Adios Fifi 

I have called for his trade many times, and now it has happened. I'll miss him, but I won't miss his lack of off-speed pitch. For a couple of years, he was lights-out, but after his career year in 2001 (80 IP, 53 H, 27 BB, 91 K), his K/IP have decreased, his SLG/against has increased, and he's lost the confidence of his manager and fans. Will he be invigorated in the Philly bandbox in front of fans who boo everyone except players named after sharp pieces of metal? Good luck, Felix. You'll need it.

Now, this Ledee guy. He's going to play against righties. That's basically what he's been doing the past three years (625 ABs vs 75 ABs against lefties), and his three-year splits against righties really aren't that impressive: .331 OBP, .432 SLG. OK, they're pretty bad for someone who platoons. His number look a lot better this year, but it's a small sample size. He might continue to post good numbers, and he might not. That's where scouting comes in, and I ain't no scout.

I thought the deal was a prelude to a deal for pitching, but apparently the Giants are going to give Merkin Valdez a shot -- they placed Jerome on the DL and called up Merkin, although it's unclear if he'll go into the bullpen or the starting rotation. Gotta go to dinner -- more later.


Elbo: Thank god the Tiki Bar is open 

My thoughts on all these new deals are still pretty disjointed, but here they are.

*I think the Dodgers have screwed up. If indeed they have Dave Ross and maybe Brent Mayne at catcher, they have definitely made a mistake. The scene in the LA clubhouse doesn't sound too good. It seems like exactly what you'd expect from DePodesta -- a brain-bending move that could be an upgrade on paper, but could also be devastating to morale. Of course GMs treat their players as interchangeable parts, but that doesn't mean the players like to see their team gutted midseason, especially while sitting in first place. "It doesn't sound like a first-place clubhouse in here," someone said. Dave Roberts, for example, is probably wondering what the hell happened.

The outfield, I guess, is now Bradley, Finley and Green -- a significant upgrade over Werth, Bradley and Encarnacion. Hee Seop Choi replaces Green at first, effectively displacing one of the outfielders. Choi has been streaky, astonished the Giants with a very long homer this year, but I have to wonder whether all those Ks are the reason why two teams have given up on him since last fall. And catcher is a major, major downgrade. It's hard enough to find a catcher who can hit .300 -- like, say, ours -- and very, very difficult to replace one as hard-nosed as LoDuca. (As a Giants fan, of course, I'm happy to see him in another division now.)

They've added Brad Penny, who I think will be pretty dominant, but thinned their bullpen significantly, trading away Mota and Martin. I guess it doesn't take five guys to set up Gagne, but their once-fabulous 'pen doesn't look nearly as good anymore.

Net effect? Probably downgrade. I bet the Padres are into this. If they win the division by a game, they should send Charles Johnson a nice box of chocolates.

*The Cubs can probably get the Wild Card with Nomah. I don't think the Padres are into that.

*The Boston Red Sox have made a thoughtful decision but canned one of their best players in the process. With Nixon hurt and Millar hitting, they'll presumably place the Boss in the outfield and turn their other 1B, David Ortiz, into a full-time DH. Mientkiewicz is a defensive upgrade over Ortiz, O-Cab is a BIG step down from Nomah. Morale? It's Boston, right? The fans even hate the good players.

*The Yankees, it appears, have dealt Jose Contreras for Esteban Loaiza. I guess the White Sox, losers of six in a row, aren't really trying to win. Still, despite his terrific 2003, Loaiza is basically a pretty lame pitcher. Check out some his crappy seasons.

*I understand the Mets dealt a lot of highly-touted prospects for Kris Benson, who could be their Sidney Ponson. And as for their other new pitcher, maybe they thought he was Carlos Zambrano...

*Looks like the A's did nothing. Fuckin' A.

*I'll leave the Felix deal to Alex, but let me ask this: is it possible that the bullpen just improved?

It's been a wild 24 hours. Wonder how it'll all play out.



A Big Blue Coup? 

Yikes. The latest ESPN rumor report has the Dodgers circling around both Randy Johnson and Steve Finley, or if the Unit deal doesn't work out, Finley, Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi. Choi and Penny are having quietly excellent years. Either way, the Dodgers would suddenly be closer in talent to the Cardinals than either the Giants or Dodgers, even while giving up Paul LoDuca and Guillermo Mota among others.

Let's hope that Billy Beane is right, and that Sabean, dorsal fin just below the surface, is about to strike. After last night's game, natch, the entire Padres series, it's clear this team is going nowhere without some significant upgrades.



An Athlete's Friend 

A bit off-topic, although Barry Bonds is mentioned: Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald writes about his friendship with running back Ricky Williams, who just announced his retirement from the Miami Dolphins. It's also about the ideal and myth of objectivity in journalism, and about keeping one's humanity in a cold, cash-driven business. It's a great read. LeBatard is also the author of one of the best pieces ever on Bonds (reg. req.), and this column helps explain why he's able to get beyond the fan-in-the-stands whinging and shallow moralizing of most columnists.



Rumor Updates 

* Randy Johnson won't sit under the apple tree with anyone else but G. According to ESPN, the Dodgers offered Guillermo Mota, Jayson Werth, and minor league pitchers Chad Billingsley and Chuck Tiffany but the Big Mullet said nuh-uh.

* Steve Finley is either going to the Padres or Dodgers. The Giants have backed off.

* The idea of Houston trading Carlos Beltran is "pure fantasy," says GM Hunsicker.

* Nomah could be headed to the Cubs in a big Red Sox shakeup that would also purge Derek Lowe and possibly Johnny Damon.

Here's a nice example of the crapshoot of trades (from USA Today):

• In 1999, the Diamondbacks paid a hefty price to make the playoffs. They picked up closer Matt Mantei, who had 22 saves for the team, but they had to give up Brad Penny, a pitching prospect who has 48 wins for the Florida Marlins, including two in last year's World Series.

A year later, the Diamondbacks led the division by a game when they got right-hander Curt Schilling from the Philadelphia Phillies. Schilling went 5-6 with a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts, but the Diamondbacks finished third, 12 games back.

The next season, they added pitcher Albie Lopez (4-7 with Arizona) and catcher Mike DeFelice (.048), and even though the new players were not any help, the Diamondbacks went on to win the World Series.



Scouting Report: Danny Bautista 

July is dwindling, the rumors are swirling.

I won't run down every last whisper over what's up the Giants' sleeves or who is in their sights, mostly because everyone reading this is reading everything else I've been reading and no doubt certain things I haven't been reading.

Got that?

What it's boiling down to, though, is that the G's are looking for bullpen help and an everyday outfielder, according to the Giants themselves. They may be lying, dissembling, or pussyfooting but we won't know for sure until a) they trade for Nomar Garciaparra and Pudge Rodriguez or b) August 31 comes and goes.

Boiling the voluminous reports down even further, it looks like the Giants are circling around Arizona outfielder Danny Bautista the way buzzards circle around...OK, bad metaphor. I don't want to jinx the guy. As Bonnie Raitt and David Hidalgo once sang, "Are you ready for this thing called Danny Bautista?" Do we know what we're getting into? Let's have a look:

First the basics: Bautista is hitting .310/.357/.455 this year in 343 ABs, which is almost exactly the OPS of Michael Tucker (although Tucker's is weighted more heavily toward on-base percentage). With eight more at-bats the 32-year-old Bautista will equal his career high in a season. In other words, until this year he has not been an everyday player. For the record, that's 12 years of not being an everyday player, as well as 12 years of compiling a sub-mediocre .274/.317/.418 line for teams like Detroit, Atlanta, Florida and the big Azzzz.

Like many others, he has hit a home run off Matt Herges this year.

If the Giants get Bautista, he would take at-bats away from Dustan Mohr and Marquis Grissom. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Mohr is doing a fine job drawing walks but that's about the extent of his offensive game this year. Grissom is often seen swinging at shoulder-high fastballs or hitting grounders to the left side of the infield, usually right at someone and with a runner or two on base.

Would Bautista be an upgrade? Yes, but only slightly, and only according to his statistics this year. Take his career numbers, and he looks about as promising as Michael Tucker did when Sabean signed him over the winter. How's that for a trading-deadline shot in the arm?

Is Bautista worth David Aardsma? That's the trade Peter Gammons says is under consideration. Bautista is making $4 million this year and will be a free agent next year. So he's a two-month, $1.67 million rental. He's a slight upgrade. He's not going to scare anyone behind Barry Bonds. Meanwhile, Aardsma throws very hard and seems to be pitching quite well in triple-A ball only a year removed from college. The only blemish on his line -- 37 IP, 29 H, 1 HR, 20 BB, 34 Ks, 1.93 ERA -- are the walks. When he's pitched in the bigs this year, he's looked overmatched and too amped up, with his breaking stuff flattening out and screaming Hit Me. He also has a huge leg kick and runners will steal on him with impunity AND with punity.

Are his problems temporary problems, or indicators that he was overhyped coming out of college? I'm going to guess the former. Give the kid a year of maturity and he'll be pitching well in the bigs by mid-2005 or early 2006, perhaps even closing games out. And that promise is too much to give up for a two-month rental of a minor outfield upgrade.   



Mission Accomplished 

Two out of three against the hottest team in baseball in the reddest stadium in baseball. Hoo, man, do those people wear a lot of red. Thank goodness I'm a Giants fan so I can wear lots of black. Cuz black is how I feel on the inside.

The weekend can be summed up in a few words: Dustin Tomkoson, and Edgardo Alfonzo can still hit a hanging breaking ball. When was the last time you saw E-Alf hit a fastball out of the park? Exactly. So Ray King, who is destined to win Best Supporting Actor to the Giants' memorable late dramatic flourishes, shakes off the fastball after getting two strikes on the Fonz. Matheny puts down three fingers for a slider. Sitting on my reclinable couch, I say to myself, "Better not hang it, Chunky Ray -- d'oh!"

It needs to be said that the Giants received two huge breaks in Saturday's game from the umps. Sanders was safe, not out, on the grounder he hit to end the rally in the sixth, and Anderson was safe, not out, on the bunt play at third base in the ninth. One could well argue that Luna's bunt shouldn't have gone toward Snow -- the right play was to bunt toward third base to force Alfonzo to field the ball -- but a bad call is a bad call. The Giants dodged two bullets. Not to mention the gifts they received from the Cards. The aforementioned hanging slider, thank you very much, plus Isringhausen's leadoff walk to Deivi Cruz (Walk? Cruz? Wow!) in the 9th; Womack's error, er, I mean, Feliz's "hit" in the ninth, and Mohr's leadoff walk in the 10th just before Fonzie's ding-dong. Eyyyyyyyyy! Thanks very much, San Louie!

But also give credit to Tomko, who made great pitches in that sixth inning, and Alfonzo, for creaming the hanging slider into the bleachers in the 10th. That's what you're supposed to do with hanging sliders.

Jerome Williams demonstrated today that he's still only 22 years old. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, and not a #2 starter. A nice kid, and someday -- maybe next year, maybe in a month or two -- consistently a hell of a pitcher. But not yet.

Tomorrow night will be a tough assignment, with Peavy on the mound for the Pod People. The kid pitches like a young Kevin Brown, his heavy, nasty sinker getting lots of K's and ground balls. Grissom, Snow, Bonds and of all people Torrealba have good numbers against him, but that may have been in earlier days when he didn't have his groove on. If the Giants can take three of four in the Litter Box* I'll certainly write "mission accomplished again" on Thursday evening.

* Got a good nickname for the new park in S.D.? Diga me, por favor.



Dollars Per Unit 

Skip Bayless of the Merc echoes my sentiments exactly in today's column. I hope Sabean is reading. Go for it, dammit. Trade for Randy Johnson. You're going to raise my ticket prices again this winter, anyway, so you might as well make me feel like I'm getting my money's worth.

It's quite possible that Arizona won't trade him within the division, or that he won't agree to come to the Bay Area (although he grew up in the far reaches of the East Bay). It's also possible the Diamondbacks in return are asking for Matt Cain, Merkin Valdez, Jerome Williams, Pedro Feliz and Peter Magowan's vote on the Safeway board. Putting aside those obstacles for a moment, let's examine if the Giants could absorb Johnson's $16 mil in 2005.

They aren't going to be paying Robb Nen $9 mil anymore. Or Neifi Perez $2.75 mil. Or Jason Christiansen $2.3 mil. They don't necessarily have to keep A.J. Pierzynski, who'll no doubt get another big raise in arbitration. According to Dugout Dollars, the Giants have $54 M committed to 10 players in 2005. They could offload Kirk Rueter, Edgardo Alfonzo, Pierzynski and Felix Rodriguez to free up a lot of salary. Losing J.C., Fonzie, Woody, A.J. and Fifi not only sounds like the teary good-bye episode of Happy Days but would free up about $25 million in potential and committed outlay and bring the payroll for 2005 down to the mid-$30 million range.

Now add Johnson's $16 M: that puts them at about $52 M.

Some of the roster holes will require a lot of cash to fill. For example, I don't think the Giants have a viable 1B candidate in their system. If Torrealba becomes the full time catcher and Tucker/Mohr remain the RF platoon, the Giants will need big power at first. Let's assume the Giants fill that hole for $10 million a year, which is what a Richie Sexson/Carlos Delgado type will command. Using worst-case scenarios, that puts them at $62 M.

But nearly every other open position could be filled adequately and cheaply.

* Slot in Jerome Williams as the #3 starter, then in the 4 and 5 slots a couple youngsters from the Cain/Foppert/Valdez/Lowry group, or another Hermanson-like Nice Price pitcher. $2 million, tops.

* Let Feliz play 3rd full-time. He'll be frustrating, but what he lacks in plate discipline compared to Alfonzo (.290 vs. .342 OBP) he makes up for in power (.464 vs. .384 SLG). Career-wise, Alfonzo's record far outpaces Feliz, to be sure, but Fonzie is playing like a man with a chronic bad back that promises only to get worse. Let Pedro take over 3B and hack away in the 6th or 7th slot. $1.5 million. (He's making $850,000 this year.)

* Let Torrealba start. His defense will make up for some of his offensive shortcomings. He's also faster on the bases and will ground into fewer double plays than A.J. And as a young guy playing every day, he's likely to improve his marginal numbers at least, uh, marginally. I'd be happy with .240/.330/.420. I'm not sure about his arbitration status, but I think we can assume he'll get $500,000 tops. Let's just say $1 million for rounding purposes.

That's $66 million. Uh-oh, we're missing a starting shortstop and center fielder. Grissom has a $2.5 M team option. Could they do better, cheaper? Todd Linden doesn't seem the answer; he's stalled at Fresno, not showing enough power to be a true prospect at this point. Tucker and Mohr could become the CF platoon, with a new RF coming in via free agency or trade. But as I did the last time I speculated on next year's roster, I'll very lightly pencil in Grip for next year. As for shortstop, if the Giants have enough lumber elsewhere they can afford to stick Ransom there, let him bat 8th, and figure out whether to upgrade later. Grissom + Ransom = $3 M.

The roster still lacks a backup catcher, a couple backup infielders, and with Felix and J.C. gone, a couple bullpen arms. And a closer. If Aardsma's not ready, I suspect the Giants will hit the market. If their payroll stays the same as this year, that gives them $11 M to spread around and come in at $80 M. Remember, I've used very cautionary numbers; they'd probably come in under that. The rotation would be Schmidt/Johnson/Williams +2 more, the starting eight would be Durham/Tucker-or-Mohr/Bonds/big 1B/Feliz/Grip-or-new RF/Torrealba/Ransom. The bench and bullpen would be a work in progress, but other than closer those are pieces fairly easy to fill in spring training.

Go get the Unit. We in the 1-3-8 promise not to make fun of his mullet.

A quick run through a few stats before the weekend series against the Cardinals:

* Brett Tomko's last five starts:

35 IP, 34 H, 10 ER, 10 BB, 15 K, 2.57 ERA.

It's his best five-game stretch since he opened 2002 with this line for April:

34.2 IP, 23 H, 5 ER, 12 BB, 28 K, 1.30 ERA.

* Michael Tucker's .378 OBP/.452 SLG are 36 and 19 points above his career averages.

* Edgardo Alfonzo has 22 extra base hits. Of regular MLB 3rd basemen, only Sean Burroughs, Ryan Freel and Scott Spiezio have fewer.



Gimme The G 

Brief note: Because of spam overload, El Lefty has changed his e-mail address, so if you've got the old Hotmail address on speed dial, replace it with el lefty malo at gmail dot com but take out the el and squish the rest of it together. Crawlers and spiders b-gon!

Another brief note: according to the O-town Trib, the Giants apparently don't want to trade Peter Happy for Joseph Table, but there's no indication about their interest in Mateo Escaleras.



Trade Cain: Not Able? 

from today's online chat with ESPN.com's Jayson Stark:

Q: The Giants (Sabean) always plays his cards close to chest. We KNOW he is making calls, but no clue who is listening to him- any rumblings on what Giants might get and give?
Jayson Stark: (12:34 PM ET ) The Giants aren't willing to trade Merkin Valdez or Matt Cain, their two best pitching prospects. And other clubs are telling me they're not wild about their system other than those two guys. They're working hard right now on the bullpen and on another bat. I hear they're in on Mesa and Vizcaino. And they love Steve Finley, but I don't thnk Arizona will deal him there. Brian Sabean and Ned Colletti always find a way to get something done, though, and they will again.
I can't imagine the Giants are categorically refusing to deal Valdez and Cain. Put aside financial considerations for a moment: Would they refuse to include one of them in a package for, say, Randy Johnson? What are the odds that Cain and Valdez will become decent starting pitchers in the majors, let alone stars? If the Giants can land an impact player, I'll bet my prized jar of chiltepines verdes that one of them will be part of the trade.  

As for the rest of their system not impressing anyone, no surprise there. Although take that comment with a caveat: Sabean was able to turn nonprospects Clay Hensley and Greg Bruso into Matt Herges and Eric Young last year. Don't be surprised if he pawns off Todd Linden and Kevin Correia for some value.

Here's another comment on ESPN from Billy Beane, who always loves to deflect praise for his trading acumen toward Sabean: "Brian does it with much more stealth. His dorsal fin is always below the surface." The picture on the ESPN site is classic: Sabean and his right hand man Ned Colletti in an empty ballpark, talking trades, facing in different directions, their moustaches tickling their cell phones. Who are dese wise guys?



Everybody Herges...Sometimes 

Yesterday's game, in which Matt "The Magician" Herges performed his stupendous disappearing-lead trick one more time, was a tough one. I'm glad I wasn't listening.
No doubt the chattering classes are calling for Herges's head, which I can understand but feel terrible about. He's a real classy ballplayer, with a great self-deprecating sense of humor. When he was first traded to the Giants last summer, he immediately came into a game and pitched two scoreless innings. He went on the post-game show and revealed that during his Dodger days his nickname among Giants' fans was "Herpes." He thought that was funny; so did I. We shared a laugh. And things got better: The Giants reeled off nine wins in a row, and Herges was the steadiest arm in the bullpen during the stretch run and the playoffs. He was money last year and has been so his entire career.
Would moving back to a set-up role clear his head and put him back on his career track? Or is there something deeper the matter, such as an injury, tipping pitches, or a chemistry problem with A.J., that calls for a more dire solution? I concede it is odd how such a talented reliever has bounced around so much. Maybe he loses concentration after being in one place for too long.
Whatever the problem, one statistic stands out: his groundball/flyball ratio this year is nearly 1/1, whereas in previous years except his rookie year it's ranged from 1.3/1 to an excellent 2/1. Either his sinker isn't sinking the way it should, or the league has figured him out. There just aren't as many swings and misses -- his 5.84 K/9 IP rate is the lowest of his career -- and when hitters are putting the ball in play, they're hitting it a long way, to the tune of a .520 SLG against him. That's a whole lotta slug.
I mentioned a few days ago that he's been pitching with one pitch all year. His curve and change have abandoned him, and he's not throwing either with confidence. (Apparently the Burnitz home run yesterday came off a curveball.) That makes him a one-pitch pitcher, and major league hitters are very good at hitting one pitch when they know it's coming. If he needs time to regain the feel of his curve and change, the closer role is not the time and place to do it. Problem is, there's no one else right now who can fill in for him while he gets it together.
With the Great 2004 Dave Veres Experiment not panning out down in Saroyanville, it looks more and more likely that Sabean will have to expend his precious trading chips on a reliever who can at least share the save opps with Herges. I'd love to see them go after Ugueth Urbina, if only for the post-game kiss with A.J. Pierzynski. His ERA isn't great, but it comes from two ugly blown saves and one bad inning of garbage-time work. Otherwise he's been pretty good, with nearly 11 Ks/9 IP.  Too many baserunners for my taste (56 in 37 IP), but a hell of a lot better than Herges. He'll no doubt come at a premium, but how many superphenoms at Double-A do the Giants need, anyway?



Weekend Update 

Nothing proved the Lesser Fool Theory (NL West version) more than last night's game. (For an excellent summary read Across the Seams, one of the last remaining daily Giants blogs, not to mention honest pizzas.) What a stinkfest. The Giants just stunk a little bit less. But any win in the House That Half-Crazed Right-Wing Alcohol Peddlers Built is a blessing. With Schmidt pitching Saturday, there's a decent chance to get out of Denver with a split, at the least.

I mentioned in my last post with some confusion that Kevin Correia has reportedly been moved to the bullpen. I was away last weekend and didn't catch the beat reports, but it seems Correia's being groomed as a potential set-up guy for the Giants in the second half. Sabean mentioned to the beat reporters that Lowry could be a second half option in the starting rotation. (He also said that Aardsma will stay in the minors and work on his breaking pitches, something that's seemed an obvious flaw from his first stint with the club.)

I have cautious applause for those possibilities. As I've argued before, prospects are just as much for trading as for keeping, and when you've got hot A-list prospects like the Giants do (Cain, Valdez, Lowry, Aardsma), plus a bunch of B-listers, it's worth trying to cash them in for major league stars. Not all of them, but plenty from the B-list plus one, maybe two A-listers, depending on how big the fish the Giants are trying to reel in. I agree with most observers that the Giants shouldn't overpay for marginal upgrades -- i.e., Kris Benson -- but I'd rather the Giants get a little burned than sit on their hands and do nothing. Everyone bitches about the Sidney Ponson trade, but I'd take his numbers with the Giants over a half-season of any of their current non-Schmidt starters. Did the Giants overpay for two months and change of his services? Maybe when Ainsworth and/or Hannaman become perennial 15-game winners the answer will be Yes, but that's not happening anytime soon.



Olerud Awakening 

Here's a scary tidbit from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: The Mariners are about to release John Olerud, who two weeks ago turned down a trade to the Giants. According to the P-I, the swap would have been Olerud for J.T. Snow.

Snow for Olerud? Yikes. Aside from breaking the heart of every 12-year-old girl in the Bay Area, the trade would have given the Giants another aging first baseman in serious decline at a much steeper price -- roughly half of Olerud's $7.7 M salary for 2004, compared to Snow's $1.5 M salary. (Although I can't imagine the Giants would make such a swap without the M's swallowing a good portion of Olerud's pay.)

The two players get on base at about the same clip, but Olerud's slugging is 40 points lower than Snow's. With the home park factors slightly in J.T.'s favor, we might be able to say that offensively the two are nearly a wash. (Side note: SBC is actually playing neutral this year in runs scored. It's still harder to hit HRs there than most parks, but not as hard as Safeco. And it's a great place to have yourself a triple.)

Defensively? Olerud's supposed to be good, but he can't be better than Snow. Seems like the Giants dodged a bullet. It's hard to believe Olerud would have heated up enough in the second half to justify taking on that much more salary.

Here's what the U.S.S. Mariner has to say about it, including some speculation on how the Giants might claim Olerud off waivers.

Another news note:

Amongst his dreadful mixed metaphors, blatant boosterism and relentless overwriting, Rich Draper every so often includes a little nugget of information. Such as: Kevin Correia is moving to the bullpen. But this nugget is frustratingly light. No word whether Correia is now pitching in Fresno's bullpen, or if he's been brought up to bolster the Giants bullpen.



New York State of Mind 

El Lefty is back from La Manzana, and let me tell you something: I wouldn't want to go there if I were Randy Johnson. Those people are *insane,* and not just because of their electronics prices.

If Brian Sabean's having problems with the San Francisco lunatic fringe, maybe he should take a nice relaxing job in, say, the Mets or Yankees front office. Yes, I know, he already had one of those before he came to the Giants, but I can't imagine him leaning back in his Sabe-o-lounger high above the Pac Bell grass and thinking, "Gee, if I could only get back to the Big Apple, where the level of discourse is more civilized and I wouldn't be mercilessly heckled by a dozen or so bloggers about signing Neifi Perez." Remember, these are the people who...

* Boo Derek Jeter mercilessly for hitting under .200 in April.

* Automatically assume that Randy Johnson is being fitted for very long, tall pinstripes, even though the Yankees have fewer prospects than Tom DeLay at a Green Party singles mixer.

* Make every loss seem like a triple pancreas transplant. ("OUCH!" is an example of a favorite tabloid headline, usually with a full-page photo of, say, Richard Hidalgo grimacing with with eyes shut as he swings and misses.)

Fercrissakes, will you people just calm down? Like, mellow! A typical New York moment: I was in the office HQ of my employer, and the editors were gathered to discuss the day's story lineup. One editor read a summary of Fresh Choice, healthy salad-bar franchise (which he called a "California organic restaurant chain") that's filing for bankruptcy. "Big fucking surprise," he added.



El Lefty Malo En Vivo 

Live from Pac Bell Park, Wednesday July 14, El Lefty Malo himself will be on the mound. Yes, my 28-and-over team will be playing an exhibition at 6.30 pm next Wednesday. Admission is free. Come down and heckle me!

My publishing partner Elbo recently played at Pac Bell in a similar exhibition. His team, Los Zafiros de Nopolo, played an exciting game that went down to the last inning. Perhaps Elbo will add his thoughts on his Pac Bell experience.

It seems every 17 years I make an appearance on the Giants' home field. In 1987, the scene was Candlestick and the S.F. high school championship game, and my team, Lowell High, beat the Balboa Bucs 5-2. My baseball career has been all downhill from there, unlike some of my teammates.

To cap off today's post, here's a guest rant from the pride of Worcester, the fashionista of Fenway, ELM's soon-to-be Pacific Rim correspondent and chronicler of homu luns, Morse-san, who weighs in on his beloved Red Sox:

"The person who really needs to go, in my opinion, is Theo. Theo fired Grady -- the savior of baseball and the American way -- because Grady wouldn't buy into the Bill James approach to building a team. The funny thing is that neither does

For all his spreadsheet-building, number-crunching hoo-hah, Theo is trying to build a team Yankee-style but applying an A's approach. It won't work.

Beane can do it because the A's look for good players who aren't stars. They're all undervalued by the league and, as such, not particularly expensive. That's why the A's payroll is -- what? -- about $40 million.

Those cheap but good players all work well together because they all know they are either getting their shot or last chance. they don't have huge egos that collide with one another's.

That's not true on Theo's team. The Red Sox have huge egos. Pedro's is so big it can barely fit inside his own head. Look at what Nomah did the other day. His first day back and because Terry didn't put him in the line up he sulked on the bench when one of his teammates pulled a game-winning hit out.

Grady, God that he is, understood this. He knew that huge egos have to be managed and bruised ones need to be massaged. He understood that just looking at the numbers isn't enough. That's not what theo wants. The boy genius wants a hybrid strategy and like most hybrid strategies, it won't work well. Hybrids, with the exception of gas-electric automobiles, are for people who can't make choices. Theo can't make choices.

As I said at the first pitch of the year, the Red Sox won't make post-season."



Exploding 'Pen Trick 

I was at the game last night, and I've had more fun at funerals. The bullpen meltdown was brutal, but in and of itself not the end of the world. Every team's bullpen does this at least once a year.

However, let's put it in context. Felipe Alou been saying for a week or so that the bullpen is stretched to the max. Brower, Herges and Rodriguez are all headed toward 80 to 90 appearances. The Giants had a five run lead with six outs to go...so why not let Wayne Franklin, who has pitched three scoreless innings the past two days, try to get three of those outs? That's exactly what I said as Brower came in to pitch the 8th. (Perhaps the answer to that question is because Alou didn't want to throw Franklin three days in a row, to which I would respond, "Piffle.")

Now the Giants are staring at four games in a row with starters who average 6, 5.8, 5.7 and 5.7 innings per game, respectively. And that means no rest for the wicked bullpen.

(FYI, Schmidt averages just over 7 innings per start. Who's the biggest workhorse in the majors? No surprise: Livan Hernandez is tops at 7.42 IP/S, followed by Mark Mulder 7.35 IP/S, Matt Morris 7.33 IP/S, Carl Pavano 7.31 IP/S, Curt Schilling 7.06 IP/S.)



Your 2005...San...Francisco...Giants! 

Let's put aside this year's race for a moment and peek ahead to what the Giants may look like in 2005.

The following players will be free agents (with or without options): Perez, Grissom, Hermanson, Snow, Nen, Tomko, Christiansen, Cruz.

The following will be under contract or have player options: Alfonzo, Bonds, Brower, Durham, Eyre, Herges, Felix, Rueter, Schmidt, Tucker.

The following will be under the Giants control or subject to arbitration (minor leaguers who've had brief callups are not listed): Feliz, Foppert, Franklin, Mohr, Pierzynski, Ransom, Torrealba, Williams.

If the Giants had to fill next year's 25-man roster only with returning players, here's what it could look like:

C: Pierzynski
1B: Niekro
2B: Durham
SS: Feliz
3B: Alfonzo
LF: Bonds
CF: Mohr
RF: Tucker

C: Torrealba
Inf: Ransom
Inf: Torcato
Inf: Dallimore
OF: Ellison
OF: Linden

SP: Schmidt
SP: Williams
SP: Correia/Lowry
SP: Foppert
SP: Rueter

RP: Herges
RP: Brower
RP: Aardsma
RP: Eyre
RP: Franklin
RP: Rodriguez

Obviously that won't be the roster. There will be a huge amount of shakeup between now and April 2005, but just perusing that list, and knowing Cain and Valdez could well make the big league roster, makes me feel a little better about the next couple of years.

Let's try to construct a more realistic roster with some wild but educated guesses.

First, which of the potential free agents will return? Snow and Perez almost certainly won't. Cruz, perhaps, if he'll take a small salary. Christiansen has an expensive team option. Unless he accepts a buyout and a much lower salary, probably not. Hermanson is a good cheap 5th starter, but I hope he'll pitch like a man on fire for the rest of the season and price himself out of the Giants budget over the winter. Tomko? Let's assume he won't be back. Nen? If he can come back next year, bless his heart. Let's hope the Giants extend a minimum offer with incentives if there's even a slim chance. But count him as a no.

That leaves us with the toughest call. According to this site, Grissom can stay for a $2.5 M team option. If he keeps up his current production, he's worth it. No matter how much I bitch and moan, 20 homers and good outfield defense is hard to come by. Certainly no outfielder in the farm system seems to have 20-HR potential at the moment. If age catches up to Grip, or he's relegated to a platoon, the price tag looks a bit steeper. That's a fancy way of saying I don't know. But I'll go with yes.

As for those under contract for 2005, I assume trades will happen either this season or over the winter. But to try and guess who, what, when, and how is a fool's errand. So for now I'll just put Alfonzo, Bonds, Brower, Durham, Eyre, Herges, Felix, Rueter, Schmidt and Tucker on the 2005 opening day roster. (Felix has a player option for $3 m; he had the same for 2004 and exercised it, so let's assume he does the same for 2005.)

The next group, the youngsters and arb-eligibles, will also likely be affected by trades. I'll only go out on a limb with one guy: Pierzynski. He won a surprisingly large arbitration decision this year and will likely do it again unless he's either signed long term or dumped. My guess is the Giants will go with Torrealba, sacrificing A.J.'s offense for Yorvit's stellar defense, and spend the savings on lumber at other positions. Feliz also is due for an arbitrated raise, but given his versatility and his ability to hit lots of home runs and play a decent shortstop, I'll guess he stays.

So here's my sketch of the 2005 French-vanilla wearin' Giants on opening day, with "new" denoting where I think a free agent will be signed or someone traded for.

C: Torrealba
1B: NEW (big bat here -- Delgado? Sexson?)
2B: Durham
SS: Feliz
3B: Alfonzo
LF: Bonds
CF: Grissom

C: NEW (grizzled lefty-hitting veteran)
INF: Niekro
INF: Ransom
INF: Cruz
OF: Mohr
OF: Tucker

SP: Schmidt
SP: Williams
SP: Rueter
SP: Cain/Valdez/Correia

RP: Herges
RP: Brower
RP: Felix
RP: Eyre
RP: Aardsma
RP: Lowry or NEW lefty

According to Dugout Dollars, the Giants have nearly $54 M committed to 10 players next year. It seems likely Sabean will try to move some of that either this month or over the winter. If Houston could get rid of Richard Hidalgo's contract and continue to contend, let's not put it past Sabean to clear Rueter's $7 M or the $15 M-plus owed to Alfonzo for 2005-2006.

*I've decided that the Giants' priority should be to get a boffo bat for the outfield. That would turn Tucker, Mohr and Grissom into a rotating three-headed center fielder and almost certainly make one of them trade bait. But instead of anticipating that, I'll assume all three plus the new guy to be on the opening day roster.



Bleak Week: Heads Must Roll 

The Giants have cooled off the past week thanks to bad defense, shaky relief pitching, and terrible production from the number-five slot. After climbing toward respectability, the DNB numbers have dropped precipitously.

* I have written this before: does Marquis Grissom think before he hits? His double play to kill the 5th inning yesterday was the dunderheadest thing I've ever seen. Bases loaded, one out, down by two. A pitcher having momentary control problems. The count 2 and 0, and Bonds is on deck. Doesn't it make sense to take until the pitcher throws a strike? Not for Grissom. Solution: trade him.

* Does Pedro Feliz have a little curl in the middle of his forehead? Because when he's good, he's pretty damn good, but when he's bad, he's horrid. I would love to be the fly on the wall when Sabean discusses him with other GMs. Do others see a lot of upside in Feliz? Does his trade value wax and wane according to his streakiness? If Sabean is trying to trade him, should he wait for another hot streak and hope it comes before July 31? Solution: trade him now.

* Felix Rodriguez has a mid-90s fastball that he now knows how to throw to both sides of the plate. Yet his K/9 (6.16) and K/BB (2/1) rates are nothing more than decent. Alou noted in yesterday's paper that Felix's fastball isn't "alive" and doesn't miss too many bats. Watching Dotel yesterday, who has a howling fastball but also has learned to throw a good off-speed pitch, made me wonder when the 32-year-old Felix will ever reach his potential. Why wait? Trade him.

* Matt Cain struck out 8 and allowed 1 earned run in 5 innings of work at AA Norwich Saturday. Merkin Valdez struck out 12 and allowed 1 earned run in 7 innings of work for single-A San Jose yesterday. These two are so hot right now, they could fetch a premium player down the stretch. The luxury of having two of them coming on strong means one's a keeper and one is trade bait. Pull the trigger, Sabes. Prime pitching prospects have a way of turning into disappointments. Trade one of them.



Elbo: Happy, come home 

Oh, how nice it would've been to end Gagne's streak last night. How wonderful it would've been to get Schmidt a win even if he didn't have his best stuff. Sadly, we will have to regard this series, where we've dropped two of three, as an extension of the last Dodger series, so we can say we took five out of seven. That's all right, isn't it? We've still won fourteen out of eighteen games overall. Bring on the A's, and their dinged-up rotation.

What compels me to wallow in negativity today? (Apart from the fact that the regular El Lefty is on vacation?) One of my pet topics, of course. June has come to a close, and Pedro Feliz has posted the following numbers for the month:

108 17 25 5 15 8 18 .231 .284 .463 .747

This was not necessarily Pedro's worst month of the season. In April, he hit .290 but slugged only .406, with just two homers. May was easily his best: .840 OPS, buoyed by six longballs.

Now, Pedro has won the hearts of Giant fans with some timely homers and key base hits. They love him down at Hockey Haven. Some of those folks still -- still! -- think he should start at third instead of Alfonzo. So why do I continue dismiss Pedro? Low OBP, obviously, is a major factor. The fact that he has walked 37 times in his ENTIRE CAREER, while swinging at pitches that are so far outside they could be strikes in the Junior Giants field. Because his k/bb ratio has actually gotten worse over the years. Because there is nobody over 29 in the big leagues with plate judgment that bad.

But this year, for a little while there, I thought Pedro would prove me wrong. He suddenly started walking, even taking a BB twice in a game once, and seemed downright patient against AL pitching. He showed the versatility to start at shortstop. I figured, compared to the NL's weak lot of shortstops, he's got to be worthwhile, right?

Actually, it's the same old story there. He outslugs most of the regulars -- only Jack Wilson and his .500 SLG is better -- but lags behind everyone but Alex Gonzalez (Florida edition) and Alex Cintron in OBP. Even Royce Clayton, with his freakish home/road splits, hasn't managed to slug like Pedro, but as wretched as he is, his OBP is 50 points higher than Feliz's. Among third basemen, Pedro basically ranks down there with Ty Wigginton and Shea Hillenbrand. Among first basemen... well, you don't want to know, though I was surprised to learn that he's outslugging Jeff Bagwell.

While suggesting in a horrified fit last November that the Giants pursue someone like Travis Lee to play 1B, I prognosticated that Pedro is "good for .240/.285/.450 at best, as an everyday player." I've spent much of the year pleasantly surprised by his .300+ BA. Now, however, Pedro has begun to regress to his old average self. He hasn't walked in two weeks. He has one homer in that time. His OPS is down 87 points from its peak. Is .240/.285/.450 a possibility after all? You bet it is.

You know, as I watched the Dodgers, I saw someone who came up in that same Pedro rant back in November. It's Jose Hernandez, who also hits some homers sometimes, and also strikes out four or five times for every walk he draws. They have a lot in common, if you look at their numbers through age 28. And since Hernandez was Pedro's age, he's played for seven teams in six years (counting two stints with the Cubs). Which means that even if you can hit 25 homers a year and play shortstop, if you haven't figured out what's a ball and what's a strike, your team is still probably going to give up on you sooner or later.


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