Time for Giants to Get Real
Picking up Alex Sanchez was the latest example. Think of it in terms of the pickup of Kenny Lofton in 2002, which helped the Giants to get so close to their first World Series win since theyíve been in San Francisco.
The La Troy Hawkins trade? Think of it in terms of the Kurt Ainsworth/Damian Moss trade for Sidney Ponson in midseason of the 2003 season. That didnít have such a happy result. Ponson didnít do much and the Giants advanced only as far as the Division Championship Series.
In those two years, the Giants just needed a little boost. This year, theyíre on life support. Going into tonightís game, only four teams in major league baseball have worse records than the Giants, and one of those teams, Cincinnati, is only half a game worse. The Giants are in a pathetically weak division, but they trail four teams and they're as close to cellar-dwelling Colorado as the third-place Dodgers.
Yet, Sabean continues to operate as if heís just fine-tuning the team for another postseason run, and Iím sure heís doing that because thatís what Giants owner Peter Magowan wants..
The Giants are still showing infinite patience with mediocre veterans, trotting Kirk Rueter and Brett Tomko out every fifth day, while showing no patience with young pitchers. Jesse Foppert got only two starts before he was sent to the bullpen, with 42-year-old Jeff Fassero taking his start. Fassero has pitched well for the Giants this year, but he should be kept in the bullpen.
Even worse, the Giants gave up on Jerome Williams and David Aardsma, trading both to the Cubs for Hawkins. Williams won his first start with the Cubs last week. Aardsma, who was on the big league roster last year, is in the minors now. The Giants had high hopes for him, but were still willing to give him up for Hawkins, who is the reincarnation of Felix Rodriguez. I donít think I have to explain that to Giants fans.
Again, itís a continuation of their policy. Ainsworth was once their brightest prospect, but they let him go. (Ainsworth just canít stay healthy; heís on the 60-day disabled list in Baltimore now.) They praised Mossís upside when they traded proven veteran pitcher Russ Ortiz for him, but they gave up on him in three months.
The one young pitcher theyíve shown patience with is Noah Lowry, who has struggled this year after going 6-0 in the second half last season. Meanwhile, they gave up on Joe Nathan, theyíve shuttled Brad Hennessey back and forth from here to the minors, they gave up on Ryan Jensen, who won 13 games for them in 2002. (Jensen is now with Kansas City.)
Itís difficult for young pitchers to develop if theyíre fearful that a couple of bad starts will put them in the minors. Itís the same with young players. I used the Nick Swisher/Todd Linden comparison last week, and itís still valid. Swisher struggled early with the Aís but remained in the lineup, and now, heís hit five homers in nine games and his average is rising quickly. Linden is probably only a couple of hitless games away from being sent back to Fresno.
What will it take for Giants management to face reality? I would have thought the sweep by the Aís last weekend, including the biggest shutout loss in San Francisco history, would have opened some eyes, but the day after, Brian Sabean was still talking about waiting longer for this team to ďdefine itself.Ē Earth to Brian: What more evidence do you need?
THIS IS NOT a matter of ďrunning up the white flag,Ē as the newspaper headlines insist. Itís more a matter of making moves that will make the Giants competitive again in 2006.
There are two relevant examples from the recent past. In 1996, on a 94-loss team, rookies Bill Mueller, Rich Aurilia and Marvin Benard got playing time which helped them become important contributors to the 1997 division-winning team. In 1985, the Giants lost 100 games, but the next year, Will Clark, Robby Thompson and Jose Uribe joined a team that improved by 21 games. By 1987, by which time Matt Williams was a rookie, that team won the NL West; by 1989, it was in the World Series.
The Giants need to stick with young players like Linden, Lance Niekro and Jason Ellison, and they also need to be more patient with young pitchers, whether itís Foppert or Matt Cain and Merkin Valdez, if they bring either or both up.
I donít regard this as ďback up the truckĒ time. The Giants should not trade Jason Schmidt, Moises Alou or Omar Vizquel, all of whom can be important parts of a resurgent team in 2006. They probably can't get anything significant for Marquis Grisson and Michael Tucker, but both should be gone before next season.
They should dump Sanchez and his metal glove right now; even at $20,000, this guy was no bargain. They should continue to try to trade Ray Durham, probably to an American League contender who can use him as a designated hitter; itís hard to see anybody trading for him to play second. That would allow them to play Edgardo Alfonzo at second when heís off the DL and leave Pedro Feliz at third, where heís most comfortable.
It would be nice if they could trade Kirk Rueter, but there are two problems: (1) Rueter is a 10-5 guy (10 years in the majors, 5 with one team), so he can veto a trade he doesnít like; and (2) Other teams have seen him pitch.
For sure, when their contracts are up at the end of this year, the Giants should release both Rueter and Tomko. Enough is enough. Give the young pitchers, who have some upside, a chance to show what they can do.
And, they should face the grim reality: Barry Bonds almost certainly will not be able to play regularly in the outfield, so he canít be counted on as the player to build the team around any more. If Bonds sets a career home run record, it will have to be as a DH for an American League team.
THE GIANTS have feared that any talk of rebuilding will turn off their fans, but I donít think they give their fans enough credit.
If the comments Iíve received are any indication, their fans have realized the dreadful truth about this yearís team a lot sooner than Giants management has. The empty seats at Giants games show how turned off fans are by the product thatís been put on the field this year.
Fans want to see some young faces, and they want to have some faith that theyíll see a better, more watchable team next year. The Giants need to be planning for that, instead of trying to patch up a team that has no chance for the postseason.
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