David Pinto notices Jack Cust’s terrific half-season:
Jack Cust homered twice last night as the Oakland Athletics defeated the Texas Rangers 4-3. That gives Cust twenty home runs in eighty three games. With a .404 OBA and a .550 slugging percentage, Cust is having a great half season. As I’ve said many times, if you have a problem at first base or DH, it should be easy to fix. There’s always a Jack Cust sitting out there.
And as I’ve said many times, the Giants have gotten bottom of the league production from first base for a decade, save the great production Andres Gallarraga gave them for a month in 2001, which they treated as if it were a disease:
Andres Gallarraga was acquired on July 24th. In the 20 games after he arrived, the Giants went 17-3, surging from 6.5 games behind the D’backs to just a half game out of first place. Their run production spiked upward, from an average of 4.93 to 6.75 runs per game. During that stretch, Gallarraga was a dominant force, providing a whole new look to the Giants lineup.
Not only offering greater protection for Jeff Kent; virtually everyone in the lineup was able to significantly boost their production. The difference between having the Big Cat instead of JT in the lineup was obvious to even the most casual observer, (my wife, just back in the states after 14 years living in Italy); the team simply looked unbeatable. After the surge, the Giants were a season high 17 games over .500 at 69-52, and seemed a lock to make the playoffs.
By that time, however, JT Snow was healthy, and Dusty was faced with a decision. Should they bench the Big Cat? Should they platoon the right-handed Gallarraga and the lefty Snow? Many articles and columns were written around this time, and there seemed to be a lot of references to someone not losing their job because of injury, (another bogus bit of nonsensical “common sense”).
Dusty made some reference to JT producing in the past, and how they couldn’t expect to win without his bat (really, you could look it up), and then he benched Andres and started playing Snow. And how did that work? Almost exactly as you might expect. When they made the switch from Andres, with a slugging percentage around .600, to Snow, with a slugging percentage around .350; it completely derailed the offense. Over the next twenty games, the Giants offense slumped to only 4.05 runs per game, and the team produced a record of 9-11. (By then even Dusty could see that JT wasn’t going to get it done, he started platooning them, but the damage was done. Andres and the team never got back on track).
That twenty game stretch, in which Dusty Baker’s loyalty to one player superseded his loyalty to the team, the organization and to its fans; cost the Giants the playoffs. From that 69-52 record, the Giants went 21-20 the rest of the way, losing the division by two games to the eventual world champion Diamondbacks.
It wasn’t just Baker, either. I went to the Giants’ fan invite that season, with the playoffs still in question, and I asked the first question of the session. I asked Sabean why he and Baker were putting Snow back in the lineup, and he defended the decision, I actually got to hear him say that Snow saved the team 1000 runs a year with his glove. I’m not shitting you.
That ’01 team was almost certainly better than the ’02 team, and with the kind of run Bonds was on, the Giants would have been a favorite to get the Serious.
The team’s failure to get a real first baseman, one who actually hits home runs, (really, one of the most important offensive positions on the field) was one of the keys to their failure to win a championship during Bonds’ unbelievable run from 2000-2004.
That they continue to trot out first base production of ten home runs a season is enough of a reason to fire Sabean, right now, before he signs Rajai Davis to a three-year, $11 million dollar contract extension that he’s not up for. Oh, and by the way, if Davis is still running out a plus-.400 OBA at the end of the season, I’ll post an “I’m stupid” column and keep it up for a week.