Friday Notes 

I'll be deep in the Northern Calif. outback this weekend with only a faint signal coming over the transistor, but I'll give a standing-O to Robb Nen, whom the Giants are thanking in a pre-game ceremony Saturday. Except for 1999, Nen was dominant in a Giants uniform. (How on earth did he give up 79 hits in 72 innings in '99?!?) He was the ultimate closer -- absolutely the right guy to have in there with a one-run lead, a man on third and less than two outs.

He also got a major-league hit in his final season and retired 1 for 15. I hope that ball is encased in glass somewhere.

I'm going through recurrent pitching-shoulder pain this year and contemplating the end of this phase of my less-than-storied baseball career; I can't imagine going out on a daily basis with a torn whatsis and frayed whozit, knowing it needs surgery, and throwing with as much torque as Nen produced. Who knows if he would have been able to return in '03 and beyond if he had shut it down mid-year in '02. That he didn't, however, effectively ended his career. That's a tough choice to make.

Thanks, Robb. Giants fans owe you one.

* There's a good discussion re. who's responsible for the Giants' pitching mess over at Only Baseball Matters. Add to it my musings last week about Righetti's inability to screw Tomko's head on straight, and you have a veritable grassroots groundswell of head-scratching over the Giants pitching situation.

* Speaking of head-scratching, check out SF Weekly's current cover story on Joe Morgan and his deep hatred of all things Moneyball. Here's a choice excerpt:

Joe: I don't read books like that. I didn't read Bill James' book, and you said he was complimenting me. Why would I wanna read a book about a computer, that gives computer numbers?

SF Weekly writer: It's not about a computer.

Joe: Well, I'm not reading the book, so I wouldn't know.

I've occasionally weighed in with my own favorite Morganisms (Morganalia?). Who knew the idea was already franchised? Turns out Mike of Mike's Baseball Rants (now a member of the Baseball Toaster) for years has deconstructed Mini-Joe's ESPN columns and chat sessions -- sometimes as incomprehensibly as Morgan writes, but I guess you gotta fight, er, fire with fire. If you're unfamiliar with the Morgan/Moneyball smackdown, definitely read the Weekly piece. If you haven't read Moneyball, shame on you.

* Not much love for the Giants on the South Side of Chicago. Dustin Hermanson tells the Daily Southtown he's glad to be gone: "I'm very grateful I made this choice to play here," Hermanson said. "Especially over San Francisco (his team last season), when you look where they are. They're in the bottom of the pit, and I'm glad I'm not buried there."

His choice was prompted by a 2-year, $5.5 million contract. It's easy to say in hindsight the Giants should have signed him. They were apparently working on a deal but were outmaneuvered by the Sox. Here's what Sox GM Kenny Williams said at the time of the deal: "One of our offseason goals was to get another guy in the back of the bullpen who could close, but would initially serve as a backup to Shingo. Shingo has done a heck of a job," Williams said. "Dustin was looking for a closing job, but was also looking for a team he could win with."

Was it all about the money, or did Hermanson see the writing on the wall? Did Williams secretly promise Hermanson the closer job, something the Giants probably didn't want to do?

Funny how a guy who hated the bullpen came to the Giants from the scrap heap to try again as a starter, and he ends up becoming the AL's top closer.

Given what we know (and what we don't) about how the Giants treated him, their negotations to bring him back this winter, and the potential he showed down the stretch last year, let's circle back to the discussion of the Giants pitching decisions and where blame should fall. Did the Giants screw up with Hermanson? Were they just victims of circumstances beyond their control? Should the Herminator be more grateful that he was able to resuscitate his career in S.F.?


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