3.08.2005

Fine whine at its sourest

Boy, it didn't take long for ex-Giants to play the violins, extra sour. In accounts in the Chron and the Merc, A.J. Pierzynski and, surprisingly, Dustin Hermanson, complained openly over their treatment and experience with the Giants.

I'll start with Hermanson because that was the biggest surprise. He complained about not getting the extra $200K in bonuses he might have earned starting if he wasn't converted into the closer. First off, he wouldn't have gotten a $5.5M contract this off-season if it wasn't for the Giants; as Sabean retorted, they picked him up off the scrap heap. Without the opportunity the Giants gave him, he probably would still be struggling somewhere, semi-starting, semi-relieving, doing neither very well. Second, as reported in the article, he probably wouldn't even have earned as much of a bonus as he did if the Giants didn't award him three points per start when the industry norm is to award two points per start. So already, he was getting a bigger bonus than a regular contract would have given him. Third, if he didn't notice, he was the worst starter for most of the season and Lowry most probably would have pushed him out of the rotation at some point or another, so he would have not made his incentives in any case, getting released possibly.

The Giants, if anything, gave him the opportunity to make the money he did this off-season by giving him the chance to close rather than just being released like Hammonds earlier in the season or pushing Franklin out of the bullpen and taking the long relief role. Not bad for a pitcher who less than two seasons ago was released by the Cardinal's, who was DYING to find semi-useful pitchers, with consecutive seasons of less than 30 IP, low K/9, ERA of 7.77 and 5.46, for the Cardinals before he was released by them.

A.J. is understandably upset, going from an All-Star catcher to in-house cancer in the space of a month or so, to "only" getting $2.25M when few teams would touch him. Then again, if the Giants braintrust in charge of salary negotiations (*cough* Ned Colleti) was more market savvy about A.J.'s expected salary - all the articles noted he should get around $2.5-$3.0M and he low balls arbitration at $2.25M; no wonder they don't like to go into arbitration - A.J. probably would have "only" gotten $2.75M, say. And he did not play at an All-Star level last year, he only really had one good month, so $2.25M is about what he should have gotten. But it wasn't like he was unprovokingly kneed in the 'nads undeservedly either, he made a lot of money playing for the Giants, up to a $1M more than he really deserved, and was given wider exposure playing in one of the larger population centers of the U.S., a plus for his obvious ambitions to move into broadcasting after his career is over.

Based on the news that has come out from the media - including Ralph Barbieri today, talking about how A.J. was complaining all the time off the mike, acting very immature - the Giants obviously did not do enough due diligence in investigating A.J. Pierzynski temperment and maturity level. This is an odd lapse given that they promote the image that they seek out mature thinking players - given how they describe a lot of their top prospects as mature for their years. Whoever fell down in this area should be severely reprimanded.

This trade now has to go down as the worse trade in Sabean's career - odd given how good it looked initially for the orange and black - and will only get worse as Nathan and Pierzynski play out their careers. I supported the trade when it was made but given all this background stuff, it only goes to show how important it is to know the inside stuff as well, something I should have learned when it turned out that Sudden Sam McDowell was a total drunk and we traded away Gaylord Perry's HOF career for that. The Twins totally snookered Sabean, not only getting Nathan but also a couple of good prospects as well.

But that makes it, what, 11 gazillion for Sabean now vs. the odd handful of trades that didn't work out really well. Most Sabean-haters like to mention a common set of players that shows how bad Sabean is - Dunston, Tucker, Ponson, Alfonzo, etc. - but really, what's the goal? To win and to make the playoffs and to hopefully win the World Series. He has the third best record in baseball since he took over, we regularly make the playoffs and came close to winning it all in 2002.

Most naysayers point at Bonds and say how easy he makes it for Sabean. No, it isn't, that's a fallacy, the Giants were a below .500 for the three seasons prior to Sabean taking over. In fact, the team he inherited lost 94 games, more games lost than only 3 other teams in the 46 year history of the SF Giants, 4 other teams in the 123 year history of the Giants franchise. Teams with a great player like him don't automatically win, history is filled with great players who nonetheless were playing on losers for a number of years, from Walter "Big Train" Johnson to Ernie Banks to Steve Carlton to Nolan Ryan to Tony Gwynn. Plus A-Rod didn't do anything for Texas either.

And he has made a number of great finds that worked out great for the Giants, from Rueter, Kent, J.T. Snow, Nen, Felix Rodriguez, Burks, Worrell, Schmidt, to Bell. You don't just tick these off as one good, one bad, some of these were really great trades that he made, that would make up for a multitude of bad trades, it would be like treating a homerun as just a hit when comparing it to a strikeout. And he had two grandslams in Kent and Schmidt. To me, to denigrate Sabean overall is to complain about having the third best record in baseball since 1997.

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