Archive for July, 2007

…. Spin City

Interestingly, the Giants chose Baseball Digest Daily to put out a press release regards the Sabean extension:

…. “When you look at Brian’s body of work over his 11 seasons with the Giants, it’s evident that he is a shrewd baseball man who will find a way to get this team back to where we all want it to be,” said Magowan. “While we are certainly disappointed with the way that things have gone this season, I’m fully confident that Brian and Bruce (Bochy) will get us back on the right track. I look back on the job Brian did his first year as General Manager in 1997, when we clinched our first NL West title in eight years and compiled 22 more victories than the previous season. After the 2002 National League Championship season, he had to almost completely retool the club – and the team still went on to win 100 games and the NL West in 2003. I believe that he’s the person to get the job done.”

That’s called living in the past.

For more refreshing candor, here’s the SF Giants release:

…. Magowan said that he considered Sabean’s overall record, which includes four postseason appearances by the Giants between 1997 and 2003. “I have a very good working relationship with Brian,” Magowan said. “I trust him and I believe he trusts me.”

The timing of the announcement also was significant, given the proximity of the July 31 trading deadline. Now, Sabean won’t feel like a potential lame duck as he plots the franchise’s future.

“It puts Brian in a much better position to do what he feels he needs to do in terms of making trades and whatever assessments are necessary to make, than would be the case if we were to wait until the October or November time frame,” Magowan said. “We can get a running start on the ’08 season by making these moves now.”

…. Sabean said that the Giants would remain open to making trades that would bring the team players such as outfielder Randy Winn or right-hander Livan Hernandez — young yet proven veterans in their late 20s or early 30s who aren’t saddled with enormous contracts.

But Magowan said that obtaining “rent-a-players” such as first baseman Shea Hillenbrand, which cost the Giants promising reliever Jeremy Accardo last July, won’t happen.

…. the Giants will continue to focus on nurturing their own talent — especially position players, who the Giants have struggled to produce in recent seasons. Matt Williams, who played with the Giants from 1987-96, is the last All-Star hitter to rise through the organization. Since Williams’ departure, Bill Mueller and Pedro Feliz are San Francisco’s lone draftees to have emerged as everyday players.

…. Magowan said that although the Giants have tried to win and develop players simultaneously in the last several seasons, “I think the emphasis has been more on winning than developing. It’s a balance, and the balance is always in flux because you might feel you’re just a player or two players away. If you’re several players away, you put more emphasis on developing.”

Magowan cited the Dodgers, Padres, Braves and Mets as examples of teams possessing a decent mix of homegrown talent and players obtained through free agency or trade. “We don’t have that strength of balance on our team,” Magowan said. “We have to strive to try to get a better one in the future.”

Ummm…. let me see…. OK, Magowan cites the Hillebrand deal as a bad one. That’s good, because it was fucking atrocious, as bad as the AJ deal, in it’s own way. On the other hand he does seem to be saying that he thinks the Giants are one player away. Yeah, if you mean one player away from 75 wins. The only way the Giants are one player away is if that player is A-Rod. Other than that miracle, Magowan better have a plan for cloning Superman.

And, as for comparing the Giants to the Mets and the rest of those actual contenders, the difference between the Giants and that group is that those teams have homegrown stars, not homegrown Pedro Feliz’s. By giving away top picks in an effort to save money on draft picks, the Giants have virtually assured themselves of another five years of no position players from their farm system, which would be a real impediment to the old, “balance between homegrown and free agent talent,” horseshit they’re running by us right now, especially since there hasn’t been a top-flight player come out of their minor league system in twenty years.

In the meantime, we’re now three and a half seasons away from the 100-win team that was punted from the playoffs by the Marlins, who had rebuilt from the ground up in about fifteen minutes; and we’re pretty much worse at every single position on the diamond. How’s that for progress? And it only took three years to do it.

…. Failed approach

Now that it’s clear that Sabean and Magowan are holding hands as they dance through the poppies, let’s think about what we can expect next season….

A-Rod? Is it even remotely possible that the Giants can go mega-free agent two years in a row? I don’t see how. He’s gonna command something like a seven-year, $200 million dollar contract, around $30 million per season. If you have one hitter and one pitcher makng $45 million, and you need to keep your payroll around $95 million; well, you do the math. Morris, Durham, Roberts, Winn, Molina, and Aurilia are all signed through next season, for a total of some $37 million or so. I know we’re supposed to think Bonds’ $15 million comes off the books next season, but are you sure?

If he walks, where’s he gonna play? Anaheim? Come on. Not in Oakland, I can tell you that. Sure, he’s a Beane-type player, but he’s also Barry Bonds, and he’s gonna end up leading the NL in walks, OBP, slugging and OPS. That means he ain’t gonna play anywhere for $5 or $8 million. The Yankees don’t need him. Neither do the Red Sox. You think Bonds is gonna play in Kansas City or Milwaukee or someplace like that? No way.

Given all of that, if the Grand Jury fails to indict him this summer –which I believe will happen– Bonds will be out from under the anvil, and I think he’s back next year on his way to 3,000 hits.

Which means no A-Rod.

Which means more of the same.

…. Thoughtless?

Two things today:

1. Magowan apparently wants Sabean to remain as GM. That’s not good news for those of us wishing for the team to go in a new direction.

2. The to insert itself into the middle academic research paper of the George Mitchell investigation’s efforts to get it’s hands on the governments case files regards the recent steroids raids on the East Coast.

I’ll have more about both of these little tidbits in the morning. In the meantime, discuss amongst yourselves….

…. All Star

With the All Star game in town, Superman is the center of attention, and he loves it. All of the articles I’ve read so far have the same quotes in them, so you can read the NY Times, the SF Chronicle, or anywhere in between, really, and you’re gonna get the same stuff. Here’s a couple of quotes:

“I’m not treated bad on the road. My thing is that I feel disappointed in some of those fans that are influenced by third-party judgment, and have not given me that opportunity just to know me. People in San Francisco know me, the fans here know me. The fans outside the city (are) … judging me based on a third party, and yet I’ve actually done nothing wrong with you, I’ve gone to your stadium and tried to entertain you.”

“I don’t think people really appreciate (A-Rod’s) talent; it’s unbelievable. His eye-hand coordination, his actual strength, his actual recognition of the ball, those are things you can’t teach. It’s great because I know what he knows and I see what he sees, I’m just older and can’t do it as often. … I said him, ‘If I didn’t get hurt all them years, you’d still be seeing me doing it.’ “

As the game approaches, I’ve started getting into the meat of Game of Shadows. The stuff on Bonds is nothing new. I guess I’d ask how the government can be so sure he was lying and still not have indicted him for perjury? According to the book, they have pages and pages of documents, calendars, and drug schedules that clearly indicate he was using all kinds of different PED’s, that they knew exactly what he was doing, what each different notation in the calendars means, and yet, four years later, all they’ve done is leak bullshit to the media every couple of months. Why is that?

For me, it suggests that perhaps they don’t know. Perhaps they’ve been reaching, and fell short. Or maybe the evidence they have is not as clear as they want us to believe it is. Or maybe Bonds’ testimony was just vague enough that they can’t prove he was lying.

I do know that, the way the story is presented in the book –as hard, cold, fact– makes it look likely that Bonds did use PED’s. But at the same time, I still wonder why Conte and Anderson haven’t given him up? They gave up pretty much everyone else. Why didn’t Santiago, or Estellela, or any of the other athletes who got hooked up with BALCO through Bonds give him up, either? How could Novitzky be so sure that Bonds used PED’s, and so unable to nail him for it?

How has so much gone on, so many athletes and dealers been implicated, so many hours of testimony, so many people’s lives ruined, reputations ruined, and Bonds still remains free to go after Aaron? If it’s as obvious as Game of Shadows says it is, if we know that he did use PED’s, then he did lie; so where’s the indictment?

Overall, it’s not a very well-written book. It’s mostly sensational stories about how different athletes and trainers curse a lot, and how they laugh their way to the record book and all that. In the chapter I’m reading right now, John Ashcroft is portrayed as saying something about how “Stan Musial never needed steroids,” or some shit like that. Great, another expert.

…. Two cents

Marty Cortinas sent me an Q&A about Bonds, and I spent some time on it, so I thought I’d post my response here.

1 – When it comes to politics, no matter what side of the argument you align yourself, you always look at the other side and wonder, how in the world do they view Issue X that way? Isn’t it as clear as day to them that things work the complete opposite?  Similarly, I think most every non-Giants fan looks at Barry Bonds and is fairly convinced of his guilt and view him as a poor character, while Giants fans, obviously, revere him.  So, is Bonds misjudged or do Giants fans have their head in the sand?

Bonds is both misjudged AND judged fairly. The major sports media outlets have done a terrific job portraying Bonds as the ultimate motherfucker; a bad teammate, a dick to be around, an arrogant asshole, a privileged child of a baseball star, and a jealous, demanding cheater. By doing so, they have reduced the conversation into soundbites and over-simplified questions: “Do you think Barry cheated?” “Do you think Bonds’ should have his records expunged?” “Should Bonds be allowed into the Hall of Fame?”

A clear dialogue is impossible. No one wants to talk about the climate of permissiveness that permeated the game when Bonds did or didn’t decide to use PED’s. No one wants to talk about the absolute fact that all baseball management knew about, and by their silence, endorsed the use of PED’s by any and all players in the game. No one wants to remember the adulation, the astonishment; and the singular joy that the McGwire/Sosa duel produced. And most importantly, the major media writers, broadcasters; and talking heads will not acknowledge that the fans DO NOT CARE AT ALL. The only reason ESPN can run a poll asking whether fans think Bonds cheated is because they’ve run four hundred articles (wrongly) saying that he did. If they hadn’t been beating that constant drum of innuendo and speculation, there’d be no story.

By every indicator you can analyze, baseball has never been as popular as it is now. If Selig and the media would shut up about the “scandal,” it would be gone, forgotten, in an instant. Instead, they keep bringing it up, again and again, a story about how somebody thinks the commissioner should suspend Barry; an article telling us that he could be indicted any minute now; another player thinks he’s a dick…. On and on…. Don’t you think it’s pretty obvious they have absolutely no proof whatsoever that he cheated, that he lied, that he can be taken down? It is to me. But not to Lupica and Verducci and the rest of these custodians of rightness. They will not stop until everyone knows that Barry’s hat is bigger.

2a – Did you read Game of Shadows? What did you think?

I’m at Chapter Six right now. So far, it’s pretty weak. I’m gonna write a review when I’m done.

2b – How do you explain the pictures circa 1990 and the pictures circa 2002?  The ever-expanding head size?

Please…. I’m almost the exact same age as Bonds, and I can show you pictures of me at 25 and now, and there’s no doubt every part of my body is bigger, my head, my arms, everything. It’s the stupidest fucking thing in the world to show a picture of a 22-year old and then the same guy at 42 and say, “look, his head is bigger.” Look at pictures of Shac when he was with the Orlando Magic. Look at pictures of Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, Magic Johnson, Cal Ripken…. I could go on and on. Only an idiot would use Bonds’ head size as proof that he used PED’s. There are plenty of stronger arguments to suggest that he didn’t use PED’s…. he’s never suffered any of the typical injuries associated with steroid and PED use, he’s been able to maintain his astonishing production since the inception of baseball’s drug testing program, both Anderson and Conte have refused to testify that Bonds used PED’s, even though it would have benefited each of them to do so….

3 – Why is it that on the road, Bonds is booed lustily, but when he hits a home run, cheers emerge?  Are we that wishy-washy a nation?

People are booing him because the major sports media outlets have made it clear that they should. People are sheep. They cheer for the home runs, because –even though they’ve been told to boo the asshole– they still love being a part of history.

4 – Who is a better home run hitter, Barry Bonds or Babe Ruth? Bonds or Hank Aaron?

Ruth will always be considered the greatest home run hitter of all time. When he hit 59, the record was 29. He changed the way the game was played, offensively. It’s interesting to consider that even though everyone has always known that he was the best offensive player ever; it was only after Bill James and then Moneyball that it became absolutely crystal clear that everyone should try and emulate what he did; regardless of talent or ability. Everyone should try and focus on hitting for power, and avoiding swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone; which Ruth did religiously.

Ted Williams is next in line, by the way, not Hank Aaron. It’s Williams, Ruth and Bonds at the top. Williams gave 5 years if his life fighting WWII, when he was the best hitter alive. If not for that, the record would be his, it’d be 800-plus, and Bonds would have at least another season to catch him. For all-time home run hitters, Araron’s barely in the top ten, that’s for sure. Off the top of my head, Mays, McGwire, Foxx, Mantle, and even Sammy Sosa are better home run hitters than Aaron. Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, McCovey…. even Aaron’s contemporaries; players that he blew past in total home runs; even those guys were probably better home run hitters than he was.

Aaron was a good home run hitter who moved to a launching pad of a baseball park entering his age 32 season; exactly when he was beginning the decline phase of his career. Instead of petering out around 550-600 career home runs, like Mays, he was averaging 40 home runs per season for his last 8 seasons. He hit 40 home runs at the age of 39, for crying out loud. Aaron is a crystal clear example of time washing away all of the dirt, and leaving only the statistics; something Bill James wrote about twenty years ago. When he was active, Aaron was NEVER considered the best player in the game. He was perhaps the fourth or fifth best player at any given point in his career; which is why he won but one MVP award. Sure, he got 3000 hits and 755 home runs… If he had played anywhere but Atlanta the last ten years, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

Look at Willie Mays‘ career and you can see the difference…. Mays hit 47 home runs at 33 years old, 52 at 34, 37 at 35, and that was it, only 100 or so home runs the rest of his career. Aaron hit 248 home runs AFTER he was 35. He was durable, competent, and had good power. If the two players had switched teams at age 32, Bonds would probably still be 100 home runs away from his Godfather; who would have easily averaged 50 home runs a season playing half his games in a ballpark where Aaron was banging out 40.

5 – In the context of baseball history, where does Bonds stand? How do you think his image will change over time?

Bonds is the greatest PLAYER in the history of baseball. His accomplishments will stand the test of time, and within the next twenty years, that will become increasingly clear. Besides his 8 Gold Gloves, he owns virtually every single season offensive record that matters, he’s soon to be the career home run king, he’s got over 500 stolen bases, the batting average, the walks, the 7 MVP’s…. I mean, are you kidding me? Bonds OBP has been over .400 for 17 straight years. When the dust clears, and he’s never had a positive drug test, and all there is the supposition, the made up stories, and the backstabbers with their lies and the, “We think this means this….” bullshit…. When all of that is over, and Bonds has been retired for a decade or more, it will be clear to everyone that they shit all over the best player of all time. Was he a dick? A sure as the sun. Did the writers and broadcasters take it too far in their efforts to make sure we all knew that they were gonna save the children? Just as surely.

Will Bonds be at some ballpark someday with writers and fans crying all over the place, with ballplayers getting goosebumps and going all batshit to shake hands with Bonds in a wheelchair, just like they did with Ted Williams a couple of years ago? Take it to the bank.

…. Four-tified

Barry Bonds is four home runs away from Aaron, Barry Zito walked five batters in the fourth inning, and the Giants lost again.

This team is just completely discombulated. This was at least the sixth or seventh time they’ve given a starter a 2-0 first inning lead, and then completely stopped hitting. Roberts, batting .217, was 1 for 4, as were Durham, Vizquel and Winn. Feliz and Molina were 0 for 4…. I mean, can’t anybody get a hit? Durham had a double (bases empty, of course), Bonds the homer, and and the rest of the team produced three measly singles against one of the worst teams –if not THE worst– in all of baseball?

Top of the third, two on, nobody out, Durham at the plate with a chance to simply end the game, pop-up to short, Bonds walked, inning over. Top fifth, bases loaded, one out, two goundouts. Top six, one on, no outs, nothing. On and on, again and again, so many worthless at-bats, worthless innings, wasted opportunities.

And part of it is Bochy, too. I know Roberts is supposed to be the starter, but you cannot keep allowing him to hit with men on in the later innings. You just can’t. He has no power, has shown no ability to work a walk, and has 9 RBI in 175 at-bats. 9?! Is Bochy out of his mind?! Don’t you think the team sees you, brain-dead, allowing that empty fucking bat to walk up there and suck the life out of the rally? You’re talking about the sixth inning of a tie game, man on first with one out. You need an extra base hit. What are you thinking?!? There is no chance Roberts is gonna get it done, I mean, NO CHANCE! You wanna look at his splits? I can’t believe a hitter running out a .217/.286/.331 line can actually be worse than his numbers, but Roberts is. Get Lewis in there, get Sweeney in there, get anyone in there. AND. BENCH. DAVE. ROBERTS.

This team now has four starters with OBP’s under .280. You don’t deserve to be on the field if you can’t reach base a third of the time, period, end of story. The ML average is around .330, and if you’re 50 points below that, grab some pine, meat. There is no reason whatsoever to give at-bats to Roberts, to Aurilia, and to Vizquel, none. 200 at-bats is enough. Play Lewis, Frandsen and Schierholtz, and fuck it, whatever happens, happens. What have you got to lose?

On the rubber, Zito has blown a lead in six of his eight losses, which is simply unacceptable. More and more, it look as if Zito is careening towards a lost season, (like Matt Morris last year) unable to string together more than a couple of winning efforts. Five walks in six batters? On the season, he’s had five games in which he’s given up at least 6 earned runs. That’s not impressive.

…. Opportunity lost

Roger Clemens won his 350th game last night, an astounding accomplishment when you really think about it. Besides the baseless rumors about his possible PED use, Clemens’ biggest error in judgement has been this part-time player routine he’s been using the last couple of seasons:

…. it doesn’t take much to see Clemens’ retire/unretire act costing him a solid 10 wins last season, and that would have put him only 42 wins away from essentially becoming only the third, and almost certainly the last pitcher to make it to 400 wins. Oh, and along the way, he would be cementing his claim as THE GREATEST PITCHER OF ALL TIME.

Even with all the horseshit, he’s still just 52 wins away, which, given his current level of performance, would take him three good, solid seasons to get. Nolan Ryan pitched at a pretty high level those last couple of seasons. He finished at, what, 46? Clemens has been much better than that, and he’s only 43 right now. If he just pitched until he was 46, I bet he’d either be there, or he’d be close enough that it would be a no-brainer to come back for at 47 to win the two or five games he’d need.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I really love seeing history made. If I were in the Clemens camp, I’d make damn sure he knew that he was within striking distance of an accomplishment most thought we’d never see again.

UPDATE: After posting this, I took a quick look at Ryan’s stats, and, uh, Doh!! Ryan had 301 strikeouts and only 98 walks in 1989 as a 42-year old(!). He was just as impressive in his forties as Clemens has been. Basically, he and Clemens could be said to have been on a very similar career path up until now, and Ryan started 27 games and went 12-6 as a 44-year old. After that, he couldn’t stay healthy, so Clemens would need to out-Ryan Ryan to reach the promised land.

I wrote that back in December of last year. There are pitchers with 10 wins already, I think Sabbathia has 12, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Clemens could already be close 360, even with the time he missed previously. Of course, if David Pinto is right, he wouldn’t be getting there anyway.

Nonetheless, he did what he did, and he certainly won’t be making a run at 400 wins because of it. Would’ve been nice, though.

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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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