Waiting for Boof
Blog devoted to the San Francisco Giants
     Thursday, October 28, 2004
 As the Boston fans turn down the lights, spin some Luther Vandross, and prepare to make out with the 2004 Red Sox for the next century or so, it's time to look at the offseason for the Giants. The Red Sox did indeed prove curses and perpetually doomed teams are silly, silly concepts. Only morons would take that sort of bait. The Red Sox won the World Series by following a two-point blueprint:

1. Have a very good team.
2. Enjoy the same variety of luck every other championship team has enjoyed in the past.

This, of course, does not apply to the Giants. They are cursed and perpetually doomed. Other teams can take heart, though. Luck isn't a dirty word. Every team which has won the World Series has experienced some sort of luck. Tony Womack getting a key ninth-inning hit against Mariano Rivera. Alex Gonzalez booting a key ball in the NLCS, letting the Marlins off the hook. The Angels being allowed to have Francisco Rodriguez on their roster even though he was facing extradition on several counts of racketeering (look it up).

If it were Derek Lowe's desire to kill a nubile virgin in order to use the skull for some sort of ceremonial victory chalice, there isn't a court in New England that would convict him. A month ago he was the Red Sox faithful's Livan Hernandez. A scapegoat's scapegoat. After vanquishing the Yankees in a very losable Game Seven, and winning the Series-clinching game, he's now a Boston demi-god. That was not planned. That was, it could be said, a little lucky. Little things added up, like the rotator cuffs of Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez holding together for 50,000,000 lifetime pitches, when 50,000,002 pitches might have snapped them both like delicious sesame sticks. No shame in it. Congratulations to Boston fans.

If the Giants want to win anything, they should concentrate on building a very good team, and hope the luck part falls into place. As my grandpappy always told me, you can?t spraypaint Marvin Bernard green and call him a leprechaun. Or something. This is the sort of cogent analysis you just couldn't find before blogs came of existence. If the Giants want to win, they need a good team. I'll take my Nobel cash award in small bills, please.

The Giants need a shortstop. They also need an outfielder. They need to figure out if Snow -- also known by his murder mystery party alter-ego, Baron Von Fluke -- will return at first base, or if that is a position of need. The team needs relief help. That?s a lot of work, and, with the exception of trying to dump Edgardo Alfonzo's contract, it isn?t rocket science..

Last year's Waiting for Boof Offseason Special Spectacular Extravaganza was a miserable failure. Something called Raul Ibanez was endorsed, and there was an embarrassing attempt to spin Neifi into something un-negative. Mistakes were made. It?s hard work.

Starting with the shortstops:

Contenders




Deivi Cruz

The incumbent has certainly earned another chance; words which are hard to type. His hitting wasn't incredible, just acceptable. His defense wasn't terrible, just acceptable. He's now an acceptable shortstop. Cruz is on the wrong side of 30, and his latest exploits will overprice him a tad. He isn't, however, the running gag he was when the Giants picked him up like he were a Costanzian eclair on the top of the trash can. There are worse options.


Omar Vizquel

Mad linker Steve Shelby asked where Vizquel was in my brief recap of shortstop free agents last week. Vizquel was just too obvious to be remembered. He's a bad idea which could turn out somewhat good, like a Santiago, mark II. Still, he's a bad idea. He'll be 38, and his hitting is as batting-average dependent as Cruz's, but without the doubles power. If the Giants upgrade the offense elsewhere, Vizquel could do his thing almost unnoticed. If the Giants decide Michael Tucker just had an off year, and the patented Tucker bounce back will put the team over the top, then we would be in trouble.


Edgar Renteria

Renteria is this year's Vladimir Guerrero for the shortstop fetishists out there. He's going to be 29. He's coming off a down year, so his price isn't going to be out of whack. However, there are still teams which are willing to spend good coin on him. If Magowan keeps with his promise to not overspend, or spend, Renteria is a fantasy.


Orlando Cabrera

Never as good as his best season, Cabrera is now a very rich man. Someone will go Al Davis, and vastly overpay for a guy who was very visible in the playoffs. He is a good defender, and would be an upgrade. It isn't my money, the refrain goes, so long as it doesn't Edgardoize the budget in the future, the Giants would be glad to have him.


Nomar Garciaparra.

He's probably sitting in an empty bathtub right now, drinking a beer and staring at the wall. Don't bother looking for him, Mia. He'll be found when he wants to be found.

Garciaparra is a good candidate for a Juan Gonzalez-type contract. High money, short length. If the Giants want to put on a good public relations show, they'll go after Nomar. He's brittle, but he can still hit. Two years, $18M, with performance bonuses. Three years, $24M? Maybe too big of a risk. Bad long-term contracts kill, but brutal short-term failures shouldn't cripple a solid foundation. So the Giants will have to eat dried ramen noodles every once in a while. Suck it up, ownership. Not necessarily for the fragile, mopey genius of Nomar, but for someone.


Cristian Guzman

"I'm someone!", chimes Guzman. Ugh. Hitting a soft .270 on astroturf, all while playing iffy defense, adds up to a good bench player. He's young enough to improve, and certainly has some athleticism, but he is not a player on which to break the bank. Were he to start for the Giants, it would be fun to watch him test out Triples Alley, and to hope for his peak to be a robust and sustained one. The mini-glut on the market for shortstops should hurt a guy like Guzman more than a Renteria. Two years, four million? Worth a shot, ALATOIFAOP*.


Cody Ransom

The Offending Defensive Replacement is long for the waiver wire, not a starting role. He'll resurface as one of those pesky bench players on some playoff team, like Miguel Cairo.


Rich Aurilia

Bring him back as a role player/mascot, just for kicks. Here's a contract for just above the major league minimum, now hit the cages. And get your wife started on a new recipe for that charity cookbook.


Royce Clayton

And this idea is officially out of steam.


It's now confession time. I am one of the shortstop fetishists described above. I've been eyeing Renteria for two years, now. If the Giants budget is $80M, they should go to $90M to get Renteria. Call it blind faith in a player who had a poor year, but he's a top offensive performer at a position where they aren't common. At least, he should be. Er, could be. He could be an expensive mistake. He could be a bargain. My money's on bargain, if the Cardinals will let him go.

Next week: The Center and Rightfield Mohrass

*"As long as the offense is fixed at other positions." Even then, that is some funky defense.

posted by G at 1:30 AM





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     Thursday, October 21, 2004
 1) Alliances splinter. It's an inevitable occurrence. Scores of beer drinkers congregate together, and discover they all are madly in love with the exact same beer. Instead of banding together as some super-clan to kick some serious Keystone ass, they dissolve into petty arguments about why they like the beer in the first place. Even though one faction was clearly wrong, as Miller Lite has always tasted like malted urine, there just wasn't enough room for both the Tastes Greaters and the Less Fillingses.

The happy rainbow coalition of Giants fans are slowly disintegrating into two distinct groups: those who demand a reliever, and those who demand a real hitter behind Barry Bonds. Sure, there might be some wayward Naderish faction stumbling around, hoping the Giants give a six-year deal to Freddy Garcia, but the majority of the base is leaning one particular way. The obvious answer is to slather two-way freakshow Brooks Kieshnick with "the Clear", load his coffee full of greenies, sit back, and watch him just dominate the hitters and pitchers of the league. That might be a touch unlikely, however, so it looks like the Giants will have to choose between the idea of reliever and hitter.

Sabean chooses more good relievers than questionable relievers. He chooses questionable hitters more than good hitters.. That should make the choice a little easier. Sabean is somewhat progressive, realizing bullpens full of castoffs can be just as effective as the trillion dollar bullpens. He'll pay for the premium closer (Nen) and solid bet (Felix Rodriguez), but, Jason Christiansen aside, rarely hurts himself with the awful contracts for middle relief.

There might be a tendency to lean toward the idea of a reliever-as-free-agent-lightning-strike. Rumor has it the Giants are a little cheap, and this changes things. There is no reason to give a huge contract to Dan Miceli in the hopes he might have a Micelian season, especially if it reduces any chance of landing an impact hitter. David Aardsma or Merkin Valdez are as good a bet to have good seasons as a fastball/slider guy in his late 30s. If the merely above-average are taken from the free agent equation, it leaves:
Troy Percival
Armando Benitez
Which one of those pitchers should Sabean give a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract to? Percival is going to be 36, and will have to be paid gobs of money to leave the only major league team he has ever known. And that's if the Angels refuse to overpay to keep him, which doesn't seem likely.

Benitez might be able to pitch, but every team is going to be wary of his reputation. Balloon animals, piling out of a VW Bug, immortalized in Emmett Kelly prints, and all that. A reliever isn't necessarily old at the age of 31, so a three-year contract isn't insane. He is likely the only impact reliever, though, and his price will be inflated. If that's the only slot machine in town, it's worth thinking about hanging on to the quarter.

The Giants were second in runs scored for the National League this past season. Amazing. Bonds was beyond great, yes, but that doesn't explain everything. In 2001, the Giants had a crazy season from Bonds. They also had Rich Aurilia and Jeff Kent, who were comfortably above any non-Bonds hitter trotted out in 2004. They weren't second in runs scored; they were fifth. The difference was in the lack of utterly useless hitters. In 2001, Benito Santiago was most utterly useless, hitting .262/.295/.369. Pedro Feliz was not yet a useful wild hacker, he was just bad, hitting .227/.264/.373. Eric Davis contributed 156 at-bats of nothing. Edwards Guzman hit like a pair of 50-year old attorneys general, and was one of many terrible bench players. Not unproductive, but terrible.

In 2004, the Giants were lucky not to have many of these seasons. Neifi Perez probably cost the Giants the division. Jeffrey Hammonds wasn't very impressive in 95 at-bats. Every non-Neifi hitter over 100 at-bats was not terrible. This season from Bonds was unfathomable, but that last point was the key to the Giant success. It doesn't make for a winning slogan -- The Giants: Almost No Terrible Hitters! -- but it was the biggest reason for 91 wins.

If the idea is to get another hitter, it is worth finding out which Giant is likely to be worse than they were in 2004. Deivi Cruz is an obvious choice. This Snow character just might not pull another Wade Boggs-type season from his nether regions. Marquis Grissom shouldn't be as good and, unless he comes cheap after the team declines his option, won't be a Giant. Bonds is always going to be due for a decline or injury. Edgardo Alfonzo is 52, and might not come close to .290 again.

Forget first base. Snow has a $2M option, and even though he isn't going to repeat his year, it's an inexpensive enough gamble to take. If he has 75% of the year he had in 2004, he's a bargain. It was always a pipe dream to see Carlos Delgado in a Giants uniform, what with his wacky moveon.org politics perfect for the Bay Area, but he will still command too much for the Giants.

Centerfield is an interesting case. Dustan Mohr, who was questionable for the 2005 season after his knee literally caught fire in a well-publicized incident, could start in center. He's got the range to be a centerfielder, even if he can be a bit goofy at times. His new, slavish devotion to the art of getting on base will be welcome in the two hole on a regular basis. Is it a fluke? What the hell, throw him out there. He's likeable, damnit. Hustles, too. Got spunk. Good kid. Screw him if Carlos Beltran is an option, but he's a gritty player. Plays the game right. Fan favorite. It's hard work.

No one is going to take Alfonzo off the Giants hands. If the Giants are going to pay $3M for another team to take him, they might as well keep him. The juggling of the Alfonzo/Snow/Feliz Cerberus was one of Felipe Alou's finer points last year. Getting rid of Alfonzo just to do so would be a waste. If someone takes him and his full salary on, then we wish you well Edgardo, but it's not going to go down like that. He'll be a Giant in 2005.

This leaves the two spots due for an obvious upgrade as rightfield and shortstop. Michael Tucker is signed for another year. He's a fine bench player. If the opposition throws a right-handed reliever on the mound for the 7th inning, and said reliever does not possess a changeup, Tucker would be the first choice off the bench. That might sound snarky, but it is meant as a genuine sentiment. He'll be overpaid, but still useful.

Shortstop. Sweet shortstop. Where a team can gain a clear advantage over other teams just by having someone offensively competent. Deivi Cruz might be as good as he was, but he could as easily be Neifi sans defense. So it goes for the batting average dependent hitter.

If the Giants maintain the status quo for either center/rightfield or shortstop, they would be best served to upgrade one of the other iffy positions. The options:
RF
Magglio Ordonez
Jermaine Dye
J.D. Drew
Moises Alou
Carlos Beltran
Steve Finley
Richard Hidalgo

SS

Edgar Renteria
Nomaaaaaah
Jose Valentin
Cristian Guzman

The particulars of all the choices will be fleshed out next week, but it is worth a reminder as to the firemen dynamos available:
Troy Percival
Armando Benitez
Put those kazoos down, boys. We haven't won the Series yet.

In this black or white world, it seems like if the Giants are going to help themselves through the free agent market, they would be better served doing so with a hitter. Still, the argument rages on. Tastes great, less filling. Right wing, left wing. "Self Destruction" fans, "We're All in the Same Gang" fans. Money on a reliever, money on a power hitter.

Do the Giants need another power hitter, or do they need to shore up their pitching? Yes.



2) Growing up, it was always astonishing no team had ever rallied back from a 3-0 postseason deficit. Ever. You would never see as a 30-point headline:
Good team beats other good team four straight!
It would be an upset, but nothing that would have proven impossible. It just never happened. But now it has, and it was impressive. It was extra-inning wins, and unlikely heroes. Injured stars, grinding their teeth through tough innings. It was good baseball.

When the Red Sox won the fourth game of the series, it was almost automatic. They would go to the seventh game of the series, and then blow it. Giants fans know these things; it can't be done easily. The Sox rallied for Game Five. Game Six was another classic. This set up the crushing, soul-melting denouement. My prediction on how it would end went like this:

Joe Buck: Bottom of the ninth: Red Sox 3, Yankees 2. Runner on first This is what everyone wanted. Keith Foulke is on the mound, and he'll face Derek Jeter.

Tim McCarver: Blah blah hyuk blah snarf. And I knew that was going to happen. Duh.

Joe Buck: Jeter swings at the first pitch and pops it up! Playable for Cabrera, who...and it hits a pigeon! The ball goes towards the corner! Manny can't dig it out! And Jeter, a baserunner so good, so adept, it was if he were an agent of God, placed into our hands by some divine stroke of mercy, to rouse the faith of the non-believers and solidfy those who never had doubt, scores! The Yankees win the pennant!


If you're a Red Sox fan, you know. If you're a Giants fan, you know. There is always something. A tired Dustin Hermanson. A tired Felix Rodriguez. A bullpen mound in the way of Dante Powell's throw. Something. Red Sox fans are well versed in something. And that's why it was so heartening to see them win tonight. Not because there should be any sympathy for the long suffering Sox fan. Anyone within three yards of a drunk Red Sox fan for this year's interleague series against the Giants couldn't care less about the long suffering fans. Listening to the jerseyed goof two rows in front yelp after every...single...positive...turn...of...events for the Red Sox was like a Croatian have to endure heckling from a Hungarian during the World Cup. Look, we're both never going to win this thing, okay? Tone it the hell down. All sympathy for the poor, poor fans went out the window after that series, for a lot of people, I'm sure.

Now there's a chance for them. And, for no specific reason, it follows there is a chance for the Giants to do something similar in the next decade or so. The Red Sox vanquished that which could not be vanquished. They were the ones with all of the breaks. They pantsed tradition and history, and got the surrounding schoolgirls to point and giggle.

If they could, why not the....


3) Comment starter of the week:

Series predictions? By the time most of you stumble on this site, we'll know who the Red Sox will face. Good thing the All-Star Game gave a wild-card team home field advantage over the best record in baseball. That still makes sense. I'll go with Cardinals in six, unless the Astros win the NLCS. Then it'll be the Sox in five.

posted by G at 1:13 AM





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     Sunday, October 03, 2004
 They just couldn’t die in May. They couldn’t fall below .500 by the July trading deadline and trade the free-agents-to-be. They couldn’t have allowed all of us to ruminate about the 2005 roster in August, prompting daily Jesse Foppert updates. They had to take it to the last week of the season. They had to let Steve Finley and the Dodgers drive the stake.

Giants fan grief, in the classic five stages:

I. Denial

There’s no way a bullpen could be that bad. Defensive replacements don’t get enough playing time to personally cost a team two full games in the standings. There is no way a team could blow two multi-run leads in two different ninth innings, to two different direct competitors in the last week of the season. It didn’t happen.


II. Bargaining

“Honey, I’ll do the dishes for a month if you’ll let me travel to Los Angeles to hit Steve Finley in the face with a croquet mallet.”
“No.”
“In the knee?”
“No.”


III. Anger

Ah, this one comes naturally. Cody Ransom. Wayne Franklin. Dustin Hermanson. Brian Sabean. Matt Herges. A.J. Pierzynski -- Polish for “Looks Much, Much Worse in Retrospect” -- you can all do the Anatomically Impossible Shuffle. The Rockies are scores of words of their own.


IV. Despair

This team is never going to win. They have had the best player in baseball history for the past four seasons, making the playoffs twice. They were seven outs away from a World Series championship, holding a five-run lead. It’s time to invite the Boston and Chicago teams over for a pity party. Put a pot of coffee on, because the White Sox are going to bore us with some story about how their dad never taught them how to shave, or something.


V. Acceptance.

This team wasn’t that good. It wouldn’t have been any easier to watch them get pummeled in the playoffs. They would have been eliminated by the Marlins in five, regardless if the Marlins made the playoffs or not.

Stage four is a popular one right now. The role of the Giants fan is of the drunken hooligan in the pub, just ready to start throwing punches if someone bumps into them. Cody Ransom? “Yyyyou. You think yer ssso ssspecial. Oooh, a deffensive repllacement! Yer just a girrrrrl Kodi. Just a girl, you s...shut up, I know what I’m doing, shut up all of you!” Everyone deserves blame for the mess on the rug, though, so them knuckles is going to get bloody. On a team with fifty different flaws, fixing one of them might have gained a game in the standings. A game in the standings might have meant the playoffs.

Terrible. Words fail. Gaaargh.



2) If there is one thing I would like to be remembered for, it is the introduction of a new phrase: Counting on the rockies.

“I told Mary to bring the salad for the party.”
“Uh oh. So we’re not going to have a salad?”
“Yeah, I guess I was kind of counting on the rockies.”

Plenty of phrases we use everyday came from ancient and inscrutable origins, such as “the real McCoy”. It is time to add “counting on the rockies” to the lexicon. If anyone asks where it came from, act surprised they’ve never heard it before. If you’re pressed, say it’s from Shakespeare. If they know Shakespeare, say it’s from a Thoreau poem. If they can quote both Shakespeare and Thoreau verbatim, don’t worry, people stopped listening to the nerd years ago. The secret is safe.

The official definition:
Counting on the rockies - Hoping someone or something will perform a task which benefits you, even though this someone or something is very, very, very unlikely to do so.
The Rockies organization is a joke. No, that’s not true, because people like jokes. The Rockies are bad, stale jokes from a soon-to-be-cancelled sitcom. The Rockies are the jokes forwarded to your e-mail from workmates you don’t like. The Rockies are the kind of jokes which surface after a horrible national tragedy under the guise of a demented method of coping.

Everything this team has done in their existence has screwed the Giants. They couldn’t win a single game against the 1993 Braves, and the Giants lost the division by a single game. They lost 13 of 20 to the Diamondbacks in 2001, screwing the Giants. They developed Neifi Perez. In a secret bunker lab beneath a mountain, most likely. Perez hit a homerun against the Giants to prevent them from winning the wild-card in 1998. They couldn’t beat the Astros, and they couldn’t beat the Dodgers. They need no biscuit to roll over and drool on themselves, begging you to itch their bellies. They just do it.

The Rockies are not a baseball team. Every other team in the majors plays by one set of rules, but the Rockies are playing with 50-yard fields, and rebound nets behind the goalposts. The Rockies are a stain on the underwear of baseball. The Twins were being considered for contraction, and they’ve won three division titles since. The Rockies haven’t done anything, ever, to help the game of baseball in any capacity. They are the worst idea in the history of professional sports.

The Giants played their own way out of the playoffs, but the Rockies still suck. Worst idea in the history of professional sports. For good measure, it should also be brought up that John Elway is a tool.

“I was hoping the Giants wouldn’t break my heart this year.”
“Hmm. You shouldn’t count on the rockies like that.”
“Shut up.”


3) The analogy likening Brett Tomko to the entire Giants team fell apart on the day of reckoning. It seemed as if Tomko’s success in his last start would be inexorably linked to his team’s success. If Tomko wasn’t as good as he had been, then neither were the Giants.

That idea fizzled. Tomko was awesome, and the Giants still lost. Tomko went from water cooler punchline to 2005 Giant in a month. His fastball was suddenly dynamite, and his location was superb. Remove the Stone of Shame, and attach the Stone of Triumph, Brett. In a good rotation, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be more than a fourth starter, but he looks like a $2.5M bargain for next year. If Schmidt’s arm holds up, Lowry’s success wasn’t a fluke, Jerome Williams comes back healthy and improved, and Rueter regains his 1997 form, then the Giants would love to include Tomko in the best rotation in baseball. 2005, baby! Eat your heart out, 1971 Orioles!

In all seriousness, there is some hope there. Pedro’s arm has held together, so why not Schmidt’s? Lowry didn’t look like a fluke, and Williams is just getting started. If Rueter is traded, which would be a touch sad, maybe the Giants could get a starter who averages more than four innings per start, and...crap, I can’t believe this is even crossing my mind right now. Which of the Astros, Cardinals, and Braves are you absolutely sure the Giants couldn’t win a series against? None of the above. The other teams might have the edge, by a good margin even, but the Giants could have fluked into something.

Didn’t Dylan McKay's tragic loss teach you anything, Dustin? Stupid sideburns are bad luck. Pay attention next time.


4) The Dodgers finished above the Giants for the first time since 1996. They did it at home, in front of the fans who hadn’t left yet; the diehard fans. The true priests in the dark church. The scene was easy enough to imagine. Jose Lima probably played his own stupid CD in the clubhouse, and uttered “Lima Time” approximately 672 times. Wilson Alvarez, who is cosmically linked with the Giants in some weird, Altman-esque fashion, slithered over to get another bottle of champagne. Jeff Weaver carved “Slayer” into the bench in front of his locker with a pocketknife, then flipped the collar up on his denim jacket.

No Garvey, no Hershisher, no Piazza, no Karros, no problem. This was easily the most annoying Dodger team in memory. That comment will only make Dodger fans smile, but it had to be written.

It will be an interesting offseason. There is some definite egg on Sabean’s face. The trick, though, is to take that egg and make meringue! Natch! Hee hee heh hehea lkjadlj fGAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAGHHH STUPID GIANTS FUAAARRRRAGH!!!!!!!!!!!!

As a cop is questioning you in the hallway, another leading your significant other away in handcuffs, and still more are packing up the scales and the kilos of cocaine on the dining room table, you maybe think you'll change your life. Your priorities. Things that are important. Burned one too many times and this is it, you think.

Yet, we’ll come back. We always do. For we are idiots.

posted by G at 11:14 PM





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