Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Monday, September 27, 2004

1) At several points during the season, Giants fans wanted to tie Tomko in a mail sack and toss him into the Bay. Metaphorically, of course. Or perhaps lock him in a dark room, having someone in a Lou Seal costume shoot t-shirts at him from a t-shirt gun while repeatedly screaming, “IF YOU DON’T RETIRE, I AM GOING TO BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE! DO YOU HEAR ME?” Metaphorically, of course.

Then he became interesting. Then dependable. Then he was out-aceing Jason Schmidt, and was striking people out at an acceptable rate. Sure, they were Brewers and Diamondbacks, but he was still punching them out. It was becoming safe to trust him. Against the Dodgers this past weekend, however, he couldn’t get out of the fifth inning. This one start does not undo all the good he has done down the stretch. You just wish he could have added just one more exceptional start to his string.

In a general sense, he is the perfect comparison for the whole Giants team. You wanted to leave them on a doorstep, ring the doorbell and run. Then they inched closer, and you thought, “Well, it’ll be fun while it lasts.” Then they were safe to trust. Now they are close to breaking our heart, while still having a chance at the near-impossible. Stupid team.

The Giants were found on Monday hoping Shawn Estes would bail them out. So goes the 2004 season. The Rockies suck, the Rockies suck, thuuuuuuuuh Rockies suck. And the Giants are three back in the division. In another surprising development, Aaron Harang was unable to stop the Cubs. And the Giants are one back in the wild-card race. There’s still a chance. Stupid team.

There are a lot of flaws with this incarnation of the Giants. Obviously. In a critical three-game series against the team directly ahead of them in the standings, the Giants wheeled out Kirk Rueter, Brad Hennessey, and Tomko. Michael Tucker is still starting. Tucker was as good an idea as buying tickets to the Blue Oyster Cult, Joan Jett, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited Rock Jam. Tucker sporting an on-base percentage of .380 around the break was like a hearty rendition of “Burnin’ for You”. Man, these cats still got it, you think. Then the second hour passes. And the third. Suddenly, it’s 2005, and Tom Fogarty is mangling a version of “Chooglin’”, doing it only for the coin a Grand Junction Rock Jam can bring. No one benefits from that house of horrors.

One more year of Michael Tucker, everybody. Let’s hear it.

For all these flaws, though, the most obvious reason the Giants are struggling to make the playoffs is the bullpen. There isn’t time to check the archives, but this just might be the worst bullpen in the history of organized baseball. The best reliever in the bunch was traded for a bench player, who then sucked. Jason Christiansen and Scott Eyre made Giants fans yearn for the halcyon days of Rich Rodriguez. The performance turned in by Matt Herges was the lowest point in the history of human civilization. Okay, the bullpen wasn’t that bad, but, brother, it wasn’t good.

It’s hard to blame Brian Sabean for this mess, though. He assembled a group of arms who had a decent history of alternating between good and slightly below-average. There wasn’t much net upside, true, but there were few guaranteed dogs. Robb Nen’s nine million wasn’t coming back, Tim Worrell was a sucker’s bet, and the free agents weren’t interesting. He didn’t do a terrible job, considering the circumstances.

The difference in the Giants season is that they didn’t luck into a bullpen savior. Last year, Joe Nathan clawed his way out of the abyss to become a bullpen savior. Giovanni Carrera was released by the Cubs, and signed by the Dodgers to a minor-league deal. He became a bullpen savior. Yancy Branzypants, or whatever, was the Dodger equivalent of Merkin Valdez. One wasn’t ready to be a dominant major league reliever, the other was. A current list of stellar relievers in the 2004 season would include names like Ayala, Ryan, and Salomon F. Torres. The Giants were unable to luck into any of these types of performances.

This isn’t to suggest the Giants were unlucky. Man, no. Deivi Cruz fell into their laps as the great antidote to Neifi, and Noah Lowry was ten times better than we had a right to expect. It’s just that Aardsma was a year or two away. There was no Carrera or Mahay. A bunch of decent arms turned out to be less-than-decent, and that’s the overriding reason why the Giants aren’t leading the division right now. It happens, and this time the bullpen ended up a worse disaster than a Kevin Costner-directed remake of Lawrence of Arabia, starring Costner as Sir Lawrence. Oh, and Sir Lawrence has a Boston accent for some reason.

The knee-jerk reaction is to throw money at the problem, and that’s not going to fix anything with this batch of free agents. With the Giants only a game down in their quest for the playoffs, there is still a chance for Jim Brower to rattle off a 30-inning stretch of scoreless baseball through the playoffs, allowing the Bay Area to watch a parade down Market Street.

Stop snickering. It could happ...stop snickering, damnit.

2) It takes an education to become a mad scientist. Four-year degrees are likely the minimum for your garden variety mad scientist, with most going on to earn a doctorate like Dr. Octopus and Dr. Frankenstein. As such, it is easy to imagine fledgling mad scientists sitting around a dorm room, getting incredibly high. This is the only scenario in which one could be excused for even entertaining the thought of batting A.J. Pierzynski directly behind Barry Bonds.

Felipe Alou, I have known stoned, post-adolescent mad scientists. I have worked with stoned, post-adolescent mad scientists. And you, sir, are no stoned, post-adolescent mad scientist.

Bonds is the greatest on-base machine in the history of the game. Of all the scores of seasons, and all the thousands of players to cycle through Major League Baseball, the leftfielder of the 2004 San Francisco Giants is the absolute best player in history at reaching base. He is standing on first base after about half of his at-bats. A.J. Pierzynski is a slow catcher who doesn’t strike out, and refuses to take a walk. If you were to genetically concoct a Serpentor-like being to rise as a legendary double play behemoth, Pierzynski is going to be the result. Person on first. Person who likes to wipe out the runner on first with a weak grounder to second. What would happen if...., is how the mad scientist gets the thought process started.

This peanut butter-and-pickled herring sandwich probably isn’t the difference in the division, or even the wild card. But it couldn’t have helped, and is unspeakably stupid. The only problem with this particular blame game is there is absolutely nothing close to a traditional five-hitter on the roster. If I were in charge this team might have Pat Hentgen and Raul Mondesi, so take everything written with a tub of salt. However, were I in charge, Dustan Mohr would have taken at-bats from both Tucker and Marquis Grissom, and hit behind Bonds. He has a modicum of power, doesn’t make many outs, and has the speed to beat out a couple of wayward grounders every once in a while. Marquis Grissom did make a lot of outs, but he also struck out a lot, and had some speed. He wasn’t the worst of all options.

Anyone but Pierzynski. Please.

3) Comment starter(s) of the week: Knowing what you know now: 2-0. Bases loaded. Two outs. Feliz up. Bonds on deck. Are you hoping he’s taking, or that he gets a fastball?

If that starter doesn’t get you going, you could always just hint at how cool you are and tell us all what CD you’ve been into lately.

edit: It has just come to my attention this site is one of the top search results when entering "free Disney porn" into MSN search. I'm tempted to retire. What the heck more is there?

posted by G at 11:52 PM

     Friday, September 17, 2004

A tougher work schedule, renewed interest in screenplay writing, and occasional computer problems have conspired against this site. The biggest problem, however, is that when I sit down to write, there is just too much to cover. Snow's stem-cell fueled resurgence? A new closer in Dustin Hermanson, already set to surpass Rollie Fingers on the all-time list of WFHOLA*? Noah Lowry's surge, then subsequent de-surge, with a recent, slight uptick in surginess? There's too much to cover each time I miss a week, and the blinking cursor just intimidates me.

My hopeful solution is to write shorter bursts, but write them twice a week. Maybe once a week. Maybe thrice. More blurbs, less manifestos. Here's a little snippet, and here's hoping it works.

1) Top three surprises so far:

a. Deivi. There is no official penalty for being released by the Devil Rays. It seems as if there should at least be some community service required, but no. The only penalty is the good chance one of your children might forsake their love for you, which isn’t really a problem as you can always make more.

Released by the Devil Rays? A couple of millennia ago, that would mean you were thrown into the Coliseum with a trident and a shield, forced to fight a lion for the amusement of the emperor. Or, perhaps in some parallel universe, it meant you were automatically sold to some evil robot overlord to work in a robot factory for making robots to rule you and other non-robots in a cruel twist of robot irony. Released by the Devil Rays, remember.

Being a shortstop released by a bad team leaves you with few options. His agent's first play was to look for the team with the worst options at shortstop. Hellllo, Giants. Neifi Perez was busy twisting his handlebar moustache and tying the Giants offense to the railroad tracks when the Giants signed Cruz. It was a low-risk move to sign Cruz, to be sure. He has been this good before -- in 2000 he was a doubles machine who hit .302 -- so it was possible for him to be better than Neifi.

There are two categories of the breakout player: The How Is He Doing It Player, and the Why Did He Ever Suck In The First Place Player. With his quick hands and ability to hit the inside fastball, Deivi is close to the latter. He hasn't been spectacular enough to really consider him a true breakout player, but he's been a very nice surprise. However, his power and patience are minimal enough to make him completely dependent on his batting average if he wants to be a good offensive player.

Batting average is fickle. Don't expect this next year, but have fun while it lasts. Until he signs a two-year deal. Then the fun stops.

b. Dustan Mohr is like something you'd put in a jar with a spider, shaking it up and trying to make them fight. The fella's intense. He also looks just like Julian, which would mean something to you if you knew Julian.

That he is having success isn't the biggest surprise in the world. It's how he's having it. His minor league career suggested if he were to have a breakout season, it might resemble a poor man’s Joe Carter. That is, a heavy-strikeout, above-average power season which looked better because of a fluky high batting average. However, when Pedro Feliz did a little goat dance and burned his copy of Moneyball, Mohr snorted the ashes. He's an on-base machine, taking walks and getting in front of pitches.

The rap on Mohr, fair or not, is that he's a bit of an absent-minded professor out there, occasionally playing the outfield like Ruben Rivera runs the bases. He has made some terrible plays this season, but he has also made some fantastic plays, and seems to have a good amount of range. He'll be the starting something for the Giants next year, to make a bold prediction, and we'll see if his new approach to hitting is a hiccup, or the real thing.

c. J.T. Snow. What the hell. It’s September, and he is still hitting over .400 since the All-Star break. There are career years which are hard to predict, and then there are years like this. J.T.’s wife had already put a non-refundable deposit down for a cruise next August. She was planning to run a counter-information campaign this offseason.

"Tampa? Ick. That turf would hurt your knees. Detroit? I think I heard their manager threatened to eat Lennox Lewis' child. A bunch of crazies over there. I wouldn’t even return their calls..."

So it went, as Snow slowly vanished from the consciousness of baseball, and Mrs. Snow was able to sip poolside Mai-Tais.

Snow has thrown a lot of plans awry with this season. This incredible season. This season that almost, at least in the short-term, makes up for the large contract given to Edgardo Alfonzo’s shadow. Do the Giants pick up his option? Common sense says, ho crap, no. The guy will be 36, and he’s never been this good before. Take away all sentimentality, and strip the previous sentence of most of its context:

"The guy will be 36, and he’s never been this good before."

"This car has never had any of its scheduled maintenance, but it really purrs for a Festiva with 180,000 miles."

"Hmm. I didn’t know Keystone made a merlot. Maybe we should try it."

You run from all of these. It is great to watch Snow right now, and it really does seem like he’s a different hitter. If this team does make the playoffs, it will be directly because of his contributions. Still, run.

2) Comment starter of the week: I’m thinking about ditching the Giants-only format in the offseason to write about baseball as a whole. Part of my current writer’s block, I think, is there are only so many ways to write "Neifi sux!!!1". I’ve always toyed with the idea of a general baseball blog, and in fact had an embarrassing, pre-Boof attempt. What thinketh both of the readers who stuck through my inactivity?

*"Wacky Facial Hair over League Average"

posted by G at 11:21 AM



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