Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Ralph Barbieri Tirade - Jon Miller Skewering

As local Giants fans may know, The Razor, Ralph Barbieri, local sports talk show host who is a big Giants fan, tore poor Dave Flemming a new one the other day because the Giants had the temerity to take Lincecum out after 110+ pitches and insert Tyler Walker, who then blew the win for Lincecum. Dave had the audacity to say that Ralph was wrong - gasp! - and that the Giants did the right thing. So Ralph's been fuming all week and, of course, he has a very public soap box to pontificate from.

Unfortunately, Tom "Mr. T" Tolbert was gone all week, as he usually deflates Ralph down from his high horse - which is why they make good partners, Tom somehow can do that and still be Ralph's friend - Ralph initially had daggars in his voice when Tom was first added to the show, that the friendship and respect I hear today is 180 degrees from those initial days. None of the guest hosts, I guess, felt like they could take Ralph on or something (I think one was Ted Robinson) and risk not getting a future gig taking over for Tolbert.

Jon Miller to the Rescue

Then came Jon Miller to save Flem's honor, and he did it in typical Jon Miller fashion, with humor. Ralph had a pre-game talk with Miller on Friday where he decided to hit Jon up to join his cause. Jon was a little flummoxed at first, wondering how to go with the flow, kind of agreeing or at least acknowledging Ralph, basically straddling the fence, when he hit upon genius.

He started agreeing with Ralph wholeheartedly, saying (and I'm paraphrasing from memory, I don't remember every exact word said): "yeah, what's wrong with pitchers today! I remember Billy O'Dell, Alvin Dark had him throw 170 pitches, those were the days when men were men, plus Juan Marichial threw many a complete game," and stuff like that, and Ralph was just eatting it up, agreeing with Jon and everything, "yeah, Marichial had more complete games than wins..." as Ralph had found a kindred spirit, huzzah!

Then Jon threw the zinger in: "of course, Billy's career ended early. So did Juan Marichial, they all ended in their early 30's. Jim Palmer too. In fact, he was used so much his first season, they had to shut him down for two years from a shoulder injury - a shoulder injury! - and somehow he recovered from that to have a Hall of Fame career. I guess teams learned that they should protect their pitchers better in order to extend their careers..." (again, not verbatim, but approximate).

So Jon acts with hyperbole in "agreement" but then skewer's Ralph's position by showing how it led to pitcher's short careers, which, of course, implies Ralph is looking to shorten Lincecum's career by taking that stand. Genius.

Now my memory gets a bit foggier, I think Ralph was a little too blown away by Jon that he did not realize what had just happened and was just laughing and agreeing and glad to find someone who agreed with him (oh yeah, I think I had to run out and get something at that point, I was delaying to hear the main gist of what was being said...). That, to me, is further genius, Ralph didn't really know what had just happened, he still seemed happy to find someone who agrees with him.

Media Shows What Our Founding Fathers Feared

Still, good story I think, showing the dangers in the media when they get on a high horse and use their soapbox to detrimentally influence the general public, with no dissenting voice to be heard, which is why our government was built with the three areas of power - executive, congress, judicial - so that one alone could not autocratically control everything. Much like how I view Tim Kawakami of the Merc lately, he really thinks that the off-season of 2006 was the downfall of the Giants today (he inserted that jab in a column this week after his column a week or two ago that I wrote about recently) when it is clear to most fans out here that there were a few major reasons for this down period in Giants history:

1. Owner's (and probably Barry's) determination to win with Bonds

This led to all the acquisitions of veterans in recent years because once you made this determination, you had to go all in and roll the dice by signing up the best free agent veteran you could because every team was asking for Matt Cain whenever we came a-calling with trade ideas. Fans seem to think other teams are smart, but, to me, many CYA their trades by simplying demanding the other team's best prospects, regardless of whether they think they are any good or not. Sabean has all his scouts and coaches rate each prospect as a keeper or not, and the players on the not are the ones who get traded. I think Sabean's overall record shows that this system usually works and works well.

But that doesn't work with free agency, if there are rotting vegetable and fruits for sale on the free agent market today, you either buy them or you go hungry - and the Giants ownership was determined not to go hungry (i.e. guarantee losing). That's what a lot of fans don't realize, if you spend $20M on a Barry Bonds, to not go all in with the rest of your budget and buy the best available free agent's out there, that would be like buying a fancy sportscar and then living in a cardboard box. Unfortunately, the players available on the market were not the best around lately.

2. Owner's (and probably Sabean's) decision to not have so many high priced stars

This came out of the Matt Williams-Barry Bonds salary taking up so much of the payroll, that Williams was traded. The problem was not Williams salary, but rather it was the combination of his salary and much reduced production due to numerous injuries, and the disastrous contract given Robby Thompson after the 1993 season, which ate up another big chunk of the payroll with lousy production.

What fans forget is that this affected the Giants from 2003-present day, as first Robb Nen took a huge chunk and we got nothing, then add in Alfonzo, then Benitez, and currently Zito. That's why the D-gers were crap for a number of years when they had to eat Dreifort's contract, Colorado during the years they had to pay both Hampton and that other guy who was caught with a prostitute or something. Most teams cannot afford a big mistake like that, only the Yankees and probably now the Red Sox, but no other team can afford that.

3. No Bonds successor/No Owner's money

This is actually a result of the second point, but is also a function of the fact that the ownership didn't put up more money, so I think it is a major reason that should stand alone. The Giants should have signed Bonds successor in the 2003-2005 time period, whether Vlad, Ordonez, Beltran, whoever else was out there. The owners just didn't pony up the money when, in fact, they had the money - the money they offered Greg Maddux (who used them) - but chose not to use it.

That's why I've been pushing for new ownership who could bring in more money - like the Angel's and their billionaire sugar daddy - whether their own or others. Hopefully Neukom's Silicon Valley connections will pay off over the next decade or so, because we will need that to overcome the spending on Zito as long as he continues to flounder and not pitch the way he used to (I still believe he can, one of the few as far as I can tell, just a gut feeling that someone smart enough to have as few physical gifts as a pitcher as Zito does and still craft a pretty good career at an early baseball age, just need to find himself to do it again for us).

Giants Still In Good Shape Though

Despite these strategic and tactical mistakes, the Giants are in great shape for a team that is in re-building mode. Their pitching staff is pretty much re-built, though the loss of Valdez set back the bullpen a bit, people seem to forget that he was a huge part of the early success we had, we probably would be in good shape now if he were healthy and contributing like he was. Still, both Hinshaw and Romo is helping to mitigate that loss and if we can either get Valdez back and/or Sadler figures out how to use his amazing stuff up here, our bullpen will be awesome for the coming years.

Fans, got to love them, but to many of them, if any position player is average or below, he stinks. That is not right. Every team is made of many average and below average players, it is the good players who elevates the team above the rest. Now, if there is not enough good players (Giants lately) then that is a problem, but that makes one of the below good players replaceable, it does not make all of them bad for the team.

And as I was trying to show with my "Hey Series" posts (will continue soon...), if your pitching is the best in the league, you can get away with sub-par offense. Given that our pitchers should move up the learning curve again next season, we probably only need 1-2 more good hitters to put us back into division title contention, particularly if the other NL West teams are down again like this season.

Kissing Up to A's

And Kawakami the other day wrote about how Daric Barton is the most important player to the A's future, talking about how Chavez has faded from the scene and don't have impact hitters, but has "picked a bad time for a season-long slump." That's what happens with even "sure-thing" prospects, they will struggle and sometimes they will never figure it out.

Funny how he doesn't bring the hammer down on Beane, his hitting prospects are not doing so well, his pitching doesn't look that great either, with the youngsters melting down now, yet somehow he avoids giving the skewer to the A's like he has the Giants. When the A's has faced the same thing that the Giants has over the past few years and his drafts were so bad that he was forced to trade away good players like Haren (I wouldn't have traded him, he's someone I would have centered my team on) in order to rebuild his farm system. Meanwhile, the youngsters who were suppose to contribute this year haven't been doing much.

So why don't bring the screws on Beane as much as he has with Sabean? At least Sabean has a stellar pitching staff that's going to be great for years, Beane has nothing right now than magic beans he got for his cows at the market. Hopefully they turn out, but the Giants are in way better shape than the A's in terms of rebuilding and Kawakami loves taking pot shots at them.

If they deserve the pot shots, I would throw them at the Giants too (like during the 70's and 80's) but I don't think so right now.


  1. hmm...where to start?

    Yes, Miller did nail Ralph, and Ralph is out of his mind. As far as I am concerned, Tolbert makes Barbieri listenable, as he chill out and as you say, get off his 'high horse'. Barbieri just doesn't know what he is talking about for the most part, and tends to blabber on. Robinson works as a co-host because he does know what he is talking about, and can generally dismantle Ralph's silly points with quick severity, so Ralph just goes on to something else.

    as for.

    1. I think you are being a little unfair to the nebulous 'other teams' and only some trades would truly fit as CYA. That said, I do think well of Sabean overall, and I think he generally makes smart moves--except for some well rehearsed mistakes (and even some of those can be defended). I do wonder how much of the post 05 FA decisions were really up to him: if he was a major force behind them (other than Rowand)he has a lot of explaining to do. However, there are good reasons to think the directions of moves was an ownership mandate (not necessarily the players, but the contend now).


  2. 2. In the main I agree, but this sort of strategy can only work if you have a force the order of Bonds or Pujols, and there aren't many of those. I don't think the Matty and Bonds tying up too much money point sticks as much as you are making it out, as Williams wasn't lacking in production until a year or so after the trade. The Williams trade can be said to have worked because the giants wound up getting equal (to Matty) and later superior production from Kent, and picked up some players which were very helpful in the 97 run, and a little beyond; it was a dollar piece for what turned out to be $1.50 overall.

    Kawakami and the A's.
    Yes he does kiss up to the A's, and pick on S.f., but you always have to take Kawakami with a grain of salt. He's a little nuts, and doesn't 'really' know either baseball or basketball (I'm not sure on his football knowledge, as I don't read him on it). He's interesting, but not to be taken too serious.

    And yes, people to let Beane off the hook on his errors, but he has earned some of that by having fleeced some teams in trades, and having been smart about when to let a player go.

    As for the Giants being in better rebuilding shape than the A's, that is flatly false. I'll call pitching a wash between the two with maybe a slight edge to s.f. The giants have Cain and Lincecum doing their thing, and then top level prospects in Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Alderson, along with some good bullpen arms. It is a deep system, but not as deep as the A's. The A's top pitching prospects are still in the minors (gonzales just got called up, though) but they are close to MLB ready, and one expects at least 2 or 3 work out, and it could be more than that--they have a ton of interesting pitching prospects.

    As for hitting, they smoke the giants. Sure, not all are working out, but some either are, or are still on track to be something, such as Carlos Gonzales (and I could list a whole lot more, mlb roster, and particular minor league). They also have interesting prospects in all levels of the minors, whereas the giants really don't. The giant's talent, sans Sandoval is a while away--either having been drafted, or in A ball. Lewis is an interesting player, but is more of a good complement than a core player. And Bowker, Burris, and Ochoa are all major wildcards.

  3. Real thanks for putting up this type of analysis and coverage. You and the other Giants bloggers add a lot to my daily Giants consumption.

  4. Thank you for your comment, Ryan.

    I say CYA because other teams took crap from us just because they were our top prospects or once were. This also happens in other teams' trades as well. But I agree, not a truly factual thing but perhaps an observation and conjecture on my part.

    Matty was lacking production the last two seasons we had him, not because he was not good, but because he was injured. But whether injured or not, he was lacking overall production because of his injuries.

    My point about Beane is that people let him off the hook due his successes but have pummelled Sabean despite his successes.

    I base my statement on the A's vs. Giants on my posts regarding playoff success being tied to pitching and defense. That was the conclusions of a Baseball Prospectus study and which I discussed in my "Hey" Series.

    The Giants pitching is in much greater shape than the A's, at least two, maybe three years ahead. What you say is flatly false.

    Our pitching is pretty much proven right now or has shown that at the major league level. "Major league ready" does not mean "will succeed". Need I remind you of the A's "Four Aces"? They supposedly had the makings of a starting rotation for the ages and they ALL flopped. For more recent examples, Anthony Reyes was considered MLB ready and flopped so badly that the Cards just traded him away when they are dying for young starting pitching, and Homer Bailey has struggled each time he came up, and he was as major league ready as any pitcher of recent times. The Dodgers have had a string of "ready" prospects, like Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller. It is not an easy step to go from the minors to the majors, no matter how touted or "major league ready" they are.

    The Giants appear set with Cain, Lincecum, and Sanchez for years, barring injury, and as nice as the A's starters are in the minors, both Bumgarner and Alderson is arguably very close as well. I will go with good versus deep anyday.

    Again, as I noted, the BP study shows no significant correlation between ANY offensive statistics and success in the playoffs, so the A's offense can smoke the Giants all they want, but they lack the pitching (and perhaps the defense, don't know how good their guys are) that BP's study said is needed to get an edge in the playoffs.

    And that is the whole point of a rebuild, to get back to the playoffs AND, more importantly, maximize your chances in the playoffs. The Giants are ahead of the A's in this regard.

  5. Thanks for the reply,

    I read that part of the hey series, but I think you are misusing the BP study (and in any case I'm lukewarm on bp, whereas i'm not on ba and other online entities). The BP study, as I remember it, shows that pitching and defensive excellence in the regular season does *tend* to transfer to the postseason, whereas that is not the case with offensive excellence. However, sometimes (and more than rarely) it does. The study shows that pitching and defense have a primacy in the post season, and that post season success usually requires pitching excellence (but not always)!

    It seems to me, though, that you are using it to discount the importance of offense--sort of write it off as not that important. But the study doesn't prove anything like that--it only proves a relative primacy for pitching and defense--key word being relative. Playoff teams--not counting a few outliers--very from 'good' to excellent to 'great' offensively--never worse. So yes, if you have Great pitching, and excellent to great defense *combined* with good offense, you should be able to compete for a title. But the offense at least being 'good' is a prerequisite.

    I stick to my position that the giants and a's project to be about a wash, pitching wise--with the giants perhaps ahead, but not by much. I said SF might be ahead because of Lincecum and Cain, who are established, implying that we don't know if the a's prospects will get to that level. But I'll say more here, as I think it is clearly the case that SF isn't way out ahead (and in any case, both are extremely strong).

    Sanchez is by no means proven, and has only made very nice strides. He has shown that he might be a 2 or strong 3, but he has a lot to do before he gets there, and in this respect isn't much different from some of the top level A's pitching prospects (Cahill, Gonzalez, Anderson). Sanchez was a decent 4 or 5 this year, and unless he improves, he'll be just that. And the likelihood that one of the A's top prospects would be at least that is extremely high, and each of those project at least as high as Sanchez in terms of ability.

    Cain has more or less turned the corner unto true 'acedom' this year (and that turn seemed to happen within the last month), but prior to that he was somewhere between a decent 2 to strong 3. At least one of the A's propsects mentioned *should* get to 'acedom' as well, and if not, cahill and anderson in particular are near locks for at least strong 3 territory.

    It seems to me that only Inoa stands to have Lincecum's ceiling, and it will be some time before he sees the Majors.

    Let's see what we have with Wilson next year before we anoint him the real deal, closer wise. I think he'll be fine, but it is always foolish to judge closers on a single year--too much happens.

    So to this point the Giants are in a better position, with more proven commodities; but it should be said that even if the a's prospects pan out in a less than ideal way, they should still be very strong. And here is where there depth comes in. I will link you to

    Zonis's (one of the best internet a's fans, imho) appraisal of the A's system is fair, and in line with what people in baseball think.

    As for madbum and alderson: they aren't as proven as the a's prospects, so some of things you mention apply. Madbum would rate among their best prospects, but under then only because of they are more experienced. Alderson seems to be headed toward 2 to strong 3 territory at ceiling, but we really need to see how he does at aa next year. A few of the 'mid rotation' names Zonis seem to have an alderson like ceiling, as well.

    The a's system is both deep and good--deeper that sf, which is also very deep. The Giants just aren't 'way' ahead: both are in wonderful shape, pitching wise.



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