Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year: A Reply to Anonymous Comments

I got two lovely comments left late last night by Anonymous (timestamp shows that both were by the same person) that I would like to respond to:

"This blog is horrible and so is your mother who sucked my c*ck last night."

Yeah, it is pretty horrible to some, but then, that's the beauty of the internet, I get to publish all the stuff I want and people are free to ignore it. Or not.

Also, you must feel really good because my mother was cremated.

"This blog is the worst Giants blog I have ever seen. It's so bad that I am seriously thinking about investing a few bucks into some bumper stickers that say "obsessivecompulsivegiants is a c*ck-sucking f*gg*t. For a free blow job, visit his lame ass blog" and then slap them on random cars in a Wal-mart parking lot."

Good luck on that because I find that most places cannot handle such a long name. I think you will probably need to get at least three bumper stickers to fit all that in. Actually, that's probably going to need four of them.

Please invest, though, the country needs people spending to get out of this economic funk.  Just spend all your savings and retirement funds and get 666 of those bumper stickers, that will jump-start somebody's business for a day.

And say "Hi" to everyone at MCC for me, thanks!

OGC Thoughts

These came in just before 1:30AM last night.  He was aware that what he does might get traced, as he used an unknown ISP to hide his tracks.

Apparently he likes to use Apple Macintosh: hey, we have something in common, I've loved Apple since it came out with an Apple 2. I still have my AppleFest t-shirt, it's still in pretty good condition considering its age and times I wore it. Good times.

And speaking of good times, wasn't it great about the Giants winning the 2010 World Series Championship? I still play my recordings of the calls (still brings a tear to my eye when Dave Fleming's voice cracks), I love the Michael Franti re-do of his song "Say Hey" into Giants oriented lyrics. And I still wear my World Series t-shirts almost every day (sometimes I have to meet people). My wife hates it when I wear the one with the big gaudy World Series ring on the front. And I see my Giants Championship memorabilia everyday in my office. The trophy sure looks so shiny and perty (found nice placard with photo quality picture of the trophy).

I will pray for your soul, anonymous, because you will need it. And I'm not even a religious person, but I'll make an exception for you and all like you who feel the need to post such filth.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to all for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 2010 Giants Are the World Champions: Or Was it Just Luck?

I haven't written in a while.  Big part of it was work, but a strong part of it was that I was sad that there are a contingent of people who believes that Sabean should not get credit for the championship because he was lucky.  El Lefty Malo also picked up on that vein of thought and wrote about it on his great blog; it is a great post that rebuts that argument well.

My Thoughts

But my mind has been racing with various thoughts and so, here goes.

First of all, I would love for any of the Sabean Naysayers to go up to Aubrey Huff or Pat Burrell and tell them that they were lucky to win it all.  I think I would pay to see that.

Luck or Design

A baseball season is full of luck, from each pitch, each ball in play, each inning, each game, each season.   Anyone can easily pick out key elements of every season where if good luck did not happen, that team would have not have been champions.  As I've been writing all over, the naysayers have been exposing their colors by interpreting luck in their way and not giving Sabean much or any credit for winning the championship.

As I've commented around the blogosphere, I think we all can agree that the Giants would probably not have won had they not had their four pitchers, and if we ask all the Sabean Naysayers to raise their hand if they had proposed or agreed with the trade of any of our great young pitchers to get hitting, all of them would be raising their hands.  For all the talk about luck, they forget that it was not luck that the Giants retained all four starters, Sabean made that decision and clearly that was the main reason why the Giants won the championship, their pitching and fielding defense.  Even if we assume he was lucky in getting any particular member of the rotation, he still made the decision to keep them together.

Better Offense NOT Necessary

For all the bemoaning about the Giants lack of offense, while justified in terms of what they produce, none of the Naysayers have yet come to the realization that they were wrong:  a team could win with an offense as bad as that.  And I've been writing about this for years, I've pointed out how the D-gers in the 60's had lousy offenses and two main offensive superstars, Maury Wills and Tommy Davis.  Plus, as I noted in my baseball business plan, if you want to go saber all over that concept, Pythagorean shows the way:  when you have the best defense in terms of pitching and defense, you can win with one of the worse offenses in the league, dominate with only an average one.  And with the pitching taking another notch up with Bumgarner, they might be able to win even with a major league's worse offense.

So, these people say that the Giants cannot win it all unless they trade a pitcher for a good hitter, and yet when faced with the evidence that they were wrong, they chalk it all up to luck.

End of My Rope

I'm tired of all this.  Part of the reason I do what I do is that I don't like to see people suffer.  That's an extended discussion I had with Boof early in the 2010 season, and off and on previously, I try to see the team as it is and set my expectations appropriately.  So I can enjoy a .500 season knowing that they aren't that good anyway, kind of like having a kid you know is average but you love him/her anyway and set your expectations appropriately.  And I try to pass on my knowledge best as I can.

Am I always right?  No, I know I'm not.  Plenty of misses on the detailed nitty gritty.  FYI, I try to toe the balance between safe statements and one that are edgier because I took to heart a saying that you don't gain much by staying safe, you have to go to the edge sometimes.  People who want to get better need to take calculated risks to get better, and so I try.  So I can live with being wrong, that's just part of the "business" if you will, of taking stands on topics.

So if you want to point out stuff I got wrong, I'm sure I can fill a post - my standard length :^) - with my mistakes.  One that I remember vividly on MCC was when I repeated a post on the A's picking up Jerome Williams, not remembering that.  I had a good chuckle the first dozen or so times someone mocked me on that, I can laugh at myself, but the dozens of times after that, it gets really old, like, can you try something new?

But what has been my main thesis and theme all these years?  That Sabean has a plan - pitching, pitching, and more pitching, plus good fielding and some lightening speed.  And he has pretty much delivered on that plan, in spades.  And people call it luck, but the A's had their vaunted 4-Aces rotation (and Mets too) in the early 90's, yet both fizzled - very badly - while the Giants unvaunted rotation - if you look at most experts assessment of the Giants farm system by year, overall one would think that the team wasn't that good with their farm system. 

Cain was often rated below the other top pitching prospects of his time, and Lincecum, one expert would not have been surprised if he fell to the middle of the first round, he expected the Giants to pick up Daniel Bard, who fit his notion of what an ideal Giants pitching prospect looked like.  Sanchez wasn't on anyone's radar, and most did not think much of Bumgarner being selected as high as he was.

Yet they are arguably one of the best rotations in the majors since the Oriole's foursome in the late 60's, early 70's (late Pat Dobson, who was one of Sabean's closest advisors and confidant, was a part of that rotation, which I think is partly the reason why the Giants strategy is what it is).

So I wash my hands over the hand-wringing naysayers.  I realize now that they are what they are, and I can't change them, and as Boof advised, that's OK, we can have a difference in opinion. 

Moving on...

And be their miserable selves, for I really thought that a championship would change most of their opinions, that maybe they can let bygones be bygones, because Sabean succeeded where no one had before.  I mean, isn't this what all of us has been waiting for as Giants fans?  And he did it.  Yet these people can't let go of whatever it is that causes them to hate Sabean (and this depth of feeling is a hatred, as they are holding on hard to it, despite all the evidence against). 

I've been called sad and repugnant (and by the same blogger) for suggesting that these fans acknowledge that Sabean knew what he was doing and thank him for bringing us another World Series team, and now World Champions, after all, they all said that his strategy and plans would not work, and now we have wonderful evidence that they were wrong.  So what do you call people who cannot even acknowledge Sabean for bringing them what they say they have been waiting for all their lives as a Giants fan?

And knowing me, I know I'll probably get soft again and try to get someone to see the light again.  Probably not during this off-season, maybe mid-next season.  But I won't be so naive anymore and think that a World Series championship will change these people. 

2010's: Decade of the Giants

I still stand by my statement for this offseason.  With this core and talent coming up, the Giants should dominate for a good number of years, at minimum to the mid-10's.  And Neukom appears willing to let the payroll jump up to keep that core around for a while more beyond their free agent years and into the end of the 2010's.  At minimum, we control these players to these years:
  • Lincecum:  2013
  • Cain:  2012
  • J. Sanchez: 2012
  • Bumgarner:  2016
  • Wilson:  2013
  • Romo:  2014
  • Runzler:  2016
  • Sandoval:  2014
  • Posey:  2016
  • Belt: at least to 2017
  • Brown: at least to 2018
I'm sure many of them will get extended at least one year into their free agent years, Cain has already had one.

Then you complement them with vets filling in other positions, it is not like you need great players at those other positions, you just need to fill them with good average players and the offense will take care of itself.  Because with pitching and fielding so good, you can win with a lousy to average offense, thus resulting in a new offensive hero every game. 

Happy Holidays!

The Giants are the World Champs!  Woo Hoooooooo!!!  Let's do it again!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Giants Defense of NL West Division Title in 2011

I posted this in Fangraphs, thought I would share it here (hey, no tweaks for once!).  The author on Fangraphs noted the warning that I've seen other Giants fans harangue about:

This is the same lame analysis/excuses that I've seen the contingent of still active Sabean Naysayers espouse on: "but the Giants barely squeaked in."

After the Giants switched to Buster Posey as starter, the Giants won at a very high winning percentage for the rest of the season, around a 105-110 win season. With basically the same team they have right now.

Now they were hot initially, but using only second half stats, they were on a 98 win pace with Uribe the only missing player who played significant innings in the second half, and he only hit .244/.297/.441/.738, a hardly irreplaceable contribution, that is basically what Tejada hit for SD in second half. If you throw in Renteria and Guillen, that's .240/.305/.396/.701 and .266/.317/.375/.692, respectively.

And nobody hit out of their mind (¶ms=half%7C2nd%20Half%7CSFG%7C2010%7Cbat%7CAB%7C), with Burrell .258/.363/.520/.883, Huff .284/.385/.462/.847, Posey .283/.340/.472/.812 leading the way among those with significant ABs in the second half.

And there are positives for improvement in the offense. First Sandoval is losing weight (15 pounds so far) working with a fitness firm that has worked with A-Rod and Barry Bonds and if you analyze his ups and downs in 2010, his downs were marked by his divorce/child custody battle and his nearly losing his mother to a massive gas explosion. He hit over 1000 OPS in April and ended the season's last two weeks with high 800 OPS. Second, Ross should be an improvement over Guillen/Rowand/Schierholtz in RF in second half, even with his down year overall, that trio was in the high 600 OPS. Third, Belt looks ready to reach majors by mid-season and provide a good lefty bat, both OBP and SLG, and plus defense at 1B.

Meanwhile, the starting pitching, while one outlier in Sanchez (2.61 ERA), that is balanced by another outlier in Lincecum (3.76 ERA; horrible August, new slider in Sept took care of that). Bumgarner (3.14 ERA) and Zito (4.70 ERA) both look to regress to each other (Zito has 4.09 ERA over 2009 and 2010, not worth his salary but that is still pretty good). And Cain (2.91 ERA) looks repeatable.

Overall, the pitching staff will be missing Moto and Ray, the two pitchers with the worse ERA in the second half (6.20 and 5.19 ERA, respectively). That should help balance regression on the part of Ramirez and Lopez. That leaves possible regression by Wilson, Romo, and Casilla.

Possible positives here too. First, Bumgarner was flashing mid-90 heat in the playoffs, so who is to say that one of the top pitching prospects of 2010 isn't that good. Second, Sanchez could have reached a new level of performance during the regular season that he could repeat in 2011 (3.47 ERA in first half still pretty good). Third, part of the reason Lincecum was hittable in August was because of poor conditioning in the off-season and in-season. Lesson learned, he probably won't do that again. Meanwhile, he picked up a new slider that enabled the weakened Lincecum to be a batting practice pitcher in August to become an outstanding Lincecum in Sept/Oct/Nov.

So lets recap. Team that won roughly at a 100 win rate after the ASG retains all key contributors and dropped 5 who did not contribute that much, replacing with players who look to be better or same. And that is with players contributing as a group basically what they should be contributing, nobody really out there with a plus performance without a counter-balancing player who could regress back up. In addition, there are possibilities for improvement for the season.

Meanwhile, LA basically has the same offense, with Uribe being their major add (but not one that look to push up production), but pending what they do at C (but Victor Martinez is already gone), has basically the same pitching, with Garland as the upgrade, and that same team was significantly under .500 in the second half (31-43) after losing Manny, and Uribe and Garland are their major upgrades? Really, they are going to get 11-12 games better with those additions? And they have no top prospects ready to reload, not on level of Brandon Belt at least.

Padres, once they are forced to trade A-Gon, they will be A-Gone from the top of the division. And if you look at the Giants record, if it wasn't for their lousy record against the Padres, they would have won going away. If they would have simply played .500 with SD, they would have had 95 wins and SD 87 wins.

Rockies I can see as the major competitor for the division title. But they were 34-40 in the second half with the team they had. They had a mind-blowing great first half from Ubaldo to get where they got, and they were still 9 games behind the Giants at the end. They get some wins for more games played by Tulo, but are they really going to make up the 9? And if the Giants are the new improved second half Giants, they would need to make up 15+ games. And they just traded away Olivo, one of their better hitters; are they ready to go all in with Ianetta now? Jose Lopez, though, could be a good boost, but again, we are talking 9-15 games to make up, he's not that good.

I won't declare the Giants prohibitive favorites, because you never know how injuries and poor performance crop up, but right now, I don't see how the other teams have made up the difference between them and the Giants at the end of the season. You have to like the Giants chances to win the NL West Division.

Great Giants Music Video: Michael Franti's "Say Hey" Giants Version

This is a great video montage of the Giants playoffs with a song sung by Michael Franti utilizing the music from his recent hit, "Say Hey", but using Giants in the lyrics.  Not sure how long the link will last (hopefully for eternity, it's a great song!), click it and it hopefully will open.  Enjoy!!!

Michael Franti's Giants Version of "Say Hey"

Thursday, December 02, 2010

2011 Arbitration Cases and Non-Tenders

The Giants decision on arbitrations tenders were released (Hank Schulman and Carl Steward).

As many expected, the Giants tendered outfielders Cody Ross and Andres Torres, starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and relief pitchers Ramon Ramirez, Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez.  The Giants usually come to an agreement with almost every player that are arbitration eligible, so this is just a formality for that process to hold their rights on the players.  The only ones that I can remember going to arbitration was A.J. Pierzitski and, of course, they almost went to it with Tim Lincecum last off-season.

The Giants also announced that they signed Mike Fontenot to a one year contract.  Schulman reported that it was for slightly over $1M; I think that is about what he got last season, I thought he might get as high as $1.5M, but maybe he wants to stay.  Sabean noted that he would be getting some looks at SS and be a backup there as well as 2B.

Oddly enough, they also announced that Eugenio Velez was also non-tendered.  He was not arbitration eligible, according to the report, but apparently the Giants wanted the spot on the 40-man for other purposes. Shulman noted a number of factors in this decision: his 40-man spot, that he's out of options and not expected to make the team, even the raise he'd be due by rule if he cleared waivers and was sent to Fresno.

Schulman also reported that Ray and Velez might be re-signed to minor league deals.  I don't really see that happening.  Velez can see how crowded the OF and 2B is on the Giants (particularly once Belt pushes Huff to LF), and as much as he might want to stay, his agent should be advising him to look elsewhere.  Ray could like it enough to stay, but he's a former closer and he wasn't that bad last season, so I think there would be other teams interested in him.  Perhaps he and the Giants have a handshake deal to do this to open a spot to enable the Giants to add another free agent, as desired, with the understanding that they will work it out for him to be on 25-man to start 2011 season.  A signal for this would be a split contract with a minor league salary and a major league salary if he makes the team.  We'll see.

Burrell Back for 2011

As reported (Baggarly and Schulman) Pat Burrell returned to the Giants today by signing a contract with them.  The amount was not immediately known, but I would guess that it is probably in the $2-3M range, as it was made clear that he was returning in a reduced bench role.

Mychal Urban tweeted that there were significant incentives.  Basically, this allows the Giants to sign Burrell to a relatively cheap contract, but should he end up playing significant time on the field, he'll be justly rewarded for being a significant contributor.  I wonder if such a contract with Uribe would have saved the relationship and mitigate the hard feelings that Uribe apparently harbored against Giants management when he ditched the Giants.

Giants Thoughts

Glad that I could believe his words!  He said he wanted to come back late in the season as a bench player, and now it has come to pass.  His role will be like in 2010:  he'll get some regular ABs off the bench, and if any of the regulars are struggling or injured, he's our ace in the hole to start and hopefully bring up production.

Meanwhile, he and his buddy Aubrey Huff can enjoy another season together on the same team, as they dreamed about long ago when they were in college together (or perhaps it was after both made the majors), but in any case, it was a shared wish on the part of both to spend some time together on the same team before they retire.  And how better now that they won a World Series championship together on Burrell's childhood team that hadn't won in, like, forever, and Huff had a great time?

Looks like the 25-man roster is relatively complete now.  The question is whether they will keep all their arb players or not, with Chris Ray and Mike Fontenot the two possible non-tenders, as speculated by the local reporters.  Ray was put on the bubble because he was not on the playoff roster, but I think that was more because he was out on the DL for a while, and the bullpen was pretty set and functioning well in September.  I think they will keep him.

Fontenot, however, I would bet on being gone because the Giants need a MI utility guy who can play SS competently should anything happen to Tejada.  Burriss is probably up for that job and Sabean likes his vets (now maybe people can appreciate the vets more) and will probably get one to compete with Burriss.  They will probably keep an eye out on the non-tenders of the other teams as well.  They did contact his agent, so perhaps they were kicking the tires to see if he would be willing to accept a certain amount, which they would be willing to carry, knowing they might have to drop it at some point.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Uribe Unusual Usury Leads to Tejada Touching Down in Town

Not official yet until the physical, but the reporting (Baggarly, Schulman) is that Miguel Tejada has agreed to sign with the Giants for $6.5M (again originally tweeted by someone, tweets is now how news get released it seems, because of the immediacy; anyway tweet was a report of what Tejada said) .  The 'Dres reportedly was offered the chance to match the Giants offer but declined. 

Assuming he is OKed physically - the report is that it won't be done today - he is currently slotted to be the starting SS, as Bochy said he saw enough in September to convince him that Miggy can still handle the position despite his now limited range (his sure hands were noted in reports).  Schulman reported that Tejeda will act as a bridge to Brandon Crawford and Ehire Adrianza.  But it was also reported that he could end up the starting 3B should the Giants deem Sandoval unfit to start at 3B in 2011.

Sandoval Hard At Work to Keep 3B

However, Baggarly reported that Sandoval has already lost more than 10 pounds since the World Series ended, and for me, that's the only reason he won't start, if he don't lose the weight.  Baggarly also joked that this was before Thanksgiving dinner.  :^)  Haven't reported this, but it was reported by Baggarly about a week ago that Pablo changed his off-season plans again, and for the good:  instead of staying in SD near his home and working on getting his weight down, he is now going to experts in Arizona (as reported by Schulman).  Sandoval signed on with Triple Threat Performance (Tempe) and will work with them all winter, and the Giants have trainers who live in Arizona and thus will check in on him and be available to him as needed. 

I think that this is a very positive and serious move on Pablo's part to regain his Kung Fu Panda mojo back.  And this is a well known outfit too.  Clients have included Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Gary Sheffield, Mark Mulder, a number of other former Giants as well, which makes sense, there is a former Giants strength coach working there, so he has the connections to recruit players.  Lot of football players too, including Simeon Rice, Terrell Suggs, and Levi Jones.  I'm really impressed with what they say they do for professional athletes.  It appears that Sandoval is manning up to his words before that he wants to be great and is doing what it takes to reach that lofty goal.

I've been saying for a while that I think 2010 was a fluke and this is great evidence that he's serious about getting his body into the shape it needs to be in order to be the starting 3B for the World Champion Giants.  This is a long term project, not just a short-term one, to get his body into better and best shape and to stay healthy in the long run. 

As I've noted before, his hitting skills was still there in 2010, just in short bursts because of personal issues, issues that should not repeat in 2011.  Anybody who have seen his brilliant dashes to homeplate knows that underneath that body that screams "slow and plodding" is a great athlete, I've rarely seen any player score that deftly and precisely at home plate, usually it is the gazelle-like base-stealers.  Sandoval is the great player that he showed in 2008-9 and 2011 should be validation of that stance.

Juan Benedict Big-Bucks, Coming Up

Now here's the shocker:  in a big scoop, Hank "shaddup!" Schulman reported that Uribe actually turned down a similar contract from the Giants.  Reportedly, the Giants had matched the D-ger's 3 year, $20M offer when Colletti made a "take it or leave it" offer of 3 years, $21M over the weekend and Uribe took it, apparently without giving the Giants the chance to match that offer. 

Really, it only took $1M to buy Uribe and make him leave the Giants?  I guess he didn't leave his heart in SF, like Huff did. 

I see this as the Greg Minton syndrome, who was a great closer when not making the big money, OK reliever afterward.  He was really mad at the Giants because they battled on his salary every season, but once he got the big bucks, he wasn't as great as he was before.  I thought maybe he was just reaching the downside of his career, but he then joined the Angels after finally parting with the Giants and returned to the Moon-man Minton of old for a few more seasons.

For Uribe apparently wanted $25-27M, or at least was asking for that from the Giants, but given that he took far less from the D-gers, he only wanted that from the Giants because he felt that they owed him for what he did in 2009 and 2010 for the team at a reduced salary, as Schulman pointed out. 

And he made that clear in his press conference for his signing by what he wasn't saying, he often mentioned his affection for the Giants FANS but never once said anything about the Giants management.  Unlike Huff who repeatedly both during the season and after the playoffs talked about his appreciation of the Giants management who brought him in, grateful for a chance to play.  Unlike Uribe, who nobody was even willing to give a chance in 2008, he signed with the Giants on a minor league contract.  Maybe he should remember that if they didn't do that, he might not have had the chance to show the skills that now earned him a $21M contract. 

Still, really, $1M is all it took to steal him away from the Giants, when they already matched the $20M deal? And it sounds that way, Schulman reported that Sabean said, "He obviously wanted to be a Dodger more than he wanted to be a Giant.  He didn't give us a chance to keep pace (in negotiations)."  Which implies that he never went to the Giants and asked them to match the $21M. Is the game really that much of a business?

Not that I really wanted him at 3 years, $20M though.  I'm still happy he's gone, just happier now.  And apparently, while the Giants were probably willing to match the D-gers final offer (and did match the $20M), they had the same view of him as I did:  he's great as the super-utility guy who could play 2B/SS/3B, depending on need, but not a regular starter at SS.

And that could be the reason why he finally decided on the D-gers, because they are saying that he's the starting 2B for them and made that clear by trading away Ryan Theriot right after signing Uribe on the dotted line.  And I guess I can understand that motivation for moving on despite only $1M difference in offers (and likely matching if he had given the team a chance).

Still, it is the freaking D-gers he's moving on to, and had they offered him the $25-27M that he SAID he wanted (but apparently only wanted from the Giants), then at least we can say that we can understand, that this was a big chasm of money difference (and there were a lot of people tweeting that they understood why he took the $21M, because they didn't think the Giants would match that, particularly the 3 year part).  But when the player moves on for just $1M more, I don't care if the starting role might have been a key difference, that's just made it personal for me. 

Thanks for helping us win the World Championship Juan but DO let the door hit you while you're leaving, MEAT.  GAME ON!

Giants Implications

The report is that the Giants are not going to pursue any starting SS now that they have Tejada, though initially it was reported that they were still in on possible trades or signings (speaking of which, the rumor that Sabean was contacting Jeter's agent was true, only that he was only contacting in regards to Fontenot, another client of the agent).  I think that makes logical sense.  Tejada is obviously here as a starter.  If the Giants got another starting SS, then he would have to move to 3B, but then that would block Pablo.  Sandoval could then move to 1B, but then that would block Belt, who the Giants have committed to as a starting 1B, having ended the LF experiment (apparently didn't go well).

As much as the Sabean Naysayers might believe otherwise (and shockingly, winning the 2010 World Series Championship did not change many of their opinions of the GM, from what I've been reading; someone just tweeted that he's a "clown"), the Giants have been very good the past few years in leaving open (or now making open with Molina trade) the possibility of one of their young players/prospects coming up and winning a starting spot.  They have not blocked any substantial prospect from playing (it is mostly that many of the Naysayers have inflated opinions on what a substantial prospect is).  So I don't see the Giants doing anything to take 3B away from Sandoval or 1B away from Belt.

So, yeah, don't see the Giants getting another SS unless he signs for low money and battle Burriss for backup shortstop role.  But since the Giants have liked JJ Hardy from before, one would have to think that if he is non-tendered and made a free agent, Sabean will at least kick the tires and see if he would be willing to do the MI utility role for the Giants.  After all, Tejada will be 37 next season.

Neukom Coming Through with the Dead Presidents (though Hamilton and Franklin weren't)

Another implication which I haven't seen anywhere yet is that this is a sign that Neukom is coming through in OKing spending more money for baseball decisions.  He could have held back the Huff signing as that put the Giants in the $110M range, far beyond the mid to high $90M they had been spending in prior seasons. 

True, the playoffs probably gave them the extra money to push the envelope on salaries in 2011, but there is no guarantee that they will make the playoffs next season (no matter how good your team is, it all depends on the other teams in your division; see 60's for how that worked for the Giants) and with his salary, it will be at least in the $110M range both in 2011 and 2012 because of built in raises and probable arbitration raises, particularly for Lincecum (in fact, 2012 gets another big jump because of Lincecum, Wilson, and Sanchez but not big salaries coming off books; Rowand gone in 2013, Zito after 2013).

Now the Tejada signing pushes the budget up even higher, into the $115M range, and Neukom OKed that, as well.  That's roughly $20M more than the prior past few seasons and looks to get even bigger when the Giants eventually sign Lincecum to a long-term deal, then Posey. 

A further implication also not catpured is that had the Giants signed Uribe to a 3 year, $20-21M contract, they would have still been after a starting SS, since they viewed his role as best being the super-utility guy.  That would mean they might have still pursued SS Jason Barlett of the Rays, who they were rumored to be very hot and heavy over (of course, given the quickness of the Tejada signing, that could have just been the Rays pumping the action on Bartlett in the Hot Stove league).  Which means another $5-6M raise in the payroll to the $120M range.

Looks like the Giants are willing to eat into the operating profits that they were making before, and perhaps dip into the red a little.  Though, as Sabean noted after the Huff signing, they will have to shift some money around to make it work. Given that they got another draft pick with the Uribe signing, that seems to mean the Giants will spend less in the International free agent realm, where they had been spending big bucks previously.  Still, the Giants at least is spending the money on players and not losing players by not spending the big bucks. 

Belt Still on Fast Track

Chris Haft had a nice article snippet on Belt, Schulman too.  Both Sabean and Bochy are very high on Belt (and I've been saying here that don't be surprised to see Belt starting at 1B to start the season).  Bochy said, "I think this kid's going to make some noise in Spring Training."  Sabean said, "He's on the same track as Posey, which is very fast.  While we don't want to rush him, we want to keep an open mind.  When he's ready, he's going to be here and hopefully producing as a left-handed hitter in one of those spots."  Schulman noted that Belt will get a good look in spring training with an outside chance to win a big-league job.

The way I see it Huff will be starting at either 1B or LF.  So the battle will be between Belt at 1B and either Rowand or Schierholtz (or even Burrell, if re-signed) in LF.  I still think Burrell will be re-signed as a bench player.  They will only go to him if everyone else is scuffling.  It is hard for a player of his status to accept a bench role and I applaude him for wanting that just to be on his childhood team again.

I've been rooting for Schierholtz forever, but I don't see him having a breakout spring.  He had his chance last season and, really, the season before, but while he can get white-hot as a hitter for a month or so, then he either goes stone cold or gets injured (or both, apparently that's what happened in 2010 season early on).  Still, I'm rooting for him to do well and hopefully he will, but I'm not holding my breath.

I'm done hoping for Rowand to do something.  He's been like Schierholtz, only paid a heck of a lot better.  Obviously he willing to rest on his big money contract:  last season, realizing he needed to get in better shape, he rode a mountain bike every day during the off-season.  Meanwhile, Sandoval is going to fitness experts and getting himself into tip-top shape.  Hopefully he can learn from Huff and Sandoval, and perhaps earn some of his remaining money by getting in better shape, but I'm getting the feeling that he'll be just as happy to retire into the sunset riding his mountain bike.

That's why I think Belt has a good chance of breaking out of spring training as the starting 1B.  His hitting in 2010 has been at an elite level - a lot of Giants fans think they know what is good hitting, but they don't.  Belt, as I've shown in prior posts, hit at a level that only top prospects have hit in the leagues he was in for significant games, particularly for AA.  The numbers are deceiving in the minors, not many players hit as well in the majors than they did in the minors, the talent difference in pitching is that great.  That is why I think my method of comparison is better, taking the hitter's performance and looking in past seasons in the same league and seeing who hit that well at his age or younger.  And Belt was up there with what top prospects who did well eventually in the majors, like Pedroia and others.  It is just a matter of time.


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