Saturday, March 25, 2017

Spring Musings

Will Smith will not pitch for the Giants this season: Tommy John surgery looms for the lefty. Matt Moore, George Kontos, Derek Law, and Hunter Strickland are all TJS survivors. I've always wondered why ligament reconstruction, arthroscopy, and laser eye surgery aren't considered performance-enhancing. Why are chemical fixes bad and mechanical ones good? Speaking of bad, Smith's injury is a blow for the bullpen. It will be interesting to see who steps up to fill the void. A lefty who can get righties out is a tough guy to replace, but having a couple of good LOOGYs could make up the difference. It will take a village out there this season, and that's OK as it seems to be the Giants Way. Get a bunch of pretty good guys to back up a star, in this case closer Mark Melancon, and work the matchups and play well in the field and good things will happen.

Speaking of good, I'm happy that Barry Bonds is back with the club. The man knows more about hitting than any other human. Get that knowledge out of him and spread it throughout the organization. Even if that were not the case, Bonds was a megastar in orange-and-black. He was the biggest draw in baseball and played magnificently under constant scrutiny. He was the only one who could turn right field and McCovey Cove at Pacific Bell Park into his personal showcase. No one hits them out there anymore. He was the only one, it will be some time before another player can do that. The bĂȘte noire of the MLB burned a lot of bridges in his day, but every good melodrama needs a black knight, especially a flashy and menacing one. Barry had a knack for the role, eh?

I also must admit to enjoying the World Baseball Classic, although I also admit to being a skeptic in its first incarnation. I think the fact that the other nations approached the tournament with both planning and passion finally convinced the American public it was a worthy endeavor. MLB's big-wigs I expect were tired of looking bad, especially in comparison to the Japanese. Team Japan is awesome and Team USA did well to get past them. I got to see most of the semi-final against Japan and the final against Puerto Rico. I thought the Puerto Rican lineup was scary, but it became obvious they didn't have the pitching depth available to win it. Certainly the presence of Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey on the domestic roster was a huge pull for me, and adding FNG Melancon was icing on the cake. I note that all performed well, BCraw in particular was part of everything, good and bad, that happened to the team. Why wouldn't veteran guys like our stud shortstop and catcher want to play real baseball instead of mucking around in Scottsdale? Both will be a joy to watch this season, and having a stud closer will be a huge boon for the team's chances.

What's on your mind as we count down to Opening Day?

--M.C.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Things to get excited about for 2017

The return of Giants baseball from winter hibernation is certainly exciting enough, don't you think? But there are some specific things about the 2017 Giants that I'm feeling stoked about. For one, how about Matt Moore? For another, how about Eduardo Nunez? I don't think either player has shown his full potential. Moore will be 28 in June and Nunez will be 29. These guys ought to be at their physical peaks--the Giants were smart to grab them both. Let's imagine a full season from both of them with Moore complementing the outstanding one-two MadBum-JohnnyC combo and Nunez filling out an already outstanding infield. We are going to enjoy watching these guys.

Mark Melancon was of course the obvious upgrade the bullpen needed, but I'm excited for some of the youngsters like Derek Law and Steven Okert and perhaps even Kyle Crick. "Old vets" like Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearrin will be more seasoned and I expect they'll be stalwart contributors. We didn't really get to see what Will Smith can do, I feel like Bochy did not know him well enough last season and that this year he may get a chance to be, for lack of a better term, Jeremy Affeldt Lite. The fact that Matt Cain is physically healthy (at least that's the word) is exciting. My expectations are muted, but if he can be effective as a fifth starter that will make the rotation among the best in the game.

Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker both bring some excitement to the outfield. Untested, sure, but that's part of it. The uncertainty in the outfield, what with both Pence and Span being below par last season, is a problem, but I feel good about the process. There are vets aplenty to push these guys and I have faith that they will step up. They don't have to be superstars, just solid major-leaguers, and I believe the team has the support and coaching necessary to achieve that. Then again, Mac Williamson and Chris Marrero could make some roster decisions really tough. That's good. When you cut or re-assign talented players, that means you have a deep club.

What are you guys excited about?

--M.C.


p.s. I forgot to mention Jae-gyun Hwang, Mr. Excitement. Who knows what this guy can do?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Raising Matt Cain

Almost 2000 innings pitched. Over 300 starts. Twelve seasons in orange-and-black. First-round pick out of high school. Youngest player in the bigs on his debut. A brace of rings. 31 career WAR. Three-time All-Star. A perfect game, the only one in franchise history. He's done it all, the big fella has, and now he'll fight for a spot in the rotation. Rookie phenom Ty Blach might send the man they used to call The Horse to the bullpen. The ravages of time have not been kind to our original stud, as we know 32 years of age is old in baseball.

So raise a glass to the lad from Tennessee, the first brick in the House of Champions. After Matty came Timmy and Buster and Madison and the rest, but Matty was first, and he was the one I picked as my favorite. He didn't disappoint!

First Spring Training workout tomorrow.

GO GIANTS!

--M.C.


p.s. Nice piece from Andrew Baggarly about Cain.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Old and New

The Giants dipped a toe into the Asian baseball market by signing Korean free agent Jae-gyun Hwang to a minor-league deal. He's a slugging 3B/SS type, is 29 years young, and has ten seasons of KBO experience. This looks like a high reward/low risk venture for the Giants: power bat, infield depth. Could be a fresh face on the big club this year--we'll see what happens with Ehire Adrianza, Kelby Tomlinson, and Jimmy Rollins. I've been expecting Conor Gillaspie to be the hot corner backup and/or platoon partner for Eduardo Nunez, but a good showing by Hwang in Spring Training could mean a shake-up. I will not attempt to guess at what this guy can do, but we know that Korean ballplayers are serving notice in MLB and it's exciting for Giants fans to get in on the action. Not to mention Hwang is coming from the Lotte Giants! They sport orange-and-black and play in Busan. History buffs may recall the "Pusan Perimeter" from the Korean War--that was the previous Westernized spelling of Busan, a port city in southeast Korea. "Lotte" is a multinational conglomerate, teams in Korea are named for the businesses that own them. He looks good in the colors, wouldn't you say?



One of the stalwarts of our team's recent run of success has been outfielder Gregor Blanco who became a free agent after this past season. He signed a minor-league deal with Arizona last month. Blanco was an average hitter at best but a defensive wizard and his speed on the bases and little-ball skills made him a very valuable guy. He made important contributions to two World Series teams. When the Giants lost left fielder Melky Cabrera to a suspension in 2012 the unsung Blanco took over and made the transition seamless. In 2014 he took over center field from the injured Angel Pagan and delivered once again. He made a lot of great plays but the most famous one of course was snagging a ball to save Matt Cain's perfect game. I'd say he earned his rings. Good luck, Gregor, and thanks for everything!



Twenty days until pitchers and catchers report.

--M.C.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Closure

Santiago Casilla pitched brilliantly for the San Francisco Giants for seven years and was a key part of a dominant bullpen that helped nail down three World Series titles. Check out the bWAR totals (2010-2016): 1.7, 1.4, 0.5, 1.1, 2.0, 1.1, 0.8. Not bad for a guy who pitched less than 65 innings per season. And his post-season work was also excellent: 19-2/3 IP, 15 H, 20 K, 5 BB, only three runs allowed in 25 appearances. We are left with the bitter taste of last season's failures, but closing out wins was a team-wide problem, much of it due to the end of the Core Four. Jeremy Affeldt retired and neither Sergio Romo nor Javier Lopez could conjure up the old magic in 2016.

Casilla returns to his original team, the Oakland A's, on a two-year deal. He's still an effective pitcher and I expect he'll contribute positive value to that club. But the Giants had to move on. All the bullpen roles are up for grabs (other than closer!) and we will finally get to see if the young arms can deliver. Even if Lopez and/or Romo return there's a good chance neither will play as big of a role as they once did. It's a "whole new ballgame" for the Giants relief corps. Thanks for everything, Santiago. Wear those rings proudly, you earned them.

In other news, the Giants avoid arbitration with Conor Gillaspie and sign him to a one-year deal for $1.4M. I think he'll be a useful role player in 2017. It's nice to have a veteran left-handed bat who can play the hot corner. And none of us will forget his post-season heroics!

Pitchers and catchers report in 32 days.

--M.C.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Competitive Balance"

The Giants have reached new heights:
  • Dodgers, $31.8MM tax bill
  • Yankees, $27.4MM
  • Red Sox, $4.5MM
  • Tigers, $4MM
  • Giants, $3.4MM
  • Cubs, $2.96MM

No more small-time for this outfit! Yes, our beloved orange-and-blackers are now officially out-of-balance and must pony up to the Man. In this case the Man is MLB. The so-called "luxury tax" (officially it is the Competitive Balance Tax) is mostly set aside for something called "industry development" and not for revenue sharing. Whatever, sounds a tad Orwellian. Big payroll, big expectations, wouldn't you say?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

--M.C.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

. . . and Chris Heston is not

The right-hander was traded this evening for a Player To Be Named Later. I suppose this move makes a spot on the 40-man for Mark Melancon. Adios, Chris Heston. Thanks for suiting up in San Francisco. We won't forget the  ninth and most recent SF no-hitter. Best of luck--except of course when pitching against the Giants.

--M.C.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Apparently, Mark Melancon is a Giant

Mark Melancon.  I read $62 mil, 4 years, a record for closers, but probably not for long.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Golden Trio

I'll admit I'm not a big fan of awards but I'm happy for three Giants--Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Joe Panik--who were awarded the Gold Glove. The Giants had a good club this season and it's not surprising they'd get some recognition. Not much else to celebrate. Counting the days until Spring Training.

--M.C.


p.s. More good stuff. Alguacil, as expected. But . . . Barry? OK by me, of course.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cubs Win

Game Seven was not what I expected but was a spectacular contest nonetheless and the Cubs prevailed in 10 innings, 8-7. It was as exciting and dramatic as you could have hoped for a championship decider. I can't imagine what it would have been like if that had been the Giants on either side. I suppose it's a good thing they have those defibrillator stations at ballparks these days. CLEAR!!

The Indians finally had their amazing run of great pitching come to and end. It took a great hitting team to wear them down. Congratulations to Chicago for winning the World Series. The best team doesn't always get to wear the crown, and the Cleveland squad was equally impressive. It was one of those games that could have gone either way and it's almost a shame to pick one club as winner.

I suppose my favorite stories tonight were the homers by 39-year old greybeard David Ross in his final game and by the 36-year old former Giants outfielder Rajai Davis.

2016 is over, and I'm sad about that. At least it ended on a thrilling note, especially for Cubs fans. I suppose the off-season stuff will be happening sooner than we think. I keep saying I'm going to take a break and stay away but I always get pulled back, though I was pretty quiet last November, only two posts. A little respite from our obsession is a good thing, eh?


--M.C.