Your San Francisco Crackheads 

We all know the adage that April and May should be spent assessing a team, June and July spent making necessary changes, and August and September chasing the pennant. Given how infrequently teams run away and hide in the first two months, and given how the wild card holds promise even for teams that look like they'll start to decompose if not refrigerated properly, the adage is a smart one.

Which is why I haven't yet gone into daily hysteria mode over the Giants. Besides, I did that last year, and although like so many artists before me, my fragile emotional state produced world-class literature, I've decided that this year I will keep the hand-waving, the all-caps shouting, and the irritating overuse of italics to a minimum.

That doesn't preclude me from making certain assessments about our beloved yet dreaded Men of Orange and French Vanilla, such as: they are not the most patient of fellows.

I can bleat on and on about trading for Vernon Wells as if Brian Sabean will one day read my blog and say, "Gosh, he's right." But I figure he knows about Wells, so no more of that. I figure he also knows the above adage. Last year, Sabean waited until mid-May to shake things up; by the end of that month, the Giants had won 10 straight and were back from the dead.

This year, at least he recognized in mid-April the folly of Tony Torcato. Recently touted by Giants' brass as a guy who knows how to hit, a seasoned pinch hitter, a sweet swing, blah blah blah, Torcato has been tossed like bycatch into the great ocean of the waiver wire. T.T. says he won't go back to Fresno (and waste another year), which is certainly understandable.

But five'll get you a soy latte that his refusal won't land him on someone else's big league squad. Perhaps he's simply holding out for an urban upgrade: why should a young guy settle for Fresno when he can make his part-time home in, say, Portland, Memphis or Las Vegas?

Instead of bemoaning what has (or hasn't) happened the first three weeks of the season, let's have a look at a few interesting statistics, their relevance and how they may change by the end of May:

* J.T. Snow has zero extra base hits. 42 at-bats, 14 hits, all singles. However, he is getting on base a lot: 43% of the time. If Barry Bonds were hitting behind him, this would be fine and dandy: just get on base, J.T., and let the next guy whack it over the fence so you don't have to worry about the piano on your back. But with a smaller-ball approach, J.T.'s musical encumbrance is a drag as he once again does not score from second on a ground-ball single. Still, better to have men on base than not.

* Ray Durham is hitting .196 with no power. Whispers about Ray-Ray's demise have been circulating. Should we worry? Who the hell knows? Ray could be hitting .280/.365/.440 by the end of May. Bears watching, not bemoaning.

* Just like the first half of last year, Brett Tomko isn't finishing hitters off despite throwing 94 MPH fastballs and an array of breaking pitches. Look at last year: his K/BB ratio was 50/38 in 115 IP through July. The last two months, his ratio was 58/26 in 79 IP. Keep an eye on that ratio.

* If Omar Vizquel (.294/.377/.441), Pedro Feliz (.297/.333/.500) and Michael Tucker (.255/.352/.468) maintain their current clips or thereabouts, we should all be thrilled. Other than those gruesome headfirst slides into first base, Omar is doing exactly what he's getting (over)paid for: flash the leather and get on base. And you gotta love those steals of third. Meanwhile, Pedro is on pace for 45 walks! Tucker will probably regress, but Vizquel could continue to sport a higher than expected SLG, as Mays Field's voluminous alleys allow him a few extra triples.

* With Kirk Rueter looking like Gene Glynn throwing batting practice, how long will the Giants wait? Remember, it's not just veteran pride, it's six million clams that are hard to fit in the back of the bullpen, let alone toss overboard. Trade? Forget it. If it gets to the point where the Giants can't use Rueter, who else would want him? My guess: if Woody has a couple more bad starts, look for a temporary solution. He'll be demoted to the bullpen and Fassero will take a turn or two in the rotation. If that doesn't straighten Rueter out, Sabean will have to make some ruthless decisions and perhaps hope that by June one of the Fresno boys is ready to set the world on fire.

* Free Yorvit! (TM)

* A final quiz: name the last Giant who had multiple surgeries that started with assurances of no playing time being lost, escalated into a need for a do-over, and metasticized into conflicting reports and rehab confusion. The answer is Robb Nen, of course. And we all know what happened to him. He wasn't training with Greg Anderson and taking lovely spring walks on hills and beaches against his doctor's orders. Silly Robb!

Sorry, but I'm getting sick of the Barry Show. He may be the greatest ever to play the game, and he may be getting a raw deal from the media, and he may be crucified on the public cross of steroids, but he is also a cretin. It could turn out that the worst personnel move of the Sabean era was Bonds's 2006 contract guarantee, worse than the A.J./Nathan trade, worse than signing Rueter and trading Ortiz. If the knee turns out to be career-threatening, the roughly $20 mil earned by an inactive Bonds in 2006 would be the main obstacle to competing during Year One of the Post-Barry Era.

I like to call this current period "get-off-the-crack time." For years, it's been: "Build a real team? Nah, let's just have another hit off the Bonds pipe." If Barry's going to be out more than a couple months, the Giants should figure it out now and plan accordingly. Let's return to that adage: April and May are spent acknowledging the addiction, June and July are spent in rehab...


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