Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over: It's Over

Needless to say, it was an extremely disappointing road trip, probably the worse I've ever witnessed. It wasn't just going 1-8 on the road trip, but also being outscored 93-51 in those 9 games, where Giants pitchers walked 48 batters in 73 innings. As Kruk or Kuip noted on their morning show (probably Kruk) on KNBR, it is a pretty bad trip when the best game was the rained-out game (at St. Louis).

Starting pitching was the let-down, as it seemed like every game started with the other team scoring 4-6 runs in the first inning. And in one fiasco, the Rockies scored 20 runs, something last done by Giants pitching in 1959. What made it worse was the offense would come back a number of times despite the huge deficit and the pitching would then give up more runs to either lose the lead or made the deficit worse again.

It's Over

As an ELO song once wailed, "It's Over." While the road trip pretty much put the team 6 feet under and mostly buried, it was the loss yesterday that was the final pat on the dirt. It was quick how the team's fortune changed so completely. Even with how poorly they played in St. Louis and Colorado, they could have swept the Brewers and stayed squarely in the race, though still too far to think you are in control, but there would have still be a steady pulse. Instead, they got swept instead and pretty much ended the season right there.

It has been a disappointing season and the amazing thing is that there were a lot of good surprises. First and foremost, Barry Bonds played a lot more games than expected, but unfortunately, it took him most of the season to get healthy and into playing shape. He was awesome the last two months - .333/.459/.638/1.097 in August with 5 HR, .317/.427/.698/1.125 in September with 7 HR - and still, even while not 100%, his OPS to start the season was 1.121, .854, 1.026, .838, showing that the old man, while not hitting for average, was still good for the power. Other bright spots included Durham's power surge, Vizquel's unparalleled brilliance at SS, and Matt Cain's rookie season, bringing "multiple 1-hitters" into our vocabulary.

It's too soon for me to do a post-mortem on the season. Then again, I think it was pretty self-evident all the problems with this flawed team. I know that we were only in the battle because of the "weakness" of both the NL West and the NL in general, as others have called it - and I think the proper way to term it is equalness among teams, at least among the NL teams - but the playoffs really redials things back to zero and all you need is a nice hot streak to get a team shooting through the playoffs. The Giants had their times when they were hot enough and even more times when they were not. That's a chance I would take anytime.

You Never Know

Because you never know. You never know if some unknown guy on your team suddenly becomes the hottest hitter on Earth, like a Gene Tenace of the A's in 1972, or that guy for the Yankees, Brian Doyle, in 1978. You never know if some old, washed up pitcher suddenly rejuvenates for one glorious series, like Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1926 for the Cardinal's.

And you never know if you will never make it into the playoffs for the next 10-15 years: the Giants won the NL West the first season I started following them, in 1971 and never got back to the playoffs for another 16 years, in 1987. Then there was another 8 year interval from 1989 to 1997.

That's why I stand by Sabean, unlike a lot of other Giants fans. People think that the playoffs are no big deal, Sabean has had the team competing for it every year he has been GM. I saw the playoffs 3 times in my first 26 years of following the Giants, then 4 times in the 10 years Sabean has been GM. You do the math.

Not that Sabean has an infinite leash with me, but I think he has earned the right to guide the Giants through their transition period, in their post-Bonds era. He has the right to enjoy - or suffer - the fruits of the farm system he has nurtured into players like Lowry, Cain, Sanchez, Hennessey, Correia. And hopefully players like Wilson, Lincecum, Misch, Taschner, Munter, Sadler, Andersen, Griffin, Joaquin, Perreira, Tanner, Frandsen, Linden, Ortmeier, EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Sanders, Burris, Sandoval, Pill, Villalona (and I'm sure I'm missing others, I haven't been watching the farm system as closely this season because of familial duties).


  1. I agree with you, Martin, regarding Sabean. I read somewhere today that for a ten year period he has the 6th best or 9th best record since, I don't know, 1950 or something. At any rate he has demonstrably outperformed 100s of other GMs, and shown guts, savy, and creativity. My view, which I have expressed before, is that, since 98 or so, the strategy has been to get pitching and defense and build around Bonds. I think the Michael Tucker signing was a calculated move to be able to spend more money on the major league roster. The strategy was to draft pitchers and trade them for useable parts.
    NOW, the strategy has changed/is changing. Bonds is no longer the unquestioned best player in the game - he is only in the top 20 or 30. As you have observed, over the past year or two, the Giants have gotten noticeably younger. And their draft strategy has gotten more conventional, as they move towards developing more players, and away from the win with veterans now philosophy.
    I disagreed with you on McC today, regarding the use of youngert players for next year. With our youngsters and Sabean's preferences, I think he will let Linden and Frandsen audition for 08 spots by bing the 4th OF and utility IF, respectively. I think Alfonzo becomes the Todd Green of next year, due to his Aug/Sep numbers this year, which, I think, more show his true abilities.
    In otherwords, I think Sabean has: SS (Omar), LF (Barry), CF (Winn). So, for next year:
    C: I would not be surpised to see him go after a Benji Molina (I stole this idea from a poster on McC) or Estrada.
    1b Nomar, Hillenbrand, trade
    2b Soriano, Durham, A Kennedy (another stolen idea) in this order
    3B This is a really tough one, and, I think, will depend on who he gets to fill the other spots.
    RF: M Alou or Alou clone, good for 100 games, 22 HR.
    I think this team is significantly better:
    1) Bonds is now healthy, will have surgery and get in shape and produce at least as good as he has post ASB.
    2) Linden superior to Finley
    3) Even if Hillenbrand, better than 1/2 year of Niekro
    4) Frandsen superior to Vizcaino
    5) 5th starter superior to Wright
    6) Assuming Worrell healed, bull pen, with Chulk, Stanton, Kline, Correia, Hennessey stronger than 06
    7) Benitiez will be two years (one season) removed from major surgery, will have a full winter to lose weight, get in shape, reflect on 06.
    8) new manager brings a littel more intensity, a little more attention to fundamentals to the team.

  2. Martin;

    Good stuff, now let's salvage things and destroy the Dodgers' season. Not like the Giants haven't done that before.

    I enjoy you positive and nuanced analysis (even if we disagree at times) and I hope that you'll keep up the dialogue over the off-season. While every off-season is important, this is a rather big one for the Giants, eh?

    In a nutshell and as I posted elsewhere:

    -cheap vets, if they exist (e.g. Graffinino)
    -new manager
    -a few well-placed trades for guys that aren't wanted by their clubs any longer (e.g. Lidge).
    -consider signing or trying to get (somehow) Coco Crisp, Eric Brynes, Adam Dunn, or some young guys blocked by position players on Team X (e.g. Rangers infielders, Blue Jays infielders, or, say, Royals infielders)
    -any Dan Uggla's out their on Rule 5 (I smile as you know about him).
    -yeah, yeah, re-sign Bonds...if for no other reason than the $ he'll bring the club.
    -keep Hillenbrand
    -give a number of the young guys utility roles
    -Go Giants


  3. So Martin: Who should we sign?


  4. Thanks for the compliment, Kent. I actually wrote a lot during the last off-season, more than I did this season, though that's partly because of personal circumstance too. It should be a busy off-season once the World Series is over.

    I will cover who we should sign once we know who is available. Among the Giants, I think we sign Hillenbrand for 3B ideally, but I'm OK with Feliz, as long as the contract is reasonable and maybe 2-3 seasons long (with option).

    I was pushing for Schmidt but I was sorely disappointed by his hurting his ribs in batting practice before what could have been one of the most important or at least pivital games of the season, instead skipping his start and then it was downhill from there. I think it's time to say good-bye and hopefully he signs before the arb-deadline and get us some draft picks, preferably one late in the first round rather than a supplemental first.

    Bonds I wanted to get, still want to get, and thought was a sure bet to get, but after statements from both sides publicly about what's going to happen, I'm not sure what is going to happen now. I think if the Giants are going to spend their full budget this year on free agents (including their own), they cannot sign all to 3-5 year contracts, they need to have one or two players who sign 1-2 year contracts, like Bonds and Durham and maybe Feliz (Hillenbrand I would be willing to go longer with because of his good peripherals).

    Long term, I was hoping for a Soriano, but, while the Giants management stated that Bonds will no longer be the centerpiece, they also basically said that they will not sign any one to a large contract, that they will spread the wealth across the team. Of course, one of them will be Cain, who probably will be signed to a contract similar to Lowry's plus about 10-15 percent.

    And even if Feliz or Hillenbrand could be secured beforehand to play 3B, if Aramis Ramirez happens to become a free agent, I think the Giants should go and pursue him to play 3B, pushing the player signed to play 3B to 1B, where both had played before. Feliz won't be happy about that but Hillenbrand seems amenable to either position, hence why I have preferred him.

    But there are not many difference makers, so I agree with you, Kent, some cheap vets like Graffinino, or even Craig Wilson, if he is available, and I would be willing to give Hee Seop Choi a chance in a platoon with Niekro at 1B.

    And taking on others scrap heap players, like Lidge, would be good risks to take. But trying to get those good young (relatively) players will cost us good pitching prospects, I don't think that Sabean will do that, he needs to keep a lot of spare parts in the minors in case any of the young pitchers should falter in the majors. Getting an Uggla would be nice, but really, Rule 5 finds on his level are pretty rare and far in-between, they are the exceptions, that 2B/SS guy we picked and returned and never had a good career is more the norm there.

    I would prefer giving Linden the starting job in RF with a strong vet as the 4th OF to be backup if Linden should falter but otherwise soak up the ABs that Bonds will shed.

    Frandsen is backup starter at 2B, but hopefully the Giants can sign Durham or another 2B to start and have Frandsen be backup IF. I think his frequent usage at SS in September is a sign that the Giants are looking that way with him.

    I would also like to give Ortmeier a spot in the OF. Ellison is OK but he steals based on speed whereas Ortmeier, whose a big guy, steals based on base-smarts. Plus he has a bit more power than Ellison. The only minus is that he don't play CF normally, but I recall him playing there a few games this season.

    I would prefer to give Niekro another try at 1B, unless we can get a superstar at 3B or 1B, in which case he becomes trade bait. I think he can become a good hitter but he's injury prone, so he'll be like a Sheffield, Moises Alou, JD Drew, who will always be a risk for injury but can hit when in the lineup. I know that he's still not proven as a MLB hitter, but his burst of great hitting late with Fresno makes me want to give him another try at 1B, he looks like he could be a 25-30 HR guy with high BA if he can stay healthy and hit consistently.

    Obviously, youth will dominate the pitching staff. Morris, Cain, Lowry, Sanchez, and Hennessey/Correia/Lincecum or maybe Wright or another vet FA (I've seen Lilly's name bandied about and he's expressed interest as well). Bullpen will have Chulk, Wilson, Taschner, maybe Benitez (hopefully he's traded a la Alfonzo during Spring Training or before), hopefully Stanton or Kline or both, Correia, Hennessey.

    They also have some potential replacements should players falter at MLB level in first few months. They don't really have anyone ready to come up and relieve in spring, but Sadler and/or Anderson might be ready within a month or two. Ishikawa might be ready to come up to 1B if Niekro falters or injured again; if not maybe the Mayor of Norwich could be ready for his closeup. Frandsen could step in should 2B DL or falters. 3B too. Lewis could be ready to come up if Linden falters. Same too with Schierholtz and EME. Lincecum probably will start in AAA and hopefully he will pitch there all season until the last month or so, like Cain did in 2005.

    Cain, Lowry, and Lincecum should be our new centerpiece, with Sanchez added if he pitches as well as he has shown.



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