How Is It the A's Have the Better Record but Giants Have Three World Series?
GIANTS UNLIKELY TRANSFORMATIONS EXPOSED
On paper, the A's have had much better pitching - even this year the A's team ERA is 0.25 lower than the Giants and the A's hitting is respectable. The A's make trades, the Giants rarely do, relying mostly on one of the weaker minor league systems to draw from - and an occasional unlikely waiver wire claim or roster move that, inexplicably, usually turns to gold (think Cody Ross, Jake Peavy, Marco Scutaro, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell ). Yet the Giants seem to win at will - WHEN IT COUNTS and, even playing in a n unfriendly ballpark for hitters, yet are LEADING THE LEAGUE in batting average this year and continue to be up near the top of the standings, whereas the A's have had nothing to show for their overall record the past five years - and, now are taking a major nosedive, which , by the way, began before 'Trader' Billy Beane began his 'selloff.'
From out of nowhere comes 'Duffman' -rrom zero homers in college to 9 this year with Giants, far out-performing the guy he replaced, Pablo Sandoval, in both average and homeruns with virtually no major league experience (and no Triple A , for that matter)
Few teams with, frankly, as little talent have done so much. Usually, after winning a world series other teams are gunning for you, but the Giants keep winning , when necessary. And, it doesn't seem to matter who the names are. After Sandoval gets traded and the new highly-paid third baseman, Casey McGhee, fails the koolaid test, they bring up a kid named DUFFY who hit a mere .250 in college with no homeruns and never even played AAA yet is currently out-hitting Sandoval (Boston) by far (over .307 to .258) , with more homeruns (9 to 7), and just about everyone else on the team .
When the Giants were so desperate for a second baseman they finally brought up another average minor leaguer who, like Duffy, began performing better than he did in the minors, also with more homeruns. Then there are the Brandons, career .250 - .260 hitters, Belt and Crawford, both hitting better than ever - shortstop Crawford leading the team in homeruns with more than Giants' slugger Posey- or Belt! Go Figure.
When Aoki and Pence were out, it didn't matter. Journeyman Gregor ' We look up to Melky' Blanco was also right there hitting .300 along with half the starting lineup. Pitching-wise, the Giants have one legitimate starter in Madison Bumgarner, who even hasn't been that spectacular (3.16 ERA) outside of the post-season, during which he always manages to become superman, last year cutting his season ERA by 1,000 percent, from 3.00 to 0.30, not unlike previous post-seasons.
The Giants are a team of streaks. They barely made the playoffs in 2010 and 2012 , but when they got in there, they totally shut down all comers , even making it look silly. Last year against Kansas City, the Giants rarely struck out, driving the Royals crazy at their own game by keeping the ball in play, forcing errors, etc. This, against a superior Royals pitching staff of starters and relievers. This from , again, a Giants team with but ONE lifetime .300 hitter, Posey, and one sub- 4.00 ERA pitcher (Bumgarner).
It wouldn't all be so surprising if the Giants had done it with a nucleus of players coming back year after year, but it was with largely three different teams; only Buster Posey has been a regular starter on all three teams and Madison Bumgarner a regular pitcher, and a few relievers who have performed with mixed results, except when the chips are down.
Some call the Giants 'lucky.' We think there's something else probably going on.
WILD CARD SHOULDN'T MAKE BIG DIFFERENCE
Some say the Giants win because of the new Wild Card set-up. We say 'balderdash.' A good team is a good team is a good team. In seven game series almost always the best team wins. Five games series could be a little less so. But, it's highly unlikely that a team that hasn't even gotten over .580 could win it all three times in five years. Three of the Bonds' teams of the early 2000s had better records -and probably better teams (though we may need to get out a lot of asterisks-for both then and now ) - than any of these Giants teams and could only pull off one entry into the World Series, , in 2002, which they lost. As for the Wild Card, they were using it then, too, but only one instead of two. We believe, that the Giants now, with 20 years of Bondsian history -and 24 PED-indicted players later - KNOW HOW to win at all costs. In a league where drug testing still hasn't caught up with the players --just look at the Biogenesis episode where 20 players were caught only because of a fluke after Commissioner Selig claimed that baseball was clean -- it appears liberal San Francisco may still remain at the epicenter of a what we see as a problem that's gone on way too long. Of course, others including the new generations who know no other way than PED baseball, could care less how the team wins - including some of the long-time San Francisco media folks who have admitted as much.
GIANTS THROUGH THE YEARS Compare the above Giants record to that of the A's below and one will find the A's have a better, more consistent track record.
Still looking for ways to explain away the Giants' recent, sudden success, many attribute it largely to manager Bruce Bochy. (http://wheredidyougojoedimaggio.downloadebooks.me/san-francisco-giants-interesting-look-back-bruce-bochy-era-bochy-rated/) The fact of the matter is that Bochy, who appears to be a very nice man, was a below-.500 manager until these World Series. (Just look at the chart above.) Bochy had losing seasons much of his 20 year managerial career, including the first three in San Francisco when he took over for Dusty Baker. It's not a surprise to us Bochy has never won a 'Manager of the Year' award as a Giants manager, just as General Manager Brian Sabean has never won an 'Executive of the Year' award; baseball writers outside of San Francisco may know better, or , at least, are more realistic.
Why Bochy's fortunes changed, we believe, has less to do with his putting in and removing relief pitchers. It has more to do with the culture on the team in, in our opinion , which included six KNOWN PED-indicted players during the three World Series years . If it were the East Coast, more would have probably come out about the Giants, and the type of 'shady' (if you will) players Sabean would go after; it took 10 years before two brave San Francisco sports writers put an end to Bonds' fun and games ('GAME OF SHADOWS') ; local pundits refrain to talk about a situation that may be as bad or worse today than the Bonds days. Balco head and PED 'guru' Victor Conte, based in San Francisco himself, who probably knows as much as anyone on the subject of performance enhancing drugs, may not be so far off base when he repeats the statement time and again that 'as many as 50% of players' are using PEDs . Other teams, no doubt, are using them , too, only the Giants seem to have been in the forefront and may with Bonds coming in from time to time to instruct, may have gotten the use of PEDs 'down to a science ', and with numbers like we're seeing now and the past five years among Giants players one has to at least wonder how the Giants keep winning with so little - and, how they get away with it. Again, in most any other city, they probably wouldn't. Now that Bonds is a totally free man after 10 years of making a mockery of baseball and long-cherished homerun traditions -thanks to a recent San Francisco Ninth Circuit Court overturning his purjury indictment - it only perpetuates the problem of PEDs in baseball and opens the door to the like Hall of Fame inclusion now of PED-indicted players such as Bonds while encouraging PED use to continue unchecked in baseball, in our opinion. We sure haven't heard much on the subject from the new commissioner nor seen any recent PED indictments (and that's not to say that baseball is 'clean').
We know that six players, for sure, playing for the Giants on those World Series teams had used PEDs, namely Andres Torres , Guerillmo Mota and Jose Guillen in 2010, Melky Cabrera and Mota (2012) and Michael Morse (2014). Torres, who admitted to using Adderall (which is legal in baseball with permission) , had a career year in 2010 - his only great year, helping to propel the Giants to the Series. Cabrera was hitting close to .350 in 2012, enough to put the Giants way ahead in the standings before he was suspended for PEDs (his second time) mid-season; by then , the Giants could almost coast in , though they had help from Cabrera protege' Blanco and Scutaro, newly acquaired from Colorado, who would tack on .70 points to his average once with the Giants . In 2014 , it was Morse, who gave the Giants a big first-half boost with many homers and game-winning hits before injuries sidelined him.
We've seen with the Giants, a penchant to go after marginal, even 'shady' players other teams don't want. Some would have not only PED pasts, but questionable episodes while on the team, which were quickly and quietly covered up by the Giants. (Remember Sandoval and the rape allegations in Santa Cruz or Chad Gaudin and the alleged molestations of a young woman on a hospital gurney? Probably not. ) Time and again, such players come to San Francisco and suddenly perform well above their career averages - and this year is no exception. Last year team president Larry Baer proclaimed that the Giants would be more careful in acquiring PED-indicted players due to their past reputation (24 PED-indicted players since Bonds) , yet they still acquired Morse - and now we learn that they just signed well-known PED man Everth Cabrera to a minor league contract. Then we've even heard from former Giant Garrett Brohius, who even admitted that he was encouraged to 'cheat' as a struggling 27-year-old Giants farm hand, but decided to quit baseball rather than take the easy way. With that in mind, we can't but wonder about a Chris Heston, who was also a struggling 27-year-old minor leaguer in the Giants system who has suddenly become the second best starting pitcher on the team - the first if you go by ERA (3.14 as compared to Bumgarner's 3.16). This is the same Heston who was a 12th round draft choice by the Giants and 367th overall pick with a 5.80 ERA in the minors in 2013 before the Giants let him go, before reacquiring him.
There are many other examples of players seemingly playing well above their heads, as it were. Ryan Vogelsong, to name one, has recently been pitching at velocity of 94-95 mph, which is as fast or faster than Bumgarner - this for a 38-year-old journeyman, who was pitching around 90-91 before.
Some say PEDs don't really help or can't make a team win, but when you have enough players, on average , getting a 20-30% boost in bat speed and/or hand-eye coordination it can't help but make a difference in a team winning more games. The hand-eye coordination also helps players make better contact with the ball and cut down on strikeouts. It also helps with fielding and pitching. How else can you explain all these young players on the Giants suddenly coming from nowhere, with no successful histories , to suddenly rank among the top players in the league?
Designer PEDs can be in one's system and out the same day so players, who are warned well in advance of drug testing, can go on and off PEDs accordingly.
And, that may be exactly what the Giants players do. From the many sudden surges, like recently, after the All Star break, when the Giants needed to make up ground, they certainly have, winning 12 of 13 games in spite of their 'one-man starting staff'' and other issues, this for a team that could barely win a game during the first weeks of July. And, it's not just because that Pence was back - as we said Blanco has been hitting .300.
For one or two players to have career years is one thing, but for an entire team, again, one has to wonder... now three years and three World Series titles later...
OAKLAND A's Through the Years The A's haven't had a losing season, outside of the Bob Geren managerial era (2007-2011) until this year.
Getting back to the A's, many have found the Oakland team with about half the payroll of the Giants to be the better, more exciting team, until the recent downturn and sell-off. As we noted , the A's have had the better record as compared to the Giants for the past five years. Other than the four year tenure of manager Bob Geren, for which A's fans revolted and finally got Beane to hire Bob Melvin, the A's have done well since 2000 - until this year
Not to say the A's haven't dabbled a bit in the PED movement themselves, what with Barolo Colon in 2012 - a year only five players were caught for PEDs in baseball and three of them were among Bay Area teams(the other two with the Giants). Of course, Colon wrote it off to 'stem cell' replacement and was actually not suspended, as we recall. The A's would soon get rid of him as is their want. Otherwise, the A's have appeared to be a cleaner team than the Giants, as much as one can tell, with numbers showing a more natural curve - not the streakiness of the Giants.
It's too bad for A's fans that A's management seems to be going back to the 'Build Us A Ballpark Or Else' attitude and selling off its best players. We don't quite understand how ransacking the team sets the stage for a new ball park, as per Billy Beane's explanation for what he's doing. Prove us wrong, Billy, but a team that was in the playoffs last year shouldn't be 12 games under .500. But that's another story.
The A's play in Oakland, a blue collar town where nothing comes easy. The Giants are from San Francisco , an ultra-liberal city, where 'anything goes.' Twenty years later the Giants may have gotten the use of performance enhancers down to a science as we earlier noted, i.e. when to go on and off them,when not to use them too much, but when needed. We're living in a world now where marijuana is legal in several states and may as well be legal in most as people use it without recrimination. Certainly in AT&T Park during the World Series they say the smell permeated into the San Frnacisco Bay. Likewise, maybe we're getting to the point where PEDs have become acceptable in baseball, and especially in more 'open' cities like San Francisco. As 'old school' fans we think it severely affects the game. Sure, it may be exciting for some to see artificially-enhanced see cartoon-like figures blast 500 foot homeruns into the Bay, ala Barry Bonds circa 1997-2007, (or nowadays even skinny infielders unexpectantly muscle up for more homeruns than they ever hit in the minors.) Come playoff time and the 'koolaid' really kicks in. And, another World Series victory.
BASEBALL ATTENDANCE/ TV VIEWERSHIP DOWN It's notable that baseball attendance and World Series TV viewing has been down the past five years - except in San Frnacisco. Perhaps not so coincidentally the years that that the Giants have been in the World Series. We won't say 'pulling the wool over eyes' but after awhile people catch on.
Welcome to baseball San Francisco-style, circa 2015.