Friday, July 26, 2019

2019 SF Giants Still in the Shadows - On Dickerson, Yastrzemski, Solano

2019 Crop of Unlikely Johnny Come Latelies 

       The Giants are at it again. Seems like the All Star break is their key time to either go on a spurt or fold it in. This year-not even an ‘even’ year- the ‘Jints’ must have decided it’s finally time to give Mgr. Bruce that big send-off instead of playing like one of the worst teams in baseball for the third year in a row.   The Giants have called upon their remaining 'core' players  from their World  Series run (2010-2014) to summon up and act on their old mantra, ‘When the going gets tough, The Giants go to the Juice,’ or so it would seem based on empirical evidence over the past two decades since a guy named Barry Lamar Bonds got it all started in the town that gave us BALCO,  PEDs, Victor Conte and more KNOWN ‘users’ than any team during that time period.

Babe Ruth Redux

Following the 2019 All Star break, like magic, all of a sudden the Jints started performing back to their early 2016 pace, when they had the best record in the league (the Giants in late June and July have won an incredible 90% of their games with approximately the same people they were losing over 200 games with over the past two and a half seasons – a period during which they had given Bochy an overall losing record in his 13 years as manager (nobody talks about it but he had more losses than wins with the Giants until this latest, unlikely, crazy streak.)  
So, the team that had to resort to 'no name' outfielders (Conor Joe?) who had never played a game in the majors to open the season, have run thru a myriad of players in trying to fill those spots, until finally settling on, not a big trade name, but, as in the World Series years, players with no productive history, other than, perhaps , having a famous last name . No, it hasn’t been the core guys Posey, Crawford, Belt and Panic but, rather, mid-career outcasts named Dickerson, Donovan, and Yaztrzemski who have come on to do most of the offensive ‘damage ‘ that saw the giants win 25 of their last 30 games. (Then, there are the young pitchers suddenly pitching above their heads that we can discuss in a future update.)  Yes, once again, you go through enough bodies and you find one or two, or three, who stick to the wall. That's your San Francisco Giants , circa late July, 2019. Shades of 2010 - 2016.

Mike Yaztrzemski
Trying To Live Up To A Name

Most teams will make trades for known entities. The Giants, not known as great traders despite their bloated payroll, will pick up whomever they can – often at the expense of their own minor league prospects, thrown under the bus again and again until they finally get traded and often succeeding with another team . Not only that, the Giants will keep around a guy like ‘Panda’ Sandoval that no other team wanted but somehow thrives with the Giants, and, perhaps, plays an even bigger role in the back room shenanigans. (Sandoval was instrumental in the Giants acquiring old buddies Parra and Co. to begin the season-even though they were among the many who went through the recycle door. (Who's REALLY running this team, anyway?)  
Sandoval was and is probably the most recent main artery to the Balco heyday/Bonds era. Though he was never indicted for PED use, he’s put up some interesting numbers, like hitting three homers in one post season game against a top flight pitcher after hitting only 12 during the entire regular 162-game season; like hitting 50 points above his season average during the post season in both 2010 and 2012 -close to .350 with half as many homers as during the entire 162 game schedule. His one self-described ‘friend’ on the team, at the time, Hunter Pence , was the only other Giant to put up similar, surprising .300 + numbers. Interesting. Bonds called it 'chemistry,' an interesting choice of words. (But Sandoval or Pence didn’t even show up in baseball’s lax drug testing, for which Conte estimates up to 50% were/are users- with the highest propensity being with the Giants, who had seven KNOWN users during their three World Series years. But less than a dozen players were indicted for PEDs in the entire league during any one year. 2019 has seen only four.

Donovan Solano
One Last Shot At The Ring

Late-Twenties/Early-Thirties, Down on their Luck, Doing Whatever It Takes  
So this year, new GM Farhan Zaidi has followed closely in Sabeans footsteps - don't think Sabean is still around for nothing- bringing in anyone and everyone, finally with with Dickerson, 29, Yaztremski , 27, and Solano, 31 sticking- players perhaps on their last gasps who would do literally anything for that last chance at the gold. (Shades of aging Giant farmhand Garret Brohius (sp) at Salt Late in the early 2000s, who admitted to a reporter that a Giants coach encouraged him to seek outside remedies to help him ‘survive.’ Brohius elected not to cheat while recounting his short Giants career to Salt Lake City press following his retirement.  
Today, when many –other than perhaps Bob Nightingale in his recent column – believe or pretend that drugs are all but eliminated from the game today despite the record number of homers being hit, we find yet another Giant, top pitching prospect Logan Web indicted this past May. Only four major leaguers have been indicted for PEDs this year, and not surprising, the Giants have one of them.  
In 2014 it was Scutaro, in 2010 it was Ross, among others, coming to the Giants for that second half push while in the twilight of their careers, only to perform way over their heads. Others like Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell came earlier in the years -‘no name’ Torres had a career year in 2010- at age 36 or 37- only to go into a steroid (Adderall) crash, much like Huff did in 2012 and who would document it in his book, BASEBALL JUNKIE. Even if Adderall was technically legal its still performance enhancing drugs with some- er, many(?)- player(s) using it for the wrong reasons. We don’t need to go into ‘Milkman’ Melkie Cabrera and his short-lived, PED-infused first half of 2012 that catapulted the Giants into the 2012 series with enough wins to coast all the way- the one year the Giants made it without a wild card. That’s Cabrera, best buddy to fellow-countrymen Sandoval, Scuturo, Gregor Blanco and other Venezuelans.  
So , this year we have Dickerson suddenly hitting 100 points over his career average in a growing sample of nearly 100 at bats, with Solano and Yaztrzemski not far behind (See their STATS in these pages. And Dickerson and Yastrzemski are hitting homers at Ruthian paces despite playing in the Giants huge park that normally is said to deter power hitters from signing with the team. So, the Giants culture and pattern seems to repeat itself, though you won’t see stories like this in the local papers. Afterall, the Giants hire their radio announcers and have close ties to the local newspaper and its writers. This stuff has been going on now over 20 years with the Giants having had over 25 KNOWN PED users since Bondsby far more than any other team. And now they’re at it again- even after team President(?) Larry Baer told us in 2014 that the team would ‘shy away’ from getting an even worse reputation by hiring any more PED players. Nobody could figure the streaky Giants and why they suddenly stopped hitting midway through 2016. Now it’s 2019 and the pressure is on for the team to serve its large, cranky, season ticket-holding base to which the team refused to utter the word ‘rebuild’ despite giving mixed messages with a revolving door of players. So, it looks to us like Déjà vu all over as they pick up where they left off in 2016 midseason with still many of the World Series core players – but more importantly those intangible, ‘no name’ newcomers (wall stickers?). THE NAMES MAY CHANGE but it’s the same MODUS OPERANDI in America’s most liberal city where the fans could give a hang if players like Bonds are KNOWN cheaters. (Only in San Francisco, where Bonds, Sandoval and others could remain heroes-baggage and all).  
Stay tuned to these pages for the next chapter(s)

Friday, July 6, 2018

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Honoring the Great Bob Uecker, A Better Broadcaster and Funnyman than Baseball Player

Honoring the Great Bob Uecker, A Better Broadcaster and Funnyman than Baseball Player

On the ocassion  his 81st birthday we look backto 1993 and Bob Uecker's induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame,not as a player - he had but a .200 lifetime average- but as a broadcaster for the Milwaukee Braves.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Giants Will Pay 'Mediocre' Samardzija Half MIllion Per Start, Little Upside in Cueto Deal

Jeff Samardzija 30 year old on downside
of career
Johnny Cueto will make more than half million per start
after lackluster season


By some measures, Jeff Samardzija is a mediocre baseball player. Since he became a full-time starting pitcher, in 2012, his ERA ranks 63rd of the 90 men who have thrown at least 500 innings. Last year, as he approached free agency, he allowed more hits and runs than any pitcher in the game. His career record: 47 wins, 61 losses. This year he will make more than the best   talent in the NFL; namely, running-back Calvin Johnson, who will have collected $113 million in his first six years in the NFL, making him one of of the wealthiest non-quarterbacks in league history.  Samardzija, by virtue of the five-year contract he just signed with the San Francisco Giants, is guaranteed to have earnings of $122,725,000. The Cueto signing may be even worse, with no apparent upside, as noted below. Assuming  both stay healthy the Giants will be paying out a cool combined MILLION DOLLARS PER START for the two pitchers


In San Francisco, delighted Giants fans and pundits are asking (in a postive way) 'How did the #SFGiants pull off the deal that brought big name pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardja to the team suddenly within a week of each other when it looked like the Giants were going to go bust again in the free agent market.'

Well, it turns out that other teams didn't want to pay Smardja anything close to the big bucks for Samardija w, who is just that, a 'big name' only , living off one good  year of 2014 , but only  a 11-win 4.50 ERA pitcher last year. Nor, did other teams want to pay Cuedo  $130 million for six-years for an even worse 11 win 4.76 ERA last year - and maybe the worst part of the deal a two-year opt-out clause . It's the first time a team has ever signed two pitchers for more than $90 million each as we understand.

 At least the  A's got Smardja cheap. With Cuedo there is really no upside for the Giants: 1) If Cuedo performs well in those two years he could be gone or demand a lot more money and 2) if he does poorly, the Giants are stuck with him another four years at $20 million per year.  

How quickly the Giants forget about their decision not to go after more long-term signings after Barry Zito, who ended up sitting on the bench most of his last four years collecting his millions from a similar long-term signing. The parallels are amazing between Zito and Cueto. Both pitchers were about the same age when signed by the Giants, coming to them with  good track records but not so much   histories as they approach late-career status..  It would be very surprising if Cueto had more than two good years left in the tank. Yes, if Cueto could somehow return to form and help put the Giants in the World Series again, it wouldn't make it necessarily a good deal but could  help diminish the downside of   eventual eroding production during the last four years.  With Samardja, maybe the Giants are also on the hook for all those years; it's doubtful you'll see five good years out of the 30-year-old Samardja, who already appears in his decline. And, we haven't even discussed paying these guys through injuries - a more likely occurrence with older players. 

Giants announcer Duane Kuiper was interesting, complimenting the Giants (of course)   not on the quality of the pitchers but their 'loud' personalities that will 'energize' the mostly -quiet existing clubhouse of 'quiet' players including Posey,Crawford, Duffy, Panik, etc.

The Oakland A's - say what you will about Billy Beane and company - have been pulling off what appear to be multiple bargain deals in recent months.  So now you know how the Giants, never known for great trades, acquired Cueto and Samardja, probably far more than Beane would have ever paid. For there to be a possible  upside, Cueto would have to return to form and a major contributor to another Giants World Series or two in 2016 or 2017 and then continue to do well with the Giants , or another team, for years after, however odds-makers would find this occurrence as  very unlikely.