Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Sunday, August 15, 2004
 

Jockey Full of Bourbon



If there were some mandatory law requiring teams to give collective nicknames to their bullpen -- like the “Nasty Boys” of Reds fame -- the winning submission for the Giants would have been Police Academies 2 through 6. As in, if Felipe Alou trudged out to the mound to pick a movie from a DVD library, he’d look to his left and see Police Academies 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Felix Rodriguez was Police Academy 2, in case you were wondering. It had its moments, like the supergluing of Mauser’s hands to his own scalp by Mahoney. Ah, Mahoney. Now the best option of a bad collection is gone.

Ricky Ledee is a good player to have. On a team leaning to the right side, he’s a great bench player. The minor leaguer the Giants received seems interesting, and more than your average throw-in. Were this the offseason, it might qualify as a nice little trade. It frees up salary, picks up a prospect, and puts a worthy player on the bench to take at-bats from Marquis Grissom against righties. In the middle of a pennant drive, where the team’s most critical need is the bullpen, it makes very little sense, though.

It’ll be good not to have Felix’s salary for the offseason, but he wasn’t the problem. A bearded Robin Williams could have grabbed Felix, looked him in the eye, and said, “it wasn’t your fault,” before a cathartic hug. He had an ERA under 4.00, which was out-frickin-standing on this team. There was no feeling comfortable with him out on the mound, but, again, he wasn’t the problem. The Giants needed to add a reliever, not lose one.

With 20/20 hindsight, it is easy to come up with theories about why the Giants weren’t blessed with a good bullpen this year. The most prevalent theory -- they didn’t have any good pitchers -- makes a heck of a lot of sense. Bullpens are never easy to forecast, but the Giants didn't have too much reason for optimism before the season started.

Brendan Donnellys can have serious medical problems. Rod Becks can implode. Joe Nathans can become dominant closers. Jim Browers and Scott Eyres have a good chance to remain Jim Brower or Scott Erye...and little more. They've been okay this year; no complaints. Matt Herges can be decent, or he can be terrible, but he isn’t likely to set the world on fire. He’s settled on “likeable, but terrible” for this season.

Point being, in the risk v. reward section that should be a part of every organizational offseason sketchbook, the Giants had a lot of tallies in the risk side. Felix Rodriguez was as likely to have a dominating setup season as he was to be a serious detriment to the team. He was neither, and was the least of the Giants worries.

This isn’t to flog to Giants for not making a move. Good lord, the Mets gave up a chunk of their future plans for a couple of pitchers who are currently decent, but had their potential to be good driving most of their market value. The Price is Right urge to choose whatever is in the Mystery Box; that's what prospects are for, not the stretch drive acquisitions themselves. The Tigers wanted one of Jerome Williams, Matt Cain, or Merkin Valdez for Ugueth Urbina. That would have been an interesting conversation to listen in to:
Brian Sabean: What would it take for you to trade Urbina to us?

Dave Dombrowski: I’ll listen to what you have to say, but he won’t leave our organization without Cain, Merkin, or Jerome Williams coming over to us.

Sabean: Hmm. Well, how about we agree to trade a player named Willam Smerkincain to you, in the event he is ever born, gifted in baseball, and drafted by the Giants. Because that is about as realistic as your proposal, you drunken ass. See you in hell, Dombrowski. (*click*)

Dombrowski: Yelllllo? Brian? Brian? Bri-Bri? You still there?

The Jason Schmidt Trade Fallacy Fever didn’t infect the Giants offices, luckily. JSTFF was rampant before the deadline, and it goes something like this:

1) Jason Schmidt had great stuff and youth, but inconsistent results.
2) He was traded to a contender.
3) He discovered how to pitch, and is now a premier pitcher in baseball.
4) This was not a fluke or coincidence.

Obviously, the Mets aren’t expecting Kris Benson or Victor Zambrano to morph into Jason Schmidt right away. Just in the next couple of years would be nice. If what the Mets paid was the market rate, the Giants were right to stay far, far away from that particular rabbit hole.

Even though Sabean has the reputation of a man who loves to deal, and is the master of trying to improve his team at the trade deadline, he didn’t panic. There wasn’t anyone worth a prospect to be had. This team isn’t a jigsaw puzzle missing the final piece; it’s a Rorschach ink blot test that might look like a pony if you randomly throw more ink on it. Unless the Giants could get John Smoltz and Eric Gagne, having them alternate three inning performances, there wasn’t a reliever to put them over the top, or even close to the top. It just seems a waste to toss away a decent reliever like Rodriguez right now.

Rodriguez was on the mound for a couple of the most miserable moments in recent Giants history, but it is hard not to like a guy who was wearing orange and black for so long. When Joe Nathan was first coming up, he had a miserable start against the Diamondbacks. The scuttlebutt soon after was he was tipping his pitches. Felix Rodriguez had a terrible history of tipping his pitches as well. If he was wearing a hat, chances are he was throwing a fastball. Hitters aren’t dumb. They can spot those sorts of things.

Good luck, Felix. Thanks for not having it against your former team, however....


2) If this site should continue on for another ten years, it would be hard to be as spectacularly wrong about a player as I was about Nathan. I didn’t just leave him for dead. I rifled through his pockets, took his wallet, and considered using his blubber for warmth, Tauntaun-style. Now he’s going to be a very rich man, using a combination of outstanding arm and outstanding opportunity to cement a closer role for years to come. Just to recap:

2001, AA, 6.93 ERA, 62.1 IP, 37 BB, 33 SO, 11 HR
AAA, 7.77 ERA, 46.1 IP, 33 BB, 21 SO, 13 HR
2002, AAA, 5.60 ERA, 146.1 IP, 74 BB, 117 SO, 20 HR
2003, NL, 2.96 ERA, 79 IP, 33 BB, 83 SO, 7 HR
2004, AL, 0.85 ERA, 52.2. IP, 18 BB, 64 SO, 2 HR

That the 2001 line didn’t get him released is a tremendous credit to the Giants organization. There had to be someone -- Dick Tidrow, Fred Stanley, anyone -- who kept saying, “Seriously, the arm is still there. He’s just finding his bearings after a serious shoulder injury”, and kept pounding that message through an awful 2002 season. Good for them, and good for Nathan. The Giants got an excellent season from him, and he netted a very productive catcher in a later trade.

It’s easy to look at Joe Nathan’s 0.0002 ERA and label the Pierzynski trade as a surly failure, especially with the Giants bullpen horrors. However, Pierzynski has been one of the better offensive catchers in the league -- about as effective as the sainted Paul LoDuca -- which is especially amazing considering the brutal start he had to the season. Nathan was an injury-risk, and coming off a season completely out of line with anything he had ever done in professional baseball. His trade value was a good bet to be as high as it had ever would be. It would have been super, super sweet if the Giants had kept him, and had Yorvit hit as well as A.J. Pierzynski this year, but that trade is still defensible. No matter the result, it is still very easy to root for Nathan.

Scott Linebrink for Doug Henry, now that trade certainly has its molars in the Giants ass.


3) Neifi Perez was released. So this is what it feels like...when doves cry. According to Mike Krukow, Bonds was a little miffed because Neifi was his card-playing buddy. Now, I’m well above likening Neifi to the goat who used to keep Seabiscuit company, so I won’t even bring that up. However, there’s a part of me hoping that no matter what game the two played -- spades, hearts, war, go fish -- that Neifi just beat the pants off of Bonds every time they played. It’s the egalitarian in me. Another part of me knows that if Perez were dealt an eleven while playing blackjack, he still wouldn’t hit.


4) You didn’t see J.T. Snow coming either. Don’t act so cocky.


5) Early in this season the Giants couldn’t hit. They couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position, they couldn’t hit with the bases empty, they couldn’t hit. At all. This just makes the fact they have one of the best offenses in the National League more amazing. Snow’s amazing resurgence is a large part of the magic, but Michael Tucker has been better than we had a right to expect. Deivi Cruz isn’t an artist with the glove, but he is hitting more than other shortstops. Dustan Mohr was teetering on the waiver-wire abyss early on this year, but now he looks like he could be a possible starter next year. The offense is why this team is winning games.

The pitching. Now that’s a different story. It’s a story filled with tears, struggles, and adversity. Also, a whole lot of sucking. Jason Schmidt is the best pitcher in baseball, and while that makes up for a lot of flaws, it’s where the good news ends. Kirk Rueter, Brett Tomko, Noah Lowry, and Brad Hennessey are the other starters. Merkin Valdez had a chance to stick with the big league club, but he muffed it.* The 2002 %#%’n Angels were able to succeed in the playoffs with a struggling Ramon Ortiz and Kevin Appier, along with an unproven John $$@!$^&%$#^@!@!^%#^%&%‘ing Lackey, but they’re the exception, not the rule.

It’s a surprise for the team to be only a game out of playoff contention, but the pitching doesn’t look like it could do anything in the postseason. Unless, and this is a big unless, Noah Lowry continues to pitch like someone hitting from the pipe in Jaime Moyer’s pocket, that is. All signs pointed to Lowry finding a niche as a situational lefty when he was thirty, but then he had to go and make major league hitters look like idiots. He was slapped around by the Phillies this weekend, so the honeymoon may well be over. Tom Glavine had a 91/56 K/BB ratio in 150 AAA innings when he joined the Braves for good. Why not Lowry, the four-year old in all of us demands?

Even if it doesn’t happen, there aren’t going to be too many moments as exciting as his complete-game shutout. Nasty, nasty changeup and perfect location; that’s a recipe for lefty success. After a lot of time dreaming about Williams, Foppert, and Ainsworth, it would be a Rod Serling-type twist to have Lowry lead the team for the next decade. Not bloody likely, sure, but still fun to dream about.

* Yes, I have been waiting for over a year to use that one.


6) Job secured. Relocation complete. Internet connection up and running. Computer de-crashed thanks to a very savvy and generous future father-in-law. This site is back for good now. I’ll start working on responding to some of the emails soon. Comment starter of the week: What are your thoughts about the youngsters the Giants have featured lately? Lowry, Hennessey, and Merkin, to be specific.

posted by G at 10:28 PM





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     Tuesday, August 03, 2004
 I've written it before, but I'll be back soon. After finally getting set up with internet service following my move, my computer crashed, burned, and is still smoldering in a corner of my house. I'm writing this from a public library. (Hellllllo, Mr. Ashcroft!) Not being on the internet just kills me. Is everyone still laughing about the "all your base are belong to us" crap? I hope so. That sort of thing never gets old.

I'm dying to write, and I'll get on a regular schedule once I get a computer. Hopefully it will be next week. In the meantime, I apologize for not answering any emails or giving my half-baked opinion on the lack of deadline moves. Soon!

Go Giants! (And take the Warriors with you, har har....)

posted by G at 7:36 PM





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