It’s been a year of futility. The departure of Barry Bonds has come as a mixed blessing. On one hand, the rebuilding effort that should have started three years ago is finally underway.
On the other hand, the team is dead last in the majors in team home runs with 80. Kansas City is locked into 29th place with a whopping 96.
We're 136 games into the season and free-agent acquisition Aaron Rowand leads the team with 13 home runs. Remember when Barry was knocking a ball out of the park every 10 at bats?
Rowand goes yard once every 10 games. He averages a home run every 35.8 ABs, which tops the position players still with the club.
Matt Cain’s number?
Rowand’s currently on pace for 16 HR. That would be the lowest total by a Giants' team leader since George "Highpockets" Kelley hit 11 back in 1920.
For any of you still holding on to the delusion that Sabean might be able to lure a big free-agent bat, forget it. The only sluggers making their home in San Francisco either play for the A’s, or they’re coming from Fresno.
Of course, all is not lost. Despite the fact that my neighbor’s four-year old thinks a home run is something that happens only when Tyler Walker runs in from the bullpen, there has been reason for optimism, and I haven’t enjoyed a Giant’s season this much since '04, when Matt Herges and Cody Ransom stood between the team and a playoff run...but I digress.
So I’ll stop babbling, and start, from top to bottom, with the players that make me excited for next year.
#55 Tim Lincecum
During the winter, rumors were circulating that Brian Sabean was looking to move him for Alex Rios (.291/10/60), yet somehow was able to pull himself out of the five-year manic episode that started during the playoff run of '02 (the ousting of Dusty Baker) and included both the Zito signing (which the press wants to blame on ownership, but Sabes could’ve easily resigned) and the infamous Nathan/Liriano/Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski trade.
(How much did I love Pierzynski? If I woke up tomorrow and read that he died of an overdose, I’d probably have a good chuckle...you think I’m kidding. If Sunday afternoon cinema has taught me anything, it’s that human life is cheap, and A.J. Pierzynski is the throw in with your purchase of the Awesome Auger.)
A year ago, I couldn’t sit through a game unless Lincecum was pitching. He was up and down, struggled at times, could only throw two different pitches, but he was always worth watching. If Sabean would’ve moved Lincecum over the winter, I wouldn’t be a Giant’s fan.
This year, he’s the best pitcher in baseball, he added a change up, he’s 24, and I don’t think he’s in his prime yet.
He’s special, and everyone in the Bay knows it.
#48 Pablo Sandoval
I’ve seen him play four times, and I already know he can hit on the major-league level. Thursday night, he hit back-to-back home runs with Molina, and after the game, they were interviewed as a pair (Big Money and Little Money).
I couldn’t understand a thing he said, and neither could inept sideline reporter Amy G, who promptly dismissed him so she could interview Molina.
#18 Matt Cain
A few years ago, I watched him come within four outs of no-hitting the Angels. He’s had multiple starts where he’s taken a no-hitter past the fifth inning, but hasn’t put it together yet.
Word is that he’s struggled to keep up with Lincecum, and that’s hurt his development. On top of which, to use the old cliché, he looks like he’s throwing, and that he hasn’t learned to pitch yet. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Unfortunately, he’s going to be shopping for a new contract in three years, and the Giant’s won’t have the money to sign him because the white elephant will still have two years and roughly $40 million left on his contract. Remember that when he’s pitching for the Dodgers in 2012.
#38 Brian Wilson
Critics point to his ERA of 4.00. I point to his 36 saves in 39 opportunities and the fact that Bochy is starting to bring him for those tough, four and five-out saves in the eighth. Just don’t give him a four-run lead to work with.
#33 Aaron Rowand
When the Giant’s PR department tailored their marketing of the '08 campaign around the concept of the “gamer,” a mythical, antipode to Barry Bonds, who substitutes things like talent for hard work, home runs for singles, W’s for L’s, this must have been inspired by Aaron Rowand, a throwback widely considered the toughest player in the league.
Great in the field, hits for average, hustles, plays hurt, and is far and away the guy you want at the plate with a runner on second and two outs. You may not win a World Series with Rowand in your five hole, but you can win if he’s your center fielder batting sixth.
#14 Fred Lewis
Every time Lewis refuses to shorten his strike zone with two outs and gets sent to the bench after a called strike three, Duane Kuiper pulls a tuft of hair from his scalp. I’m sure of it.
Lewis has been a pleasant surprise. He was given an opportunity to play everyday when Dave Roberts went down, (what a stroke of luck that was) and has hit .283 with 80 runs with an OBP of .353 and he’s stolen 21 bases.
The downsides to Lewis are his aforementioned strikeouts (120, eighth in the NL), and he’s inconsistent in the field. But all in all, he’s a talented player that should be a staple in left for years to come.
Now, if the Giants can find two or three hitters to fill out the heart of the order...maybe next year.
A couple of parting shots
MLB needs to overturn that base hit. Not only has Sabathia been cheated out of history, but we, as fans, have been cheated from watching Sabathia jump into the arms of catcher Jason Kendall, whom Sabathia outweighs by 86 pounds.
Speaking of Sabathia, he’s not going to win the Cy Young, but what about the MVP?
Are federal prosecutors really going after Greg Anderson’s wife and mother-in-law? This isn’t Al Capone we’re talking about here; it’s Barry Bonds, a baseball player.
While you’re going after the wife of a personal trainer that MAY have supplied a baseball player with steroids, why don’t you investigate the last two presidential elections, which have actual proof that laws were broken and the constitution was violated?
Could we get a federal prosecutor to investigate that, or is the integrity of the constitution less important then the sanctity of the home-run record?