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9.06.2005

Disaster Recovery 

A bunch of doings went down on the Giants front while I spent the week glued to Nola.com, online home of the stalwart New Orleans Times-Picayune. Others have commented elsewhere, so I'll keep it fairly brief:

* The world's supply of Matt Cain puns dipped dangerously low as a storm of blog coverage besieged the West Coast. Cain's first start was OK, his second was near-dominant, despite never establishing his off-speed stuff in either. This leads me to believe that a) when he starts snapping off sliders and curves for strikes, he'll throw a no-hitter every two months or b) I shouldn't get too excited because he's thrown a lot of pitches this year and will soon be shut down, no matter the pennant-race situation, or c) The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!

* Barry Bonds has progressed to the point of almost, maybe, could it actually be?, rejoining the team. He also beat down a teammate who perhaps was named Jason Christiansen, but he didn't feel like sharing it with us on his Web site. Welcome back, Barry! Don't hit me!

* Randy Winn is making Brian Sabean look not-idiotic. In 124 at-bats with the Giants, he's slugging an outrageous .565. He's not getting on as much as a leadoff hitter should, but when he does, he's often in scoring position or just leisurely trotting around the bases. Yeah, yeah, small sample size. But it's been fun to watch.

* Sabean finally got the pumps working and drained SBC Park of a lot of stagnant water. It's easy to say that if he'd done it earlier, the roster turnover would have given the Giants that much more momentum. Maybe. Let's unpack that sentence, as Roland "For Going to Ze Giant Game, I Like to Ride" Barthes used to say.

The Giants are winning regularly thanks to good pitching, and much of that is due to Noah Lowry and Jason Schmidt getting their acts together. Since Aug. 1, they've had one bad start between them. And 11 good ones. Also helpful is the exchange of Armando Benitez (9.2 IP, 11 K, 6 H, 4 BB) for Tyler Walker (4.2 ooch, 7 ouch, 11 yikes). LaTroy Hawkins has also been excellent since Aug. 1. Scott Eyre has been great all year. Unless you count Jerome Williams and David Aardsma as musty, dusty and crusty, none of these developments are related to this summer's housecleaning.

In moves directly related to the big dump, Correia for Rueter has been an improvement; in six starts since he returned to the rotation, Correia has averaged a Rueter-like 5+ innings a start but with lots more Ks and fewer earned runs. The Eastern European techno-house duo Taschner-Munter has been excellent, but their presence is more due to the earlier jettisonage of Brower and Herges (a.k.a., Dump, Part 1).

Tossing Tucker and Grissom in favor of Linden has given us glimpses of the exciting power-speed guy what Linden could become, but it hasn't exactly sparked an offensive renaissance. The other rookies, Niekro and Ellison, have played enough to expose holes in their swings wider than [insert your own broken levee metaphor here] and have been -- unfairly or not -- relegated to the bench. (I'd like to see Niekro play more, but I think he'd get eaten up against good righties; Winn over Ellison every day is a no-brainer.)

So as much as we've been badgering Sabes to burn the dead wood, we can't really say the young fresh faces have been solely responsible for this mini-turnaround. Sabean et al have made the team younger but not all at once. The team probably won't win the pennant -- and even if it does, it probably won't win a playoff series -- but the Giants seem to be doing what we've hoped for all along: rebuild and actually win some games.

Discussion topic: in how many ways is Brian Sabean like FEMA?

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