Monday, November 13, 2017


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).


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.