Archive for July, 2005

…. Woody’s blues

Kirk Rueter took his demotion like a man, and the Giants’ pitching coach took it like one of the Marx Brothers:

…. As to the whys of Rueter’s deterioration after seven straight double-digit victory campaigns, it’s seems a mystery, although it’s been speculated that ever since the QuesTec umpiring system was installed in some big league parks, the strike zone has changed — and Rueter’s pitches haven’t. Rueter was the master of the outside pitch, but no more.

Even pitching coach Dave Righetti couldn’t pinpoint the cause of the veteran’s 11-19 record since 2004.

“For now, he’s not in the starting rotation, and we’ll do what we’ve always done for the last six, seven years. We’re not going to invent too much for Woody. There’s not much I can do to change him. He’s gonna take a little break and throw tomorrow on the side. We won’t do anything special. His stuff hasn’t changed much, maybe two miles per hour. If anything, there was a time when he was winning ballgames and he had his best ERA in 2003 he was in a winning atmosphere and he thrives on that. He’s a helluva pitcher and he’s going through some tough times — he’s dealt with all kinds of things and he’s dealt with that, too.

I mean, I’m not expecting Righetti to come right out and say that Woody’s done or anything like that, but this is more than just cliche’d blather. This is an admission of cluelessness. This is Righetti saying that all he and the Giants are asking Rueter to do is more of the same. And that, my friends, is the heart of the problem with the Giants pitchers, and by extension, Dave Righetti. Not to single Rags out, but when you’re staff comes into the season expected to contend for a championship and posts an ERA above 5.00, when you’re throwing away pitchers left and right and still cannot find a way to stop the bleeding, the question of how good a job is the coach doing has to be raised.

The Giants were unable to get Livan Hernandez to stay in shape, Felix Rodriguez to develop or even use a second pitch. Damian Moss came here a winner, and completely fell apart, as did Sidney Ponson, to mention just two. Right now the Giants have rookies, established major leaguers and veterans in their pitching rotation and in the bullpen. How many of these pitchers are performing at or above their expected norms right now? Hennessey? Tomko? Rueter? Christiansen? Hawkins comes here and -unbelieveably- pitches even worse than he did when they ran him out of Chicago. The Giants gave up on Jerome Williams, David Aardsma, Kurt Ainsworth, Joe Nathan, Dustin Hermanson, Livan Hernandez, Russ Ortiz….

Every player, (every person, for that matter) has flaws. It’s up to the coaching staff to aid their players in getting the most out of their abilities. Is Righetti doing so? Open question, any solid argument one way or the other gets to headline the next post.

Is Righetti making any of these pitchers better? Are he and the Giants doing anything that makes you think their pitchers are better prepared to win than their opponents, in any way?

…. Big Time

I was on the radio again last night. Jamie Mottran had me on Sportsbloggers Live talking about the Giants possibly trading Jason Schmidt. It was a quick, (and I mean quick) interview, but I’ll take the exposure any way I can get it. The Sportsbloggers link will get you to my time on the radio if you’re using a PC-based computer. If you have a Mac like me, you gotta do some digging.

…. Lance Bondstrong

The Broken Cowboy is writing about baseball here, and about everything else here. Today, he writes about the similarities between Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong, and more importantly, the dissimilarities.

…. Here’s my question. Why has the mainstream press chosen to canonize Armstrong while convicting athletes like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Marion Jones? And why has the American public joined the parade? Is it only because we like him?

It’s almost certainly because we like Armstrong, as much as the entire BALCO investigation was based on a US government employees’ dislike of Bonds’ arrogance and swagger.

And I won’t even bring up the race card.

…. Half empty?

The Giants reached the halfway point of the 2005 season yesterday in pretty much the same fashion they began it, losing 11-10 to the Reds. After being given a 2nd inning 6-1, Kirk Rueter couldn’t make it through the fourth, and left on the losing end of a 7-6 score. The hitters amazingly got the lead back, but LaTroy Hawkins continued to do his Matt Herges impression, allowing a three-run double to the one batter he faced. I originally wrote that “Hawkins has allowed about seventy runs in 5 innings since we acquired him,” since I wanted to give you a dramatic sense of how bad he’s been. But in fact, he’s been so bad, exaggeration is unneccessary. In 4.1 innings with SF, he’s allowed 8 hits, 4 walks, 8 earned runs, and he’s allowed virtually every baserunner he’s inherited to score, which is leading me to wonder if there isn’t some disease running rampant through the pitching staff.

The Giants are 34-47. How bad is that? It’s their worst 81-game start in twenty years, since they lost 50 of their first 81 in 1985. Their home record of 17-23 is the worst in the NL, they have more losses than every team except Cincinnatti and the Rockies, and their pitching staff is in complete disarray, with but one reliable pitcher on the roster (Scott Eyre). The team promoted Brett Tomko back to the starting rotation, and appears ready to (finally) demote Rueter, who has won but 2 of his last 19 starts.

With Sabean and Colletti insisting that trading Jason Schmidt is not an option, the Giants have, well, no options to improve the starting rotation, which has been abysmal. The starters have been so uniformaly poor, it hardly matters anymore that Schmidt is killing the team. If he was 12-2 at this point, the Giants would likely be only about 5 games better in the standings, which means that there would only be 12 teams ahead of them in the race for a wild-card, instead of 20.

So here’s one analyst hoping and praying that Sabean and Colletti are showing their poker faces, waiting for some team loaded with youth and pitching to get desperate enough to pay top dollar for the damaged goods that Schmidt has become. It’s either that, or wait ’til next year, because without a blockbuster deal, this team has no chance.

The pitching staff has compiled the fifth worst ERA (5.15) in all of baseball, with only perennially craptacular franchises Colorado, Kansas City, Cincinnatti and Tampa Bay having performed worse. The starters have been the anchor (negative connotation here), posting a repulsive 5.30 ERA, having allowed an astounding 718 baserunners in 452 innings. Averaging 5.5 innings per start, the 718 baserunners means that the starting pitchers for the Giants have allowed more than one and a half (1.58) baserunners for every inning they’ve pitched, or 9 baserunners every start.

Which is to say, they’ve been bad, historically bad. 2005 is over. Trade Schmidt, and any other mediocrity (like, say, Alfonzo, Durham, and/or Grissom) while you can. In fact, you should’ve traded him after his second 8 inning shutout in a row. Now that he’s reverted to ’05 form, the return will be less.

…. Backtalk

I’m not gonna do a bunch of research on this, but I seem to remember that motorcycle accident/lying incident as being the straw that broke the camel’s back regards Kent’s relationship with the organization. To that point, I don’t remember there being anything noticably bad between Kent and anyone in the Giants other than the undercurrent of tension between Kent and Bonds. In this Chronicle article, Kent’s agent doesn’t seem to think he’s leaving no matter what.

At the end of 2002, Kent was the second best hitter in the National League, a solid, if unspectacular defensive second baseman, and one of the more durable players on the team (if not the entire league). I thought that perhaps it was time for him to go, primarily because the amount of negative media coverage around him was a distraction, and he did appear to be a bit of a red-ass. I’m not saying that Kent wouldn’t have left regardless, I’m saying that part of why he wanted to go has to fall on his poor relationship with Sabean and/or perhaps Magowan(?). It takes two to tango. It’s not hard for me to imagine a scenario in which the 2000 MVP is treated more importantly and therefore feels like he wants to stay, instead of being made to feel unwanted and unappreciated, something which obviously did happen.

Fine, let him go. But you’ve got to replace one of the top offensive players somehow. Vlad was out there, in a buyers market, and we couldn’t make a move on him because of Sabean’s propensity for giving way too much money for way too crappy players. Here’s what I wrote before the Alfonzo signing and the Ortiz trade:

…. Edgardo Alfonzo is a free agent, so the Giants wouldn’t need to trade to get him. I just read in the NY Daily News that Alfonzo is looking for considerably more than the 4 year, $17 million dolar deal that Bell just signed, but would consider a two-year deal for probably close to $10 million per. Well, good luck. After posting 52 home runs and 202 RBI’s in 1999 and 2000 combined, he’s had just about half that over the last two seasons combined. I just don’t see him getting anywhere near that much in this market, especially when Kent is out there looking for essentially the same deal. But unless he were to drop to about $6 million per for three years, I think Alfonzo is out of the Giants price range, (and that’s what they were just paying Jeff Kent, for crying out loud).

…. the rumors of Russ Ortiz being the pitcher included in these trade deals; is also a big concern. I guess it must be hard to get teams to even think about taking Livan off the team’s hands, but come on. You can’t trade Russ, who is much more valuable. Somebody can use a 200 inning horse who makes $3 million dollars, can’t they? Sabean would have to get a lot in return for Ortiz, like say, Brian Giles, or somebody else who is flat out one of the top ten at their position, because Russ is certainly in the top ten of 28 year old pitchers, with 63 wins and over 800 inning pitched the last four seasons.

What did we get for Ortiz? A piece of crap with one seasons worth of major league success, who is out of baseball a year and a half later. Meanwhile, Alfonzo gets about double what anyone else was offering from the Giants, and now we got a third baseman with a .380 slugging percentage making $8 million.

Sure, hindsight is twenty-twenty, but that ain’t hindsight. It’s foresight. I’m questioning Sabean’s philosophy, his approach to building a team, and I’ve been doing it on the fly for three seasons now, while he’s been sitting there making these decisions, not just waiting for him to be wrong and then jumping on him. Not to mention, I’M A FREAKIN’ CARPENTER, as opposed to, say, I don’t know, a GM.

Over-paying for older, established talent with little or no real upside, inhibiting the teams’ ability to get actual high-level talent, young, excellent baseball players, is an obvious mistake, and it has been obviously been wrong the whole tim it’s been going on. Add in the organization’s distaste for high draft picks, it’s bereft farm system -despite any and all reports about this prospect or that, the best player the Giants have developed in the last four years is probably Pedro Feliz, and the best pitcher is Noah Lowry- (ouch) and you’ve got a franchise going through some tough times, four-game winning streak aside.

And as for the 2003 team being better than than the ’02 team, all I can say is that if you think that, I can’t imagine why you’re here.

…. Giant mistake?

The backtalkers were on me like rice. Many agreed with my ideas, but some were pretty adamant that I was cuckoo for cocoa puffs:

…. I don’t get it — you complain about the Giants dismantling a championship team, as if keeping Bell, Aurilia, Worrell, Hernandez, and several others would have kept the Giants atop the N.L.

When Livan was traded, did you say, uh-oh, the Giants just traded a championship pitcher, or, like most Giants’ fans, were you sick of his mediocrity and unwillingness to pitch inside? (Blame it on Righetti, blame it on homesickness, whatever. But very few people thought Livan was a key piece of a championship puzzle.)

Would you prefer the 2005 version of Aurilia to Vizquel? David Bell over Alfonzo? (Alfonzo’s been disappointing, sure, but look at Bell’s stats.) Tim Worrell at $3 m a year?

You say: “Not one replacement, at any position, could be considered an upgrade over who was manning the spot in 2002.”

*I’d say Grissom in ’03/’04 was quite an improvement over Shinjo/Lofton.
*Jose Cruz was definitely a defensive upgrade over Sanders in RF.
*Moises Alou has been a much better hitter than anyone in RF since Ellis Burks.
*Benitez would likely have been Nen’s equal if not for the injury. You may say, well, he’s injured, so it doesn’t count. But unless he went against doctors’ warnings about Benitez’s hamstring, you can’t criticize Sabean for such an injury. He spent money on what seemed as sure a bet as possible.

Sabean’s made some bad moves the past couple years, but turning over much of the roster isn’t in itself a bad idea.

And your comparison to St. Louis doesn’t make sense: you praise the Cards for signing Reggie Sanders, but when the Giants sign him (or other vets) it’s a bad thing? You can’t have it both ways. Ditto Ed’s point above re. Mulder.

Ouch. ;-)

The guys you’re talking about, Sanders, Worrell, Bell, Kent, even Cruz after Sanders; these guys were all let go and then replaced by more expensive, older, not as productive players!!! Bell leaves, (we don’t want to pay him $4 million per), and Sabean throws $25 million at Alfonzo, a player we knew was injured and on a decline, after Sabean insists that a physical and/or insurance aren’t needed! We let Sanders leave, (paying him money to do so), and then we sign Cruz (who is more expensive but essentially the same exact player, and then we let him go because he made an error in the playoffs, replace him with overpaid, major league mediocrity (Mohr and Tucker). We tell future Hall of Famer Jeff Kent that we don’t like him anymore, and he leaves so we can give MORE MONEY THAN IT WOULD HAVE COST TO KEEP KENT to Ray Durham, who replaces the steady, 150 games a year Kent with 100 games of injury-filled excuses and errors.

Santiago for Pierzynski? Herges for Worrell. Nobody for Nen. Grissom for the gaping hole center field had become was perhaps the only signing that worked out for real, AND IT WAS A FLUKE!!! Grissom could hardly have been expected to hit for power, average, get on base, and play 145 games a year.

My complaint is that the changes have, in large part, been changes for the worse. When the Russ Ortiz deal was announced, I was initially for it, because I believed the bullshit Sabean was saying about saving money is one spot to use it in a better way. But then he goes and gives all that money to Woody, and Neifi, and one stiff after another; and I’m over it. The sales pitch doesn’t work anymore. Too many mediocre players have made too many millions while I’ve had to listen to how we can’t afford a real major leaguer.

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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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