Sooner or later, I'll get around to writing my thoughts on the San Francisco Giants' 2009 season. Right now though, there's still some unfinished business i.e. the Los Angeles Dodgers. As long as their season lives on, the final flourishes haven't been brushed on the Gents' season.
That's not to say I define the San Francisco vis-a-vis the Bums, but—as any die-hard fan of los Gigantes must acknowledge—if the Dodgers were to win the World Series, the Orange and Black year takes on a grayer hue.
Heading into the postseason, there was a real risk of seeing that hideously beautiful blue infect the Fall Classic. Granted, with the New York Yankees blasting their way though the American League draw, the chances of the Bums winning were never high. Nevertheless, anything can happen in a seven-game Series so merely seeing LA there would've been too close for comfort.
Thankfully, the Philadelphia Phillies are a couple shovels of dirt away from officially burying the Bums so it doesn't look like I'll have to confront that spectacle. Yet, until the fat lady's belting out those last notes, I don't want to jinx anything so I'll hold off on eulogizing San Francisco's 2009.
Instead, there's already plenty to talk about as the ship moves toward 2010.
First the bad news—management decided to cut bait on hitting instructor Carney Lansford .
At first blush, this seems like a reasonable and intelligent move for a franchise that boasted one of the worst offenses in Major League Baseball. No need to go into the specific rankings; suffice it to say the Giants ranked in the bottom three of the National League in basically everything.
"Bottom of the National League" might as well mean "bottom of baseball" given the designated hitter bloating AL offensive metrics so opening up the field doesn't help the fellas. Nope, the boys produced with the bats as if they were toothpicks.
Anyone who blames Carney Lansford for the anemic output wasn't paying attention.
Tell me a batting coach that could've gotten MORE out of a lineup featuring Bengie Molina as the clean-up hitter, essentially a rookie as its best hitter in the No. 3 spot (Pablo Sandoval), and then...well...almost nothing.
Juan Uribe? Nate Schierholtz? Aaron Rowand? Eugenio Velez? Travis Ishikawa? Edgar Renteria?
These were the best options after Big Money and Little Panda—Ryan Garko did nothing after coming over via trade, Freddy Sanchez came over for a ride on San Francisco's shelf, Randy Winn fell off a cliff, and Freddy Lewis' glove kept him from figuring prominently.
The organization took a Ferrari engine and dropped it in a 30-year-old, rusted-out El Camino only to blame the mechanic when it broke down at the finish line.
If you wanna get downright technical about it, the offense actually over achieved given that "arsenal" of splinters. I'm serious—there were several (very) brief stretches when the hitters carried the usually dominant pitching.
To fire the guy who squeezed a glassful of water out of the rocks he was given doesn't make any sense to me. I would've liked to see what Lansford could've done with another year to work with the improving young hitters (Emmanuel Burriss, Ishikawa, Sandoval, Velez, Lewis, Schierholtz, etc.) as I would've like to see what the former AL batting champion could've done with the greener prospects like Buster Posey.
Unless this is a precursor to bringing in special hitting consultant Will Clark for permanent duty (pure speculation), I hate the move. Of course, I will quickly become its loudest proponent should the Thrill grace the club with his presence and acumen.
Fortunately, this is the lone swing-and-a-miss of the offseason thus far by the Bay.
San Francisco ownership saw fit to extend both Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy for their fine work. Not only did both men get extensions and the explicit votes of confidence, Bill Neukom and company wisely didn't go overboard—issuing two years worth of leash to Sabes and Boch, alike.
For more extensive discussion of the extensions, you can check out the Roundtable discussion on the contracts.
In short, the team's surprising success in 2009 demanded Sabean be rewarded for shrewdly assembling a talented group capable of taking large developmental strides earlier than expected. Meanwhile, Bochy demanded recognition for nurturing that talent and guiding it along on its development.
Both sets of hands were instrumental in San Francisco's meteoric rise back to respectability after several years firmly entrenched in the Major League cellar.
Most importantly in Bochy's case, this is a franchise light on leadership.
Tim Lincecum is the Gents' best player, but it's tough for a starting pitcher to assume the mantel of leadership. He's only on the field every fifth day and he almost needs to mentally check-out in the day or two following his start in order to recover psychologically as well as physically.
Molina is the heart-and-soul of the squad, but who knows if he'll be around in 2010 and, even if he is, Big Money isn't quite good enough to have everyone's unconditional ear.
Sandoval is nearing the caliber of player that requires obeisance based on performance in addition to sheer personality, but he's not there yet.
That means the manager's voice must be as sound as any when it comes to leading the troops and Bruce Bochy has that kind of credibility in spades.
By guaranteeing that Boch and Brian Sabean will be in the fold for at least the next couple years, the San Francisco Giants made two wise decisions. Jettisoning Carney Lansford seems to fall on the other end of the spectrum, but there's plenty of time to rectify the error with a promising new coach.
By my count, that's two major wins against one minor loss.
And that's a pretty good count for something big...