Archive for September, 2005

…. <a href="">Don’t you get it?</a>

Senator John McCain, who actually doesn’t get pretty much anything, wants to know whether Donald Fehr “get’s it” about how important it is for Congress that baseball players get punished severely for failing a drug test. Hey McCain, don’t you get it?

There is no huge drug problem in baseball, there is an actual drug policy that is working, and we, the baseball fans that are setting attendance records coast to coast right now, we know that what’s really important to you and your cronies is distracting the mainstream media from the crimes against the country that our government is currently in the midst of committing.

I will admit that most of the members of the mainstream media seem to be complicit in your efforts to do so. Here’s ESPN’s Mark Kreidler, as clueless as anyone with a computer could be:

…. When McCain repeatedly pressed Fehr for a date as to when a new policy can be put into place, Fehr replied, “Can I give you a precise date? No. Would I expect it to be by the end of the World Series? I would certainly hope so.”

Got that? If a new agreement isn’t in place by the end of the Series, then Fehr’s “hopes” will have been dashed. You think he can live with his disappointment?

Don Fehr is fighting on behalf of his constituency. Let’s be clear on that. He doesn’t have to wear the black hat in this situation. It’s simply that Fehr is looking out for the interests of the players on the payrolls, not the sport that creates the industry that supplies the payrolls. Nothing inherently wrong with that: If you think the sport would be better left strictly to the devices of the folks who own the teams, we’d be happy to introduce you to the robber baron decades of the early and mid-1900s.

But Fehr is going to yield ground on this issue an inch at a time. He is going to stall and delay and hem and haw. Selig wants a 50-game suspension for a player’s first positive test. Fehr needed almost four months — four months — to announce this week’s counterproposal of 20 games, whereupon he said, “We believe that we’ve made a lot of strides.”

Ummm, Mark? Donald Fehr took four months to respond because after he reconsidered the penalties he’d just re-negotiated, (remember that the next time you hear how the players and Fehr are dragging their feet) he needed to actually speak to his constituents, (you know, the players), and actually ask them to, you know, vote on whether they wanted to cave in to the passing-the-buck kind of pressure being put on them by a criminally exploitive and manipulative commissioner.

Again, it must bear repeating (over and over, apparently) that there has never been anything resembling evidence that there is a large number of baseball players using steroids. The first year of testing revealed that less than 7% of players tested positive. Since then, the number has dropped to less than 1%.

For those of you still wondering, Barry Bonds has never failed a drug test, or admitted to knowingly or “unknowingly” using steroids. Neither has Mark McGwire, regardless of how you want to interpret what either of them have said or not said. The only players we absolutely know have used steroids are those who’ve failed their tests this season, and Canseco and Camminiti.

Any other “stories” you hear, are just that; stories. Facts are different. Facts are grey, and lack the spark that headlines demand. If you’re here, I’m hoping you are less inclined to be a headline quoting moron, (like so many people I hear), because I have no sympathy for those people. You wanna talk about what’s really going on, you’d better be reading the I’ve written on the subject, not to mention the tremendous works I’ve accumulated in my Steroids & Baseball section, written by men and women much, much smarter than me.

There is no steroids “problem” in baseball.

There is no problem that can be solved by more punishment.

The revolution will not be televised, by the way.

…. The end

So that’s that. The season has ended, and the Giants will be watching the playoffs for the second year in a row. How many ways did 2005 go wrong? The Giants started the season without Bonds and Alou, lost Benitez, agonized through Jason Schmidt’s strange and still ongoing decline from Cy Young contender to Brett Tomko look alike, lost faith in Jerome Williams, Kirk Rueter, Marquis Grissom (remember Grip?), Pedro Feliz and Edgardo Alfonzo, discovered a real centerfielder, and the team meandered through a season that featured only one 6-game winning streak and their worst record in a decade.

Along the way, the honeymoon with Felipe Alou came to a close, the entire pitching staff collapsed at one point or another, and Brian Sabean enters the off-season with as many questions as he and the team have faced during his decades-long run of excellence.

The team needs a first-baseman with power (love to see Bonds there), an everyday third baseman (Feliz would be fine), some infield depth, and the pitching problems must be addressed. On the one hand, the Giants have some really nice-looking young pitchers, (Cain, Munter, Accardo, Lowry). On the other, this team is built to win now, so while it’s nice to have some young pitchers with upsides; if Righetti can’t solve Jason Schmidt’s mechanics, and Alou won’t recognize that he’s mis-using and abusing virtually every pitcher on the roster, this team won’t contend in ’06 anyway.

Hello off-season.

UPDATE: Backtalker Grega:

It would be helpful for the Giants to have Bonds be able to play first, but since Willie Mays never did, don’t expect Barry to even consider it.

I wouldn’t say that. Bonds has a goal, two actually, a ring and the HR title. Willie got his ring, and wasn’t gonna catch Aaron. And even given that, he played as long as he possibly could, until he was a shell of himself. Bonds could be a solid five years away from being as bad, if he decided to push the HR record past 800.

And Bonds, Gold Glover that he is, was never considered a fielder on par with Wille. At this point of his career, he should feel no real devotion to being a left fielder. Playing first base would be a simple solution for the two things that matter most to him now, staying in SF and staying in the lineup. And Barry’s nothing if not smart. It’s the smart thing to do. If we read something about it in, say, the SF Chron, in next couple of weeks or months, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

…. Loser

What a disgrace. Blowing 3-0 and 5-3 leads in the most important game of the season, Tomko should be ashamed of himself. If I was his teammate, I’d punch him in the mouth.

UPDATE: Is this agonizing or what?

UPDATE: Unbelievable. Here’s an idea…. Don’t have a ninety-year old pitching to the most important hitter of the season.

UPDATE: So, I guess this isn’t one of the twenty games JT Snow’s saving for us this year.

UPDATE: That was great.

UPDATE: Here’s the recap. It hardly does justice to the reality of the complete failure of Brett Tomko, or, for that matter, Felipe Alou. Tomko’s failure, his inability to hold not one, but two separate leads, his failure to get the leadoff batter out in any inning he pitched tonight, his utter and complete fumbling of his one opportunity to wipe clean the slate of a disgusting, dissappointing, deflating and demoralizing 7-15 season from hell, probably dooms his intentions to remain a Giant, and has certainly doomed the Giants of any real shot to make the last week of the season reasonably interesting.

He failed. He let himself, his team and the city of San Francisco down. The Padres were reeling, down 3-0 before they could even begin to think about how tough it was to watch Trevor Hoffman blow a save for the first time in 5 months…. And don’t you believe the bullshit the Padres are saying on Sportscenter, about how they knew all along they were the better team, blah, blah,blah. They were on the ropes after Bonds went yard, big-time. They were folding.

All Tomko needed to do was get the leadoff batter in the first, and he had ‘em, 1-2 count, throwing 97 MPH. All he needed to do was shut them down, right then and there, game over, season’s worth of pressure on the Padres. Instead, he couldn’t throw strikes, couldn’t throw anything but BP fastball’s, couldn’t do his job!!!, and once again, the Giants, as a team failed. I’ve said it before…. Starting pitching’s great, nobody hits…. get a lead, bullpen blows up…. need an out, somebody makes an error….

And don’t even get me started on Alou. Just like Game 7, instead of doing whatever was needed for the good of the team, he did the same thing Dusty Baker did. He allowed a fuckhead pitcher, a guy who had let the team down far more often than he had picked them up; he let a jerkoff like that blow a game, a game in which he should have been on a leash about as short as Alou’s attention span; but NO, Alou allows him to blow, not one, but TWO leads.

But wait. That’s not enough screw-ups for one game.

Miraculously, Alou and the Giants get another lead, and Alou brings in, of all people, Jeff Fassero to protect a one-run lead in the most important game of the year. And then, after watching Fassero fool nobody for 25 pitches, he gets lucky, and gets what should have been the third out of the inning, a soft grounder to the King of the Infield… BUT NO!!!! The King of the Infield, the Run-Saver (a player Sabean thinks is so amazing defensively that the Giants can approach a 162 game season knowing that they will allow about 30 more home runs from the first base position than they will hit) makes perhaps the most devastating error in the history of the franchise, leaving the bases loaded and two outs…. Then, Felipe Alou allows Fassero to go one more batter with THE BASES LOADED and a one-run lead in a game that the Giants ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT AFFORD TO LOSE, NO MATTER WHAT….

What a horrible, devastating, un-fucking-believable way to lose the most important game of the season. I can’t believe I allowed myself to get sucked in again. Unbelievable.

UPDATE: Sorry about the F-bombs. I was really ticked off, and I’m not taking them out, ‘cuz they were the truth.

Winn as a Kent-type acquisition? He’s been scorching for quite a while. If he’s even 85% this good over the long haul, we’ve solved our centerfield problem. Tomko? Listen, it’s on the manager. Tomko seemed like he was ready for the pressure of last night, but Alou needed to treat the game like an elimination game. Once the Giants regained the lead, there was no way Tomko should have been allowed to go one batter past his first baserunner. And to allow Fassero to handle a bases-loaded situation, with a one-run lead…. Absolutely unforgivable.

Here’s Tomko:

…. I missed with two-strike pitches more than anything, I was right on the edge, threw some pitches that were close to the plate, but didn’t get the call. I wasn’t wild, even if I didn’t have a clue where the ball was going. I got people where I wanted them, made mistakes, and they capitalized on them. I finally got some runs, and I didn’t hold up my end of it. That was disappointing.

…. <B>ALIVE</B>

I don’t know what to say or think about the Giants suddenly finding themselves 3 games back with 6 to play. After last night’s astonishing comeback against Trevor Hoffman, the Giants find themselves surging into the realm of the miraculous.

Can they do it? Tonight’s game {(Brett Tomko (7-15, 4.48) vs. Adam Eaton (10-5, 4.18)} should answer that question. If last night has any bearing on the state of mind for both the Giants and the Padres, if momentum actually does exist day to day, if Bonds is cementing his legend, if the planets are aligned and the stars are crossed, well, then we’ll see the Giants jump out to an early 5-0 lead and cruise to a blowout win.

And then, my friends, all bets are off. The Giants could find themselves closer to first place (and the postseason) than the Cleveland Indians, winners of 17 of their last 21 games, and currently 28 games over .500 (92-64). The Giants are closer to making the playoffs than the Oakland A’s are (85-71, 5 games back of the Angels).

More importantly, should they make the playoffs, they would represent one of the most dangerous and pressure-filled opponents any team could face; a sub-.500 playoff team, the first in baseball history, against the NL-champion Cards, who were swept out of the World Series by the not-to-be-denied Red Sox last season. The Cards could hardly choose a worse opponent, a Giants team led by Barry Bonds playing with absolutley nothing to lose.

…. 707

Bonds continued his amazing comeback with another home run (career # 707) to lead the Giants to an easy 5-1 win over the Nats. Bonds has now homered in 4 straight games, astonishing considering he missed the first 142 games of the season, less astonishing considering he’s the best player of all time.

The Giants won their fifth in a row, but the Padres kept pace, so although the Giants are 71-80, under 10 games below .500 for the first time since who knows when, the task at hand (5 games back with 11 to play) is still daunting, if not impossible.

Catching the Padres may not happen, but Bonds could very well catch Ruth if he can stay this hot, and teams continue to pitch to him.

…. More news to me

Let’s add Jason Schmidt to the list of pitchers who’ve had their season end prematurely. Amazingly, Felipe Alou seemed to think that Schmidt over-ruling his coaches and trainers directions, and throwing five innings with an already injured groin was the right stuff.

…. “I believe Schmitty has really become a complete pitcher,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said. “He can pitch with really good stuff or what he had yesterday, control.”

Just like the old days, right, Felipe? Schmidt disregarded his health, his trainer, pitching coach and manager…. he thought it’d be embarassing to take himself out because of an injury, and no one seems to notice that the inmates are running the asylum.

One reason, (perhaps the most important reason) you bother to have coaches and managers is because, for the most part, it’s impossible to see the whole picture when you are concentrating on doing your particular job. With the 2005 Giants, the coaches aren’t seeing the whole picture at all. They are consistently missing the forest for the trees, and for the life of me, I can’t believe that no one in a position of responsibility notices how much of the team’s problems can be traced to this issue.

…. News to me

Let’s talk some more about injuries. The Giants pitching staff, under Alou, has had a run of injuries almost unheard of in the modern game. The Giants have not had one starter make all of his starts the last two seasons, and as far as I can tell, not one reliever has failed to need time on the DL either. This is on Alou, Alou and Righetti.

They cannot judge when a player needs time off, or when a pitcher has reached his pitch limit, or how to organize and manage the bullpen, even in today’s game with the thousands and thousands of hours of independent research and study being done in an effort to answer those questions. Now we read about Scott Munter will likely miss the rest of the season.

…. When Alou was asked if he expected Munter to be that good that soon, he said, “If you remember my words as soon as I saw him the first time in spring training, yes, I did. I hope he stays healthy. He pitched a lot of games between Triple-A and the big-leagues.”

I hope he stays healthy. That says it all. As far as Alou is concerned, players “get injured,” sort of like in the good old days, when a guy had a sore arm and they rubbed liniment on it.

Ignoring commonly accepted precepts about reliever use, or pitch counts, Alou simply uses players like the Giants are a video game. The only time he doesn’t put his son in the lineup is when Stan Conte tells him he’s injured. Otherwise, Alou thinks nothing of playing him 25, 30 days in a row. He thinks nothing of having guys warming up, game after game, from about the fifth inning on. He thinks nothing of allowing Lowry to throw his 115th pitch in a two men on, two outs in the 7th inning situation, and the next night using 5 relievers to get four outs.

You will notice that it may have taken me some time to get it clear in my head, (I. Been. BUSY!), but that time has come; Alou is no longer capable of managing this team, and almost certainly has to be assigned the lion’s share of the blame for the shoddy pitching we’ve seen for most of the last two seasons, not to mention the simply staggering number of games lost to injury by just about every member of the team.

Since Sabean is not known for making changes without considering the possibilities that a glacier may or may not have moved; it’s likely we won’t see Alou replaced until he is ready to leave; which is unfortunate. I cannot see how the team can remain healthy (and consequently, remain in contention), with a manager who apparently has no idea about the demands of the modern game.

…. Collapse

So much for the fantasy; Bonds leading the Giants back from the dead. What can you say? The horrible collapse by Armando Benitez absolutely took the winds out of the sails of a team beginning to believe. Now Giants fans know the pain of Mets fans, or Orioles fans, or even Yankee fans; Benitez can look like a million bucks on one pitch, and ten cents on the next. As Barry Bloom writes, the last two blown saves were only the tip of the iceberg:

…. It’s not significant games lost to injuries by veterans Barry Bonds, Moises Alou, J.T. Snow, Armando Benitez and Jason Schmidt. It’s the 23 blown saves — 51 over the last two seasons — that spells out why this team hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003.

Benitez was doing the same thing before he came back (amazingly) from his horrible injury.

On April 12th, the team was 4-2, and he blew the first game of a rare, two-game series, allowing 4 runs (3 earned) in 1 2/3 innings. The Giants proceeded to lose 9 of 13, ensuring a slow start for the second year in a row. Blown saves derial even the best teams. It’s hard, regardless of how many games you play during the long season, to rebound from losing a game that was so close to a victory. Add in the fact that the Padres loss was worth two games with just 17 to play, and it seems every time the Giants were within striking distance of a winning streak, a blown save knocked them off the rail.

23 blown saves in one season, on the heels of 28 blown saves a year ago, I mean, man, that has to be exhausting. No wonder the team couldn’t absorb the losses of Bonds and Alou and Snow and the collapse and loss of team leader and winningest-lefty-in-SF Giants-history Kirk Rueter and Jerome Williams and the inexplicable faltering of Jason Schmidt, and the lost first half for Ray Durham and a 6 total home runs from Snow and Alfonzo, and Alou’s strange managing habits and the never-ending BALCO controversy.

…. Electric, Part II

Barry Bonds presence in the lineup contributed to a second straight comeback against the first place Padres, as the Giants won 5-3 behind Noah Lowry’s team-best 13th win. Bonds walked twice and singled and his presence has clearly energized the team.

The Giants go for the sweep today, with Matt Cain looking to build on his sensational 2-hitter. And really, today is everything. They have to win today to have any hope at all of catching the Padres. 4 games behind with 18 games to go is very difficult, but 6 is impossible.

More than likely, they’ll be facing the Padres with Bonds on the bench, perhaps available as a pinch-hitter, but if Cain can continue to dominate, anything is possible. Still teasin’? Maybe. It’d be one of the greatest comebacks in all of sports history if Bonds were somehow able to carry the Giants to the postseason, and it would cement his legend for all time. I’d love to see it happen.

UPDATE: Well, that pretty much ended the season. A two-out, two-strike, two-run double off of Benitez (Unbelievable. What a pair of terrible, absolutely devastating collapses by him down the stretch) ruined both the stellar start by Cain, the clutch eighth inning rally, and any chance the Giants had to make a serious run at the NL West title.

And hasn’t that been the story all season long? When they’ve hit, the starting pitching has failed them. When they’ve gotten great starts, the hitters have been in a coma. When they’ve had leads, the bullpen has collapsed. It’s always something, some bad play, or bad call, or bad pitch or whatever. *sniff* And I allowed myself to care.

…. Electric

Bonds’ debut showed the baseball world that he will be the player he was before missing 142 games due to the three knee surgeries. The only question he has left to answer is what kind of daily grind can he handle. He ran well (enough). Even with the layoff, he missed an opposite field home run by about a foot, being just a hair late with his swing on both that drive and the 410 foot monster to deep left-center. The Giants beat the Padres 4-3 something they will need to do every single time they play the rest of the way.

Lost in the nice win was the awful start by Kevin Correia, who failed to make it out of the first inning due to his inability to throw strikes. Matt Kinney came in and wriggled out of his mess, and ended up pitching a pretty nice game to earn his first win as a Gigante.

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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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