Giants Still In Fantasy Land
by Glenn Dickey
Aug 01, 2005

ALL TOGETHER now, how many of you think that the trade for Randy Winn will turn the Giants’ season around?

Yeah, me too.

It’s not that Winn isn’t a good player. He’s a decent hitter with speed and a little pop, and he’s a good defensive left fielder. Notice, I said left fielder. He played poorly in center when the Mariners used him there, which caused them to shift him to left. The Giants, though, will play him in center. They apparently think anybody can play the position, having used Alex Sanchez there earlier.

The trade shows again that the Giants management – general manager Brian Sabean is the obvious target, but the blame really goes higher, to micro-managing general partner Peter Magowan – believes that the team still has a chance to win the National League Worst.

Unfortunately, that’s true. My friend Marty Lurie contends that the worst thing that happened to the Giants this season was the collapse of the Padres because that made the Giants think they still had a chance for the postseason despite their dreadful record, third worst in the 16-team National League.

The Chronicle had an interesting graphic today, showing that the Giants, though only 5 ½ out, would be anywhere from 14 (American League East) to 23 ½ (AL Central) out with their 45-59 record if they were in another division.

The comparison with the AL West is especially interesting. If the Giants were in that division, they’d trail the Angels by 14 ½, the A’s by 13, the Rangers by eight – and be tied for last with Seattle.

If the Giants were in one of the other divisions, they’d have to face reality and start preparing for next season. In this one, they can continue their delusional ways and think they can still make the postseason by winning the division.

And, if they do? Well, remember that the Giants are actually worse than their record. Almost half of their schedule, 76 games, is played against teams in their division, not one of whom is even at .500. In the East, all five teams are over .500. In the Central, four are – and divison-leading St. Louis has the best record in the league. If the Giants were playing a round-robin schedule in one of those divisions, their record would be even worse.

THE TRADE also shows that the Giants are continuing their practice of giving up on their own young players.

That includes Jason Ellison, who has been one of the Giants’ few bright spots this season. Manager Felipe Alou signaled his lack of faith earlier when he said Ellison wasn’t strong enough to stand up to a full season, and again, when he welcomed Marquis Grissom back to the roster and talked of how Grissom could help the team down the stretch. He must not have been watching Grissom before he went on the DL. Simply put, Grissom can’t run well enough to cover enough ground in the field any more.

Now, Ellison will be the odd man out, with Winn in center, Moises Alou in right and Pedro Feliz in left. Feliz, of course, is another example of the “age must be served” policy of the Giants; he’s playing left because another overpaid veteran, Edgardo Alfonzo, came off the disabled list to play third.

The list of abandoned young players also includes Yorvit Torrealba, who should have been the starting catcher last year. Instead, Sabean made a disastrous trade to get A. J. Pierzynski. Before this season, he signed Mike Matheny, who is probably the best defensive catcher in the league but, though Matheny has been surprisingly productive at bat, he’s not a significant upgrade over Torrealba. Remember all the talk about how Matheny would be such a help to Giants pitchers? The staff ERA is 4.86. And Giants pitchers always talked about how much they liked to pitch to Torrealba.

Sabean also gave up another young pitcher, Jesse Foppert, and once again, we can see the difference in how the Giants treat their young pitchers and how the A’s do.

Though the A’s will sometimes shuttle lesser pitchers up and down, general manager Billy Beane told me a couple of years ago that they don’t bring up a top prospect unless they think he’ll stay.

Tim Hudson and Barry Zito came up in midseason, but they were obviously ready; Hudson was 11-2, Zito 7-5. Mark Mulder came up early in 2000 and didn’t have a good year, 9-10, 5.44 ERA, but the A’s kept him in the rotation and the next year he was 21-8.

Rich Harden came up in late 2003, worked through his problems last year and is now the top pitcher on the staff. (He was sent down for one game at the start of last season but that was only to give him a chance to pitch; as the No. 5 starter, he wouldn't have gotten a start in the first two weeks of the season, when the A's had two off-days.)

This year, Dan Haren and Joe Blanton struggled early, but they stayed in the rotation, and now they’re part of a staff that, overall, may be the A’s best in the Beane era.

Meanwhile, Giants pitchers are on a yo-yo. Foppert was a starter but was injured and had Tommy John surgery. This year, he was sent to Fresno at the start of the season, then brought up and put in the rotation – but a couple of bad outings had him banished to the pen and then back to Fresno.

That’s the way it is with the Giants. Kevin Correia, who was here in 2003, was brought up again as a starter but soon found himself in the bullpen, even pitching in the ninth inning, which makes no sense at all. Don’t be surprised to see him back in Fresno soon.

The Giants do seem to be exercising patience with Matt Cain, who has struggled with his command though he’s been very effective at Fresno when he gets the ball over the plate. Though a lot of fans are eager to see Cain, as I am, it’s probably better to let him work through his control problems in the minors.

But for the others, it’s up and down. They never really get a chance to show what they can do. It makes no sense. If you have confidence in your evaluation of a pitcher, why not let him work through his problems – especially in a year as bad as this one.

THAT’S NOT the Giants way, though. They continue to pretend that their old philosophy of using veterans is working, even though it is clearly failing. They should be looking at what kind of team they’ll be putting on the field next year, but they’ve made almost no progress on that, so there will be some huge questions next year.

Welcome to the theatre of the absurd, Randy.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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