Bonds Trade, A's Pitching, Schmidt, Zito, Rueter
That didnít stop at least two writers for Bay Area newspapers from speculating that Bonds might be traded.
What a crock. There is zero chance that Bonds will be traded. When he was re-signed late in the offseason, I wrote that the Giants had to make that move because they desperately needed Bonds, both for what he brought to the lineup and as the only relief from fans having to watch a dreadful team.
If anything, thatís even more true now. Bonds is the one power hitter in the lineup. When he was hitting home runs at a pace similar to his great run in the 2001-2004 seasons, the Giants were respectable. Since heís cooled off, the Giants have plummeted to the bottom of the National League West, 11 Ĺ games off the lead as this is written and a stunning six games behind fourth place Colorado.
And, even though heís cooled off, Bondsí chasing of Hank Aaronís record is still the only consistent story line for Giantsí fans. The early buzz about their young pitchers, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, has abated. Cain is pitching very well, only two runs yielded in his last two starts, but has lost both of those games because the Giants couldnít score. Lincecum is struggling, with the typical problems of young pitchers. Heíll be fine eventually, but it will take some time.
Of course, even if Cain and Lincecum are lights-out, theyíre only out there two games out of five. That boring Giants lineup is out there every day.
I continue to be astounded by the Giantsí bad decision-making and bad evaluations. They have scouts looking at other major league teams, but I have to wonder what theyíre looking at.
A couple of examples. The first is Barry Zito, the $126 million pitcher. Giants manager Bruce Bochy keeps saying Zito has to get his pitches down Ė but Zito has never been that kind of pitcher. Heís always thrown high in the strike zone, which is why he gets so many fly balls. Havenít the Giantsí scouts told Bochy that? Didnít they notice?
The other example is from last year, when the Giants signed Shea Hillenbrand. Frankly, I didnít know much about Hillenbrand because I hadnít seen much of him, and because I concentrate on watching the home team when Iím at Giants or Aís games. But once Hillenbrand came to the Giants, it was quickly evident that he was a hacker at the plate, with a low on-base percentage that was more significant than his batting average, that he had below-average power for a first baseman and that he was a poor defensive player. He also had the reputation of being bad in the clubhouse, though that didnít show during his brief time with the Giants. Itís a mystery why the Giants would even trade for him, but they gave up Jeremy Accardo, who is now doing an excellent job as a closer for the Toronto Blue Jays.
So, that brings us to this year, when they re-signed Ray Durham and apparently expected him to duplicate his career year of 2006. Yeah, thatís really working. They signed Ryan Klesko and Rich Aurilia, both of whom are on the downside of their careers. So, with Mark Sweeney still here, they essentially have three backup first basemen.
What in the hell is going on here?
So now, thereís a lot of fan and media pressure for the Giants to trade off some of these guys and bring up young players from their farm system. There are a couple of problems with that. The first is that the Giantsí veterans have little or no trade value. Bengie Molina is the only one other teams might covet, and heís too valuable to the Giants. The other is that the players the Giants have brought up in the last few years have been either failures or career backup types. (Itís too early to tell on their last callup, Nate Schierholtz.)
For sure, Bonds wonít be traded. Even if the Giants wanted to trade him, nobody else wants him. Other clubs werenít interested in him as a free agent. Why would they now trade for him and give up players of value?
Itís a moot point, anyway. The Giants need him desperately, and they know it.
AíS PITCHING: Itís really no surprise that the Aís pitching, which had been the best in the majors, has fallen off in the last week. It was only a matter of time until starters like Joe Kennedy and Lenny DiNardo faltered. Because they lack overpowering stuff, with fast balls that top out at 86-88 mph at best, location is vital for them. If they canít keep their pitches down, they get lit up.
Similarly, pitching coach Curt Young has had to trot out a lot of wannabes from the bullpen with both closer Huston Street and setup man Justin Duchscherer on the disabled list. Duchscherer is apparently close to returning. Street is more problematical. Though Alan Embree has done surprisingly well as the emergency closer, the Aís postseason chances are obviously much better if Street returns.
The top of the Aís rotation has been superb. Dan Haren is probably the best starter in the league right now and Joe Blanton has continued to improve in his recent outings. Chad Gaudin has been remarkable and, unlike Kennedy and DiNardo, has the pitches to continue to be successful.
The obvious key for the Aís is getting Rich Harden and Esteban Loiza off the DL. Both are close, but even healthy, it will take time for them to get ready because theyíll essentially be in the spring training mode.
I donít like the plan of putting Harden in the Aís bullpen at first. He needs to be in a rehab situation, either in Arizona or at Sacramento, where he can gradually build up his pitch count. He doesnít need to be in a situation where he might have to come in from the bullpen and thrown 95 mph.
It wonít be easy for the Aís to make the playoffs. The division-leading Angels have been playing better than anybody the past two months. Currently, the Aís are three games behind Cleveland and Detroit, who are tied for the AL Central lead, in the wild card race, and the Yankees have been coming on strong.
If the Aís have a healthy Harden and Loiaza in their rotation, they have a shot. But if Kennedy and DiNardo are still in the rotation in September, Aís fans wonít have a rooting interest in October.
DODGERSí FOLLY: When the Dodgers signed Jason Schmidt to a three-year free agent contract for $47 million, some in the media hailed that as a bargain.
Some bargain. Schmidt has pitched sparingly this season because of bursitis in his shoulder, going 1-4 with a 6.31 ERA. Now, heís going to have shoulder surgery. More and more, it looks as if the Dodgers are just going to have to eat that contract, because Schmidt is through.
That shouldnít come as a huge surprise. After Schmidt tied a Giantsí franchise record with 16 strikeouts in a game last June, he was an average pitcher the rest of the way. The smartest decision the Giants made in the offseason Ė all right, all right, against no competition Ė was not trying to re-sign him.
SORRY, WOODY: Earlier this year, I compared Barry Zito to Kirk Rueter.
I owe Rueter an apology.
SPORTS, CONCERT TICKETS: Tickets for the Giants-Yankees series, Friday through Sunday at AT&T Park, are available on the TICKETS! TICKETS! TICKETS! link at the bottom of my Home Page Ė as are tickets to the July 10 All-Star game and associated events. Tickets are also available for the various appearances of Diana Krall Ė June 20-21 at the Mountain Winery in Saratogo, August 14 at Harveyís at Lake Tahoe and August 15 at the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco Ė as well as tickets for hot summer concert tours featuring Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Norah Jones and Gwen Stefani. among others. Click on the Bay Area or national links below and the whole list will come up.
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