Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Monday, March 31, 2003
 

Opening Day



1) Barry Bonds was walked intentionally twice, and the hitter behind him did nothing about it. Kirk Rueter sailed along for five innings before allowing three baserunners in twelve seconds. The Giants beat the Padres. Different roster, same team. Man, do I love opening day.


2) Deep down, I have the feeling J.T. Snow will have a better year in 2003. That's almost like someone taking back an unfaithful spouse because of a worthless promise not to stray. Actually, hoping Snow won't suck is more like Nicole Kidman taking back Tom Cruise because he promises to stop being short. But, with J.T. on a blistering 162 homer pace, who's laughing now? Huh?


3) Robb Nen is on the disabled list now, which is probably for the best, as I felt more comfortable with Tim Worrell saving the game than I would have with a wonky-shouldered Nen. If Nen isn't healthy this year the Giants will either rely heavily on Jim Brower, or trade Jerome Williams for Ugueth Urbina or Mike Williams. Ick.


4) The San Jose Giants (high-A) and Norwich Gators (AA) have posted rosters on their respective sites. The Gators' rotation will have Boof Bonser, Noah Lowry and Jeff Clark in the rotation. Sounds great. They'll also have some combination of Carlos Valderrama, Adam Shabala, Pat Hallmark, and Ramon Soler in the outfield. Uh, not as great.

The San Jose team should also be a fun one to watch, with gaseous lefties Ryan Hannaman and Francisco Liriano starting, and Wes Hutchinson in relief.


5) Someone found my site by entering "Neifi jokes" into Google, which warms my heart.

"And so the park ranger said to Neifi, 'Look, I know you don't want to sit on the bench, but did you have to pee in the fountain?'"

Thank you, I'll be here all week.

posted by G at 10:53 PM





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     Friday, March 28, 2003
 

Finalizing



1) The Giants were able to pass Damon Minor through waivers. That isn't exactly a coup, but it beats getting nothing for him. If Minor had delusions of other teams clamoring for his services, he now knows they all politely declined picking him up. Minor and Joe Vitiello will slap around Pacific Coast League pitching, and aren't a bad pair to have in the earthquake survival kit.

2) The most comparable pitcher in all of baseball to Joe Nathan might be new Giant, and future Grizzly, Jim Brower. Both don't throw quite as hard as they used to, they're used to being shuttled between starting and long relief roles, and both yield plenty of home runs and walks. Nathan is out of options, and more likely to make the team. Based on past performance alone I'd choose Brower, but I don't see anything wrong with seeing what Nathan has to offer before risking him on waivers. If the team can go an entire season without letting Jay Witasick sniff many close games, they can afford to let Nathan find his sea legs.

3) Neifi Perez wants a trade. Brian Sabean responded by telling the Sacramento Bee that Neifi is too valuable to trade, and would get 300 at-bats. Sabean then laughed maniacally, and took another gigantic hit off his joint before flipping over his Atom Heart Mother LP. I hope.

posted by G at 12:57 AM





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     Tuesday, March 25, 2003
 

The End of Whatever Sounds Less Dramatic Than "Era"



1) Livan Hernandez wasn't the worst pitcher San Francisco had ever seen, he was just the wrong pitcher at the worst time. No Giant fan will ever forget the I'd-rather-be-rolling-around-in-poison-oak expression he had during the first inning of Game 7. If the Giants suffered a couple of injuries, it isn't inconceivable he could have topped 217 innings, simultaneously vesting his $6 million option for 2004 and ruining the team's budget. Kurt Ainsworth is ready for the rotation, and no good would come by Ainsworth spending a third year in Fresno. There was no reason to keep Hernandez. That Brian Sabean was able to get anything at all for him, even a generic reliever, is amazing.


2) The Giants also traded all of their Edwards Guzman in the deal. Guzman was out of options, and he wasn't going to make the Giants' squad, so losing him was inevitable. Guzman has the ability to play both infield and catcher, which is useful on the back end of a bench, but he was only the second-best hitter the Giants gave up.


3) Ainsworth and Ryan Jensen clinched rotation slots with the Livan trade, giving the Giants a medium-high risk/medium-high reward rotation. If the entire rotation comes close to pitching as well as they did in 2002, the Giants will win the division by at least five games. If Damian Moss and Kirk Rueter come back down to earth, there are no guarantees. Jesse Foppert is a great insurance policy, as is Jerome Williams, so they have pitchers they can turn to, which other contenders like the Cardinals can't say. However, almost everyone in the rotation is a decent-sized risk. When previously evaluating this year's team, I've conveniently glossed over that point.

4) In addition to Jim Brower, the Giants will receive a player to be named later, probably a minor leaguer of little value. I'll have some fun, and make a wild, uneducated guess that the player will be Scott Ackerman, a 23-year old catcher who spent most of 2002 in A-ball. It's a position of need for the Giants, and though his statistics and age don't seem to indicate he's much of a prospect, he seems a decent enough catcher.

The player the Giants do eventually get will instantly be nicknamed "Gravy", that much is sure.

posted by G at 11:21 PM





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     Monday, March 24, 2003
 

One More Week...Can't Take It....



1) In the box score for Sunday's Giants/Cubs game, Shawon Dunston is listed as having hit a homerun for the Giants. After my eyes stopped bleeding, I figured out Ray Durham was the player who actually hit the homer. I hope someone's in jail for that screwup, and that Amnesty International is looking the other way.

That wasn't the only error in the box score, though, as Rod Beck is actually listed as having pitched an inning for the Cubs. Ha ha, yeah, right.



2) Kurt Ainsworth had a great outing on Saturday, and Damian Moss had a good one today. Livan Hernandez also had one of his better starts of the spring, giving up only three runs to Anaheim's Class-A team on Friday. I'm not getting too excited, because most scouts will tell you that Double-A hitters are the real test of a pitcher's ability. If all goes well, Livan should be ready for major league hitters by 2005.



3) Ray Durham has been rightly praised for being the first true leadoff hitter the Giants have had since Brett Butler. One thing that's being overlooked, however, is he's averaging 17 homers the last three years. He is an offensive downgrade from Jeff Kent, but not as much as a lot of people have written. I'll take Durham and Edgardo Alfonzo over Kent and David Bell any day, especially over the next four years.

posted by G at 1:10 AM





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     Saturday, March 22, 2003
 

Random Notes



1) The Giants have a plan:

Step 1: Collect former prospects who were once traded by the Giants for major league help.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Profits.

This time the former prospect is Jim Stoops, one of my favorites back in the day. In 1998, he had 96 strikeouts in 55.1 innings for the San Jose Giants before being shipped off in the Ellis Burks trade. He probably won't see the majors again, but it's worth noting the Angels bullpen was built from castoffs like Stoops and Lorenzo Barcelo.


2) It turns out Lance Niekro didn't pitch during an exhibition game this spring, it was just a box score screwup. Damn.


3) Felipe Alou is strongly hinting that Ryan Jensen is the front-runner for the last spot in the rotation, which isn't much of a surprise at this point. Jensen's knuckleball isn't just a novelty, as he's throwing it in all counts and using it about 15% of the time.

Of all the generic spring story formulas that puff up a particular player - "Joe Shlabotnik added 15 pounds of muscle, has an effective new delivery, or is motivated by a contract year, etc..." - the only one I tend to take seriously is the development of a new pitch. Johan Santana of the Twins was a good pitcher, then added a changeup to become one of the best strikeout pitchers in the AL. I don't think Jensen will have success quite that dramatic, but it should be fun to watch.

Fearless prediction time: Either Jeff Bagwell or Gary Sheffield hits a Jensen knuckler over 450 feet at some point during the year.

posted by G at 1:12 AM





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     Friday, March 21, 2003
 

Bench Power Rankings



Players with guaranteed spots

Marvin Benard
Upside: With a little power and speed, he's always been a good fourth outfielder miscast as an iffy starter.
Downside: When he's in a slump, it's ugly.

Neifi Perez
Upside: He's probably capable of learning CPR.
Downside: He could be put in games.

Yorvit Torrealba
Upside: He could outhit Benito Santiago as their careers pass in the night.
Downside: He could regress, hitting like he did for most of his minor league career.


Still fighting (In order of likelihood)

1. Pedro Feliz
Upside: A reasonable option against left-handed pitchers.
Downside: A repeat of 2002.

2. Ruben Rivera
Upside: Karim Garcia.
Downside: Chris Jones, but easier to make fun of.

3. Andres Galaragga
Upside: A powerful bat off the bench, and starter against lefties.
Downside: A painful to watch former All-Star who swings late on Tom Glavine fastballs.

4. Damon Minor
Upside: A productive power hitter used after other teams waste their best lefty reliever on Bonds.
Downside: Eight hundred consecutive weak grounders to second.

5. Tony Torcato
Upside: A contact hitter able to hit tough righties.
Downside: A poor defensive outfielder who can play a bad defensive third base if asked, and who doesn't hit enough to justify the roster spot.

6. Edwards Guzman
Upside: A bench player with the versatility of a Swiss Army knife.
Downside:This Swiss Army knife only has seventeen of those nasty toothpicks no one should ever, ever use.

Ruben Rivera had to win over a lot of people to avoid having his post-game parties at Fong's Cocktail Lounge the entire season. It would be an upset now if he wasn't one of the six bench players the Giants start the year with.

posted by G at 12:01 AM





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     Wednesday, March 19, 2003
 

Panicky Notes



1) Tuesday's box score from the Giants/Rangers exhibition was the type to make me curl up like an armadillo and suck my thumb. Kurt Ainsworth was shelled. Jesse Foppert was shelled. Ryan Jensen might have to go on the DL for lip contusions, as he bit his lip trying to hold back a Trevor Wilson-esque grin.

This morning's Chronicle notes there were winds up to 30 miles per hour at the stadium. I'm going to assume winds have a major impact on hard throwing righties, and leave it at that. I just need to keep in mind my old point; spring games don't mean anything.

2) Barry Bonds is now slugging around 15.000 for the spring, and he looks like he's about to turn the corner and finally realize his untapped talent. His hitting tear reminds me of my old point; spring stats mean absolutely everything.

3) In his recent column, Peter Gammons claims the Giants are looking to give Livan Hernandez away to the Mets. If this site were read by general managers, I could plant a subliminal message like this one:Dear Steve Phillips, and the Mets front office: Livan Hernandez is a fine pitcher, capable of winning 35 games a year. He is in great shape, and a fan favorite. Please send us Jose Reyes and the Huber kid for him. Thank you.
I've never wanted Gammons to be right more than I do now. Again, I don't think Livan is useless, or too far to the right on the Pedro Martinez-Jaime Navarro spectrum. He's sort of the accordion of pitchers, in that I'm sure there's a use for that sort of thing somewhere. I don't see the Mets being the best fit, but they're welcome to him.

posted by G at 2:56 PM





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     Tuesday, March 18, 2003
 

Two Weeks To Go



1) Ray Durham is nicked up, which only reminds me of the biggest problem facing the Giants in 2003. This team has the depth of David Lee Roth in a wading pool. Barry Bonds, Edgardo Alfonzo, and Rich Aurilia are crucial to the Giants' hopes this year, but they're all health risks, and they all have terrible backups. If for some reason both Pedro Feliz and Neifi Perez get 400 at-bats this season, the team could finish sixth in the N.L. West.

2) Kirk Rueter is the opening day starter, which is more of a nod to loyalty than acedom. Here's a fearless prediction: Rueter will have a couple of starts where he mows down the opposing lineup for the first five innings, and then gives up eight doubles in 34 seconds. I'm still glad he's on the team, even if it's in a security blanket kind of way.

3) Though he has no chance to make the major league roster, Joe Vitiello will be a nice player to have on the Fresno team. He could end up being a very important player if Big Cat makes the team instead of Damon Minor, as Galaragga is likely to be injured at some point during the season. I don't know much about Vitiello except what I've seen on paper, so he could be the punchline to a bad defensive joke. But if he's halfway adept with the glove, I'd love to see him rip up AAA and make the front office think a little bit.

Another fearless prediction: If J.T. Snow ends up with only three homers for every triple, as he did in 2002, he won't get the same contract Jim Thome did from the Phillies.

posted by G at 12:54 AM





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     Saturday, March 15, 2003
 

Revenge of Random Thoughts



1) Lance Niekro pitched a third of an inning today. No mystery as to what he was throwing up there. It could work in the long run; Shea Hillenbrand wannabe by day, bullpen saving mop-up man by night. His dad and his uncle must have taught him a mean knuckler, but I wish they had spent their time teaching him how to take a freakin' walk.

Mark Lemke pitched in two different independent leagues as a knuckleball pitcher after his career ended. I'd like to think Niekro's upside is somewhere past Glorified Lemke status, but he is a product of the cursed Giants farm system, so all bets are off.

2) Jason Schmidt pitched well in one of today's split-squad games, allowing one run and striking out seven in five innings. He went from underacheiver to wealthy ace while I was flipping during commercials on Baseball Tonight, so I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop, but the only thing keeping him from elite status is his control. That's something you could have said about Randy Johnson ten years ago, something you could have said about Shawn Estes five years ago, and something you can probably always say about Hideo Nomo.

3) With only 2.5 candidates left in the battle for the fifth starter's spot, it's a little useless to do more power rankings. All I know is that either Ryan Jensen or Kurt Ainsworth is going to get screwed because of Livan Hernandez. El Ballena Inmóvil Grande allowed three runs, seven hits, and two walks in five innings today, but they were, according to the recap, solid innings. Brady Anderson only went one for four against Livan, which should earn him his release. Livan's upside needs to stand on a steamer trunk to be able to see Ainsworth's downside.

posted by G at 6:32 PM





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     Friday, March 14, 2003
 

Bride of Random Thoughts



1) One more note on Benito Santiago's bold negotiation strategy of holding his breath until he turns blue. The Giants have made the right decision, and are not going to consider an extension until after the season. It's the right decision, primarily because there's a great chance Benito will not hit this year, and gambling that he'll hit well for the next three is beyond goofy. However, his demands might have hurt the Giants in a less obvious way. By taking his beef to the media, the Giants have responded by directing attention to the sign in the executive washroom that reads, "No Contract Extensions During the Season". Not for Barry, not for Jeff, certainly not for Benito.

Now, what if Rich Aurilia wanted to sit on Larry Baer's lap and sign a three-year, $15 million extension? If the Giants want to keep Benito focused and quiet, that's no longer possible. The Giants would have done well to lock up Aurilia after his worst year, as they will almost certainly lose him if he plays anywhere near his 2001 level. In a roundabout way, Santiago has brought this team closer to having Neifi Perez, LeMaster of His Domain, start at short for the 2004 Giants.

2) Noah Lowry has had a nice spring so far, and has outlasted some of the more heralded names in the big league camp. He's a good bet to start at Double-A Norwich, and could make the 2004 rotation scramble even more interesting with a great season this year. However, I can't shake the feeling he'll be in another organization by August 1.

3) Will Clark is now coaching for the Chicago Cubs, and I can't decide if that's funny, bizarre, or just wrong. Clark did more to prevent the Cubs winning the World Series than almost any other single player in the past fifty years. That's like having Scott Spiezio as a first-base coach, or Livan Hernandez in the starting rotation. Wait a minute....

posted by G at 11:29 PM





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     Thursday, March 13, 2003
 

Son of Random Thoughts



1) Jesse Foppert can't pitch much better than this. Three innings, no hits, no walks, and four strikeouts. With key relievers hurting, it's starting to look like he'll start the year in the Giants' bullpen. I can see Foppert starting the year in the long relief role held by Jay Witasick last year, and moving up to start when teams start to figure out Livan Hernandez during Livan's second time around the league.

2) Example #39813 on why I shouldn't get caught up in spring stats: Neifi Perez has a slugging percentage of 1.444 through Wednesday. A good spring performance by Perez can only mean more at-bats during the regular season.

And on a totally and completely unrelated topic, you can purchase voodoo dolls here and here. All major credit cards accepted.

3) Jerome Williams was reassigned to minor-league camp yesterday, along with Todd Linden, Boof Bonser and others. Although there was offseason talk about Williams being in the fifth starter mix, his pitching two spring innings suggests he wasn't being seriously considered for even a long relief spot. This will be the first time he's going to repeat a level, and the first time where he'll come close to matching the physical maturity of his opponents. If healthy, he just might destroy AAA hitters. Baseball Prospectus ran a list of all 20 year-old pitchers who pitched 100 innings for a AAA team in the past ten years, and Williams had a combination of control and strikeout ability bested on the list by only Pedro Martinez . That sounds great, but over a third of the list had career-ending injuries as well.

Note: Johnnie LeMaster's nickname was "Peanut". Discuss.

posted by G at 12:05 AM





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     Wednesday, March 12, 2003
 

Yet More Random Thoughts



1) While too early to officially update the fifth starter power rankings, it looks like Kurt Ainsworth might be taking the lead. He had yet another strong outing today, which came on the heels of a spotty start by Ryan Jensen. Jerome Williams is getting fewer innings than the Brian Powells and Luis Estrellas of the team, which makes me wonder about his health. Jesse Foppert is going to start one of the split-squad games on Wednesday, against the Brewers. Bold prediction: Four innings pitched, 32 strikeouts. It's the Brewers.

2) Tim Worrell is hurting, which isn't the biggest surprise in the world considering how hard Dusty Baker rode him in the regular season and playoffs. Even if it is nothing, as the Giants and Worrell are saying, the thought should put the Felix Rodriguez trade rumors to rest. If Robb Nen and Worrell end up on the disabled list, the team would count on Felix. If all three are gone, the team might as well try and lure Mark Dewey away from his current job as a roadie for Slayer.

3) With his new sinker, Livan Hernandez is looking to turn his career around. With a new batting stroke, J.T. Snow is preparing for a big, big season. Is there anything better than unwarranted spring optimism? With George Lazenby as the new James Bond, the franchise will be better than ever. With France now invincible, the Germans had better rethink their strategy. With....

posted by G at 12:24 AM





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     Sunday, March 09, 2003
 

Random Thoughts



1) Todd Linden sure isn't getting too many at-bats this spring. While eight spring training games don't really mean anything, it seems the Giants aren't expecting much from him in 2003. If a starting outfielder were to go down, Tony Torcato, Ruben Rivera, and even Brian Simmons could be ahead of Linden on the injury replacement depth chart. While Linden might be able to help the club a little this year, it's not like the team would be keeping down Adam Dunn. Not only would a full year in AAA help Linden's development, but the sooner he's in the majors, the sooner the Giants would have to pay him big money in arbitration. If he has an incredible start in AAA, things would change, but the Giants are doing well not to rush him.

2) It looks like the last spot on the bench will be filled by either Torcato or Rivera. Given what the team already has on the bench, and what they need, I'd take Rivera. Torcato's only asset at this stage of his career would be his ability to make contact. If the Giants have a runner on second with a right-hander pitching against them, I'd much rather see Torcato at the plate. But Rivera has the edge when it comes to speed, power, defense, and as a right-handed compliment to Marvin Benard. It's easy to forget Rivera had a darn good year in the minors for Texas. Torcato needs more time in the minors to learn how to take a walk.

On the other hand, Rivera had problems leaving the Dominican Republic because he stole someone's Visa card, or something. I don't know, I didn't read the article.

3) Henry Schulman, beat writer for both the San Francisco Chronicle and The Sporting News, says the surprising spring success of Joe Nathan might enable the team to deal Felix Rodriguez or Ryan Jensen. I hope I'm wrong - I really, really do - but this would be a horrible idea. Nathan wasn't getting outs before he was injured, and he wasn't getting outs after he came back. He has a long history in professional baseball of not getting outs. The first week of spring shouldn't change that. Trading Felix because Nathan is having a good spring would be like the Diamondbacks trading Junior Spivey to make room for Carlos Baerga.

posted by G at 6:18 PM





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     Friday, March 07, 2003
 

Fifth Starter Battle: Attack of the Tiny Sample Sizes!



The Power Rankings-

1. The Somewhat Useful Ryan Jensen - Doing nothing to embarrass himself, and nothing to lose his incumbent position. He's made one start, pitched three innings, and given up a single run. I haven't heard anything about his new knuckleball, but I'm sure we'll notice if he becomes some unholy hybrid of Mark Gardner and Tim Wakefield.

2. Kurt Ainsworth - Had a rough first outing, but did well in a subsequent start. He's given up two earned runs in five innings. More importantly, he hasn't walked anyone while striking out four. He is still the rightful owner of the fifth spot in the rotation, but either he or Jensen will get shafted by El Ballena Inmóvil Grande. There's no way the team will let El Ballena's option kick in, which it does after 217 innings, so I don't see the fifth starter battle being the final word on who remains in the Giant rotation for 2003.

3. Jesse Foppert - Four walks and six strikeouts in four innings, which is the performance you'd expect from a rookie who is blessed with one of the best arms in the world, but greener than The Hulk drinking a mint julep. The team is giving him innings so far, which might mean they are seriously interested in him as a bullpen possibililty.

4. Jerome Williams - He's only pitched two innings so far, giving up one run. Even though it's only March 6th - and anything this early in the year is just good ol' wild assed speculation - I do think there are reasons for Williams getting less work than the other candidates. I'm sure the team is still wary of Williams' arm after he was pulled from the Arizona Fall League due to elbow soreness. I also think he has more to gain from a repeat year in Fresno than the other pitchers, and less potential for an outstanding 2003 debut. He has been pushed his entire career, but the Giants have the luxury of having too many pitching possibilities. Here's hoping he dominates AAA, and leaves no room for doubt where he'll be starting 2004.

5. Boof Bonser - He's been absolutely shelled. His hopes for a miracle spot in the rotation are already dashed.

6. The ever cryptic M. Jarvis gave up two hits and an earned run in his only appearance. This, of course, severely limits his chances of having me ever learn his first name.

Edit: Actually, he had a pretty good year in relief for Fresno last year. Shows what I know.

posted by G at 12:02 AM





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     Thursday, March 06, 2003
 

Spring Training Thoughts



1) Benito Santiago is now threatening to leave the team in 2004 if he doesn't get a new contract. I keep turning on CNN and MSNBC for updates on the situation, but there seems to be a total news blackout. In the above San Jose Mercury News article, Santiago claims he's "practically playing for free". Where's the outrage regarding his noble sacrifices? Keep strong, Benito. Switch from name-brands to Safeway Select until the revolution can begin.

2) Is it just me, or does anyone else get a warm fuzzy feeling when the Giants reacquire minor leaguers they used to obtain real players? In the tradition of Dante Powell, Aaron Fultz, and Troy Brohawn, the team signed Lorenzo Barcelo to a minor league contract, and he made an apperance in Wednesday's game. While Barcelo has had his injuries, he is exactly the kind of player the Giants should fill their Fresno roster with. He's still only 25, and could wind up a useful reliever. His downside is that he reminds me of Mike Caruso, which reminds me of how I would prefer Caruso being on the roster over Neifi Perez.

posted by G at 12:52 AM





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     Saturday, March 01, 2003
 

Random Thoughts



1) Benito Santiago has decided he won't hit in the eighth spot of the batting order. Oh, okay. He also wants more money. Hey, sure. Maybe his eight year, $100 million deal can have a clause requiring Ned Colletti to pick out all the brown M&Ms from his pre-game spread.

2) Peter Gammons has a nice article about the Giants up on espn.com. Towards the end of the piece, he notes the team is considering trading The Somewhat Useful Ryan Jensen and/or Felix Rodriguez. Trading Felix would be too risky without knowing where Robb Nen stands, but he would probably net some interesting returns.

I'm more interested in knowing what the team could get for Jensen. Are there teams out there who would look at Jensen, and say, "Young pitcher coming off a 13 win season, boy, he'd help the rotation for years to come"? Or would the teams realize Jensen is - best case scenario - only marginally useful, and lowball the team? I don't know, but I do think he has enough value to not be discarded for the sake of discarding him. If someone comes with a real offer, great, but he's the best insurance policy the Giants have.

3) Bruce Jenkins is back with his Saturday Column of Ellipsis-Sprinkled Crap. As if on cue, Jenkins delves into more onomastics to determine the fate of a young baseball player. "They say A's prospect Bobby Crosby would have a good shot at replacing (Miguel) Tejada, and that's encouraging," writes Jenkins. "At least the guy has a decent name. You'd hate to hear some public-address lunatic say, 'And here he is, everybody, the new A's shortstop, Mingo Toddliott!'"

Given the choice, I'd rather name my kid "Mingo" than "Bruce", but that's just me.

posted by G at 11:29 AM





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