The Lights Went Out in San Francisco: A Power Outage, and the "Other" Tim

Bret BledsoeCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2009

"I seem to smell the stench of appeasement in the air."
—Margaret Thatcher

Well said, Mrs. Prime Minister, well said.

It might seem overly simplistic, even boorish, to apply a quote from the former leader of England to baseball, but I (as well as many before me) say that "desperate times call for desperate measures."

At least they do for Giants' GM Brian Sabean.

After watching his team struggle through a post-All Star Game road trip, then witnessing the anemic Giants offense stumble and bumble its way through a miraculous home series sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates, you can't really blame Sabean for trying to make improvements (with the goal of making the playoffs, of course).

It is his job, after all—but the emphasis is on making legitimate improvements, which, contrary to "hysterical mob" belief, are not restricted to the short-term variety.

Sometimes, the best method of improving is merely standing pat—after all, 29 teams fail to win the Fall Classic every year, and you can bet that a few of those teams made foolishly shortsighted deals sometime around the 31st of July.

Recently, the Cardinals and Phillies, also NL playoff hopefuls, traded for big-name stars to help lead them to the baseball's Elysian Fields—which prompted a flurry of whines and cries for Sabean to procure a similar star.

Never mind the fact that the Cards and Phils traded away some of their best young talent in acquiring Matt Holliday and Cliff Lee, respectively.

Never mind the fact that, for all intents and purposes, each of these teams probably sabotaged their plans for the future by rolling the dice on approximately half a season of potentially ambiguous success.

Never mind the fact that the current Giants' system was set up to be most successful in the 2010 baseball season.

Instead, the rabble-rousers and malcontents, masquerading as actual Giants fans, applied even more (inexplicable) pressure to Sabean to do something, anything, to propel the Giants into October play—after all, if you don't make a trade deadline deal, you aren't serious about contending for a title.

Facing all of this, combined with the Giants' poor hitting over the course of the Pittsburgh series, Brian Sabean finally acquiesced to his incessant detractors by first acquiring Ryan Garko, then Freddy Sanchez, over the last few days.

Now, I am not for a moment suggesting that Garko and Sanchez aren't good players, or that they won't help to alleviate the Giants' obvious hitting woes.

Nor would I be so foolish as to suggest that these men are not upgrades from the players previously occupying their positions.

No, the Giants fans deserve to be galled because the acquisition of these players failed to fill the actual need.

In most of these deadline deals, it seems like the GMs are, metaphorically, "putting a Band-Aid on an axe wound"—that is, not adequately fulfilling the gaping needs that need to be met.

But Sabean failed to even get his proverbial Band-Aid near the metaphorical axe wound. Instead of picking up a power-hitting compliment to Pablo Sandoval, Sabean chose to trade for a player who is outstandingly similar to the players already in the Giants lineup.

Sanchez is a wonderful hitter—he proved as much by winning the N.L. batting title in 2006—but he is badly lacking in the slugging category.

And, in case you haven't noticed, this is the department where the Giants need the most help.

In all likelihood, the title of this article is something of a misnomer; a more appropriate title would be "The Lights Have Been Out In San Francisco For The Last Two Years and Nothing Has Been Done To Turn Them Back On." But that wouldn't fit.

Regardless, let's consider the cold hard facts regarding the Giants' performance.

Looking at the team statistics for the year so far, you can tell that the Giants are, interestingly enough, in the smack-dab middle in terms of batting average—so, obviously, BA is not the reason the Giants score so few runs.

Rather, it is OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) that the Giants need most. As it stands, they are next-to-last in the NL, only trumping the lowly Padres—and that doesn't even hold up.

If you count the park-adjusted OPS, the Giants become dead last in terms hitting the ball hard and getting on base (if you're wondering, this is because the Padres play in the cave that is PETCO Park).

Home runs? Forget about it. San Franciscans haven't seen much of the long ball since one Barry Bonds roamed near the Chevron car; even the Padres absolutely demolish the Giants in this category.

In fact, the Giants only hold superiority over the New York Mets in terms of homers (apparently, the fences of Citi Field extend to the edge of Queens).

Wouldn't it stand to reason, then, to get some help in the slugging category for the remainder of the season?

This would seem to be the logical solution, right—someone with a high OPS?

Apparently not, as neither Garko (.813 OPS in '09) nor Sanchez (.776 and only six home runs this year) fit the description.

To be completely frank, in terms of offensive statistics, the Giants have effectively acquired two more Aaron Rowands—and, though he is a good player, Rowand isn't capable of being the cornerstone to a solid lineup.

Despite all this, who Sabean traded for isn't the chief reason to be upset. 

Nay, out of all the reasons to be angry with the GM, it shouldn't even be in regards to the caliber of the players gained, but rather the players given away—namely Tim Alderson and Scott Barnes (the latter to a lesser extent, though).

In case you didn't know, the "Other Tim," a right-handed pitcher, was drafted by the Giants in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2007 MLB Amateur draft.

Over the last few years, Alderson has matured into the Giants second-best pitching prospect, only behind the sublime Mad(ison) Bum(garner).

As of late, Tim has really hit his stride, compiling a 7-2 record with a 3.58 ERA in High Class A and AA ball, over the 2009 campaign thus far.

It was quite likely that, along with Bumgarner, Alderson would become a mainstay of the Giants rotation for years to come—instead, he now seems poised to soon become the ace of the Pirates pitching staff.

Somehow, Sabean deemed that Alderson, a top-notch prospect (rated as high as 22nd overall), was worth trading for a decent fielding second baseman who can hit for average.

Oh, here's the kicker—did I mention that Sanchez is set to become a free agent following the 2009 season?

Almost all the indicators are pointing to this deal being Sabean's next Pierzynski Trade—giving up (an) eventual star(s) for a player of uncertain value, and even then for a short period of time.

The only question to ask, then, is "Why?"

As far as one can assume, there are a variety of answers to this—each possessing a certain measure of defensibility, but none of them sufficient.

For baseball fans, the answer would be the horribly inconsistent, poor, and unacceptable play at first and second base.

Indeed, the combination of Travis Ishikawa, Rich Aurilia, Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen, and (primarily) Matt Downs has left a lot to be desired on the right side of the Giants infield. Writing an entire article blaming these players for the trades wouldn't be hard, nor far-fetched.

This is why, in principle, trading for solid, reliable everyday players at first and second wouldn't be a poor idea—the issue is with who was acquired, and at what cost, as I've already previously explained.

Still not excusable, but at least somewhat understandable—especially in the wake of the obscenely bad (1-10 hitting with runners in scoring position) showing by the Giants offense on Wednesday afternoon.

However, a more dark, cynical, and pessimistic possibility also lurks within the realm of possibility...

...That Sabean had no reason not to make a trade.

Think about it: the 11-year Giants GM is in the last guaranteed year of his contract (with a club option for 2010)—so this puts Sabean in a no-lose situation.

If the Giants fail to make the postseason this year, there is a significant chance of him not being rehired anyways—why not just go out and snatch up a few players to appease the masses, future-be-damned?

Should the Giants make it to the playoffs, even the World Series, then the trade would be hailed as genius, and as the season-changer for the Giants (which is a possible enactment of the post hoc fallacy).

On the flip side, if the Giants fall short of the mark, Sabean won't be around to see the aftermath of trading away two pitching prospects, one of them practically major-league ready.

Effectively, there's no need for Sabean to go down without firing off a final salvo, at least as far as he is concerned—and he certainly accomplished that.

For fandom, especially S.F. Giants fans, it would be nice to think that this is more than a "legacy trade," specifically designed to be all-or-nothing...But it's a distinct possibility.

Of course, this is all speculation.

It is still entirely possible that Sanchez and Garko could lead the Giants on a valiant postseason charge, culminating with San Francisco's first World Series pennant—in which case I'd happily eat my words.

Such endings, however, are more typically found a bit further south in California.

You might know this place as Hollywood.


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