Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not so big Giants

Brian Sabean, the Isiah Thomas of MLB decision making, believes the Giants can compete this year. Unfortunately, I must respectfully disagree. In a season which was supposed to be reminiscent of a rotting fish, is not quite that, but still close enough to give off that foul odor which those things do so well. The Giants are currently a whopping nine games under .500. Sure they are in 3rd place in the West, which last year meant being a game away from making the playoffs. However, it's highly dubious that that can be considered some sort of accomplishment when the teams below you are tied for the fewest wins in the majors, and you're only one win greater.
The Giants' current struggles stem from their inability, past and present, to provide their minor league system with young talent, in an era where it appears that in order to be successful one must have an abundance of good, young talent (See Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Cubs, Rays, Angels, Marlins, etc.). The horrid gamble by Sabean and Magowan that age and experience was the recipe for success led to the depletion of the minor league system. That gamble, coupled with their failure to draft half-decent position players, has led to their current dire state. Early on these mistakes were covered by the blanket of success. However, since the Giants began there descend to the bottom cellar of the baseball world, which already included the likes of the Royals, Pirates and Nationals, these mistakes have never been so transparent.
Instead of mitigating the damages, the Sabean-Magowan duo tacked on to it in a major way: Locking up Barry Zito for seven years and $126 million. The Zito signing was highly questionable, especially considering the left-hander was getting progressively worse since 2002. My theory for why they made the signing is that it was a feeling of nostalgia for signing a player named "Barry" to a record contract.
When the Giants finally realized that they were driving their franchise into the ground, which unfortunately did not happen until after the 2007 season, it was too late. The team was already stockpiled with had-beens and never-will-be's. There are only a handful of players worth having: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina and Fred Lewis. Some players look promising, but the jury is still out on them: Brian Wilson, Jonathon Sanchez, Noah Lowry and Merkin Valdez.
Sure the pitching looks good, but that won't mean anything until the team can score enough runs to win games. The Giants have only recently begun to add relevant hitters to their minor league system. However, these hitters are at least two years away from contributing. By then, Molina will most likely be gone and Rowand will be near the twilight of his career. So, barring beneficial offensive additions through free agency, there is a significant chance that in three years the hitting may be exactly where they are today. One may believe that signing free agents should not be too difficult for a franchise with the park, tradition and money such as that of which the Giants possess. However, the modern approach to dealing with good, young hitters has been to sign them early and sign them cheap, delaying their free agent status for several years. The optimist may argue that the Giants can trade for their offense. That would be an ingenious idea if there were players in the organization other teams would want besides Lincecum and Cain, but there aren't.
So what should the Giants do? Well the first thing they can do is stop playing the elders who are irrelevant to the team's future, such as Winn, Vizquel, Durham, Aurilia. I suspect the Giants are attempting to showcase them in order to use these guys as trade bait come July. Though it is doubtful that anybody decent may be obtained in return. So, replace these guys with the kids and see which ones can play and produce on a consistent basis. Once the year has ended, decide who are keepers and who are not. Then do the exact same thing next year, while at the same time looking for free agents and those who may be acquired through trade to help. It may take three to four years before the Giants can be successful again, but this is the path the Sabean-Magowan duo chose through their inauspicious moves. Until then, the best the organization can hope for is fielding a mediocre team. Boy, the near future is looking bright for the team in the Bay.

No comments: