Archive for November, 2006
Before I get around to writing about watching our Triple AAA Giants this upcoming season, let me make sure I’ve said all I have to say about my NY Giants.
First, it was the worst loss in team history. Both of the losses brought up as possible claimants to the throne were terrible, for sure, but both of those games were playoff games, (Minnesota Vikings in ’97, and the 49ers in 2002), they were losses to good teams that took up most of their respective second halves to occur. In this game, all the Giants needed to do to win was avoid any stupid, thoughtless, incomprehensibly bad, game-changing mistakes with a little more than half of the fourth quarter left. This was a task beyond the capacities of, oh, I don’t know, five or six or ten players, coaches and game staff.
You need to read what the best sportswriter on the planet has to say about it:
…. Let’s ponder the coaching aspect of the Giants’ epic collapse. Jersey/A led 21-0 and had possession of the ball with 13 minutes remaining at Long Playing Field. Then Eli Manning threw an interception — but why were the Giants throwing with a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter? Manning didn’t decide on his own to throw, the coaches radioed that call directly into Eli’s helmet. Leading by 21 points in the fourth quarter, do nothing but run up the middle for no gain for the rest of the game, and victory seems likely.
Tennessee scores to make it 21-7; the Giants go three-and-out, throwing an incomplete pass to stop the clock. Tennessee scores to make it 21-14; the Giants punt with 3:13 remaining, after throwing an incomplete pass to stop the clock. Tennessee scores to make it 21-21; Jersey/A has the ball on its own 28 with 32 seconds remaining and throws another interception. From the point at which the Giants had a 21-0 lead and possession of the ball with 13 minutes remaining, Coughlin and his staff called seven passing plays — which is seven too many. The result was both interceptions and incompletions that stopped the clock in a game Tennessee won with a field goal with six ticks left. Maybe when you’re ahead 21-0 in the fourth quarter you shouldn’t be tossing the ball into the air? The final interception was particularly bad coaching because at that point Tennessee had just rallied to tie, and momentum had shifted. All the emotion and crowd noise was on the Titans’ side; the field position and clock situation dictated kneeling and going to overtime, with the ensuing intermission creating some space for Tennessee to cool off. Instead Jersey/A’s coaches put the ball in the air, offering the Titans victory. Manning didn’t make that call. The Giants were seriously outcoached — and afterward, the coach blamed his players.
…. Leading 21-0 on the first snap of the fourth quarter, Jersey/A faced fourth-and-3 on the Flaming Thumbtacks’ 31. A field goal here ices the contest, but Giants’ coaches have no confidence in the weak-legged Jay Feely; they go for it, pass incomplete. At the end game, it’s tied and Tennessee moves to the Giants’ 31 with 11 ticks remaining. Rob Bironas kicks true from the exact yard line Tom Coughlin would not allow Jay Feely to kick from. Wind was light. If you don’t have someone on the roster who can make a 48-yard field goal, you are not an NFL contender.
…. Single Worst Play of the Season So Far: You’ve got to run some mighty bad plays to blow a 21-0 fourth-quarter lead. It’s tempting to say the worst occurred with 10:51 remaining. The Giants led 21-0, Vince Young had just scrambled on fourth-and-9 and been stopped short of the first down; Jersey ball, and TMQ would have written the words “game over” in his notebook. Except as Young went out of bounds, Giants defensive back Frank Walker delivered a brainless late hit. First down Tennessee, and the Titans scored three snaps later. Walker is a nobody, yet thought his own desire to make the highlight reel by popping a star quarterback was more important than the team.
A worse play was to come, though, because it involved more than one Giant. Now it’s Jersey 21, Tennessee 14, and the Flaming Thumbtacks face fourth-and-10 with 2:44 remaining — another chance for the Giants to end the comeback. Young scrambles for the first down, and the vaunted Giants defense is on its way to surrendering 24 points in the final quarter. On the scramble, Mathias Kiwanuka deliberately let Young go, believing he had thrown the ball and not wanting a roughing-the-passer flag. This was just a mistake by Kiwanuka. It’s what happened next that was bad: Defenders Will Demps, William Joseph, Kiwanuka and Fred Robbins all stood there doing nothing, making no attempt to chase Young as he headed for the first down. Will Demps, William Joseph, Mathias Kiwanuka and Fred Robbins — you staged the Single Worst Play of the Season So Far. Stupid late hits, guys standing around doing nothing — sounds like a team that’s been outcoached, doesn’t it?
In defense of Kiawanuka, the Giants have been flagged by so many game-changing, momentum-changing late hits, unsportsman-like conduct and roughing the passer calls that he was right to worry about whether Young had released the ball or not.
The seemingly endless succession of bad penalties has been the bane of this team from minute one; remember the very first game of the year? Down 23-21 to the Colts with about 4 minutes left, on third and long in Giants territory, WR Tim Carter is flagged for a phantom offensive pass interference after a 19 yard reception. That was the last flag of a 10-penalty day, on the first day of the season for a coach who makes playing mistake-free football his mantra. This type of flag has plagued the Giants for essentially the entire tenure of Coughlin’s reign as head coach. Is it a league conspiracy, or do the Giants players spend all game long being told by the refs to cut the shit; but they keep doing it until the refs are forced to call these game-changing penalties?
In the loss to the Bears, the game that seems to have been the beginning of the end, the Bears were down 13-10, around midfield in the third quarter, and on a second and 10, incomplete pass, William Joseph was called for a nice 15-yard, roughing the passer penalty in which Joseph’s arm hit Rex Grossman’s head as Joseph was being held and driven to the ground. This was but one more penalty amidst another 10-penalty day for the Giants.
This is a deep, talented team, (Kiawanuka is the fourth string defensive end) that is poorly coached, simple as that. They win despite the coach, not because of him. Again, when was the last time you heard about a Giants game plan that was the difference in a game? Other coaches devise defensive game plans, offensive game plans, personell-specific schemes that are lauded as the key difference in their team winning or losing all the time. Why don’t we ever hear about Coughlin and his coaches doing the same? Because it doesn’t happen, that’s why.
The Giants are undisciplined, they make far too many critical, stupid, thoughtless errors. Sunday was as bad as it gets in the NFL for the Giants, but looking at their schedule, with 6 defensive starters still on the sidelines, they could go from 6-2 to 6-10 in the blink of an eye. And they’ll be looking for a new coach if they do.
Let’s talk football for a second, here. In point of fact, let’s talk NY Giants football. Let’s talk about the worst loss in franchise history, as the Giants went down 24-21, blowing a 21-0 lead with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter. Let’s talk about a team that continues to be one of the most un-disciplined and poorly coached teams in the entire league. Even during their five-game winning streak, the Giants continued to be plagued by turnovers, stupid, stupid penalties, and in game management decisions that, quite frankly, boggle the mind. Now that they’ve faced some real teams, we see them stumbling right back into the team that was down 42-3 to the Seahawks.
Eli Manning may be the real deal one day, but right now, he’s one of the worst quarterbacks in the league. For the third game in a row, the Giants called a swing pass to Tiki Barber on the first play of the game, and for the third game in the row, Manning threw it into the ground in front of Barber’s feet. Do I have to mention that we’re talking about one of the easiest plays for a QB to make, or that the Giants script their first twenty plays or so, so it was also a play that Manning has practiced probably fifty times this week, (not to mention the previous two weeks).
The two fourth quarter picks he threw today were horrible, terrible plays, each repulsive in it’s own way. The first, an overthrown go route, –speaking of overthrows, I couldn’t believe the announcers talking about the receivers dropping passes on him last week, when he was barely able to keep his throws within a five to ten yard circle around where the receivers were– was disgusting for the way Burress first gave up on trying to catch the ball, and then gave up on attempting to defend the pass, and then gave up on trying to tackle Jones. Really, truly unprofessional behavior by a supposed team leader, a guy who is one of the highest paid players on the team.
The second pick was just one more terrible decision in a season of terrible decisions by Manning, a throw into coverage, (Pacman Jones, just their best DB) at a time in the game when a turnover simply cannot be made; 30 seconds left, at midfield, in a tie game where they have all the momentum. Simply indefensible mental mistake.
Speaking of indefensible mental mistakes, how about the late hit on Young, fourth and 9, (8 minutes left, Giants up 21 points), as Young was running out of bounds short of the first down. The Giants have been called for that kind of game-turning penalty about ten times this season, something that also reflects terribly on Mr.Task-master. Key holding penalties, false starts, personal fouls, unsportsmanlike conduct…. On and on, one after another, game after game.
Speaking of decision-making, how do you like that Kiawanuka sack/no-sack play? Wow.
How can a team overcome the enormous stream of mental mistakes this team is guilty of? They cannot. The Giants win in spite of Coughlin, not because of him. We never hear or read or talk about how Coughlins game plan was the difference. The only thing you ever hear positive about his coaching is how he helped Tiki stop funmbling. Great.
Meanwhile, the players keep making the same mistakes over and over, game after game. They keep making critical, game-changing mental errors. How can Manning’s mechanics fall apart as the season goes on, two years in a row? Coaching, that’s how? It is coaching, it is Coughlin. What he coaches theses players to do, what he and his coaches talk about and prepare for and consider important, the bullet points and fines and 5-minute early clocks and nit-picking, bullshit things that Coughlin focuses on; that is why these players play so fucking stupid, game after game after game. Stupid play comes from stupid coaching. When your team makes the same stupid plays, again and again, like this team has for going on three seasons now, you have to look at the top. Kill the brain. Fire Coughlin. Now. Not at the end of the season. You cannot allow him to run this team for another minute. You simply cannot.
In our ongoing MVP debate, Jay T. makes the further point that since Jeter played on a team of stars, his contributions were’nt as important as Morneau’s. Well, OK, but Morneau played on a team that had substantially, substantially better pitching than the Yankees, and also had a teammate who was, at least judging by win shares, a bigger offensive contributor than he was; a teammate who played a much tougher position.
Almost all of the internet community has been deriding the selection of Morneau as the MVP, and if you take out RBI’s, you can see why, you can see that, while he is one of the best guys, he certainly isn’t the best.
Mauer .347/.429/.507 .936 OPS 181 H 36 2B 4 3B 13 HR 86 R
Jeter .343/.417/.483 .900 OPS 214 H 38 2B 3 3B 14 HR 118 R
Morneau .321/.375/.559 .934 OPS 190 H 37 2B 1 3B 34 HR 97 R
Rodriguez .290/.392/.523 .915 OPS 166 H 26 2B 1 3B 35 HR 113 R
Ortiz .287/.413/.636 1.049 OPS 160 H 28 2B 2 3B 54 HR 115 R
Dye .315/.385/.622 1.007 OPS 170 H 27 2B 3 3B 44 HR 103 R
If power is the criteria, Morneau isn’t the best, if it’s total package, he’s not, if it’s leadership, I don’t see how he did a better job than any of these other guys, not if it’s OBP, runs scored, defense…. If you add it all up, and just look at the overall picture, I still don’t see how Morneau rises to the top. He was second in the AL in RBI, 7th in batting average, 6th in slugging percentage, and 8th in OPS. Ortiz led the league in walks, home runs, RBI and OPS. How is Morneau more valuable than him? Because he played first?
You’re looking at two guys who play premier, up-the-middle positions, two other infielders, and two outfielder/DH guys. These players are all terrific, the differences between them is virtually impossible to discern, but historically, shortstop and catcher have always been recognized as more important, and therefore, more valuable. Using these raw stats, it is clear, (to me, at least), that the first baseman should have needed to out-perform, well, at least everyone else in the infield, by a substantial margin, to be considered the MVP; think Mattingly circa 1985. Morneau clearly did not do that. He didn’t out-perform his own catcher, for crying out loud, who played the same schedule, with the same weak teammates, and who was clearly more valuable by dint of handling the single most demanding position on the diamond.
For that matter, with all the talk of A-Rod’s lost season, Morneau hardly blows even him out of the water, (A-Rod drove in 121 to Morneau’s 130, if you’re wondering) and if you take into account the fact that third base is quite a bit more challenging than first, well, you can see where this is headed.
The Yankees lost two-thirds of their starting outfield for essentially the whole season, went through the whole A-Rod saga, lost their All Star second baseman for months, had one of the shittiest starting pitching staffs in the AL, in fact, they ran out there every day with the worst starting pitching of any of the eventual playoff teams. If Jeter was such a bad defensive shortstop, how does Wang, a full-blown groundball pitcher, win 19 games and finish in the top-three in the Cy Young voting? They had a lumbering lummox playing first base everyday; I mean, forget about the salaries of the team, look at the players that suited up every day.
If his name wasn’t Jeter, if the NY media hadn’t started the MVP drumbeat way back in August, there could be no doubt that as a shortstop of that team, a team that won the most games in all of baseball, he would have won the award.
Jeter-worship backlash is why he didn’t. Justin Morneau? He wasn’t mentioned as a serious MVP-candidate in anything I read, all season long, and right up to the week before surveys that predicted a Mauer-Jeter tie. That backlash, plus the stupidity of a large group of men who want to hold onto an archaic view of baseball, one in which players who evoke Jim Rice’s strength’s are revered; is the reason Jeter finished second.
Where’s the outrage when unbelievable horseshit signings like this and this are occuring? Matthews gets 5-years, $50 million, and Pierre gets 5-years, $45 million? These are two players who could hardly be described as stars, two players who are 30-somethings, one coming off a career year, the other at what will almost certainly be the beginning of the end of his effectiveness, and they’re getting bank-busting deals like these?
The Red Sox come up with $51 million for the rights to negotiate with the newest Japanese defector? Soriano gets $136 million? Ramirez gets $75 million for 5 years? I want to hear Selig tell us about how small market teams can’t compete, or how only the Yankees can pay for top-flight talent in today’s world. There can be no doubt that there is plenty, and I mean plenty of money flowing in MLB right now.
And, once again, it is clear that intelligent, reasoned and accurate understanding of player value is known to but a few members of the baseball establishment. As El Lefty Malo said, the best news for Giants fans during this early free-agent signing-fest, is that Sabean is sitting on his hands. I mean, if Ramirez gets $12.5 million per, what’s Bonds worth?
David Pinto has some of the same concerns I do:
…. Just how smart do the Cardinals look right now? In February 2004 they sign Albert Pujols to a seven-year, $100 million dollar contract. Otherwise, he’d be a free agent right now. Can you imagine what kind of money Albert would command in this class? Ten years, $300 million?
This is lunacy. It wasn’t four months ago that everyone was saying how only the Yankees could afford Bobby Abreau. It was just last off-season that we were reading that only the Yankees could afford to sign Johnny Damon. Obviously, that’s not true. Well, Gary Matthews Jr. just got more money than Damon did last season; and he’s, what, about half the player Damon is? Seriously, Aramis Ramirez is costing the Cubs a hair less than A-Rod is costing the Yanks.
Has everyone lost their minds?
Seth Stohs is wondering why all the outrage over this year’s MVP vote; and in particular, the AL vote. I could hardly care less, to tell you the truth, but I’ll throw in a few notes.
Justin Morneau beat out Derek Jeter by a few points, and, for all intents and purposes, the difference between those two players and David Ortiz this past season is essentially unmeasurable. The Hardball Times shows Jeter with 33, Joe Mauer with 31, Ortiz with 29 and Morneau with 27 win shares. Given that it takes three win shares to make a win, well, you can see where I’m going here. If there’s a real outrage, it should be over the voters ignoring a catcher whe became only the second man at his position to lead the league in batting average while being among the top three players in the league. But I digress.
Historically, RBI counts have been the most consistent predictor of MVP voting, so to see Morneau beat Jeter out with his 30-plus RBI edge is no surprise. In fact, this year’s MVP voting in both leagues seem to be a slap in the face to all the sabermetricians out there. We’re just gonna pick the guys with the best looking traditional stats, and let the arguments begin. I’m not gonna do a bunch of links to other writers here either, since Seth apparently stayed up all night and beat me to it, but Jeter said it best:
“I’m flattered and honored to have been considered for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. I want to congratulate Justin Morneau on this well-deserved honor. He is a special player, and I suspect this won’t be the last time you will hear his name mentioned when awards are being passed out.”
I would have liked to see Jeter win it, since this may have been his best chance, but I don’t see how I could argue that he was robbed.
More disappointing news from the Giants, as Sabean apparently has no intention of changing his stripes:
…. Major-league sources said Tuesday the Giants are negotiating with (Juan) Pierre, who had 204 hits, 156 of them singles, and stole 58 bases in 78 attempts for the Cubs in 2006.
…. The club remains in contact with Gary Matthews Jr., Dave Roberts and Jay Payton as it tries to fill what it considers a pressing need: a leadoff-hitting center fielder.
More “veterans.” Great.
Pierre is a slap-singles only hitter, a leadoff man who scored but 87 runs in over 700 plate appearances, with just 32 walks in 699 at-bats. And he’ll probably command something in the $6 million-plus per year range.
UPDATE: Please tell me the rumors about Pierre getting $10 million per aren’t true? Because at anything resembling that level, we damn sure better be thinking about landing a real player, like Soriano.
UPDATE: Well, OK. Here’s a story suggesting that the Giants are interested in Soriano, although reading through the piece, I get the feeling we’re not really interested enough to make the big splash:
…. If these potent players actually command deals that they reportedly are seeking, $80 million over six years for Lee and $120 million over seven for Soriano, the Giants’ chances decrease, for even with his satchel of cash heavier than before, general manager Brian Sabean must spread it around to as many as seven position players while fortifying the bullpen and rotation.
Also mentioned in the article was a preliminary dialogue with Ted Lilly, (an adequate fourth starter, really), who’s said to be looking for 4-years, $35 million dollar. Unbelievable. That would mean Schmidt should be able to get part ownership with some clubs.
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UPDATE: I just set it up in my right sidebar, permanently.
Today brings us a couple of articles about the possible end of the road for Bonds, something David Pinto noticed first, (as usual) over at Baseball Musings:
…. After all these years of special treatment by the Giants, why do they think Barry will change now? And what, exactly, is the penalty if he disobeys Bochy? The only discipline I can imagine working is benching him so he can’t break the home run record, but that’s going to cost the team wins. If a team signs Bonds, they pretty much have to accept the baggage he carries.
Meanwhile, Filip Bondy of the NY Daily News is still wondering whether Superman will just go away:
…. Here is a lefthanded power hitter, a perfect DH or adequate outfielder, who had an on-base percentage of .454 last season, a cybernetician’s dream, coming on strong in late summer and still capable of hitting a homer every 10 at-bats.
He also may cost an owner no money whatsoever.
“I think from an attendance impact alone, he would be tremendous,” said his agent, Jeff Borris. “He’s such a draw and attraction. You look at Roger Clemens, the Astros drew 4,000 more fans on average every time he pitched. If Barry Bonds draws 4,000 more per game, then an increase of 300,000 over the course of a season is an extremely conservative estimate. You think about how much a family of four spends at the ballpark, and start doing the math.”
Borris is absolutely correct about this. Bonds, 42, needs 22 more homers to break Aaron’s career record of 755. He surely will draw more and more fans as he approaches that mark, possibly around August. You multiply numbers, and Bonds easily can bring in an extra $12 million in revenues – provided he’s not missing games because of injuries or those nasty, pressing legal matters.
Well, yes, he will. But Bondy nails the obvious, whoever signs Bonds will be dealing with a bunch of nags. Nagging injuries, nagging legal battles, nagging moralists railing about erasing him from the record books; and now, nagging “team chemistry” issues:
…. According to sources inside and outside the Giants clubhouse, Bonds exasperated teammates and coaches several times last season when he chose to make himself unavailable in pinch-hitting situations.
Multiple sources confirmed that Bonds had taken off his uniform during the ninth inning of a 5-3 loss at Milwaukee on Sept. 24. The Giants brought the winning run to the plate, but rookie catcher Eliezer Alfonzo hit into a game-ending double play and the loss officially eliminated the Giants from the division race.
Afterward, manager Felipe Alou covered for Bonds, saying it was a manager’s decision.
In another instance April 20 in Arizona, Bonds disobeyed Alou when asked to take left field after drawing a walk as a pinch hitter. Alou had used reserve outfielder Jason Ellison earlier in the game and was forced to move third baseman Pedro Feliz to the outfield, where he hadn’t played all season.
Bonds also raised eyebrows when he didn’t appear as a pinch hitter in a 6-5 loss at Washington on July 27. The Giants were down three runs when Alfonzo hit a two-out, two-run home run in the ninth inning. Bonds had gone back to the clubhouse, so Alou sent Todd Greene to the plate. Greene struck out.
“I saw him with a bat in the tunnel,” Alou said after that loss. “By the time I saw that, the game was over.”
I seem to remember noticing Alou’s failure to use Bonds as a pinch-hitter a couple of times, I’m sure many of you have as well. Games when I sat there and asked why the hell Bonds wasn’t being brought to the plate as either the tying run or the winning run, “What is Alou saving him for if not this moment,” kind of moments. If this story gets it right, well, damn. That’s pretty disappointing.
As the Cardinals showed with their 83-win season, once you get there, anything can happen, (although the Giants had about 15% of the bullpen talent the Cards did). With all the talk, (including by me), the Giants finished closer in the standings to the World Champions than the Cardinals did to the Mets. A couple of key wins could have made the difference down the stretch, or when the team was in the middle of one of their disheartening losing streaks. If Bonds let the team down like this, more than once….
On the other hand, we could be dealing with simple character assasination, designed to prevent other teams from seriously considering Bonds. It could come from the Giants, who would obviously like to re-sign Bonds on the cheap. Or, more ominously, it could be coming from MLB, hoping that casting Bonds as a poison pill will effectively force him to retire. Either way, if it turns out that these accusations are not true, if it’s just a bunch of bullshit designed to hurt Bonds chance to continue chasing Aaron, to continue in his chosen profession; well, then that’s simply unconscionable.