Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Tuesday, February 24, 2004
1) Ah, spring. Fresh flowers. Warm showers. Birds putting on too much cologne and trying to pick up bees in dingy nightclubs. And now you can add the annual deluge of the "Five Questions for the Giants" columns to the list of spring signs. You can find the FQFTGs, as we hipsters refer to them, here, here, here, here, and here. Originality, thy name is not beat writer.

The questions aren't surprising, as they almost all deal with Schmidt's health, the morass in rightfield, and other questions crucial to the team's success, like:
Who will fill the void of pitcher with junk in the trunk on this team?

With Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez both traded before the season, the Giants were left with a large hole on the rotation, forcing them to overpay for the large Sidney Ponson. The current roster doesn't seem to have a pitcher with a shapeless, mushy butt to be displayed in baggy pants, slowly hypnotizing you through the centerfield camera. Can they overcome this obstacle?
Not like I could have done better. Here is a list of five things I'm hoping to see in the 2004 season, no matter how improbable:

-- A Giants no-hitter. It's been a while since The Count dazzled Giants fans. There have been near misses, like Scott Garrelts getting burned by confirmed asshat Paul O'Neill in the ninth inning, and William Van Landingham needing 305 pitches to match Kevin Brown's no-hitter through the first five innings. I'm hoping this year someone breaks through. If there is justice, Kevin Correia will do it, as the last three pitchers to throw no-hitters against the Giants were Kevin Gross, Kevin Brown, and Kevin Millwood.

-- A breakout rookie season from anyone. Todd Linden. Merkin Valdez. Kevin Correia. Noah Lowry. Cody Ransom. Anyone.

-- A blowout game where a clumsy, left-handed player is stuck at shortstop. The ol' throw-your-utility-man-in-to-pitch gag is tired. What about J.T. Snow trying to backhand a ball going up the hole, then trying to make an awkward throw? Better yet, put him in center. If you don't want to risk putting a starter out there, then put Chad Zerbe at short for an inning. Fun for the whole family.

-- Bonds shutting everyone up with a monster season. Walt Whitman would have nothing on that piece of sublime poetry.

-- Neifi Perez hitting .290/.320/.390, and not getting a contract extension. In baseball, there's nothing better than being proven wrong if it helps your team, with Marquis Grissom the best example in recent memory. I will eat a box of black licorice -- also known as Atheist's Exhibit A -- if Perez hits that well, but there is no better time to pull outlandish optimism out of your hat than at the beginning of spring training.

2) It would seem to be a harsh fate to be a Chris Gwynn or Rich Murray, where your accomplishments are measured against those of your brother, dismissing the talent it takes just to be one of the few thousand living people who are paid to play baseball. Could be worse, though.

The Giants signed Damon Minor, brother of trivia answer Ryan Minor, to a minor league deal. What's worse than being a sibling to a Hall of Famer? Being a footnote to a baseball footnote. That sells Damon Minor short, though, as he's been a pretty good minor league slugger for many years. He's 30 now, so if he hasn't set the world on fire yet, it probably isn't going to happen, but there are worse players to have in a tin can on a fallout shelter shelf.

Minor had a poor year last year, but he's always been one of my favorites. Gigantic man, gigantic swing. Back in 2002, he had a chance to snatch up a starting job when J.T. Snow was hurt, but he went down in a blaze of weak grounders to second. It would be a good story if he, Brian Dallimore, and Adam Pettyjohn motored the 2004 Grizzlies to a miracle third-place finish, and if Minor helped the Giants in a September callup.

And maybe this time around he'll tell us just what the hell is so funny.

3) A.J. Pierzynski won his arbitration case, which figures. Other N.L. executives are "floored" by the decision. Does this mean the Giants aren't going to be able to go after Vlad?

More stunning is the subtle hint Henry Schulman dropped in a State of the Yorvit article -- another beat writer fad -- that Pierzynski might be too expensive for the Giants after this season. There is no reason other than Pierzynski's own gross incompetence for him to not be a Giant in 2005. When the Giants acquire players, if they aren't over the hill, they are approaching the wrong side of 30. The organization stumbled upon a mid-20s player, already in the top third of a position where offensive talent is scarce. That's just short of a coup, and they'd be fools to let him go.

The front office isn't being too foolish in letting the season play out, because SBC Park could humiliate Pierzynski like it did Armando Rios. A $30M contract wouldn't look so hot if he hit like the bastard son of Rick Wilkins and Bea Arthur.

Torrealba's role is up in the air. As a backup, he's great. As a trade chit, his value is decent. As insurance in the event the team is forced to trade Pierzynski, he scares me because he is a legitimate option. It wouldn't have been a bad thing for Yorvit to be starting catcher for the 2004 team, but Pierzynski is clearly better. Here's hoping Pierzynski is productive in the years to follow, signs a reasonable contract, and changes his surname to Ng to make my life easier.

4) This article claims Robb Nen has developed a changeup while being injured. When your labrum is custard and your elbow creaks like a haunted house, how in the heck do you develop a new pitch? Seriously, if there are any readers with an idea, let me know. If it works, and Nen comes back to anything approaching full health, it would be unfair for him to have a workable change. Let the Nen for fifth starter campaign begin!

5) As the Giants played Butters to Greg Maddux's waitress from Raisins, the Cubs eventually gave Maddux what he wanted. Scott Boras had some nice quotes, claiming the decision tore Maddux apart. In the end golf, it seemed golf that Maddux went golf with his heart golf.

It was fun to dream, but it looks like the rotation will enter the season with some permutation of the current choices. Schmidt is coming off elbow surgery, Rueter had shoulder problems last year, Williams is 22, Brett Tomko at his best closely resembles the Livan Hernandez we gave away, and Dustin Hermanson has the inside track on the last spot. That is no better than a high-risk, medium-reward rotation. Which, I suppose, complements the high-risk, medium-reward lineup.

If there is any consolation to be found, remember the Schmidt/Rueter/Moss/Jensen/Ainsworth rotation didn't prove to be a paragon of stability. With hindsight being 20/20, I take this year's rotation.

6) Stephen Shelby has a good preview of the camp invitees for the Giants over at FogBall. And a much belated congratulations to Only Baseball Matters for the new site design, which looks amazing. The season is almost here, gentlemen.

posted by G at 11:22 PM

     Monday, February 16, 2004

And the Not as Rich Get Not as Richer

The saga of where Greg Maddux ends up is unquestionably the biggest story in baseball right now. For Giants fans...

The saga of where Greg Maddux ends up is unquestionably the second or third biggest story in baseball right now. For Giants fans, signing Maddux would be like a stripper unexpectedly popping out of the moldy raisin cake that was this offseason. Or, if you're a family person, it would be like a, uh, beautifully framed picture of your loved ones in that same cake.

One of the headlines on ESPN.com's sidebar reads, "Cubs increase bid; Maddux rejects Giants", which is gloomy enough. The article claims "the Giants...have pulled out of the running", quoting the Contra Costa Times as its source. Well, damn.

The latest wire service report, however, is a bit more positive. While it notes the Cubs are clear frontrunners, the Giants are still involved in this alternate reality. Maybe. The best quote in the article is:
The Giants' initial multiyear offer to Maddux was spurned, but as one league source said, "So far he's spurned every offer, or else he'd be signed, right?"
Yeah! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, ESPN and Contra Costa Times! Crush my hopes and dreams of a decent offseason with some shifty reporting, will you?

In order to do my part, I'll present a list for Maddux detailing why San Francisco would be a better destination than Chicago:

- Have you seen "E.R."? It sure seems like Chicago is filled with people suffering massive injuries, crazy airborne viruses, and maniacs driving tanks through the downtown area. Not your cup of tea, Greg.

- If you play golf in Chicago, there's a good chance you will be accosted by Bill Murray, and have to endure his hilarious hi-jinks, which can really mess up your swing. Robin Williams doesn't golf.

- I once saw a documentary which detailed the delusion common in the Chicago sports fan. There were a good number of people in the film who actually believed Mike Ditka could beat God in a golf match. It was chilling.

- C'mon, Greg. Who wants to live in the "Windy City"? Sounds like a drag. You aren't going to have any wind problems in San Francisco. Nope. Wind-free, by golly.

- Dusty Baker often loses his temper, and throws hot coffee in his players' faces when they have bad games. Did you ever see pictures of Willie McGee before 1993? Yeah, he looked like Denzel Washington. The so-called "media" would never tell you this, because they are afraid of Baker.

- No Todd Walker or Aramis Ramirez booting crucial double play balls like a couple of clumsy French waiters.

- Didn't you read the cover story, "Ivy: The New Asbestos", in the new Time? I'm not going to spoil it for you, but it involves ivy, cancer, and lawsuits. Pretty heady stuff.

Keep it all in mind, Greg, that's all I'm saying.

2) Over at The Transaction Guy, there is a list of all of the non-roster invitees to spring camps. One thing that jumps out: Jacob Cruz, Marvin Benard, Armando Rios, Adam Hyzdu, Calvin Murray, Chris Magruder, and Chris Singleton are all going to be battling for roster spots around the league.

This is the gift the Giants player development system has bestowed on the rest of the league like weak-hitting bundles of gold, frankincense and myrrh. To nick a line from David Cross, the Giants are the weird Johnny Appleseeds of baseball, planting sixth outfielder trees throughout the land.

The Giants farm system has always had the motto of, "Bring us your poor, your weak, your huddled masses of marginal outfielders yearning to hit poorly or be injury-prone." Todd Linden has a chance to be a 4th outfielder, maybe even a good starter, so the Giants got nervous. They might have thought the well was drying up, which explains the fifth outfielder shopping binge this offseason. Good work, gentlemen.

3) It sure seems there has been a little bit of a backlash against the Giants ownership for being so thrifty, but this article claims tickets are going much faster than last year, when the team was coming off a World Series appearance.
1985: Hang in There!
1986: You're Gonna Like These Kids!
1987: Humm Baby!
1999: Tell it Goodbye!
2004: Thank You Sir, May I Have Another?
From a strict business point of view, there was no reason to pick up an expensive free agent this year. It wouldn't have brought in more money than they would have paid out, and the playoffs are a crap shoot. Part of me wants to shake Magowan's hand just for keeping the team in San Francisco. It doesn't make me feel better about this year, though. This is the thinnest Giants team in several seasons.

I still can't believe the Giants slogan for 1985 was "Hang in There!" That stroke of marketing genius must have doubled the sales of season ticket packages.

4) Indulge me with one more "crazy Google search which led to my site" story. On Friday, someone came to Waiting for Boof by entering "flatulent baseball catcher" into Google. That's funny on its own. Somewhere in our fair land, there was a person on a computer, hoping to find anecdotes about "Gassy" Gus McFee, the gassiest catcher in Federal League history, and ended up here. Or something.

The weirdest part is that of the top ten search results, not only is my site on there, but a link to EEEEEE! comes up, and it happens to be an edition of EEEEEE! which uses a couple of quotes from my old newsgroup postings. So, of all the terrabytes of text on the internet, of all of the billions and billions of words stored on servers somewhere, type in "flatulent baseball catcher", and you'll get links to bits of two different things I wrote, six years apart, on two different web sites. Maybe I'm easily impressed, but I think that means something.

posted by G at 4:08 PM

     Friday, February 13, 2004

Quick Friday Update

In what seemed to be an offhand comment, Brian Sabean described a vocal minority of complainers as "the lunatic fringe". I took the "lunatic fringe" comment as referencing the "Get Vlad or the 2004 Season is Over, Doodz!" crowd, not the folks who furrowed their brow and said, "Uh, Brian? Michael Tucker kinda sucks. What gives?"

I've defended Sabean enough in the past, and though I've no secret of my displeasure with some of his personnel decisions, I've felt a little like Ari Fleischer at times, trying to paint a rosy picture where one isn't easily found. Well, Ari Fleischer before he was sacrificed along with a calico cat in order to please John Ashcroft's god.

Kidding, of course.

The "lunatic fringe" idea had legs, and several internet message boards each took the time to design their own Lunatic Fringe shirt. Three, by my count, but there could be even more. Heck, if the Utne Reader has a message board devoted to the Giants, it's a good bet there are other chat-type sites which have escaped my attention. Westwood Blues has posted a link to one of the shirt designs, but, as he notes, the look leaves a little to be desired.

This one looks good. Heck, it looks great. It was first posted to a FanHome message board, and I think it should be the next big thing. Even if you bought one of the mesh trucker hats and wore it off-center as if you think you're Aesop Rock, it could still be cool. The best part is if you don't want to drop $20 for a t-shirt, you can buy a sticker for $3.

Of course, this whole scenario reinforces the idea of a lunatic fringe. Didn't think about that. Still, buy one and wear it proud.

posted by G at 6:41 PM

     Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Two Points in the Fourth Quarter: Man, Do I Hate February

1) In the tender, private moments I'm not picking my toes and waiting for Spring Training to start, I'm wondering about Greg Maddux. I wonder if there's a chance -- a real chance! -- just as the pimply Dungeon Master hopes for the head cheerleader to approach him before the 8th grade Sadie Hawkins Dance.

The response should be, "Get freakin' real", on several counts. The team is claiming it can't afford anyone, and, what the heck, those grapes are probably sour anyway. Then comes this article in Newsday, first pointed out by Jay's Giants Blog, claiming the Giants are "in the weeds" on Maddux.

Well, crap. I mean, hooray. Wait, no, I just don't know anymore.

Maddux is aging. But he was one of the top pitchers of his generation, or any generation, and is still pitching at a high level. He'll be expensive. But the Bonds Window is closing, and the Giants shouldn't rely on retreads like Brett Tomko and Dustin Hermanson to get them to the playoffs, much less to the World Series. Maddux is not a workhorse anymore, coming closer to Kirk Rueter than Roy Halladay in average innings per start. But he's only dipped below 200 innings once in the last decade, and is a decent bet to average around 200 innings again. Those are some pretty good innings, too. But....

You can see the dilemma. Ultimately, however, I'd love to have Maddux this year. If the deal stretches beyond 2005, it isn't likely to be pretty, but I'll deal with it for the sake of this year. Please, please, please, let this article be accurate, just for the sake of 2004.

When constructing mock rosters at the beginning of the offseason, I commented on a fictional rotation, noting if Jason Schmidt was unable to come back, the rotation moved from "shaky to Rangery". The only difference between that fantasy rotation and the current incarnation is the Giants signed Tomko instead of Pat Hentgen, which is probably for the worse. Maddux would help. A lot. I'll take a questionable contract in exchange for piece of mind this year. Instant gratification is underrated.

One thing to consider is the article comes from Newsday, the crack team of investigative journalists who put forth the Rich Aurilia, Ellis Burks, Robb Nen, and several million in unmarked bills for Grant Roberts trade idea in 2000. I can't find a link, but, trust me, it was a sad moment in speculative sports journalism. I don't know anything about Jon Heyman in particular, though.

Another thing to consider is though I wouldn't want to have to describe the Giants rotation as Rangery, it's a pretty good adjective for describing a rack of delicious ribs.

2) The Giants are going to give Pedro Feliz some innings at shortstop this spring. The idea has a little merit, but it isn't likely to work out. Take Neifi Perez, make him play without a mitt, add 15 homers, and you have Pedro Feliz at short. However, there isn't much to be lost by trying. I doubt Felipe Alou is going to give Feliz 400 innings before realizing, man, this sure isn't working out. Worst case scenario: Feliz swallows one of his own cleats in March by trying to turn a double play, and never plays short again. Best case scenario: Feliz plays a passable shortstop, and becomes even more valuable off the bench.

At this point, Neifi would probably put up the best offensive numbers of any true shortstop in the organization. While that is beyond embarrassing for the Giants farm system, there's not much that can be done about the problem in February. Trying Feliz at short isn't exactly an inspired solution, but it's something.

3) General rule of thumb: Changing from Joe Robbie Stadium to Pro Player Stadium is tasteless. Going from Candlestick Park to 3Com Park is tacky. Pacific Bell Park to SBC is hardly noticeable. Where once you might have associated the Giants home park with poor customer service and high phone rates, the change to SBC assures you'll now associate the park with poor customer service and high phone rates.

The money paid for the right to name the stadium took care of almost 20% of the costs to build it. At that price, a company should be able to name it whatever they want, even if the top choice is Steve Garvey's Illegitimate Love Child Park. We should just be happy the thing was built with private money.

4) Forcedcomparamania: The uncontrollable urge to make lame analogies.

Giving a multi-year contract to Greg Maddux would be like discussing the merits of Brendan Fraser's filmography. There couldn't possibly be a way to overlook the awfulness of "Monkeybone", "George of the Jungle", or, god help us, "Dudley Do-Right", but "The Quiet American" and "Gods and Monsters" were fine movies. Fraser is a compelling actor when it comes to well-written dramatic roles, and even though he's a complete hack when it comes to his comedies, that shouldn't cheapen his good moments. If Maddux got a four-year deal, 2007 would definitely be the three-hour, director's cut of "Encino Man", but there would always be the valuable moments from the beginning of the contract.

Remember, all you professional journalists, if I see that comparison in a major daily newspaper, I'm coming after you. Yeah, I'm looking at you, New York Times.

posted by G at 1:03 AM

     Wednesday, February 04, 2004

"Mr. Sabean, Your Campaign Seems to Have the Momentum of a Runaway Freight Train..."

1) A short excerpt from the not-especially ballyhooed Brian Sabean chat session, which took place last week on sfgiants.com:

bsabean43: ok lets get thsi thing started. any 16/f ready to party? ;-p

kastasmxxxx: you should trade pedro feliz to the devil rays for audrey huff. he's good

bsabean43: We expect big things out of Feliz, and hope to get him 300 at-bats. We'd like to trade for the player you mentioned, but he wouldn't be able to fit into our budget. The player you are thinking of.......now, also would not fit into our budget, though we would love to have him or her.

ralphbarbieri: Now, Brian, at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, it isn't exactly an enigma of startling dimensions why the fans feel disenfranchised and alienated about the offseason. With the fiduciary concerns, and the Sisyphusian task you undertake every offseason trying to reconstruct a roster, which must be disheartening on its face, what with your getting incrementally attached to the positive aspects each specific player brings to the roster you initially constructed, again, much under the proverbial microscope, and

bsabean43: For the love of God, ask me the question, Ralph.

ralphbarbieri: What's Debbie Magowan really like?

bsabean43: Someday, I'll see you on the street, Ralph. Know that. And your friend Tolbert isn't going to be there to help you.

sgollumgal: hey, brian who would you take in a fight, legolas or aragorn?

bsabean43: I think either would make a fine addition, but their demands didn't fit into our budget.


bsabean43: Even if Vlad's price came down significantly, we wouldn't have been able to afford him. Put it this way, if we signed Vladimir Guerrero, we couldn't have acquired Dustan Mohr, Michael Tucker, Jeffrey Hammonds, Brett Tomko, Steve Sax, Chris Brown, or Vince Neil. The important thing isn't that those players are of extremely limited value, rather it's that I got a crapload of these guys.

It reminds me of an old saying: One magic bean will sprout a magic beanstalk, which could lead to lands too beautiful to even imagine. But a handful of regular beans might give you a few plants to subsist on for a short time, provided they aren't killed off by a winter frost. Just think about that for a while.

Thanks for your time. Your collective lunacy has been wonderful.

Of course, that wasn't the real chat. The real chat featured questions like, "Do you think the Giants can beat the Diamondbacks", in the hope Sabean would quickly type, "Not a chance in hell", and hit the submit key before realized what he was doing. The biggest surprise in Sabean's responses, other than his Alanistastic understanding of what irony is, was when he mentioned Merkin Valdez as a rotation possibility. That was actually the second time Sabean volunteered Merkin's name during the chat. Every scouting report on Merkin tends to mention his plus fastball and slider, as well as his good control, but they also usually end with the idea he'll need to further develop a third pitch to be successful as a major-league starter. In the veteran-heavy philosophy of the current regime, it would be hard to imagine a rotation spot going to a rookie who hasn't pitched above low-A.

Still, there's always a part of me that yearns for a gen-yoo-wine rookie sensation. It's not rational, but the idea of using Merkin to cover the bald spots of the rotation is fun. I'd rail against the decision, yet eagerly await every one of his major league starts.

2) Earlier in the week, the Associated Press ran a story with Giants head trainer Stan Conte saying he wasn't sure if Robb Nen would pitch this year. While that was awful news, a larger bombshell was Conte's candid admission Nen's career might even be over. Then there was an even earlier report Nen had passed away, and was now a re-animated corpse roaming the countryside, feeding on the brains of townsfolk. Conte and the Giants tried to paint a better picture in subsequent stories, claiming they had been misrepresented in the earlier stories from the AP, but there is a distinct lack of gung-ho optimism.

The only imaginable good which could come from Nen being out for the year, is it could make Sabean wary of paying top dollar for closers in the future. When Nen went down, the Giants were able to use Tim Worrell, and the bullpen barely skipped a beat. If a team is sitting on stacks of money, then they should spend on all the Eric Gagnes they want. However, the Giants are sitting by the freeway on-ramp in ratty Salvation Army duds, rattling a tin can, and displaying signs which read, "Will Gouge Season-Ticket Holders For Money". They should know better in the future. Committing over 10% of the payroll to a pitcher who averages 85 innings a season will never be a sound move.

3) If the Yankees had a young shortstop who was both talented and major league ready, Edgardo Alfonzo might be taking Aaron Boone's place in New York. As it stands, the Yankees have nothing available that the Giants would want or need. The only prospect in the Yankee system worth drooling over, Dioner Navarro, wouldn't be given up for a third baseman with an sketchy bat and a sketchier contract. Sabean was quick to dismiss any rumors relating to a trade, which is a positive sign. I still have faith in Edgardo, and a lot of the limited optimism I have for the 2004 season rests on a comeback from him.

4) You might have heard this interview with Barry Bonds already, but I've decided to upload it to my site for the benefit of those who haven't. It starts off slow, but the last eight minutes or so are Bonds at his most affable, as he tells hilarious anecdotes about former Pittsburgh teammate Jose Lind. Funny, funny stuff. The only problem with the clip is that it requires RealOne Player. If you don't have that program, you won't be able to listen to the clip, but you'll still have the advantage of not having an invasive, buggy piece of crap software gumming up your computer.

posted by G at 12:32 AM



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