Noah's Nine Mil 

A source tells ESPN.com Noah Lowry will sign a 4-year, $9 million contract that will take him through 2009. The contract has an option for 2010 worth approximately $8 million that would take Lowry up to free agency.


*UPDATE* Here are the contract details:

2006: $1.385 M (salary + $1 M signing bonus)
2007: $1.115 M
2008: $2.25 M
2009: $4.5 M
2010: team option for $6.25 M, and could reach $7.75 M with incentives


Homemado Signs 

My man Elbo and I are headed down this evening to the Field of Maize for what will likely be a soggy exhibition against the A's. We won't have trouble finding it; we'll have these signs with us:

You want some? Go to Mays Field and print them out. Then paste them all over town.

The Maysfieldians are also working with SF Chron cartoonist Phil Frank to work them into some upcoming "Farley" strips. Keep your eyes peeled.

A few Small Print Updates®:

1) On the 40-man roster list, Wright for Coutlangus is official and Greene for Acosta is all but official. Does anyone know their guaranteed salaries?

2) A new name for Martin the Biased Giant Fanatic: He's now the Obsessive Giant Compulsive, a great blog name if there ever was one.

3) No more William Trevor's Bit on the Side; somewhere around page 100 it crossed the shimmering Hiberian threshold from subtle to boring. I have a barbaric American mind, I cannot help it. I've just started Will Carroll's The Juice and will post my thoughts in a few days.

Finally, one of the saddest sentences I've read in a while, from a recent story about Randy Johnson's illegitimate child:

"I would get cards back from him with just his signature - 'Randy,' " said Heather Renee Roszell, 16, who bears a striking resemblance to her "Big Unit" father.

Heartbreaking: no daughter should be ignored by her father in this way. And no one, let alone a 16-year-old girl, should have to bear a striking resemblance to Randy Johnson.



Peek-a-Boo. I Can See You. And I Know What You Do. 

So put your hands on your face/
And cover up your eyes

I can just see Bud Selig in a red flower-pot "energy dome" hat and yellow haz-mat suit, can't you? Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Selig!

The Commish reportedly spent last weekend playing Game of Shadows 4: Ultimate Batting Cage Fighter on his X-Box and was concerned enough to order his own investigation into the whole steroids thing -- which apparently didn't pop up on the Budster's radar screen until a year or two ago. Good Gosh Almighty! Injecting in the backside? That's gotta hurt! Honey, come look at this. Mmmm-kay, Bud.

So George Mitchell, former Senator from across the aisle and well up to tha noahth, ayuh, will dig into baseball's wicked weiahd Troubles and see if all this fuss is worth slapping a few wrists ovah.

News of MLB's investigation has brought a fresh round of "T'row-da-bums-out!" from one side and "Witch-hunt!" from the other, so in my usual Libran way, I'm going to get all Solomonic on your asses. Proceed with the investigation, but let the facts fall where they may, including at the feet of Bud and the MLB owners, yes, even the Giants, who either nudged-and-winked or put their fingers in their ears through their game's tater-filled renaissance. This may save Baseball Village by doing some serious near-term damage, but no one said it was easy being Solomonic.

I'll make one other extended comment for now, which I think I've written before in the comments of this or another blog:

Yes, Barry was probably ingesting all sorts of shit you wouldn't want your kids or even your Clydesdale to take; yes, it was illegal in a, well, legal sense, but ahem, cough, not necessarily in a baseball sense, and if you want to call that cheating, it's hard to argue otherwise.

But here's the part where I grab you by the lapels: if Johnny Bench, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jax, Rollie Fingers or some other legend admitted today that he wouldn't have performed as well as he did without "greenies" -- the illegal-without-a-prescription amphetamines freely available in big-league clubhouses for many years -- would you argue that his records, his individual and team achievements, should be asterisked, invalidated, and his plaque removed from the Hall of Fame?

Don't say, "Well, until it's proven, it's only theoretical." Because you can be sure that someone somewhere in the Hall of Fame or in the record book got a nice lift more than once on a criminally muggy August night in Philly or Hotlanta when the old back or leg or elbow was barking like a bloodhound. And really, what's the difference between what Bonds did and a couple greenies twice a week to extend a hitting streak or Cy Young season or 3,000-hit chase?

So investigate away, but don't expect to emerge from it with asterisks blazing. Indeed, let's get the truth out: who was doing it, who was supplying it, and who was letting it happen. There may not be criminal charges to file or record books to amend, but better to know the truth. And if George Mitchell doesn't blow the whistle on Selig and whoever else was playing ostrich while the big bucks flowed in, please feel free to wrinkle your nose at the unmistakable smell of skunk.

Skunk, in this case, could come in a couple flavors:

- Skunk a la scapegoat (Mon dieu! So zhoo-ci! So tahn-daire!): MLB will lay it all at the feet of Bonds, Giambi, Conte (Victor), Greg Anderson, etc. This would be baseball's version of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-pile defense: leave 'em alone for a while, and they all squeeze into a bathroom stall. Who were we to know?

- Skunk a la Congress, in which the beet-red faces of Your Local Representatives would hopefully drain back to pale and dyspeptic after Mitchell -- one of their own, after all -- spends a few months speaking in dulcet tones that "not all the facts have yet..." and "very concerned that all parties..." and "it's critical that we get to the bottom..."

I think the latter is more likely: investigation as time-bider until the MLB bosses figure out how to build the best CYA, and I don't mean California Youth Authority or Canadian Yachting Association.

When the higher-ups tell you they didn't know what was happening, be very skeptical. It's their job to know.



Malo Genuine Draft 

Monday was the night my ticket partners and I have been waiting for since October: the annual season ticket draft over burgers and pitchers, though an alarming number of participants, on this, our 7th Annual Draft, ordered caesar salads.

Excuse me, but Dodger Ticket Draft Night is about 400 miles south.

Hey pal, I'm just getting warmed up. Anticipating a season of nonstop heckling of The Suspiciously Muscular One, no doubt even in his own yard under our own hometown noses, El Lefty Malo brings you the best revenge: Werthless!: A Back-Pocket Guide to Bleacher Insults from the 1-3-8, presented in order of the tickets I drafted:

- Opening Day vs. Atlanta. "Lar-ry" is a old favorite, as is a sarcastic rendition of the Tomahawk Chop, but I prefer catching John Smoltz's eye and mouthing the words "1994 World Series Champs" while making an asterisk sign. Don't worry if you can't quite get the asterisk right; he'll know what you mean.

- A Thursday afternoon in May against the Cubs. Draft tip: always pick Cubs games. If you can't go, you can sell the tickets at a huge premium to a starry-eyed Cubs fan who really thinks this is the year Mark Prior stays healthy and leads the team to Nirvana. Same Cub fan will likely take great offense when you reveal that Harry Caray was a drunk, drooling bore.

- Three games against the Caesar Salad Eaters and the Big Canadian Retard. Boooooo.

- Two games in June against Florida. "Gimme an A! Gimme an A! Gimme an A! What's that spell? Triple-A!"

- The Brewers in June. "Hey Prince, from the looks of you, every day is spaghetti day!"

- A frigid August night against the Cincinnati Reds. Bronson Arroyo? "Home-town dis-count!"

- Arizona in September: Thirtybacks? "Hey Gonzo, you're older than El Duque!" Or insist on pronouncing Conor Jackson "Koh-nohr" as if he were a 1950s alien tyrant. "I am Koh-Nohr from the Planet Suckotron!"

If anyone in your section pulls out the cell phone during the game -- especially to wave his arms and say "Can you see me waving my arms?!" -- give him an earful of "Call your mommy later!" or "Watch the game!" or simply "Off the phone! Off the phone!"

And remember, keep it clean. Let's teach our children that one doesn't need to use foul language to be an elite heckler. And that when one's compatriots inquire if something's rather amiss with Gonzo, the proper answer is, "He in no uncertain terms is a bum."


The 39th Man 

According to the Oakland Trib's Andrew Baggarly, the Giants could clear one of the 40-man roster spots promised to Jamey Wright and Todd Greene by putting prospect Kelyn Acosta on the 60-day DL. The other spot, he writes, will likely be cleared by trading someone, as everyone suspects. Stay tuned. It's been a while since Sabes made a trade; let's hope he hasn't gotten rusty.



Fifths Figured Out 

Official word has arrived: Jamie Wright is the Giants' fifth starter and Jason Ellison is the fifth outfielder.

Todd Greene is also the backup catcher.

With Wright and Greene joining the team, two players must be dropped from the 40-man roster before opening day. We hope this will happen via trade, though it's conceivable a couple of the lesser minor leaguers on the 40-man (Jesus Reina, Justin Knoedler, John Coutlangus, Angel Chavez?) could be squeezed through waivers without being claimed.

More likely, someone like Tyler Walker will be traded -- as discussed here -- or Todd Linden, who told the Daily Draper he expects to be dealt. With one option left, he could be sent back to Fresno; ideally, the Giants would stash him in Fresno in case Ellison falters, and hope he breaks through for '07. But it's worth exploring what he could fetch on the block.

The answer? Don't hold your breath. Linden seems a classic 4-A player, and other GMs should know it, too. Sure, he may blossom in another organization. But no one's going to trade a top-20 prospect to find out.

Walker could be worth something to a team with no closer -- hence the rumors of Tampa Bay. Let's hope Sabean can play one desperate GM off against another and drive up Walker's price.

Both Linden and Walker have outlived or are soon to outlive their value as roster members (25 or 40-man variety). In terms of the Giants' org chart, Dan Ortmeier seems in much higher esteem than Linden as the '06 emergency callup/post-'06 hopeful corner outfielder. And the Merkccardos of the world look ready to usurp Walker's role as hard-throwing righty with closer potential.

A word of caution: Armando Benitez got lit up today to the tune of 10 runs in less than 2 innings. (What kind of a tune would that be, by the way? Hmm. Not this one.) If Mando has suddenly run out of health or talent, the Giants are going to need all the closer-by-committee they can get. Sorry, folks, simply letting Tim Worrell enter in the ninth with the PA system blaring Twisted Sister's "We're Not Going to Take It" isn't going to cut the Dijon-aioli on your tofu pup.

It may behoove the Giants -- as my eighth grade English teacher Mr. Tourlos might have said if he knew Thing One about baseball -- to hold on to Tyler for a few more days to see how Benitez fares between now and April 3.

With Greene and Wright on board, Brad Hennessey goes back to Fresno, along with Merkin and Ortmeier. Hennessey will be the first starter called up for injury replacement, no doubt.

The last big roster question, other than a possible trade of Walker, is Kevin Correia. No word whether his excellent spring will put him in the big-league bullpen. Indeed, with Benitez's struggles, bullpen decisions could come down to the final exhibition day.

And no doubt beyond.


UPDATE: A couple weeks ago we discussed the USA's dark-night-of-the-red-white-and-blue-soul ouster in the World Baseball Classic. Much philosophizin' ensued in the comments about Team Play, and whether the U.S. team lost because it did not have enough of this magical male-bonding elixir.

I know fisking is a cruel sport, but sometimes it's the best way to make a point. First read this:

Teamwork trumps star power in Classic

Then read this:

We All Knew Somebody Would Write it...



The Best Defense.... 

Is to take offense. Barry Bonds is suing to freeze the profits from Game of Shadows. Interesting manuever.


Time for a Fifths Update, with the standard disclaimer: I know they're small sample sizes. But they count for something.

Fifth outfielder

Jason Ellison
Offense: .422 / .527 / .578 (45 AB, 5 2B, 1 3B, 9 BB, 2 K, 2 for 3 SB)
Defense: According to Giants Jottings, he made an ugly error Wednesday.
Comments: Best spring performance of any Giant. Especially impressive is his job getting on base.
Fortunes: Mojo waxing.

Todd Linden
Offense: .265 / .387 / .347 (49 AB, 2 2B, 1 3B, 8 BB, 9 K, 1 for 1 SB)
Defense: Had a terrible defensive day early in spring. No reports recently.
Comments: Most at-bats in camp this spring. The lack of power and high K total is a concern.
Fortunes: Waning.

Fifth starter

Brad Hennessey
Pitching: 16.2 IP / 23 H / 13 ER / 2 HR / 9 BB / 8 K
Comments: More Bad Brad Thursday. The K/BB rate has now entered Rueter territory. Whatever goodwill he earned last year is starting to dissipate. He probably needs a couple strong starts to finish the spring.
Fortunes: Waning.

Jamie Wright
Pitching: 9 IP / 0 ER / 7 H / 5 BB / 7 K, plus a decent outing against Team USA.
Comments: I saw somewhere he either makes the team by March 29 or gets released to try elsewhere. He might make that decision a tough one, especially with Hennessey faltering. For what it's worth: Rich Draper says he has to "pitch himself out of the [fifth-starter] spot."
Fortunes: Yup. Still waxing.

Kevin Correia
Pitching: 10 IP / 6 H / 3 ER / 1 HBP / 7 K / 0 BB
Comments: And from out of nowhere, here comes Kid Correia along the rail! Spake Felipe: "Starting or relieving? We don't know right now, but he has been overpowering, and he's making the decision [over whom to keep] difficult."
Fortunes: Starting to wax big-time.



Temperance Movement 

It's easy and fun to sit back and bemoan the Giants' lack of success in developing homegrown ballplayers. They've had fair success in bringing along pitchers, but as we all know, their track record with position players is abysmal, illustrated by these two questions:

Without peeking, can anyone name the last non-pitching Giant to win Rookie of the Year?

How about the last homegrown non-pitching Giant to make the All-Star team while still with San Francisco?

It's also easy and fun to get excited about the current crop of minor leaguers and envision a team in 2007 or 2008 that was mostly farm-raised on the fields of Augusta, Ga., San Jose, Norwich, Conn, and Fresno.

Let's not get too giddy. As Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus reminded us in yesterday's column, the average farm system, frozen in time at any given moment, will likely yield eight major leaguers: two starting position players, two bench warmers, two starting pitchers and two relievers. Assuming that all but the best relievers are failed starters, that makes four valuable players out of roughly 150-plus per system. That's less than 3%.

That's an average, mind you, and Goldstein admits the system he uses could stand a lot of refinement. But his point is well taken:

One of the key things I believe nearly all prospect rankers have failed to do, however, is to manage expectations. Many fans tend to believe that when they look at a top 10 list, they are looking at 10 future big league players, or even future stars. Although it's no fault of the rankers, the reality couldn't be further from the truth.

In other words, most of the junior Giants we're excited about now -- Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz, Jonathan Sanchez, Marcus Sanders, Freddie Lewis, Merkin Valdez, Eddie Martinez-Esteve, Dan Ortmeier, and so on -- will never be major leaguers for more than a few minutes.

This is why, in general, Brian Sabean's strategy of preferring veteran major leaguers to untested kids makes some sense. A player who has proven he can succeed at the major league level has already passed the test.

Statheads sneer at the phrase "proven veteran," and beyond the sheer yawn-factor of finding a Shawon Dunston, Jose Vizcaino or Jeromy Burnitz on one's team yet again, the strategy has obvious limits: cost is one factor, age/injury another.

But when most minor league "stars" are probably destined to become, at best, Michael Tucker, sometimes it makes more sense to go hire Michael Tucker. A team full of Michael Tuckers is not a good thing, of course, and it often seems that Sabean takes the "A Tucker in the hand is worth two on the farm" theory way too far, but let's not jump too far down his throat while penciling in Dan Ortmeier as the Giants starting right fielder in 2008.

If Goldstein's Maxim -- 4 starting major leaguers per farm system -- has any validity, how can we assess the Giants' system?

Before I answer that, let's look at the column Goldstein wrote today. He warns that hitting statistics in the hitter-friendly California League are wildly inflated.

It's especially misleading to assess a player's Cal League stats when he makes the jump from the low-A Midwest League, a pitchers' league. Goldstein doesn't include the San Jose Giants in his calculations because the Giants' low-A affiliate plays in the South Atlantic League, but his warning is nonetheless instructive for Giants fans: Don't put too much stock into hitters who join the Cal League and start mashing the ball.

In other words, before we get too excited about Schierholtz, EME and Ishikawa in particular -- all of whom had good-to-excellent years in San Jose last year -- let's see how they handle the next level.

If you had to pick four minor-league Giants as future starters -- two position players, two pitchers -- who would they be, and why? (Sorry, Cain and Hennessey don't count.)



Prospect Check-Off, or, The Cherry Borchard 

Since the trade of Edgardo Alfonzo for Steve Finley in late December -- i.e., the successful completion of "Operation Fonzie Removal" -- all has been quiet on the Giant trade front.

But the next couple weeks could bring swappage. One reason is that the Giants might add to the team (and thus to the 40-man roster) RHP Jamie Wright and backup catcher Todd Greene, whose only competition remaining is Elizier Alfonzo.

If Greene and Wright are in, two others would have to be removed from the 40-man. Better to make such removals via trade and get something in return rather than risk the players being claimed off waivers.

Even if 40-man shenanigans don't factor in, the Giants could trade from a surplus of relief pitchers. Henry Schulman in today's Chron noted the abbondanza:

Assuming Armando Benitez is healthy, there are nine relievers who could fill the seven jobs, the other eight being Tim Worrell, Steve Kline, Tyler Walker, Jeff Fassero, Scott Munter, Jack Taschner, Accardo and Valdez. That management has so many starters and relievers from which to choose bodes well.

"To have that depth is not something a lot of organizations have," catcher Mike Matheny said.

Accardo and Valdez, being the youngest and hardest-throwing of the lot, probably have the highest trade value and are the least likely to be traded. After them, I'd guess Tyler Walker, with his lively stuff and experience as a closer, would be next. I've argued in the past that Walker has little trade value, but that was before guys like Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry started pulling down multi-million dollar contracts this winter. Walker doesn't have the full-season success of either Eyre or Howry, but he would seem to be a reasonable middle-relief option for a team that doesn't want to pay a lot for that muffler.

(The inflated market for middle relief makes all the more galling the LaTroy Hawkins trade -- all the Giants could get was Steve Kline?)

You want more evidence that Walker is tradable? The Mariners just unloaded Matt Thornton, a 29-year-old lefty with fugly career numbers (lots of walks, lots of homers), for White Sox prospect Joe Borchard. OK, "ex-prospect" is more accurate: Borchard is 27 and has stunk it up in several short major-league stints. His triple-A track record isn't overwhelming, either, but there's still time for him to become a good 4th outfielder. In other words, when Todd Linden asks his Mirror Mirror on the Wall what his future holds, the mirror shows him Joe Borchard's ugly mug.

Holy dopplegangers, Batman: I just looked at Linden's PECOTA card, and guess who his #1 most-comparable is? Here's a hint: it rhymes with "a big field full of fruit trees."

More heartening for Linden, and for Giants fans, are other names on his comparable list: Dale Murphy, Paul O'Neill, Pat Burrell, Jermaine Dye, Larry Walker, and Dwight Evans.

All that said, Tyler Walker must have more trade value than Matt Thornton. In this market he might fetch the Giants a pretty good high-minors position player, someone younger and with a little more upside than Joe Borchard.

Speaking of Linden, he's losing the battle of Small Spring-Training Sample Size to Jason Ellison, who had a monster weekend and is now hitting .452/.540/.619 in 42 Cactus at-bats. If the Giants go with 11 pitchers, both could break camp with the team, but as noted in reports today, that seems unlikely.

Assuming 12 pitchers, here's an outline of the opening day roster:


Wright (if Hennessey is 5th starter)?/Correia?/Taschner?/Accardo?







Pundits will no doubt try to wring cosmic significance from Team USA's elimination yesterday at the hands of Equipo Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. For those suffering pundit's block, here are some handy knee-jerk column templates, provided free of charge to all you desperate opiners scouring the blogs for ideas:

The Left-Wing Scold: Oh, I told you so. We fat Americans are so smug, so self-absorbed, but lo, the imperialists were taken down a notch in their own national pastime by our long-oppressed North American neighbors!

The Right-Wing Lament: This never would have happened under Ronald Reagan's watch. Such an embarrassment is obviously due to a loss of traditional values and not enough emphasis on sacrifice (bunts or otherwise). Pat Buchanan, this one's for you.

The Thomas Friedman 21st-Century Flat-World Citizen: While our kids are zoned out on PlayStations and drinking 128-ounce Big Gulps, globalization is happening in front of our noses, folks. It's time to wake up and smell the chapatis. Fund education, yes, but embrace competition, and let Indian and Pakistani cricketers have their fair crack at throwing the horsehide.

The New York/Boston Media Angle: A-Rod: Punk'd!

The Bloodless, Boring Baseball Prospectus Rejoinder: What part of "sample size" do you not understand? Gosh, you're so retarded!

It's All His Fault: Barry Bonds is the emblem of everything that's wrong with American baseball. And America. And the solar system. And the Milky Way. I don't need to ask Steven Hawking, I can just look at the guy's hat size then go ask Turk Wendell what he thinks. (This one is reserved for Murray Chass, Frank DeFord, or some other old white guy from the Northeast.)

Speaking of pundits, here's Team USA member Todd Jones's assessment of his squad, published in his Detroit Free Press column before last night's USA-Mexico game:

"So how about the United States? We've had a little bit of a problem getting going, as you might have seen. We have two complete teams of great players, and it has been tough to get playing time for all the guys. So the guys who sit can't get their rhythm, and the guys who play haven't played together.

The U.S. lineup is full of middle-of-the-order hitters. So when we've had guys on base and needed someone to shoot the ball through the hole, that's not something any of these guys are usually asked to do.

The U.S. guys also have a tendency to sit back and wait for a three-run homer. It's fine if you get that three-run homer, but it's not too good if you don't. So we've been in a wait-and-see mode."

He fails to mention that most WBC action to date has been extremely low-scoring, making me think the pitchers are way ahead of the hitters right now. (Exception: Dontrelle Willis.) No matter how many flags are waved and horns blared and salsas danced in the stands, it's still spring training.

Have you found a good knee-jerk reaction to the USA loss? Do you have your own? Comments, please.



Fifths Update 

Time to check in on the competitors for the fifth starter and fifth outfielder spots.

Fifth outfielder

Jason Ellison
Offense: .379 / .471 / .552 (29 AB, 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 BB, 1 K, 1 for 1 SB)
Defense: Nothing noted in any reports I've seen.
Comments: He's gotten fewer at-bats the past week. Perhaps with the first round of cuts, those who remain are settling into their projected roles. Ellison pinch-ran yesterday and scored after Barry Bonds bunted him to third. He also beat out an infield hit; he needs to put the ball on the ground up the middle more often.
Fortunes: Waxing.

Todd Linden
Offense: .300 / .436 / .367 (30 AB, 2 2B, 6 BB, 5 K, 1 for 1 SB)
Defense: Had a terrible defensive day early in spring. No reports recently.
Comments: Linden has logged the most at-bats on the team this spring and most comments from Felipe, too. The skipper recently noted Linden's "fire," to which Linden responded, "The fire's there, I promise you that, and I'm glad he's seeing it." Fire is good, but where's the extra-base power?
Fortunes: Waning.

Fifth starter

Brad Hennessey
Pitching: 12.3 IP / 14 H / 9 ER / 2 HR / 6 BB / 7 K
Comments: After two strong outings, alter-ego Bad Brad re-emerged for a pounding last Friday. Quoth he: "I just got too many breaking balls up. It's kind of tough. It's a pitch I need to keep working on, but I don't want it to keep beating me." He bounced back somwhat today, but the 3 walks and only 1 K were troublesome.
Fortunes: Gibbous with a hint of wane.

Jamie Wright
Pitching: 5 scoreless IP / 5 H / 2 BB / 4 K, plus a decent outing against Team USA.
Comments: Five scoreless, all in relief. He could be making a case as a middle reliever/swing man.
Fortunes: Waxing.

Kevin Correia
Pitching: 3.2 IP / 5 H / 3 ER / 1 HBP / 2 K / 0 BB
Comments: After a wild Cactus debut, Correia settled down with a couple scoreless innings. Still hard to imagine he'll be considered for a starting spot. Let's see how he does tomorrow.
Fortunes: Slightly waxing, but still crescent.



Airing Copeland, or, Farmfare for the Common Man 

Prospect guru Kevin Goldstein joined Baseball Prospectus a few weeks ago (one more reason to subscribe) and immediately dived into a division-by-division roundup of minor league systems. The NL West roundup came out today.

The good news is that the vast gap in quality between the Giants farm system and the top-notch Dodgers and Diamondbacks systems remains for the Giants only a theoretical unmitigated disaster. It won't become a disaster in reality until fabulous L.A. and Arizona prospects such as Stephen Drew, Carlos Quentin, Jonathan Broxton, Chad Billingsley, et frickin' cetera, do something at the major league level, which may happen this year but may never happen at all, insh'allah.

Fooled you! That was actually the bad news disguised as good news. Here's the good news: Goldstein doesn't say too many bad things about the Giants system. Perhaps he was raised with good manners, because his overview can be summed up as, "Yes, Mr. Sabean, Matt Cain is a fine young man. Did I mention that Matt Cain is a great guy and we'd love to have him join our fraternity? Yes, sir, Matt Cain Matt Cain Matt Cain."

Makes me think this Cain fellow might be pretty good.

Sure, Goldstein goes on to talk low-key trash about the Sabean "who needs 'em?" draft-pick philosophy; and he reminds us that Eddie Martinez-Esteve is a hitter without a defensive position; but his summing-up wasn't the sopping wet blanket I expected to have tossed over my post-Barry fantasy of lithe, home-grown men in orange and French vanilla who cavort in the fog and restore spark and sizzle to the old, saggy franchise rattling around the half-empty Mays by the Bay.

Goldstein also manages to say nice things about Travis Ishikawa, Marcus Sanders, and Jonathan Sanchez, and even shows a little leg for Ben Copeland, unheralded first pick for the Giants last year who has yet to crack high-A ball.

I'll take all the hope I can get.

Small print update

I finished The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night. It started slow but author Haddon did well to settle into the brain of the teenaged autistic narrator Christopher. Seeing the world through his eyes made me think a lot about baseball fandom: obsession with numbers and statistics, irrational hatred of certain colors (for Christopher, it's brown; for Giants' fans, it's blue), inability to make emotional connections with normal human beings. Next up: William Trevor's short story collection A Bit on the Side.

After a couple months of thoroughly enjoying a New Orleans mix my main man Elbo made for me, I wanted more Allen Toussaint and found the Allen Toussaint Collection pretty darn cheap at Amoeba. Almost as tasty as Louis Armstrong's red beans and rice via Elbo's Kitchen.



A Couple Fifths 

The Giants opening day roster is practically set except for the fifth outfielder, the fifth starting pitcher, and the last spot or two in the bullpen. If the front office and Felipe have already picked favorites, they're not saying who.

Starting today, I'll keep a running tab on the spring stats of the fifth OF and SP candidates, plus notes on other factors, with a 100%-pulled-from-the-keister meter on whether their fortunes are waxing or waning. (Waxing is good, waning is bad. You knew that. Just making sure.)

Disclaimer: I'm not saying roster spots should be won or lost based on tiny spring-training sample sizes, but the Giants' decision process will no doubt take them into account. I will, too.

Second disclaimer: By using the terms "Todd Linden" and "waxing" in the same post, I'm not trying to make you think uncomfortable thoughts. Really.

Fifth outfielder

Jason Ellison
Offense: .353 / .476 / .529 (17 AB, 3 2B, 3 BB, 1 K, 1 for 1 SB)
Defense: Nothing noted in any reports I've seen.
Other: Bulked up over the winter. Many people noticed immediately. This, combined with Sabean last year openly questioning Ellison's stamina, makes me think he knows this is crunch time.
Fortunes: Waxing.

Todd Linden
Offense: .375 / .545 / .438 (16 AB, 1 2B, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 for 1 SB)
Defense: Had a terrible defensive day recently. Everyone noticed. Not good.
Other: Still mouth-breathing. Felipe noted the other day how Linden had all the skills but needed to get it together. Impatience, or a little extra motivation at exactly the right time from a wizened Jedi master? I vote for impatience.
Fortunes: Waning.

Fifth starter

Brad Hennessey
Pitching: 6 IP / 4 H / 2 ER / 1 HR / 1 BB / 5 K
Other: In two outings, Hennessey has reportedly looked excellent. He's getting ahead of hitters, he's being aggressive. Felipe noted after the first outing how Hennessey was able to correct quickly a mechanical flaw -- his bugaboo last year.
Fortunes: Hella waxin'.

Jamie Wright
Pitching: 2 scoreless IP / 2 H / 2 BB / 2 K, plus an outing against Team USA that I can't find in any boxscore. I think it was a bit rough.
Other: If he makes the team, the Giants have to kick someone off the 40-man roster. So he needs to outperform Hennessey by a wide margin.
Fortunes: Magic 8-Ball says, "Too soon to tell."

Kevin Correia
Pitching: 1.2 IP / 4 H / 3 ER / 1 HBP / 0 K / 0 BB
Other: Threw hard; nearly knocked Jerry Hairston into a coma. Same old, same old. I wouldn't even include him here except I've seen his name pop up a couple times as part of the competition.
Fortunes: Waning.



Lemony Flemm, or, A Series of Unfortunate Resemblances 

Separated-at-births, or look-alikes. I know, it's as hackneyed as the top-ten list or the fisk or the clever but substance-free pop-culture reference, but sometimes the girl can't help it. Oops.

And now for a bit more fun, because Tatianna says we could use it:

What the hell. One more:



The Book on Barry 

As most baseball-lovin' people on God's green Earth probably know by now, Sports Illustrated is publishing an excerpt from the upcoming book that details Barry Bonds's illegal performance-enhancing-drug use. PEDs, we like to call 'em down at the gym.

My dad called me on the cell phone to tell me as I was speeding down 101 to a lunch appointment. Now that I'm back at my desk and can read the excerpts of the excerpts, I have a few comments.

First, no big surprise. Ever since the Chron published Barry's grand jury testimony that he thought the cream and clear were flaxseed oil, it's been pretty obvious. Not stand-up-in-court-as-a-felony-conviction obvious, but come-on-Barry-you-think-I'm-an-idiot? obvious.

Second, one could still argue that the Chron reporters have constructed a house of cards built on whispers, innuendo, revenge, anecdote and circumstance. It's within the realm of possibility, but the realm is shrinking faster than a polar bear's ice floe. Messrs. Fairanu-Wada and Williams may have felt pressure to publish their book without dotting every i and crossing every t, but this is not a vast anti-Barry conspiracy.

If you still feel like arguing that Barry wasn't a PED-head, be my guest. Also include 250 words on why you feel global warming is a canard.

As with our melting ice caps, glaciers and hotter temperatures, it's time to move on to the secondary debates. With global warming, it's how fast things will melt and how much can we do to stop it. With Barry's PED use, it's how much it actually helped him and whether we as fans should still reward him with our loyalty.

To the first point, I don't know enough to say that his cheating helped him hit 73 home runs instead of, say, 48 home runs, in 2001. I don't know if anyone will ever be able to make statements with any sort of specificity. There are strong dissenting voices who say performance enhancement is not all it's cracked up to be. But if Bonds and many other star athletes are risking careers, reputations, and millions of dollars on this shit, it can't all be marketing hype from slick drug dealers...can it?

To the second point -- Barry The Big Cheater -- I have been and will likely remain very torn on the steroid-as-bogeyman frenzy. All the comparisons to other kinds of cheating (spitballs, corked bats, stealing signs) have some kind of resonance, but they're far from apples-to-apples. Perhaps old-school use of amphetamines is a better comparison. (They were probably even more widespread for a longer period of time. Is anyone asking for Willie Mays's records back? No.)

There's also the argument that world-class athletes will always do whatever they can at whatever cost to gain an advantage, often quite legally, such as pay nutrition experts to fine-tune their diets, or use computer-analyzed exercise equipment and blood testing. How is the highly sophisticated use of designer drugs any different, except that one is deemed legal by society and the other illegal? (That's a big "except," unless you're a rock-ribbed Libertarian.)

In fact, the is-Bonds-or-isn't-Bonds-a-bad-guy debate is less interesting to me than another question that the Chron reporters have again surfaced: how complicit were the owners and the power structure?

According to the excerpt I read, the Giants' brass was aware of Bonds's activities and turned their heads away so fast they're still suffering from dizzy spells. (Ah-ha: perhaps this explains the A.J. Pierzynski trade.) It was serious Ostrich Time for Magowan et al, and probably for many other owners around baseball.

Because so little is known about PEDs and their effects on the human body, we often try to untangle the meaning of their use -- or abuse, if you prefer -- with imperfect analogies. (See global warming, above.) Here's another: once the Abu Ghraib torture became public, reporters weren't satisfied with a few turnipseed soldiers thrown on the sacrificial bonfire. Several outlets have been systematically digging to find how much of the abominable behavior was officially sanctioned or given the nudge-nudge-wink-wink treatment.

Baseball's PED users weren't explicitly following orders -- and they weren't torturing anyone except opposing pitchers -- but let's hope reporters don't stop digging until they find out what the owners knew, when they knew it, and whether they mean to apologize.



You're Either With Us or Against Us 

Juan Gutierrez begs to differ.

This is my favorite spring-training moment so far:

Houston center fielder Willy Taveras got to play for his country against his team Sunday in the Dominican Republic's 12-8 win over the Astros. Juan Gutierrez did Taveras one better, pitching for both sides in the ninth inning.

In a quirky move fans could only see at spring training, the Astros' reliever pitched for his team, changed uniforms and pitched for the Dominicans in the bottom half. Astros manager Phil Garner loaned Gutierrez to the Dominicans so they could rest their bullpen for the World Baseball Classic.

Another wacky tidbit from a Chron report this weekend:

Only the name has changed: Santiago Casilla, the former Jairo Garcia, arrived in camp and he's scheduled to pitch today at Maryvale.

Casilla, 25, was delayed by visa trouble after blowing the whistle on himself for using false documents; he explained that Jairo Garcia is a friend of his (who is nearly three years younger than the pitcher) and he feels bad that he used Garcia's identity the past few years. He told reporters that he doesn't mind if people still call him Jairo.

And this just in...

Woody Rueter officially called it quits today. He went out with a thud, but he pitched some great ball games for the Giants: The first game of the two-game series in Sept. '97 that helped the Giants pass the Dodgers for the division. The duel with Matt Morris to win the NLCS in 2002. The four scoreless innings in game 7 of the World Series. For a funny-looking guy with a funny-looking fastball, he did pretty well for himself and for us, too.



Randy's Winnfall 

With the question whether Barry Bonds should use one of Kramer's "Bros" (or if you prefer, "Manssieres") dominating the old Dateline: Scottsdale this week, I haven't had time to think deeply and responsibly about Randy Winn's three-year contract extension.

Don't expect me to start now.

For those of you who missed it, here are the details:

- $3 million signing bonus
- $4 million in 2007
- $8 million in 2008
- $8.25 million in 2009

I don't know if the bonus is paid 1) all at once immediately; 2) all at once when the extension officially starts; 3) in equal parts over the life of the contract; or 4) in equal parts cash and garlic fries. Nota bene, Randy: garlic fries are nasty as soon as they drop below 85 degrees. And you can't put them in the microwave.

Bonuses for the Alfonzo and Durham contracts were spread out, so until I learn otherwise I'll go with option number 3.

Grant of Tha' MCC has done a fine job mulling over the pros and cons of the contract, and I don't really disagree with his conclusions, which I please to summarize in this nut-guard, as we say in home country: The Winn extension isn't too bad unless his big paychecks in '08 and '09 prevent the Giants from signing a game-changing superduperstar.

So that leads us to the question: What are the Giants payroll projections in those years? How green will their valley be, and will they pay top dollar for players to occupy it?

Let's start with 2007.

No longer under contract: Bonds, M. Alou, Kline, Finley, Feliz, Durham, Schmidt. With deferred payments (to Bonds, M. Alou) and buyouts (Finley), the Giants are on the hook for approximately $40 million.


No longer under contract: Benitez, Vizquel, Matheny, Sweeney, Worrell. With deferred payments (Bonds, Benitez, Vizquel) and buyouts (Matheny), the Giants are on the hook for approximately $28 million.


One article about Winn's extension said he's currently the only Giant under contract for that year. True, but there will still be IOUs for deferred payments (Bonds, Morris, Benitez, Vizquel) and buyouts (Morris) that come to approximately $10 million. Add that to Winn's salary, and the Giants will owe close to $20 million.

We can assume that the Giants will add to these totals by signing young players to long-term deals. Noah Lowry and Matt Cain come to mind immediately.

Billy Beane is great at locking up younger pitchers to below-market contracts in their arbitration-eligible years: Hudson, Zito, Mulder and Harden all signed guaranteed contracts that turned out to be huge bargains for the A's. The Giants tried the same tack with Livan Hernandez and Russ Ortiz. Let's pretend Cain and Lowry agree to take guaranteed money through '08 or '09. What might that look like?

The best comparable could be Rich Harden: debuted very young but showed immediately he could handle major-league hitters. In his first five starts in 2003, he threw 32 innings, struck out 30 and walked 10. After his first full year of major league service, Harden signed a 4-year, $9 million contract with a $7 million option for 2009. Very similar to Zito and Hudson's first multiyear contracts, in fact. (Harden's breakdown, according to Cot's Contracts, is a $1 M signing bonus, $0.5 M in '05, $1 M in '06, $2 M in '07, and $4.5 M in '08.)

It's conceivable, nay, likely, that by '08-'09 Lowry and Cain will be earning $4 to $5 million each. Niekro will be arb-eligible by then, too, but unless he busts out this year, his cash flow will be more Mark than Mike Sweeneyesque. (Or Julia Sweeneyesque, for that matter.)

I can't imagine any of the other youngsters with MLB experience -- Linden, Ellison, Chavez, Knoedler, Hennessey, Accardo, Munter, Taschner, etc. -- pulling down multi-millions by then, unless Munter-Taschner release an extended single that becomes the favorite of the Euro-goth underground and they quit baseball to open a leather bar or tour with Einstürzende Neubauten. Or both!

Stranger things have happened.

Let's say the most the Giants spend in '08 on their homegrown players is $15 to $20 million, the bulk of which goes to Cain and Lowry. That puts payroll in the $40 to 50 million range.

We can only hope the payroll ceiling remains at least at current levels, somewhere around $90 million. A lot depends on the post-Bonds attendance and marketing (i.e., Lance Niekro Bobblehead Doll Night) and a new collective bargaining agreement once the current one expires at the end of this season. A work stoppage coinciding with the End Of Barry would kill the Giants at the gate.

We can also only hope that these wide-open, near-future payroll expanses will be filled with fair, sensible contracts for budding young stars from both within the organization and without. Perhaps by 2008, Jeremy Accardo and Merkin Valdez will be a dirt-cheap and devastating end-of-game bullpen combo, a la F-Rod/Nen circa 2000. Perhaps Kevin Frandsen will be the next Robby Thompson at second base, and Brad Hennessey will be the unheralded but quietly pranksterish third cog in the Cain-Lowry-Hennessey "Behemoth by the Bay" rotation, with Jonathan Sanchez creating a huge buzz in Fresno.

Doug Mirabelli, acquired after 2007 from the Padres for Stan Conte's son, will have two career years with the bat and learn from Benito Santiago how to throw out runners from his knees -- which after Mirabelli's decade of benchwarming, will be in surprisingly good shape. And Vlad Guerrero, coming off back surgery, will force a trade from Anaheim to San Francisco, with the Angels picking up most of his remaining contract. He will be named comeback player of the year and mentor Eddie Martinez-Esteve, who finally realizes how lucky he is to be in the big leagues and decides to learn how to hit the cutoff man.

2008 can't come soon enough.



Fisking Draper 

The fiskers of Fire Joe Morgan have finally discovered the fascinating train wreck of hyperbole, ass-licking and ill-chosen metaphor known around here as The Draper Follies.

In this post, FJM takes apart Draper's latest quivering monument of toadyism erected in the majestic shadow of Steve Finley. (Props to Dead Teddy for pointing out the FJM post.)

The Draper piece reminds me of the Monty Python skit with the whingeing, groveling salesman played by Eric Idle, I think, who takes unctuous servility to new heights. Or lows. (If anyone can find a link to text of the Python skit, please post it in comments.)

I'm torn about FJM taking on Draper. On one hand, perhaps enough public pressure will force the Giants to make him stop; on the other hand, perhaps enough public pressure will force the Giants to make him stop. His writing might be replaced with guest columnists Todd Linden and Mike Matheny, discussing how video games and the Lord help them cope with the grueling 162-game schedule.

Other notes:

* Let the (exhibition) games begin! Noah Lowry takes the mound against the Cactus Brewers.

* Amy B. wrote to say that the pic posted here of Barry "Straight Up" Bonds made her day. Many more days are about to be made: For part two of the Giants Idol proceedings, including a new Barry/Paula get-up and Travis Ishikawa in mesh underwear, check out the snaps on Giants Jottings, fast becoming a necessity for its daily photos and reports on spring-training happenings. God bless the retired and unemployed.

* As the Japanese say, 案ずるより産むが易し。Or, "Anzuru yori umu ga yasushi." Or, literally: "Giving birth to a baby is easier than worrying about it." No doubt a proverb invented by a man. But it seems apt as we start the World Besu-baru Classic. For an in-depth look at the Japanese roster, visit Gary Garland's Japan Baseball Daily. It's a jogai honruida!


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