Westwood Blues

Saturday, January 17, 2004

They're Comin' to Take Me Away

A few years ago, then first lady Hillary Clinton was doing a morning show interview with some insufferable shill with a coffee cup (Katie Couric maybe?) when she thoughtfully responded to a question about Monicagate by saying that her husband was the victim of a "vast right-wing conspiracy." Right-wingers absolutely loved this quote and affectionately adopted the phrase as their own. "Proud member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy," the snarky bumper stickers proclaimed.

Similarly, in a lengthy interview with the SF Chronicle, Brian Sabean referred to those Giants fans who are displeased with the general direction of the franchise this off season as "the lunatic fringe."

*Stands up.* Hi, my name is Doug, and I am a member of the lunatic fringe. I believe the Giants have failed to address the biggest problem with the 2003 team - the lack of a legitimate slugger outside of Homerun Jesus. Gary Sheffield, Vlad Guererro, Derrek Lee, and Richie Sexson were all available this offseason, but the Giants went a Neifiesque 0-4 with four strikeouts in this regard.

Brian Sabean believes that landing a big bat is not as big a necessity as a strengthening the pitching staff. There's certainly something to that line of thinking and it is obviously more than fair to say that Sabes knows a wee bit more about baseball than us members of the lunatic fringe. However, his point would carry a whole lot more weight if Brett Bombko and Dustin Hermanson didn't comprise 40% of the starting rotation.

To be fair, I will gladly eat a serving of crow if Carlos Beltran is roaming the Pac Bell outfield come August, if Greg Maddux is signed in the coming weeks, or if the Giants win a WS despite their lack of power. Notwithstanding my mild optimism about the Giants chances in 2004, color me unimpressed (so far) with the general direction of the off season.

Like all Giants fans, I want to see my favorite team do everything it possibly can to finally have a World Series victory parade down Market Street. I do not believe that Michael Tucker and Neifi Perez are the means to achieve this goal. If holding such views means that I'm part of some sort of "lunatic fringe," then so be it. I'll welcome that label with open arms. Now, if you'll excuse me, the men in the white coats are knocking at my door.

I Don't Give a Fuck About Pete Rose

Pete Rose confessed that he bet on baseball. Surprise! Yawn.

He did something bad. He lied about it. He "wrote" a book. He did a tell-all interview. What comes next? Why an absolutely endless parade of pundits to comment on the bad, the lies, the book, and the interview. There are few things in life as pointless as reading a bunch of newspaper hacks waxing idiotic about protecting the integrity of the game, guessing how much damage Pete Rose did to the game, and warning of the moral pitfalls of gambling.

As one can probably guess by the title of this entry, I really don't care if Pete Rose is elected to the Hall of Fame. In fact, I think the whole Rose escapade is a yawn fest. After all, what does this affair have to do with the Giants?

For the record, though, I do not think he should be inducted into Cooperstown. Yes, he was a hell of a hitter, but he broke the rules. Actually, he broke the rule. Offering a half-hearted apology nearly two decades after the fact does nothing to change the fact that the rule was violated. Nevertheless, I won't lose any sleep if he is eventually enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Please wake me when this is all over.

The Internet Revolution

The Internet is quickly becoming more ingrained into the fabric of American culture. In fact, even the world of baseball has seen the impact of the Internet this off season. Curt Schilling claimed that one of the reasons he waived his no-trade clause to go to Boston was the positive reception he encountered when he visited and posted on the Sons of Sam Horn message board.

The medium that was once mainly resource for news, stats, commentary, and gamecasts has now transformed into a powerful tool that actually impacts player movement.

Hmm...the Internet impacts player movement, you say?...It all began on a message board..."Neifanatic" posted the idea of the Rockies trading for Neifi Perez. The idea was a smashing success, as hordes of Rockies fans were enthralled with the idea. The trade proposal gained momentum, and the media took notice. "Bring Neifi Home," boldly declared a front page editorial in the Denver Post.

A group of concerned Rockies fans purchased TV ads, billboards, and radio spots that begged the Rockies management to trade for Neifi. They tied ribbons around trees. They held parades and rallies. They even wore buttons.

The pressure on Colorado's front office began to snowball and in a quick, and cathartic instant, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd caved in. "All right, already. Thad, give me Brian Sabean's line."

At just that moment, in a smoke filled room in a far corner of the basement of Pacific Bell Park, The Red Phone rang. The Red Phone was only to ring should any GM call the Giants to propose a trade for Neifi Perez.

"Jumping Johnnie LeMaster on a trampoline!" exclaimed Brian Sabean. He sprinted from his desk to answer The Red Phone. And the rest is history...And it all began on a message board.
[end dream sequence]

Then again, maybe not.


Monday, January 12, 2004

Bombs Away

* The Deal - The Giants signed Brett Tomko to a one year deal worth $1.2MM, with all but 500k deferred until 2006. The Giants hold a $2.5MM team option for 2005, with a 300k buyout.

* The Good

- This is a typcial Brian Sabean signing. Tomko's numbers are very underwhelming, but Sabean trusts his scouts much more than he trusts statistical evaluation.

Tomko has always had good stuff - his fastball tops out in the mid 90s and he has good control. Beneath his 5.28 ERA and his 1.52 WHIP lies a bit of untapped potential. It's up to Rags, Gardner, AJ, and, of course, Tomko himself to realize this potential.

- The word out of St. Louis is that Tomko made some sort of mechanical adjustment in June and was about league average from that point on. The Giants are hoping that that level of success carries over into 2004.

- As reported by Joe Roderick, Tomko will receive just 500k of his $1.5MM in guaranteed money in 2004. This fact alone makes it tough to find fault with the deal.

- The Giants were looking for a durable starter who is capable of eating 200+ innings. Tomko has only missed one start in his career and has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last two years.

- I've maintained that, barring a lights out Spring Training, Kevin Correia should at least start the year in Fresno. This isn't because I think he isn't good (I do think he will be good) but I believe that he needs a little more polish before stepping into the rotation on a full time basis. Keep in mind that he was just drafted in 2002 and therefore does not have a whole lot of experience under his belt. Fear not Correia fans, Kevin will probably start the year in Fresno, but he is likely to be the first line of defense when a starter goes on the DL or if a starter is deemed ineffective.

* The Bad

- If you have season tickets in the left field bleachers, then this is your lucky day. There should be all sorts of flying souvenirs landing among the bleacher bums next year. Brett Tomko has allowed 66 HRs in the last two years, hence the nickname "Bombko." I suppose Pac Bell will help cut down his HR total a bit, but he's still a good bet to allow 25 HRs at the very least.

- This is one instance where Ralph Barbieri actually makes a good deal of sense. His comments were regarding Livan Hernandez, but said comments still apply to this situation. Sure, Tomko is an innings eater, but are the innings that are being eaten quality innings? In other words, do you really want someone with a 5.00+ ERA pitching over 200 innings for your team?

Of course, Ralph's explanation was 14 times longer than that, and he undoubtedly used the words "sanguine," "integument," and "esoteric" to convey his point, but his point is a very valid one.

- Tomko had a very tepid relationship with both Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. It is unclear to me whether it was just a personality conflict between the two parties or if Tomko is an uncoachable asshat.

- Interstingly enough, despite the Cardinals awful bullpen, Baseball Prospectus lists Tomko among the league leaders in pitchers who were bailed out by their bullpens. His true ERA in 2003 was probably a couple of ticks higher than 5.28.

- The scouting report on ESPN.com reveals that Tomko does not like to pitch inside. Ugh. As I'm typing this, Mike Krukow is undoubtedly outside of Tomko's San Diego residence constructing a Vegas-style, neon sign with flashing lights that reads - YOU HAVE TO PITCH INSIDE TO BE EFFECTIVE IN THIS LEAGUE, MEAT!

* The Verdict

This is a low risk/decent reward type of signing. There is a chance that pitching in an extreme pitcher's park and in front of a good defensive team may help Tomko become a league average pitcher. If that turns out to be the case, then he's a bargain at 500k. Therefore, I think it's a pretty good deal.

The problem with the Giants' offseason signings in general is that signing below average players with the hope that they'll be around league average should not be the goal of a team that is suppose to contend for a World Series Championship.

The Giants off season is particularly frustrating in the context of what the other contenders are doing to improve their respective teams. The Red Sox have added Curt Schilling and Keith Foulke. The Cubs picked up Derrek Lee and might end up with Greg Maddux or Pudge Rodriguez. I don't even remember all of the upgrades the Yankees have made. The Astros have signed Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite. The Pads have added Ramon Hernandez and David Wells and will have Brian Giles for a full season. The Angels bought Jose Guillen, Kelvim Escobar, Bartolo Colon, and Vlad Guererro. Hell, even the cheapskate owner of the Royals has added some decent players. Meanwhile, the Giants are needlessly cutting payroll and, so far, are content to do nothing more than collect fourth outfielders and fifth starters.

Of course, Sabes still has a few tricks up his sleave. He has a knack for finding January bargains, and he has hinted that he will make some sort of improvement to the team before Opening Day. Therefore, it's best to reserve full judgment of the 2004 Giants until then. However, the list of available impact players who will elevate the Giants to WS Contender status is very short and SF's self-imposed salary cap makes the idea of acquiring that type of player a long shot.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Giants Sign Shawn Boskie
Completely Useless Righthander Gets 2 Years, 3.7 Million

San Francisco - As part of their offseason plan to stumble toward mediocrity, the San Francisco Giants signed the washed up and ineffective Shawn Boskie.

The Giants signed Boskie to a two year deal that will pay him $3.7 Million over two years. Boskie last pithced in the big leagues in 1998, when he posted an ERA of 9.17 for the Montreal Expos.

“His previous numbers don’t matter that much to us,” explained Giants GM Brian Sabean. “Two of my scouts told me that Shawn has been working on a changeup. That’s good enough for me. Shawn also has a great makeup, and he’s a leader in the clubhouse.”

“I’m excited to be pitching for the Giants for the next couple of years,” said Boskie reached on the shuffleboard court at his retirement community digs in Boca Raton, Florida. “I’m a little rusty, but my bacchi ball games have kept me in decent shape.”

“This is an exciting day for the Giants,” San Francisco Giants managing general partner Peter Magowan exclaimed. “In fact, this groundbreaking free agent signing has created a groundswell of enthusiasm among our fans. And I’ve decided to damper this excitement by raising ticket prices by an additional 7%.”

“2004 will prove to be an thrilling year at SBC Telecommunications, Incorporated Park,” continued Magowan. “There are several momentous additions – Michael Tucker, Dustan Mohr, Shawn Boskie, just to name a couple on the field additions. Our off the field addtions are just as exciting. If our fans look just beyond the SBC Park gates and gaze into the South Beach Yacht Club, they’ll see the newest addition to my yacht fleet – The S.S. Competitive.”

The Giants may not be done adding below replacement level players to their team. Two industry sources have confirmed that Giants are close to signing useless free agent infielder Dickie Thon to a contract.

“We’re in a unique situation,” said Sabean, responding to a question regarding the direction of the Giants franchise. “We have one of the best players in the history of the game; he is still searching for a ring. We have great fans who have packed our stadium since it opened, and they are hungry for a World Championship. After carefully assessing the situation, we believe our optimal course of action is to piss away this unique opportunity by cutting payroll and then signing and overpaying for bad players.”

Editors Note: In the event that anyone reading this is completely sarcasm illiterate, I should point out that I made this up. The Giants did not sign Shawn Boskie (although the way this off season is going, it certainly wouldn’t be shocking if they did). Just think of this as my snarky way of voicing my disapproval with the general direction of the franchise this off season, despite my luke warm optimism about the 2004 season.

Maddux to SF?

Another possible destination for Greg Maddux was eliminated this past week as the Padres signed David Wells. Maddux has stated publicly that he doesn’t want to play in the American League, he’d prefer to play in the NL West, and he wants to play for a winning team. Hmmm…Check. Check. Check.

Can we get him, Mags? Please. A Hot Stove Day Dream:


One free agent signing and the rotation goes from average to pretty damn forminable. Granted, Maddux is on the downside of his career and is coming off a year where his ERA was just slightly above average. However, his WHIP was still a very respectable 1.18. His main problem last season was allowing 24 homeruns. I think this is more of a fluke than anything, but in the event that Maddux is becoming gopher ball prone in his old age, Pac Bell Park is the perfect remedy.

Speaking of Pac Bell, Maddux has spoken glowingly of the ball park; he loves pitching there. Posting a 1.25 ERA and a BAA of .198 in 21 2/3 career innings there probably has something to do with that.

In order to sign with the Giants, Maddux’s agent, Scott Boras, will have to come down just a bit from his demands of a 4 year contract worth $15MM per year. The Giants still have some money to spend, as evidenced by the report that they offered Darren Oliver a contract worth $2MM. The hoopla/marketing/merchandising associated with win #300 should generate some money to pay for Maddux. I’d spend whatever money the Giants have budgeted for a mid season trade on Maddux. You’re probably not going to find a Maddux level talent on the market in July, and even if you do, the Giants’ weak farm system limits their ability to make a trade of that kind of impact. Much like David Wells’ contract, Maddux’s contract with the Giants would also have to be loaded with incentive clauses.

So there you have it. The Giants didn’t get Gary Sheffield, Derrek Lee, or Mike Cameron, so Greg Maddux is the new Westwood Blues Hot Stove Holy Grail of the Month. The only thing in my way is Peter Magowan. Sigh. Oh well, Glendon Rusch isn’t that bad, is he?

Three Dot Du Jour

…Way back in 2002, the Giants had this pitcher who won 13 games. Last year he did his best imitation of a batting practice pitcher. Whither Ryan Jensen? This winter there has been a Ryan Jensen sighting, literally. I saw him pitch in a winterball game that was televised on Fox Sports Americas. Overall, Jensen is having a disappointing winter in limited action – he's allowed 9 earned runs in 14 1/3 innings. Could he be in the mix for the fifth starter spot?...
...The Big Cat is still looking for work. I'm still hanging onto the remote possibility that he will still be unemployed come May 1st and the Giants will be able to sign him...
…There were so many things wrong with the Michael Tucker signing that the main problem with the signing is sometimes overlooked – the Giants overpaid for Tucker. Only in Cam Bonifay’s fantasy land is a player who is 3 runs above replacement level worth two years and $3.5MM. Since the Tucker signing, Todd Hollandsworth, Jeromy Burnitz, and Brian Jordan, all of whom are better players than Tucker, signed for less money than the Giants will pay Michael Tucker…