Westwood Blues

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Non-Tender Possibilities

The list of non-tenders is out and a few players look like good fits with the Giants. I'm not entirely satisfied with the RF situation, but I think the Giants' money would be better spent on the pitching staff. Here are some possibilities:

* Jason Johnson

Per Peter Gammons, the Giants were interested in acquiring Johnson as part of the Sidney Ponson trade. He put up decent numbers in 2003 despite allowing a boatload of baserunners (a WHIP of 1.56). Pac Bell could help him cut down on his gopherballs (22 HR allowed in 189 IP).

* Orlando Hernandez

According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Giants are interested in signing Hernandez. El Duque missed all of last season with an injury, so his health is a big question mark. His track record of post season success makes him an attractive option.

* Jay Payton

If the Giants didn't have 114 outfielders under contract next season, Payton would be a great option. The Giants should address their shaky pitching staff before adding more outfielders. By the way, why the heck did the Rockies get rid of him?

* Braden Looper

If the Giants are looking to add another arm in the bullpen, Looper would a good option. He was very effective for the Marlins in the first half of the season and in the playoffs.

Don't Worry...About a Thing...

True to form, this week Glenn Dickey trotted out his bi-monthly Chicken Little column. In this edition, Dickey boldly declared the following about the 2004 Giants:

This is an old team, vulnerable to injuries, with uncertain pitching and inconsistent hitting...

Next year will be worse.

The Giants' strategy the past six years has been to keep the nucleus of the team together and bring in, through trades and free agency, veterans who can supplement them. The strategy worked well for five years, but it is bankrupt now.

No wait, that was actually Glenn's circa August 2002 Chicken Little column. Ahh, here it is:

The cracks in the foundation of the aging empire are beginning to show. Julius Caesar is a year older, his chariot is a step slower, and the farm system is barren. Brace yourselves, for the end is near.

No, that's not it either. I didn't realize Glenn was that old. Anyway, you can read Glenn's December 2003 doomsday banter here.

In an effort to combat the undying punditry pessimism over the 2004 Giants, I humbly submit five reasons to be optimistic about 2004.

1) Barry Bonds is Good

About this time of year, various naysayers claim that one of the reasons the Giants will fall off a cliff is that Barry Bonds' career path will switch into decline mode. It's like the winter version of the swallows returning to Capistrano. As the leaves begin to fall, and the temperature drops, without fail, some pundit will declare that this is the year that Bonds will finally decline.

Would it be surprising if Bonds falls off a cliff? Probably not. Should we expect it? Well, let me put it this way - Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter since Ted Williams. Arguably, he is one of the two or three greatest players to ever put on a uniform. The man wears an S across his chest. Would you bet against him?

2) Jason Schmidt is Good

In 2003, Jason Schmidt made the mid career transformation from good-pitcher-with-great-stuff to great-pitcher-with-great-stuff. For whatever reason, it took Schmidt a few years to put everything together. Schmidt's 2003 was not a fluke.

3) Robb Nen Will be Back

Is he healthy? Will he be like the Robb Nen of old? I don't know. No one knows. One of the few things we do know about Nen's situation is this: Curt Schilling had a similar surgery a few years ago. He turned out to be ok.

4) This is Not the Final Roster

What is particularly annoying about all of the December hand wringing is that the Opening Day roster is not set. If the Giants do nothing else this off season except add Scott Erickson, or *shudder* Darren Oliver, then some of the complaining will be justified. And, rest assured, I will use this space to tear the ownership and the front office a new orifice if they sit on their hands. Until then, let's wait to see how the offseason and even Spring Training play out before we rush to judgment.

More importantly, I guarantee that the Giants team as of today will not be the team taking the field on August 1st. If the Giants are in the hunt, Sabes will make a deadline trade to bolster the team. He always does.

5) The Opposition

Ok, it's probably unfair to be evaluating the Dodgers, D-Backs, and Pads at this point in the off season; their rosters are not set either. Having said that, even if one of those teams were to land a Maddux or even a *gasp* Vlad, I still don't see any opposing team running away with a division crown.

Keep in mind that the Giants won the West by 15 games last season. 15 games is a lot of ground to make up in one off season. The Pod People, a trendy pick to win the West in 2004, finished a whopping 36 and a half games out of first last season.

So buck up Giants fans. Keep your head up...and keep your blood in your head and keep your feet on the ground...

Off Topic: Westwood Joy

One of the few rewarding things about living in LA is that I get to witness the Giants visit Chavez Ravine and beat the living crap out of the Dodgers. This year alone I saw SF blow out LA on three separate occasions. I was also a witness to a Superman home run, Todd Linden's moonshot into the Loge Section, and most impressively, Neifi's two walk performance. Good times.

As enjoyable as those moments were, they may not measure up to the events that unfolded this Wednesday night in Westwood:

Let's step back for a moment and have our story begin in the winter of 1970, when the UCLA men's basketball team defeated UCSB. UCLA would go on to win 88 consecutive games, and under coach John Wooden, would win 10 NCAA championships in twelve years, including seven in a row. UCLA basketball of the 60s and early 70s is considered by many to be one of the great dynasties in sports history.

Times have changed. UCLA is coming off a very disappointing season where they failed to make the NCAA tournament. What was once the center of the college basketball universe is now the home of an also ran.

On this night, this past Wednesday, the historic Pauley Pavillion was only about 2/3 full as fans gathered to watch UCLA battle the Gauchos of UCSB.

The two teams traded baskets for much of the first half and UCLA went to the locker room at halftime with a slim lead. Let's fast forward to the closing minutes of the game.

UCLA had a one point lead with less than a minute to play. Santa Barbara brought the ball down the court and Chrisman Oliver of the Gauchos put up a tough jumper at the top of the key. The ball glanced off the rim when Junior forward Casey Cook collected the offensive rebound and was promptly hammered in the act of shooting.

His team down by one, the mighty Casey stepped to the free throw line, ice water running through his veins. Swish. Tie game.

One more for the lead. Cook promptly nailed the second free throw, sending the "loud and loyal" UCSB partisans into a frenzy.

UCLA inbounded the ball with 17 seconds remaining. The Gauchos fans' chants of "defense" raining down from the 300 level suppressed the ghosts of Wooden, Alcindor, Hazard, and Walton as Bruins guard Cedric Bozeman drove to the hoop and hoisted up a prayer. The ball rimmed in and out of the cylinder. There was a scramble for the ball. It rolled out of bounds, last touched by the Gauchos. The game clock read 2.4 seconds.

The Bruins had one final chance. Santa Barbara switched to man-to-man as the Bruins inbounded the ball. Cedric Bozeman's errant inbounds pass was stolen by Casey Cook. Falling out of bounds, Cook sent the ball bouncing harmlessly down the court. The horn sounded.

We beat UCLA.

The rafters that hold the Bruins' 11 NCAA Championship banners were now echoing with the chants of:

Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!
Gauchos! Gauchos!



Monday, December 15, 2003

The College of Right Fielders

In the three years of the post Ellis Burks era, the SF Giants’ RF situation has been a revolving door of mediocrity. In comes Armando Rios, who was replaced by Jon Vander Wal, who was replaced by Reggie Sanders, who was replaced by Jose Cruz, Jr.

This season the Giants are taking a different approach. Instead of merely one average right fielder, they have an entire menu of right field passability to choose from – Jeffrey Hammonds, Michael Tucker, Tony Torcato, Pedro Feliz, Jason Ellison, Carlos Valderama, Deivis/Francisco Santos, Todd Linden, Tracy Jones, Cory Snyder, me, a bag lady from UN Plaza, and now, Dustan Mohr.

Rather than the revolving door method, the Giants are now employing a garage door method of roster construction – all of these parts won’t fit through a revolving door, so just haul all of the thirteen aforementioned options through the garage door and dump them out. Then let the baseball gods sort through the mess and perhaps one of the options, or maybe a combination of a few of them, is bound to be decent. Then, have a garage sale and sell off some superfluous parts. A “work in progress” indeed.

The Giants acquired Dustan Mohr from the Twins for a PTBNL. Rotoworld speculated that the PTBNL is someone who is not currently on the Giants’ 40 man roster.

Mohr is a somewhat useful backup outfielder. Last season he posted a .250/.314/.399 line. Looking deeper into his stats, Mohr has an odd home/road split. For his career, Mohr hit just .231/.299/.349 at home, while hitting .286/.339/.467 away from the stale confines of the Homerdome.

Assuming the PTBNL is nothing more than a mid level prospect, this is a pretty good deal. The best part about acquiring Mohr is a) Mohr is inexpensive and b) This means the Giants will not overpay for Jeromy Burnitz. I was very fearful that Sabean's “rightfield is a work in progress” comment was front-office-speak for “we’re going to pay Jeromy Burnitz about twice as much as he’s worth. And we’re going to sign him for three years.” Dustan, welcome aboard, and treat yourself to a smattering of faint praise.

The Tucker Postmortem

I didn’t think this was possible, but the Michael Tucker signing/draft pick donation project looks even worse than it did last week. One of the few positive spins on the deal was that Tucker would just be a backup; occasionally spelling Marquis Grissom against righties and taking Jeffrey Hammonds’ role of fourth outfielder when Hammonds breaks his elbow in a rolling pin accident and is subsequently lost for the season. As is stands now, with no everyday right fielder, Michael Tucker should receive a fair amount of playing time.

Of course, it’s possible that Todd Linden will hit .400 in AAA, get called up, force his way into the starting lineup, win the rookie of the year, and send Tucker to the bench. Likewise, it’s possible that Neifi Perez could be traded straight up for Aubrey Huff. Welcome to the Wait Until Next Year Bar and Grill. Step inside, have a few drinks and all of your 2004 wishcasting will be deemed “possible.” Of course, I should point out that J.R. Phillips is the bartender.

Three Dotted Randomness

…Rumor has it that the Giants may make a run at Greg Maddux. On the radio last week, Peter Gammons said the Giants had “expressed interest” in Maddux. Josh Succon also reports that the Giants may be interested in Maddux. Take these rumors with a grain of salt – Maddux is a Scott Boras client. Scott Boras is the master of floating rumors, inventing competing offers, and using “mystery teams” in an effort to drive up bidding for his clients. That said, I now see Maddux as a possibility for the Giants. Maddux’s destination list is growing thin, and if Sabean is able to dump a bit of salary, the Giants just might swoop in and get Maddux…
…With an OPS of .639, Darren Oliver posted a higher OPS last season than the Giants 2004 Opening Day Shortstop, Neifi Perez (.632)…
…I’m not sure why, but I got a kick out of this line from Ken Rosenthal’s latest: Rockies 3B Vinny Castilla will be paid $500,000 next season, then receive annual loans of $100,000 without interest from 2015 to 2030. "The world might not even be around by then," one agent says, "but the Expos will still be in Montreal and Bud (Selig) will still be commissioner."

I’ll take that a step further, and guarantee that in 2030 the Giants will have a pedestrian, one year stop gap playing right field.


Monday, December 08, 2003

Brian Sabean: “I Don’t Give a Fuck About Draft Picks.”

The most "interesting" signing of the offseason

In a nutshell, the Tucker signing is exactly why Brian Sabean should not be mentioned in the same breath as the elite GMs in the game. Every off season Sabean will wow us with a terrific, gutsy move. This off season it was trading for AJ; last season it was signing Durham. But, at the same time, he’ll counteract his brilliant moves by occasionally doing nonsensical stuff that no one else in baseball would do. Last year it was signing Neifi Perez to a multiyear deal; this year it was handing away a draft pick for the privilege of signing Michael Tucker.

I don’t have a problem with signing Michael Tucker per se. He’s a left-handed hitter who can play all three outfield positions. What’s wrong with the deal then? Let me count the ways.

* When evaluating a player who plays in an extreme hitters’ park, his park adjusted stats are a good method to evaluate his performance. Tucker’s OPS+ the previous two seasons was 83 and 92 (100 being league average), while his EqA the past two seasons was .254 and .250 (.260 being league average). For a backup, those numbers aren't embarrassing (although that’s actually a dropoff from Marvin Benard’s previous two healthy seasons). For a potential starter, that’s scary. I would be thrilled if Tucker could hit .250/.320/.400 for the Giants, but that’s probably asking too much.

* The KC Star confirms that there were exactly zero other teams in the Michael Tucker Sweepstakes™, so overpaying him and offering a multiyear deal makes no sense.

* The market is already flooded with right field types. There will be even more light hitting right fielders on the market after December 20th when the next batch of non-tenders is announced. The Giants could’ve waited and possibly found a bargain to patrol RF.

* This isn’t Tucker’s fault, but Michael Tucker is yet another sharp object that Felipe Alou can play with. If Tucker ever hits directly in front of, or directly behind Barry Bonds, I will scream.

* Michael Tucker on his 2003 season: "The numbers I was putting up, if you project them, would be outstanding numbers," Tucker said.

Umm, no. Michael, if by “numbers” you mean suck points in Hacking Mass, then yes, those would be outstanding numbers. Speaking as a proud owner of Michael Tucker in Hacking Mass, I was disappointed that Tucker was injured for a good part of the season and was only able to accumulate 14 suck points.

* On a positive note, Tucker isn’t a bad option against RHP. His career OPS of .786 against righties is far from embarrassing. However, he should not be allowed to face left-handed pitching. Ever.

* Gift wrapping a first round draft pick to the Royals was the icing on the cake. For reasons best kept to himself, Brian Sabean decided to sign Tucker just hours before the arbitration deadline, effectively flushing the Giants’ first round pick down the toilet.

Now, I don’t mean to overstate the importance of a first round pick in baseball. This isn’t the NFL or even the NBA we’re talking about. In fact, a late first round pick is more likely to flame out and be a million dollar sunk cost than become a regular contributor to the big league roster. Having said that, Sabean is the master of taking an A-ball question mark and turning him into a proven commodity via the trade market. It's a hell of a lot easier to get good trade value for a minor league question mark who can throw 95 (a first round pick) than a minor league question mark who tops out at 90. So, why take away a bullet from Sabes' gun?

We know that there were no other teams interested in Tucker and we know that the Royals stated publicly that they no intention of offering Tucker arbitration, so Sabean’s options were as follows:

Option A) Sign Michael Tucker on December 8th; keep your first round pick.
Option B) Sign Michael Tucker on December 7th; surrender your first round pick.

For whatever reason, the Giants chose Option B. For all intents and purposes, the Giants did not want a first round pick in the 2004 draft.

* The Verdict: While not a particularly good idea, the Tucker signing is not the end of the world. However, it's part of a disturbing pattern of overpaying for interchangable parts. There is a reason that Neifi Perez was placed on waivers and went unclaimed by nearly every team in the big leagues. There is a reason that Michael Tucker didn't draw an offer from another team. Paying either of them more than a million bucks for their very replaceable services is beyond silly. It's Cam Bonifaynian.

The Other Signings/Non Signings

Matt Herges: 2 years/$2.5MM - What Herges lacks in velocity he more than makes up for in control and movement. He quietly put together an excellent year for the Giants. I'm glad to see him back for a couple of years.

Dustin Hermanson: 1 Year/800k plus incentives - Hermanson blames misuse for his struggles with Cardinals, saying he's better suited to be a starter than a middle reliever. He may be blowing smoke in the hopes of a bigger role (and therefore bigger payday), but I'll take his word for it. He pitched well in a few spot starts with the Giants. Hey, why not?

Jeffrey Hammonds 1 Year/$1MM plus incentives - a million dollars guaranteed is a bit much for a guy who is so injury prone that he may break both of his ankles trying to open a pickle jar. But, the Giants could do a whole lot worse than giving Hammonds a million bucks, and by signing Michael Tucker to a multiyear deal, they did exactly that.

JT Snow 1 Year/$1.5MM vesting option for 2005 - Sure, I'd rather see a first baseman with some pop. Unfortunately, the Giants were unable to land Sexson, Lee, or Johnson. Other than Rafael Palmeiro, Snow was the best option available.

Kudos to JT for sticking with the Giants. He probably could've eeked out another couple hundred grand from another team. Taking a slightly below market value contract to stay with the Giants won him points in my book.

Andres Galarraga - the Giants need a lefty masher who plays first base. Galarraga would've been content with a league minimum deal. So what do the Giants do? They hand the first base platoon spot to Pedro Feliz, who is less effective against southpaws than Galarraga and will cost at least twice as much. Thumbs down.

The Rumor Mill

At the risk of having this site devolve into an e-knitting circle of sorts, I humbly offer the lastest juicy bits of gossip. I'll add the requisite disclaimer that these are just rumors and therefore are not necessarily likely to actually happen.

* The Neifi to the Rockies trade is DOA. Get a load of this. From the Rocky Mountain News:

It's unlikely Neifi Perez will return, because the San Francisco Giants want the Rockies to take back more of his $2.75 million salary than they're prepared for and want a premium prospect from the Rockies as well.

One of these days, the Giants front office will wake up and realize that Neifi Perez is not a valuable commodity. He is not worth a multiyear multimillion dollar contract on the free agent market and he sure as hell is not worth a "premium prospect" on the trade market.

Incidentally, the Rockies are now looking at Deivi Cruz to fill their shortstop hole; one of the few options that actually makes reacquiring Neifi sound like a good idea. Neither of them can hit, but at least Neifi can play defense.

* In other Neifi related news, it appears Neifi will be "earning" $3.25MM this season, not $2.75MM. In their infinte wisdom, the Giants brain trust included playing time incentives which will be easy for Neifi to reach if he plays everyday. If anything, Neifi should have playing time disincentives - the more he plays, the more he should be forced to give back to the Giants. Neifi does much more damage to the Giants by playing everyday than he would as a backup.

* The Giants are apparently interested in acquiring Darren Oliver. Paying $2MM to add Oliver to the rotation makes so little sense that I fully expect it to happen.

I'm fearful that the Giants will place themselves in the same rotation trap they put themselves in last off season. The Giants believe that left handed pitchers fare better in Pac Bell Park and will therefore go out of their way to get one. Whatever supposed advantage a lefty has in Pac Bell is pissed away if the lefty can't get anyone out. Such was the lesson of one Damian Moss.

Moreover, giving two million bucks to Darren Oliver would be another example of, all together now, overpaying for interchangeable parts. Not that I agree with the premise of adding a lefty to the rotation at all costs, but why bother paying Oliver when Chad Zerbe or an inexperienced Noah Lowry can be equally as bad for a fraction of the cost?

The good news is that Sabean has denied offering Oliver a formal offer and the sixteenandahalfbacks are reportedly also after Oliver. Arizona's free spending days are supposed to be a thing of the past, but I'd love nothing more than to see Jerry Colangelo go out in one final indulgence of overspending and lock up Oliver to a multiyear deal.


Thursday, December 04, 2003

I Don’t Give a Fuck About BALCO

The baseball off season – a time to dream up trade scenarios, construct rosters, talk about promising young prospects, analyze free agent signings, and optimistically wait until next year. Oh, I almost forgot, the off season is also a time for the media to bombard us with steroid hysteria and pictures of AJ Pierzynski getting into his car. I smell a Pulitzer.

Who needs actual on-the-field news when you can speculate that Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Brad Fullmer, Bret Boone, Bobby Estelella, Elizabeth Proctor, Armando Rios, et al. may or may not have taken THG, a substance which was not illegal to possess and was not banned by baseball? Clearly, the sky is falling and western civilization as we know it has ceased to exist. All because baseball players of the 90s and 2000s just aren’t as real as they were back in the golden, innocent days of yore.

You see, during the off season we don’t have actual games to satisfy our baseball fix, so we need waiver wire claims, trade rumors, free agent gossip, winter ball updates and whatnot that the media is supposed to provide us to tide us over until pitchers and catchers report.

I want to talk about Auggie Ojeda, and I want to talk about him now. The Twins claimed the Auggmeister off waivers. There is absolutely zero coverage of the story. Why? Because Bret Boone is a kinda short second baseman and kinda short second baseman aren’t allowed to hit a lot of homeruns even if they have a grueling workout regimen and have been blessed with optimal baseball genes.

The rumor that Neifi could be traded to the Rockies has been virtually ignored by the Bay Area media. Why? Because the media needs to cover a groundbreaking story, like Barry Bonds walking into a courthouse.

And shut up about the asterisks already. So every player who is accused of using steroids should have asterisk next to their records? Fine. But if you’re going to editorialize the record book, why stop there? I demand that every pitcher who has ever doctored a baseball should have a “&” next to his records. Every player who has ever used creatine should have a “#” next to his record. Ever steal a sign? Guess what, you get a “@” next to your records. Cork a bat? A big fat “%” is your Scarlet A. Todd Helton’s Coors Field aided 219 homeruns should be shamed into ~^219`} HRs. Curt Schilling should have the phrase “sanctimonious whining jackass” next to all of his records because I don’t like him.

And the BALCO grand jury testimony is just the tip of the iceberg. This is what will happen when someone actually tests positive for steroids:

NEWSFLASH!!! BREAKING NEWS!! FOX NEWS ALERT!!! Tim Laker busted for steroids – admits he’s a juiced up fraud; film at eleven.

In other, less interesting news, Greg Maddux won his 300th game, Andres Galarraga hit his 400th HR, and Jaime Moyer pitched a perfect game.

Are you listening baseball writers doomsday curmudgeons? I don’t give a fuck about BALCO and neither should you.

Now that was a rant. I feel so much better now.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

A Roster

As promised, here is the official Westwood Blues 2004 Giants roster. I should point out that the official, official Westwood Blues roster would’ve included a big bopper to bat behind Bonds. Unfortunately for the Giants, the bopper market is now non existent. Gary Sheffield signed a contract with the Yankees, Richie Sexson was traded to Arizona, and despite my best jinxing efforts, the Giants didn’t acquire Derrek Lee.

Alas, the Giants class of 2004 additions will be big bopperless. In fact, I will always refer to the day that Richie Sexson was traded to Arizona as “the day the music died.”

Nevertheless, we press on. Here are the moves I’d make:

1) Trade Ray Durham for Nick Johnson

Admittedly, it’s not the best idea to base a roster on a proposed trade with the Yankees. Napoleon’s wish list seems to change in a moment’s mood swing and is subject to fluctuations in impulsiveness, ego, weather patterns, tarot card readings, and level of medication. As I understand it, as of today, the Yankees’ plan is to move Soriano and his crappy infield defense to the outfield and let Bernie Williams’ oft-injured body move into the DH role.

The end result of those moves would mean that Nick Johnson would be the odd man out and that Yankees would be seeking a second baseman. Ray Durham could not only fill the second base position for the Yanks, he would become the leadoff hitter, allowing Soriano to bat in the middle of the lineup. Nick Johnson would give the Giants an inexpensive and effective first baseman. Acquiring Johnson for Durham would save the Giants nearly $7MM.

2) Sign free agents Mike Cameron, Todd Walker, Miguel Batista, Scott Erickson, and Orlando Palmeiro. Re-sign Andres Galarraga and Dustin Hermanson.

3) Voila! For the price of approximately $76MM, the Giants roster would be as follows:

C Pierzynski (2.75)
1B Johnson (.3)
2B Walker (3.5)
SS Neifi (2.75)
3B Alfonzo (6.5)
LF Superman (16)
CF Cameron (5.5)
RF Grissom (2)

SP Schmidt (8.5)
SP Rueter (4)
SP Batista (3)
SP Williams (.3)
SP Hermanson/Erickson/Correia (.5/.3)

RP Nen (9)
RP Herges (1)
RP Rodriguez (3)
RP Eyre (1)
RP Christiansen (2.3)
RP Brower (.750)
RP Hermanson/Erickson/Correia/NRI (.5/.3)

OF Palmeiro (1)
OF/IF Feliz (1)
IF Galarraga (.5)
IF Ransom/Dallimore/NRI (.3)
C Torrealba (.3)

* Random, rambling notes on the official lineup:

* The players under contract for next year have their salary listed in bold. The other salaries are my guesses for free agents and arbitration eligible players. These are just guesses, but I think they’re in the right ballpark. If you think a salary is too low or high then just pretend the player signed a multiyear deal and adjust your 2005 figure accordingly.

* Because of the Safeway Spendthrift’s payroll cutting ways, the Giants only have about $8MM or so to spend on a 1B, a RF, at least one SP, a reliever, and a bench. Trading Ray Durham for Johnson would allow them to spend about $15MM on those positions. Yes, Todd Walker is certainly a downgrade from Ray Durham, but at the same time there would be upgrades at 1B, CF, SP, and RP.

* Neifi is the starting SS. Hey, I never claimed the lineup was perfect. I’d say Neifi is the walking definition of “sunk costs,” but that would be too generous given his low walk rate.

Giving Neifi 600+ PAs is like letting a kid run around the house with scissors. Nothing good can come out of the situation and disaster could strike at any moment. Felipe Alou’s always odd lineup construction may let Neifi hit near the top of the order because Neifi can bunt and “make things happen.” If Alou is tempted to hit Neifi in the leadoff spot on an everyday basis, then the analogy would be better described as letting a kid run around the house with a bandsaw.

* The pitching staff is a little shaky, but I’ve attempted to compensate for this by assembling an excellent defensive team. Cameron and Grissom would patrol 421 as well as any tandem in the Pac Bell era. Bonds and Walker would be the only subpar defenders.

* I’m uncomfortable with the idea of handing a rotation spot to Kevin Correia. Let him fight for a roster spot in Spring Training. If he doesn’t make it, he’ll be the first reserve called up from Fresno.

* Rather than rotting on the Giants bench, I’d prefer to see Todd Linden open the year in Fresno. A good year in the minors will allow the Giants to showcase Linden and maximize his trade value. If they don’t trade him, then Linden will have an additional year of experience when he is nudged into the lineup in 2005.

* As I mentioned ad nausea during the 2003 season, the Giants hammered LHP and struggled against RHP. Adding the left-handed hitting Pierzynski, Johnson, Walker, and Palmeiro will give the Giants a more balanced attack.

* The Giants are not signing Vlad. Trust me, they just aren’t. Ok?

* A variation of the Yankees/Giants trade would be Nick Johnson for Edgardo Alfonzo. I think the Yankees would prefer Durham to Alfonzo because Durham can fill the leadoff spot. The Yankees might actually prefer Alfonzo to Durham because Fonzie is “New York tested” and he has an excellent post- season record.

[aside] There is an interesting school of thought that says that a team that is a lock for the playoffs (the Yankees) gets more marginal value out of a player who performs well in the post season (Alfonzo) than a player who is otherwise superior during the regular season (Durham). In other words, the regular season comparison of Alfonzo vs. Durham is irrelevant because the Yankees will reach the post season with either of those players in their lineup. Alfonzo would be the more valuable player to the Yankees because he is historically the more “clutch” post season player.

I don’t necessarily agree with this school of thought, given the fact that playoff performance is a relatively small sample and is therefore not the best predictor of future performance, but it’s something to think about nonetheless. [/aside]

Back to the Giants, sending Alfonzo instead of Durham would allow the Giants to keep their leadoff hitter and would give the Giants a great 1-2-3 of Durham-Johnson-Bonds.

* As always, I love getting feedback. So send in your critiques of my roster.