Thursday, April 29, 2010

Velez Makes Women, Small Children Cry

These guys just will not allow me to enjoy myself.

The Phillies series may be the best example to date of why the Giants are so incredibly maddening. Despite all of the team’s warts, just one out separated the Giants from a sweep of the two-time defending NL Champs. And then it all came crashing down like the economy under a Republican Administration. Instead of celebrating victory, you find yourself kicking the cat and jabbing sharp objects into your temple to drown out the voices.

The bats showed up in Game One and Jonathan Sanchez won despite struggling mightily. The Giants homered twice in game two and Todd Wellemeyer got his first win, prompting him to be rushed to the hospital for observation. Then Tim Terrific threw what might have been his best game as a Giant in Game Three only to see a boneheaded managerial move, poor relief and a guy doing a Michael Jackson impression sour the soup.

So to date that’s three games the Giants have absolutely given away this year. I’m not talking about games where they didn’t hit (there are too many of those to count) but flat out gifts to the opposition. This team could easily be 15-6 instead of 12-9 (and that excludes losing a one-hitter), and I’d be humming a different tune.

Breaking down the Phillies series:

Game One: It seems that with Sanchez it’s always two steps forward, one step back. After dominating the Padres he looked like a rookie versus the Phils. He couldn’t throw strikes, couldn’t hold runners on base, and never seemed to find a rhythm. But he did make some big pitches when he needed to. All in all far too many freebies, and that’s what separates him from the elite. He’s Nuke Laloosh, he of the million-dollar arm and five cent head. If this kid ever puts it all together he’s going to be incredible, but how long do we have to wait for him to grow up? Fortunately the Giants gave him an early cushion, no doubt prompting some evil stares from Matt “Where the Eff is That When I Pitch?” Cain.

Two homers in the same frame from Giants hitters was a red flag in Game Two. I'm not saying the ball was juiced, but I launched my own investigation, cut one of the balls open and found a carburetor. The beneficiary was Wellemeyer, who still looked like crap but managed to get a win.

Watching Wellemeyer was like watching a guy tap dance in a minefield. He’s got a map and he’s confident of success. He’ll tell you he’s done it before and knows exactly the right path to success. But with every step you hold your breath and shield your eyes waiting for something to go boom. He ended up throwing 456 pitches and walking the population of Bolivia in the process, but it’s a win. With Wellemeyer you don’t ask questions. The victory was manna from Heaven, and I’ll take it.

Welllemeyer should definiitely have bought the beer for Nate Schierholtz, who was the star of the game. Ryan Howard just got gunned down again in his sleep, with Chase Utley making a guest appearance in the Phillies' baserunning nightmare. Expect to see more of what we observed in Howard's second AB. Nate may not throw out many more simply because guys are gonna slam on the breaks and retreat to first with their tails between their legs. There was chatter on-line about the loss of Randy Winn's defense, but after watching Winn throw a 47-hopper to first base the other night, I'll stick with our guy.

Then came the classic “WTF” game.

With Lincecum two outs from a 4-1 win, Mellonhead came with the hook. He got roundly booed by the fans, and it turns out they knew more about pitching that he did – like that’s a news flash. Wilson, while one of the best closers in the league, sometimes goes into another zone and thinks he’s a cross between Don Stanhouse, Brad Lidge, and the pitching machine we used at my high school. He can be instant drama, and when that happens it’s like a Schilling/Williams moment all over again. Cover your eyes ‘cause it’s gonna be ugly. Three runs later the game is tied, we’re headed for extras, and Lincecum is in the clubhouse wondering if Bochy’s office is flammable.

We can also talk about Affeldt’s struggles or Bengie whiffing on a catchable pitch to plate a run in the 10th but the real goat is Eugenio Velez, who in the 11th made us wonder why he bothered to take a glove into the field at all. Dude, you run TO the wall, not THROUGH it. As for the drop that followed, well, that’s the reason my wife doesn’t allow anything breakable near the TV anymore. What was that, were you watching playoff video of Jose Cruz?

So many things were mishandled that it’s impossible to enumerate them, but it showed one major problem with the philosophy of this team. Versatility isn’t necessarily a virtue. The Giants have approximately 96 guys on the roster if you figure in the multiple positions guys supposedly can play, but it’s the old saying about “jack of all trades, master of none” come to life. Velez isn’t an outfielder – actually he isn’t baseball player but he can run, so the Giants feel compelled to find him a place to play. On this day they needed a left fielder, not a generic substitute.

Velez, to me, is representative of a greater evil. There are easily five guys on this roster who are like your appendix: they might have been useful at one point but no one would notice if they were gone. Can anyone honestly tell me the team would be worse off if Velez, Wellemeyer, Medders, Renteria and Whiteside were abducted by aliens?

Gotta give some credit to the offense for gamely trying to come back, but again I’m a little leery. We’ve seen this before. When they hit, they don’t pitch. When they pitch, they don’t hit. Inconsistency wears Orange and Black.

Day off to recharge, then it’s Zito on the hill versus the Rockies on Friday. Let’s hope the Giants can score some runs, because Zito’s on a roll. Not bad for a 14th-round fantasy pick – even if I did gag when I said it.

When the team itself so regularly fails on a grand scale, it’s the little surprises that make you smile.

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