Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best game of 2011

I didn't have to think twice about this one -- July 6, 2011 -- Giants 6, Padres 5 in 14.

Nate Schierholtz hit two of his nine homers that night. The first was a two-run shot in the 4th; 10 innings later, he hit a high high high fly to right that just made it onto the arcade.

With the Giants down 5-3 in the 8th, Sandoval hit a two-run double to tie it up for the next six innings. Wilson came on in the 9th and did his usual high-wire act, giving up two singles. Then he struck out the side in the 10th.

In fact, the Giants bullpen did not allow a baserunner in extras that night -- it was 15 up and 15 down. Romo took the 11th and 12th; Javier Lopez got them in the 13th and 14th.

And there was the 14th inning stretch that night. A few moments later, on a 1-2 pitch, Nate ended it.

Thanks and Happy New Year to everyone who read this blog this year.

LET'S GO GIANTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 30, 2011

RIP Don Mueller

He passed away at age 84 on Wednesday in St. Louis. Mueller got the second hit in the epic 4-run rally in the 1951 playoff, then broke his ankle sliding into third on Whitey Lockman's double. Clint Hartung pinch-ran, Ralph Branca came into pitch. The season concluded a few minutes later with Bobby Thomson's "shot heard round the world."

He was one of key players on the 1951 and 1954 Giants. David Pinto at Baseball Musings recaps his career --

He was an all-star twice, leading the National League in hitting in 1954, the year of last New York Giants World Championship, and the penultimate one for the franchise. He was a successful hacker; he seldom struck out or walk, but managed a high batting average, .296 for his career, but a low OBP, .322.

Mueller was 12th in the 1954 MVP voting, which Mays won easily (Johnny Antonelli was 3rd and Alvin Dark was 5th; Sal Maglie, Hoyt Wilhelm and Dusty Rhodes all got votes). He was still starting in right in 1957 but had declined and the team had young outfield talent like Felipe Alou and Willie Kirkland on the way. The Giants sold him to the Chisox just before the 1958 season started.

He had a nickname -- "Mandrake the Magician." I assume it was because of his bat control. He had a total of 167 walks and 146 strikeouts in a 12-year MLB career of over 4,500 plate appearances.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Charles Johnson?

Apparently, the partner with the largest stake in the Giants doesn't want to give interviews. That's kind of strange, to say the least, for a business that depends on the good will of the public.

My memory is fading -- I just needed a full minute to remember the name of the last managing partner of the Sf Giants (Bill Neukom). Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury-News is out with a column that says some reclusive multi-millionaire named Charles Johnson -- who's made billions in mutual funds -- has become the most powerful among the owners of the Giants. Good for you, Mark. What does it mean? He couldn't persuade Johnson to give him an interview so if Mark knows what it means, he's not telling.

I don't know about you but I'm not very impressed so far. I suppose I should be grateful that the partners don't seem to be like Frank and Jamie McCourt. But here the Giants win the World Series in 2010; the partners kick Neukom out a season later; the Giants have the second worst offense in the MLB and make two moves in the offseason to improve -- getting Angel Pagan and Melky at a cost of Andres Torres, Jonathan Sanchez and Ramon Ramirez. The fans have sold out every game last season and are left with having to hope for Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez having career years.

I hope you're planning on doing a little bit more than just giving us the silent treatment, Mr. Johnson.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Tim gap

If Jon Heyman of CBS Sportsline is to be believed, there's still a big gap between what the Giants are offering Tim Lincecum and what he'll accept. Jon reports that there was a 4-year $80 million deal that was on the table at some point.

It's yet another indication of just how awful the Barry Zito deal is for the front office, since it means that it's going to be used as a benchmark in negotiations with any other pitcher.

I think the Giants should let the A's move to San Jose, as long as the A's agree to take Zito off their hands. Here's part of what Heyman said -- A case could be made that Lincecum has been baseball's best pitcher over the past four years. He certainly has been its most decorated, with three strikeout titles to go with all the other hardware. Lincecum, a Seattle native, has thrived since te Giants made him one of the best No. 10 overall picks ever a few years back. San Francisco has embraced his quirky delivery and nature. Likewise, all indications are that he loves the city and wants to stay a long while. The rival Dodgers gave star outfielder Matt Kemp a $160-million, eight-year extension this winter.Lincecum, 27, is 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA, but that doesn't tell the story of the brilliance he has displayed. He was only 13-14 in 2011 when a incredible lack of offensive support undermined his efforts.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Give us Cain"

It's hard to imagine but Matt Cain will be in his walk year in 2012 so it would make sense to lock him up now -- particularly since the front office has been telling everyone that the Cain contract is why they couldn't sign Carlos Beltran or pursue Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins or Prince Fielder.

As a way of salvaging what's been an offseason of mixed blessings at best, Grant Bisbee at McCovey Chronicles makes a persuasive argument for giving Matt Cain a contract extension. Here's the last half --

A rough benchmark would be Jered Weaver's five year, $85 million contract extension. Weaver hasn't had a run of success as lengthy as Cain's, but he's been a 200-inning guy who picks up Cy Young votes. He's two years older than Cain, so it's not a perfect parallel, but then again Cain has never had a season as nice as Weaver's 2011. While the Weaver contract was widely lauded as a bargain, it's worth noting that it was a Boras-negotiated product. It probably wasn't drastically under market.

When taking ballpark into account, C.J. Wilson has been better than Cain over the past two years, but he was a reliever before that, and he's already 31. His five year/$77.5 million contract is somewhat useful as a comparison -- especially when you figure that the competition of the open market allows for some inflation that you might not see with an extension -- but Cain should be more expensive.

The one thing I do get from the Weaver and Wilson contracts, though: It isn't crazy to think that Cain could sign for five years. It's not crazy, but it might not be likely. Here's a comparison that might be more apt, even if it's scarier: CC Sabathia for seven years, $161 million. Sabathia entered free agency as a 28-year-old, as would Cain. And while it's weird to think about now, Sabathia wasn't always Crazy Joe Innings Eater -- he topped 240 innings in each of the two seasons before free agency, but he usually fell just shy of 200 innings in every season before that. It's unlikely that Cain would get nearly that much, though.

When it comes to preventing runs, Cain is roughly Sabathia's equal (both have a career 125 ERA+), and he's younger than both Wilson and Weaver when they signed their contracts. Something splitting the difference, then? Six years will make up for the gap between Cain and the older pitchers, and an average annual value of somewhere between Wilson and Sabathia's first Yankees' deal, erring on the low side, seems right. If I had to guess -- with the disclaimer that I'm at least a little clueless about this stuff -- I'd wager that a six-year, $100 million contract would be on the high side of reasonable, with the outside chance of Cain telling his agent to "gimme a Weaver."

I wasn't expecting Fielder or Reyes. I was hoping for Beltran, but I certainly wasn't expecting him back. Here's the difference between those players and Cain: I am 100%, no-foolin' expecting a Cain extension before the season starts. The front office and ownership essentially promised us as much when explaining why they couldn't pay Beltran, Reyes, Furcal, Alex Gonzalez, the other Alex Gonzalez, or either Jeff D'Amico.

Cain. Give us Cain. This offseason should be whapped on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Bad offseason! Bad! But here's hoping that the Giants can at least scrape some of the bad feelings on the side of the curb.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A bright Brandon Belt outlook

Damn, I love alliteration (see headline). And I love good writing about the Giants, which is why I was pleasantly surprised on the day after Christmas to come across an outstanding piece of analysis about Brandon Belt's outlook for 2012 by Paul Rice at the Fake Teams site.

Rice makes the argument very persuasively that Belt is a good low-cost option if you're constructing a fantasy team -- particularly since he was still an above league-average batter despite a weird 2011 that featured a decidedly murky strategy for handling Belt, two trips to the minors, a busted wrist, an outsize contract to Aubrey Huff, the insistence on playing Rowand, Huff and Schierholtz most of the time and the trade for Carlos Beltran. And now it looks as if the front office isn't counting on Belt coming through since they traded for both Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera -- obviously with the idea of probably giving them starting slots. Is Belt going to play left and is Schierholtz sitting with Pagan in right? Or is Belt going to play first with Huff sitting? Really hard to tell at this point.

Here's most of Rice's post (and the boldface is mine) :

-- Belt launched a home run in his second game, but then pretty much stunk as a regular for the next few weeks. The Giants, never a franchise in tune with small sample size vagaries in regards to young players, sent Belt down in a heartbeat once Ross returned to the active roster. Belt then did what he had always done in the minors... he hit the living crap out of the ball. It was almost as if 60 major league plate appearances might not have been an accurate gauge of his abilities.

-- Belt returned to the majors in late May amidst frequent demands from the fans that be made the regular first baseman. Unfortunately, he immediately broke his wrist and had to go on the DL. He returned six weeks later, only to sit and rot on the bench for a couple of weeks before being sent to AAA, again, when the Giants acquired Carlos Beltran. When Beltran immediately hurt himself, Belt was back up for good, only this time the Giants converted him into their regular left fielder and left him alone. Quite a turbulent flight for a green rookie trying to establish himself in The Show.

-- Belt's final .228/.306/.412 line doesn't jump out at you, but it was good for a 101 OPS+, so with all of the craziness surrounding his year and the inconsistency, he was actually above league average as a hitter. He looked undeniably miserable in April and particularly in late-August, when he was an undisciplined train wreck who looked late on every fastball. He teased fans with flashes of his incredible potential, including a two-homer showing in Florida where he bombed one to the opposite field, over the Teal Monster. It never all came together, however, and despite a strong power showing in September, he still had trouble making contact and didn't draw walks or show the patience that he had in the minors.

-- A lot of people are willing to give him a mulligan. The wrist injury plus the Giants' ridiculous mishandling of him during mid-summer sent his season off the tracks and would probably screw up anybody.

-- Verdict: Boom...if the Giants will let him. No one knows what Belt's role will be when the 2012 season dawns. The Giants brought in Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan to shore up the outfield, and they seem insistent on playing Nate Schierholtz regularly in right. Aubrey Huff is still around for another year at first base. While the wisest option would probably be to cut Huff and play Belt (that would have been the wise option last year, actually), the Giants are already giving $12 million to Aaron Rowand to play for the Marlins and will be paying Barry Zito $19 million and praying he doesn't suck out loud. The team will probably be loathe to swallow more money, even if it means another sub-replacement level season from Huff.

-- So Belt might be screwed by circumstance, but let's pretend he does get to play regularly. I predict big things, mostly because his power is completely legit, and he showed the ability to hit for average and draw walks in the minor leagues. That typically doesn't just disappear upon reaching the majors, especially for a player like Belt, who played like a man among boys in his first professional season. Screw it...I'll predict something like .280-25-80 given a full season's worth of plate appearances.

-- Belt's first major league home run was a bolt to dead center field at Dodger Stadium, so any doubters as to his power potential should have been quieted right there. He's a 25-30 homer threat, although some of that might be squashed by playing at AT&T Park, a notoriously difficult home run park for lefties. His fantasy appeal is elevated because he's outfield-eligible as well, although long term I don't know how well he profiles as a starting outfielder. He didn't look great out there, and his one-season defensive numbers were ugly.

-- Belt is a guy to monitor right down to the end of spring training. If he leaves Arizona with a starting job, jump on him, especially in NL-only leagues. His minor league numbers are so good, I can't believe that his true talent is simply the strikeout-prone mediocrity we saw last year. With 500-odd plate appearances, bank on 20 homers. If he starts in season in AAA, he's a good keeper league grab with the potential to make an impact later in the season a la Posey in 2010.

Oakland A's fiasco may be ending

As I've said before, I don't really care what happens to the Oakland A's except that they should lose every time they play the Giants. They've won four World Series while in Oakland; the Giants have won one. Still, they've often been a third class operation, what with their current insistence on tarping over the top deck.

The A's put out one of the worst teams ever in 1979, which went 54-108 and had an attendance of 306,763. Yes, you're reading that right. I attended a game in late April that year in which the World Champ Yankees drew only 7,000. The A's won that game 1-0 with a guy named Craig Minetto pitching -- the only game he ever won in the bigs.

Bob Nightengale of USA tweeted on Christmas Eve that the owners of the Oakland A's will be given permission by MLB to move the franchise to San Jose by February -- no story on this at this point, just a tweet...or at least not one that I can find.

It's hard to imagine that the Giants owners are OK with giving up the territorial rights to San Jose -- which were a big deal at various points when the Giants ownership was trying to figure out a way to leave Candlestick Park before figuring out that building a park in China Basin made sense.

Frankly, this guy who owns the A's, Lew Wolff, is more than a little annoying. He's been whining about being stuck in Oakland since he bought the team in 2005. Dave Newhouse of the Oakland Tribune wrote a column about how he believes Wolff is a liar just before the World Series. He makes the good point -- how are fans supposed to go to the Colisseum (or whatever they're calling it these days) when the owner's bad-mouthing the location? Here's some of the key points --

-- Wolff has painted a vile picture of Oakland, and how unresponsive the city has been to his needs for a new ballpark. A big lie

-- Wolff has been offered other sites in Oakland that he has refused to look at because, flatly, he only wants San Jose, where he has established business ties.

-- And here is "Moneyball" creator Billy Beane -- the real Billy Beane, not the Brad Pitt portrayal -- contending that he won't have the revenue to produce a winning team unless the A's get a new stadium. Hey, Billy, look out your office window. Between the Coliseum complex and Hegenberger Road is enough land to build a new ballpark, extra parking and that "baseball village" Wolff keeps envisioning. The highway is there, BART also is in place and the Coliseum complex is dead center in the middle of five Bay Area counties. What's not to like? Well, there's always those empty Coliseum seats, if you listen to Wolff.

-- The Haases didn't complain about Oakland; they embraced Oakland. And they drew 2.9 million one season (1990). Meanwhile, Wolff and Beane carp about the A's having baseball's worst attendance. But why buy tickets to help an owner who's trying to move your team? As reader Jim Zelinski continually tells me, "The A's should be happy their attendance is that high."

-- Beware of a Wolff in wolf's clothing. Oil Slick Lew contends he has spent millions of dollars on potential sites here, such as the 66th Avenue location across from the Coliseum. But small businesses there refused to leave. It was all a sham. Multimillionaires such as Wolff can waste millions -- because they have millions to waste. Wolff has been contemplating his exit from Oakland from the very day he arrived in 2005.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, Lou Seal!

Here's Lou Seal showing some holiday spirit at the Giants holiday party on Dec. 14. Photo from the official San Franciso Giants web site.

Merry Christmas, Barry Zito

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Dear Santa -- here's all I want for Christmas

Dear Santa -- I could ask for world peace or $1 million or continued good health to my family and friends or that Scott Cousins would just shut up or that the Dodgers would lose all 162 games or that the Republicans would lose every single election next year but I want to ask for something that's a little more realistic: another World Series championship for the San Francisco Giants.

I got the idea to ask for this by looking at this

Santa, I don't think I'm out of line to say that should you come through for me on this, Buster Posey will play a significant role. His 162-game average thus far -- 22 HRs, 89 RBIs and a slash line of .294/.353/.462.

I realize that I already have more material possessions than many other people in the world, so I'm OK with not getting anything in that area -- especially if you can deliver on this. And I promise that we at Giants Win won't forget your contribution should the Giants win another World Series. I can see the title of the post already, sometime around Oct. 31 -- "Yes, there is a Santa Claus!"

Thanks so much for all you do and best of luck tonight!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The key is Melky

That's my takeaway from the Giants offseason so far -- they traded Jonathan Sanchez (who could turn around and win 20) to get Melky, who had a damn fine year playing in a pitchers' park in KC. I think people are assuming that Cabrera and Pagan are just average guys....

But Melky had a 2.9 Wins Above Replacement last year -- which would have made him the 6th most valuable player on the Giants after Pablo, Tim, Matt Cain, Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner. (Pagan was pretty bad last year with a 0.2 WAR, but he had a 5.1 WAR in 2010)

Henry Schulman of the SF Chron believes that people don't quite see the upside yet on Melky -- I must admit I think folks are underestimating Cabrera’s potential impact. The guy did come to bat 706 times for Kansas City last year and hit .305/.340/.470 with 18 home runs from the second spot in the order and playing 81 home games in a pitchers’ park. An outlier year? Kind of hard to say that when the guy is supposed to be 27 years old.

To compete for another division title, the Giants are banking on a healthy Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez, a fitter and more determined Huff in another contract year, Panda being Panda, a few more hits from Brandon Crawford, the potential emergence of Brandon Belt, better defense and athleticism, and the usual strong pitching staff, which largely remained intact.

As usual, the Giants will go into the season with a lot of ifs. They will not be alone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Adios, Carlos Beltran

Why didn't the Giants try harder to get this guy after the team put up a season of putrid offense? My most optimistic reaction is that they've finally committed to going with the young guys.

Two years for $26 million for the Cards, according to I'm really struck by how affordable Beltran is. Despite the bleating about how the Giants have no money left, this deal wouldn't have been that hard -- not after a season in which the Giants sold out every single game. I suppose there's some blame to be placed on Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand for eating up $30 million of the 2012 payroll...

The fear isn't hard to understand. Older players get injured more. Beltran missed a lot of games in 2009 and 2010 and only played 145 games combined.

As I've said previously, it looks as if the Giants front office has given up on signing players who are in their fading years -- particularly after the experiences with Edgardo Alfonzo, Steve Finley, Dave Roberts, Ryan Klesko, Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand and Aubrey Huff (in 2011). It's blown up in their faces so many times that they may have finally decided to focus on finding another Pablo Sandoval.

But then, I read Henry Schulman's report that the Giants aren't planning to rush Gary Brown to the bigs even though he's already 24. It sounds as if the front office believes that Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera are going to deliver career years and that Brandon Belt is finally going to start raking.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nats won't let DeRosa retire

I'm kind of shaking my head over this one -- is reporting that the Nationals are near a deal to sign free-agent bust Mark DeRosa, one of the worst signings by the Giants in memory. DeRosa's deal was as bad as the Dave Roberts signing -- a guy who used to be adequate who simply was too banged up to play at the major league level anymore. And apparently, they are both terrific guys in the clubhouse.

Along with the flameouts by Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada, DeRosa's failure may have been what finally led Brian Sabean away from signing fading veterans. Hell, for all I know, the cumulative effect could be what persuaded the front office to throw in the towel on the pursuit of Carlos Beltran.

This waxen image of DeRosa in his 2010 Topps card makes him look like he's ready to turn a double play -- even though he spent nearly all his time on the bench while he was in the Orange and Black. Man, he was awful when he did play! The Giants were obviously seduced by the 33-year-old DeRosa of 2008 -- 21 HRs, 87 RBIs and a career high slash line of .285/.376/.481 for a Wins Above Replacement of 3.7. He had a -0.7 WAR in 2010 and -0.2 WAR in 2011 in San Francisco, all for $12 million. I'm not sure what the Nats are thinking.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Are you listening, Barry Zito?

The Giants look like they aren't counting on Barry Zito to be anything but his usual useless self in 2012. According to Andrew Baggarly's tweet, they've signed Eric Hacker, who's pitched a grand total of 8 MLB innings.

They also signed MLB mediocrity Brian Burres to a minor league deal per MLB Trade Rumors. Why would I say something so mean? Burres has pitched six seasons and 350 innings in the MLB for a career Wins Above Replacement of 0.1.

Can Dave Righetti work his magic as he did on Ryan Vogelsong last season and get one of these guys on track? Fingers crossed at this end! Vogelsong had a WAR of 3.5 last year -- only Sandoval (6.1), Lincecum (4.3) and Cain (3.8) were better.

Well, you can never have too pitching, especially when you're giving up a roster spot to Zito -- and you're on the hook for paying Zito another $36 million more dollars for the next two seasons.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ready, Freddy?

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle interviews Freddy Sanchez -- who was among the more missed Giants last year. When he's healthy and hitting in the Orange and Black, it's a thing of beauty. He's saying all the right things now, but whoa -- this guy has been brittle ever since he got to San Francisco.

What's really intriguing, of course -- he played in 157, 147 and 145 games in the 3 seasons with the Pirates during 2006-08.

He's made the All Star team four times and racked up a 5.5 WAR in 2006 -- the 11th highest mark in the NL, when he finished 17th in MVP voting.

He went down on June 10 with 60 games under the belt. The Giants signed Bill Hall, who played 16 games at second and is no damn good any more, and then tried Jeff Keppinger, who started 56 games and had a -0.6 WAR in the Orange and Black. They only gave up Henry Sosa and Jason Stofel to get Keppinger, who's been OK in the past but stunk as a Giant. Adios, Jeff.

Why does Freddy give us Giants fans so much hope? That's easy -- Oct. 27, 2010. Three doubles in his first three World Series at bats...all off Cliff Lee. The second and third 2Bs drove in the first and second runs of the game. How did that taste, Cliff?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

107 days to opening day

Another fine shot by
It was taken on May 15, 2010 during a classic 2-1 victory by the Giants over the Astros. Tim Lincecum went 5-0; Juan Uribe hit a 2-run homer in the 4th off Roy Oswalt.

Tim gave up 4 hits in 8 innings. Brian Wilson came on the save it in the 9th and started by giving up a walk to Pedro Feliz -- yes, THAT Pedro Feliz -- and a single and another walk before closing it out. Feliz got only nine walks in over 300 plate appearances with Houston that year; he got only 230 in over 4,500 PAs in 11 years. He's only 36 but didn't play in 2011. Amazing how his WAR over his career is 5.4 -- 7.1 from defensive Wins Above Replacement and a negative 1.7 on offense. A really fine fielder, no doubt. But only had one year where his offensive WAR reached 1.0 in 2004 with 22 HRs and 84 RBIs and 23 walks for a .276/.305/.485 slash line.

Who's ready for more? Me. I am.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Whiteside back in the Orange and Black (sort of)

Eli Whiteside was one of the real symbols of the Giants' offensive ineptitude last season.

The Giants have just signed Whiteside to a deal after not tendering him a few days ago. It makes sense, I suppose, to have a guy who knows how to handle the current pitching staff -- even if he can't hit MLB pitching. He was the worst batter on the second-worst offensive team in the league in 2011, so he must have some kind of knack behind the plate. Here's the key part of the Chris Haft's story for --

Whiteside batted .197 in 82 games this past season, including a National League-low .163 (17-for-104) after the All-Star break.

He had a -0.5 WAR last year. But it wasn't all futility last season. I was there at AT&T Park on July 7 when Whiteside homered to left to give the Giants a 1-0 lead and Barry Zito -- BARRY ZITO -- dazzled the Padres for a 2-1 vic. That was about as good as it got last year for Eli and Barry. Eli had 12 RBIs at that point and only drove in 5 more runs all year; it was Zito's third and final vic of 2011.

Because he knows the pitchers, I guess he's a stopgap if the other catchers are hurt, or maybe a decent trade chit, I guess.

April 6, 2012

If you're a real Giants fan, you're not counting the days until Christmas right now. You're counting the days (110) until opening day.

Great shot by sugarmelon! I sure wish the Giants had a few more day games on the 2012 schedule....

There are only three day games at AT&T Park in April -- the home opener against the Pirates on Friday, April 13, and the two Sunday games on April 15 and 29.

There are seven home day games in May and another seven in June. Just four in July and six each in August and September for a total of 33 out of 81. There are 48 night games. I guess I'm old-fashioned -- I like day games best.

Bonds prosecutor still whining

After wasting tens of millions of taxpayers dollars on a pointless prosecution of Barry Bonds, the prosecutors won't stop complaining about how "inapprpriate" it is that Bonds isn't going to the can. Guess what, dude? You act like you're the second coming of Jesus Christ when the truth is that you bungled the case. It's now widely perceived as a witch hunt at a time at a time when many prosecutors appear to lack the guts to go after real criminals. Howard Mintz of the Merc-News sums it up here (Conte is Victor Conte of BALCO) --

To critics, including Conte, the government's case was a waste of taxpayer money to go after a superstar whose legacy was already tarnished by strong evidence he used performance-enhancing drugs in the latter stages of a surefire Hall of Fame career. But to the government, it was a case designed to show that no one can undermine the grand jury process by lying under oath, regardless of their fame.

A comment by Rick Goddard of Iowa hits the nail right on the head, after someone complained that Bonds was let go because he's rich --

On the contrary, a normal Joe would have been let go. There was no significant crime attached to the testimony, so a regular person would have been sternly reprimanded, but let go in the end. Bonds was a target to set as an example and advance the prosecutor's career. Nothing like convicting a high profile person to do that. Too bad for him, he lost.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Joe Torre = worthless

If you've worked in offices for any amount of time, you've probably noticed that there are always a few executives at your job who have a nice office without offering much in the way of benefit to the line employees. And when you take a moment from meeting deadlines and dealing with the 10 crisis situations that pop every day, you may sort of wonder what the hell they do.

That's sort of what Joe Torre has become.

Former Dodger manager Joe Torre has decided not to do anything about a rule change to outlaw the kind of sociopathic assault from Scott Cousins on Buster Posey. Andrew Baggarly reports on his Extra Baggs blog that Bruce Bochy isn't giving up.

Torre has a cushy job now as a VP of something or other and his answer is basically "stop bothering me with your whining and man up...I dealt with it when I was a catcher."

OK, let's say that Scott Cousins had decided to try maiming Rod Barajas of the Dodgers instead. I'd feel the same way. The rule needs to be changed and umpires need to penalize dingbats who violate it. Just because Pete Rose did it 40 years ago in an All-Star Game doesn't make it right. Here's Torre's lame response ...

Although Giants officials remain in favor of a rule change that would protect catchers from being targeted in home-plate collisions, the matter didn’t come up officially at the winter meetings last week in Dallas. It didn’t get past Joe Torre, Major League Baseball’s vice president for on-field operations.

Torre heard out Giants manager Bruce Bochy in several phone calls over the summer but declined to recommend that the rules committee take up the matter.

“Well, listen, I knew it was more emotional than anything else,” Torre said last week. “None of us like to see that. But I really haven’t heard anything that would encourage me to change anything or recommend a change. Being a catcher for a lot of years, I knew what the consequences were.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"A waste of taxpayer money"

That's what Victor Conte calls the federal government's witch hunt of Barry Bonds in a story by Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury-News.

The feds are arguing that Bonds should receive a harsh sentence -- They maintain Bonds should receive the harshest sentence in the entire BALCO episode aside from Troy Ellerman, a lawyer sentenced to 30 months in prison for leaking the BALCO grand jury transcripts to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ah, yes -- Troy Ellerman.
Truly an embarrassment for the Chronicle. In 2007, it came to light that San Francisco Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada had decided to stay silent about leaked grand jury testimony. Were the reporters ever disciplined? No, except perhaps in the court of public opinion. Here's how Tim Rutten of the LA Times put it back then (boldface is mine) --

On Thursday, we learned just who they were protecting when Troy L. Ellerman, a defense lawyer for one of BALCO's vice presidents, pleaded guilty to contempt of court, obstruction of justice and filing a false declaration with a federal court. Ellerman leaked the testimony to the Chronicle reporters, then went out and argued that the ensuing publicity would deny his client a fair trial. Worse, he actually filed motions with the court alleging that prosecutors had leaked the testimony and that charges against the BALCO official should be dismissed.The two reporters maintained their silence while all this occurred. Worse, Fainaru-Wada returned to the defense attorney's office to obtain still more leaked testimony after their source had lied in public and to the court.

To assert any form of journalistic privilege in a situation like that is something far worse than moral obtuseness. Conspiring with somebody you know is actively perverting the administration of justice to your mutual advantage is a betrayal of the public interest whose protection is the only basis on which journalistic privilege of any sort has a right to assert itself.

More Mota in the Orange and Black

Guillermo Mota's back for another year, according to Chris Haft of

2012 will be his 14th season in the bigs. He's assembled a 4.4 WAR over 13 years -- 2.8 of that as a Dodger in 2003 when he pitched over 100 innings. He's never started a game.

He went over 80 innings for only the second time last year. He went 2-2 -- the game I remember was over Memorial Day weekend in Milwaukee when he couldn't hold a lead in the 9th and Jonathan Lucroy squeezed in the winning run.

That was amidst one of the worst stretches of the year -- three days after dingbat Scott Cousins tried to maim Buster Posey as part of a 3-game sweep by the Fish, followed by losing two of three to the Brew Crew. Mota was also the losing pitcher in the Posey-Cousins game.

A Giants Win hat tip to Julian Levine at Giants Nirvana for an excellent post about Mota, who was part of the reason why the Giants went all the way in 2010. Here's part --

This year, the Giants’ bullpen allowed 26 home runs. Mota accounted for ten of them. Home runs aside, Mota was solid: he struck out nearly a batter an inning (8.63/9), setting a career high in K/9. His xFIP, 3.63, was the lowest he’d posted since that dominant 2003 season, and it was one of the better marks on the team (lower than Brian Wilson, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla). Twice this season — the Barry Zito foot injury, and the Madison Bumgarner disaster start — Mota went 4+ innings. He had never done that once before 2011. On August 3rd, Mota struck out six over two innings of relief, tying a career-high. It was the most strikeouts he’d tallied in a single game since — you guessed it — 2003.

Years from now, when you’re looking back at the first Giants team to win a championship in a decade, Guillermo Mota won’t be the first name to come to mind. Nor will he be the second. Or the third. There’s a chance that you won’t even remember him. But if you do, you’ll probably remember him with some modicum of fondness. Which is more than can be said for Jose Guillen. And if you go out and buy a Mota jersey, I won’t judge you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Tejada fiasco

Miguel wants to stay in the bigs, the Baltimore Sun tweets. And while we're asking something we may not get, I'd like to have dinner with Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, Emily Blunt and Zooey Deschanel, too.

Maybe Brian Sabean is finally learning. Maybe the combo of Edgar Renteria plus Miguel Tejada has led the front office to give Brandon Crawford a real try in 2012.

I got to thinking -- how much worse would the Giants have been had they simply swallowed their pride and signed Edgar Renteria again? This post by Grant at McCovey Chronicles made me wonder ...The first lines are pretty witty -- Well, say, that didn't work out well. The idea behind Miguel Tejada wasn't a bad one. Really, I don't mind the idea. Sure, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have rather had the Giants done something more productive with the $6 million, like put it in the bank for the 2011/2012 offseason, give it to Andres Torres as a holiday bonus, or dump it out the window of a Greyhound bus passing through Yuba City.

Edgar, as it turned out, was pretty awful in a Reds uni with a -0.1 WAR at the age of 35. He only cost the Reds $2.1 million while Miguel cost the Giants $6.5 million, at the age of 37.

Miguel wasn't quite as bad as Edgar with a 1.0 WAR -- with most of his value on defense.
So maybe THIS was the signing that FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY got Brian Sabean to think "You know, maybe signing guys in their middle 30s isn't such a hot idea after all." Here's the rest of Grant's post (boldface is mine) --

But here's a fun fact: Giants shortstops as a group hit .210/.265/.299 on the season. Tejada brought those averages up. Tejada was the leader of the three Giants shortstops in 2011. His .225/.253/.324 line as a shortstop was as good as it was going to get. And, in fact, it got much worse. Also, I have a real screwed-up, Batman-villain definition of what constitutes a fun fact. Your definition of fun fact may vary.

And here they are again, $6 million and Thomas Neal poorer, still without a shortstop. It's almost certainly going to be the least-productive lineup spot again this year, though there's at least a chance for some good defense now. I might be a little hard on Brandon Crawford, but if he's going to come in under a .600 OPS like Tejada did last year, at least he'll do it fielding like a major-league shortstop. Bay City Ball has a great post about just how poorly Crawford can hit while still being tolerable. It's actually sort of encouraging, in a way.

My preference would have been the deal that the Brewers gave Alex Gonzalez. Heck, if they aren't going to spend it this year, it might as well go to a Crawford-type with the potential to run into 15 homers. But that would have been using the same logic as the Tejada signing -- throw some money at a wall, and hope a player outhits his projections. It probably would have ended just as messily.

Over the last three years, the Giants spent $24 million on shortstops, and all they got were some .300-or-worse OBPs and poor range. They should probably stop doing that. And, heck, they did. Maybe it's time to give them a little credit for not jamming the same square peg into the same round hole. Brandon Crawford might struggle offensively this year, but he'll be a heckuva lot easier to watch than Tejada was.

Fontenot staying

Monday, December 12, 2011

More reason to bash the Marlins

Matheny backing Buster

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle has a nice recap on Mike Matheny's pioneering ways in MLB as to keeping catchers healthy. Concussions ended Mike's career when he was in a Giants uni. You may remember that Mike took a strong position against the Scott Cousins' assault on Buster Posey. Matheny says he's a fan of Buster's. Here's some of the verbiage --

Last year, baseball added a seven-day disabled list for players with concussion symptoms - along with neuropsychological testing requirements - and Giants catcher Eli Whiteside was placed on it in August.

As for that other Giants catcher, Buster Posey, Matheny is rooting from afar. In May, Matheny criticized the Marlins' Scott Cousins for "hunting" when taking out Posey at home plate, ending his season with a broken leg and ligament damage in his ankle.

"When you meet him, Buster's a guy you instantly like," Matheny said. "He brings a lot to a team as a person and player. I've always been a big fan."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy spoke with Posey about playing some first base in 2012, not just because Posey's coming off an extensive injury but to keep his bat in the lineup more.

"I know Buster well enough that that doesn't excite him," Matheny said. "He wants to catch. He made the transition before from shortstop, and everybody in baseball knows he can make this transition just as well. But once you fall in love with the position of catcher, it's hard to play anywhere else."

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why Angel Pagan?

In reading Andrew Baggarly's recap of the winter meetings, there's a line deep in there about Angel Pagan --

Angel Pagan is an .069 hitter at AT&T Park. He’s 2 for 29 in nine games. One of those hits was a clutch, two-run home run off Ryan Vogelsong that gave the Mets the lead in a game July 8.

I was at that game in the Arcade seats and so I got to see Pagan's homer close up -- a no doubter to deep right center in the 5th after the Giants had scratched out a run in the 4th on a Sandoval double, a Huff ground out and a Schierholtz sac fly. What Baggarly doesn't mention is the horrific 9th inning, which started with a 2-2 tie, followed by Wilson giving up a homer to evil Giant-killer Scott Hairston and Pagan getting on base on a long drive to center that Torres couldn't handle. It was only the second error of the year for Torres. By the time the inning was over, the Mets were up 5-2 and they was no comeback in the bottom of the 9th.

I'm not saying that the July 8 game made the trade likely -- after all, Pagan went 0-for-4 in the next two games against the Giants -- but it certainly must have put him on the radar of the front office.

The meaning of the Winter meetings

I've just stumbled across Andrew Baggarly's comprehensive recap for the Mercury-News, filed two days ago, of the Winter Meetings and the implications for the Giants.

It's an excellent read. He leads off by asserting that Brandon Crawford leads the list of "winners" -- Not only did the Giants pass on adding a shortstop like Alex Gonzalez (who signed with Milwaukee), but they don’t even plan to pursue a cheap right-handed bat at the position such as Edgar Renteria, Yuniesky Betancourt or the like. They are going Crawford, whole hog. He will be the everyday shortstop, and perhaps there’s a reason that Bruce Bochy wasn’t given any veteran fallbacks that he might be tempted to lean on.

He also listed Emmanuel Burriss and Brett Pill (they're making the roster), Matt Cain (he's going to get big bucks due to the CJ Wilson deal) and Andres Torres (he'll get playing time) as winners. The most interesting analysis (to me) was naming the Giants pitchers as winners --

With Crawford the committed shortstop and plenty of speed in the outfield on days that Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz start alongside one another, the Giants defense looks to be the most improved aspect of the team. Sure, Pagan’s 10 errors last year are a concern and he sometimes makes bad decisions when he throws to bases. But as one official told me, how many runners does a center fielder throw out, anyway?

Even if you don’t think that outfield defense will be much of an improvement, the everyday play of Crawford should be worlds better than Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera last season. Or the season before that. Combine Tejada and Cabrera with Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria and you’ve got a group with as much mobility as the Burghers of Calais.

Losers include Carlos Beltran (the Giants have decided against signing him, probably due to concerns about injuries), Aubrey Huff (The additions of Pagan and Cabrera leave left field and first base as the two muddiest positions on the field), Brandon Belt (Unlike Crawford, Bochy will have alternatives if Belt struggles), Pablo Sandoval (they probably want him to be the emergency catcher), and Giants pitchers --

I know, I know. They’re winners for the improved defense that will play behind them. And it’s reasonable to assume the Giants will score more runs with Cabrera and Pagan, who make them much less of a station-to-station offense. But the Giants didn’t add to the middle of the order. They didn’t get Jose Reyes (who wouldn’t have come to San Francisco anyway) or re-sign Beltran. They’re banking on better health and the “law of averages,” as Brian Sabean put it. All well and good, but tell that to Tim Lincecum the first time he loses 1-0 to Clayton Kershaw.

Here's how Baggarly sees the Opening Day roster:

Rotation: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito (with Surkamp the next line of defense).
Bullpen: Wilson, Affeldt, Romo, Lopez, Casilla, Mota, Runzler
Catchers: Posey, plus backup (either Hector Sanchez or Chris Stewart)
Infield: Huff, Freddy Sanchez, Crawford, Sandoval, Pill, Burriss, Belt, plus either Fontenot or Keppinger
Outfield: Pagan, Cabrera, Schierholtz.

It looks weird with three outfielders and eight infielders, but Huff, Belt and Burriss can all play in the pastures. (Sandoval only plays left field in Taiwanese ballparks.)

The Giants will make the call on Fontenot or Keppinger on Monday, when one of them won’t be tendered a contract.

They’ll have to determine whether Hector Sanchez should back up or play every day at Triple-A. They certainly love the progress he’s made, and his offensive potential.

Once Mota’s deal is finalized, there will be just one bullpen spot left open, in theory. Runzler finished strong last season and is a clear frontrunner, but the Giants always seem to find at least one non-roster surprise in Scottsdale. So Runzler will have to throw strikes to claim that last job. I still expect they’ll provide more competition in the form of non-roster invitees for the No.5 starter job, too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I'm already ready

Here's my Christmas wish aside from world peace and an end to hunger -- I wish the Giants would play more day games, especially on Saturdays. There's nothing like baseball on a Saturday afternoon, you know.

If you could not tell, let me say -- I am already fired up. On a Saturday morning in December, here's what's on the mind of Giants Win. The top shot from the right field side is by hyperlith. The nice shot from the club deck is by

Friday, December 09, 2011

How to waste taxpayer money

When organized and corporate crime diminish the qualify of life for ordinary citizens, Link the Barry Bonds prosecution has further embarrassed itself by demanding 15 months in prison. The SF Chron reports that sentencing is on Dec. 16.

Here's one comment that sums it up nicely -- 15 months? I am offended by the US Attorney's position. While all the real crooks got 4 months or less, they want to give Bonds 15 months simply because he wouldn't kiss their back side. What a total waste of money.

What you get for $130 million

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle projects the Giants' 25-man roster at a cost of $130 million. More than 30% is tied up in three guys -- Zito, Rowand and Huff -- who were no damn good last year. All the Giants beat writers are convinced that the Giants will NOT go past $130 million in 2012. It's good to see that Zito no longer is the top paid Giant at $19 million; that person is now Tim Lincecum at $19.2 million.

What the front office is counting on are top-of-expectation performances from Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Freddy Sanchez and Angel Pagan to carry the team -- plus the hope that Huff, Cabrera, Schierholtz and Belt get hot and that Crawford shows he can hit MLB pitching. For the second worst offense in MLB last year, that's a lot to hope for.

Chris Haft of reports that Buster's rehab is going well. Good to hear -- as long as Psycho Scott Cousins doesn't get a contract, there's always hope.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Angels owner tells Dodgers to go to hell

How much does Artie Moreno hate the Dodgers? He hates them as much as I do -- which is a lot.

Make no mistake -- a large component of the massive $254 million deal the Angels just made for Albert Pujols is driven by the owner Artie Moreno telling the Dodgers that they're no longer the leading baseball franchise in Southern California. Frank McCourt's gross mis-management of the Dodgers has played a major part in this but Moreno's seized an opportunity to make the Dodgers feel like a second-tier franchise that's gotten run into the ground.

I don't think it's any accident that this happened less than a year after psycho thugs decided to try killing Bryan Stow in the Dodger Stadium parking lot -- something that they obviously believed that they could get away with, given McCourt's strategy of cheaping out on security. Not only was it the last straw for Bud Selig, who decided to try forcing McCourt out, but also for many Dodger fans who had gotten sick and tired of a team that wasn't going to contend plus the obvious lack of security.

Even though Angels Stadium is only four years younger than 49-year old Dodger Stadium, it feels about 40 years younger.

Anyhow, the Angels also are probably figuring that they have to get better if they're going to the get to the postseason, so they also signed CJ Wilson for 5 years at $77 million -- all told $331 million in a day.The LA Times -- which only turned on McCourt once it became obvious that he's a crook -- put it bluntly that this move is about sticking it to the Dodgers --

Pujols' deal is the second-largest in major league history. And it gives the Angels the kind of star power to challenge the Dodgers, who are struggling on and off the field, as the region's premier baseball franchise.

Grant Bisbee has an amusing story for SB Nation about how Brandon League and Kendry Morales helped make the Pujols deal a reality.

Hembree and Huff

My second-day take on the trade of Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez to the Mets? I see it as having the biggest impact on two guys -- Heath Hembree and Aubrey Huff.

Giving up Ramirez, who's been stellar in the Orange and Black, says to me that the front office feels strongly that Hembree is now ready in 2012 and even if he isn't, there's plenty of depth in the pen. As for Huff, I won't go into the fact that the Giants got a thoroughly crappy year from him in return for a $10 million investment. Had Huff gotten in shape and played anywhere near the 2010 level, when he finished 7th in the MVP voting, the Giants would have been in the postseason.

So I believe that one of the real points of ditching Torres -- who clearly had reverted to a part-time player last year -- and getting Angel Pagan is to make it clear to Huff that he won't get the same number of ABs in 2012 that he unjustifiably did last season. It still annoys me in the same way that Bengie Molina annoyed me -- what's so damn tough about getting into the best possible shape, particularly for a guy who's had negative WARs in three of the past 4 seasons?

It's a bit sad to see Torres go, given the magical 2010 he had and the fact that he seems like a genuinely nice guy. But he's also going to be 34 and may not ever get back on track.

John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters isn't impressed with the trade --

we’re still looking at one of the weakest outfields in major league history. Scheirholz, Cabrera and Pagan combined to hit less than 25 home runs last season, and playing at PacBell won’t help either of the newcomers boost their stats.

Bochy envisions Huff playing some left and right to give Belt more consistency by settling in at first. Nonetheless, we’re gonna need huge seasons from Belt, Posey, Sandoval and Sanchez to have any chance to overcome the huge numbers of outs our outfielders are gonna produce. (not to shortchange Brandon Crawford, but, come on)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Adios, Andres and Ramon

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

No big Orange and Black deal

That's the latest word from John Shea of the SF Chron, who asserts that the Giants aren't signing anyone like Carlos Beltran, or even Cody Ross. Here's my guess what the opening day lineup will look like --

Cabrera CF
Sanchez 2B
Sandoval 3B
Posey C
Huff LF
Schierholtz RF
Belt 1B
Crawford SS
Lincecum P

Sunday, December 04, 2011

No Rollins in the Orange and Black

That's the depressing word from Chris Haft of on the Giants web site. He says that Rollins will cost too damn much to accept a free agent deal with the Giants. I've posted this just as the site posts that Jese Reyes has signed a 6-year deal with the Marlins.

What the hell is going on? How is it the Fish have the bucks to sign Reyes and the Giants are too poor to go after Rollins? I guess the excuse is the $30 million paid this year to Zito and Rowand.

It's too bad about Rollins, though, as he's from Alameda and would probably enjoy being a Giant. Haft contends that the Giants still have a shot at Carlos Beltran, however.

A Giants Win hat tip to Chris Quick at Bay City Ball for a thorough analysis of shortstops. He really likes Rollins but warns against signing Ryan Theriot or Yuseny Betancourt. Here's what he said about Rollins --

Rollins is probably the most well rounded shortstop in our grouping. He can hit, field, run, and he’s been relatively healthy. In Giants terms, Rollins is more affordable than Reyes, but there haven’t been any indications that the Giants are interested in Rollins. He’s been a very good player over his career that does a little bit of everything. I like him and would be thrilled to have him.

8 years for Tim?

File this one as "for what it's worth" as I don't think anyone has written about this previously. SI's Jon Heyman tweeted earlier today that Lincecum's initial counter-offer was for eight years --

seek middle ground w/ lincecum. 1st bid months ago was 4 yrs, he'd like 8. Tim ok w/1 or 2 yrs too. in line for $18-20M via arb

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Stuck with Sabean

A Giants Win hat tip to Julian Levine at Giants Nirvana for coherent analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Brian Sabean -- now that we're stuck with him for two more years. Julian is more than fair here in terms of asserting that Sabean may not have been responsible for the Rowand and Zito signings (which has always struck me as a bit of a "dog ate my homework" excuse -- how is it that he shouldn't be blamed?). It's also something that SF Chronicle dingbat Bruce Jenkins contends so I'm automatically suspicious.

But the post is well-written and reasoned. Here's the core of it --

On a very basic level, he seems to be incapable of putting together a good offense, which ultimately stems from a flawed approach when it comes to evaluating hitters. A look back at the hitters he’s acquired in recent years, and this becomes evident. Sabean guaranteed Miguel Tejada, a 37-year-old shortstop, for $6.5 MM in November. The original Aubrey Huff signing worked out well, but that was quite obviously just as much luck as it was Sabean, and it’s not like Huff was Sabean’s first (or even second) option. Oh yeah, and Huff 2.0 is a disaster so far. The Edgar Renteria deal was too lucrative, and though the Juan Uribe contracts were both quite successful, it (again) seems like luck played a large role. Consider that Uribe was an 80 OPS+ hitter in eight seasons prior to coming to San Francisco, but in his two seasons here, he was north of 100 (107 OPS+). It’s obviously not all blemishes here, but there seems to be a pattern. I think the two best examples of recent Sabean screw-ups in player evaluation are Orlando Cabrera and Willie Bloomquist. Cabrera was so clearly a useless player when he was acquired, and yet the Giants gave up a decent prospect in exchange for him. To nobody’s surprise, Cabrera was awful in his brief time here. And then there’s Willie Bloomquist, career 1.3 WAR — all of which came in his first two seasons, who the Giants offered a two-year $4.6MM deal. These kinds of moves/offers only reinforce that Sabean stereotype.

Then there’s the positive, of course. Under Sabean, just one year ago, the Giants won the World Series. He’s assembled a pitching staff that’s consistently great; he had plenty of opportunities to trade Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, or Madison Bumgarner for a bat, but he kept them around long enough to win a championship. He has an extensive scouting background, so it doesn’t seem too far off to give him some credit for the homegrown pitching, as well as the solid core of young hitting talent the Giants have formed in Pablo Sandoval/Buster Posey/Brandon Belt.

Unfortunately, it’ll be his task in the next few years to complement this talent with solid regulars. He’s not nearly as bad as some might say, but I can’t get around the fact that I’m just not excited about the prospect of having him around for the next few years. If history tells us anything, it’s that shopping for position players isn’t his forte.

Four months to go

I think you know what I mean, don't you? Wouldn't you like to be heading out to see the Giants today?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Alex Gonzalez in the Orange and Black?