I'll be out for a while; mid-year evaluation
My Evaluation of the Season so Far
What can I say, the Giants have stunk. I understand why they stunk - losing your best player, pitcher, relievers, plus assorted injuries usually sink your performance greatly - but it doesn't make it any easier or better, it doesn't make me any happier. And I know it doesn't take a brainiac or blogger to see that, it is just so plain obvious.
I understand the need to rage at someone but I don't blame Sabean for the mess. I still believe that he did the best he could - not saying that he was perfect, I'm sure there's a lot of things he wished he did differently, like signing Alfonzo - and I still trust his abilities as GM, at least until we see what we got out of the current crop of prospects, which will take 2-3 years to sort out.
I blame management for the mess of the past few years, as I noted in a comment. As management, if you are going to self-insure, you need to do that, save for a rainy day in case the worse happens, and it has the past 3 seasons, losing Nen both years ($9M per) and Bonds ($22M) this year. The Tigers, of all teams, showed how to do it this year, signing Percival in case Urbina's situation with his mother is not resolved, then trading him off when he was able to come back. It also worked out for them that Percival was injured for part of the season and Urbina gave a nice audition for the league as closer. Ironically, he ended up being traded to become a setup man and has stunk at it (surprisingly, eh?).
The Giants should have had a back-up plan in place once they knew that Nen was having arm problems that were serious. They should have had some inkling in 2002 because they knew about the injury by mid-season and should have known that he was running on fumes because they knew that his shoulder was in "tatters", which caused the training staff to not give him painkillers in fear that he would unknowingly damage it more while pitching. They must have known then that his rotator cuff was pretty torn up and that most pitchers with it that bad don't make it back.
Once they knew that, they should have either hit up the owners for cash or get new investors (hello Silicon Valley millionaires) to pay for a new closer for the two years that Nen could be mucking up the budget. That would have allowed the Giants to sign up a closer before the 2003 season for two seasons with the announced intention that if Nen ever makes it back, the Giants would have co-closers with occassional work as set-up men.
And Bonds! We had been very lucky with him until this season. As much as I love Bonds, I was very leery about the huge contract given him because he was going to be 42 years old by the time the contract ended and almost all great players have suffered a permanent and large drop in their production by the time they reached their 40's, either through injury or age. Only Ted Williams was able to put in a good season but that was after a poor season and it wasn't for a full season, he needed a lot of rest. And yet we're still paying Bonds $22M.
And I understand that someone closing in on Babe Ruth's and Hank Aaron's records (most HR by lefthanded hitter and most HR ever in MLB, respectively, for newbies) warrants a big salary like that but obviously if you know that he's not going to be playing a full season and that there is a huge risk of a poor performance, whether through age or injury, you need to have a back-up plan and boost the budget to account for that possibility.
You do that by signing or obtaining a young stud hitter who would be Bonds protege and successor as offensive leader. You do that by obtaining enough funds, again, by whatever means necessary, to be able to pursue a player like that, whether it be Vlad Guerrerro, who I had championed for in vain, or any other player who could mash and was a free agent. True, you could have egg on your face, like Seattle with their Beltre/Sexson twin disasters or the Mets Beltran limp results or the Tigers risky Ordonez manuever, but you need to make that extra move to pursue a player like that in addition to getting all the veteran supporting cast that we seemingly inevitably sign up. Only then can you say that you did all you can.
See, ranting is good, I just think it is misdirected at Sabean. :^)
Still too early to say we should give up on the season, IMO. The team seems to take a step back for every step forward, but at least they are going forward every once in a while now, instead of constantly "back, back, back, back..." We seem to hit a floor, we've been bouncing back and forth at 9-10 games out for a while now.
But we don't have a full pitching staff, the team seems to be grasping for a solution now that they dropped Tomko to the bullpen with no idea who will be starting Friday. Hopefully it is a repeat of last year when they dropped Tomko into the bullpen where he pitched once then started his regular second half winning streak. But until then, we got Schmidt, Lowry, Rueter, and Foppert plus either Fassero or probably a starter from Fresno (when they drop Accardo back down), who I would bet is Correia since he has two good games under his belt after returning to the rotation while Hennessey has still struggled and Cain has been inconsistent.
Hopefully that will be counteracted a bit with Hawkins return in about a week and strengthen the bullpen greatly. We can have a so-so staff as long as the bullpen is able to shut them down the rest of the way and allow the offense to come back. I think that with Walker, Hawkins, Eyre and Fassero plus Munter continuing to do what he's been doing, we got a good core to the bullpen for the rest of the season. And Christiansen had been pretty good until the two blow-ups in a row.
That leaves the offense. It is still bouncing all around the place, going from a 1-hitter to a 15-hitter in the space of a game, a day, and a time zone. Unfortunately, Linden has not been the tonic for the offense that I was hoping for. Can't say much about it other than thank goodness for Alou, Vizquel, and Matheny, I cannot imagine how bad we would be without them. We need someone to step up and start hitting the ball all over the place (besides Alou), whether it be a young player or one of the vets, to charge up the offense.
It would be great if Ellison or Durham would take hold of the leadoff spot and get the offense going. As much as I like Ellison, I think the Giants should go with Durham and give him a chance there, as much to showcase him as to get the offense going. When Durham is going, he lifts the offense, but he hasn't been hitting the ball with runners on so we need to bat him leadoff where this pattern does us the least harm.
As I noted in a comment, as unconventional as this may be, we should bat Durham, Ellison, Vizquel, Alou in the first 4 spots and see how that works, nothing else has really worked consistently. Durham gets to lead-off, Ellison gets a little less pressure, Vizquel gets to take advantage of his good hitting with runners on, this season and for his career (a la how we had Snow, a lower power guy, batting 3rd), then of course Alou our best hitter. After that, you mix and match Niekro and Feliz in the 5/6 spots, maybe platoon Linden with Tucker in the 7th spot, and hit the catcher 8th (mainly Matheny).
Then maybe we get some of our other guys back, like Alfonzo, who despite average seasonal results, usually is a hot hitter after the All-Star Game, and we can re-shuffle again. I'm hoping that after Alfonzo gets back, the Giants will be able to trade away either Durham or Alfonzo, hopefully to the Mets for Matsui and a good prospect, but I'm open for almost anything to place Feliz at 3B and see how he can hit without wondering which glove to use today. If we are going to lose a season, we need to at least see how Feliz does as the full-time 3B.
We'll probably know more once the All-Star break comes, so I'll rehash all this once I get back. Take care!