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7.26.2005

The Week That Wasn't 

This final stretch of games before Sunday's trading deadline is supposed to be make-or-break, to show the Giants' fence-sitting brass whether the team can steal the division from the Padres the way bloody, ragged soldiers steal wallets, chains and gold fillings from battlefield corpses.

Let's see: two shaky wins, four no-doubt losses against two of the better NL East teams, and an ugly loss to the Cubs last night (pathetic clutch hitting, unlucky bullpen, The Revenge of Neifi), and are there any doubts?

Jason Schmidt pitched well, but if not for the basepath foibles of Cubs pitcher Rich Hill -- he fell on his face rounding third on a basehit, then failed to tag and score on an outfield fly -- Schmidt may have sustained far more damage in the third inning. We all wonder if Schmitty is really on the block. Grant at McCovey Chronicles tends to agree with Sabean's apparent M.O.: hold onto Schmidt unless showered with young riches. Whether Schmidt stays or goes, it's painfully obvious that it's time just play the kids.

Even Kirk Rueter agrees. Woody told the Chron yesterday that his yo-yo treatment -- banished to the bullpen, now tabbed to start this weekend -- is bad for him and bad for the young starters the Giants are trying to evaluate: "Now I see in the paper I'm going to start one of the games in Milwaukee, and if I don't perform, they're going to go back to kids. ... The kids, I've been in their situation. It's not good for them to go back and forth."

Stout selfless yeoman Woody, we're going to miss you.

There's been much herky-jerkiness to the Giants' pitching moves this year, as noted last month, forced by injury and ineffectiveness to a large extent, yes, but...

Let's just say that once the Giants really, truly wave the white flag and spend the rest of the year evaluating for '06, we should keep an extremely close eye on how the pitching staff is handled. Will Correia and Hennessey be yanked around like yo-yos? Will Alou show patience and let the youngsters work through trouble, even if it means some ugly innings between now and October?

Other than pitching, the other big evaluation question revolves around Todd Linden. He squiffed in his 58-at-bat stint earlier this summer, but to his credit he's gone back to Fresno and continued to mash. He's by most measures the best hitter in the minor leagues this year. Highest slugging percentage in AAA by a wide margin, in a virtual tie for best AAA on-base percentage, most AAA home runs...all of which means kerfuffle. Two others challenging Linden for supremacy are Kevin Orie and Roberto Petagine, both on the wrong side of 30 for some time now. Linden could be having a career year, not starting something long-term beautiful. Remember, even Calvin Murray got everyone excited by hitting .334 / .392 / .542 in triple-A one year.

But Linden's still relatively young, having just turned 25. He's proven his worth at AAA by going back down and raking after two weeks of major league frustration. Let's hope on August 1 or soon thereafter he's inserted in the Giants lineup every day to show us what he's got, once and for all.

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