Friday, August 17, 2012

Your 2012 Giants: Melk-down Rallying Point?

Wow, very interesting article in the Chronicle by John Shea about how the Giants players are almost uniformly UNSUPPORTIVE of Melky's blunder:

Hardly a soul in the Giants' clubhouse expressed support for Melky Cabrera. Several players were given an opportunity to voice an opinion on their tainted teammate, and they didn't line up to say they'll have Cabrera's back during his 50-game suspension.

Players such as Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence said little more than it's time to move on. Others such as Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum made brief comments but politely refused to answer pressing questions. Others simply stayed in areas off limits to the media, knowing some things are better left unsaid.

It was a sign Cabrera no longer is welcomed in the clubhouse, a sign he won't wear a Giants uniform again. If the players (along with many fans) don't rally around the All-Star MVP, management certainly can't.

... After Cabrera's positive drug test, [the fans] felt cheated. So, apparently, did the players.

ogc Thoughts

Wow, did not expect that.  From my memories of how players normally react, they would usually round the wagons and protect their own.  Instead, the reporter could only get one player to go on record in support of Melky's return, and that player was one who could be empathetic as he was caught using PEDs in the minors once.  Otherwise, the best the reporter could get was Posey's "Ultimately, it was a bad decision. ... That's all I'm really going to say about it."

One potential positive coming from this - and I think I read it somewhere - is that the team could use this as a rallying point, that they are going to get into the playoffs in spite of what Melky's mistake costed the team.  I can see that possibly happening, teams have rallied around odder things, like the Battling A's complete hatred for their owner, Charlie O. Finley, and sometimes for each other in the heat of the battle.  And the Giants apparently rallied around Renteria crying about his last chance for the ring in a team meeting in early September 2010.  Right now, the team needs something to get them going, whatever reason they can find.  So the next week will be interesting in terms of how the team reacts, now that they have had two days to absorb this gut check:  will they take it to the Padres and Dodgers over the next week or will they be taken?

Here, I will note the jaded side of me, a thought that came through my mind and not necessarily what I think, but it is food for thought:  maybe the players are mad not that he used, but that he was caught.  I was listening to KNBR last night and they had the ESPN feed going with an interview with Victor Conte (yes, that guy, I'll get into him a little later), and he, as their expert, stated that this type of testosterone doping is actually very easy to do undetected, that a mistake would have to been made to get caught because players are only tested at the park, so he could dab on the stuff after he leaves the park and his body receives the benefits, but its drug signature in the body dissipates by the time the player returns to the park.  By that description, it is extremely easy to avoid detection at the moment, and thus getting caught is only through a horrendous mistake in usage and timing.

Now, maybe the players were in a big state of shock and didn't feel ready to say anything.  I imagine that management - Sabean, Bochy, Baer - couldn't say anything, one, because Sabean saw what happened when he reacted from his feelings last season with Cousins, two, they can't burn bridges just in case, three, they need to focus the players on the big picture, the goal, of making the playoffs.  But the players really could say whatever they wanted and chose not to say much, other than they have to move on.

Pagan Might Have Gotten Good News With This

The one hardest hit has to be Pagan, who was happily and joyfully Cabrera's translator whenever the need arised, yet he couuld not offer one word of support, sympathy, or empathy for his (former?) buddy.  

This is actually a good turn of events for him.  The Giants most likely were going with Melky in LF, Pence in RF, and let Blanco try to hold CF in 2013, with the possibility of Brown rising by mid-season if need be.  Thus no space for Pagan and a savings on his contract.

Now, however, if the Giants are/must moving on from Cabrera, they are in need of another starting OF, and who better than Pagan, who was here and relatively productive, and most likely affordable.  He's no Melky, but he has been a good producer for the most part.  And his up and down performance makes it likely that there will not be heated bidding for his services, so he might be willing to sign for less per season but for a 2-3 year deal, to get some stability as well as more money overall.  Probably something in the range that DeRosa and Roberts got, about $5-6M per year (I dropped the lower end because he's not as good a hitter).

That would give us Blanco, Pagan, Pence across the OF, with Brown and/or Peguero and possibly Kieschnick as potential callups by mid-season should production be down with either. 

While not as good had Melky not blew his chances here, the lineup is still pretty good overall:  Blanco, Theriot/Scutaro, Sandoval, Posey, Pence, Belt, Pagan, Crawford.   And if Crawford continues to develop, it might be better for him to bat 7th and deliver some power and plate discipline, while Pagan would be our secondary leadoff hitter batting 8th.  Who knows, maybe Bochy will copy his buddy's, LaRussa, habit of batting pitchers 8th and hitter 9th, which really is a secondary leadoff guy.  Heck, Blanco and Pagan could swap off, depending on who is starting, Blanco leadoff if RHP, Pagan if LHP. 

Not too shabby a lineup, just not as MLB crushing as we might have once dreamed of.

Media as Enabler

And I suppose I'm doing it too by pointing it out, but is Victor Conte the ONLY expert on drug cheating out there?  ESPN interviewed him yesterday in reaction to the Melk-down news.  He lives and breathes for this type of attention.  He loves having and stretching his 15 minutes, even if there is a negative connotation associated with it.  Any media attention is all good for him.

ESPN, the biggest sports media network out there, could not find another expert to talk to?  Is there no college professor who can speak on the subject?  A sports medicine doctor?  Someone from another testing firm? 

Even Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote about how hard it is to stay ahead of the cheaters in the Olympic Sports, and also professional sports. 

Also, how about presenting an alternative view on the subject by interviewing Eric Walker, whose research has found that there is no positive performance effects from steroids and other reputed PEDS?  Or that Saber-Economist college professor, who talked with his school's sports drugs experts and found out that Human Growth Hormone provides no performance enhancement and has all sorts of horrible side effects (like your internal organs growing too large for your body, hence why so many wrestlers guts are huge, it is not because of their muscles...).  Or maybe THOSE professors.

This I might have expected from SI, who loves to tweak the Giants and Bonds (also BP has a hate for the Giants too), by bringing up someone who has a negative past with the Giants.  But maybe ESPN was being lazy and going to the first name on their list.  Still, in any case, there's nobody else?


  1. Of course, a player comes out with support right after this:

    Blanco openly said he would love to play with Melky again, but understand that the fans are not happy. Apparently they are good friends, and he left a message but hasn't heard back yet.

    Still, the impression from the press is that his teammates do not share this feeling.

  2. I should have followed up on my other post the other day where I said that these games were crucial series. Little did I know how crucial given the stunning news about Melky.

    Now they are crucial in that the Giants need to show that they ave moving on. And with their 10-1 beat down on the Padres in SD, that was good.

    I mean, how many times have we seen the Giants come in against a team they should beat down, especially a pitcher like that, who just stinks, would shut down the Giants, especially at home, where he's been doing well. Sure, they are the Padres, but they were just 3-4 on the road against the Pirates and Braves, and winners of 7 of 8 before losing 3 straight to Braves. And 28-22 since hitting their nadir, roughly 2 months ago, so they have been pretty good lately and for a good stretch of games. And this pitcher had a low 1 or 2 ERA at home.

    Now the Giants need to continue this, and this next game is a bigger test, as Zito is starting and the Padres has a good pitcher going. It helped that the Giants had yesterday off and was well rested for this game, whereas the Padres flew in on red-eye for this game. Tomorrow, things will be more even in terms of rest.

    Still, 10-1, and it is not like Petco is that big an offensive park. This is the most runs they have given up at home this season. And with the win, the Giants take back first place as the Dodgers lost.

    Now they need to keep it going and win on Saturday. Of course, ideally, a sweep is great, heading into their series against LA next week. Luckily, they will be well rested for that first game while LA will be flying in from the East after a tough series against the Braves. Hopefully Atlanta wears down their bullpen for us. Winning the first game in the series is always good, hopefully that will help us get an edge. They CANNOT let down the for LA series, too mu

    ch is at stake in the standings because each loss costs us two games in the standings (because of the difference between us winning and losing the game).

    Go Giants!

  3. I'd like to note that the first 2 paragraphs of Shea's quote are him reporting facts while the last 2 are him expressing an opinion. I'm not sure that what he reported translates into Melky never playing for the Giants again or not being welcome in the clubhouse after his suspension is completed.

    I totally agree with your take on Conte. There is so much misinformation out there about PED's why keep bringing THAT snake oil salesman back to continue perpetuating misinformation?

    1. Good to point out, thanks!

      But we need to rely on the media for their impression of the clubhouse's sentiment. I have to think that if a large segment is not supportive, particularly Posey, I don't see how Giants management could bring Melky back.

      Still, to your point, still too early to say definitively either way.

      Just that perhaps the clubhouse is leaning strongly against Melky returning. Particularly since nobody from the players side other than Blanco has come out publicly to try to correct what Shea put out there, which one would think somebody would do if it were not a correct impression.

  4. re: Conte - because it gives them an "expert" who can be seen both as informed and as a villain. Thus not changing the story-line. I would think there's quite a few people, on top of OGC's mentions, that would be qualified to speak. But saying "no enhancement" or "doesn't really matter as you can't catch users anyway" torpedoes the groupthink.

    I don't get the part about timing with Melky. I'm a drug and alcohol counselor, so what I know is synapse-related, but, there's no drugs I know of where there wouldn't be a trace 24 hours later. Maybe "trace" is the key word - that's not enough to test positive under the agreement. Obviously this another drawback of Conte - he gives his sound bite and that's it.

    Agree the Giants need to step up. Owing to the fact you can't control the fate of a singular other team (i.e. Dodgers) I tend to look at the wildcard, and the Giants are 5 games back. If they wallow at .500-.550 that probably won't do it. A rallying point indeed - one guy doesn't win the pennant, and hopefully they'll be motivated to prove that.

    1. Ah, I know it sinks the groupthink, but one would hope that one of the top sports media companies could try to present information covering all segments, not just the tar and pitchfork section of the crowd. :^)

      Just in line with my blog's theme of disappointment in how journalism is done today. I grew up thinking highly of the profession, particularly about how non-partisan and objective they are, and just as Watergate sunk most people's impression of politicians, journalists handling of PEDs, both the initial non-news aspect of it, and now followed by the soapbox haranguing, has sunk mine.

      What could be happening regarding timing is not the trace - my understanding is that drug testing cannot find traces so they focus on testing for effects, which is over three times ratio of certain key elements related to testosterone usage - but that the ratio normally has fallen belong the threshold for "Ah ha, caught you" to "Too close to nature to say anything definitive".

      Yeah, they can't be medicore, slightly above .500 to win the division for sure. They need to step it up, which would have been nice to sweep the Padres.

      Luckily, they do have their fates in their hands with 9 games left against the Dodgers, though 6 in LA.

      Not only one guy, but right now, everyone views the Giants record as tainted, especially after D-backs Gibson made his public hissyfit about the penalty lacking relative to performance. So the Giants simply pulling out the pennant just reinforces that sentiment. The Giants should feel the impetus to show that they can win a lot of games without Melky, that they deserve to be in the playoffs, that they can go deep into the playoffs, even with Melky gone.

      So I'm leaning more and more that there is no way Melky plays another game this season with the Giants, just due to this image factor, and it would be pretty hard to bring him back next season as well.

  5. Well now, it turns out Melky wasn't manning up and owning it as much as first reported...

    To me, this is comically bad behavior. I want nothing to do with Melky, no matter how cheap he comes. I think there is a very good chance his A-rod work outs the past 2 years are chemically enhanced. The type of scrutiny he will endure will be quite impressive, and I think we have to look at the last 2 years as highly suspect at this point.

    Then throw in the fact he really doesn't power it up for a corner OF bat and its just not worth the trouble. I have given up on Melky, just not worth the trouble. Start looking elsewhere Sabes!

    1. Yeah, I'm rapidly now reaching your conclusion that the Giants should just move on. You can't imagine how Melky can repair the damage this has caused to his reputation and the collateral damage it has done to the Giants name and reputation. The sooner they walk away, the better most probably.

      I would note that the 2009 version of Melky would have been still valuable in the free agent market (just not superstar valuable), and he would have made very good money had he just settled for that level of performance, as he is still very young (of course, maybe to your point, the juicing happened long ago, maybe as far back as 2009, though that don't explain 2010's atrocity with the Braves).

      See, I'm not that black and white with "power on the corners" tack on roster development, as long as we have power from the team. I'm not into the Earl Weaver "pitching and 3-run homers' thing, though I do dig the long-ball.

      Of course, some will say the Giants don't have power from the team. I just think that given recent saber discoveries and such, that power is given too much sway in roster development. While I like to give Moneyball crap because it gave wannabes license to act as if they were actually sabers, one of the key relevations (which actually was expounded upon at least 50 years earlier by Branch Rickey) was the power of OBP in scoring.

      I think one of the key research was the work on Beyond the Box Score, where that guy did some deep statistic analysis on scoring that enabled the lineup analysis calculator on the Baseball Musing website. Despite the change in baseball environment the past few years, from offense to defense, the team data still seems to work when plugged into the actual equation that came out of the research.

      And power, to me, is more than just HR power, but gap power where guys get a lot of doubles and triples, which Melky did for us. 170 ISO is pretty good, especially in this hitting environment.

      But yeah, not worth the trouble. If we can get Pagan signed for 2 years at $5-6M per, he's a good enough substitute until Brown is ready, assuming we can sign Pence long-term.

    2. 2009 Melky looks like a nice signing. 202 total bases, 93 OPS+. 2010 he falls off the planet, and was obviously very out of shape for the 2010 playoffs.

      I should have thought about juicing more when looking at those KC #s of 2011. He was getting in the best shape of his life, realizing he was failing out of baseball. I put up that theory in various joints on the gints blogosphere - Dirty Sanchez doesn't realize he might fail out, Melky has and decided to do something about it. Big spike in slugging, total bases zoom to 309 (previous high 212), his extra base power with a .470 slugging. I think the Arod workouts really did work. Looking at it through hindsight, it is crazy not to have noticed that kind of spike in production. Total fan blinders on.

      I like Pagan on a shorter deal. I do like Earl Weaver ball, but I am also a realist about who we can attract, and the trends in MLB. If we collect 20 HR guys I would just like another one. With Pence, Posey, Sandoval and hopefully Belt if he can fill in the blank, that is 4 20-25 HR right there. It might be a luxury to have one more bat like that, but I sure would like them to try and get it anyways.

      Gints just cannot abide this type of PR. Its just pure comedy, but also shows some pretty bad judgement. These guys are baseball players, not MBAs, but this goes beyond the pale in my book. Melk is quite sour at this point...

    3. The unfortunate thing is that the best one could do is speculate that he cheated, which is not really fair to any player. He was at the right age, right situation, to improve himself normally. In fact, his 2009 numbers did show improvement that would have justified his 2011 if not for his poor 2010.

      Yes, there are a lot of spikes, but again, right age, right motivations, but to your point, also right motivations to do something illegal as well.

      So I wouldn't call it fan blinders, we just didn't know enough of the facts to make a judgement, though in hindsight, perhaps the fact that the Royals dumped him on us for a damaged Dirty should have been a big enough clue. Though even there, one could easily say, "well, that's the Royals again."

      We have a plenty good offense with four 20-HR bats right now. Where would you bat the fifth guy?

      I think a reliable leadoff guy would be a better acquisition than another power bat. I heard rumors (hopes?) that Bourn would be pursued in the off-season free agent market. I think Pagan would be good enough at the right price.

      Yeah, I've come to your side, the PR is just stinking too badly now for Melky, he's going to have to find another 2011 Royal's type of team that would take him on, maybe Pirates, maybe even the Rays, and I wouldn't put it past the Marlins to kick Melky's tires as well. Guillen's a forgiving type of manager and their owner is not so squeaky clean himself.

  6. The weirdness factor in creating that website is off the scale.

    1. I know, it is so comically bad, as the saying goes, you can't write such [stuff] like that.



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