Monday, August 30, 2010

Colorado Signs Death Warrant on Giants' Season (Again)

On August 24, 2009, the Giants gave away a game to Colorado (bite me, Ryan Splibourghs) that effectively killed their season. A year and five days later -- same story.

In this world there are winners and losers, those who want the ball and those who treat it like a grenade, guys who perform when they must and those who soil the sheets. It appears the San Francisco Giants may be doing a lot of laundry.

I think you can sum up the current state of the Giants with a single observation: their pop gun offense doesn't leave any margin for error, yet the pitching and defense make far too many of those for them to be viable contender. There's an "it" factor that winning teams have, and that's something the Giants currently lack.

Leading 1-0 in the ninth, the Giants saw a walk and a pair of defensive misplays send them down to defeat. In the process, the season went with them..Stick a fork in them.

It should be noted that Jonathan Sanchez pitched well. Now he knows how the other half lives. Little run support and a defensive failure cost him the win. And again, plenty of culprits.

Let's set the stage. Sanchez goes to the hill to start the ninth. He's earned that right. But he also did the one thing you can't do in that situation, and that's walk the lead-off guy. At that point he was yanked, and rightfully so. With one of the game's best closers in the wings, you gotta pull the trigger.

It likely would have been fine had it not been for Brian Sabean's latest stroke of genius. Cody Ross, the waiver "gift" Sabean couldn't resist, butchered a fly ball to right. Freddy Sanchez, another dude Sabean had to have, compounded the misfortune by tossing the relay into the dugout. On one pitch the Giants make two miscues and a 1-0 lead becomes a 2-1 defiict.

The Giants hit the ball hard in the ninth but still went in order because Colorado has actual players who make actual plays. Game. Set. Match. Season.

Giants management should be ashamed. This is a pitiful excuse for a team, and it's headed in the wrong direction. In the search for a (budget) winning team, the Giants have created a squad that often can't seem to get out of its own way.

As soon as Sanchez issued the walk, only his second of the game, I had a sense of impending doom. That's how it is with the Giants. If you were a fan of the Yankees, or Colts, or Patriots, you'd be watching the critical juncture of the game anticiapting how they'd find a way to win. After all, they're "winners." With the Giants, you start calculating the number of ways they can louse it up.

In that regard, they rarely disappoint.

Lost in the defensive fog will be the fact that the stellar Giants offense managed just four hits. Four. They've scarificed defense in search of offense, and found neither.

This is the low point of 2010. Time to clean house. If more than half this team returns in 2011, fans should set fire to the ball park and call for management's collective head on a stick.

Remember July, when there was hope? Now there's just a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach because I know this team is doomed. Bad players, bad management, bad ownership. Everything about this stinks.

Since splitting a critical series against the Padres in mid August, the Giants have won just six times over a span of 16 games. This is not a contender.

Duane Kuiper once quipped: "Giants baseball --  torture." I used to agree, but you can't even call this baseball anymore.

Baseball is supposed to be fun. This isn't. This is just embarrassing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Staff Hits the Wall (but at least THEY Hit Something)

It was at about this point in 2009 that the Giants' posteseason train derailed, so it should come as no surprise that in 2010 the same thing is happening again.

It's the same team.

Oh sure, some of the faces have changed. That doesn't alter the basic character or construction of the team. They've depended far too long on one aspect of the game, worn it out, and now theyve got nothing left for that point in the season where the big boys earn their money.

I could take countless megabites detailing the current and ongoing failures of this Godforsaken franchise. But what galls me the most on this day isn't that they're collapsing like they just got hit by a hijacked airliner. It's that right now, they aren't even competing.

The wildcard continues to slip away, much as the division already has. It's telling that the last time the Giants found themselves alone in playoff position was the result of a day off. Interesting game, Professor Falken. The only winning move is not to play.

Over the last two nights you could watch the Giants take on the Diamondbacks and be told that one team was in a playoff race, one team was a cellar dwellar, and be asked to determine which was which. You'd guess wrong. Arizona is playing like it matters. The Giants? Not so much.

It's not like we didn't see this coming. I took the opportunity on the off day to go back a re-read some of my old posts. I wanted to see just how many times I predicted the pitching would wear out. I lost count. I was especially proud (and disturbed) about a comment from last Wednesday after Zito was forced to throw in relief. I predicted a debacle in his regular start, and I got one. Damn, I hate being right all the time.

I didn't however, predict that Jose Guillen would prove to be the worst outfielder in the Majors...which actually is kinda sad because he had pretty much proven that to be the case in Kansas City. He's stunk defensively for 14 years, but a change of scenery was sure to be the cure, right?

It seems that every deadline move made by Sabean is worse than the one that came before it -- and Guillen is playing like it's 2016. I mean. it's bad enough watching this guy ground into double plays (like the Giants needed more of that), flail away at high strikes like he was swatting nats, or patrol the outfield as though wading through jello. Now balls are clanging off his glove like Peter Criss banging on a hat cymbal. Six outfielders on the rotster and this is the guy who gets a starting nod?

My normal routine after Giants game is a beer. One more night of watching this "talent" screw the pooch and I may have to switch to black tar heroin.

Back to the basics. We were told the team would compete thanks to superior pitching and defense. The pitchers aren't getting it done and they're getting no help. The offense that took the field in April wasn't even mediocre. It was missing in action. Personnel moves since then have made little difference in that regard, but they have accomplished one thing -- they've destroyed the defense.

There's a Little League team from Hawaii that is more fundamentally sound than these guys.

The starters are simply worn out. Zito and Lincecum both have struggled, MadBum may have hit the wall, and Sanchez is, well, he's the same inconsistent annoyance he's always been. Only Cain is even remotely recognizable. For the entire staff to go south (well, Sanchez was already there), you gotta have a reason.

Stupidity. Sheer stupidity on the part of Giants management. As I noted back at the start, this happened last year. Where's the friggin' learning curve? The Giants are trying to win with pitching. Fine. But you can't win with ONLY pitching. As a whole, the Giants rotation may be a thoroughbred. Unfortunately the jockey didn't pace this one. They got rode hard out of the gate and they've turned into a nag at the top of the stretch.

Complete teams win titles. One-dimensional squads go home early and lament what might have been if they'd only had a few needed ingredients added to the stew. The Giants?

Looks like they'll be home for supper.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Nine runs down. San Francisco had NEVER overcome a nine-run deficit and gone on to win -- not in the 128-year history of the franshise. But finidng themselves a mere two outs away from doing just that, the Giants firmly wrapped both hands around their collective necks and gave it one heck of a squeeze.

I can't recall ever being this honked off about winning two out of three from a first-place team.  What could have been a herioc effort that lifted a team to glory turned into one of those days where you jam an ice pick into your temple in hopes of blocking out the memory. Instead of season-altering momentum builder we have yet another incident where you wonder if thre isn't a higher power with a serious grudge against Los Giantes.

After spanking Cinicnnati in the first two games of the series, a tremendous effort saw the Orange and Black come roaring back (a rhyme!) in the finale. But defensive miscues did in the so-called "pitching and defense" Giants, sending them down to yet another soul-crushing one-run extra-inning defeat.

Think about it: 38 runs in three games wasn't enough. A team that can generously be categorized as offensively challenged went on a three-day binge worthy of Amy Winehouse and Courtney Love. And the supposed strength of the team gacked it away.

Five errors. I watched the Little League World Series game later in the day and saw more competent play. And despite that, despite Madison Bumgarner showing all the control of a duece barrelling down the 101 half an hour after last call, the Giants were poised to prevail. Then it all came crashing down.

Two outs to go. A 10-1 deficit turned to an 11-10 advantage. No one on base. Routine ball to third. Sandoval retreats a step for the good hop, makes a clean grab and fires to first...


Mr. Sandoval, I believe the goat horns fit perfectly.

Panda's defense, or lack thereof, has grown from the check engine light illuminating to having smoke pouring out from under the hood. He again poses a threat to enemy pitchers but also puts the fans sitting behind first base in peril thanks to his errant throws.

Sandoval is in the midist of one of the worse fielding skids this side of Chuck Knoblauch.  Seriously, they gotta start getting this Terry Forster-ish tub of goo out of games when defense matters most. It's reached the point where the Giants need to consider Uribe or Fontenot as late-inning replacements because, as a fielder, Pablo couldn't be more frightening if he had been created in Rick Baker's creature shop.

God, I wanted to stand up and cheer when they rallied. A team with no capacity for coming from behind was about to do so in unprecedented fashion. The Giants hadn't gone double digits in three straight games since 1962 and had never come from nine down to win. Never. But on this date they were about to.....


Both the front office and field management crow about this team's versatility. Hogwash. The Giants needed a third baseman in this game. They had a guy playing third base, and that's not the same thing. Same story at shortstop, first base and left field. In this frantic and ill-conceived Hail Mary for offense, the defense is taking on water. Invariably you have to surrender some defense to get a hitter or two into the line-up, but the only positions on the diamond that don't currently lend themselves to perpetual ulcers are catcher, second base and center field. Balls hit to the rest generate apoproximately the same sense of impending doom as the national Russian Routlette finals.

Five errors. !@#$%^&*!@#$%^&*!!!

While I'm pointing out the foibles and failures of the front office (again), can we note for the record that the Giants six-man pen meant they ran out of pitchers, forcing Barry Zito into the fray on two days rest? How's that six outfielder thing working out, Brian? If Zito goes out in his next start and gets blasted, it's on your rather empty head. Ill-advised waiver claims, the gift that keeps on giving.

A totally disgusting game as the Giants lost an opportunity to take sole possession of a lead in the wildcard race. All it lacked was a Ryan Spilbourghs dinger and Jose Canseco coming in to pitch. Another opportunity wasted in a season full of blown chances. Should the Giants miss the playoffs, it's games like this we'll look back on and think "if only."

Day off on Thursday, and it couldn't come at a more opportune moment.

I need more time to drink, uh, think.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cody Ross: Our Savior

Wow. Twenty eight batters to the plate -- 27 outs. A Nate Schierholtz single in the ninth avoided the dreaded 27 for 27 clip, and that was the offensive highlight in a 9-0 shellacking as the Giants dropped two of three to the Redbirds. On a day when the thermometer read like an oven set for London broil, St. Louis hurler Jaime Garcia never even broke a sweat.

This was the low point of the season, not to mention a stunning indictment of the Giants as a whole. No pitching, less offense, and a defensive showing that was horiffic enough to leave Freddy Krueger cowering in terror. But have no fear, Cody Ross will make it all better.

There are so many things wrong with the Gians right now that it's hard to know where to begin. I need something to take my mind off all of this. Anyone got Elin Woods' phone number?

Since the Giants drew to within striking distance of San Diego, it's been all down hill. They've played three series -- all against contenders -- and lost each of them. Going a collective 3-6 against the Padres, Phillies and Cardinals (with the NL Central-leading Reds on deck) has pretty much eliminated any thoughts of winning the division. San Diego is on pace for 97 wins, meaning the Giants have to win 28 of their remaining 37 games to tie. The wildcard is more realistic with three teams within two games, but the Giants' chief competitiors for that prize are the two squads that just cleaned their clock.

Pardon me for not being too excited about their chances. But did I mention, Cody Ross is coming to save us?

As a lifelong fan I can still hope the Giants right the ship, but the total collapse we've seen over the past few games makes it hard to keep whistling in the dark. So instead I want to take a look at what went so so horribly wrong.

I've had a number of targets over the plast 70-plus posts, but one has been consistent. In most operations, stuff rolls downhill as most of the excrement starts at the top. Here that means Brian Sabean (and isn't it appropriate his initials are "BS"?)  Rather than spit venom -- I've done that enough already -- I want to take an unemotional, totally objective look at his performance in 2010.

He sucks. I mean, he really sucks. He really really really really really really really really really really really blows.

Look at the typical Giants line-up. None of the starting outfielders were there on Opening Day -- and the starting right fielder is now in Pittsburgh. His April first baseman spends half his time in the outfield. His big second base acquisition has been an offensive black hole. Shortstop is a revolving door. His starting catcher (signed in the off-season) is in Texas. The pen includes four mid-season acquisitions -- one of whom is on the DL. His off-season prize (DeRosa) was a no show. You can't blame Sabean for Sandoval's poor season -- although I think some pressure from the front office regrding conditioning was warranted -- so instead I'll blame him for global warming and soggy garlic fries.

So many moves is a tacit admission that the team he put together in spring trainng was less than up to snuff. You can say Sabean is making an effort to improve the squad (if you've been drinking heavily) but going into the season with the unit he did still means either he (a) didn't evaluate the team very well, (b) was lying his ass off when his said this was a better team than a year ago, or (c) he is just the unluckiest SOB on the planet and none of this is his fault.

Toss out Option C. No one is that unlucky seven years in a row, and that's the length of time the Giants are looking at since their last trip to the postseason. If it's B, shame on us for the same reason -- we didn't get the message the first six times? I opt for A.

Did I mention that he really really really really really really really really really really really sucks? But, he got us Cody Ross.

In case you missed it, Satan, uh Sabean,  made no move at the trading deadline to bolster an offense that needed a shot of adrenaline directly to the heart. What we got was half a Red Bull as he systematically tried to corner the market on medicore outfielders and reserve infielders. Guillen, Fontenot, now Ross. My toes are tingling. Who needs another Clark-Williams-Bonds when we can have Moe, Larry and Curly? Dontrelle Willis will soon appear in the role of Schemp. Sabean has done everything but lift a torch in the harbor:  "Give us your tired, your poor, your no longer useful." The Giants are the MLB equivalent of a rescue mission.

The acquisition of Ross on waivers from Florida brings the list of Giants outfielders to six (seven if you count the vagabond Huff). Bowker went bye-bye, Rowand just went south, and Scheirholz is currently in witness protection. The bright spot is Torres, and Burrell brings a professional approach to the plate but is a defensive liability more suitied to hit sixth on a contender. The latest additions (Guillen and Ross) are nothing more than grasping at straws with both players available only because their non-contending teams were willing to give them away.

As appalled as I was that the Giants signed a wretch like Jose "Molina Speed" Guillen (and changing your uniform number to ditch Bengie's old number "1" doesn't make you faster), it's the Cody Ross move that has finally pushed me over the edge.

Ross: .265 BA, 11HR, 58RBI. He doesn't stink, but he won't make anyone forget Barry Bonds -- or Mike Aldrete for that matter. He's yet another center fielder on a team that likes to play DHs at the corners. Someone needs to tell Sabean that MLB doesn't stand for Must Like Beer and he doesn't get to play a rover.

Worse, the repreated moves have done little to strengthen the offense but are crippling the defense. The Giants glove unit is about as loose as Paris Hilton's morals, and the video highlights aren't nearly as much fun. We can talk about the struggles of the pitching staff, a major concern, but a lot of innings are being extended by a defense that makes even routine plays an adventure unfit for anyone this side of Indiana Jones.

Numbers aside, here's my compalint. Sabean claimed Ross on waivers, obstensibly to keep him from getting to San Diego. But Ross doesn't help the Giants -- in fact his acquisition meant the Giants had to DFA middle infielder Matt Downs. Remember Downs? Earlier this year Sabean sang his praises. But, we clearly needed a sixth (or seventh) outfielder. Mission accomplished.

A similar move wasn't made when Derek Lee, an impact bat at a postion of need, hit the waiver wire. He was reportedly headed for Philadelphia or Atlanta. From Sabean? Crickets. Lee goes to Atlanta for three VERY minor leaguers, a used fungo and a rosin bag.

To recap: the Giants passed on a player they could use who was bound for teams they're likely battle for the wildcard but clamied a player they can't use to keep him from going to a team they have no hope of catching. Did I mention that Sabean really really really really really really really really really really really sucks?

Do you know who I really feel sorry for (besides the fans)? Nate Shierholtz. He's gotta be curled up in a corner wondering whether to laugh, cry, or put the barrell in his mouth and pull the trigger. The guy gets one AB a week and then is exiled back to the pine. Every roster move pushes the spring training "his job to lose" guy further down the depth chart. Through no fault of his own he's in a hole so deep he can't get out with pitons and a climbing rope.

This team is a mess. It was fun for awhile, but they're stuck in quicksand and every movve just makes them sink deeper into the muck. This is the time to stop struggling and hope someone tosses them a rope. The powers that be have to realize that what they're doing isn't working. That rope has to come from ownership -- and they need to hang Sabean with it.

The 2010 season is gone. Long live 2011 -- and the post-Sabean regime.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Heroic Sanchez Saves the Universe

Ther's a great Star Trek episode (okay, most of them are great) where a transporter accident splits Captain Kirk into good and evil halves. The evil half got most of the screen time, and come to think of it he looked a lot like Jonathan Sanchez.

On Thursday it was (finally) the good Kirk, uh, Sanchez, who made an appearance -- surrendering just two hits in eight innings in a 5-2 win against the Philliles to capture a game the Giants pretty much had to have. San Francisco trails the Padres by six games it the NL West (yeah, they're done) but have crawled back to within a game of the Phills for the charity pass into the playoffs.

So, after a season of relentless bagging on Sanchez, am I willing to relent? Sure. And I'm also planning on voting Republican, going vegetarian, and painting my den Dodger blue. He had a great game. Fine. How can a guy with stuff like that go 9-8?  Figure that out and you can replace both Sabean and Bochy. Until then, the adage about blind squirrels finding acrorns comes to mind.

Can't say too much aboout the game because, quite frankly, I only saw bits and pieces. Just knowing Sanchez was on the mound and the offense wasn't hitting worth a farthing was enough to send me scurrying for alternative forms of entertainment. There was a doubles tournament on The Parcheesi Channel and there's always Dodgeball on ESPN 8 (The Ocho), not to mention Bravo's marathon of The Real Houswives of Fresno. Tough call.

I will note that his outing, one hit and just 100 pitches before he started to look mortal, caused a change in my schedule. The pitchforks and torches have been closeted temporarily while my friends and I have delayed our plans for Jonathan Sanchez night -- at which time we'd planned to burn him in effigy (or in person if available).

Dude, you have a reprieve. Don't blow it.

The offense woke up, sort of. Freddy Sanchez scored twice, both times being doubled in by Posey (with an assist from Shane Victorino's MLS audition). Pat Burrell drew a walk, which wouldn't be noteworthy except the Giants had gone 94 PAs without one. Even Guillen got a pair of safeties. An immediate investigation was launched by the commissioner's office. Screw Roger Clemens, we gotta get to the bottom of this, and now.

Of course, the Giants still gave us reason for worry. Sanchez opened up the ninth with a line shot and a 2-0 count before getting the hook. Yep, two-hit shutout (at the time) or not, he was turning back into the evil Kirk -- displaying the slumped shoulders and hang dog expression that usually precedes a nuclear meltdown. Sergio Romo was awful in relief, and what had been a five-run lead got more than a little uncomfortable before Brian Wilson slammed the door.

The sticks still are a reason for concern. Five straight hits in the first inning netted three runs, and not much thereafter. The offense did nothing after the fourth except provide some high comedy, courtesy the Panda. When the ball is in play, drop the piano and run, genius. His considerable physical failings are starting to become an afterthought when put up against the mental mistakes. He also failed to cover third on a steal attempt, so clearly he's not all there.

Anyone seen Ryan Rohlinger lately?

But, for a night the win at least keeps the wolves away from the door. The Giants head to St Louis for three, then come home for a trio with the Reds. They can look forward to nine more games with the hapless D-backs (six of those at AT&T), but they need to beat the wildcard contenders for those games to matter. It starts now.

Live Long and Prosper.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meet the New Boss, Same As The Old Boss

For a team that's supposed to win with pitching and defense, the Giants certainly don't seem to be doing a very good job of it. Neither showed up in Philly (again) and the result was another 8-2 pounding. In the process, the Giants lost contact with the wildcard leaders and dropped three in a row for the first time since I lit fireworks in the back yard.

My boys (both 16 months old) cried when the fireworks went boom, kinda like I want to do seeing the Giants' season suffer a similar fate. The last time I saw this kind of collapse there was video of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge involved.

The Giants are in freefall, the Padres are running away with the division, and San Francisco's closest competitors in the wildcard race are cleaning their collective clock. The 2010 season has sailed off into the sunset,  just as 2009 did.

I hate to say I told you so (not really), so instead I offer this portion of my rant from December 30, 2009:

"No one but the most delusional of Pollyannas can look at the Giants' off-season moves and think the team is any better off than it was in 2009...If someone can answer this one simple question for me, I might be a little less likely to scale a clock tower with a deer rifle: How can the team get better if it doesn't get better players?"

I was hopefull when Bill Neukom took over that the Giants would change direction. Instead the true culprits (Sabean and Bochy) were given new contracts. So the results, like the team in charge, haven't changed much. With apoloigies to Dennie Green, the Giants are exactly who I thought they were.

Neukom made a big deal out of two points, establishing a "Giants Way" to play, and getting better each year. You tell, me, how's that working out? Fail. Epic fail.

The Giants fattenend up on some crappy competition in July, and the illusion was put in place. "The Giants are contenders" we were told. They even built a marketing slogan around the phrase "we're in this thing." What they're in is deep excrement. Despite that one stretch where they won 21 of 26 against the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Giants are exactly ONE GAME better off than they were at the same point in 2009. Sorry, but that's no reason to crow. The bottom line is that the Giants AREN'T any better. In fact, take out that one hot streak and they're three games under .500. Ouch!

The old cliche still rings true: the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Giants were unproductive at the plate last year. Same story in 2010. They were undisciplined at the plate. Ditto. You could easily argue that the defense is worse -- especilly with Pablo's struggles and the presence of jurassic-era creatures once thought extinct roaming the outfield.

There have been a few nice surprises, notably Huff and Torres, but the rest of the team either stood pat or regressed -- and the latter means you, Timmy and Pablo. I can't see where anyone on this team got significantly better. Worse, the mid-season moves made by the front office aren't helping at all. Jose Gillien? Not only did he bring Molina's number 1 to right field, he brought Bengie's speed. You can sacrifice one side to a bat (Burrell), but now the Giants have to guys in the outfield who give daily evidence why they were DHing in the American League. No range in the outfield, and none on the left side now that Sandoval and Uribe''s bloodstreams have tested at 94 percent for Cinnabon. That's no way to make your pitching staff look good.

Look at Game Two in Philly. The Giants took an early lead but lost it, largely on a Jimmy Rollins leadoff triple that was a three- bagger only because Guillen stopped for a cheesesteak before digging it out of the corner. The inning was extended twice, by Fontenot booting a grounder and a single through the left side that would have been fielded had the Giants possessed an infielder whose range was greater than that of your average garden slug. Matt Cain did surrender the two-out bomb, but he had a lot of assistance getting to that point.

It didn't help that the bullpen melted down for the second straight night or that the offense is on hiatus. Think about it. The Giants got a run on three hits in the first inning. Until Burrell homered in the sixth, the Giants managed just one more baserunner --and that was on an infield single. The Giants homered four times in two games -- and scored five runs. Talk about chicken or feathers.

Here's an interesting stat, courtesy the San Francisco Chronicle. Remember all that talk about the Giants being more selective at the plate? They haven't drawn a walk since the third inning of the San Diego finale, and the guy who drew that freebie was Lincecum. Uribe is swinging at throws to first base, Sandoval believes anything between the dugouts is viable, and the rest of the team is swinging from its collective backside in the hope they might get lucky and connect. It's not happening.

Has 2010 been better? We'll there was some excitement for awhile, but you gotta look at the campaign as a whole. When you compare records, saying 2010 was better than 2009 is like saying Betty White was more attactive than Bea Arthur. True? Sure, but when you were hoping for Angelina Jolie you're not exactly thrilled with the outcome. Are the Giants having a better year? Yeah, just like Lindsay Lohan is having better year than Brittany Murphy.

Six weeks to go. Derek Lee is in Atlanta, Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick in San Diego, but we get to enjoy Jose Guillen down the stretch. Yippee!

These guys aren't even fun to watch. It's $250 a year for the MLB package and $300 a pop to take a family of four to the ballpark. For what? Right now if the Giants were playing in my back yard, I'd close the shades and watch Jeopardy.

When does college football start?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zito Explains It All

"We've got to do a better job, myself included," said Zito. "We've just got to give the team a better chance to win, hold them to two or less if we can, go seven strong."

So reported the San Jose Mercury News after the Giants spit the bit at Philly, blowing an early 2-0 lead (and the Wild Card advantage) in a disgustingly ugly 9-3 loss. While Zito was talking about the pitchers, that little comment says everything you need to know about the state of the Giants offense.

Zito basically said the pitchers have to post sub 2.5 ERAs then hope the bullpen doesn't implode to have a chance to win. Think the staff isn't feeling the pressure of poor run support just a touch? These guys know every time they go to the hill that they have to be nearly perfect. There's no time they go to the mound and think "just keep it close and my guys will back me up."

This isn't like it's some offensive drought. This has been the Giants for years now. I'm still convinced that Matt Cain's contract extension in the off-season was a demand: "If I gotta put up with this crap, you're gonna pay!"

Giants starters haven't won in the last 13 games, and they've got an ERA approaching six over that span. Yep, the dog days are here and the pitching is showing the wear and tear of having to carry the load. The only guy who really hasn't faltered is Jonathan Sanchez -- who has disappointed from Day One. Every game, every inning, every pitch has all the streess of underwater bomb disposal. It's hard to watch as a fan. Imagine being the guy trapped in the eye of that hurricane.

Philadelphia simply wore Zito down, and the bullpen always seems to have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. When you can't count on the offense and the bullpen is -- to be charitable, inconsistent -- the starters are eventually gonna crack. It's not that they stink, it's that three or four guys can't consistently carry 25.

I'm sure we all enjoyed that great July run, but even that stretch was an illisiion. The G-men scored 149 runs for the month but had a handfull of games that inflated the numbers. Three runs, or less, was the norm. The winning streak wasn't as much about HOW they were playing but WHO they were playing. The Giants fattened up on Arizona, Washington, Milwaukee and the Mets. Now they're playing contenders, and it shows.

Oh, the Padres had a rough schedule in July. Remember the teams the Giants beat up? Well, that's the Padres' dance card for August. The Giants cut a seven-game deficit to one and a half. Now it's five, and it's likely that once the cycle is completed they'll be right back where they started. It's kinda like taking the lead in a NASCAR race because you stayed on the track while everyone else headed for the pits. No one is very concerned with you because they know you've gotta come in sooner or later -- either that or run out of gas.

The Giants' engine is sputtering just short of Turn Four. The engine will kick and spit and occasionally roar, but they don't have enough to bring it to the line.

The honest truth is the Giants probably aren't as bad as they appear right now, but they aren't nearly as good as they looked in July. They're just on the up side of mediocre, posting a 43-18 record against teams with losing records. Versus teams that are .500 or better -- the teams you have to beat to be taken seriously -- the Giants are a rousing 24-35. Case closed.

So, they gave us a thrill but they're done, and sans a quality acquisition this is what we can expect for the near future.

God, that's a depressing thought. Where's the cyanide?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Hear that noise coming from AT&T Park? Me neither. That. my friends, is the sound of silence. And right now,  nothing is more silent that the Giants offense.

After Sunday's disappointing setback against San Diego I turned the page on 2010. As was noted in my first thome on this page, some 70 posts ago, I know a season-ending loss when I see one. Dropping two of three to San Diego and going a paltry 6-7 over the past two weeks, it's not hard to envision Giants slowly fading into the proverbial sunset.

At 67-52 the season is hardly a failure, but the sad fact is that the Giants have 43 games remaining to make up a four-game deficit. San Diego is 70-47, playing at a .600 pace. If that continues, the Pads finish the campaign at 97-65. Just to tie, the Giants would have to go 30-13 the rest of the way. If San Diego just plays .500 ball it means a 93-win season for the Friars and the Giants needing to win 26 of 43 to make up the ground.

In short, the Giants have to get hot AND count on San Diego folding like a cheap lawn chair. Anyone this side of Pete Rose wanna take bets on that happening?

So with the division effectively gone, you start looking at the Wild Card. It ain't pretty. The rules say they can't face San Diego in the Division Series, not that it matters much. Atlanta leads the East and we just saw how well the Giants fared against the Braves. Should they survive that match-up, and the likelyhood of that is about the same as me hooking up with Stacy Keibler tonight, the Padres could await.

I'm brimming with excitement. I think I'll wet my pants.

So this is the point in the season where there's still a glimmer of hope somewhere deep in my reptilian brain, but logically I know the wait for a ring is going to go on for at least another year -- now at 56 years and counting. I'll also lament the season that might have been.

What if Brian Sabean had acquired a couple of legitimate bats? What if Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner had been with the team since Day One, meaning no time or cash wasted on Bengie Molina or Todd Wellemeyer? What if Pablo Sandoval had shown up in shape (a circle is not a shape, Panda)? What if time and money hadn't been wasted on Mark DeRosa or Edgar Renteria?

Sadly, every season under Brian Sabean's, uh, leadership is filled with these "what if" questions. The Giants always seem to be at least a couple of  fries short of a Happy Meal, and I blame the cook.

Being a baseball general manager isn't rocket science. To be sure, there's a skill involved in contract negotitions, but Sabean presides over an entire cadre of professionals who handle the grunt work. His job is to be the overseer, the guy keeping his eye on the big picture. He has failed miserably. Any general manager who goes into two consecutive seasons with Bengie Molina as the clean-up hitter doesn't have all of his oars in the water to begin with, and expecting Mark DeRosa or Jose Guillen to be the cure only gives further proof of the level of his disconnect from reality.

Strict adherence to a pitching-and-defense mentality quit paying dividends in the 1960s. You have to be a complete team. To see what I'm talking about, you need look back no farther than last weekend. Both the Giants and Padres can pitch. San Diego played better defense but the Giants only sucked with the gloves when Sandoval was involved. The Padres, howevwer,  have some semblance of an offense. It's not a great one, but it's better than San Francisco's.

Aye, there's the rub. The Giants are built to beat teams that rely solely on offense. Shut them down, and they can take advantage of average pitchers enough to squeak out a few wins. But when they go up against a team that can match them on the mound, offensively they've brought a knife to a gun fight.

At least it's good for Bay Area retailers specializing in Pepto Bismol and Alka Seltzer sales.

Sabean's "fixes" aren't fixes at all. Renteria, DeRosa, F. Sanchez, Jose Guillen -- who is he kidding? These are the guys expected to carry a team? It's not that his acquisitions don't produce, it's that no one in his right mind would ever look at any of these players as the missing ingredient to a championship team. These are the guys you bring on to add depth to a roster, not to power it. Sabean's modus operandi has been to blow all his jack on nice rims for his ride but fail to tune the engine.

The unspoken truth in Sabeanland is that pitching, like any other part of the game, is subject to slumps. There are times when even the best just can't get guys out -- ask Tim Lincecum. Command is off, dunkers fall in, your third baseman takes a bite out of the ball (and swallows). A balanced team can steal some of those games back with the bats. A team that doesn't even attempt to field a competitive offense is essentially forfeiting those games.

The Giants have lost 18 games by one run -- five of them to San Diego. Think another bat or two wouldn't have made a difference in the standings? Heck, if they'd won HALF of those the division race would be a cakewalk.

And here's what really scares me. Pitching doesn't last. Really, how many pitchers do you know that remain at the top of their game for extended periods? If you get 4-5 years from an ace, you should consider yourself blessed. The Greg Maddux / Roger Clemens types don't come along very long. When you get that kind of pitching, screw the future because the odds are it won't last. The odds of multiple guys being that good that long? Even worse. You break the bank and go for it, knowing you might not get another chance.

Not the Giants. It's pitching, pitching, pitching. We'll worry about the offense next year. "Next Year" never comes. Ask Pittsburgh, which tried the same tactic and hasn't been relevant in two decades. In the meantime the Giants have wasted TWO Cy Young campaigns from Lincecum and are blowing through the best years of Matt Cain's career.
The Giants can make all the claims they want about bolstering in the off-season or building from within. The fact remains that they had one of the best 1-2s in baseball but didn't get anything to go with it, and they have no guarantee that the pitching will show up next year. Lincecum's recent struggles alone show how fleeting mound mastery can be.

Of course, there's also no guarantee the Giants will ever try to upgrade their offense. That claim has rung hollow for years. They had opportunities this year but balked because they don't want to give up pitching. Someone needs to explain to Sabean that you must surrender value to get value. Otherwise all you can do what Sabean does -- take out someone else's trash. Ricky Ledee anyone?

Such is the life of a Giants fan, summed up into two words: "What If?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Vegas, Baby!

Here's a tip on how to make a killing in Las Vagas. Wait until the Giants face a critical series, then bet the farm ... against them.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that we'd know a lot about the Giants by August 15. The "Contender or Prentender" question would be answered. Since then they split a pair in Colorado, struggled to take a series from the lowly Cubs, and had their clocks cleaned by San Diego and Atlanta. Contender? Not likely.

The Giants are 3 1/2 games out, hardly an insurmountable advantage. But keep in mind they went on a month-long hot streak and still made up a grand total of four games. They face the team they need to hunt down for two more series, including the last three games of the campaign, and they clearly can't beat them on a regular basis.

It was at just about this same point in 2009 that they sufferend the extra-inning debacle in Colorado that spelled their doom. The numbers didn't say the Giants had no chance, but we all knew it to be true. In 2010, the story hasn't changed much.

In a game they had to have, The Freak freaked out and the offense pulled yet another disappearing act. Four hits. Four lousy hits -- and three of them by Posey. The latest ill-advised acquistion, Jose Guillen, got the fourth yet managed to screw that up by trying to stretch a double into a triple and being thrown out from here to Brisbane.

Conventional baseball wisdom is you never make the first out at third or home, but Guillen -- who ran like a giraffe on qualudes -- didn't get the memo. Hey, it was a close play. They only got him by, what, about 30 feet? Welcome to San Francisco, Jackwaagon.

I still don't get the acquisition of Guillen. Once again the Giants waited far to long to make a move, and then did far too little. This team neded an impact bat. It got a .255 hitter with his 10th team in 14 seasons. You can argue that if he's had that many addresses then there was always someone who wanted him. Yeah, but Celine Dion is popular in elevators -- that doesn't mean she should headline Woodstock.

I guess Shea Hillenbrand wasn't available.

Another series, and season, down the tubes. God, there are times I hate this team.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nostradamus Lays an Egg

Note to Jonathan Sanchez: until you can actually contribute to your team, keep your damn mouth shut.

It took just nine innings for Sanchez's guarantee of a Giants weekend sweep of the Padres to blow up in his face. Of course, Nostradamus wasn't around to see the end of it as he once again failed to get out of the sixth frame.

I'm gonna keep saying it until someone listens -- the only value Sanchez has is as trade bait. The Giants should deal him, and pronto. Even if all it brings is a bad of diamond dust and a pine tar rag, this fool has got to go. And if Brian Sabean is so convinced of this guy's capabilities, than Sabes neeeds to be on the same outbound flight.

Of course, there's still plenty of blame to go around. The Giants dropped their eighth game to the Padres in nine tries. Five of those losses have been by one run.

Think another bat or two wouldn't have made a difference?

And how did the Giants address this need. Adam Dunn? Stephen Drew? No way, not when there's a has-been malcontent "veteran" to be had. Welcome Jose Guillen, who will now play for his tenth Major League team. As was written previously -- the Giants already have two water buffalo in the outfield. They didn't need a jackass.

How far can this team sink? Guillen is a .255 hitter with no defensive skills who may be the worst team guy this side of Milton Bradley. The last time someone was this bad inside the clubhouse, Spike was beating the crap out of Spanky and Alfalfa.

Not much more to say about this. The Giants are 3 1/2 games out and being absolutely schooled by the team they're chasing. The front office is clueless, the offense anemic, and the team "spokesman" exhibits about as much control of his mouth as he has of his fastball.

Screw this season and this team. Going to go throw up now.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Flaws Unearthed as Giants Stumble to Win

I suppose it's true of any team when it's going bad, but it seems that every game highlights yet another Giants flaw.

Game One against the Cubs was no exception. They finally got off the schneid with a Renteria blooper, Huff breaking a 1-for-18 skid, and  Pat Burrell's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the 11th. But it was one of those wins where you don't celebrate, you just breathe a sign of relief.

Hats off to Madison Bumgarner, who once again pitched better than the numbers would show. The defense let him down, and several plays that should have been made weren't. Too often the Giants were just a step too slow. Hard to blame the pitcher in that regard.

Poor defense was evident. So was the infield's lack of range, which extended a number of innings. There was poor placement of the infielders -- why the hell was Uribe at double play depth with two out in the first? Lack of team speed came into play when Ishikawa was gunned down in the 10th. The double play bug was back in full force. And of course, once again the Giants coudn't seem to get the big hit when it mattered.

Totally forgettable game from Sandoval. One hit (with two weak grounders) before being lifted in a sixth-inning double switch. But his defense was the real sore spot. He could have gotten Bumgarner out of the first unscathed but geeked a playable liner. Range -- or lack thereof -- played a role on an infield single. He gagged on two throws: one going for an error and Ishikawa saving his bacon on another. He needs to contribute something more than a gimmick to sell cute hats, and right now he's not geting it done.

They say Sandoval plays with a lot of little kid in him. You know how that kid got in there? Pablo ate him.

Burrell turned in a nice game, adding two doubles and a pair of walks to his game-winner. He's not the impact bat the Giants need, but his approach is something the rest of the team needs to emulate. Burrell rarely beats himself. This team has too many guys who are more than willing to contribute to their own demise.

Other than Burrell's sac fly, the only good news of the day came when the Giants designated Todd Wellemeyer for assignment. Not to blow my own horn, but a carefull review of this blog will prove that I never wanted this stiff. I also questioned the signings of DeRosa, Huff, Burrell, Molina and Uribe. I hated Bautista and Casilla. I've never been a proponent of either Sanchez.

Okay, I missed on Huff and, to an extent, Burrell. With regard to the rest, the Giants would have been better served with me as the GM instead of Brian Sabean. Of course, that's not saying much. The Giants would be better off handing the reigns to a chimpanzee as opposed to Satan, uh, Sabean.

The law of averages appears to be catching up with these guys. They certainly weren't good enough to go on the run they had in July based on talent alone. They got a lot of breaks against some teams that have real issues. You had to figure that at some point that would even out. The hope was that the Giants would work to improve the team in the interim. Instead they chose to ride the streak and hope it lasted forever.

No streak does. Eventually the Giants had to come back down to Earth, and the front office didn't provide any help to cushion the fall.

So it was a win, but you wouldn't  expect to struggle this badly against a team that came in 17 games under .500 and sans two big cogs in it's offense (Lee, Soto). Right now, win or lose, the Giants squad can be described with one word: bleh!

Road Trip Brings G-Men Back to Reality

After a 21-of-27 roll, the Giants went on the road and absolutely soiled the sheets. A 2-4 run through Colorado and Atlanta surely prompts the question: "How'd they manage to win two?"

It's becoming increasingly evident that the July offensive explosion was a mirage. We crawled through the desert looking at the water in the distance, but upon closer inspection we found out there was no oasis and were were left nothing to drink but sand.

Over the last five games on the trip, the Giants averaged an anemic 2.4 runs a game. Even the one victory they managed was due to Atlanta ineptitude and not any accomplishement by the orange and black. San Diego's uncharacteristic struggles at Arizona helped minimize the damage, but the fact remains that the Giants offense simply isn't very good.

Think about it. San Francisco struck for two runs in the first inning of the Atlanta series. Over the next 37 innings, they scored in just six of them, and in each of those it was a single tally. You simply can't sustain a winning streak against quality competition when your offense depends upon enemy miscues to be productive.

And, of course, the pitching needs to be perfect. It wasn't bad until Sunday, when the usual suspects showed up to whiz in the punch bowl.

At least one prediciton of mine came to pass: Todd Wellemeyer got called into action as the long man because Jonathan Sanchez once again proved that he, well, he sucks. Worse, Wellemeyer did exactly as I anticipated, which mean he sucked too. It appears the Giants have decided forfeiting every fifth day is a legitimate tactic as opposed to actually trying to fix a glaring problem. Of course, if they were into fixing glaring problems they might have actually acquired someone who could hit long before now.

The Atlanta series highlighted everything that it wrong with this team. Every hitter in the Atlanta line-up is dangerous. The San Francisco line-up counts on Huff (a journeyman) and Posey (a rookie) to carry the load. Beyond that all they really do is pray for Sandoval to end his season-long skid and hope either Burrell or Uribe runs into one. An offense predecated on wishful thinking isn't likely to play in October.

But, back to the Chuck-and-Duck Twins. Neither Sanchez nor Wellemeyer has done anything consistently this year other that raise the blood pressure of fans. Wellemeyer's most significant contribution was getting hurt and allowing Bumgarner to take his spot in the rotation. Perhaps some sort of booby trap in his locker is called for -- and it would be just wonderful if Sanchez ended up as collateral damage.

Nice line for Sanchez, who lasted an iron man-like four innings and surrendered four runs. He struck out four but walked the same number (including the opposing pitcher, who of course scored) while allowing pair of long balls. And sadly, that was better than Wellemeyer's outing. Four batters, four hits. Wow, glad we brought that hero back. Who's next, Brandon Medders? What was the point in letting Bautista go? Wellemeyer is Bautista -- without the Ks.

Funny how the Giants refuse to part with a guy like Sanchez. He's made 23 starts this year, and had back-to-back quality starts exactly once. That's right. Once. Uno. And it's not like he's an innings eater either. He averages 5 2/3 innings (and about 600 defense-numbing pitches) per start. Compared to the top of the rotation he simply doesn't measure up. He also can't claim youth and inexperience like Bumgarner -- and to my eye MadBum is out-pitching him.

There comes a point where potential becomes unrealized, and a player transitions from prospect to disappointment. Sanchez is there. This is his fifth season in the bigs. If he hasn't figured it out by now, it stands to reason that he isn't going to. Better to deal him for something that might be of value rather than wait until the rest of baseball catches on to the act and his value plummets.

It's not like the Giants haven't seen this before. Todd Linden and Kevin Frandsen quickly come to mind as poker hands the Giants held way too deep into the game hoping in vain to draw an inside straight. Better off to fold and have some chips for the next hand.

You could sum up the current state of the Giants up by having someone watch the first two innings of Sunday's game. The Giants had a threat in the first inning but got nada after lining into a double play. They struck for a run in the second and could have had more, but refused Atlanta's gift. With a runner at third and one out, Freddie Sanchez popped up to short, only to see Alex Gonzalez watch the ball fall untouched. Now it's first and third with one out, but yet another DP killed the would-be rally.

Then in the bottom of the frame, J-San got lit. A lead-off double and a grounder behind the runner put a man on third with one out. Sanchez then served a 3-2 homer to David Ross -- who hadn't gone yard all year. Not content with that, he walked the next two hitters, including pitcher Derek Lowe. An infield single loaded the bags, and a sac fly had the G-men in a 3-1 hole. They never got out.

There was so much wrong with that exchange, but what really killed me was how Atalnta -- which had been struggling at the plate -- put on a clinic at creating a rally. Sanchez coudn't find the zone. The Braves hitters were patient, letting him get himself into deeper trouble. They took advantage of count leverage. They hit behind runners. They looked for balls to lift in sac fly situations. They did all of the little things that winning clubs do -- and the Giants don't.

Still can't figure out why the Giants are carrying 13 pitchers, although a web report I read said Manny Burris is coming up so someone's gotta go. The fact that the Giants carried 13 says so much about this team's overreliance on pitching -- to the detriment of all else. They've ignored the offense for far too long.

Think about this, if the season were over today the Giants would be in the playoffs. Their reward: a trip to Atlanta. anyone looking forward to that?

D-Day is here. Four games at home with the Cubs begin tonight, then it's four straight series with contenders: at home versus San Diego, at Philly and St. Louis, then home to face the Reds. This is it. Right the ship or start thinking about 2011 -- perferably with some major changes. This team, as constructed, hasn't shown it has the goods.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Offense? We Don't Need No Stinking Offense!

Three hits. Count 'em. Three hits. Tres. Not four, three. Three @$^@ hits.

What can you say? Yet another game where the Giants proved that absent a lesser opponent or a significant amount of charity, they're impotent.

It wasn't the greatest outing for Matt Cain, who surrendered all three runs in the fifth. But he could have thrown a friggin'  masterpiece and it wouldn't have mattered. The Giants haven't scored runs for him in his entire career -- further evidence that anyone who calls this a slump is in total denial about the team's shortcomings. Slumps don't last five seasons, and that's how long it's been since this team's offense was worth a flip.

It appears that the Giants' singular offensive strategy is to bore the opposition into submission. It worked on Friday, but the old "fool me once" adage seems to have come into play. At least they solved that can't-hit-with-runners-in-scoring-position quandry: they just don't bother to put anyone in that situation.

Just how inept can Brian Sabean be? The offense has stunk during virtually his entire tenure in San Francisco. No current team with a postseason drought at long as San Francisco's still has the same GM that started the skid. Yet Sabean makes millions per season to sit back in his cushy private box and watch as season after season of outstanding starting pitching gets wasted.

He dares to classify anyone critical of his decisions as part of the "lunatic fringe." Who's more of a lunatic, the thousands who keep clamoring for a legitimate middle-of-the-order stick or the guy who continues to claim the team doesn't need one despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? Jeez, Brian. You'd think a 55-year drought would be a friggin' clue.

The Giants depserately needed at least one more bat at the deadline. They got two journeyman pitchers. Now that August is here he makes a half-hearted attempt via a waiver claim on Dunn -- which failed. Too little, too late. Speculation is that the Dodgers blocked the move. Washington was going to pull back the claim regardless, but why did Sabean wait until other teams even had blocking opportunities?

Sabean sits on his hands hoping that an answer will magically appear. Meanwhile, the Giants have missed a golden opportuity with San Diego spitting the bit in Arizona. One can be thankful that the Giants aren't losing ground, but failing to fall farther behind isn't supposed to be the goal.

The idea (supposedly) is to win. I don't know what the goal of the front office is, but that certainly isn't it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Get a #%##$^ Bat!

Short post tonight because there's very little to say that hasn't already been said. It was a win, the Giants are one game back, and I'm just sick about it.

Numbers on Zito, who despite the long balls was brilliant. He'll get bagged on for giving up two round-trippers but I'm not going there. I care only about the total, and Zito's line was more than acceptable: 7IP, 2ER, 4H, 10K, 2BB. Yet again he left the game trailing. Why? Because this offense blows.

In 11 innings the offensive juggernaut known as the San Francisco Giants managed just four hits. Granted, that is four more than the '27 Yankees could have done against Hanson tonight, but keep in mind that they'd be playing with a handicap -- they're all dead.

Which is a good description of the Giants offense. They earned exactly one of their three runs tonight. Innings 2-8 should have been recorded for insomniacs who don't respond to medication. The tying run was plated thanks to a hit battter and two errors, the game-winner on two walks and a sacrifice fly. Pathetic.

The Giants can't continue like this. They just spent five weeks fattening up on the weak and wounded like hungry lions who stumbled upon a herd of diseased wildebeasts. Easy pickins. Had they been forced to chase healthy gazelles, they'd have already starved.

Nothing more to say. They rely to much on their arms. Smoke and mirrors can't get it done over the long haul. Pitching is doing the job, and they Giants are wasting the opportunity by fielding this shell of a team behind it.

Like I said, it makes me sick. I won't watch the highlights. I'll stare at the standings, think about Christmas, and try not to throw up.

Pass the Pepto Bismol.

Offense Goes MIA in Potential Playoff Preview

The Giants are in Atlanta. Well, some of them.

Game One followed a familiar pattern: hurler gives the team a quality start while the offense soils the sheets. This was billed as a potential playoff preview. My reaction after one game: "Oh God, I hope not."

I'm considering donning one of those old POW-MIA braclets in honor of the San Francisco offense.

The Giants scored early but left way too many opportunities unexploited, the opposition lofted a couple of long balls, and the result was another one-run loss -- this one 3-2 at the hands of the Braves. San Francisco got to Atlanta starter Jair Jurrjens for seven hits in six frames and five of those hits were doubles, but the Giants got the least out of it thanks to an woeful 1-for-10 success rate with runners in scoring position.

The G-men outhit Atlanta 8-6 (and they added three walks), but the Braves were more timely and had two balls leave the yard. Consistency and power, two things the Giants haven't shown enough of. Jeez, you'd think 11 baserunners would be worth more than two lousy runs.

Hey Sabean! Still think we don't need another bat?

The frustration was further complicated by yet another WTF? moment from Sandoval, who failed to break for third on Lincecum's sacrifice attempt and was deader than Lindsay Lohan's career. He's clearly not in baseball shape despite all of the hoopla about "Camp Panda" in the offseason. I realize the Giants can't force a stint at Jenny Craig if Sandoval chooses to eat himself out of the league, but the team has to at least make him accountable. His struggles at the plate are undoubtedly attributable to his girth. He should be fined, benched or both for letting himself go. The guy makes Terry Forster look like an Adonis.

What am I saying? I really expected accountability to be encouraged by an organization that employed, and actually gave a raise, to Bengie Molina? Pablo, you're a professional athlete. You're supposed to aspire to be Brooks Robinson, not Joey Chestnut. Save the quest for the trophy at Nathan's for your post-baseball days, okay?

It's the little things that make the difference, and the Giants are now just 17-17 when the contest is decided by one run. Over two thirds of the season just a dozen lousy runs -- just 12 -- a freaking egg carton of runs -- is the difference between a fight for the wildcard and a runaway lead in the division.

Not to harp on the subject, but how many years of prime pitching is Sabean going to waste hoping for a miracle season out of some second-level bargain basement pick-up to put the Giants over the top? The 2002 season was an aberration when a bunch of mediocre players (that's you Shawn Dunston, David Bell, Reggie Sanders, et al) got hot at the same time. The likelyhood of that happening again is about the same as me getting to spending a night of passion with Angelina Jolie, but Sabean appears convinced that this is the way to build a team.

Gotta figure Cody Ransom is home waiting for the phone to ring. I'm stunned Jose Guillen and Jack Taschner aren't already in uniform -- Dontrelle Willis needs some company.

The only good news to come on the personnel side was the DFA of Denny "Chuck and Duck" Bautista. Of course that little nugget was tempered by the return of Todd Wellemeyer, who doesn't walk as many hitters only because you don't take pitches that scream "hit me." At least Wellemeyer throws strikes, although a significant portion of them log more flight time than the Delta shuttle from LaGuardia. Hopefully the plan is to use him in long relief on days when the starter just ain't got it -- meaning he'll pitch every fifth day when Sanchez implodes. Of course, the Giants can get further use out of him by litting him pitch batting practice -- much as he did for the opposition for the first two months of the season.

However, that switch means the Giants are still carrying 13 pitchers (well, some are just throwers). Affeldt is throwing and Runzler is heading out for rehab -- both shold be ready to return by mid-August. Then what? The Giants keep shuffling the deck but drawing the same cards. They need offense. Time to go to a different deck - preferably one that doesn't contain the Jose Guillen card.

(Best comment I read all day came from a fan repsonding to reports the Giants might sign Guillen, who just got dumped by Kansas City. "We already have to water buffaloes in the outfield. We don't need a jackass.")

Zito on the hill in Game Two. He's pitched well of late and had little to show for it. Let's hope his luck turns around. I'm afrraid that all of the luck is being sucked up by Renteria, Casilla and Wellemeyer -- its the only way to explain how they still have jobs.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Giants Tell Sis to "Pucker Up" in Denver

It sounds like a riddle: How many Giants pitchers does it take to toss a three-hit shutout?

That was just one of the questions from the brief stop in Colorado. The Giants split the pair, which was an improvement on their last Denver debacle and not bad if you go by the old "win half on the road and two thirds at home" theory, but it certainly wasn't pretty.

Game One versus the Rockies was a 10-0 laugher, except I didn't get the joke. I cannot be the only person who sat there in the seventh inning yelling "Can't one of you morons throw a freakin' strike?"

I loved this quote from Melonhead regarding the overvalued Jonathan Sanchez:

"It starts with your pitching, and Sanchez did a terrific job. He really had a good rhythm out there. Good stuff, good command, and he did a terrific job against a tough lineup."

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

The line on Sanchez: six-plus innings, three hits, no runs, four walks. He did fan nine, including seven in a row, but outside of that streak he was incredibly ordinary and he was unable to extend his outing beyond his customary distance despite being handed an early 7-0 lead.

For the first four innings I was happily eating crow. Then came the fifth, which always seems to be the killer. We're gonna find out that someone walked up from behind and scared the bejezus out of him as child just when they got to that digit on Sesame Street. He got two of the first three hitters, sandwiching those two outs around a walk to Hawpe. Then he gave up a single to the pitcher, walked Spilbourghs (not him again!), and limped off the mound shaking his head. This, even more than the wildness, was the red flag. Helton fouled out to end the frame, but I knew Sanchez wasn't to last much longer. Mora's sixth-inning double was survivable, but another walk of Hawpe to open the seventh sealed his fate.

There's not a thing wrong with this guy's talent. He has absolutely electric stuff, but he doesn't seem to posses the mental capacity to harness it. His command disappears on a whim, and when it does he becomes his own worst enemy. He threw 98 pitches, an improvement considering he's usually into triple digits by the fifth, but even with a massive lead he managed to throw just 57 of those for strikes. Command? Ha!

Of course, he's not alone. Newcomer Ramon Ramirez saw two batters: one strikeout, one walk, one microwave burrito hurled at the plasma. "It's 7-0,  you Jackwagon! Strikes, dagnabbit! Throw strikes!" Enter Lopez. Groundout, walk (aargh!!!!!). Only a Circ de Solei-style catch by Freddie Sanchez averted disaster. It's Coors Field, and leads disappear like virgins on prom night. Why create rallies for free?

Chris Ray pitched a quiet eighth so naturally there was no way on Earth he was gonna be allowed finish the game, not when Santiago Casilla could come on to record three stikeouts and (of course) another walk -- the seventh of the game for the G-men.

This is not "effectlively wild". The last Giant who wore that moniker  was Damian Moss, who lasted half the '03 a season before being swapped for Shrek's stunt double (Sidney Ponson) and is now back home wrangling kangaroos. Moss would be the sniper of this bunch.

Fortunately the offense provided enough distance to keep the game from becoming a true coronary event. Freddie, Torres and Burrell all went yard, Posey had three hits, and the offense appeared to be firing on all cyclinders (well, Renteria still looked lost). Good thing, too, since the squad decided to take Game Two off. Maybe there were some good sales to be had on the K Street Mall.

One night after lighting up Rockies pitchers for 19 hits, the Giants failed to set their alarms and somehow left their game back at the Adams Mark. The Giants didn't even get a runner to second base until the sixth, and settled for just five hits and a pair of walks.

MadBum didn't have it, yielding four earned in four-plus. Yet I wasn't nearly as disappointed with his performance as I was with Sanchez's. First, Bumgarner did suffer from some bad luck as a handfull of bleeps and bloops found holes. And let's face it, the Giants defense didn't help him much either. There were no errors charged, but it wasn't pretty as Panda's throws to first had the fans behind the rail putting up sand bags and the infield kicked the ball around like it was the World Cup. At least Bumgarner made Colorado swing the bats. His K/B ratio was one strike short of two-to-one and he issued but a single free pass.

Virtualy everything about baseball is subject to interpretation, but there is one irrefutable truth: you can't defend a walk. If you get beat, you get beat -- but make the enemy earn what it gets. Giving up five runs on eight hits sucks. Giving up eight runs on five hits is worthy of reassignment behind the register at My-T-Mart.

The game was still winable at when Bumgarner left, but Denny Bautista made that academic. The Giants finally dented the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. One of the basic tennants of pitching is that when you score, you want to keep the opposition from answering so your offense can build some momentum. Bautista never got that memo. Half a hot dog later the Rockies had tacked on two more and this puppy was history -- the two-gamer ending with a split and a great big "bleh!"

At 62-46 the Giants trail San Diego by one stinking game (by the way, am I the only one mentally justifying pulling for the Dodgers this week as technically only rooting against the Padres?) The G-men have some desicions to make heading into a crucial series (they're all crucial now) againt NL East-leading Atlanta.

After inexplicably carrying 13 pitchers for the two-gamer, someone has gotta go. My guess is either Casilla or Bautista finds a spot on the waiver wire and/or a trip to Fresno. To further complicate matters, Todd Wellemeyer made his last rehab start and the Giants have to again address that mind-numbing signing. It really gets fun mid month when Affeldt and Runzler could return.  Seems the Giants have cornered the market on second-level arms. They couldn't have taken the time to find one freakin' hitter?

The way I see it, they only have room for 12 pitchers, and if the top three of the rotation keep going deep into games it's not unthinkable to go with 11. But staying within the norm the Dirty Dozen should be: Lincecum, Zito, Cain, (gag) Sanchez, Bumgarner, Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, Mota, Ramirez and Ray. Bautista, Casilla and Wellemeyer should be waiver candidates, and I'd be pleased as punch to see Runzler sent back to Fresno for more seasoning.

Will that happen? Doubtful. Sabean can't admit a mistake so at least one of the Waiver Wonders will stick, and don't be surprised if Wellemer ends up back in the rotation. I can already hear the bleating about sending Bumgarner to the pen to "save his arm". Puh-leeze.

The pitching staff is overpopulated and the offense underwhelming. Much has been made about their offensive explosion (they've averaged 5.33 runs a game since July 1) but that's only part of the story. In those 30 games they scored three runs or less on 14 occasions. The numbers are inflated and they certainly aren't consitent. Hey, they averaged 5 1/2 runs a game in Colorado. How'd that work out?

Atlanta gets the Giants' 1-4 starting on Thursday. Let's hope they're up to the challenge, and let's pray the front office finally gets these guys the help they deserve.

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's Fantasyland at AT&T

My fantasies usually involve a beach, endless mai tais and Charlize Theron in a severly-distressed mylar thong. Giants pitchers probably close their eyes and dream about people in orange and black uniforms actually touching home plate.

Don’t look now but a three-game sweep of The Hated Dodgers means the Giants have won 20 of 25 and find themselves in the thick of the hunt. If the season were over today, the G-men would be one of the lucky few invited to the after party. Who'd have thunk it?

Are they a serious contender for a 2010 World Series ring? I doubt it. There are still too many flaws. A pair of deadline moves did seek to fortify the bullpen but the back end of the rotation is spotty and the offense horrific. One can only hope that a waiver deal or two will address the issues.

Once again the starters did the job. Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain combined for all but five of the 27 Blue-tinted innings, allowing three runs between them. That’s a starters’ ERA of 1.22. So it’s a crying shame that each of the three games was in doubt until the final pitch.

Kudos to Cain, who finally bested the Dodgers in his 15th try. Having been the victim on non-support more than once in that stretch, he finally got the monkey off his back with an incredible performance – hanging on until (for the second straight day) someone finally hit the offense with defibrillator paddles and got a solitary blip on the EKG.

Zito was just as impressive despite (shudder) allowing a run. Pat Burrell bailed him out with his very own Brian Johnson moment, taking a seven-iron out of the yard to shake off an uninspired offensive day against a hurler throwing for the first time on short rest.

The shakiest outing came courtesy The Freak, who needed 123 pitches to finish seven frames but seemed to get stronger in the later innings. Lincecum spent the first three innings tap dancing in a mine field but showed why he could eventually become one of the all-time greats. He doesn’t throw the ball past people anymore, he pitches. There are claims that he’s lost some velocity. Whatever. Pitchers last longer than throwers anyway.

Pitching wins. Pitching is also very deep in the NL West. The team that finds a way to add offense to the mix is the team that will steal the division. The Giants haven’t done that, and time is running out.

The rest of the West was far more proactive, and did so at bargain prices. San Diego needed offense. Enter Ludwick and Tejada. The Dodgers needed to bolster their pitching staff and add some speed. Lilly, Dotel and Podsednik were upgrades, while Theriot replaces DeWitt up the middle. Heck, the Dodgers even got cash out of the deal -- which I guess Frank and Jamie need to pay the divorce lawyers.

I understand the bullpen  needed help. Anyone who watched them go Hindenberg twice last week got that message loud and clear. When your only lefty option is Jonathan “Oh God, Not Him” Sanchez (who was as advertised with a wild pitch and hit batter to go with his one strikeout), it’s time for some new blood. But even if new arrivals Ramirez and Lopez fill the bill, the Giants are going to be hard pressed to score runs on a consistent basis.

Realistically, can the Giants continue to pin their playoff hopes on the off chance that Burrell and Renteria occasionally run into one? Burrell’s shot on Saturday was his only round-tripper of the month. Renteria’s triple (or at least Kemp played it into a triple) was a very pleasant surprise considering he delivers hits about as often as Mungo Jerry or Toni Basil.

I do have to apologize to Aubrey Huff.  I groaned at his signing. Average stick and the only guy as qualified as Roberto Duran for the "Hands of Stone" nickname...or so I believed. To my surprise, this guy is the Giants' MVP. Posey is a breath of fresh air and true ROY candidate, but Huff is the gamer Rowand was supposed to be. He's having a resurgence at the plate, but I'm equally impressed with his glove.

Once you establish something in people's minds, it's hard to shake the image. Some will always believe that blondes are ditzy, that southern men sleep with their sisters, or that I am the single greatest blogger in the history of... okay, some reputations are deserved.  But Huff has proven that those who dismissed him as a defender perhaps wrote him off too soon. He won't make forget anyone forget Willie Mays or even JT Snow, but you don't have to worry about him spiking himself either. He catches and scoops what he should, and occasionally goes beyond that. Can't ask for more.

This was about the point last year where two things happened that were polar opposites. At the same time the Giants were faltering, the Rockies hit a stretch where they had one improbable win after another. Offense and pitching took a 30-day hiatus in Colorado, being replaced by smoke and mirrors. Twelve months later it’s the Giants who seem to be pulling victories out of their backsides.

Colorado rode its good fortune to the playoffs, but the season ended badly. I’d like to see the Giants poised to do more, but that won’t happen without another stick or two. The Giants might have averaged four runs a game in July, but that’s only part of the story. With solid pitching, four runs a game stand up. You have that same average when you score 8, 2 and 2 over a three gamer, but you likely dropped two of them.

The Giants have three top-flight starters, one up and comer, and a Stephen King creation in the rotation. The bullpen is a heart attack waiting to happen. The offense is the definition of mediocre: “Moderate to inferior in quality; ordinary.” That does not a pennant winner make.

I’m hopeful the pen will be better, if for no other reason than the arrival of Ramirez and Lopez means someone’s gotta go. I only hope the Giants don’t forget the lesson of 2003 and choose to carry 13 pitchers. The Giants are only carrying four outfielders (Huff makes five) but with starters going deep into games, that 13th spot needs to go to a position player.

Who that might be is another matter. Rohlinger is with the big club for now but he’s certainly not an offensive threat. Velez could return but isn’t likely to set enemy pitchers a quivering. Bowker is on his way to Pittsburgh. The Giants can’t pin their hopes on Sandoval awakening from his slumber or someone else getting hot for an extended period. They gotta go get someone dependable.

Waiver deals happen, as evidenced by the Scott Kamir and Jake Peavy moves of a year ago. Some names should be out there this time around. Adam Dunn could still be moved, as could Ty Wiggington and half the Mets roster. Vernon Wells could go to a team looking to add payroll, and Marcus Thames to a bargain hunter. There are options, but the Giants are going to have to be bold.

That doesn’t mean foolhardy, however. The Padres and Dodgers gave up little to nothing. The Giants don’t have to mortgage the farm, but they can’t let opportunity slip away. The pitching staff is young, but as a whole this team isn’t. The window won’t stay open long.

Big week ahead. The Giants will try to exorcise the ghosts of their last trip to Colorado with a two-fer at Coors before heading for a four-gamer at Eastern leader Atlanta (I'm sweating with a flashback to '93). Then it's home for four with the freefalling Cubs leading into a weekend showdown with the Padres. By August 15th the Giants will be in this thing, or they'll be dead.

Let's hope they find the help they need to make it interesting.

Reader Mail:

From DrBGiantsfan: “Bowker "their best minor league stick?’ Boy, you sure don't know much about the Giants farm system, do you? Well, that statement might be right if you emphasize "Minor League." Yeah, Bowker is a great minor league hitter. It's just that MLB pitchers know how to easily get him out and he shows no signs of overcoming that.”

Thanks for  making  my point. My comment was about how little credibility the Giants front office has. Bowker was the best option for offense, and he wasn’t much. In the span of four months, Bowker went from "The Answer" in right field to a guy who had to be packaged with another highly-touted “prospect” to get a situational reliever. It shows how bare the cupboard really is. Player evaluation clearly ain't what it should be. It emphasizes the need both for outside help and a front office intervention.

Anonymous said:“Isn't it pointless to keep whining about the Giants when they're having such a good season, sweeping the hated Dodgers, making the most out of new players (Posey, Bumgarner) and veterans (Huff, Renteria, Burrell)?”

Pointless? Nope, I have a point. Teams are never as good as they appear when they’re hot, and never as bad as they appear when they go cold. This has been a very good July, but if the Giants slip at all, and I mean AT ALL, they become a very average team. The way the Giants are winning doesn’t breed confidence. Nobody can look at this team with the goal of building a World Series contender and pronounce it “Mission Accomplished.” There’s still plenty of heavy construction to be done.

Ah, to heck with it.  Clap your hands together, say "I believe" enough times and maybe Tinkerbelle will survive. THEY SWEPT THE HATED DODGERS. I can think of worse ways to spend a weekend.