More importantly, the Update side-column on Lowry's Elbow makes the point that "Club officials said they continue to consider Cain and Lincecum untouchable." Amen to that, it is ridiculous for anyone to suggest that we trade either of them. Together, they could potentially be the nucleus of one of the best tandem's in Giants history and if Zito can keep it going, it could be quite an awesome trio as well, for many years to come.
So with Cain and Lincecum off the table, that leaves only one obvious choice to trade, which means nothing will probably happen over the off-season: Lowry. Zito's contract is still too large for anyone to take on unless the Giants pony up cash, and I don't see the Giants doing that. Sanchez could be one, but he's a big strikeout guy and still a bit erratic, so I see another team trying to low-ball the Giants.
Or they won't offer enough to make a big difference: the Mets reportedly offered Carlos Gomez, who some have described as having Jose Reyes potential in CF and he did well in the majors until he was injured. But we already have a OF full of prospects (albeit none as good as Gomez) and two CF already in Roberts and Winn (though Roberts plays excellent defense in LF). But even if we inserted him into the offense, he won't change the offense all by himself and make it suddenly respectable. We need more and Lowry, once he shows that he is healthy in spring training, would be the big draw to get two good position prospects from another team.
Now Allfrank has been touting our offense for 2008 and, for a lot of it, I can agree with or at least see his logic (though I thought his numbers at Lefty Malo was off). But the way I've been trying to analyze the Giants chances year by year is by whether they can win the NL West crown and thereby make the playoffs.
Trying to see beyond that is futile, I think, even for the Yankees and Red Sox with their money-laden teams, except for trying to make your pitching and defense as bullet-proof as possible. I believe a troika of Cain, Lincecum, and Zito can make for a dominating run through the playoffs, but there is so much randomness in performances that to outright say one year or another that we're going all the way would be incredibly naive and disingenuous.
So each year, to me, is a matter of estimating how good the Giants are and then seeing how that fits against other teams in the NL West. In prior years, I wasn't scared of the other teams, so I felt that even if the Giants were no great shakes themselves, they had a good chance of winning the division still, if they just play to potential and be at or around .500. Then our chances are improved in the playoffs versus the regular season because Bonds would be in the lineup every day instead of sitting out a game or two per week.
But, to me, this season right now both the 'Dres and the D-gers look good enough - again - to be around 90 wins going forward and I know the Giants are not good enough to reach that without serious playing over their heads going forward. Hence why, as Anon noted, I was touting the Giants early in the pre-season but now don't see much going for 2008.
Before the season, I thought Vizquel and Durham were going to continue to be useful parts of the offense and that Klesko would show more than he did. None of that came true and they appear to be career ending type of suckitude, plus Roberts had elbow problems and Aurilia had neck problems. Hence why 2008 is clearly an offense that's going to suck, whereas I thought 2007, based on pre-season assumptions that proved false, would be better. I don't see why Anon can't see that.
The Real World
That's the real world, you make assumptions that appear to be valid, and when things go the wrong way, you adjust your thinking to fit what now appears to be the facts. Some may claim to have "known" that this was going to happen, but only if Durham could have had his normal .800-something OPS, we would be having a much better season right now, perhaps even not be in last place and close to the leaders. Add in a faster acclimation by Zito, Aurilia and Roberts being healthy for the year, and Vizquel hitting .700 OPS, we could have been up there.
But nobody predicted that Durham would have the worse season by far as a regular, heck, it isn't even an average season for anyone. It was a horrible season for anybody, it is bad when his numbers make you pine for Neifi Perez and he was the absolute worse. And nobody saw that happening.
The problem with some sports fans is that they set very high and very unrealistic goals for their team and puff their chests and crow about how "demanding" they are. I've been called optimistic but for the past few years, I've been calling the Giants a .500 team who's only in contention because the competition was so weak. I thought that was realistic based on the assumptions made.
Demanding doesn't make things happen (see Pirates and Royals). Nothing we do makes things happen. However, one can at least enjoy what we can and try to understand moves (or continue to lambaste them
I Have Enjoyed This Season
I have enjoyed this season. Not because I'm optimistic, but because we had some nice performances from Lincecum, Cain, and some hope and excitement from Lewis, Ortmeier, Schierholtz, Davis, Frandsen, Sanchez, Misch, Wilson, Correia, and Hennessey. Winn and Molina also had nice seasons, and Roberts after he finally recovered from surgery. And of course, Barry's season of milestones. And given the twists and turns that Zito has gone through, to see him at a 4.41 ERA is pretty good because of his nice run since August started: 9 starts, 10 games, 58.2 IP, 39 hits and 18 BB, with 44 K's and 8 HR (6.0 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, 6.7 K/9, 1.2 HR/9, 2.44 K/BB) with a 2.61 ERA.
Of course, it sucks that we lost and lost a lot. And for all that we might still not get a draft pick not much different from last year's #10: today we have the 8th pick. However, we are only 1 game "ahead" of the 9th pick and is within 2 games of "rising" to the 3rd to 6th pick. So that will change day to day, with so many "vying" for a top 5 pick.
But the way I saw it early season, the way to enjoy the season was to enjoy the pitching staff, because they are the cornerstone of the future, they are the centerpiece. And for the most part, that has been enjoyable. I know the bullpen's not that great, but they did OK overall and there is hope with the way Wilson pitched at the end, plus Correia and Hennessey were steady influences again, much as they were in 2006, at least until Hennessey suddenly lost it all. The rotation was up and down, but how can you not enjoy it overall, looking at what Cain, Lincecum, Lowry did, plus Morris early and Zito late, and of course the turns by Sanchez, Correia, and Misch.
This is How I Do It
I come to baseball to enjoy it and this is the way I do it. You set certain expectations, plus look out for certain players. Was I happy all the time? No, but when you are hoping to have a .500 season, there's a good chance you are going to be a loser that season if some things don't go your way. And this season, there were a lot that didn't go our way, starting with Durham and ending with Linden.
So I don't focus as much on the winning in seasons like this, though I will always enjoy wins, but you pick through the remains of the game and see what positives you can see from it, much like how Lefty picks his PLODAG. We lost a lot of well pitched games, Cain in particular, but I could enjoy that our pitchers were bringing it overall, even if it didn't result in a win. And I enjoyed the nice performances that Lewis, Davis, Ortmeier, and Schierholtz gave in certain games during the season.
And it is encouraging to me that the bullpen was terrible in preventing inherited runners from scoring. Why? Because that means that if we can fix the bullpen with one or two key signings for 2008, plus key additions like Brian Wilson and maybe Tyler Walker, these runners don't score, the pitching rotation has an even better ERA, and the offense can still suck but win more games.
I don't need a World Series championship to enjoy the season, though I would love one that my dear Uncle who has been a fan since 1958 can see and experience. I enjoy what I can, when I can, and if that makes me an optimist, so be it, but to me, an optimist only sees blue skies ahead, and I see plenty of rain in the coffee for at least the next season, perhaps more.
2008 Looks Bad
We had only one player much above an OPS+ of 100 and that was Bonds, again by a mile. As much as I want to see our young OF play, he looks like a lock to be re-signed for 2008. I'm only hoping the Giants only pay him much less, like under $10M, and that it will be an agreed upon retirement tour, with celebrations and minimal play on the part of Bonds: enough so that he can reach his goal of 3,000 hits, but then we play the young players a lot, maybe half the time in LF (Bonds get some extra ABs from DH-ing).
And none of the free agents, including Torii Hunter look to make us that much better, particularly an OF free agent when we still got Roberts and Winn PLUS all the OF prospects. Ideally, we keep Roberts and trade Winn, start Schierholtz in RF and swap in Lewis and Davis in LF and CF with Roberts, depending on the matchups. But since Bonds probably is there, I'm hoping he just plays a light 90-100 game schedule, giving Lewis and Davis a lot of games in the OF, plus a few games in RF, as Schierholtz won't start the whole season.
And I'm encouraged that our young OF are all hitting respectably in their first season of MLB play. They all have OPS+ in the 90's: Lewis 96, Ortmeier 92, Davis 99, Schierholtz 91. Sure, you would rather have the Ryan Braun's and Hunter Pence's or Billy Butler's, but you need to fill your team with some average regular players somewhere in your lineup as well, then you don't have to go to free agency to fill empty spots on your team, you fill from within and maybe pick up the superstar off free agency.
The only free agent I see worth pursuing is A-Rod and we have about zero chance of signing him. Then again, I would have bet that we had zero chance of signing Zito as well and yet here he is. So you never know.
Plus pick up a nice set-up guy, to mix in with Hennessey, Walker, Wilson for the closer and setup roles, and try to solidify the bullpen so that the starters don't have so many runners scored after they leave. That alone could make our team a solid .500 team in 2008, which is still not good enough to compete with the high-80 win teams of the 'Dres and D-gers, but at least that's respectable. You have to start somewhere, and from where we are today, .500 is an improvement.
I Hope You Enjoy 2008 Nonetheless
And set your expectations low for 2008. I'm hoping the Giants chose to make it a rebuilding year and not sign many free agents, just key ones that would help the team in a significant way, like a tipping point, such as an A-Rod or a strong set-up reliever. Ideally you have young players all over: Ort at 1B, Ochoa at SS, Frandsen at 3B, Schierholtz in RF, Davis and Lewis seeing significant time in OF since Roberts platoons and Bonds is old and retiring, and hopefully Winn is traded (nothing against him, but we just need the space and Roberts can teach our speedsters a lot). Plus Molina catching, Durham at 2B (no one is going to take his contract without most of the salary paid for), and Aurilia getting regular starts across the entire infield: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS. But I can see Vizquel also getting a one year retirement tour contract as well, hopefully not more than the $1-2M range and we might be trading one of our young pitchers for a position prospect.
And watch and enjoy the pitching staff. With another year of experience for them, they should only get better in 2008, unless some injury bugaboo hits them, Cain and Lincecum especially. Oh, and hope that we sign Lincecum to a contract that covers him for the rest of his pre-free agent years. I think Wilson will be up the whole year in 2008 and hopefully he can close, but if not, I think Walker or Hennessey can do an adequate job overall and just hold the fort until we do develop a closer internally.
And we will have a ton of young players. We have a lot of young players who will be 27 years old and younger in 2008: Cain, Lincecum, Lowry, Sanchez, Correia, Messenger, probably Brian Wilson, maybe Misch, maybe Threets; Frandsen, Schierholtz, Ortmeier, Davis, probably Lewis. And some who are not very young but not old either: Zito, Hennessey, maybe Taschner, maybe Chulk, and the backup catcher, Alfonzo or Rodriguez. So the team is changing its stripes and slowly becoming younger. But I think that's a pretty good job of getting young while also trying to win with Bonds around the past three seasons.
2008 might not be a winning season but I look forward to enjoying it, particularly the young pitchers. Hopefully you will too.