Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Isn't One of the Benefits of Winning Supposed to the Ability to Sustain Winning?

The Giants' behavior this off-season continues to mostly depress me, with occasional rays of hope quickly dashed by official or unofficial statements. We are a cash-rich team, fresh off the paraphanelia-sellling, 81-game consecutive sellout aftermath of our first Championship in the SF era. This Championship was primarily built upon a fantastic young Starting Pitching staff & Closer, all of whom were paid much less than their true value, due to their relative youth. Unlike some other recent winning teams (e.g. both of the Florida Marlin winners), they were not a group of mercenaries, quickly assembled for instant glory, off to better pastures in the free agent market. When a Team is already pretty wealthy & is blessed with this type of good fortune, there should be solid motivation to do whatever it takes to keep winning, including investing some of the windfall into the sustained winning. The word ‘dynasty’ rightfully crops up.

Instead, we are treated to occasional news about contact between the Team & Agents for Lincecum & Cain & lukewarm crap about maybe trying to re-sign Carlos Beltran, along with endless links between the Giants & a cavalcade of marginal second or third-tier players. We don't deserve this. We have been long-suffering, but loyal, for years. We got the Championship, & we deserve a sustained effort to continue competing for the Championship. Yet, the Team has retreated back into poor-boy incrementalism. The Giants can afford much, much more.

The level to which this has degenerated was illustrated by how excited I got yesterday morning to hear that the Giants were going in for a Japanese SS who was a complete mystery to me. At least it was someone out-of-the-box, a SS with a bit of pop who could platoon with Crawford. Mostly, it was because it wasn’t some 38-year old guy with a lifetime OBP of less than .300. If a success at the ML level, maybe Nakajima could slide over to take over from F. Sanchez at some point in the future. The Crawford/Nakajima double-play combo was going to be an anchor of the franchise … my mind was racing. That hope was dashed in about 5 seconds, when I immediately read that it had been reported that the Giants had denied the report. Later in the day, just to squash my hopes entirely, a credible source confirmed that the Giants had denied the report.

The Pujols/Fielder thing should have never been 'out of the question', but I will accept that it is. One has to draw the line somewhere, I suppose.

The Reyes/Rollins thing should have never been 'out of the question', & I am quite peeved that the Team won't go there. Reyes signed a contract that was in the realm of possibility for the Giants, meaning that Rollins will sign a contract that is definitely something that the Giants could afford.

The re-sign Beltran thing is a 100% no-brainer - we should be in that one with both feet. As I've said before, I can't think of a hitter whose swing is more perfectly tailored to our ballpark. The kind of money being talked about for Beltran is well within our capability to pay & much less disruptive to our salary structure than a Pujols / Fielder / Reyes / Rollins move. He instantly makes our lineup legitimate, & that should be our goal - a legitimate lineup to go with our superior pitching.

The long-term deals with Cain & Lincecum will probably happen, although I'm a bit worried about Lincecum's desire for an 8-year deal. Having gone through the Zito episode, the Giants are going to be hesitant to go there. Still, somewhere in my heart, I have to believe that the Giants know that they must secure Cain, Lincecum, &, eventually, Bumgarner for the long haul. Sandoval is a probable future long-term deal that must be made, although I am looking for confirmation that he is serious about year-to-year conditioning & that his right-handed swing has returned to normal.

I live in Portland, Oregon. Giants’ gear is all around me, easily surpassing any other Team’s gear, including the ‘local’ Mariners. I root for one of the richest, most recognizable Teams in MLB. The Giants need to sign Beltran to a nice 3-year deal, while continuing to push for the Cain & Lincecum deals. That is my agenda. That should be the Team’s agenda. I will not listen to any economic reasons not to do that. They owe us this. They owe us a legitimate lineup.


Zo said...

I have to agree with this wholeheartedly, but not because I believe that the Giants have loads of money to spend. I really don't know whether they do or do not. However, today in the Chronic, John Shea writes yet another story about how the Giants will just have to make do with whatever cast-offs happen to drift on to our woe-begone shores: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/06/SPV71M8NDU.DTL. I am calling bullshit and am starting to smell and hope this is a classic misdirection play. If there is one thing I have learned about Sabean, it is better to watch what he does, not what he says. Of course, with all the 24 hour scrutiny available on the intertubes, it is inevitable that some things will be announced before they happen, but mostly, the moves that the Giants make is somewhat of a surprise.

So far the Giants have been linked with five middling middle infielders - Bloomquist, Hairston, Hill, Barmes, and Nakajima. What really was their level of interest. Was there tire-kicking just for show? Was there an offer that they know wouldn't be accepted? And if so, why? Well, maybe to keep Beltran negotiations out of the spotlight. Pay no attention to what goes on behind the curtain! Although trading Sanchez was not a surprise, the Cabrera/Sanchez trade was not widely discussed, tweeted and announced before it happened. And that is for the better.

Again, if the Giants are interested in Beltran, much better to appear not, let his price drift down from lack of serious suitors, then BAM! snare him like a frightened rabbit. On the other hand, the smog suckers have already signed Harang and Capuano, and a passel of infielders. If the Giants are not intending to make any (serious) moves, then we could well be looking up in the standings at those assholes.

There is such as thing as the excitement of new blood. 2010 brought some outstanding performances, sparked, in part, by guys new to the Giants like Madison Bumgarner, Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff. Logically, the Giants will have a better offense next year because they can hardly have a worse one. However, that is no excuse not to strive to have a REAL upgrade. Lord knows we need it by any available metric including casual observation.

If we can afford the 5 or 6 million for a Willie Bloomquist, the 5 million or so to discuss a year with Cody Ross (nice guy, doesn't qualify as an upgrade) and 5 million relief pitching, we can afford 10 or so for Beltran. The question is length of contract, and, like Ron, I grow weary of the cry poor, kick tires and do nothing posturing.

Doug said...

Ah-ha, but you see, they're going to waste 40 million dollars already so the poor, poor owners CLEARLY can't afford a credible team! No, all they can do is give lucrative contracts to the people who made the deals that lead to the 40 million dollars in payroll dead weight. Ugh.

It really seems like the ownership are really focused on bringing down payroll and keeping things manageable, perhaps to a greater extent than is really necessary. They also seem to have learned the lesson from 2010 that you can win the WS by relying on nothing but homegrown talent and plucky veteran castoffs, and by doing this you can be competitive cheaply. I don't think that's the right lesson to learn and I think it's not a great strategy going forward - it requires a tremendous amount of luck. Especially with Sabes in charge.

Oh, well. At least we're not the Mets.

Ron said...

Thanks for the backup, Zo & Doug.

Doug hit the nail right on the head when he said that "They also seem to have learned the lesson from 2010 that you can win the WS by relying on nothing but homegrown talent and plucky veteran castoffs, and by doing this you can be competitive cheaply. I don't think that's the right lesson to learn and I think it's not a great strategy going forward."

As I said in a post a few weeks ago, that strategy works once-in-a-lifetime - we've used up our once-in-a-lifetime lighting-in-a-bottle coupon. The right lesson to learn is that you win, then you capitalize on winning by acquiring talent to win more. That strategy has fueled teams with multiple titles, which, I assume & hope, is what we aspire to be.

nomisnala said...

I feel pretty much the same way as the poster. I did not see all the giants paraphenalia in Portland when I visited this summer. I was upset that on a Saturday game of the week, instead of playing the Giants/Philly game, they played the Yankee game. The giants played it smart by trying to stick to their WS winning team in 2011, and the fans appreciated it. Now the team is doing all they can to make Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner want to leave. Nontendering Torres, will cause more runs to be scored off or our flyball pitchers. One signing of either Carlos Beltran or Rollins would have probably put this team in great position to truly contend. While the giants get into the non-investment mode, the other teams in the division are trying to improve. Great post. I think many a giants fan feel exactly the same way that you describe.

pygalgia said...

Excellent post, and I completely agree. There's a balance point somewhere between spending nothing and going wild that the Giants should be striking. Beltran would be a very good start.

M.C. O'Connor said...

The Giants are already a good team. It won't take much to make them better. I don't think the sky is falling because they didn't sign Jose Reyes. He will probably (health is my only concern) be worth it, being a good all-around player at a top defensive position. But 6 years @ $17M is better spent on Matt Cain, esp. with Brandon Crawford the SS of the future. If the Giants need a short-term answer at SS, until he is ready, why would they ever consider Reyes or Rollins? They could probably get Rafael Furcal for a year or two if they wanted someone bad enough.

Sign the pitchers. Deal with the arb cases (Sandoval, Lincecum, Vogie, Cabrera, etc.). That's the first order of business. Have the money ready when Posey and MadBum go to arb--don't throw it away on long-term FA deals (haven't we learned the folly of that approach?).

Zo said...

To be fair to Brian Sabean, much has been written about who directed the signings of Rowand and (especially) Zito. It is Sabean's job to put a winning team together whether he is given payroll flexibility or not. The comments are directed at ownership, Mr. Sabean is just the focus and spokesperson.

pygalgia said...

Well, we now have a Pagan Angel.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I love Andres Torres and will miss him terribly. That being said, Pagan looks like a pretty solid move.

Ron said...

Mark says "The Giants are already a good team." I have my doubts:

- We are coming off of one of the worst years by an ML offense in recent non-1968 memory.

- We have Buster coming back. While I mostly think that he'll be back in a big way, there's still a doubt about his durability & about who can pick up the load during the games when he is unavailable to catch. Hector Sanchez looks like the most likely candidate.

- One of the premises for our return to glory is a full-on comeback by F. Sanchez. This is dubious, especially since he's not expected to be back in form for Opening Day.

- Another premise is the 'can't miss' status of Brandon Belt. I am unconvinced, but will happy to be convinced.

- Yet another is that Nate Schierholtz is ready to hit both lefties & righties on a regular basis. Again, a shaky premise.

- Another is that Brandon Crawford is the 'SS-of-the-Future'. This one is also nowhere near 100%. There are not too many baseball experts who are predicting that he will turn into a solid ML hitter. Everyone focuses on his fine defensive skills, which used to be enough for a SS. Not anymore. You need solid hitting from your middle IF positions these days. Will he get there? Hopefully. Will he get there in 2012? Doubtful. Rollins could be signed to play SS & mentor, then move over to 2B, so I don't buy the reasoning that we are already set at SS, so we don't need Rollins.

Here are some things to think about:

- Ryan Vogelsong goes down with an injury, & we are in trouble.

- Cain, Lincecum, or Bumgarner go down with an injury, & we are in big trouble.

My conclusion, acquisition of Angel Pagan notwithstanding, is that we are not yet a good team. We are a marginal team which could be good, if many stars align.

However, as I keep saying ad nauseum (sorry), we have the resources to make sure that we WILL be good. And, we deserve the use of those resources. Spending some of those bucks on Cain, Lincecum, AND Beltran is the least that they can do.

Andres Torres was a nice story, but had an abominable 2011. I would have been just fine to have him as our 4th or 5th OF, & I am surprised that it took Torres & Ramirez to get Pagan, but I do agree with Mark that it looks like a solid move.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Half full, half empty. You have the worst offense in decades and still win 86 games and lose out on the postseason because of one bad month--that's a good team. 88, 92, 86 wins in three years. I think that's a good team. But that's, like I said, a half full, half empty argument.

But one thing that I cannot let go is the idea that Jimmy Rollins will happily "mentor" his own replacement! WHY DO YOU THINK THIS? What possible incentive does a star SS and former MVP and World Champ have to give up his position and teach a rookie? It makes no sense to assume that he will do that. If you want a SS and want to buy Rollins, fine. But he will move to 2B for Crawford only when they drag it from his cold, dead hands.