Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Rainy Days and No Playoffs Alway's Got Me Down

I'm down, I'm really down, I'm down, down on the ground, I'm down, I'm really down, how can you laugh, when you know I'm down? - The Beatles Paul McCartney penned tune.

Missing the Playoffs Blues, Part Deux

This year's miss of the playoffs got me down, downer than last year. Don't know if it is just personal circumstances, making me more susceptible, that could be it. But I guess I thought it was imminently doable, until the wings came off, with that horrendous 11 losses in 12 and 16 losses in 19 games in late July, early August, then even then they stayed close until the whole plane went down on that last road trip, losing 8 of 9, where the rain-out was the best game of the trip. That's pretty bad when you can say that about a road trip (can't take credit, heard Krukow say it - or was it Kuiper? - on their morning show on KNBR).

NL Ripe For Taking This Season

I guess what hurts more was I felt that the NL was ripe for the taking. People were talking about the Mets and Cardinals, but the Mets are so depleted of starting pitching, losing Pedro Martinez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, that they were forced to start rookie John Maine as an emergency starter in the opening game and will have to go with El Duque's replacement on the playoff roster, Oliver Perez, he of 6.55 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 2006, 6.38 ERA and 1.58 WHIP with the Mets in 2006, and for his 7 starts with the Metropolitans, his PQS scoreline was wildly Jeckyll and Hyde-ish (43%DOM/43%DIS): 3, 0, 4, 4, 4, 1, 0.

St. Louis was already depleted during the season, starting the season with Sidney Ponson as their 5th starter, going repeatedly to Anthoney Reyes, their prized pitching prospect for starts and getting a 5.06 ERA (at least better than Ponson's 5.24), entering the playoffs without their closer, Isringhausen, and forced to pick between Jason Marquis (6.02 ERA, 1.52 WHIP) and junk heap pickup Jeff Weaver (5.18 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) for a starter in the playoff rotation and forced to go with a 3-man rotation because you don't even have 3 good starters, let 4.

And then the NL West teams, 'dres and D-gers. The 'dres are relying on Jake Peavy and, to be kind (and I have to be, he screwed up my fantasy team this season), he was wholely inconsistent all season long, even in the last two months, when his overall record looked good, there were games where he was lost like he was earlier. And with the good pitching they have otherwise, particularly in the bullpen, they were only 7 games above the 81 wins for .500, so their offense isn't that good, even with Adrian Gonzalez and Jesse Barfield nice first seasons as regulars. How bad is it when Pedro Feliz has 15 more RBI's than the 'dres leading RBI guy?

And the D-gers, they were within a couple of games of not even being in the playoffs. They have one starter a reliever turned starter in desperation for a starter in Hong-Chih Kuo, and he pitched well, but he's a 25-year-old rookie pitching the 2nd game of the playoffs, 3.99 ERA and 1.50 WHIP away from pitching friendly D-ger Stadium, plus they just lost the first game (SCORE!) so no pressure there, after Lowe had an uninspiring outing plus they brought out Brad Penny to pitch an inning, even though he is scheduled as the 4th game starter at home, that really shows how confident they are in their bullpen, doesn't it? And Brad Penny only has a 4.05 ERA and 1.40 WHIP at home, one of the best pitcher's parks of the NL.

Alas We Are Out

Of course, the point is moot now. Apparently Morris has been pitching with broken ribs since sometime in August (but he started pitching poorly in late July) and Schmidt somehow hurt himself in batting practice before one of the most important games of the season for the team, missing that start. But when Schmidt, Morris, Lowry, and Cain was going good in August plus we would have our full offense during the playoffs, no rest days for the old fogies, the Giants could have taken on any of these teams currently.

That's why I was for the Giants going for the playoffs, because even back then, it was clear that all the other teams had flaws (mainly starting pitching) and things did not get better for any of the teams. Of course, it did not get better for the Giants either. But at that time, the Giants pitching was going good, the hitting was good enough, so why not go for it? Why not make a grab for the gold ring?

Collapse Clearer Now

From the news coming out about how Felipe and the players felt about Benitez, it is clearer to me now why the team tanked late in the season. The players felt like they were stabbed in the back by Benitez with his open babyish "but it wasn't my fault" routine with the media, but Felipe backed him until he disrespected Felipe on the mound, so the players, not feeling the love from Felipe, internally just shut down. Their subconscious took over - so they didn't overtly give up - but their hearts were not in it anymore for their skipper.

That is probably what sealed Felipe's fate as Giants manager, Sabean seeing the players give up on Felipe like that. And, as Sabean said, it is not Felipe's fault, totally, it was a group effort, but Felipe's usage of Benitez after his betrayal of his teammates, since otherwise he's just taking up space in the dugout and not contributing anything, rubbed players the wrong way. To the players, that was a betrayal on Felipe's part to use Benitez after he bad mouthed his teammates. And that led to the team just giving up working as hard, they couldn't muster up the adrenaline to keep playing their hardest for the manager who backed the traitor.

Benitez Must Go

I had thought that Benitez could be rehabilitated, but assuming this scenario that I just spun is true, there is no way Benitez could play for this team again. There will be the subconscious grudge against him held by any player who was on this team this season. People will not try with all their heart when playing behind him. I expect Benitez to be the next reliever that Vizquel will tick off in his next book.

My ideal scenario, anyhow, was that Benitez will get into shape this off-season since it is his free agent year in 2007, and will pitch well for us for the one season, like he did for Florida in 2004, and at some point, anywhere from spring training to the trade deadline, the Giants can dump him on a team desperately needing a closer, and there are always teams like that each season, which would allow, maybe, Brian Wilson or whoever was doing well at that point, the opportunity to take over the closer role. That would maximize the value we get for him in trade, as he would hopefully be pitching well and could contribute greatly to the other team.

But it looks like the Giants will have to trade him, perhaps even before spring training, in a Edgardo Alfonzo-type of dump, where we give up our garbage for someone else's garbage and we both hope that our dumpster diving works out for us. I've seen someone suggest Geoff Jenkins, who has a similar high salary and is not needed by his team anymore with the rise of younger, better players, and his decline in recent years.

I would be OK with that. He would be good in a platoon with either Ellison or preferably Linden in RF because he is still a good hitter versus RHP because he is a lefty, though obviously his offense would take a hit in AT&T Mays Field, and Ellison and Linden kills LHP, but have problems with RHP. But part of the reason his hitting has gone down is because his hitting suffered in moving over to their new home park, Miller Park. Whether that is related to the park or to his age - he is now 32 and will be 33 next season - I'm not sure, perhaps a mixture of both. And he has a bad career record in SF and would be a lefty in AT&T.

But he would contribute more than Benitez would to the team right now. And there is the hope that he figures out how to hit there, as there appears to be a learning curve to hitting at this park, as Grissom related a few years back about his, Durham's and Alfonzo's experiences with that. But even if he didn't, he would still contribute more.

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