Article on Wright in Chron

Nice article in the Chron on Wright, I like Todd Greene’s comment:

Todd Greene, who caught some of those games, said, "I think he has electric stuff. You don't get away with as many mistakes in Denver. His sinker and curveball are above-average major-league pitches for sure. He's got major-league stuff."

I hope so, cause that could give us a pretty good to very good rotation, top to bottom.

Odd mention in the article is that he hopes to either be the 5th starter or "If it's not the rotation, it's the bullpen. As long as I'm in a Giants uniform when we head north, all the other stuff will work itself out."

Where is there a spot for that? Fassero is suppose to be our long reliever, we can't have two of them. Plus, if we do, that means two of Munter, Taschner, and Accardo would go down to the minors, if I am counting right - Benitez, Worrell, Kline, Fassero, Walker, Wright - yeah only one spot left if we go with 12 pitchers.

Well, like I noted numerous times, I hope Wright comes through and takes the 5th spot, he'll be a nice cheap starter for us for a few years if he can pitch to the levels his career road numbers suggest. Then Hennessey can hopefully bloom for us in AAA and be ready to take a rotation spot in 2007, assuming we don't somehow re-sign Schmidt with a huge home discount. Or Correia or Valdez, I'm not picky, I know prospects don't always work out, look at the A's and Met's 4 Aces in the early 1990's, they ALL fizzled out as starters, only Isringhausen had any kind of a good career afterward.


Rewarding the Best Team By Far

I was thinking about the playoffs structure because the Sabean article got me thinking about how hard it is for even the best team to win the World Series. With three rounds of games, it makes it that much harder for even the best team to make the World Series, let alone win it. As I noted, Billy Beane called it a crapshoot and it really does seem so based on the research I read at Baseball Prospectus (I found it but only subscribers can read the whole thing; I only read it when they had their week of free viewing).

So I was thinking: what reward is there for having the best record in the league? Nothing. When the MLB started, the team with the best record got to go to the World Series - today, nothing. So what could be done to reward excellence in that way, without trivializing it when the races are close and they just happen to be first after the last game?

First Round Bye

My idea is providing the team with the best record in a league with an incentive: first round bye. But it won't be easy to attain as my requirement would be that the team would have to beat the potential Wild Card team by 10 games (don't know why this number and not another, other than it is "round", just plucked it out of the air). I know, no precedence in the game for this, but there was no precedence for the wild card or DH either.

This would also could make the wild card a little more exciting for if there is a team running away with things and just winning a lot of games, there could be the tension of both trying to become the wild card team and the possibility that making the wild card was ultimately futile because the other team was winning so many games. It would have certainly spiced up a number of races.


From my running through the history of the playoffs, it would have "worked" about half the time in the NL (6 times no change, 5 times wild card is knocked out, with a number right at 10 games or so). It was about the same for the AL, off by one game and leads more toward no change - 7 times no change, 4 times wild card knocked out (though oddly, most were early for AL, most were lately for NL). However, it was bad in the AL as a very good team (102 wins) got pushed out because another team went crazy (116 wins).


I can go either way with this. I still think there should be some reward to a team who is clearly the best team in the league that year. But as the BP calculations showed, even the Cardinals vs. Astros would have resulted in the Cards winning only 63% of the time against the wild card team (which they didn't play because they were in the same division; 70% of the time vs. the 'Dres, whom they did play). So about a third of the time the best team is ousted from the competition in the first round, just from pure chance. However, with this rule in place, they would have gotten a bye on the first round and faced the winner of the Braves-Padres series plus get some days to heal up (though also to get rusty as well; it is a double-edged sword).

And an added "bonus" from adding this rule is that there will be less Wild Card teams getting a chance to get to the World Series. I don't know how others feel, but it just seems like the wild card team is getting to the World Series too often. Perhaps I'm being "old school" but they had a fair competition (barring injuries and lopsided trades) and lost to the team which did win their division.

If they were so bad that they could not even get within 10 games of the best team in the league, what is the big difference if they don't get to go to the playoffs? Isn't that the whole point of the wild card, rewarding those teams who did well enough to win a division but couldn't because they happened to be in a division where a team went wild and ran away with the division. This rule would eliminate about half the wild card teams, but the races look like they would have still been intact because it was rare when a team ran that far ahead of the pack of wild card teams. It would be an added level of difficulty for the wild card teams, forcing them to watch another team's results.


Bar-Bonds and Son

"Oooo... It's the Big One... You hear that fans ... Oh, this is the biggest one I ever had... I'm coming to join you fans and retire"

It's the annual Barry Bonds retirement press conference. It is kind of like those (dating myself) series of specials that Jack Benny used to have every year in the late 60's, early 70's maybe (not sure when he passed) that was titled his "retirement" show, which of course he had ever year, which was the joke. Or more recently the spate of singers who retire and unretire, like Frank Sinatra, the Eagles, etc.

Every year he's in pain and not sure how much longer he is going to last, every year he's getting that much older and not sure how much longer he is going to play, every year he's tired of the media attention (and of course to remedy that he goes on a reality show on ESPN) and negativity and not sure how much longer he is going to put up with it.

Not that I'm doubting that he feels these things truly and deeply. But like the boy who cried wolf, fans get a bit immune to his annual announcement. Of course, this year is a little different because he only has a contract for 2006 and obviously with no contract for 2007 he has to retire, doesn't he? Or maybe if his aching body is still raring to go and he's not ready to give up his multi-million dollar contracts, he signs somewhere for 2007 (and unless his leg falls off, he's probably going to get some offer, look at The Big Hurt, even he got a contract with the A's, Barry only needs to be relatively healthy to get a much bigger contract, how many games has Frank played in the past few years?)

I can sympathize though. I'm about his age and my body is ranked with pain just getting up sometimes and I have aches where I didn't know I had body part (ba-dum bum! :^). And I haven't beat up my body playing a sport for half the year (I'm part of the original C.P.C - Couch Potato Club - and have earned my Easy Chair many times over). So I know he's not kidding.

But as a fan, while I can sympathize to some extent, and I know this is cold, all we really care about is whether he's going to play for us and play well. Because, whether he likes it or not, it is a business and about $22M of our money is leaving our pockets via some channel, into his bank account.

I don't feel well right now (fighting a cold) but my clients don't really care as long as I am still delivering my service to them, relatively uninterrupted. Well, it's not really much different for him, I'm sorry he's not feeling well and all that, but for $22M (or whatever it really is this year, $18M? $20M?) we kind of expect a great performance, no pressure BTW. And bless his soul, he has done it every year (for the most part) until last year: hopefully he's got another great season in that aching, aging body of his.

Great Article About Sabean

The Chronicle had a great article on Sabean a few days ago and I've been chewing on it. I had been working on a post defending Sabean because I feel there are two many fans being too harsh (or even biased :^) in their evaluation. But maybe I'll scrap that (or save for next off-season) and throw out my thoughts in reaction to the article.

New Name Mentioned for his Inner Circle

The article mentioned his cabinet of advisors, his inner circle. Most names I either know or have heard of: Dick Tidrow, Pat Dobson, Ted Uhlaender, and (formerly) Ned Colletti. But there was a new one there, Joe DiCarlo. And, surprising to me because I saw their names put out when Ned was hired away as possible replacements, Jack Hiatt and Bobby Evans were not mentioned. I guess they are more administrator types, but one would hope that your Director of Player Development and Director of Minor League Operations, respectively, would be held in higher esteem by the GM.

Looking in the Giants 2005 Media Guide, I had to dig to find Joe DiCarlo's name: he is mentioned simply as one of our major league scouts. There is no other detail, other than he hails from New Jersey; perhaps they met when Sabean was head of player development for the Yankees, that's how Uhlaender got close to Sabean, I believe.

Sabean Pulled Off Nathan Deal Without Magowan Input

Wow, that is huge, particularly since his contract was up soon after that, if I recall correctly. Most people who do something like that usually would have something happen to them, some sort of public reprimand. DeBartolo demoted Walsh - Walsh! - after he had a great season but lost in the League Championship Game leading up to the Super Bowl. Most other people get fired for such a bone-headed move. And this trade only looks exponentially worse and worse with every season. Instead, he not only gets an extension, but he gets a contract of undisclosed length.

I still wonder who engineered that trade - according to Colletti in one of the article after he joined the Dodgers, he praised Sabean for allowing others to work out trades with other teams, among other duties. Was it really Sabean, then, who engineered the trade (though certainly he was the one who pulled the trigger)? Or was it Sheriff Ned? Or someone else?

Vocal Detractors who said his success due Solely to Bonds

That's one of my big problems with detractors. To me it is a big red herring. Of course a GM's success is related to the success of his best players. If you take the best player off of almost any team, that team will not "look pretty" either. But until 2005, when Bonds was out for most of the season, there was no comparison point so these people point to 2005 and say "see, that's what I mean!"

And sure, Bonds has outperformed for a while now, even for his prior standards. But without Bonds, the Giants are a $65M payroll team. That drops them to the middle of the pack payroll-wise, which makes it that much harder to compete. And these people conveniently forget that the team fell apart almost across the board in 2005, which drops them even further down, as high priced players underperformed for even what they did the prior two seasons.

The starting rotation was off. Schmidt was MIA for the season, subtract another $7M off. Williams appears to have ate his way off the team. While Rueter and Tomko did about what could be expected. Only Lowry did reasonably well and Hennessey was up and down but at least showed a lot of potential (at least he'll be a cheaper Tomko for the most part in 2006, at minimum).

The bullpen imploded. Benitez went on the DL almost immediately (and should have been on it sooner the way he was pitching). Brower, Christiansen, and Herges went MIA. Only Fassero and Eyre was doing it while Walker was hanging in there, pitching well enough as a closer but horribly otherwise.

The lineup was also hit. Grissom, who had performed well the two previous seasons, particularly for the money, just fell apart. As bad as Alfonzo had been with the Giants, he was a decent performer the two previous seasons, but in 2005, after he had one last gasp the first two weeks of the season, he then turned into a high-priced pumpkin for the rest of the season (at least you could get seeds from a pumpkin). There goes three of the main offensive contributors in Bonds, Grissom and Alfonzo. And Tucker, who had been a reliable 4th OF his whole career, and did well the previous two seasons filling in for Carlos Beltran and when Hammonds went lame (again). The team as constructed could have survived missing Bonds for the season, but not half their offense and half of their pitching.

Now these detractors would say, well, he got these lousy players, that's why he sucks. Well, these are the same players who contributed to a 100-win season two years before and 91-win season the year before. You can't say they are lousy players in 2005 if they were good players in 2003 and 2004, contributing to the team's success, you cannot have it both ways.

Sabean Does Not Bow to OBP, Therefore He Sucks Mentality

There are those who say he is SO not a saber, because of the low OBP players he has gotten or used, like Vizcaino, Russ Davis, Dunston, Grissom, Santiago, Feliz, Neifi, and Deivi. But you cannot judge how he is by how he choses relatively minor (i.e. cheaper, under $3M players) players because every team (except for the Yankees) is forced to make sacrifices with the edges of the starting lineup when you allocate a lot of money to your best players. Or do these fans really think that he can get a high OBP hitter, particularly a starter, for a couple of million?

You need to look more at his bigger acquisitions, particularly via contract extensions and free agents. Of course, Bonds you cannot count, the best players are typically high OBP hitters. You could apply similar logic to Kent if you wish on his extension. However, if you look at his other acquisitions, he looks a lot more like a saber than sabers would think.

To me, the players he should be accountable for were signed to salaries over $4M. Alfonzo and Durham clearly qualifies as high OBP hitters. People complain about him resigning Snow, whether via contract extensions or free agent contracts, but he is a high OBP hitter as well. In addition, Ellis Burks and Moises Alou are very much high OBP hitters. Even Vizquel counts as a high OBP hitter. On the short end, Aurilia and Benard also got big contracts but neither was not a high OBP hitter, though Aurilia was a power hitter among shortstops, which has value too, OBP is not the only game in town.

Also, looking over the league average OBP for the past five years, the mean OBP has been around .325-.345. There were a number of bigger name players who were acquired, though they didn't necessarily make the bigger bucks. Players like Sanders, Hammonds, Tucker, and Pierzynski would count in terms of players acquired who fall into that range. Kenny Lofton, Darryl Hamilton and Jose Cruz Jr. would count as high OBP hitters as well as El Gato Galarraga, though they didn't make the big bucks. Plus two of our best hitting prospects are on-base machines - EME and Ishikawa.

Kent Reconcilation Not Realistic

No way, Kent hated Bonds and his attention and attendent circus, plus his privileges (I guess he didn't react well to the bull-dance initiation :^). It was simply an untenable situation that Sabean could not have ameliorated no matter what he did.

Look at Kent's behavior after he left the Giants. He chose to make fun of Giants fans, he deliberately burned his bridges with this area, despite starring at U.C. Berkeley and with the Giants. His behavior post-Giants and "dream come true" by signing with the Dodgers makes me wonder if he subconsciously underachived during the playoffs. He wasn't even our 4th best hitter during the World Series run of 2002.

B.S. (And That Doesn't Mean Brian Sabean) on Vlad

That is such B.S. about Vlad Guererro and the Giants. First, Guerrero never expressed a desire to come to any team so what is the point that he didn't express a desire to come to SF. But he clearly said that he was willing to play anywhere, even New York. Compile that with Guererro telling a Spanish news outlet that he owes his career to Felipe Alou and one of his proudest moment as a ballplayer would be to be on the field with Alou in the opposing dugout, one can see that while Vlad may not have expressed a desire to come to SF, he surely would have greatly enjoyed it. If he got such a thrill being in the opposing dugout, imagine how he would feel in the same dugout!

Second, the Giants could have afforded the contract the Angels gave him, as I showed in an article I had written before in another lifetime. Basically, with the $6-7M the Giants were offering Maddux that same off-season plus not signing Tucker and Hammonds plus a few others and, even better, not trading for Pierzynski, the Giants could have afforded to sign Guerrero and keep the main core of players on that 2004 Giants team. They could have done that if they had kept their eye on Guererro as an acquisition target instead of jumping on the Pierzynski trade so fast.

Success With No World Series Championship

Ultimately, yes, I would share this opinion, but he has done well enough to warrant a 5 year period A.B. (After Barry) to try for this before I would say his time is up. He has a lot of interesting prospects coming up - Cain, Hennessey, Correia, EME, Ishikawa, Sanders, Sandoval, Sanchez, Frandsen, Valdez - and some already up - Lowry, Munter, Taschner, Accardo - that the post Bonds period is looking to be an exciting period of re-birth for the Giants franchise.

Sabean Deserves To Lead Us

Overall, I'm glad Sabean has been our GM and I still support him. Someone with the talent and know-how to identify and acquire so many useful and talented player over the years earned my support. He found two great players via trades in Kent and Schmidt - how many even get one? And where would the Giants have been without the two? He found a lot of good puzzle pieces off the junk heap, like F-Rod, Hermanson, Santiago, Embree, Eyre, Brower, Grissom, Tucker. He found other good pieces in JT Snow, Durham, Burks, Worrell. He stole other pieces like Livan and Nen. He shepherded others through the farm system in Russ Ortiz, Shawn Estes, Bill Mueller, Rich Aurilia, Keith Foulke, and Joe Nathan. And he has drafted nice players like Jerome Williams and Noah Lowry.

For those who point to the Pierzynski trade, I say that any GM who isn't making any mistakes in his trades isn't working hard enough or taking enough risks. Any good or great GM will make mistakes sometimes, you need to look at both sides of the ledger to judge him correctly. You need to look at the whole of his decisions, which is how well the team has performed under his guidance.

He has a .558 winning percentage, third best to the Yankees and Braves during his tenure as GM. And as one baseball stat website showed (sorry, don't recall where), the odds of the best team winning the World Series is ridiculously small given the short series plus three rounds of play. Plus Billy Beane has said that the playoffs is a crapshoot in terms of who wins it all. So winning it all is not the be all and end all it used to be before the wildcard came in. So I think Brian deserves a chance to shepherd his young draftees into the major league leagues and see how a team developed by Brian Sabean really looks like.