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Sunday, November 28, 2010

So The Giants Need A Shortstop

The Giants need a shortstop. Everyone knows it. Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe are free agents. Bochy is a big fan of both guys. Especially in the clubhouse. But it doesn't seem likely either will return. Neither is really an acceptable everyday shortstop option anyways. So what do the Giants do? Let's examine the options:

There's been murmurs of a Jason Bartlett connection. Jason Barlett had a career year in 2009 hitting 14 homers with 66 RBI's for the Rays. His previous career high was 5 HR and 43 RBI. In 2010, he reverted back to his old self and hit 4 HR with 47 RBI but batted only .254 with an OBP of .324. He has a career average of .281. I would say Bartlett would be a good fit, especially since he has a reputation of being a very good defender and grew up in the Bay Area (Mountain View), except he was subpar defensively last season. And I don't mean just below average, he was really bad if you look at his UZR (-13.9). Can the Giants afford to bring a light hitting SS over in a trade who all of a sudden has questions regarding his defense? It doesn't seem to be the right match or right risk. I mean, if you want a light hitting SS, you have one in your system that is almost ready and is allegedly very good defensively: Brandon Crawford. And by all accounts, Sabean is reluctant to promote Crawford, hence why the Giants are looking for a SS. But Barlett seems to have too many question marks from both sides of his game. I'd pass.

The Red Sox have two shortstops and are trying to trade one of them for bullpen help. Jed Lowrie was supposed to be the shortstop of the future in Boston but injuries have halted him from seizing the job. Marco Scutaro has Bay Area experience from his time in Oakland and is in the final year of a 2 year deal. It's unlikely the Red Sox would trade away Lowrie and keep Scutaro unless the haul was significant. Hence, I think they will deal Scutaro if they deal anyone at all. Scutaro is actually a perfect fit for the Giants. He's like Freddy Sanchez without the batting title. He's a solid, if unspectacular player, but he's one of those guys that fits on to a winning team. He doesn't do anything great but he does the little things well. He hit .275 with a .333 OBP for Boston this year while knocking out 11 round trippers while knocking in 56. He also is an average defender. He'll get to what is hit to him and will occasionally make a great play. What makes him perfect for the Giants is that he's affordable (5M), he's only under contract for a year (with an option), and he would fit in well with the clubhouse and with AT&T park. In SF, he probably would not hit double digit homers like he has in his past 2 seasons, but he'd play a respectable SS and probably bat 7th in the line-up. He shouldn't cost too much in trade either. In my mind, he is the perfect solution to the Giants SS problem.

The thing with the Giants is that they're trying to decide whether they need a stopgap SS or a long term answer. They're waiting for Ehire Adrianza or Brandon Crawford to prove they can be major leaguers but they know they're not ready yet. Crawford is closer to the big leagues than Adrianza and probably will get a call-up sometime in 2011. The Giants don't want to commit to a free agent shortstop until they know definitively whether or not Crawford or Adrianza can be the Giants SS of the future.

Which leads the Giants to one more rumored shortstop on the trade market: Jose Reyes. Jose Reyes is ideal for AT&T park. He's an above average defender, he's fast (something this team needs big time), and he has pop. As a leadoff hitter, here are Reyes's homerun totals in his healthy years (omitting his injury-marred 2009): 19, 12, 16, 11. His batting averages the past 5 seasons? .300, .280, .297, .279, .282. Oh yeah, and he also has stolen over 50 bases in 4 seasons. He's fast. He's basically Andres Torres at shortstop. But better and more consistent with a much larger track record. He would give the Giants insurance if Torres were to fall back to earth. Remember when Torres didn't start? The Giants had to scramble for a leadoff guy and the results usually weren't pretty. It's hard to count on Torres going into 2011. Can you really expect him to repeat his 2010? Even with his great season, he was vulnerable to lefties. Reyes would solve any problems the Giants would face if Torres were to falter as a leadoff option. The problem with Reyes is that he's somewhat injury prone and he would not come cheaply, both in terms of salary and trade pieces. He is a free agent after 2011 which would be intriguing for the Giants because it'd only be a one year investment. But also, by the end of 2011, the Giants will know more about Crawford and Adrianza and if it doesn't look like either are going to pan out, then the Giants can try to sign Reyes long term. There's no way the Giants will sign Carl Crawford but Reyes would be a legit leadoff option they could acquire. The question is who would you trade? I imagine Brandon Crawford, Thomas Neal, and Henry Sosa would get the conversation started. I would think the Mets would want players on the cusp of being MLB ready. Crawford could start Opening Day while Neal would be the blue chip prospect the Mets would likely require. There's no way Sabean deals Belt. However, at the end of the day, I don't think the Mets trade Reyes. They would have to be bowled over with an offer and I don't see the Giants putting together a package that will wow Sandy Alderson enough to part with Reyes. Which again leads me to believe Marco Scutaro is the best option.

Oh, there are other options as well. JJ Hardy might get non-tendered though it seems Minnesota is going to keep him and pair him with Nishioka. Orlando Cabrera (Renteria's nemesis) seems like a typical Sabean signing and wouldn't be the worst as a stopgap. But Cabrera's best years are clearly behind him. And of course, the Giants could just hand the keys to the diamond to Manny Burriss. But they weren't sold on him as a shortstop last season so I doubt they think he'd be the solution for 2011. If the Giants wanted to stress defense, they could sign Cesar Izturis but he's a former Dodger. Again, I'd rather give Crawford a shot than see Izturis in a Giants uniform. Miguel Tejada is another free agent option and can play 3B as well in case Sandoval doesn't relearn his kung fu magic. I would have liked to see a Tejada signing a couple years ago or even last offseason but I'm not sure how I'd feel about a Tejada signing for 2011. The guy looks old. He still can hit a bit but I don't want him to be on the Giants when he falls apart and I think he's very close to that point.

In any case, it'll be interesting to see what Brian Sabean and the Giants do here. There are several options. I think the best happens to reside in Boston right now. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm Thankful for the 2010 SF Giants

It's Thanksgiving tomorrow. And one thing I am most thankful for are the 2010 SF Giants. They brought me one of my best moments in life thus far. I don't know what that says about my priorities or my life, but there you go. If I had to rank where the moment lies, it'd probably be after I lost my virginity but before I graduated college. Somewhere in that spectrum. Granted, I am not married nor have kids so I can't say it was more exciting than those two things at this juncture. We'll see when those two things happen where this championship run lies.

But seriously, how great was this season. Brian Sabean took us on this ridiculous journey:

OPENING DAY LINE-UP 2010:

Rowand CF
Renteria SS
Sandoval 3B
Huff 1B
DeRosa LF
Molina C
Bowker RF
Uribe 2B
Lincecum P

vs

WORLD SERIES GAME 5 LINE-UP 2010:

Torres CF
Sanchez 2B
Posey C
Ross LF
Uribe 3B
Huff 1B
Burrell DH
Renteria SS
Rowand CF
Lincecum P

There were so many great moments this season, it's hard to remember them all. Right now, the only thing that replays in my mind over and over is Brian Wilson striking out Nelson Cruz and madness ensuing. I watched the game at Monaghans. And it was the most amazing experience ever. Beer showers non-stop. People acting like children. Group love. It'll never be like that again. The Giants have now won a World Series Championship. There will never be another "first time" for that. They have done it. I was there. You were there. And it was awesome.

I was telling some friends that it happened to me at the perfect time in my life. I'm 30, single, and living in SF. In 1989 I was 9. I was rooting for the Giants. But I wouldn't have been able to celebrate or grasp what a win would mean to the city had the Giants actually beat the A's. In 2002 I was 22 and living in Arizona going to college. I was a diehard by then. That defeat left me wounded right up until Nov. 1st, 2010. However, again, I wasn't in the city. It would have been a much different celebration. A solo celebration. It would have been sweet. But it wouldn't have been the sweetest. No, it was THIS year. At THIS time. Living in San Francisco. Able to go to bars with not only my fellow Giants fans, but my best friends. And we got to celebrate this first ever SF World Series Championship together. United. And free to act as crazy as we wanted.

Non-Giants fans keep asking me what it was like. And I can't accurately put it into words. The whole season, just amazing. The torture, the comebacks, the 1 run losses, the 1 run wins. Timmy struggling then dominating. Cain coming into his own. Brian Wilson morphing into Robb Nen. Posey channeling Will Clark but in a much more subdued manner. Huff and his rally thong (welcome back Aubrey, by the way). Uribe and his jazz hands. Cody Ross and his ownage of October. Pat the Bat and his clutch home runs, seemingly always to tie or put us ahead in the late innings. Freddy Sanchez experiencing winning baseball for the first time ever and taking full advantage. Torres rising from the depths of obscurity to become the leadoff hitter of a World Series team. Bumgarner showing ice in his 21 year old veins. The Ashkon video. Steve Perry.

I mean, every World Series team is going to have fantastic memories of the entire season and the playoffs. But this was our team. And our season. And for that, my SF Giants, I am super thankful. Thankful for you. Thankful to be a Giants fan. It doesn't get any better than it did on November 1st, 2010. A memory that will be treasured, cherished, and shared for generations not just by me, but literally by millions.

Thank you.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Free Agent Predictions (November Edition)

NOTE: Post updated with actual team italicized or bolded if correct.

Although I'm still basking in the aftermath of the San Francisco Giants World Series championship (as, likely, you are as well), baseball never stops. The offseason has begun and even though I'd like to just sit here on my laurels and let my beer shower soaked vestments further infect all my other clothing items, I shall not. Just as Bochy and Sabean got together a day or two after the parade, so shall I sit down at my keyboard and spout predictions about the top free agents in this 2010 class, inclusive of course of our beloved rally thong wearing, name chanting, WS game clinching homering guys.

Before I go into my free agent predictions, let me validate my prediction power. Towards the end of spring training last March, these were my predictions (bold means correct):

NL Playoff teams: Phillies, Giants,, Cardinals, Rockies
AL Playoff teams: Yankees, Twins , Red Sox, Mariners
ALCS: Yankees vs Red Sox
NLCS: Phillies vs Giants
World Series: Red Sox over Phillies
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay
AL MVP: Ichiro (not even close)
NL MVP: Albert Pujols (Votto)
AL ROY: Austin Jackson (Neftali Feliz)
NL ROY: Madison Bumgarner (turned out to be his battery mate Buster Posey)

4 out of 8 playoff teams I got right. And possibly 3 out of 6 awards. Pat on back over. Here is where I think the top free agents are headed come Spring Training 2011

Cliff Lee (Rangers): I think the Yankees will throw everything they can at Cliff Lee. But Texas has a great young core and have money to spend and seem intent on hanging on to him. Actual: Phillies

Carl Crawford (Angels): Anaheim has made Crawford a priority. The Yankees and Red Sox are expected to go hard after Crawford as well. The Giants are said to be interested but won't be able to compete with the financial packages offered by the AL clubs. The Angels, after missing the playoffs for the first time in awhile, will get their man. Actual: Red Sox

Jayson Werth (San Francisco): I think the Giants are a darkhorse for Werth. With Pat the Bat unlikely to return, the Giants will replace him with another phormer Phillie. Werth will cost a lot of money, but the Giants coming off a WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP (god, that doesn't get old) will make a splash by signing Werth. Werth is one of the best right handed power hitting outfielders in the game and he plays a wicked right field. By the way, he hit a homer opposite way against the Giants at AT&T in the playoffs. Don't think the Giants didn't notice. He is a perfect fit for AT&T and unlike Aaron Rowand, I don't think taking Werth out of Philly will deflate all his power. Actual: Nationals (!)

Victor Martinez (Rangers): Although Bengie had a great October, he was pretty horrendous for the Rangers in the regular season. They are actively looking for an upgrade at catcher. Cliff Lee gets reunited with his battery mate from Cleveland. Actual: Tigers

Adrian Beltre (Red Sox): With the Red Sox striking out on Crawford and Werth, look at them to retain their 3B. Beltre will shop around but the Red Sox will step up to the plate and give him an offer he won't refuse. Actual: Rangers

Adam Dunn (Cubs): The Cubs need a first baseman. Dunn is familiar with the NL Central. And he won't be forced to DH. It's a good fit for both. Actual: White Sox (right city, wrong team)

Paul Konerko (Braves): Braves need a 1B. They've done the Adam LaRoche thing before (twice), they won't do it for a third time. Konerko will likely want to play for a contending team. The Dodgers (the team that drafted him) are a darkhorse but they have to trade Loney first and Loney is cheaper. Not sure they make that move. Konerko will settle in with the Braves. Actual: White Sox

Rafael Soriano (Angels): There are not a lot of teams looking for closer help. But the Angels are one of them. And Arte Moreno is not afraid to spend money. Tampa can't afford to keep him.

Carlos Pena (Diamondbacks): The Dbacks want a new first baseman. They are apparently very interested in Paul Konerko but I can't see Konerko going to a team in rebuilding mode. Carlos Pena is good defensively and has a ton of power. In the BOB, he could likely hit 40 bombs again. Actual: Cubs

Vladimir Guerrero (Rangers): I was surprised they didn't pick up his option. If another team doesn't come in and blow him away with an offer, I see Vlad and Texas resuming their baseball relationship.

Aubrey Huff (Giants): Huff says he'll pounce to return to SF "for the right offer". Let's not kid ourselves, Aubrey loved it here. This is posturing. He'll be the Giants 1B come Opening Day, 2011.

Jorge De La Rosa (Brewers): The Brewers like signing mediocre pitchers that turn out good seasons right before free agency (see: Suppan, Jeff and Wolf, Randy). De la Rosa will be another notch in that particular belt. Actual: Rockies

Manny Ramirez (retires or plays in Japan) I just don't see Manny accepting any offers from MLB teams because they'll not be what he's used to. Manny last season said he wanted to end his career in Cleveland. Manny says a lot of things. Cleveland won't offer him very much and he'll likely hang 'em up.

Magglio Ordonez (Rays): The Rays can't really afford big name free agents but they might be able to lure Magglio to Tampa Bay. Actual: Tigers

Derrek Lee (Nationals): Nats need a 1B. Derrek Lee needs a job. Actual: Orioles

John Buck (Red Sox): Red Sox lose out on resigning V-Mart so they go for Option B. Actual: Marlins

Javier Vazquez (Nationals): Vazquez played for the Expos. He'll play for them in D.C. as the Nationals. Actual: Marlins

Juan Uribe (Dodgers): Ooo-REBAY is beloved by the Bay. The Giants have no shortstop prospects ready and need an insurance policy at 3B in case Sandoval doesn't get his shit together. However, Uribe will command a multiyear deal at decent dollars. The Giants don't necessarily need him after 2011 and he's not an ideal SS anyways. He will get a better deal elsewhere. One team desperate for a 2B? The Dodgers. And Ned wants to be Brian Sabean, so... it'll be painful booing you in Dodger Blue, Juan.

Pat Burrell (Braves): Atlanta seems interested. Burrell has a tough to read market. He sucked as a DH so that rules out most AL clubs. His postseason was embarrassing as he looked like the Burrell that was cut from Tampa. However, Atlanta takes fliers on guys like Burrell (Troy Glaus) and likely would prefer him over Jermaine Dye or another reclamation type project. Giants enjoyed Pat the Bat's contributions and he'll forever be remembered by Giants fans for hitting clutch homers during the regular seasons, but it seems like Sabean squeezed just enough magic out of him and they seem to be aware of that. They'll let him walk for the bigger deal. Actual: Giants (Welcome back Pat the Bat!)

Edgar Renteria (Cardinals): Edgar claims he wants to end his career in Miami or St. Louis. St. Louis could use a back up middle infielder with clutch hitting ability. Tony LaRussa loves the guy. This is a reunion that should happen. Actual: Reds

Adam LaRoche (Orioles): LaRoche will wind up on the Orioles when the other 1B jobs disappear. Actual: Nats

And that's it for now. As guys are non-tendered, I'll put in a new prediction list.

Enjoy! And in case you forgot, the Giants are YOUR 2010 World Series Champions!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

They Did It

It's hard to believe I have not written a blog entry since the NLCS but as you can imagine, I've been a little, uh, busy.

The Giants pulled a fast one on everybody and went ahead and did the unthinkable. They did not fuck up. They exceeded expectations. And they won the whole goddamn thing.

San Francisco has reverted to the hippie days of free love. You couldn't start a fight right now if you went up and kicked somebody in the junk. Everyone is soaking in the victory of these 2010 misfit castoff CHAMPIONS. And love is in the air.

While some are writing this 2010 squad has exorcised demons of past failures, I say they simply have helped the catharsis of the fans and the city. The memories of '62, '87, '89, '93, '97, '00, '01, '02, '03, and '04 will always linger. McCovey and Mays still never won a ring in SF. Will the Thrill and Matt Williams and Kevin Mitchell never got that final champagne shower. And Bonds, Kent, Snow, Aurilia, Woody, and Nen were never the last ones galavanting around the mound.

But you know what? This was pretty special. No doubt those past teams might have been better on paper than this squad. Well, at least on the offensive side. I really think the core of this team, the pitching, will have them contending for the next 3-4 years until Lincecum and Cain get to free agency when the team will be forced to choose one or the other. But the starting pitching, not even mentioning their astute closer and relatively reliable set-up group, might be the best in SF franchise history. So sure, the previous pennant winning or playoff calibre teams might have seemed better on paper at a glance but really, none of those staffs could compare with what the Giants trotted out there every 4th game this October.

Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, and Bumgarner.

And that is inevitably what won the championship. The line-up hit just enough. But it was the pitching that got them TO the playoffs and it's what got them the championship Giants fans and San Francisco have been thirsting for since 1958. It even satisfied some long time New York Giants fans.

Which is what also makes this championship so special. This team helped TWO cities celebrate. Lifelong Giants fans in New York who never forgot their allegiance to their original New York team, never adopted the other New York baseball teams, and who hadn't experienced a win since 1954. And San Francisco which hadn't experienced a championship of any kind since 1994 when the Niners last won the Lombardi and who had never got the euphoric feel of winning baseball's last game.

When I think of this improbable World Series title for the local nine, the word special keeps coming up. How cool is it that, despite never winning a ring here as members of the 25 man roster, ex-players got to celebrate and witness that epic SF ticker tape parade? I'm of course talking about the legends in particular and specifically Willie Mays and Willie McCovey. Two Giants, nay, BASEBALL icons who are regulars at the yard and for whom this Title was shared. And of course it doesn't end with them. Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Will Clark, JT Snow, and yes, even Barry Bonds. All of these guys have been soaking up the Giants run through October and have celebrated like they were part of this team. And in a lot of ways, they were and are.

But back to the actual guys. The 25 guys that made this happen. For a team of misfits and castoffs, this city fell head over heels for them. That is odd, even for a World Series winning team, when half the roster is of guys who haven't played for the team for more than a season or two.

Yes, there is a core that should be here for the next several seasons: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Wilson, and Posey (and, we hope, a rejuvenated, reinvigorated, 2009ish Panda).

But then there's a lot of guys that were new to the jersey. Guys the city has embraced like they came up through our own farm system even though their service time had been less than 2 seasons. Guys like: Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, and of course, Cody Ross (then again, any time you have clutch hit after clutch hit in the playoffs, you're bound to earn some new fans).

And even the guys who fans had turned on got to feel the love during the playoff run. Rowand and Renteria specifically.

And that is what made this 2010 team so unique and so loved. They came together as a team despite from coming from all over, strangers who became friends who became family, and they combined to go 11-4 in the second season to capture the city a Title and the hearts of its inhabitants.

It has been an amazing ride. Torture and all.

*NOTE: With the season now over, stay tuned for rumors. I will post most valid trade and free agency rumors along with my thoughts. Even though this glorious 2010 season is over, SFGiantsGuy never rests! If you want your Giants news, keep checking in!