The Tenuous Ten 

Driving back from the boonies tonight, we caught the final few innings of the Giants' tenth straight victory. From the highlights, it sounded as if the G's knocked off a floundering team. Hillenbrand made no attempt on what should have been a double-play ball; Brower scored on an errant Bautista throw; a three-run ninth started with an egregious muff by Cintron. Stick a fork in the snakes.

Checking the reports on the two games I missed (wins eight and nine), I still maintain that the Giants are doing what a good team should do -- beat up on the weaklings -- but certainly aren't doing it decisively.

Apparently I'm not the only one seeing the clouds attached to the silver lining. Alou made some reference in the weekend's papers to fans and writers who just can't be satisfied, and Krukow echoed Alou's sentiment ("boy, I tell ya, that really ticks me off, like the Giants were out there playing the Little Sisters of the Poor or something") on the post-game rap tonight. Kruk and Alou are right. Ten in a row is ten in a row. I remember a few years back the Giants were on a roll and Baltimore and Tampa Bay came to town. Should have gone 6-0 or 5-1 against these two horrendous squads, but the Giants limped away with a split. Ten in a row against a team of emergency AAA call-ups would be worth celebrating.

But arguing whether the Giants winning streak is a real winning streak or asterisked because of the quality of the competition is beside the point. Anyone who watches this team every day could only duck the obvious by placing one's head deep into the sand. This team has major holes. Do not be lured into complacency by a ten-game win streak. I'm enjoying it, yes, don't worry, but if anything this gives Brian Sabean even greater imperative to go out and do what We have been begging him to do since last November:

- get a big bat behind Bonds.
- get another legitimate starter.
- bolster the bullpen.

Unfortunately, with the Giants' thin farm system and budget ceiling, we shouldn't expect more than one of these three things to happen. If so, hopefully it's the first one.

The Beltran speculation is starting to heat up, by the way. Peter Gammons reports that "the Royals want a young third baseman, catcher, second baseman, outfielder and pitching, so Baird hopes to get three of the five if he deals Beltran."

Does Pedro Feliz count as a young third baseman?

His trade value has never been higher, even though everyone except Jose Valverde knows there's no need to ever throw him a strike. Trade him, Brian. If not for Beltran, then for someone else.



Do We Have To? 

Watching the game tonight made me think of petulant kids who refuse to do something in their own best interest. They finally do it, but only via the most difficult route possible, making life miserable for everyone.

- Do we have to win the game?

Yes, Giants, you have to. There's really no two ways about it. Just look who you're playing.

- But do we really? The Diamondbacks are such kind men, giving out so many free passes to first base. It would be so cruel to take advantage of them.

No it wouldn't. Everyone does it. Crush their hopes, exploit their weaknesses; it's the way human beings were meant to behave before they started going to Montessori. Also, when a pitcher doesn't want to throw strikes, you don't swing until he throws one down the middle. Good. Very good. Even you, Neifi! Excellent. Looks like we've got that down. No, no, wait, Pedro, don't --

[The groans of 35,000 souls waft skyward.]

Pedro did it again.

Yes, I can see that. Pedro, go sit on the bench and think about what you just did. Let Neifi, er, Deivi, er, Cody...never mind. Pedro, get back in there right now.

But the Diamondbacks are doing it, too.

Yes, that's why they suck. Just watch big dumb Shea. 2 and 0 count, bases loaded, he can afford to take a strike if it's not perfect...double play grounder to short! See?

Damon's big and dumb, too, but he's taking lots of pitches. What's so different about him?

Lasik eye surgery, apparently, and significant weight loss. And maybe he's not as dumb as he looks.

Can't we just let them win one? Winning is hard!

[The loud crack of a bat...more groans.]

See? Matty throws 12 great pitches, then one bad pitch and, bam, game tied. Arizona really deserves this one. Can't we just--

No. Now get back out there and don't be idiots.

But we can't keep doing this night after night and expect to contend!

Go talk to your Uncle Brian.



Wild Gift 

Five in a row, 3.5 games back, two out of two against a floundering team. The big comeback is going exactly as I expected.

OK, if indeed the ship is turning around, I deserve to drown after jumping overboard in the wake of the Pirates' series. Arrggggh. I'll state publicly that I hope the ship is turning, and in fact, if it is, I always knew it would.

Thanks to the A-to-tha-B, a.k.a. Benito's Widow, I was at Le Stade Gigantesque Tuesday night to watch Jason Schmidt throw peas and Alfonzo golf curveballs into the foul pole screen. I listened intently tonight as the Giants tried to botch one with bad defense and a crap sac bunt by Alfonzo in the eighth, but the D-Backs' bullpen was not to be denied. Three walks and an 0-2 mistake to a guy, Feliz, who would swing at the shadow of a passing pigeon if it came within two feet of the plate. Muchas gracias, Jose Valverde. [Here's what Bob Brenly said after the game: "Terrible pitch. Feliz has walked twice this year. Two times! You've got four pitches; he would've swung at any of them. So he gets a slider right down the middle of the plate."]

Feliz may feast on bad pitchers or bad pitches, but when the pennant race is in full swing, he'll see fewer of either. So let's not get too excited and make naked body pyramids just yet, OK?

No matter how many 6 1/3-inning, 3-run outings Kirk Rueter gives us; no matter how many singles A.J. Pierzynski bloops over the head of the third baseman; no matter how many "stretching gurus" Barry Bonds is allowed to hide under his Barcalounger, this team is going to need reinforcements.

The current squad -- well, the combined force of everyone on the DL and everyone who's now or has recently been in the minor leagues -- just ain't going to cut it. I watched Brian Daubauch from 1999 to 2002, and let me tell you, Damon Minor, you are no Brian Daubach.



Elbo: Connecting the dots 

A few disjointed observations on tonight's game:

*The Diamondbacks just lost Richie Sexson, probably for the season, due to a torn labrum. Did you hear how he got it? Check swing. Strong man, that Richie Sexson.

*Pedro Feliz just lowered his K/BB ratio from 32.0 to 16.0. I'll leave it to you mathematicians to figure out how he did it.

*Neifi Perez hit in the leadoff spot tonight, and it actually paid off.

*Still, I'll miss Ray Durham for the next few weeks. Not sure if I'll miss J.T. Snow.

*Damon Minor is back! With a 1.086 OPS at Fresno under his hat, no less. It's almost like he never hit .234 for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons last year. By the way, he's 30 (not 29, as some sources say), and he hasn't hit better than .240 in a significant number of at-bats since he was 26, in triple-A.

*Just a few minutes after Greg Papa and the incomprehensible Frank Viola chatted about Jeffrey Maier's assist on Derek Jeter's home run ball in the 1996 ALCS over on ESPN2, some guy in the PacBell bleachers assured Barry Bonds of his 669th homer, even though it may not have cleared the wall without his help. Upon further review, Kuiper said it was gone, Krukow wasn't so sure.

*Guess I was just paranoid about Schmidt's pitch count last time... I hope so anyway, in the long run.


Demolition Derby 

Two months into the season, and I'd say we can sum up the proceedings with one word: injuries.

It's been an epidemic so far for several teams. The Giants have had Durham, Schmidt, Hermanson, Nen, Eyre, Hammonds, and most likely Snow and Durham again on the DL.

The Cubs are on pace to top their club record for players placed on the DL, with their two big pitchers missing significant time as well as key position players. (Gezhundheit, Sammy.)

The Angels have been decimated but keep plugging along.

The Braves have been hit hard: Furcal, Giles, Chipper Jones, Marrero and Paul Byrd.

The Yankees are looking old, with Sheffield's injured thumb sapping his power and Giambi and Bernie Williams falling apart before our eyes.

The Twins have lost Joe Mauer, Cory Koskie, Matt LeCroy, Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart to DL time.

After trading half their team for him, Arizona might lose Richie Sexson for the season.

For the Reds, Ken Griffey, Jr. has...whoa!...been perfectly healthy. (But Austin Kearns hasn't.)

Once again, Larry Walker is nowhere to be found in Colorado, and the Rockies suffered a huge blow when Preston Wilson went down perhaps for the year in April.

The Expos haven't had Nick Johnson all year or Carl Everett for most of the year.

The Mets: Jose Reyes and his Mysterious Hamstrings, and Cliff Floyd of the Fragile Aura.

Is this unusual? Could it be more thana coincidence that the year steroid testing goes into effect, players are having more trouble recuperating from injuries?

Any thoughts?



Wet Weekend 

The Giants' road trip went about as well as one could have asked for, and I'm including Sunday's rainout. With Snow, Durham and probably Bonds not able to play in wet conditions, the Giants would have been seriously shorthanded at the end of an exhausting trip. Plus, Jason Schmidt got a couple extra days of rest after his epic 1-hitter in Chicago. Despite the break in momentum, the rainout was good news.

So is this the big tease? With the Dodgers' bellyflop the past two weeks, the Giants are now 4.5 games back as they head into the middle two months of the season. On the upcoming homestand, the Giants play Arizona three times without facing Randy Johnson or Brandon Webb. Instead they see Casey Fossum (0-1, 8.00 ERA in only 9 IP), Casey Daigle (2-2, 7.98 ERA, 1.005 OPS against) and Steve Sparks (2-4. 6.65 ERA, .800 OPS against). Richie Sexson has gone back on the DL.

Then the Giants host the Rockies who are missing Larry Walker and Preston Wilson and as usual are terrible hitters on the road. Overall the team is .274/.346/.476. Away from Coors Field they're hitting .239/.301/.411, which when compared to overall team OPS would put the Rockies (.712) ahead of only Seattle (.694), Tampa Bay (.682) and Montreal (a stunning .614). (And just behind the Giants, who clock in at .724.)

Meanwhile, the Dodgers visit the surprisingly good Brewers for three then host Arizona (and Johnson and Webb) for three. The Padres play in the horror show of Coors Field for three then visit the Brewers over the weekend. Schedule advantage: Giants.

Now is the time to show no mercy. If the G's can gain just more game, let alone two or three, in the standings by June, they'll be decently poised to make a couple trades and make a run.

However, the Giants may have to be merciless with Brian Dallimore and Tony Torcato in their lineup, as Snow and Durham look destined for the DL yet again. (R is for Ray, as in Durham on DL...)

I'm sure we'll find out tomorrow. This report explains more about the extent of Snow's knee injury, which I read with interest (something I usually don't do when it comes to the Giants in-house propaganda). I also injured my left knee recently, not enough to keep me from running in a straight line, but whatever's going on in there prevents me from getting any hip and legs into my swing. It's the first time I've realized how much torque goes into the back knee on every swing (I hit left handed), and after two at-bats yesterday that produced an easy grounder to second on a fastball down the middle and a check-swing liner to second on a fat hanging slider, I took myself out of our dismal game.

All this is to say that I can see how a knee injury, especially a little cartilage tear (which I'm praying I don't have) can be enough to force surgery. Snow with healthy knees has little power to begin with; with a bad left knee, he'll have a hard time getting the ball out of the infield.



Hang Your Head, Joe Borowski 

Neifi Perez just hit a two-run homer off Joe Borowski to put the Giants ahead in the top of the 10th. We will look back on this moment and say, "In 2004, at least for one measly half-inning, God was a Giants fan."

* A couple Neifi notes:

- With one swing of the bat, he raised his slugging pct. from .263 to .284!

- It was his first left-handed homerun in more than 500 at-bats, according to the Giants' PR guy.

- He has tied his home run total from 2003.

- He said in an interview after the game that he'd been "struggling for a couple weeks" at the plate. I haven't cleaned my ears lately, so it's possible Neifi said "for several years" and I simply misheard.



A Few Good Signs 

As Elbo notes below, we'll have to wait and see about how Schmidt bounces back from his 144-pitch performance tonight. But tonight's game featured Pedro Feliz, starting shortstop, which was a welcome sight, and even better he was hitting seventh where he can work on curing his hackatosis without the pressure of being Behind Barry. Even even better were his two hits, one a double to right, one a single up the middle, which show that he's not trying to pull everything.

Smart move, Felipe.

I also liked Tucker hitting 8th.

Also a good sign was Alfonzo hitting the ball hard twice, once for a single, once for a line-drive double play that unfortunately will be reflected in the updated DNB numbers.

I venture that with Alfonzo heating up (although still showing no power), the Giants lineup will look more and more like this:

Durham 2b
Snow 1b (Hammonds RF vs LHP)
Grissom CF
Bonds LF
Alfonzo 3b
Pierzynski C
Feliz ss (1b vs LHP)
Tucker RF (Cruz SS vs LHP)

Neifi will be relegated to late-inning defensive replacement and spot start when an egregious ground-ball pitcher, ie, Rueter, takes the mound.


Elbo: Schmidt saves himself 

I'm thrilled that Jason Schmidt threw a masterpiece tonight, really, I am. But don't you find it worrisome that someone who just had surgery to remove scar tissue from his elbow would be permitted to throw 144 pitches in a game? Is it a comment on the sad state of the Giants' bullpen that no one -- no, not Scott Eyre, who was warming up, let alone Herges and his ballooning ERA -- could be counted on to close this one out? Didn't they have the day off yesterday? I know the bullpen needs relief itself, but I still think it's sad that Schmidt has to get his own saves these days.

None of this takes anything away from his masterful performance. But if I hear the words "disabled list" in his future, I'll surely think of this game.

Incidentally, his game score was 97, good enough to surpass Ben Sheets' 18-strikeout effort as the best-pitched game of the year... except that Randy Johnson scored a 100 earlier tonight in his perfect game against the Richmond -- er, Atlanta Braves.


The "R" Word (Grim Doggerel) 

R is for Ray, as in Durham on DL,
It's also for Runners the Giants leave on. Woe,
R is for Rags, who's got little to work with,
And Rumsfeld, who's having a better year than Tomko.

R also stands for a word I'd not rather
Mention when I speak of the Giants at play.
But with this team Sabes has gathered
I'm afraid it's a given: get ready to say

"Rebuilding": That's the Giants' big word this gray morn'.
Get ready to purge, Ned Coletti, my friend.
Call Hendry, ring Theo, get Beane on the horn.
For prospects and cash, just say "Yes" and hit "send."

Pennies per dollar for light-hitting shortstops,
We'll eat partial salaries of Fonzie and A.J.,
Just haul them away, no need to delay,
Might as well rate the Giants (save Bonds) A-A-A.



When Neifi Met Derek 

Sorting through the stats this morning, I thought to myself, "Hmm, is Neifi Perez truly the worst hitter in the major leagues?"

Of the 189 position players listed in ESPN's sortable stats, Neifi indeed ranks last in OPS at .512. The second worst is Derek Jeter, at .528. Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins is next at .549. Two other regular shortstops follow quickly: Eckstein of Anaheim (.570) and Rich Aurilia (.588), who has only one more walk than Neifi.

Orlando Cabrera will be in high demand come July.

Meanwhile, everyone's clamoring for someone -- anyone -- to replace Neifi. Pedro Feliz is the best candidate, except Pedro really should be starting more at first base and third base, too.

It's easy to forget amidst the clamor and hubbub and enraged cries of "NEIFI, YOU MISERABLE FUCKING BASTARD, YOU'RE KILLING ME" coming from a certain seat in section 138, that the last best hope to inject offense into the Giants lineup at three different positions is one guy who really isn't that good. Sorry, Pedro fans. His is an empty .300 average, with home runs that come with the bases empty and nary a walk in sight. I feel like a member of a besieged populace holding out hope that any day now, the French Army will appear over the horizon and rescue our people from cruelty and misery.

Feliz will have his share of home runs because he is young and strapping and hits bad pitches well. But until he matures and learns the strike zone, he is every opposing manager's cool refreshing breeze. "Barry Bonds is up? But Feliz is on deck? Aaaahhh...much better."

Frankly, this team is beyond help.

I blame Brian Sabean.



DNB Disaster 

Yesterday's 4-3 loss to the Phils was a particularly bad DNB day, perhaps the worst of the year.

To review: DNB stands for "Ducks Named Bonds" and refers to the stats of the hitter who comes up right after Bonds gets on base via single, double, triple, walk or fielder error. (I know, errors don't contribute to Bonds' on-base percentage, but he's on base nonetheless.) This is a different measure than what's usually cited in the press, ie, the Giants' average after a Bonds' intentional walk, or the overall average of the #5 hitter. It's strictly about what happens when Bonds gets himself on base (not including home runs).

Yesterday, Bonds was on base four times with a single and three walks. Immediately following, Pedro Feliz went 0 for 4 and only scratched out an RBI in his last at-bat because he made such poor contact. A harder hit ball would have become a game-ending double play.

Other than his at-bat leading off the 4th, Feliz came up four times with 10 men on base, seven of them in scoring position. Only one scored.



The Dodgers' Year and Stark Numbers 

Every once in a while you see little signs that tell you it just might not be your day, or month, or year. Or worse, it might instead be your worst enemy's day, month, or year.

Like last night. Not only did Wilson Alvarez continue to confound all logic with another superb spot start for the Dodgers, but Alex Cora fouled off 14 pitches in a row against the Cubs' Matt Clement before hitting a home run.

One question for Jim Tracy, though: why is this man and his .305 OBP batting leadoff and Cora with his .370 OBP (and .808 OPS--wow!) batting eighth?


Instead of his usual Useless Crap®, Jayson Stark of ESPN has finally posted some numbers that really get to the heart of game strategy. On the subject of Bonds' intentional walks, Stark gets some help from the Blue Jays' resident stat geek:

Even though the hitters behind Bonds have made this strategy look good, it's still a debatable way to go.

If you ignore the intentional walks and look at Bonds' other 93 plate appearances this year, you find that 48 percent of the time, he has made an out. Three times, he has made two outs (by grounding into a double play).

25 percent of the time, he has walked. "So in 73 percent of his plate appearances," Law said, "the outcome was equal to or better than an intentional walk."

Obviously, Law concedes, game score and situation can change this equation. But in general, he concluded, "when you intentionally walk Barry Bonds, it's like playing a roulette wheel where 27 percent, or fewer, of the spaces are black and 73 percent are red -- and you're betting on black."

Unfortunately, Stark buries this info about 5/6 of the way down the page after bombarding us with ridiculous, fantasyland rule-change scenarios. In fact, the true voice of wisdom in the column comes from AJ Pierzynski:

"There is no solution to the problem," said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, one of the guys who has had the thrill of hitting behind Bonds this year, "except for me and Fonzy (Edgardo Alfonzo) and (Pedro) Feliz to hit -- and hit well."



Coliseum Myths 

Busy Bee Jimmy dropped a note in my comments about the SF Gate article that touts the advantages of the Coliseum over S...Pac...er...where the Giants play.

I'm no pollyanna when it comes to the Giants home park. I thought Rusty the Mechanical Man was a terrible idea. So did the Giants' front office, at least once they saw it in action a dozen times. The canned sound effects, the dumb giveaways, the expensive food and beer, the way Renel screeches "Bar-reee BONDS!", the terrible new name for the park: there's plenty to grumble about.

But in knee-jerk reaction to the Giants' gaudy, somewhat tacky commercial success, the Coliseum often gets wrapped in blue-collar, people's-park gauze. Real baseball! Real fans! Real beer! Folks, it's a load of crock. Let's debunk, shall we?

1) The A's aren't corporate sellouts and don't demean their fans with stupid claptrap. Hello? Network Associates Coliseum? The Net-Ass? And who exactly brought us Dot Racing, the original big-screen video gimmick to pacify the attention-deficit masses between innings?

2) The fans are more knowledgable and pay more attention to the game. Right, especially when it comes to which projectiles (firecrackers? coins? cell phones?) are easier to lob at each other or at opposing outfielders, and which racial epithets to direct at Ichiro. A's fans are just as boorish as the rest of us. Please go here and scroll down to "Extra Innings." Then go here and scroll down to "Pandemonium at the A’s game Friday night."

3) At SBC, people are too busy talking on their cell phones (instead of throwing them, I guess), or on their wi-fi connections, or discussing their "work drama," as the Betting Fool says, to care about the game. I don't know about other sections, but in the 1-3-8, standard practice when someone gets on the horn is one of two cheers, repeated over and over: "Off the phone!" or "Call your Mommy later!" Whenever I watch games at other parks, I see plenty of people in the stands on cell phones, and some even stand up and wave to the camera as they mouth the words "Can you see me? Can you see me?" Oh, no, but not in Oakland! Gimme a break.

4) At the Coliseum, you can move up to a better seat. Folks, if this is what makes a stadium experience better, I've got a nice season ticket package I'd like to sell you, s'il vous plaît. I hate to break it to you, but it's easy to move up in stadiums when the local fans are so lazy, jaded or who knows what that they can't be bothered to come out in droves to see one of the best teams of the past half-decade in one of the cheapest ballparks in the country. If you still want to argue, then I'll reply by saying I often move from my Pac Bell bleacher seats into the lower deck down the third-base line around the seventh inning and no one has ever said anything or tried to stop me.

5) "It's the ability to walk around and see the game from every angle..." So says the Betting Fool in valuing the Net-Ass over "new parks." Huh? Who says you can't walk around and see the game from every angle at Pac Bell? Is there no cooler viewing angle than atop the right field arcade, or through the portholes as Bobby Abreu's big butt pokes out in your direction?

Yes, the Net-Ass is cheaper than Pac Bell. Yes, there are more seats available. Yes, the general manager is cooler and more sabermetrically inclined and doesn't sport a pseudo-mullet. Yes, the Giants have committed a crime by not building a championship caliber team this year around the greatest player of our generation.

Go ahead, love the A's for being the second banana of the Bay Area. But don't give their fans coolness points for not showing up or for being smarter than they are.



God Forbid You Clog Up The Bases, Harold 

No, that's not the title of a long-lost Pink Floyd album. It's a reference to a jaw-dropping rant ESPN's Harold Reynolds made against the popularity of on-base percentage. Reynolds argued OBP was overrated with the example of Frank Thomas, who last year reached base frequently but scored relatively few runs. Thomas, in Reynolds's estimation, is a base-clogger (as opposed to a base clogger).

So your jaw can plunge as precipitously as mine did, please visit the Futility Infielder site of Jay Jaffe, who actually Tivoed (Tivo'ed? Tivo'd?) the Baseball Tonight episode in question and transcribed Reynolds' rap.



Whither Pitching? 

El Lefty Malo dips into the mailsack to answer an excellent question from a regular correspondent:

As a former pitcher, to what do you attribute the string of
awfulness that has hit virtually every Giants pitcher
from the starting five (or six) to the bullpen? Just
bad luck that is catching, everybody's favorite
scapegoat that is AJ or something else? I wonder how
much AJ's lack of experience and work ethic is
affecting things. I'm still not surprised by the awful
bullpen performance since you can't lose both Nathan
and Worrell and pick up a few Brewers castoffs and a
minor leaguer without any minor league experience
(Aardsma) and hope to be as good as last year.

- amanda

First of all, how much awfulness has the Giants' staff tossed our way this year? The 5.10 staff ERA is 26th out of 30 ML teams. The 174 Ks is 25th; the 106 BBs are 16th. The 37 HRs allowed place them in a four-way tie for 22nd (the worst is St. Louis, with 46 allowed). The staff is also giving up 1.5 walks and hits per inning, which is a lot. The OPS-against is .802, good for 25th overall.

In short, this staff is not good. It's not even fair. It's more or less at the bottom rung of the major leagues.

Certainly there have been bright spots. Felix Rodriguez, although not striking out nearly as many as he used to, is pitching extremely well (fewer than 1 baserunner per inning). Tyler Walker has been a godsend, and both Jason Schmidt and Jerome Williams have pitched well after a couple shaky outings to start their respective seasons.

Much of the ugliness comes courtesy of Woody Rueter and Tomko the Bombko: their 76 innings pitched represent a full quarter of the staff innings. In those 76 innings, they've allowed 129 baserunners--and that doesn't include fielding errors or hit batsmen. Other than Woody's last start in Cincy, these guys have stunk. So have the 5th starters (Correia/Cooper/Hermanson).

Can we blame AJ? According to the "catcher ERA" statistic, Giants' pitchers are just as bad no matter if AJ or Yorvit is behind the dish. With the Twins, AJ's catcher ERA was much lower than the total team ERA in 2003; just slightly lower than the total ERA in 2002; and again just slightly lower in 2001. So he doesn't seem to be a cancer compared to other catchers on his teams.

It's certainly possible that Giants' pitchers dislike throwing to him or resent his clubhouse behavior, which in turn affects their focus and small-muscle coordination when throwing a baseball. As I mentioned Friday, a pitcher's psyche can be fragile.

I will venture something else, however. As others have recently noted, the 2004 Giants, supposedly built so solidly on pitching and defense, have demonstrated a shocking lack of the latter, which in turns kills the former. Durham has made critical errors. Alfonzo booted away a game in New York. Neifi made an all-world stupid blunder in San Diego and nearly cost them a game. Tucker and Hammonds have had nightmare games in the outfield. Feliz is still learning first base. Bonds covers gaps the way the U.S. military covered post-"victory" Iraq. (Hey, you can't be everywhere at once.)

So, Amanda, my roundabout answer is this: Brian Sabean has cooked up a discount bucket combo of pitchers who give up lots of hard hits and don't strike out many batters, plus defenders who are only sporadically pickin' and glidin' and snaggin' those hard-hit balls.



Más Feliz Que Ayer 

Dispatch the heralds. Unfurl the banners. Tonight against the Reds, for the first time this year, a Giant hit a home run directly after Barry Bonds reached base. Even sweeter, it was a Pedro Feliz home run just after Bonds was walked intentionally with two outs and no one on base in the top of the seventh inning. Then immediately after a Bonds walk in the 8th, Feliz singled in another run. 2 for 2, a home run and 3 RBIs.

This brings the DNB numbers slightly closer to respectability. After a Bonds walk or hit (except home runs), the following batter is now hitting .267/.301/.317, which at least rises above Neifi-level.

The change of tide in tonight's game was stunning. Corey Lidle was pitching as if he were still wearing green and gold: into the 7th he had thrown fewer than 10 pitches an inning, had surrendered only one bloop hit and no walks. But after two down in the 7th, his manager Dave Miley ordered Bonds intentionally walked. Five of the next eight batters reached base, and Lidle's night was over.

A pitcher's psychology is a fragile thing. I submit that Lidle, in such a fantastic groove until the intentional walk, had his aggressive mindset shattered. Once his manager showed he didn't have the utmost confidence in Lidle, Lidle could well have subconsciously let down.

Or he might have let his anger at not being allowed to face Bonds disrupt his focus. The radio guys said Feliz hit a slider over the plate for his home run. The difference between a mediocre slider and a good one a couple inches off the plate can often be the slightest increase of tightness in the pitcher's grip.

Or maybe it was God's punishment for Miley being such a chickenshit.


New Links 

Behold the wonder of free commenting software: a guy named Erik dropped a dime in my comments today, so I followed the link back to his site and found some of the most evocative photos of daily San Francisco life I've seen in a while. I also like the format: one big photo and a paragraph or two of notes each day. I've added the site, Toshikomi, to my non-baseball links on the right.

Another new link is to SF Station Literary Arts, the literary section of local on-the-town guide SF Station. I run the Lit Arts section, and I'm always looking for book reviewers and feature writers. E-mail me here if you're interested in contributing.


Not So Feliz 

A microcosm of the Giants season took place tonight and cost the Giants the game. Top of the 11th, the Mets walk Barry Bonds intentionally to load the bases with two outs.

Up comes Pedro Feliz, and in comes David Weathers, the ugliest man in baseball ever since Willie McGee retired. Weathers proceeds to throw balls one and two nowhere near the strike zone. What does Feliz do? He swings and misses at the next pitch, a fastball about shoulder high. That would have been ball three. Weathers then bounces a pitch in the dirt as if to say, OK, maybe you'll swing at this one, too. Feliz took it for ball three.

Next pitch, a fastball up and away, almost certainly ball four, and Feliz swings and fouls it back. Full count. At this point Jon Miller on the TV side has shown exasperation at Feliz's antics, while Krukow, no doubt with one eye on renewing his contract or somesuch, weakly defends Feliz with some crap like, "Well, he was looking fastball and he got the fastball he was looking for and put a good swing on it. He didn't get cheated." Then, just as the script of this miserable season called for, Weathers snaps off a slider, his only strike of the sequence, and Feliz takes it. End of inning.

Feliz showed absolutely no patience and no batting eye when a pitcher was practically begging to walk in the go-ahead run.

Tonight's silver lining: Jason Schmidt, who pitched a great game except for that one hanging changeup to Karim Garcia. But Schmidt is back, a very very good sign for the G's. Now let's cross our fingers and hope Woody gets his act together starting tomorrow night.



Moises Parts the Waters, Part 2 

It's a story that refuses to be flushed from our collective consciousness. As much as Moises Alou complains, it's not going to be water under the bridge. Maybe he should just go with the flow.

I'm referring to the report that Alou, who hits without batting gloves, pisses on his hands to toughen them up.

The latest wire story says Moises is tired of talking about it and that the writer, ESPN's Gary Miller, was allegedly told about it off the record.

Dusty Baker finally chimed in with what I assume was a completely unintentional double entendre:

"That's not anybody's business, really," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said before Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Arizona. But Baker acknowledged that Alou will have to live with some ribbing for a while.

"I know guys don't want to shake his hand now," Baker added. "Everybody just gives him the fist."

Whoa there! Now that's something that should be off the record.


Blue Skies Turn Gray 

So much for the big mo' of last weekend. Two games at the soulless hellhole of Shea Stadium against a Giants-like team (instead of J.T. Snow batting second, it's Todd Zeile; instead of Jeffrey Hammonds hitting cleanup, it's Karim Garcia), and the turnaround has been turned around.

Even the Weather Channel is conspiring against the orange-and-black. Jerome Williams was, well, not exactly rolling, but pitching a tidy little game when the skies opened up, a hand came down from the clouds to snatch the ball from J-Will and hand it, after a long delay and a cruel, booming Ha-Ha-Ha!, to the overworked bullpen.

Good night, ladies.

Reports have it that Alou and Sabean had una poquita cabeza-a-cabeza yesterday to talk about the Iraqi prisoner torture scandal and the odd resemblance of the Giants lineup to the landscape at The La Brea Tar Pits (a.k.a. The The Tar Tar Pits), where mighty mastodons and wily sabertooted cats got bogged down in the offensive goo that geologists sometimes refer to as "Neifitus Tuckerii Alfonzyme."

On the bright side, the previously unheralded Pat Mitsch pitched a complete game 4-hitter for the Norwich Navigators yesterday. I predict that late in October, Fox Sports cameras will be zooming in on the tear-streaked faces of the Mitsch family as they watch their son pitch against the Yankees. However, Mitsch will be wearing a Minnesota Twins uniform, having been traded in June with Jerome Williams for Luis Rivas and A.J. Pierzynski's psychologist.

I ask you: where can a Giants' fan find solace? Feel free to comment on what you think are the silver linings to this otherwise leaden season. Pollyannas wanted: Sun bonnets and lollipops provided at no extra charge.



El Pollo y El Huevo 

I think everyone agrees that the Giants' most glaring roster needs are a big bat behind Bonds (the quadruple B), another horse or two in the starting rotation, and another arm or two in the bullpen.

The fifth starter and back end of the bullpen have been a mess, what with Nen's injury, Schmidt's injury, Hermanson's injury, and the crappy work the Giants got from Estrella and Kevin Walker. The Fresno Shuttle has been in frequent-flyer mode.

The Giants' most recent transaction was to send Kevin Correia back down to Fresno and bring up David Aardsma, who gave up a single in one inning of scoreless relief last night. (Aardsma has yet to pitch a 1-2-3 inning in the majors and is allowing well north of two baserunners per frame.)

With Correia back down, the question becomes who will be the 5th starter this week? Tomko pitched yesterday, and Williams and Schmidt will round out the rest of the Mets series. Rueter can throw Friday vs. the Reds on five days rest, but come Saturday, unless Tomko goes on three days rest, a fifth starter will be necessary. Tyler Walker? Jim Brower? Wayne Franklin? Brower's swingman days seem over, given how often he's being used in short situations out of the bullpen. (Speaking of Brower, how does a guy with a 95-MPH power sinker, a slider and a changeup only strike out 3 batters per 9 innings? With that stuff, he should be closer material.)

As for Franklin, the Giants said they liked the way he was working in short situations against lefties, then in the past couple of weeks he's gotten a little moldy on the bullpen bench while Felix, Herges and Brower have been worked like oxen in a rice paddy. The trio leads the majors in appearances with 17 apiece.

I keep harping on this, but the inability of the starters to go more than 5 or 6 innings is killing this team. If it continues this way, the bullpen will be fried by Memorial Day.

If I were Sabean I would make a move for another starter pronto, an even higher priority than finding a real hitter for right field. My guess is he's crossing his fingers that Tomko will start going deeper into games and Hermanson, when he returns, will be stronger. Compounding the short-start problem is that the Giants aren't going to be busting out to big early leads. Even when the starter pitches well, Alou will be forced to pinch-hit for him in potential run-scoring situations.

This is what Alou might refer to as "el problema pollo-huevo."

[note: muchas gracias al Gran Laz por el copyediting.]



Gammons Rumors 

from his latest ESPN column:

The Giants have floated out feelers on a number of players like Edgardo Alfonzo and Neifi Perez, but with Jason Schmidt now back and their hope for the return of a healthy Robb Nen, they haven't waved the white flag just yet. A week ago, Nen threw so well in a rehab stint they thought his return was imminent. Then Nen suffered from stiffness in his surgically-repaired right shoulder. The Giants are now hoping for Nen to return sometime before the All-Star break.

Floated feelers on Perez and Alfonzo? No one in his right mind would trade for those guys without insisting the Giants swallow nearly all their salaries, like they had to do with Livan Hernandez. And that's about as likely as Barry Bonds inviting the Giants beat reporters over for a backyard barbecue.

Unless...well, everyone expects the Yankees to swap for a second baseman and/or a center fielder by the trade deadline. If Durham comes back strong and Feliz shows he can mash on a regular basis, perhaps Fonzie could go back to his beloved NYC. But it's hard to see how the Giants would beneift either short- or long-term.

Short-term, to make any kind of run this year, they need another starting pitcher and a big bat. No one on the NY major-league roster is expendable enough for the Yanks or cheap enough for the Giants. The Giants probably couldn't afford to take on a Yankees' middle reliever, let alone the salary of Sheff or Contreras or someone who would plug a major hole.

Long-term, the only prospect I've heard mentioned as a potential blue-chipper is the Double-A catcher Dioner Navarro, and catcher isn't where the Giants have the biggest holes to fill.

As for Neifi, maybe Sabean should give Bill Bavasi a call. Just tell Bill that Neifi's a lot like Quentin McCracken and Willie Bloomquist: guys who have good speed and know how to play the game and can really play a valuable role off the bench or making a spot start here and there. You know, team guys. Plan B: Is Syd Thrift still alive?



Why Bonds Was AWOL Today 

As if leaving Bonds out of the lineup and batting Neifi leadoff wasn't enough to wave a white flag over today's game, Felipe Alou had me pounding the steering wheel in outrage as I listened to the late innings on the backroads of Sonoma County this afternoon.

In the seventh inning, the Giants crept back to within a run, 8-7, and had the bases loaded with one out. Dustan Mohr was due up. Sure, Barry deserves a day off, but six and a half innings is enough down time when there's a golden chance to win the game in one swing. Here was the perfect spot: the Marlins couldn't walk in the tying run...could they? Mohr was utterly expendable, despite having a nice little day at the plate up to that point. But Alou let Mohr hit, and he came through with a sac fly. Tie game, 8 to 8.

Then Torrealba showed great patience by laying off a bunch of curveballs, and the bases were again loaded for the pitcher's spot. Well, now, of course Barry was going to hit.

Nope. Deivi Cruz was Alou's choice. He grounded out. End of threat. Greg Papa on the radio surmised that perhaps Felipe was determined to give Bonds a full day off, no matter what.

But there was Barry in the 11th, walking to lead off the inning and scoring the winning run on Torrealba's gapper.

So what the hell was going on?

According to this wire story, Barry had a sinus infection and wasn't even dressed in the 7th inning.

The Giants won, so all is forgiven, I guess. But if Barry had been ready in the 7th, there's a good chance the game wouldn't have gone extra innings, and a few relievers would have had the day off, too, which at this point is just as necessary as getting Barry a day off. Barry, spend a few hundred bucks for a personal sinus trainer, OK?


Moises Parts the Waters 

from Gary Miller's ESPN.com column:

Two of the few hardy souls who shun batting gloves were in the building in Phoenix this week. Mark Grace, who now is a broadcaster for the D-Backs, and the Cubs' Moises Alou.

Alou says the secret to hitting without batting gloves is to harden your hands and prevent calluses. One of his methods might win someone the prize money on the TV show, "Fear Factor." He urinates on his hands. That's the honest truth. Alou said he isn't sure where he learned this distasteful folk medicine, but it wasn't from his famous father. And it works for Moises.


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