Saturday, March 30, 2013

Here Come the Champs

I'm going to Opening Day this year. My lovely friend Deann and the baseball gods conspired to find me a pair of tickets for Friday's game. The Giants will take the field as the World Fucking Champions. It will be awesome. I remember the feeling from Opening Day 2011 (those tickets also courtesy of Deann!) and I want to feel it again. I've been a Giants fan since I was seven years old, and that was the best time I ever spent in a ballpark. The Giants were number one in the world! What could be better? Let's see, how about doing it again? Yeah, I think so. Stay tuned!

Buster Posey signed the biggest deal in Giants history and I think, after all the excitement has worn off, that you could call it "team-friendly." Sure, a nine-year deal for anyone is a huge risk. Ballplayers are mortal, and they break down. There is a good chance Johan Santana, for example, will never pitch again after his latest setback. But I think the Giants did the right thing with Posey. If you want to go "all-in" on a guy, he looks like the best bet. Obviously teams are swimming in money as these long-term deals for "franchise players" are becoming increasingly common. It's hard to put a value on wins, but one fellow argues that they are worth about $6M apiece. When you look at the final years of Buster's contract ($21.4M per year for 2017-2021) that's about 3.6 WAR (in 2012 dollars) for five seasons for a total of 18 "wins above replacement." I think there are two certainties: things will cost more in 2017, and the Giants can afford it. Here's a graph:

The Giants are willing to open their wallets and spend what it takes to compete. This year's $132M may not be complete, that's just what Cot's Contracts says the team is already on the hook for (all the numbers are from Cot's). Buster will be 30 at the start of the 2017 season. Through ages 30-34, Mike Piazza racked up roughly 21 WAR. Ivan Rodriguez, over the same span, 17, Jason Varitek 13, Jason Kendall 10, and Bengie Molina 6 (B-R). Rod Barajas, at age 35, gave the 2011 Dodgers 1.4 WAR in 98 games, and Yorvit Torrealba, age 31, gave the 2010 Padres 2.6 WAR in 95 games. If you can catch and hit near league average you are very valuable. Even if Posey moves to first base, you figure he can hit at least well enough to add 3 WAR, which would put him on par with a guy like Mark Teixeira (who makes over $22M now). I like the deal. It works for the Giants as not only is Buster absurdly marketable, he's only making $3.7M this season (Javier Lopez makes more) and $11.3M next season. Even if he winds up being "expensive" down the road, I think he will more than deliver on his "expected" value. I remember when I thought the Aaron Rowand and Barry Zito contracts would be anchors around the neck of the club, preventing them from spending money where they needed to. Then they won two World Series titles in three seasons. So, I don't worry about that any more.

Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner will be here through 2017. Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean will be around through 2016--that's a good thing. So will Angel Pagan. After that, Marco Scutaro, Jeremy Affeldt, and Santiago Casilla are signed through 2015. Ryan Vogelsong, Sergio Romo, and Pablo Sandoval each have another year after this one. The Brandons won't be free agents until 2018. The only real question mark is Timmy--this is his contract year, he will be a free agent this fall. I hope he is still a part of the plan. Speaking of plans, I plan to enjoy this club one hell of a lot.



Friday, March 29, 2013

CHRISTMAS IN MARCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posey, Giants agree to eight-year extension

Last year's NL MVP signs for $167 million, with club option for 2022, no-trade clause


Boch, Sabes, and Gordo

"The glory days of the franchise are now."
--Larry Baer

Can't argue with that. In a thoroughly expected move, the Giants extended both GM Brian Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy through 2016. They earned it, that's for sure. The Giants are on top of the baseball world. After Game Six, the quick exit from the 2003 playoffs, and the horrifying collapse at the end of the following season, I reached my nadir as a fan. Sabes was my target and I blamed him for everything. When the Giants picked up Boch, I thought he was just another re-tread, and my angst spiraled into despair. It's nice to be proved wrong. As the product on the field was falling apart, the organization was being revitalized from the inside with talent both in the minors and the front office, and the result was two championships and a legitimate shot at more. The Giants not only have everything now--young stars, a beautiful park, smart people in charge, good fans, fancy rings--they also have a bright, "gotta wear shades" future. If I need something to worry about I think it might be that other teams will try to lure away all those bright minds (like Dick Tidrow, Bobby Evans, John Barr, et al.) who make up the Baseball Operations department. Fortunately the Giants seem committed to keeping their people together and rewarding them appropriately for their hard work. As a fan, you can't ask for much more. On the field and off, the Giants are the best. I've wanted to say that my whole life, and now it is true.

Speaking of true, Pablo Sandoval is a fat guy. This we know. Every year,  it seems, we have that weighty issue to address. Our happy-go-lucky Gordo is a hell of a ballplayer even if he does look more like a bowling pin than a third baseman. One of my favorite things about baseball is that athletes of all sizes and shapes can play it. Basketball is all about height, and football is all about bulk. Soccer players (with a few exceptions like the sublime Lionel Messi) are all 6' and 185 lbs. and look like they are cut from the same mold. I suppose I should have said 1.83 m and 84 kg, but you get my drift. There is just not a lot of variation in body type in that sport. Baseball is unique, you can be built like Prince Fielder or Tim Lincecum and still find success on the field. It's one of the reasons our national pastime appeals to me so much, and I'd hate to see the Jenny Craig-ing of America ruin that. Clearly, the Panda has work to do. He has to battle the bulge if he wants to stay on top of the game. Fans (and management) have the right to expect their athlete-entertainers to be at their best when they put on the uniform. But uniqueness and individuality are important, too. The best team wins in baseball, but a team is a collection of singular types, and the sport remains lively and interesting because Marco Scutaro inhabits the same universe as Hunter Pence. I remember watching Dave Winfield and Ozzie Smith back in the day when they were both Padres. It would have taken three Ozzies to fill out the big rightfielder's uniform! That's one thing--the Freddie Patek-Frank Howard continuum--I hope never changes.

The title defense starts Monday in Los Angeles. GO GIANTS!


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The new schedules are here! The new schedules are here!

That's just the kind of spontaneous excitement I've been needing!

I'm a pocket schedule kind of guy. Gotta have one in the wallet and one in the car. One for work, too. My lovely bride has one on the fridge. And a half dozen other places as well. After all, much of our lives from April to October are determined by the baseball schedule, so they ought to be scattered around for easy access. "So, hey, you guys going to the such-and-such social event?" That's the sort of thing I get all the goddamn time, and I have an easy answer: "Uh, lemme check the schedule." And I'm definitely not the smartphone kind of guy, I don't have a meThing on my person at all times, I have to dig out the billfold, unwrap the folded glossy paper and peer at the little orange and white boxes to see what my life holds for me. "Oh, man," I say, "big series in Philly comin' up, I just don't know." That gives me that "maybe," that little out, some wiggle room, so I can bail out of obligations when I need to. It's the perfect excuse to weasel my way past those things I feel like I gotta do but really don't wanna do if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

As you can see from the photo, the pocket schedule these days actually requires it's own pocket. It wasn't always so as I'm sure you remember. While we are at it, here's to those lovely retro pocket schedules, the ones we wouldn't leave home without when we were young, the ones you could get at any Chevron station or liquor store back in the day, the ones that used to be one-third the size they are now and squeezed all six months of the season onto one side. Of course, I didn't need 'progressive lenses' then, or maybe my arms were just longer. The new schedules are a little ridiculous now, requiring graduate work in topology to fold them properly, and containing far too much information (August 10: Fellowship Day!). But that's a quibble. It's great to have them around again, and the picture of Buster (tagging out Fielder in the Series) is priceless.

The new schedules are here, go out and grab some of your own.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Team America Comes Up Short

Puerto Rico is part of America, right? I mean, it can't be "Team USA" because Puerto Rico is not one of the fifty united states, but those guys are American citizens who hold American passports, right? It's not like the Kingdom of the Netherlands fielded Team Holland and Team Curacao. What will happen if Puerto Rico becomes the 51st state? Will they still get a team in the World Baseball Classic? Silly questions, I know, and I mean no disrespect. After all, the notion of a "nation" has little to do with political realities. But imagine a Team America that combined the two rosters--that would have been a tough squad. I enjoyed the WBC despite the fact that a short duration tournament is the antithesis of the marathon summer of ball we all know and love. And I would have preferred a final with Japan, the defending champs, who were clearly the other great team in the field. Puerto Rico had an inspiring run and it was fun watching Angel Pagan's histrionics. I love his lead vocalist-style strutting and preening and his goofy, bug-eyed complaining to the umpire. He's an impressive player and a fine addition to the San Francisco Giants. Harold Reynolds called him "an offensive force." I liked that. But the Dominicans were not to be denied and are deserving winners. That country has an amazing baseball history, as we all know, and it is fitting that they were champs. I don't know how you can run the WBC differently so that MLB players can participate fully--perhaps you can't. There will always be conflicts with contracts and countries, and I'm not sure how I'd feel about Buster Posey busting his balls for Team USA in March. I like him a lot better doing stretches and sprints in Arizona. The WBC is a good opportunity for other, non-superstar players to get a chance to shine, and there was plenty of talent on Team USA, certainly enough for them to make a run at the title. It would have been nice to see more fans in the ballparks, but the WBC is here to stay and I think that's a good thing for baseball. Should be even more fun in 2017.

Back home on the Giants front, the news about Pablo Sandoval and his "chronic bone spur" does not make me happy, but we are, sadly, used to the Panda missing large chunks of the season. Perhaps this year they will rest him more frequently and try to avoid long stints on the DL. Injuries are always the X-factor when thinking about the upcoming season. You know that guys are going to get hurt, all you can hope is that the injuries aren't too severe and that the club has the depth to tough it out when a key player goes down. I'm getting excited about those last couple of roster spots, aren't you?


p.s. Check me out at C70 At The Bat (a Cardinals blog) where I preview the 2013 Giants along with a few other Giants bloggers! The feature is called "Playing Pepper." Thanks to Daniel Shoptaw for the invite and chance to talk baseball with a different audience.