Thursday, October 02, 2008

Post-season State of the Giants Media Conference: 2008

The other day, Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy did the post-season state of the Giants media conference the Giants do every year the day after the season ends. Video is linked at this sfgiants.com website, but Andy Baggarly kindly transcribed this for fans at his blog. I will do as I usually do and comment after each answer by the Giants, so I'm copying the transcript into here:

Q: The goal this season was to identify young players who can contribute as you go forward. On that basis, how successful was the season?
A: I think we’re all surprised by the amount of guys we got up here with very little higher-level minor league experience, and almost to a man, all these kids were able to be comfortable and show they can play at the major league level. We had some guys who were much further ahead. What it means for the next year remains to be seen, but if you went through every name that was called up, in most cases, they did a good job individually and collectively. So in that sense we were surprised at their relative performance vs. their experience. Because you really never know. And there were so many.

ogc: Typical Sabean response, kind of says something but in the end didn't really get anything of value for the fan. Hard to get him to open up all the time. But good question, nonetheless.

Q: How much less work is ahead of you this winter based on the emergence of some younger guys?
A: Well, position-wise we’re in better shape because of the Sandovals of the world, and Burriss, specifically, and Lewis coming back off the injury. Those are guys we’ll plug in in some form. I don’t want to speak for Bochy. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason, but Lewis should return to full strength and be our left fielder. Where he hits in the order is debatable. I think at this point we’ll pencil in Sandoval as our first baseman, and Burriss showed especially in the second half his ability to play shortstop when called on to play every day. Those three positions alone, and also the bullpen in Hinshaw’s case or Romo’s case, makes us that much further ahead, I think.

One of the disappointing things was not having Lowry for the whole season, Valdez crashing and burning when he was really close to turning a corner and could’ve meant something to the bullpen, and from a won-loss total, I think we were really affected losing Lewis and Burriss when we did.

ogc: Another good question. Well, Lewis is the LF and I assume Rowand is the CF, so when he says later on that he's open to getting a middle lineup corner OF, I assume Winn is the odd man out. Fluidity and versatility is the word this off-season as last. Last season, he left 3B open so that if Durham returned to normal, then Frandsen, assuming he does well, would slide to 3B (or so my theory went) but that plan went awry when Frandsen had his injury (which I've wondered since, how does an Achillies Tendon rupture, would that eventually have happened or was just a freak injury?). He also left 1B open, with Aurilia playing, but then they brought up Bowker up pretty fast to start at 1B regularly.

For 2009, right now it looks like Sandoval at 1B, Frandsen/Velez at 2B, Burriss at SS, ? at 3B, but I assume that is because it all depends on how the off-season works for Sabean. If he gets a power bat at 1B, I assume that Sandoval would shift to 3B. If not, then Sandoval would stay at 1B but Frandsen could end up at 3B, or even Aurilia again, if the Giants end up re-signing him (doubtful, though, he wants to play, and play here, but the Giants are putting him on back-burner; he can wait only so long before he has to take a job elsewhere). He could also get someone at any other infield position, then people would have to shift.

Q: Will you approach this winter with the thought that a player or two could make you a contending team in 2009?
A: I don’t know. Our goal this year was to introduce as many of these guys as we could, yet also win as many games than we could. We ended up winning one more game than we did last year. Now, what that means and how far we’ve distanced ourselves from the past, we’ll find out next year. Because there’s an expectation level on these kids that have performed, including the names I just mentioned. The good thing is I think we very much distinguished what our problems are. The bullpen was just not up to par talent-wise and performance wise. And we also know the lineup needs some injection of run-producing help. That said, guys like Sandoval weren’t up here all year. And when you get in a comfort zone of knowing who’s going to pitch after the starter, you can make great strides. That’s our goal. If we can plug those two holes, it’s easier for Bochy to manage on a game-by-game basis.

I think we can play winning baseball. That’s certainly something we talked about after last night’s game. You can’t predict what’s going to happen in this division, whether it be teams that were successful like the Dodgers or teams that were down like Colorado or where Arizona finished. We’ve just got to take care of our own business.

It was a great group to be around. Everybody bought in. I think the veterans fed off the young talent and enthusiasm. By the same token, the young kids had the benefit of the veterans, taking their medicine and playing when called upon. Every one of these veterans in some way has helped these kids. Everybody bought in on the roster, including veterans. I think we were out there early more than any team I’ve been around or remember, and I think it’s made a difference. It made a difference with the work ethic and the camaraderie and moreso how some of these guys, at the end of the season, looked like major league players.

ogc: Typical Sabean, talks around the question plus injects some rah-rah positivity into the mix. And, of course, the cliches. Basically outlines needs over winter: run-producer and bullpen help. Borderline good question, Sabean could have mailed it in, but ended up giving some good info.

Q: First year without Bonds. How did it go?

A: I didn’t know what to expect. In some ways we’re happy we can identify going into the future where some of these kids fit. By the same token, we failed in some areas. I thought we’d be much better on the pitching front, and we weren’t. When you’re challenged to score three or four runs a game, it’s difficult for the starters to not try to do more than the result. That’s one of the reasons you saw our starters have losing records. We couldn’t score for them. As you get into a mode to win a series, we didn’t finish games off before we got to the closer, and that was deflating. If we can get more than a run a game from a different combination in the lineup, and we can finish the job after the starter, getting to the closer, I think a lot of good things can happen.

ogc: Typical Sabean, talks around the question plus injects some rah-rah positivity into the mix. And, of course, the cliches. Emphasized his answer to last question: we need better bullpen and better run production. Wow, he's looking for more than a run added - we scored about 4.0 runs per game, so that would push us to 5.0 and about 800 runs scored. Even with Bonds we didn't always do that, particularly last couple of years. Interesting thing was that the Giants averaged 4.2 runs in August after Sandoval and Ishikawa joined the lineup and 4.4 runs in September, after Schierholtz and other call-ups joined team. Thus the improvement in the lineup he's hoping for - 162 runs improvement - about 70 of that is covered by the people already on the team in September.

Q: What do you believe is the most likely avenue to acquiring the 30-homer, 100-RBI player you need?
A: Well, I don’t know that guy is out there or exists. You guys know the names. If you asked me today, based on the research we’ve done to this point and what we get back from the scouts, I think our best avenue is going to be trade versus a free agent. There aren’t that many free agents as difference makers go. We’ll be involved in that area but I’m not going to hang our hopes on getting that type of player. It may be a combination of players.

ogc: Good question but same old, same old, answer as when he was asked who we might get to protect Bonds or be his successor. Point is that he's looking to trade, not to sign a free agent. And he set the bar high on free agents, he would have to be a difference maker. Not sure what he means by combination of players, other than some players shouldn't get comfortable that they have a starting position with the Giants in 2009.

Q: We all know it’s a tight trade market. Would it take someone like Matt Cain to get that impact hitter?
A: No. Not Matt Cain specifically. You guys can sit down at the computer and look at teams that are heavy on arbitration-eligible candidates, teams that are changing their roster or teams that are just looking for any type of pitching to be successful. I don’t think it’ll take trading Matt Cain to get something done.

ogc: Another good questions. I assume he has kicked some tires around the league to find out what it might take to get players like that plus, I suppose, from his long career of doing such valuations. I would agree, just a couple of years ago, we could have gotten Carlos Gomez from the Mets for Sanchez, and now he's a bit more proven, though still inconsistent. However, this was the most innings he has thrown in a number of years, so perhaps he petered out at the end from exhaustion. His stats were excellent, under 4 ERA until he reached the 100 IP level, which was already 50 more IP than in 2007, then he pushed it to 158 IP total. A good comp is Oliver Perez, another lefty who is brilliant one moment, but inconsistent overall, and the Pirates were able to get Xavier Nady for him. We could use a Xavier Nady-type hitter at one of the corner infield positions.

Q: Are you prepared to say Cain and Lincecum are untouchable?
A: In my mind, they are. I’m not going to trade the Cy Young winner, whether he is or not. Matty, at 23, pitched like a Cy Young at times.

ogc: In his mind they are, but are they in reality? That's the thing that gnawed at me, until I realized that he is probably acknowledging that maybe some GM might drop from the sky and offer him a great package for Cain, an offer he couldn't refuse, but more likely, nobody is going to make that offer, so Cain and Lincecum in particular is untouchable. And that is the way it should be. They are the basis of our competitive advantage going forward, until hopefully Bumgarner is ready to join them. Good question, though, glad this was asked, no wiggle room for Sabean to escape.

Q: So Lincecum is your Cy Young pick?
A: I don’t think it’s close. Whatever happens, he’s our choice. If you just look at wining percentage, the number of games we failed him when he came out with a lead, hits per innings, strikeouts per inning … Maybe you should ask a couple of veteran players on each team (who they’d rather face). That’s not to take anything away from Brandon Webb, who’s already won one. But like this kid showed yesterday, he’s pretty special, and I think anybody that faced him would admit that, just from the pure stuff alone. And really, the numbers don’t lie.

ogc: He has to say this, stupid question on the part of the media. What else is he going to say?

Q: (to Bochy) Would you look forward to managing a young team next season?
A: As Brian mentioned, a lot of these kids showed they can play up here and belong up here. We talked yesterday and I said that the silver lining on this season is that a lot of guys got to realize their dream of playing up here, and not only that, but they were playing up here to win. These kids, Burriss, Sandoval, showed that. They’re not just happy to be here. I liked the way they played to win. Their approach and enthusiasm wasn’t just to stay in the major leagues. I like the attitude they have. I’d be very content with having these young players because I like the way they played. That’s what we wanted to change: out culture, our brand of ball. I think they influenced the veterans, too, with how they came up and played.

ogc: Another dumb question, what is Bochy going to say, no, it was horrible? And he sold his agenda of the "warrior" spirit, the "gamer" and gave a plug to the youngsters, probably to show the naysayers that he can manage young players.

Q: Is the rotation a concern?
A: It could be, especially with Noah having the second surgery. Hopefully that’s the last thing to get him ready for the spring, but I think you have to put him off to the side. After what’s happened the last couple years moving (minor league) pitchers, without naming names, we’ve got some guys who are pretty darn good who could be up here in a hurry next year. We might have more depth than we think. We don’t have the experience you’d want, but from a talent standpoint, we should have some choices.

ogc: Good question, interesting answer. I have to assume he is talking about Bumgarner and Alderson. There is no one else ready to move up to the majors in a hurry, and only Sosa would have the potential too, but he had a setback in 2008. That's how they did it with Sanchez a couple of years ago, he was striking out a lot in the low minors then was pushed to the majors quickly. Doesn't sound like they are looking to sign a starting pitcher.

Q: Would you at least dip your toe in the free-agent market for starters?
A: We’ll look heavily in the market for relief help. Whether we decide to do that with a starting pitcher remains to be seen, because I think the price is going to be exorbitant.

ogc: In other words, Sabathia is probably going to be priced too high for the Giants to be interested. I wonder who is available for the bullpen.

Q: Is it important to reestablish home-field advantage?
A: It’s been lacking for a while. We have to have one or two guys on this team that can hit a three-run homer. When you keep the game close in this ballpark, because of the pitching in the division, you have to have a chance to clear the bases, whether it’s a double or somebody hitting a home run. I think the reason teams had success coming in here is when they pitched with us, and we didn’t have that extra bat, or a bat that can play to the park, you’re going to have a hard time. You can’t win every game 3-2 or 2-1. We’re hoping to change that.

ogc: We didn't have home advantage early in the season, but from August on, we were good, 10-6 in August, 7-5 in September, 17-11 over the last two months. So we did re-established home-field advantage by the end of the season, with the help of hot hitting from Sandoval, Burriss, Schierholtz, and Ishikawa. And of course Tim Lincecum going 5-1 at home helped too.

But mainly, it was late game offensive heroics (of course, lack of heroics early on helped set this up, but at least they finally delivered) as it was mostly relievers who won games during those two months, Brian Wilson was 3-0 (though meaning he blew 3 saves, but still), and all the rest of the guys won one each almost, Taschner, Espineli, Matos, Hinshaw, Romo, plus Walker won two (Yabu nothing), so the bullpen was 10-0 altogether during that stretch. So the bullpen was pretty good during that stretch in terms of keeping the team close until the offense could win it.

So perhaps the bullpen is not in as bad a shape as Sabean or fans think.

Q: Are your top minor league prospects as untouchable as Cain and Lincecum?
A: There will be a final list that we won’t trade and a list we won’t necessarily shop but put into play as we talk to people. It’s all relative on the value coming back. We’re not going to be trading for somebody with one year remaining on the contract. It’s going to have to be present and future.

ogc: This is standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Giants, the player development organization has "the list" which I assume they maintain during the season then have a final version after the season, and the list basically names the above, who the keepers are (won't trade) plus who they would be OK trading without question plus the above who they won't necessarily shop but put into play should their names come up.

People like to denigrate Sabean for his player evaluations but they forget that a decision on who to keep or trade among prospects is the better gauge of his and his group's ability to judge talent than free agents, because in free agency, you don't sign them because you think that they are the best or even that good, you sign them because you have a need and they are the best available on the market and the edict was to win within the budget with Bonds (not great for a rallying call but that's what they were doing).

By that measure, Sabean has been great, he kept Lincecum, Cain, Wilson, Lewis, Sandoval, all these young guys who currently make up our roster and played well down the stretch. People who like to put down Sabean still basically are saying that they don't like having Lincecum, Cain, et al, the team as it is constructed. They, frankly, either don't know what they are missing or don't see how their logic is twisted. You can't like having Cain, Lincecum, etc. and still denigrate Sabean because Sabean is the one who acquired them all and built up the team as it is today. They don't see this dichotomy in logic, if you are going to put down Sabean and all he does, you are putting down the team as it is today, you are saying that you don't like having Lincecum, Cain, etc., as it was Sabean who put together the team. Sabean.

Q: Your thoughts on moving forward with Bill Neukom replacing Peter Magowan?
A: The period of adjustment will be how the group dynamics work. As a group, we were always available and always together. If it wasn’t in the same building, we pretty much punched the clock the same way. Peter was always available in his office or by phone. If he wasn’t you could certainly get a hold of Larry. I can’t answer for Bill but I’m sure one of his goals is to get here as soon as he can and get in a regimen as to how he’s going to control his time. That’s one of the reasons we’ve had the continuity we’ve had. You’ve got to spend time. You’ve got to be around your people. When you’re having a cup of coffee and something comes into your mind, you can walk down to somebody’s office. So I’m looking forward to seeing how all that gets settled.

ogc: Looks like Neukom hasn't spoken to Sabean about what he's going to do. To me, this could mean that Neukom isn't rubber stamping Sabean for the future, as he didn't think he had to tell Sabean what his initial plans are, he's kept Sabean in the dark on how he wants to operate. It could also be that Neukom really was serious about not taking over until Magowan is out and really not talk about anything until that happens.

But that don't seem likely to me, if I were coming in, I would have initial talks with the key people in the organization and let them know how I'm going to operate. Then again, he could be busy winding down his duties as president of the Bar Association, or whatever that job he is giving up. Still, seems pretty elemental thing to share with your direct reports before coming in, you are standing around with cocktails after getting named/announced the new managing partner, you see Brian, you say you look forward to working with him, don't know the details yet of how things will work, but this is how I like to work. And yet Sabean has no idea whether Neukom will be around to talk with him.

I will add here that Neukom has said that he's moving down here as part of the deal of taking over the Giants. That would imply that he's going to be around for Sabean to talk with as he described above, because there is no other reason for Neukom to move down here if he's planning on NOT being around and available at the offices.

Q: Have you talked to Neukom lately?
A: We’ve had a couple meetings. He’ll be here next week. Boch has talked to him, not as formally as I have. We’ve talked about the budget, the mechanics of running baseball operations, what goes into it, the personnel. What goes into player development and scouting, just all the dynamics of what goes into this side of the house. Now I’m sure he’s going to be just as involved and inquisitive about the business side.

ogc: OK, so they have definitely been talking, but it seems to be one-sided, with Sabean passing on all his knowledge and processes to Neukom. I would have loved to hear all that, that would be interesting stuff. This shows that Neukom wants to be up and running with the turnover, as it is probably the baseball side that he knows the least about.

But remember, when the change was announced, one of the side things that happened was that Larry Baer was promoted to President and that he would now be handling the baseball side of the operations, taking over from Peter, and that Neukom would take over the business side from Baer.

As I said back then, when it was all announced, the Giants are clearly grooming Larry Baer to take over the Giants in the future. This is classic corporate stuff, you assign the annointed one to different duties so that he/she learns the whole operation/company over time, until it is time to promote him to the final step of taking over everything.

Q: Payroll expectations?
A: I think it’s about the same with some flexibility. As Peter was in the past, and he spoke for the whole group, if something comes up and we need to stretch the budget or it’s a special case, they’ll be willing to do that, and Bill has voiced that. On the field, we were in and around $80 (million). We spent less than our budget. We spent $90-plus (including deferrals).

ogc: Not quite true, the rumors over the years was that some of the owners were not happy about having to chip in more dough. I think it will be more true now that Neukom is in charge, his stated operating philosophy or procedure is to think about winning first, figuring out how to pay for it later. Thus I am hoping that the Giants will be bidding for the elite players every off-season, but won't just sign a free agent to fill every hole but within budget, which is what happened when trying to win with Bonds in his later years.

They spent less than their budget but I assume that was because it's a zero-sum game and they spent a lot on the draft and internationally this year, so they had to spend less somewhere else. Again, I think this will be less of a problem going forward if Neukom sticks to his stated operating procedure of thinking winning first, which means he'll find the money later, if necessary.

And this is a good time to do that, with attendance down and the economy sinking, the Giants will need to develop deep pockets because otherwise the budget would slip downward.

Q: Are you concerned about Rowand’s second half?
A: I don’t know whether it was this simple, but there was a lot of hype with him and Bengie about the All-Star possibility and they both hit a downturn around that time. Bengie had a bounceback and Aaron didn’t. One of the things that contributed to Aaron’s subpar second half is I think he let the ballpark get to him, and that’s something he’ll have to learn from. But he certainly didn’t have a good second half. It was a tale of two seasons. He had a chance to make the All-Star team. That’s one of the topics of discussion we had last night and that’s something we’ll continue talking about the next couple weeks about how to get him in a better position to finish stronger with us. One thing that’s going to help all of us is another bat. Boch could have done different things with him in the lineup, whether he was going good or struggling, if we had a more set lineup or a more experienced lineup.

ogc: I have to believe that there was some sort of injury that occurred somewhere in the late May, early June timeframe to Rowand. He batted .326/.366/.500/.866 in April, then .343/.431/.556/.987 in May, yet didn't crack .800 OPS the rest of the season, which matches what happened to him the year he bashed his nose on the fence, aces before, bad afterward. When I get time, I was going to chronicle his season, series by series, to see if I could see if there is anything else I could notice.

Q: (to Bochy) Bengie says he’s not a cleanup hitter. Is it your goal to get a hitter who can bat fourth?
Sure, that would be ideal. There aren’t a lot of 4-hitters out there, I understand that. Bengie to me can be a 4 hitter. He seems to enjoy hitting with runners in scoring position. When you see a guy who doesn’t run well, sure, you think he’s more conducive to the back of the order. That didn’t concern me as much as needing a guy who can get a clutch hit, and Bengie can do that. But sure, it’d be great to have somebody who could go in the 4-hole where you could drop some guys down. I think Rowand is a 6-hole or maybe even a 7-hole hitter. I think at times he did press trying to be that guy to do the damage and drive in runs and it caught up with him. And there’s the frustration sometimes of hitting a ball well here in this ballpark (without a reward). I think he let it compound the damage and these are things we’re going to talk to him about so he doesn’t put that added pressure on himself.

ogc: Typical, Bochy says he thinks Rowand's a 7-hole and someone scanning the text comments that it was Sabean idiocy for paying so much for a hitter who he thinks is a 7th place hitter. Sabaen Naysayers lurk everywhere.

I don't care how much of a hitter Molina is, you don't put a player who can't get on base much in the cleanup position, you just don't. 5th is the highest I would go, though I could be convinced to go with batting 3rd, if I look at the lineup calculation numbers again, as OBP don't matter as much there. Personally, I would have batted Rowand there; even when he was slumping, his OBP was about that of Molina for much of the year. For 2009, I would bat Molina 5th or 6th, depends on how 1B and 3B works out, plus RF: if I had Sandoval, Ishikawa, and Schierholtz around, you can rotate in hitters to take cleanup and perhaps 5th too.

Rowand, I think he's fine in 5th as long as he's hitting normal, but he should have fallen to 7th the way he was hitting most of the season, even 8th in Sept. With more power options, he could.

Q: Where will Schierholtz fit?
A: I’m not sure yet. Personally, I don’t think I know enough about him. We know Randy’s got another year on his contract. Roberts is pretty much a bench player, as he was this year, and Schierholtz is going to be on this team in some form. He’s out of options and too good to go back to the minor leagues. With the short window here with the Olympics, and what we had up here, I don’t know that he had enough at-bats. I certainly couldn’t tell you where he would hit in the order. I don’t know how much power I could project from him hitting in this ballpark. We all like the fact he can swing the bat, he can hit to all fields and he’s shown power in the minor leagues. But I’m not sure about him because of the smaller sample size, as opposed to a Sandoval, who is a no-brainer. He’s going to have to have a good spring training and we’ll find out what’s in our best interests as to where he plays and how much.

ogc: Good news here is acknowledgement of Roberts as bench player, meaning Lewis is starting in LF, and that he's going to let Schierholtz's play in spring training determine the Giants moves. If he can start out on fire, Sabean might trade Winn mid-to-late spring to a team suffering an injury and wanting a good OF to come in, there's always an injury out there for a playoff pursuing team. I think that's fair enough as long as he gets enough AB to do it.

Q: Will you be open to acquiring a big bat at any position, even if you have to move other pieces around?
A: I think we have to be. That came up, as well as the what-if Sandoval played third. One thing I didn’t mention: we haven’t played the defense we used to. Some of which is all the moving pieces on the infield, some was because these kids had all they could handle to concentrate on one side of the game. It’s a big task for a kid to play both sides of the ball. But we’ll have to be open-minded.

ogc: Seems like he's going with his plan like last season, when he got Rowand and we seemingly had some many CF, he will acquire the power bat first, then figure things out positionally. Also seems like he's willing to let one our bats be that if he hits for us in spring training.

Q: What do you think of Zito and Wilson living together this winter?
A: Dick Tidrow said it best, I think. He’ll get Barry to throw 89 and he’ll try to throw 105. I don’t know what more he can do with his workouts, but it’s kind of unique. Wilson is off the charts with his diligence. But he’ll still have to pitch no matter how hard he throws. We’ve discussed that also.

ogc: The best speakers can take a question and mold it into a message that you would like to get out there. Here, he turned it into a comment on Wilson's performance and how he should pitch and not throw.

Q: Who’s your top candidate to play second base?
A: We’re all pulling for Frannie. To not do so would not be fair to the kid and the organization. He’s really, in all our minds, capable. Again, what that looks like, what it means to the order … I think defensively it would look nice on paper if it came to fruition. But we’ll need as much offense from every position as can get, and as Bochy can tell you, he’s probably limited to only a couple places in the order. I don’t know how much he’ll be able to play this winter, because it’s very difficult to place an American infielder in Latin America for obvious reasons. So he’s at the mercy of trying to get work. We can catch him up with some at-bats in instructional league.

ogc: Looks like Frandsen got the front runner position to play 2B but that is all predicated on his being able to hit in spring training like he used to. I think he's also up for playing 3B should Velez breaks out and they put him at 2B, his best position.

Q: Could Velez be an everyday second baseman?
A: It’s possible. If you look at how far he’s come, through anybody’s eyes, he’s probably made the biggest improvement. Once he got comfortable defensively and knew he would play quite a bit at one position, he got comfortable offensively. He’ll be on the team and he’s going to contribute, and I wouldn’t rule that possibility out.

ogc: Velez played very well once he came back to the majors in August, hitting .792 OPS in August and .825 in September, good numbers fora 2B. I think he and Frandsen will battle for 2B, and if both do well, Frandsen would probably play 3B, Velez 2B. I think the way 3B will turn out is that Rohlinger and Gillaspie will get a good look in spring training, getting a lot of ABs there. If Frandsen and Velez do well, they would be 3B and 2B, respectively. If only one do well, then they could go with Rohlinger as starter until they figure out what to do with the position. There's always Sandoval at 3B and Ishikawa at 1B.

Q: Do you see a place for Vizquel or Aurilia on the team next year?
A: I see zero with Omar. We talked about that in person yesterday. Richie is a different story. That decision will come later. Richie was a tremendous asset in plugging what we needed on the field, be it at third base or first base. He had a nice season and because of it he’ll have some people come after him, including perennial winners or teams that view themselves as contenders. Before the end of the season, he said he was interested in coming back and we said we’d be open minded, but if it’s going t ohappen, it’ll have to be at a later date because of what we need to do first with younger players and spreading the payroll. But he was a big help.

ogc: Just like with Bonds, the Giants clearly said in no uncertain terms, if you come back, you have to go to another team Omar. That clears the path for Burriss so that he doesn't have to worry about the Giants switching to Vizquel if he hits a bad patch. The Giants will clearly give whoever starts at SS in 2009 a lot of play early on to find himself, with Burriss as the incumbent for 2009.

Aurilia, however, makes a lot of sense, given the right circumstances. If the Giants somehow acquire a good 3B, then Aurilia don't make a lot of sense, as he would mainly play 1B and 3B. But if it is two rookies manning 1B and 3B, say Ishikawa and Sandoval, it would make good sense to sign Aurilia as backup for either position should either falter after two months. Plus he can play SS and 2B in a pinch. But that probably means he won't sign with the Giants until Jan/Feb, and I don't think he will wait that long, he is probably going to sign with another team by the end of 2008.

Q: Hard to part ways with Vizquel?
A: As you all know being around him, he wants to do it on his terms. One thing that was really embarrassing to him was that he wasn’t hitting .200. He felt he wasn’t contributing or helping the ballclub. But once he started playing more, started hitting, got it over .200 and helped us win some games, I think he made the decision that he knew he could play and wanted to for another year. But he also saw the situation here for what it was with the young kids, especially with Burriss.

ogc: Didn't answer the question, so it's probably not that hard, but didn't want to embarrass Omar publicly with the true answer. Kind of a fluffy question to ask.

Q: Coaches coming back?
A: Yes. We’ve got everyone on contract for another year except Flannery and Roberto (Kelly), and they will be re-upped.

ogc: No real reaction other than I like what Kelly has done for our running game in the firstbase box and I like having Carney Lansford as hitting coach, still can't believe that, would have thought he would go the A's route, though probably it was because the Giants were his team growing up that drew him to work here.

Q: What was Magowan’s best quality?
A: If you look at it from the inside out, he was a guy that was so passionate yet he didn’t impose his will. He didn’t impose his ego. He wanted to know what you thought and he knew how tough your job was. At the end of the day, he let you be yourself. He wasn’t interested in controlling people, how they act or dress. He let us grow in a way. I’ve been here since ‘93 as an assistant and I don’t think he’s ever changed. Whether we won or lost, made a good decision or bad decision. I was never in a conversation with him where he placed blame or browbeat you about something. And I think that’s admirable. Most of our tough decisions we made as an organization and if it went well, we celebrated. If it went the other way, we blamed everybody involved. We didn’t pile on one person. So that was a unique quality.

ogc: Except that Magowan publicly said that had he been given the chance to veto the Nathan trade, he would have. I think Sabean answered this question honestly, though, as every boss, whether you agree with him or not, have qualities that you can admire in some way.

Giants Thoughts

I'm kind of beat so I probably won't add much here, as I am planning to do my own post-mortem on the season in a post. I would say here that I was barely right, I said before the season that the team would be closer to .500 than losing 100 games, and I was right by one win, they were 9 wins away from .500, and 10 less wins away from 100 losses. I'll admit that I didn't see Lincecum doing as well as he did, but I would have been close, as he went 94.1 IP last season after figuring things out during his bad spell with 96 strikeouts, 40 walks, 2.96 ERA, plus he ended the year on a downnote too, giving suggestion that he could be even better if he built up his stamina for 2008.

I guess I should comment on the conference overall. Usual Sabean post-season chat: he speaks cautiously and yet parcels out interesting bits of information on how the team will proceed in the off-season and next season; the media ask a number of dumb questions, though this year seems to have less than in past years, probably because the cream is all that is left after the mergers with newspapers and stuff; good stuff overall.

Most importantly, states that Lincecum and Cain are off-limits, despite fans insistence that he wanted to trade one of them or should trade one of them. Both pitchers are Giants for a while. And that is good, they are the basis for us winning in the playoffs when we return. And we are probably just a good bat away from returning, based on what we saw in the last two months.

Reaffirms that Lewis is in LF and Burriss is SS, plus says that Sandoval is 1B. That leaves Rowand CF, Winn RF, Molina C, with 2B and 3B in play. It also sounds like if Schierholtz can convince the Giants in spring training or even early season, they would trade Randy Winn and open up RF for him. I expect Bowker to play in AAA and be the first one up if anybody falters at RF or 1B, or get injured in the OF or 1B.

However, no one should get comfortable because the Giants are looking to acquire a power hitter via trade most probably that is not a one year rental. Despite what I've read, Sanchez has done enough to headline a trade for such a player with another prospect or two - good example is the Oliver Perez trade for Xavier Nady. So if said player happens to start at any of these "set" positions, it could domino into other trades as we get rid of players.

Interestingly, hints that Bumgarner and Alderson (couldn't be anyone else) are not that far away from starting in the major leagues if the need should arise. Thus probably Sanchez, Correia, Hennessey, and Misch, plus Walker, Taschner, Chulk, maybe Pucetas, Tanner, Snyder, English, Sosa and Joaquin too, are probably available in a package to acquire said power hitter, because the Giants see Bumgarner and Alderson as close enough to the the majors (which would fulfill Sabean's then-brash comment that both are on the fast track to make the majors within two years/seasons). I wouldn't be surprised to see Bumgarner starting and Alderson relieving in the big leagues in 2009 (though 2010 is probably more likely for their debut, though a 2009 September call-up is not out of the question).

He points out the bullpen as a problem area and area to acquire a free agent, so that means they are probably shopping for a good setup reliever to go with Hinshaw and Romo (in case one falters, there would still be two), because Valdez, who would be good, cannot be relied on to fill that role. As I noted above, the bullpen was pretty good overall down the stretch, but he always liked having a strong bullpen so I would take this as sign that he thinks the team is close and can splurge to get a set-up guy.

What the team needs to solidify the pen is Wilson and two set-up guys you can rely on. Hinshaw and Romo appear to be those guys, but relying on both to deliver is pushing it if you hope to get better, thus the decision to acquiring a set-up reliever via free agency. The only thing I don't like about this is that this would probably cost us our 2nd round pick for 2009, a high price to pay for a reliever, even a good one.

Payroll appears to be balanced out for 2009. While Zito gets $4M more in 2009 plus Cain and Lowry both got about $2M more, we drop Omar's $5M, maybe Aurilia's $4.5M (though he could sign back for $1-2M), probably Hennessey's $1.6M, maybe Correia's $1M, probably Walker's $750K, and perhaps Winn's $8.25M might get traded. Thus, though attendence is down, the Giants should have enough money left over again to sign another top player with their draft pick next season (not sure of placement because of tie with Atlanta, either 6th or 7th pick) or just the regular pick, plus pick up another international free agent. And, of course, there's the free agent set-up reliever and the power hitter, which would be wild cards in terms of payroll impact.

The media did pretty well with questions this year but there are other questions I would have asked.
  • I'm disappointed that the media did not ask any questions about Villalona and Rodriguez, the former about how he met or didn't meet expectations, the latter about what the plans are right now for 2009, plus any further comments they can make about him.
  • I would have also asked for some scenarios on what would have to happen for Bumgarner and/or Alderson to make the majors in 2009 versus 2010.
  • I would also have liked to hear where the Giants might place Posey if he dominates the Hawaii Winter League (Kieschnick hit a homer and Posey went 2 for 5, the other day), which is considered to be as good as AA pitching; would they start him in AAA for 2009? And start the Bengie Molina death march?
  • I would have also wanted to know about their plans for Ishikawa in 2009, since he only plays 1B, played well enough when given the chance, and should be out of options for 2009, much like Schierholtz.
  • I would have also liked to hear something about Wendell Fairley, he disappointed early on but then caught up in a hurry and was selected by Baseball America for the Top 20 list for his league, though I think he was close to 20th, high teens.

Overall, the big news that I was glad came out was that Cain and Lincecum are untouchables. After that, everything was gravy. In addition, it was good to know that they are looking for a run-producing bat and reliever this off-season, to know what their priorities are this off-season. Plus, I would keep an eye out about Bumgarner and Alderson for 2009, could be up at some point. Sanchez made the jump pretty quickly and if the team needed it, they probably would have brought up both in 2008. But waiting is better, so I would expect them to get called up only if somehow we were competing for the division late in 2009 and needed pitching help, otherwise it is more probable that they are up in the big leagues in 2010. Those, I think, were the big news that came out of this press conference.

2 comments:

  1. You much nicer then I.

    After say 5-8 years of such actions I would like to see their share of ownership swapped to the AAA franchise with the best attendance, and orderly books, and that owner gets the same MLB shares. That will hit them were they live. Thus it will never happen .

    daveinexile

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry about the above. Its not what I saw in the preview Martin. I’ll try again

    I would like to take crack at the Defense answer. Granted Sabean has beat it into a cliché but it is the one area the team can improve on both be staying inside the organization and is much easier to acquire in last year’s and this year’s free agent market. So I am not so sure he hammers on defense as talking point because its hard to fine nice stats for ( thus call him on it) or because he realizes its an area were he could actually do some good in. It will be interesting to see the tune he sings going forward because next years free agent market should be rather useful to the Giants.

    Daveinexile

    ReplyDelete

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