Monday, November 13, 2017

Angst





  
We've had it before, and we'll probably have it again.  The Giants had a horrible, horrible, awful season.  There were a lot of reasons.  But then the Giants-less post season came along, and then the Astros won it all, and it could have been so much worse, so we didn't have to stress about the Giants for awhile, and now that's over and the General Managers are meeting in The GM's are meeting in Orlando, and now we have to start worrying all over again.   Brian Sabean has said he needs a third baseman, a center fielder, and a better bullpen.  "'We do need upgrades in certain and key positions. High on the wish list is to get younger, more athletic and play better defense overall, Sabean said. "

Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen.  That's what I concluded was the Giants biggest need, and I still think so.  The Giants are not going to be a team that leads the league in home runs.  They can't move enough players who aren't going to hit high HR numbers and the ballpark doesn't lend itself to many home runs.  But the fact that MLB juiced the ball and players are swinging for the fences does not mean that a team built for pitching and getting on base can't be successful.  The Astros are a case in point.  But it does mean that the Giants have to do some things much better.  Like not strike out as much.  And strike other guys out more.  And for Willie's sake, win some of those games where your offense gives you only a small lead.

The Giants picked up the option on Pablo Sandoval.  I get it, he's just as cheap as possible.  He does not represent an upgrade over anyone in my view.  I know he's strong and can hit home runs.  He hit 5 as a Giant in 47 games.  That's 15 or so in a season.  I'd rather look to Christian Arroyo to provide some kind of spark.  I'd rather have Eduardo Nunez back, but I think he is probably staying in Boston after his success there last season.

But the Giants do need power.  None of our left field experiments really worked.  Denard Span and Hunter Pence are both pretty good players when healthy, but you know what?  .272, .427 slugging, 12 hr (Span) and .260, .385, and 13 hr just aren't enough.  Pence was barely a positive WAR and Span was negative.  And you know what would really help?  Someone on the team with presence.  The kind of guy who pitchers worry about a couple batters before he gets to the plate because they know he can change the game with one swing.  Like Barry used to be.  Someone like Giancarlo Stanton.

And here's the Chronicle talking about how nice it would be to have Giancarlo Stanton as a Giant.  You know what?  Every team wants Giancarlo Stanton.  That means that the Giants, who do not have the best farm system, would have to pay most of his salary.  If the Giants are not willing to do that, and probably even if they are, they are unlikely to be the best trading partners from the Marlins' standpoint.  Here's a weird scenario, from the New York Post: the Giants get Giancarlo Stanton and send Christian Arroyo and Seth Corry, their Round 3 draft pick, to Miami, and Johnny Cueto to the Cubs.  The Marlins also get Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ from the Cubs.   What do you all think of that?

Well, of course all that and have a bunch of guys perform better next year.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Giants will be one of the most improved teams next year.  This really shouldn't surprise anyone, and it is not because I'm an optimist.  It's because they played so far under their potential last year that even approaching the level of what they are capable of, even mediocrity, would be a big step up.










Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Plus ça change . . .

The Giants hired a new pitching coach. Southpaw Curt Young played 11 years in the bigs (1983-1993) and was both a starter and a reliever. He'll be 58 in April. Dave Righetti, the man he replaces, played 16 seasons (1979-1995) as a lefty starter and reliever. He'll be 59 in a couple of weeks. Interestingly, Young was on the Yankees when Righetti was on the Giants! The two men are contemporaries, and complementary, as Young was in Oakland as the pitching coach for much of Righetti's tenure across the Bay. Rags is of course a Bay Area boy (San Jose) while Young is from Saginaw, Michigan, immortalized by Lefty Frizell's song.

The Giants hired a new hitting coach, Alonzo Powell, whose professional career spanned the years 1983-2001 with MLB time in 1987 and 1991. He'll be 53 next month, and was originally a Giants prospect who was part of the Bill Laskey trade. Hensley Meulens played pro ball from 1986 to 2002 with MLB stints in 1989-1993 and 1997-1998. Both men played in Japan, Powell from 1992-1998 and Meulens from 1994-1996. He'll be 51 in June. Powell is San Francisco native; Bam-Bam is perhaps Aruba's most famous citizen (with the possible exception of Xander Bogaerts!). He becomes the bench coach, bumping Ron Wotus back to third base.

So, make of that what you will. I've no idea how much of an impact coaches make on individual performances or team-wide philosophies. I imagine the Giants only made these changes because they lost 98 games. If they had won 98, do you think they'd have shuffled the deck? Regardless, we've some new faces in the fold and we have to hope they are part of the upgrade the team needs. But it is weird that the new guys are so much like the old guys!

Brandon Crawford earned his third straight Gold Glove Award. We know that guy is a wizard, and I'm happy that baseball knows it, too. He really is an exceptional fielder and we are lucky we get to see him every day. I saw Ozzie Smith quite a bit back in the day (he came up with the Padres before he made his name in St. Louis) and we all got to see Omar Vizquel in orange-and-black not long ago. Those guys are my standards for judging shortstops, and I can say without hesitation that BCraw can do everything those guys could do, and he's bigger and stronger to boot, with a cannon for an arm. We'll see if he has their longevity.

Johnny Cueto decides to stay with the Giants for four more years and I'm happy about that. I think last season was a blip and that he will return to form and the team will get more than its money's worth when all is said and done.

RIP Roy Halladay, one of the great pitchers of his time. Here's the thing: from 2002 to 2011 he threw almost 2200 innings over 303 starts. That's 7+ IP per start! Who does that? Extraordinary ballplayer, to be sure, and also he seemed well-loved by his peers. He embodied both "ace" and "workhorse." Giants fans will never forget Cody Ross clubbing two homers off Halladay in the 2010 NLCS when he pitched for the Phillies. He had two memorable matchups with Tim Lincecum in that series, losing one and winning one. His 64.7 bWAR puts him between Juan Marichal (63.1) and Luis Tiant (66.7).

--M.C.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Astros Prevail

Game Seven was an anti-climax after a gripping Series. I was sure LA had the momentum after the win yesterday but Houston had their own thing going on and got it done on the road. The Giants played a memorable Game Seven in Kansas City a few years ago, and the Cubs won a thriller in Cleveland just last season. This game was not as dramatic as the Astros jumped to an early lead and never looked back. I was certain someone in the Dodgers lineup would hit a 3-run homer to make it a contest, with all the lead changes and big hits throughout these games that seemed inevitable to me. Plus I remember a certain club that had a 5-0 lead in a clinching Series game losing to a Southern California squad. But the Astros kept the lid on with stubborn pitching and steady fielding and they won their first-ever championship. We know how that feels.

I've said before I'm not much for schadenfreude. I'm entirely orthodox in my Giants fandom: my two favorite teams are the Giants and whatever team is playing the Dodgers. But I'm not the rub-it-in type; I know how elusive championships are and how lucky any one team is to have a shot. And LA had their shot. This is the best team they've ever fielded and it came up a game short. I have a lot of friends who root for the blue, and I do feel for them. I certainly know what it's like to have your team let you down. This is the nature of fandom--we are subject to the capriciousness of the baseball gods.

Congratulations to the Astros! They are deserving champions and they beat three of baseball's most storied franchises, the Red Sox, the Yankees, and the Dodgers. Impressive.

--M.C.

Monday, October 23, 2017

And Then There Were Two

The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers make an intriguing match-up for the World Series. The Astros have historically great hitting; the Dodgers have historically great pitching. They say pitching wins, and LA is the home team, so they ought to have an edge. They have a deep roster as well and are playing superb baseball right now. They kicked the crap out of two good teams, losing only one post-season game so far. I suppose my familiarity with the Dodgers makes them seem more formidable, I don't know the Astros as well, but they are obviously a great team and it should be a good contest. I expect Houston will rely on big starts from Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander, they don't seem to have the quality in their 'pen that LA does. But in a short series anyone can get hot and tip the scales. I'm rooting for the Astros to pull off the upset, no surprise there. They are listed at +120 or 6/5, with the Dodgers at -140 or 5/7. Enjoy!

--M.C.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Heads start rolling

This being the Giants, where loyalty is generally rewarded, the heads rolled upstairs instead of out in the street. But we had to know there would be a shake-up. I suppose the biggest question of all is the manager. At some point Bochy will trade in his cap and cleats but I think that's still a year or two away. There's no clear heir apparent despite my belief that they are grooming Jose Alguacil; maybe we'll have a better idea when the dust settles.

Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner move out of the dugout and bullpen and into the front office. Steve Decker (assistant hitting coach) joins the growing club of "special assistants." I saw a rumor about Chili Davis returning to the organization, and Hensley Muelens being on the block. David Bell returns in a player development capacity, replacing Shane Turner who gets an apparent promotion. (I don't claim to understand the corporate food chain. Cool job titles, though.)

It should be fun to see who gets picked for the new openings: will it be advancement from within or fresh talent from outside?

--M.C.

p.s. Hats off to Rags--18 seasons (and three managers) is a hell of a run.



***UPDATE: looks like I missed some key facts, Ron Wotus and Hensley Muelens were also both re-assigned. That makes five vacancies.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Final Four

The New York Yankees are in Texas to open the ALCS with the Houston Astros. These are two evenly matched teams and it ought to be a close contest. The Astros have the home field and I suppose that gives them a slight edge. Both offenses are the top-rated in baseball. Tomorrow the Chicago Cubs open the NLCS in Los Angeles against the number-one seed Dodgers. The Cubs outlasted the Nationals in the LDS and won an epic Game Five on the road in DC. The Yankees also clinched on the road, surviving three elimination games against the Indians. LA certainly looks like the favorite in their matchup, especially since they are well-rested and have the home field. The Cubs won despite two superb starts from Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, we'll see if they can neutralize Clayton Kershaw as well. Should be some good baseball. Enjoy!

--M.C.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Tournament Time

The final field is set for the championship chase with Boston at Houston and New York at Cleveland tonight, and with Arizona at Los Angeles and Chicago at Washington tomorrow. I see that the Astros clobbered Chris Sale, that's not a good sign for the Red Sox. Indians-Yankees seems like a tossup to me, two great bullpens. The Diamondbacks used their two best pitchers already and that seems like a big advantage for the Dodgers. Nationals-Cubs seems like another tossup, defending champs often don't go away easily. I've never been much of a prognosticator so I won't go further than that. I don't have a rooting interest, really, I'm partial to Cleveland, that winning streak was something, and I like Terry Francona. In the NL it's all about who has the best shot at beating LA, right? And I've no idea. The boys in blue are very strong this year and have a lot of good players. But this is the post-season tournament and anything can happen, as we know. I don't expect to write much about these games but I had to post something if just to move my previous post off the front page!

--M.C.


p.s. Here's a great picture of Matt Cain, courtesy of Ron. Thanks, Ron! I'll have to find a permanent place for it on the blog.




Monday, October 2, 2017

9th inning: 8-10

1st inning: 6-12
2nd inning: 6-12
3rd inning: 10-8
4th inning: 4-14
5th inning: 8-10
6th inning: 7-11
7th inning: 9-9
8th inning: 6-12
9th inning: 8-10

The final tally for 2017 is 64-98 (.395), 40 games out of first place and 23 games behind the wildcard. The Giants tie the Detroit Tigers for the worst record and will get rewarded with the number two overall pick in the 2018 June draft (the Giants had a better 2016 record than the Tigers).

It was a season in which everything went wrong. The team was a disaster from the opening bell and never found its footing. Considering the expectations and track record you could argue it was the worst season ever for the San Francisco Giants. The team was 16th of the 30 ML squads in runs allowed per game (4.79); they were 29th in runs scored per game (3.94). The league average for RA/RS was 4.65, I think you can see the problem. They couldn't hit and the pitching was sub-par. They also couldn't play the field or run the bases. The only players on the club with anything close to their expected performances were Buster Posey (.320/.400/.462, 4.3 fWAR) and Jeff Samardzija (207-2/3 IP, 3.8 fWAR).

One of the things about being a sports fan is that the outcomes are random. If you like movies of a particular ilk, say rom-coms or super-hero franchises, you can pick those when you go out and you will stand a good chance of getting your money's worth. If you go to the circus or to the opera you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Sporting events don't give us that luxury. You have to take a risk--the performance could be a dud. Imagine if Broadway musicals had the variation we see in ballgames. Tuesday night's Hamilton could really stink but Sunday's would be epic, for example. Who would stand such a thing?

What we learn in life is to take the bitter with the sweet. There's no way to separate the bad from the good as the world is all jumbled up. It's not neat out there, it's messy, and it can't be untangled. We love the Giants so they drive us crazy. If we didn't care it would be a lot easier. But we do, so it isn't. We cry "wait 'til next year" when things are bleak. The 2018 Giants may be bad, or they may bounce back, there's no way to know for sure. One thing I'm sure of is that I'll be right here, chiming in on my beloved orange-and-blackers, and hoping you'll join me.

As always, my heartfelt thanks to all of you for reading, lurking, commenting, and posting. This is our 10th full season of blogging here at RMC, that's over 2200 posts! Writing about the Giants has taught me much about myself. It's brought into focus my lifelong relationship to baseball, allowed me to muse often on the nature of fandom, and forced me to ride out the highs and lows with some degree of equanimity. I can't wait to see what next year brings.

--M.C.




p.s. Baseball is a slow, sluggish game with frequent and trivial interruptions, offering the spectator many opportunities to reflect at leisure upon the situation on the field. This is what a fan loves most about the game.   --Edward Abbey (from Vox Clamantis in Deserto)

Sunday, October 1, 2017

64 and Done

SD 4 SF 5 

Well, this cesspool of a season is finally over and the amount of happiness that gives me is quite disturbing.  Today ended with the flash of a walk off homer ( by Pablo Sandoval, no less ) and some loving speeches for a great departing Giant; but there is nothing that can take away the stink and scars from of this year.  It started in April really.  And by May it was a done deal.  Amazing in a sick way.  This team is different than any of the other big losing squads of my youth and it has affected me more than I ever expected.

After years of genuine contention, all bets are now off and we all start from scratch.  Truthfully, I'm not sure I'm up for it any more.  One thing I learned from this horror of a team is that there are times to walk away from it.  I regained some of my life by getting away from this team and I liked it.  So, all I can say is that I will let you know about next year and just how much I want to jump in again.

Time for me to pull the plug on baseball for awhile.  Maybe I'll check out the Indians for Mom's sake but I doubt it.  Enjoy the post season, but if the doggers do well, please don't tell me.