Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Struggling Organization: San Francisco Giants

Boy they have fallen a long way from the 2002 World Series. No more Barry Bonds moon shots, no more Barry Bonds/Jeff Kent dugout fights, and most importantly, the herds of media no longer cover the Giants. They arent that interesting or that good. Yes Barry Bonds was an out of this world player (with some help from our good friend Mr. Steroid), but how did the Giants fall this fast? I mean, wow, they will finish with 70 wins this season and thats about 10 more than I thought they would. What in the name of Emmanuel Burriss is going on here?

Free Agents
Believe it or not, the Giants history of fiscal irresponsibility started well before the Barry Zito signing. We can go all the way back to the glorious Barry Bonds years to try and figure out how in the world the Giants did not win a World Series with Barroid playing that well? The answer is simple: the supporting cast was never good enough to win a championship. Just take a look at some of these absurd contracts:

2003: Edgardo Alfonzo (4 years/$26 mil)
Michael Tucker
2004: Ray Durham (3 years/$21 mil)
2005: Mike Matheny (3 years/$9 mil)
Omar Vizquel (3 years/$9 mil)
Armando Benitez (3 years/$24 mil)
2006: Matt Morris (3 years/$27 mil)
2007: Barry Zito (7 years/$126 mil)
Dave Roberts (3 years/$18 mil)
Rich Aurilia (2 years/$8 mil)
Benjie Molina (3 years/$18 mil)
2008: Aaron Rowand (5 years/$60 mil)

What do these guys all have in common (besides Zito)? They are all old. Yes, they have had good careers, but they are all past their prime and into their thirties (even Zito looks past his prime). So should it really be any shocker that the post 2002 Giants have been marked by inconsistent play, poor performances, and injuries? I think not. I understand the importance of trying to win now, especially with an aging Barry Bonds, but simply throwing money away on over the hill veterans is not a smart move for various reasons (we'll get to them later). I can honestly say that very few of those guys listed has come close to earning his pay, which is a major strike against GM Brian Sabean. I do like Aaron Rowand alot because he plays hard and is a winner, but is he really worth $60 mil? I dont think so.

And yes, we will devote an entire paragraph to Barry Zito. While the contract is absurd, I actually cannot kill the Giants too much on this one because I, for one, was advocating for my Mets to go after Zito. I would have gladly given him 5 years/$90 mil at the time; and wow am I ever glad that the Mets didn't. He looks like a shell of his former self and there is really no rhyme or reason for it. He's not hurt, which is good. But at the same time, the Giants have no idea why his velocity has suddenly dropped 5 MPH or why his pinpoint control suddenly disappears. Simply put, this is a contract that will kill the Giants for the next 5-10 years if they continue to get nothing out of Zito.

Here's the thing about the Giants over the past few seasons, they make virtually no trades. The only trades worth mentioning are the acquisitions of Russ Ortiz, Dustin Mohr and Shea Hillenbrand. Oh yeah, Mohr and Hillenbrand are not currently playing in the big leagues right now. How could one team make so few trades over a five year period? GM Brain Sabean essentially decided to build his teams around Barry Bonds, some decent players, some free agent acquisitions, and whatever he could get out of the farm/AAAA players. Doesn't sound like a great plan, does it?

Because of the way baseball free agency works, teams usually cannot sign quality players without giving up draft picks in return. As a result of the Giants ridiculous spending, they have given up their first round picks in 2003, 2004, and 2005. It is virtually impossible to add talent to the organization when you give up the opportunity to add high caliber guys. I could understand losing picks if you sign guys like Carlos Beltran or Alfonso Soriano, but do you seriously want to lose draft picks for signing Michael Tucker, Omar Vizquel, Mike Matheny, or Armando Benitez? Not me.

Fortunately for Giant fans, the teams has drafted two tremendous young arms in the first round-Matt Cain in 2002 and Tim Lincecum in 2006. Cain has the makings of an ace even though he has expereinced some problems in his first few seasons. Look for him to develop into a solid 1 or 2 in the next few seasons. The real prize for the Giants has been Lincecum, who since being called up last season has developed into a bonified ace. Armed with a unorthodox delivery, Lincecum combines a 95 MPH fastball with a devestating breaking pitch that makes him unhittable at times. What makes Lincecum even more impressive is that he looks like he is 15 years old and in no way does he look like a professional athlete. But wow is he fun to watch.

And it looks like GM Brian Sabean has finally learned that giving up draft picks is not the way to build a franchise. The Giants have has two very good drafts over the past two seasons by picking up future studs: SP Madison Bumgarner, SP Tim Alderson, 2B Nick Noonan, and C Buster Posey. While they may be years away, hope is on the horizon for the Giants.


(The Giants have a solid future ahead of them, but they will be burdened by the Zito contract for years. I see them struggling over the next two seasons, but by 2011 they have the potential to compete. If Zito regains his form, watch out)

*And please Mr. Sabean, no more ridiculous free agent signings. Build through the farm.*

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