Look at All These Rumors... 

2:36pm PT: Trade Wrap

Best deal of the week: Rangers getting Carlos Lee. Not only did they upgrade from Mench to Lee, they acquired Brewers farmhand Nelson Cruz, a guy who could replace Lee if he walks this winter. Second best: Yankees getting Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle for four C-list prospects.

Best deal of the deadline: Mets getting R. Hernandez and Oliver Perez for Nady. Nady is good but has probably reached his peak. Hernandez fills the gaping hole left by Duaner Sanchez's injury, and Perez, well, he's all screwed up but he's 24 and heading toward Rick Petersen. Hernandez for now, Perez for later.

Big winners: The Yankees essentially upgraded from Chacon (ERA 7.00) to Cory Lidle and added Mr. 400+ OBP to their lineup, with Craig Wilson stocking the bench, for fungible prospects and a fat salary commitment to Abreu.

And what about the Giants? On one hand, they got nothing for their veterans. On the other hand, they didn't shovel the future down the coal chute by trading Jonathan Sanchez for Todd Walker. Seeing how the Nats couldn't trade Soriano, the O's couldn't trade Tejada, the Phils, Lieber or Burrell, the A's, Zito, etc etc, you have to believe Sabean wasn't getting anything close to market value for Schmidt. OK, fair enough. Not a good year to trade vets for prospects.

Despite my recent threats of self-harm, I'm content to see the Giants continue to lean on the starting pitchers, try to waken the slumbering bats, and figure out how to get Benitez's head right. Sanchez is back in the minors as a starter; we'll probably see him in a September call-up. Maybe for this homestand the Giants should try Brian Wilson in the closer role. Hey, it couldn't get any worse.


The trade deadline is in five hours. I'll keep a running tab of Giants-related items as best I can...

8am PT: Schmitty? Reports say he's back on the block, perhaps to the Mets. Conflicting reports whether the Mets are willing to part with Lastings Milledge. Milledge is 21 and already showing signs of getting his game together in a big way. He's no Miguel Cabrera, perhaps, but he doesn't seem to be Marlon Byrd, either. If Sabean can pry Milledge loose and a decent starting pitcher who would bolster the rotation immediately (Aaron Heilman?), I say yes.

9:30am PT: from Will Carroll at Baseball Prospectus: The Dodgers remain buyers, discussing several deals and willing to get creative. One discussed deal for Miguel Tejada involved Rafael Furcal, but the discussions didn't get far, according to one team source. The Dodgers have resisted including prospects in most of their discussions. "They sound like the Braves," one team source told me. "Logan White knows his system so well that people are getting a little scared to deal with them. When's the last time you saw a Braves prospect pan out?"

That's a fascinating quote, especially if you reframe it to examine Brian Sabean's track record. After pawning off suspect Giants prospects for several years (Bump, Grilli, Rios, Vogelsong, Fontenot, etc.), it seems the rest of baseball caught up to him. Maybe similar things will happen to the Dodgers, and they'll find it hard to trade all these surefire prospects they've amassed.

1pm PT
: Get ready for a flurry of reports now that the deadline has passed and the last-minute faxes have been transmitted. As far as we know, the Giants haven't made any moves, and Will Carroll says Jason Schmidt is off the market.

The Mets' acquisition of Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez from the Pirates for Xavier Nady means Lastings Milledge will be brought up to play RF in New York, not traded for a pitcher.

Carroll also reports that Moises Alou was in play.

The Dodgers got Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis. Given Maddux's ugly numbers the last two months, that may be the best move the Giants make. Also in the division, the Padres traded for Todd Walker. Yawn.



The Rain Song 

It's raining in Pittsburgh, a diluvean drench that mocks the Giants and their soggy bats, and it really can't get worse. Sure, the team has hit a bad stretch of luck, facing Walter Johnson, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton on this road trip. Even the best slugging team would have trouble against these Hall of Famers.

So while I while away the weather, I thought I'd distract my worried mind with a wee wedge of verse.

There was an old man named Alou
Who professed to do all he could do,
"But with clutch hits so lacking
And our young arms sent packing --
Oh look, there's a dime in my shoe!"

I also loved this bit of stand-up comedy from Nationals GM Jim Bowden:

"It's difficult to give up Mike Stanton for several reasons," Bowden said. "No. 1, his influence in the clubhouse is special. His help in developing young relievers is remarkable, and he's just a class act. So from that perspective, it was really hard."

How that guy ever keeps a straight face, I can't say. What a cut-up!

Can I kill myself now?


Add "I" to Trade and You Get Tirade 

I just saw this item:

The rumor mill says three National League West teams -- Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco -- are interested in veteran pitcher Greg Maddux. -- Daily Southtown

Now I've been around the block enough times to know that just because the Daily Southtown says it, it's not necessarily true. But still:


Have you driven a Maddux lately? It's not much better than a Wright, and probably not as good as a Hennessey.

I'm betting the crafty Sabes knows this, too, and he's just trying to make the Dodgers or Padres pay a super extra double premium for the last mediocre gasp of a Hall of Famer's twilight months. You old sly fox! You. Right? Brian?

Because the thought of the Giants adding Maddux and giving up Jona...urp...Brian Wil...excuse me while I run to the bathroom.

If the Giants make any trades between now and Monday, my bet -- OK, my desperate plea -- is at least part of the deal looks like a "sell." In other words, one of the valuable vets goes in return for younger and cheaper.

For example: Pedro Feliz. Or Steve Finley. I could even see Moises being traded if the Giants decide he's not going to be healthy enough to help much down the stretch, and that an AL team that doesn't mind surrendering decent prospects would do better using him as DH. (Twins, anyone?)

The most obvious "sell" move, as noted before, is Jamey Wright. If Corey Lidle and Jon Lieber have suitors lining up as if they were rich widows, certainly Wright will attract a few horny moths, eh? Get what you can for him, and we'll do well enough with either Hennessey or Correia as fifth starter and Matt Kinney brought up to be the mop man.

I'd even listen to offers for Jason Schmidt, if the offers including a young starter who'd slide into the rotation (Brandon McCarthy? Aaron Heilman?). Would two months of Heilman really be a downgrade? With such a small sample size, a young healthy guy might easily outpitch Schmidt, who hasn't dominated a game since the 16-K effort against Florida nearly two months ago.

If the Giants think "buy" and "sell," I think they could at least stay in the NL West race, not wave the white flag, and most important, keep the future intact.



The Quiet Goat 

No, my children, this is not one of Aesop's timeless fables. This is a story about the Giants' last two games, sloppy, ugly games that splattered a big squishy splork of mud on the once bright and shiny fender of that long-gone five-game winning streak.

Tuesday night, the alleged goat was Matt Morris, but as I detailed two posts ago, he was far from the only culprit. Last night, the memory most fans will take away is big sweaty Armando Benitez, whose entry music has officially been changed to "Blowin' in the Wind" (Stevie Wonder version).

This is not a defense of Benitez: he walked the leadoff guy. Bad bad bad. Bad Mando! If he were a puppy, his owner would press Mando's nose into the pool of liquid mess he left on the RFK field.

But he had plenty of partners in crime. Chief partner: Ray Durham. His inexcusable error in the third inning, botching a rundown that should have gotten Lowry out of the inning, led to two unearned runs. His error in the ninth -- excuse me, Mr. or Ms. Official Scorer, but that was no hit -- should have been a double play at best, the second out of the inning at worst. But as Hank Schulman noted in this morning's report, the first-and-second situation forced Vizcaino to shade second base, and Zimmerman's ground ball found its way into left field.

Durham's two errors absolutely, positively cost the Giants the game. Add to them Pedro Feliz's inability to plate a runner from third with one out in the fourth, and you have a game that should have been 4-0 entering the ninth. Durham also missed a grounder in the first game, one of the bleeders Morris gave up, which wasn't ruled an error because it got under his glove. But it was a ball he probably should have had.

What Ray-Ray has given with the bat -- 4 RBIs in two games -- he has all but taken away with the glove.

Today's theme: Two Days of Pain, and Pray for Cain.



Quote of the Day 

At first I thought the headline was from the Onion: Tomko excited about his new role in bullpen for Dodgers.

But it's true.

"We started talking about it the first week I got hurt," Tomko said. "I could have stayed in the rotation if I wanted to, but Grady actually left it up to me a few weeks ago to do this or not to. It was my decision. He thought it might be a good thing and that we might be onto something good -- me being a one-inning type of guy. So I said I'd give it a shot.

"They never put any pressure on me to do it," he added. "I told him I would do whatever they wanted me to do. But the game plan is to see how this goes. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, then I go back in the rotation. So with that presented to me, I chose to give it a try. And if it's something I'm really good at, then it might be something that sticks for a while."


Now that Accardo's gone, Hillenbrand and Chulk are on board, and Sabean is allegedly looking to boost the bullpen without trading anyone from the 25-man roster, who's the Giant most likely to be traded in the next four days? My guess: Jamie Wright.



The Morris Defense 

According to the box score, Matt Morris just pitched his worst game of the year: 2 1/3 innings, 7 hits, 7 earned runs. I happened to watch, and although he never looked comfortable on the mound, his line doesn't reflect his performance. He was exceedingly unlucky for several reasons.

First, he was nailed in the right forearm or wrist by a line drive in the second inning. It didn't seem to affect his velocity, but it may have forced him to make subtle mechanical changes.

Second, nearly every hit against him was badly struck. Lopez's single in the first? Weak grounder that Durham should have had. Pffft. Johnson's RBI single? A jam job that Johnson somehow muscled over Vizquel's head. With a decent throw Bonds might have nabbed Lopez at the plate, but it barely reached the cut-off man from short left field. This I believe is called "breaming it home."

In the third, Lopez got another bloop hit that ABB (Anyone But Bonds) probably would have caught, Johnson hit a solid grounder up the middle, mix in a couple walks, then Anderson lamely blooped one to right to make the game 5-2. The final blow was well struck: Church's two-run double to right-center, and it ended Morris's night.

Third, Morris's control wasn't great -- he plunked Soriano to lead off the game -- but the umpire's strike zone was terrible. Krukow called it before the game started: Mike Reilly will miss a lot of breaking balls. Sure enough, in the fateful third inning, Morris had at least two, perhaps three curveballs called balls that should have been strikes and would have altered the tone of each at-bat.

Morris may not have lasted much longer than three or four innings given how hard he was hit by Church's line drive, but the Nats scored seven runs on one hard-hit ball and walks helped by bad calls, and shoddy defense.

Call this Exhibit A of what happens when a pitcher doesn't have strikeout stuff and is at the mercy of luck, the umpires, and his teammates.


More Trade Thoughts 

Conventional wisdom holds that Brian Sabean's trade record is all sparkle and glitter until 2003 but since then the man has been lying face down in an alley, a lump on his head and his pockets turned inside-out. I submit to you, gentle reader, that this conventional wisdom, colored mostly by the infamous AJ Pierzynski trade, is wrong.

Let's spool things backwards. First, the outcome of the Hillenbrand trade remains to be seen. But on paper, it makes sense: get a bat the Giants desperately need and give up little short-term advantage in the bullpen.

Before that: Edgardo Alfonzo for Steve Finley. Finley is having a mediocre year but as a fourth outfielder has been a godsend. Alfonzo is an ex-Bridgeport Bluefish.

Before that: LaTroy Hawkins for Steve Kline. Allegedly to have a legitimate lefty in the pen, this deal was really a swap of disgruntlements. Kline has been good in one way: lefties are only slugging .327 against him. But they're getting on base against him 35% of the time, and righties are hitting him well. The other mark in his favor is a 2-to-1 GB/FB ratio, with 7 GiDPs already. LaTroy has had an odd year: dominant at home in Camden Yards and a punching bag on the road. Statistically, there's not a huge difference in Kline and Hawkins this year. Call it a wash.

Before that: a slew of late veteran discards (Christiansen, Tucker, D. Cruz) for fringe minor leaguers. None have sniffed the majors; most are in single-A ball.

Before that: Yorvit Torrealba and Jesse Foppert for Randy Winn. Torrealba was considered by many to be heir-apparent to the starting job but has since proven his detractors correct by having Mathenyesque batting skills -- in Coors Field, even. Meanwhile, Matheny had a career year with the bat in '05 before the tweety-birds starting circling his skull. Foppert has pitched 10 innings in triple-A this year. Randy Winn is in a slump that evens out his torrid September '05 and brings him to just about his serviceable career averages of .345 OBP and .425 SLG, which is probably where he'll more or less remain for the rest of his contract extension. Short-term, a great deal, as Winn helped the Giants make a little noise last September. Longer-term, Sabean got an everyday player who sometimes plays above average for a backup catcher and sore-armed pitcher.

Before that: Jerome Williams and David Aardsma for Hawkins. Sabean must have known something no one else did (or at least something that Andy McPhail didn't know), because Williams has regressed so much he's now in and out of the triple-A starting rotation. Hawkins turned into Steve Kline.

That's six trades, counting the 2005 discards as one, of which the results so far are at least neutral and at best pretty darn good in a non-blockbusterish sort of way. Living through the early Sabean years, we expected lightning, thunder and highway robbery on a regular basis. The AJ trade poisoned the well for a lot of fans, and for them, it seems only a larceny in the opposite direction will soothe their eternal dyspepsia.

I'm not sure Sabean will ever again pull off a theft on the scale of Schmidt-for-Vogelsong/Rios, JT Snow-for-Allen Watson or the "White Flag"; perhaps his next great trade will be one of the Giants' veterans for a handful of prospects.


UPDATE: If you haven't played Grant's Choose-Your-Own Giants Adventure, please do so. You won't be sorry. It not only showcases Grant's unmatched writing and comedic skills, it relies heavily upon robust redundant server-side Web programming. I'm sure he outsourced that part to India.




I warned you. I go away for a few days, and Brian Sabean makes deals. It's happened before, and the results were not pretty.

Last week I was in New York, dodging severe thunderstorms; listening to Yankees fans explain why A-Rod can't handle the pressure (Me: "But he's the goddamn MVP! What else do you want?" Yankees fan: "Yeah, MVP of the regular season. Big deal"); and helping celebrate a wedding. Lo and behold: the Giants send away the golden boy of the moment, Jeremy Accardo, for the surly short-term services of Shea Hillenbrand and bullpen replacement Vinnie Chulk (which has to be the ugliest name in baseball).

I found a laptop with a wireless connection in the house that was hosting the rehearsal dinner Friday night, and I gasped when I saw the news. Another guest spied what I was doing and said, "Oh, that is so inappropriate," and such was my state that I assumed she was an Accardo fan, too. I quickly realized what she meant, shrugged, and said, "Sorry, I'm an addict. I am beyond help."

But it's testament to the healing powers of nuptials, or perhaps to the desperation of the Giant first-base situation, that I soon felt at peace with the deal. Yes, Accardo could be the next Joe Nathan. But Nathan had a full year of relief excellence under his belt; Accardo has put it all together for only one month, this May, and since has reverted back to squirrely and frustrating young talent. Accardo is pure potential, save for his very tidy K/BB rates in both the minors and majors. If he goes on to succeed, so be it. In fact, all the better, as teams will be more willing to give the Giants quality players in the future.

Hillenbrand may be a lout, but once you've rooted for Barry Bonds, you can root for anyone. Hillenbrand can hit better than Lance Niekro, often much much better, and that's what matters.

Then Brian Sabean went and did a sly thing: in return he also got Chulk, who is older than Accardo but should be under the Giants' control for a few more years. He may never be hailed as "potential closer," but he throws hard and has a tight slider. With nearly three years of major league experience now under his belt, who's to say he can't find his groove and become a rough at-bat. Think Scott Linebrink, who turned into Super Set-Up Guy just a couple years ago at the age of 26. Or Felix Rodriguez, a scatter-armed ex-catcher who finally tasted success at about the same age.

This is shameless wishcasting, as the Baseball Prospectians like to say. But squinting at Vinny Chulk's scouting report and seeing the next Linebrink emerge from the mists is no less starry-eyed than anointing Jeremy Accardo, he of the lifetime 4.71 major league ERA, as the next great Kid Closer.

By moving on Hillenbrand more than a week before the deadline, Sabean also gives himself room for another trade if more teams fall by the wayside the next few days. Most likely to sell would be the NL Easters now at the fringes of the wild card race.

By the way, the key moment of yesterday's game was not the 9th-inning homer Benitez served up to Sledge; it was Steve Finley's brain-cramp moment in the bottom of the 8th not taking out the catcher at the plate, who had just caught a ball barehanded to apply a tag. Unlikely he would have held on in a collision, and the Giants would have had an insurance run.



I've had an hour to peruse the trade feedback from various quarters. I love the Rashomonic perspectives:

The Blue Jays threw in Vinnie Chulk in the deal and received Jeremy Accardo. Baseball Prospectus notes that Accardo "finally made The Show on the basis of a mid-90s fastball, a developing slider, and a filthy cutter that some compare to Mariano Rivera's bat-sawing Frisbee." Accardo appears to be an upgrade from Chulk, who is three years older and has mediocre stuff. - MLBTraderumors.com

Getting Chulk was a nice little evener, since I wouldn't bet against his helping the Giants more down the stretch than Accardo would have, and if Accardo has greater future value, this team has few tomorrows left to enjoy, and a single reliever isn't worth much when it comes to beautifying the ugliness of a post-Barry future. Coming to the National League and pitching in Telecommunications JumboCorp Park won't hurt, either, and if Chulk gets back to pitching well from the stretch, he could end up being a key contributor down the stretch. - Christina Kahrl, Baseball Prospectus

In Accardo, 24, a right-handed reliever, the Blue Jays obtained a player they had been seeking. "This was actually the No. 1 guy we wanted to get," Ricciardi said on Saturday before the Blue Jays lost 5-4 before a crowd of 50,014. "He's young, he's got an option, he's controllable financially, and as we go forward, if we lose guys in our bullpen, we've got another young arm that could go in there." - The Toronto Globe and Mail

Although this trade is being billed as the Shea Hillenbrand trade, it's largely a swap of right-handed relievers, with a free Hillenbrand thrown in for San Francisco. While the Blue Jays did get a small reliever upgrade in the deal, their main benefit from the trade is a savings of about $2 million that they would have owed to Hillenbrand had they been forced to release him. - Keith Law, ESPN.com

First [for Accardo], 2006 is worse than 2005, second, June/July is worse than April/May, showing that the league figured him out after his first go around and he was unable to adjust so far, and terribly at that so far. So while this may be a case of small sampling for a short reliever at work here, it is not a good sign either, and the best we can say is that bad luck has been plaguing him horribly this year. - Martin the OGC



No Jimmy-Jackin' Around 

Excuse me, does anyone here speak Krukow?

That's a pretty sweet AB right there, although the writer left out a few gems. Let's fill in the blanks.




Just got back from the crapyard where the San Crapcisco Crapants just lost to the Crap crap crap crap double fucking crap. Jason Schmidt pitched like crap, Chad Santos fielded ground balls like crap, Moises Alou and everyone else hit with runners on base like crap. Kevin Correia? He just plain sucked.

Highlight of the night, from your ever-lovin' Associated Press game recap:

"The grunge band Pearl Jam attended the game and hung out in the clubhouse afterward."

Wow. Grunge. I remember that crazy stuff.

I was never a huge PJ fan, but I've seen them live a couple times and got more than my money's worth. I'm kicking myself for not seeing them with Sonic Youth this week. Oh, no. I had Giants tickets. Sheesh.


P's in a Pod 

Now that Lance Niekro and Jason Ellison have been banished to Fresno, replaced by Chad Santos and Todd Linden, it's more obvious than ever that the Giants need a right-handed power-hitting first baseman. Chad Santos hits lefty and cannot hit lefties. Mark Sweeney hits lefty and cannot hit lefties (2-for-28 this year, 11-for-63 since 2003). With that in mind, let's play a little "What's My Line?":

Player A

2006 stats (274 ABs)
.389 OBP / .529 SLG / .286 EqA

Career stats (3,339 ABs)
.361 OBP / .481 SLG / .286 EqA

Player B

2006 stats (233 ABs)
.348 OBP / .485 SLG / .278 EqA

Career stats (1,826 ABs)
.361 OBP / .487 SLG / .287 EqA

Remarkably similar, eh? Like (hint, hint) P's in a pod. Player A has been around longer. Player A is also making a schmazillion times more money than Player B. Both have first base experience, but it's either a distant memory (Player A) or cringeworthy (Player B). Player B is remarkably consistent year over year; Player A has had both excellent and terrible years.

If you haven't guessed by now, A is Philly left-phielder Pat Burrell, and B is Pirate outfield/first-baseman Craig Wilson. Wilson has been rumored as a target for many teams, which makes sense. He's cheap, he hits lefties with aplomb, he can play three positions (1B, LF, RF) and even catch in an emergency.

But I just heard ESPN's Jerry Crasnick say Burrell has "zero" trade value. I guess his contract -- $9.5 M this year, $13 M next year, and $14 M in 2008 -- is a deal-killer. If the Phillies are willing to pay a chunk of it, Burrell might be the answer for the Giants this year and in the near-future.

Here's why: For the 2006 home stretch, he's a potent RH bat, he can play first nearly full-time and sub for Bonds or Alou without any loss of power. He hits well at Mays Field -- especially this past weekend -- though not usually with tons of power (7 extra-base hits in 50 plate appearances since 2003).

Burrell can get mighty out-of-whack -- in 2003 he put up a .203 /.309 /.404 line -- but note even then he maintained a good walk rate. It seems he's been around forever, but he only turns 30 this year. The Giants would lock up through 2008 a legitimate power bat who's relatively young and healthy (only one season with fewer than 146 games played since his rookie year). Moving him to 1B long-term would be a plus for the team defense and reduce his injury risk, to boot.

Craig Wilson is a free agent after this year and likely to command $5-7 million a year for his next contract (he's making $3.5 M this year). He would likely be a two-month rental. If the Giants want to trade for a player who'll stick around past this winter, Burrell might be a better choice. If they're willing to absorb all the money owed to Burrell, the Giants may not have to send the Phils much talent in return.




Linden Up Yourself... 

...and don't be no drag. Todd Linden is back in The Show, folks. He immediately gave me a warm fuzzy circa-2005 feeling by striking out on three pitches tonight. Jason Ellison is off the roster, perhaps to be traded, perhaps to be sent down to Fresno, perhaps to be claimed off waivers, which I believe others teams may do.

More small print updates: Now reading Rabbit Is Rich, part three of Updike's Rabbit cycle. Now listening to Massive Attack's Mezzanine (1998), which I dug out from the my dusty disused pile. It's been, what, at least six years since I put it on. I still love the big ugly bug on the cover, and it wasn't quite as dated as I expected. The pairing of the ethereal Elizabeth Fraser (of Cocteau Twins fame) and the clanking industrial soundtrack was brilliant; the vocals on the other tracks range from pedestrian to clunky to annoying. Save for Fraser, the vocals on the album could be wiped clean, and you'd have the perfect musical gateway to the global age of techno-dystopian cool.



Blue is the Color of Stupid 

The Giants' second half of the season has gotten off to a great start, and they don't even play until tonight.

Last night in the Dodgers-Cardinals game, Grady Little let Odalis Perez pitch to Albert Pujols in the bottom of the 14th inning with one out and no one on base. Perhaps Grady thought it was Luis Pujols at the plate. It was late, and perhaps Grady had flown all day from Patagonia, where he was fishing during the All-Star break. I don't know if that's true, but how else to explain his decision not to give Pujols the four-finger salute, a.k.a. The Royal Barry? Sure, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds were next and would get to hit with a man on first, but, ahem, Grady, did you check the Internet before the game started? I'm not even a major-league manager, and with a few simple clicks I found this:

Albert Pujols lifetime vs. Odalis Perez

Before last night: 9 for 14, 4 home runs.
After last night: 10 for 15, 5 home runs.

From the game report:

Perez said he was trying to walk Pujols on a 3-2 count. "He went out and got it," Perez said. "It was a changeup away."

Manager Grady Little said he preferred to challenge Pujols, no matter who was pitching to him.

"Sooner or later, you've got to do something," Little said. "There's not enough bases out there to intentionally walk everybody you want to."

Whenever you, dear Giant fan, despair over the opacity of Felipe's bullpen moves or lineup construction, just ponder that Grady Little quote. Heat-transfer it to a T-shirt and wear it to the game in September -- you know, the victory with which the Giants clinch the pennant by a game over the Dodgers.

There's not enough bases out there to intentionally walk everybody you want to.

Which begs the question, How many people do you want to intentionally walk, Grady? If more than three, then yes, there's [sic] not enough bases. But last night, there's was [sic] plenty of bases out there to intentionally walk Albert Pujols. Sure, you hate to put the winning run on base for free. Unless the best hitter in the major leagues is at the plate and even in the best of times he abuses the pitcher you currently have on the mound worse than, say, Barry Bonds abuses his friendship with Gary Sheffield.

Maybe Grady was giving Perez a vote of confidence in this rough patch the sensitive Odalis is suffering through...then again, Perez, banished to the bullpen in May, pitched three times in the span of a month before last night. He's so deep in the Dodger doghouse, even the fleas go elsewhere to frolic.

Or, in Odalis's own words: "If I've done something wrong, let me know, tell me. I want to know. I've been treated like trash."

Little told the press Perez pitched last night because he was "pretty much" out of options. Apparently Danys Baez isn't an option, because he hadn't pitched yet.

Somewhere, someone in Boston is having a good chuckle. We can only hope The Curse of Grady has moved West.



...And The Hammer Came Down 

As you might notice, I don't blog much about Barry Bonds's off-field troubles and allegations. Being a Libra, I tend to fall in the middle between the rabid Bonds defenders and the rabid Bonds haters, which doesn't make for scintillating blog copy.

With no on-field news or transactions to report today, however, I will dip into the latest on Bonds, what with rumors swirling that an indictment for tax evasion and perjury could come down as early as next week. This is according to the New York Daily News. Calibrate it as you see fit.

The latest charges were in play as soon as Barry told the grand jury that he didn't bother to ask Greg Anderson what was in the, ahem, flaxseed oil: "You know me, I'm 39 years old. I'm dealing with pain. All I want is the pain relief, you know? ... I never asked Greg. When he said it was flaxseed oil, I just said, 'Whatever.'"

That must have made Bonds's lawyer Michael Rains choke on his morning brioche. Defensible? Perhaps. Plausible? Sorry, I can't answer that, I have a brioche in my throat.

As flawed as the system is, lying to grand juries and filching on your taxes are not the best ways to register one's dissatisfaction. And by the way, Barry, if you haven't noticed, we've got a big deficit to reduce and could really use your help.

I want Bonds to help the Giants win baseball games until it's no longer legally viable for him to do so. I think the steroid issue has been fanned into hysteria by tut-tutting media and grandstanding politicians. I also think taking steroids to enhance performance is wrong. (See? Not scintillating.)

If there is evidence Barry has committed perjury and tax evasion, however, the process to determine his guilt or innocence should go forward as it would for a regular Joe. If it begins during the baseball season and sabotages the Giants' playoff hopes, so be it. My favorite team's fortunes are not immune to the law. If Brad Penny were indicted for assault and battery or grand theft auto or being an ugly Dodger -- look it up, it's against the law -- and managed to postpone the hearings until November, I'd be mighty steamed.

Is this a vendetta against Bonds because the feds haven't been able to nail him on steroids/HGH/Viagra/Jesus Juice charges? I don't know. I don't immediately assume so; there are checks, balances and budgets federal prosecutors must adhere to. It doesn't mean they don't ever abuse their power, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this because, at least on the perjury charge, Bonds's testimony (as reported by the Chronicle) was so far-fetched it's worth investigating.

Also note that the federal vendetta theory lost some steam when it was reported recently that Victor Conte was likely the source of the grand-jury testimony leaks. That may turn out to be false. The charge came from prosecutors themselves, who could be trying to cover their own asses. It'll all come out in the wash.

Some like to say that the government's main witness, ex-girlfriend Kimberly Bell, is unreliable and has her own agenda. Counterpoint: is there ever a witness without an agenda? Blaming Bell for Bonds's woes has disturbing echoes of D.C. mayor Marion Berry lamenting that "the bitch," ie, the agent who passed him the crack pipe, "set me up." The flip side of this dubious defense is the "little-ol'-me" corollary: "I would never have thought of doing such a thing if I weren't coerced into it!"

Now a second Friend of Barry will testify against him, according to this report. (Thanks to Elbo for the link -- and for the update on Pioneertown. If you're a desert rat and music lover, stay tuned to Fort Miley for the latest fire news.)

To be clear, I'm not hoping for an indictment, and I'm not breathless to see Bonds get his just desserts. I lay the steroid/PED fiasco mainly at the feet of MLB, which turned a blind eye to the problem for years when, post-strike, it conveniently helped bring fans back to the ballpark. Barry was doing (and yes, he probably was doing; no sense in denying it) what he saw many others doing -- and getting away with. He's not blameless. But he's not the uber-villain. And for the record, I still don't believe in asterisks.



Vaulting The Carcharias 

Somewhere between Bud Selig's 2002 tie-game brain melt and Jayson Stark's soul-numbing recap of yesterday's home run derby, I completely lost interest in the All-Star Game.

Everybody, do it with me: The Bud Shrug!

Exactly how I feel, Bud. Eh. Feh. Yawn.

The endless Fox drumbeat of insipid advertising -- Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones as construction workers? Pittsburgh? Steel City? Get it?; the wall-to-wall coverage of everything surrounding the game, including the players' modes of transport; the cretinous rule that every team must have a representative: enough.

I might watch tonight, unless I have to wash my hair or fumigate under the sink for cockroaches. It's that uninteresting. Layer the bland spongy dreariness of the game with a thick goopy frosting of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, and, baby, you can leave that cake out in the rain.




All in all, the Giants entering the All-Star break a game above .500 and only 3.5 games back isn't a bad place to be.

We all know that teams in far worse positions at this point have come roaring back. It's not unimaginable that the Giants could do the same. It'll take luck in the form of good health for Bonds, Durham and Alou; maturation among young pitchers Cain, Lowry and the bullpen kiddies; and crafty front-office work to secure another big bat without trading away the pitching future.

Whether a playoff-bound Giant team can go deep into the playoffs, well, all we ask is for a chance. With Jason Schmidt as the rotation anchor, all it takes is one or two more pitchers to get hot and the lineup to score four or five runs a game. Short series often fall to the hot, the streaky, the lucky.

Yesterday's first-half finale was a great example of baseball's vagaries. Aaron Sele continued to confound everyone, throwing 85-MPH fastballs on the blackest edges of the plate and swooping curveballs. By now we know it's no fluke -- the guy has resuscitated his career and tip o' the hat to him.

But the game really hinged on Moises Alou's two bases-loaded, two-out at-bats.

First against Sele he popped up a hanging curve, much like Russell Martin just missed Mando Benitez's hanger in the ninth inning Saturday. A fraction of an inch difference in either situation, and blammo.

Later in the game against Danys Baez, Mo squared up a fastball but hit it low and on the ground right to Furcal. A few feet in either direction, and we're talking two-run single.

On any other day, Mo-for-two with the bases loaded could mean four or five RBIs; yesterday it was six runners stranded. I'll take Mo up there every time.

Now the break is upon us, it's time to catch up on related reading. Here's a fun NY Times article by a friend and former colleague, Gary Rivlin, about the independent Golden Baseball League and its venture capital backers. My favorite line:

The next batter was one of the Golden League's bona fide stars, Desi Wilson, a 37-year-old whose claim to fame is the 41 games he played for the San Francisco Giants in 1996.

Wilson makes the league's cost-conscious commissioner wince as he fouls a series of $3 baseballs into the stands, never to be used again. Read it before it disappears behind the Times's pay-per-view wall.



First Half MVPs 

I'm a few games late, as the Giants just played their 86th game of the year. But it's never too late for kudos, as they say in Thessaloniki. (Or is that "kudo"?) Here are my picks for team MVPs, broken down by category:

MVP of the Lineup: No one's been more consistent at doing exactly what's expected of him than Omar Vizquel. He's played nearly every game, hit at the top of the order, and gotten on base to the tune of .381. That puts him 22nd in National League OBP, not exactly startling. But it's more impressive considering most of the hitters ahead of him are sluggers who often get pitched around. Without Omar in the lineup every day, the Giants score an average of 1.4 runs per game, according to my calculations. Runner-Up: I'm tempted to say Pedro Feliz, but despite his decent power numbers he still makes far too many outs. The real runner-up is Barry Bonds, who runs as if he wears an eyepatch and a parrot on his shoulder, looks foolish on outside changeups, but remains one of the top-10 most potent NL outfielders.

MVP of the Glove: I love watching Steve Finley crash into walls and run faster than a naked frat boy across the campus green, but only 3 errors in 342 chances at a crucial defensive position means more first-half hardware for Omar Vizquel.

MVP of the Rotation: Jason Schmidt. Who would have thought he'd return to top form after last year's disaster? Dude leads the majors in ERA (thanks to Francisco Liriano not quite qualifying, but we won't pick at that scab). Runner-up: Jamey Wright in April and May, Matt Morris in June and July.

MVP of the Bullpen: Can we nickname Brad Hennessey "Job"? That's the Biblical guy, not the thing you hate to go to every Monday. Hennessey has shown amazing patience as the long man and spot starter, and he's perservered with beautiful results. His spot start last weekend against the Padres was an absolute gut-check after two ugly losses to the division leader. His relief work tonight was another game-saver after Matt Cain did his best Nuke LaLoosh impression. If Jamey Wright continues to realize he's Jamey Wright, it'll be awfully tough to keep Hennessey out of the rotation in the second half. Runner-up: The fashionable pick would be Jeremy Accardo, but the kid's blown hot and cold. I'm tempted to say 'Mando because he's gotten his stuff back and is throwing reasonably well in the face of extreme home-crowd hostility. But I'm going with Kevin Correia, who has quietly put together an excellent season. Honorable mention goes to Jonathan Sanchez, whom I promise to name 2006 Bullpen MVP if he goes the whole season without giving up a run.


Setting the Market 

As I mentioned yesterday, the Giants' ability to acquire a big bat for the pennant race will hinge on their willingness to trade pitching. Yesterday, the baseline was set for the current market value of a back-of-the-rotation starter when the Cardinals nabbed Jeff Weaver from the Angels.

Getting Weaver is no coup. He was pitching so poorly, his kid brother Jered bumped him not just from the rotation but all the way off the team. If they couldn't trade him, the Angels were set to release him.

"I did expect to be able to trade him. I didn't know we'd get a guy as much as we like Evans," said Angels GM Bill Stoneman.

"Evans" is 24-year-old AA prospect Terry Evans, who was hitting .311 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 21 games with the Cards' Springfield affiliate. He began the year in Class A Palm Beach and was promoted after hitting 15 homers in 60 games.

Before this year, though, he spent three years in A-ball without ever cracking a .700 OPS. Not a top prospect by any stretch of the imagination. What does that mean for the Giants' trade possibilities? Assuming Jamey Wright is the player the Giants would most like to trade, let's compare:

This year, Weaver has been a lot worse than Wright. His most grevious sin is giving up hits: 114 in 88 IP, 18 of them home runs. As we all know, Wright this year has run hot and cold. In about half his starts, he's been very good; otherwise he's been an easy mark. His last four starts and five of his last six have been ugly. Can the Giants sell the April/May version, or will teams assume the June/July version is the goods they're going to get?

Given Weaver's contract ($8 M plus), of which apparently the Angels ate a portion, I still think Wright could fetch more than Weaver. Perhaps that balances out when career stats are factored in. Weaver is thoroughly mediocre, but Wright's control is enough to make a manager pull his hair out.

It now seems possible that either Brad Hennessey or Kevin Correia could fetch at least fringe major-league talent. The only thing Jeff Weaver has that they don't have is a track record of pitching lots of innings, and a certain "veteran-ness" that winning teams may want to lean on down the stretch. You know, someone who's been in a pennant race before.

Fringe major-league talent isn't going to make any difference to the Giants. They'll still have to offer a package of players for an impact bat, but at least the Giants can thank the Cards for taking an alternative to Wright off the market so early. With luck, the price tag on mediocre pitching will rise as we near the trading deadline, and the Giants will be able to get the bat they need without flushing the next two years down the sewer.



Sniffing Youkilis 

There are eleven teams that have nearly zero chance of a playoff run: Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, the Cubs, Pittsburgh, and the entire NL East except the Mets.

These teams probably hold the key to the Giants playoff run. Parity seems to be this year's watchword. The AL and NL West divisions are tightly packed, the NL Central has four teams within 5 games of each other, the AL East is a three-team race, and Minnesota is good enough to give the White Sox and Tigers something to worry about in the Central. Only the Mets are running away and hiding.

Unless a couple divisions shake loose in the next week or so, the Giants will have limited trade partners from whom to steal a difference-making batter. They're also hemmed in by the obviousness of their need: a power-hitting first baseman. At every other position, they either can't upgrade too much or can't trade the incumbent.

For example: Ray Durham is heating up and healthy enough to make him semi-decent trade bait, but who would be an upgrade? No one in-house, that's for sure. And despite Ray-Ray's early-season struggles, he's currently one of the top 10 MLB second basemen on offense.

The other option to a first baseman is acquiring a third baseman and sliding Pedro Feliz across the diamond. But I'm sure the Giants are loathe to move him from his comfort zone.

The other other option for offense is to trade Moises Alou to an AL team that needs a DH (Twins? Angels?) and find an outfielder who can play every day to replace at least some of his O. With Mo disabled, Finley and Ellison are getting too many at-bats in the wrong situations. Finley shouldn't be starting against LHP, and Ellison shouldn't play against RHP.

In fact, after his dreadful defensive performance in Colorado the last two nights, I wouldn't be surprised if Ellison's Giant days soon come to a close. If you can't catch routine pop-ups, you can't hit the cut-off man, you're not a very good basestealer, and you're a pinch-running/defensive specialist...umm...hello?

But let's get back to pulling trade speculation out of my behind. The other measuring stick of how, when, why, and whom the Giants trade is what they have to offer: pitching. That is, who needs it desperately?

Boston: They just pulled Kyle Snyder and Jason Johnson off waivers and learned that Matt Clement and David Wells won't return any time soon.

The Yankees: The Unit looks like last decade's Cy Young lunchmeat.

Compared to the back of either of those team's rotations, Jamey Wright, Brad Hennessey, or Kevin Correia looks like an upgrade. A few other contenders qualify as well. Of course, if those fellows prove to be the extent of the Giants' willingness to deal, no single one of them would fetch the answer to all the team's offensive woes. But throwing in Brian Wilson might sweeten the deal enough to where, say, Boston would give up the resurgent (and expensive) Mike Lowell. Throwing in Kevin Frandsen as well might get the Giants within sniffing distance of Kevin Youkilis. Please provide your own mental picture.

As Brian Sabean's official blogosphere trade representative, I'm still open to offers of Matt Cain for Miguel Cabrera.


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