Darts and Laurels 

More and more I hear that bloggers are filling the news and analysis void of the traditional lazy, smug, corrupt press. We're snappy, we're nimble, we're unfettered by corporate obligations and reciprocations.

But we still love the old tropes every professional scribe dusts off when short of ideas and close to deadline: the season preview, the game recap, the awards predictions, the mid-year summary.

It's not mid-year; it's not even one-third-year, which the Giants reach the first weekend in June. But with last night's W over the DF's; with Schmidt back throwing as hard, if not quite as accurately, as we're accustomed to; with the prognosis of Chief Wounded Knee looking a little sunnier; with Mike Matheny hitting more homers than we expected, and all it seems at just the right time; it's time to distribute some early-season awards. Especially because I'm short of ideas and have to spend all day at a conference.

Most Refreshing Giant, mound division: Jeff Fassero. I don't know about all these other blog-whiners, Jeff, but I knew you could do it all along. (Right.) With two scoreless innings last night in relief of Schmidt, Fassero is the only reliever who's been solid all the way through, plus he contributed two stellar emergency starts (and one bad one). If the Giants make the playoffs, Fassero gets my vote for First-27%-Of-the-Season MVP.

MRG, non-mound division: The two rookies Niekro and Ellison have both contributed, but I'll give the nod to Niekro. His power stroke has been consistent. His on-base skills are terrible, but until pitchers figure out his holes and exploit them mercilessly, he'll hit the ball hard and occasionally very far, which the Giants desperately need. Perhaps this is unfair to Ellison, whose numbers are more balanced and has proven an excellent base-stealer. Just like Niekro he did very well what he was supposed to do in limited action. But the exposure of playing every day has taken the gloss off the enamel. All those lazy fly balls are disturbing reminders of Calvin Murray. Until Ellison builds more consistency into his offensive game, I choose Niekro by a hair, despite his premature baldness.

Most Disappointing Giant, mound division: Noah Lowry. No injury or emotional trauma that we know of (knock on wood), just a sophomore slump. What was a changeup at the knees last year is a changeup at the belt and a double off the wall this year. Armando Benitez gets consideration, but to call his torn hamstring "disappointing" is to assume it was his fault through poor conditioning, which I can't really do.

MDG, non-mound division: Marquis Grissom. Not because he has sucked, and not because he had to go on the DL, but because he knew his injuries were affecting his performance yet refused to say anything. I guess we could shift some of this calumny to Felipe Alou, who had to know Grip wasn't physically right and kept running him out there. But only a player knows how much he's really hurting. It's one thing to play injured and still hit like Scott Rolen; it's another to keep Ellison, the Giants hottest hitter at the time, on the bench part-time while you swing at first pitch breaking balls and ground into one double play after another. Lame move, Grip.

Best fluffy factoid, clubhouse division: Michael Tucker started playing chess after watching a movie about child prodigy and future anti-Semitic whacko Bobby Fischer.

Best promotional gambit in years, perhaps of the entire Magowan Era: Last weekend's Juan Marichal festivities. Cool statue, excellent uniforms, lots of Hall of Famers, and a long-overdue celebration of one of the greatest pitchers in Giants history.

Best Win: The extra-inning victory in the rain against the Nationals was important, given how depressing the previous two losses were. The opening day win with an efficient Schmidt backed by a smooth defense was incredibly satisfying. But I have to pick Sunday's game against the A's. A loss would have meant five series in a row either lost or tied. It was huge for the Giants to win the rubber match against a top-notch pitcher (Zito may be struggling this year, but he is a Cy Young winner) with much of the full house rooting against them. It was good momentum coming into the Dodger and Padre series. Let's see if it carries over.

Worst Loss: I'd rather not talk about it.


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