last couple of seasons the greatest hitter alive has ever produced by surrounding him with a boatload of stiffs.

Another way to look at it (the way I look at it) is to say that because of Bonds, the Giants have been on the doorstop of a title for a decade and have nothing to show for it. During that decade, an expansion team was born, abandoned by its fans and MLB, twice, and still managed to win two World Series. Oh and that Red Sox team broke the Curse of the Bambino or something like that. Bad luck? Sure, some. Bad Karma? Who knows. Bad decisions? Absolutely. And don’t give me any of that on-base crap. ;-D

…. Deep thoughts

Leave it to David Pinto to give me something to write about. David was looking at the number of runners left on base, and was arguing, (correctly) that LOB is a good thing:

…. Two bloggers make points about leaving men on in last night’s games. The Soxaholix is complaining about the Red Sox left leaving runners, including two innings in which Boston had the bases loaded with less than two out and didn’t score. Was Watching exagerrates the number left on base (13 not 23) but his point is still well taken; the Yankees had a lot more opportunities than they converted.

Both approach the Left On Base stat as a bad thing. That’s not really true. Leaving lots of men on base is often a sign of strong offense, one that puts lots of men on base!

Indeed. The Giants have left 273 men on base, good for 9th in the NL. And that got me thinking….

At the end of April, the Giants had scored the third most runs in the league, 117 in 23 games, 5.1 per game. In May, the Giants are 14th in runs, with 53 in 14 games, 3.78 runs per game. That’s an enormous dropoff, and it’s everywhere. On-base percentage, slugging, batting average, home runs, doubles, everything is way, way down from the super red-hot start that was largely wasted by the first horrible week the relievers gave us, and the second two weeks of absolute crap contributed by the starting pitchers. Instead of being 15-8, the Giants failed to take advantage of a torrent of runs and barely treaded water.

Now that the hitters have begun to come back to earth, the pitching staff is, quite simply, in shambles. Jerome Williams has an ERA over 11.00 in Fresno, Noah Lowry goes today in an effort to stop his own 5 start winless streak. Brad Hennessey is back with the big club, none of the ‘prospects’ the Giants have brought up is worth ten cents, and the team is in danger of being embarrassed on national television four times in the next week and a half. Add in the Schmidt injury riddle, no Benitez or Bonds, and oh boy, this is starting to look like a train wreck.

…. Hapless or hopeless?

Henry Schulman covers all the bases in his article on yesterday’s embarassing 9-0 loss.

…. The Giants played a Grade-A stinker, falling 9-0 to a Houston team that had not scored more than four runs in a game in nearly two weeks. Brandon Backe pitched his first career shutout and complete game, making his 6.05 ERA look like a typo, while Morgan Ensberg hit three home runs against three different pitchers.

After winning the first two games of the series, the Giants dropped the final two, continuing their steady march to an 81-81 season. They scored one run over the final 18 innings against Backe, and Roger Clemens before him.

81-81 would be a miracle right now. WIth Alfonzo, Snow and Feliz returning to their normal levels of offense, Durham continuing his awful season, and Matheny doing wonders for the team ERA, the Giants are a ten-game losing streak waiting to happen.

Then again, how much can you expect from a team missing their best starting pitcher, the league’s best hitter and their newly imported uber-closer?

…. Rocket man

Roger Clemens dominated the Giants, striking out 10, in yesterday’s 4-1 loss to the Astros, who avoided the sweep.

I was wondering the other day whether Clemens should take a run at 400 wins. Yesterday’s win was his 331st, leaving him 69 wins away. Figure him for another 14 this season, (if he isn’t injured, he is still pitching at an extraordinary level), which would leave him with 345 wins. 55 wins is three seasons worth for the Rocket. He’s, what, 42 years old? Nolan Ryan, his idol, pitched until he was 46. Clemens already has made a case for being the greatest pitcher of all-time, (I don’t know how you could argue otherwise, really), two 20-strikeout games, 7 Cy Young Awards, an MVP, on his way to 350 wins, 4000 strikeouts….

400 wins in the modern era would be the period at the end of the sentence. three more seasons after this one, and if I were him, I’d stay in the NL. Not neccessarily with the hapless Astros, but definitely in the NL.

…. Luck be a Woody last night

Kirk Reuter earned his 105th career win as a Giant yesterday, pitching 7 strong innings, and the Giants climbed back over .500 after defeating the Astros 4-2 yesterday. With the win, Reuter became the all-time winningest lefty in SF history, surpassing Mike McCormick, who won a Cy Young award in 1967 for the orange and black.

With all the ups and downs, the Giants are 18-17, just 3 games behind the Dodgers. If they can somehow hold it together for another month or so, perhaps the season won’t be a complete loss. Of course, watching this team, I sometimes get the feeling they’re but a hair’s breadth away from a ten-game losing streak.

…. Luck be a lady tonight

So last season, Sabean trades Joe Nathan for Double Play AJ, and all Nathan does is save 44 games, strike out 89 guys in 72 innings, (while allowing but 48 hits) and post a 1.62 ERA, while the Giants end up losing the pennant by one game almost entirely due to a horrific bullpen.

By the end of the year, Dustin Hermanson had been converted to a closer for the first time in a couple of years, and did a credible job (17 saves, 9.33 K/9IP, 22 hits in 27 IP) until the change in his workload did him in. At the end of the season, Sabean wouldn’t pay him what he wanted, so he signed with the White Sox for $2 million per.

Tonight, he got his 7th save in as many chances, as the White Sox improved to 26-9. Hermanson has appeared in 15 games, for a total of 17.1 innings, and allowed 11 hits and 0 runs. That’s right, 35 games into the season, Hermanson has yet to be scored upon. Right handed batters are 3 for 30 against him. He’s allowed only 3 walks, and he’s struck out 11.

In case you’re interested, Joe Nathan has also appeared in 15 games this season, for a total of 14.1 innings, allowed 7 hits, 1 walk, has 17 strikeouts, and is also unscored upon thus far in 2005.

So the two closers we threw away the last two off-seasons are a combined 2-0 with 17 saves, 0 blown saves, 28 strikeouts in 32 innings pitched, 18 hits and 4 walks allowed, and a 0.00 ERA.

In 2002 and 2003, the Giants paid Robb Nen $19 million dollars to throw exactly 0 pitches, and this season, they will pay Armando Benitez just shy of $8 million for 9.1 innings, 15 baserunners, and a 5.79 ERA.

Anybody think maybe Sabean’s having some bad luck with closers?

UPDATE: Apparently, Sabean does ;-)

…. “Before you can look at your own team objectively, you have to look at your own decision-making, and we obviously missed the mark, whether that was overevaluating the strength of the group or what we expected. But it’s living proof that if you are unfortunate like you are now, to have your No. 1 starter out and have the closer out, you’re stretched really beyond what’s reasonable.

To me, you always figure something is going to happen with one of your starters, whether it’s a front-line guy or a kid. You don’t usually go through a season without one of them going on the DL. But when you lose the closer you expected to have from Day 1 and through the course of the year, and you really don’t have any other alternatives, you’re digging a hole.”

“Therein lies our lament, and we’re not going to be in a position where it happens again, (even if) we have to overpay somebody.”

He’s not exactly saying that he’s been unlucky, but he has. I’d like to see the article or interview where somebody said Nathan was going to become one of the best closers in the game. I didn’t think it was too big a deal to trade him, he’d been pretty good, but not amazing like he is now.

But as Mark B. points out, maybe it’s not bad luck at all:

…. It’s more than bad luck – it stems from an inability to properly judge talent (unless it’s “veteran,” of course) or to identify the areas where the team needs real help. Sabean traded away Nathan, weakening a none-too-strong bullpen, in order to acquire a catcher who wasn’t appreciably better than the one he already had rotting on the bench. Sabean then made a bad situation worse by trading Felix Rodriguez (flawed but useful) for Ricky Ledee (utterly useless).

This offseason, Sabean lets Hermanson walk after deciding he’s done, probably based on Dustin’s late-season meltdown. It doesn’t seem to have occured to Brian that letting Felipe ride Hermanson into the ground in September might have had something to do with those poor numbers. Sabean then turned around and repeated the exact same mistake he made with Robb Nen – signing a “big-name” closer for big bucks.

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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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