16 February 2010

Butch's Hot Stove Report, Vol. 2

Now that’s what I call a deadline deal! I go to bed expecting to wake up to a perennial cycle that could have played out for four straight years: Tim Lincecum winning an arbitration hearing, then going out and winning another Cy Young, then winning another arbitration hearing, then going out and... well, you get the idea.

Point is, by the end of the four years he’s likely making somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 mil a year. Yeah, not pretty when you’re talking about team building and you have a hole in your offense so wide they could sail the goddamn Titanic through it, if they could get the blasted thing off the bottom of the ocean. Anyway, let’s roll...

Butch’s Top Ten Stories Between the Winter Meetings and Spring Training That Don’t Involve Unsubstantiated Rumors or Downright Lies

1. Lincecum signs 2-year, $23M deal on eve of arbitration hearing.

Okay, so I didn’t quite exhaust my thoughts on this in the intro. This deal works on so many levels. It reduces the Giants liability juuuuust in case Timmy, let’s say it gently, blows his freakin’ arm out. It also provides Tim with some job security and puts his mind at ease, at least for the 2010 season. And how could it get any better than $8M this year (the Giants arbitration offer) and $13M next year (Lincecum’s offer). The quick ones out there will do the math and realize there’s an extra $2M in the contract. To which I say, “Duh. You don’t think he’d sign without a fat guaranteed bonus.” That’s not to mention the incentives built in for when he goes out and wins another Cy Young, then goes out and wins another... well, yeah. Tim(e) will prove me right or wrong.

2. Sandoval not quite as... girthy... as everybody expected.

While I’ll never question the Kung Fu Panda’s dedication to the game, the jury’s still out for me on whether or not Pablo Sandoval can stay fit enough to compete at the extremely high level the one-and-a-half-year vet has already set for himself. That said, he did make it through Camp Panda, and he crossed continents to step up huge for the home town team, so I’m willing to give the big guy the benefit of the doubt. But in case you have any doubt as to why this is item Number 2 on my big freakin’ list, I invite you to have a gander at this video, then take a look at this stat sheet.

3. Giants somehow re-sign Molina, declare Buster will play other positions.

Another happy awakening: Bengie’s back. This had to happen. Don’t get me wrong, he’s slower than molasses in January snow, he’s not what he used to be with the glove behind the plate — if he ever really was — but he’s the only teacher this young pitching staff has known, and he’s always there with the big money hit at just the right time.

But now, you ask, what for with Buster? Well, we’ve heard a lot of things. We’ve heard he’d start in Triple-A and the team would pick up a vet to play backstop for one more year. Molina was considered long gone to the Mets when the market started to dry up, and word on the street was Buster might yet get the nod behind the dish on opening day. But in the midst of the darkest night, Sabes came through with a one-year deal for Bengie to sing a duet with the Kid, and the voices in the night were whispering that Buster would play a little first base, perchance...

4. Laroche rebuff.

Coulda called this one from a mile away, or maybe 421 feet. Getting any power bat to come out and play 81 games at Pac Bell must be a lot like trying to wrestle with a swordfish, only by the time you’re through, the fish either got away, or you signed him to a five year, $60M deal. So it should have come as no surprise when Adam Laroche, offered $17M over two years to hold down first base for the Giants, instead signed for one year at $6M with the D-Backs. I’m asked all the time why the Giants don’t make runs at the high-priced free agents anymore. “Why do they always settle for these middle-of-the-road drifters.” Because they’re the only ones who’ll come out and play in the notorious San Francisco summer for less than a song. And until we bring in the walls — which should never f***ing happen — we’ll have to live with developing top hitting talent in the minors and riding it for as long as we can before one-by-one they all slowly defect to parks with friendlier conditions for dingers.

5. Giants add some reliable offense, but wtf with Freddy?

The previous rant aside, I’m not here to rag on Mark DeRosa or Aubrey Huff, and you already know how I feel about Juan Uribe and Bengie Mo. I believe the Giants offense will be appreciably better this season than it was last season. That said, it’s not going to be the ’27 Yankees out there. We should expect a lot of 1-0 victories and 2-1 defeats, but I think with a little more consistency in the middle of the lineup, without relying on Panda and Bengie to carry the load, we could see a few more 4-3 and 5-4 victories. This team scored 4.05 runs per game last season. It doesn’t take a math major to figure out that even one more rpg puts us in the playoffs.

But it doesn’t take a baseball mastermind to see that this lineup rises and falls on the fate of its hinge, the glue, the guy in the two hole, the one they call Sanchez. I still believe his best says in the cream -colored home unis are yet to come, but he’s got a long way to go with the rest of you out there. Yeah, I read the comments on Extra Baggs, I check out McCovey Chronicles, I even read me some Haft Baked Ideas. Y’all just can’t help but hate on Freddy when all the guy wants to do is play. You think he likes being hurt? You think he likes gettin’ ragged on by someone eatin’ pork rinds and tossing them at the TV every time you don’t like the way a guy legged out or didn’t leg out a grounder? If you want someone to blame for the mess up to this point, blame modern science, because it’s not like these trainers don’t know what they’re doing. Alluvasudden, the guy became an injury magnet. Let’s just hope the bug doesn’t bite again, whenever he happens to return to the lineup.

In the meantime, Franny, anybody?

6. Sabean says MadBum will probably start 2010 in the rotation.

More of an update than news, actually. Once they, ahem, broke the bank to bring back Bengie, we were pretty sure to see the human bean stalk stalking the mound this season as the fifth member of the fearsome Orange and Black rotation that’s about to form like Voltron and annihilate National League West hitting. With Timmy as the head, Matt and J-Sanch as the arms, Zito as the heart, and MadBum as the legs, this ship cannot help but sail deep into games. Expect to see some hot dog wrappers collecting around the left field bullpen this season, ‘cause that mound ain’t gettin’ a lot of use.

7. Nasty Nate ready for prime time.

Nate Schierholtz has been my boy since 2007, which means I’ve been waiting for his moment just about as long as he has. And now, it appears to have come. A smoking hot run in the Puerto Rican league, triggered in part by some tweaks to his approach, has got his bat all caught up with his glove. Nasty Nate has become a complete player, and it’s going to be awful hard to knock him out of the opening day lineup unless Eugenio Velez learns how to crank Splash Hits or nail guys trying to stretch a double into a triple from a football field away all while playing the most dangerous right field in baseball like it’s his hometown sandlot in San Ramon Valley.

8. Lincecum beats the rap.

The photo at the top of this story is just too classic. The guy looks like something out of a Robert Redford movie, walking into a courtroom where the entire course of his life will be determined. In reality, he was facing a bulls**t pot charge, and he got off with community service, what with it being his first offense and him winning two consecutive Cy Young Awards and all. There was never any danger of this becoming an issue in the long term. I mean, seriously, when was the last time an athlete was convicted of anything that didn’t involve cruelty to animals? But it does bring up one serious question: If pot is such an abomination, how the hell can this kid smoke it and pitch like that 32 times a year? I s’pose we’ll get the chance to answer that question at the polls this November. Looks like Timmy could be in the clear, as long as he keeps it in Cali.

9. Dodgers owner enters divorce hearings.

10. ¿Franny se va?

Will he be traded? Will he be relegated to the minors? Will he end up in the opening day lineup subbing for an injured Freddy Sanchez? The questions persist for our most quixotic prospect. The pride of Willow Glen may well end up plying his trade for a competing corporate baseball entity, but he will always be a Giant.