31 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #22: Matt Cain, SP

I sing the song of Matt Cain, the longest tenured San Francisco Giant, whose quiet intensity is the glue that binds together the best starting rotation in baseball. (Yeah, I said it Philly. What?!) Dude is money. If Matt Cain were an ice cream flavor, he'd be chocolate chip cookie dough — smooth and classic like vanilla, with some sweet and sticky chunks of good stuff all up in there. If he were a piece of furniture, he'd be my grandma's rocking chair — an old soul, but steady like a rock. If he were a carpenter (lol), he'd build a monument to stand for all time. He's the "Shotgun". The "Cainer". "The Fro". And he was the backbone of the Giants' postseason run.

This is Matt Cain's line over three October starts (one in each round): 2-0, 21.1 IP, 13 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 7 BB, 13 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, .160 BAA. Nailed it.

If it's safe to say the Giants' World Series Championship can be attributed in no small measure to the strength of their starters, then it's safe to say that their run to the 2010 championship began in June of the last year they went to the World Series: 2002. That was also the year they made Matt Cain their first round pick in the draft. Straight out of high school in Alabama, Cain rode the bus for a few years, honing his skills and lighting up hitters from Hagerstown to San José to Norwich to Fresno. (I remember calling the San José Giants ticket office one day while Cain was here just to make sure he was pitching. The girl on the other end of the line said, "I dunno. Lemme check." She came back a few moments later. "We dunno." Poor her. If she'd been paying attention, she might've witnessed the beginning of something wonderful.)

When he finally got his cup of coffee in 2005, Matt Cain was striking out 11 batters per 9 IP for the Grizzlies. He took a 2-1 loss to the Rockies in his first start for the Orange and Black, but it wasn't for lack of effort. A Matt Holliday homer and a run-scoring double play were enough to beat the Giants that night, thanks to a lack of offense that would quickly become a trademark of Cain's starts. He rebounded to win his next two outings, and entered 2006 with a guaranteed spot in the rotation.

Here's what Matt Cain did for los Gigantes from 2006-08: 98 starts, 608.1 IP, 528 K, 3.85 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, .237 BAA. That for a team that went 219-267 (.451). So it's no surprise Matt Cain's record over that time was 28-32 (.467).

Here's what Matt Cain's done for a team that's gone 179-145 in 2009-10: 66 starts, 441 IP, 348 K, 3.02 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, .226 BAA. His record? 27-19. And btw, he's thrown 200+ innings each of the past four years — with a career-high 223.1 in 2010 — and lowered his hits and walks in each of the past three.

My point? I've heard all sorts of fools popping off about Matt Cain not pulling his weight. I've seen him lost in the shadows of Big Time Timmy Jim and B-Weezy. I've listened to people who don't know a damn thing about baseball try to tell me we should trade this guy for some prospects and a bucket of beer. But all of that stopped around about the end of last year. That's when he took the stage with all the weight of 56 years of hopes and dreams resting on his shoulders, and the longest-tenured Giant didn't flinch.

Thanks, Matt.

30 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #23: Jonathan Sanchez, SP

I sing the song of Jonathan Sanchez, who continued to flash signs of brilliance while Giants fans waited for the other shoe to drop. When Philly phans started jumping on "Dirty" before he'd even thrown a pitch in Game 2 of the NLCS, you knew it wasn't going to be a good night. He survived the opening inning with minimal damage, but he was throwing hordes of pitches, and he had that familiar look in his eyes — you know, the one that screams: "What the f*** am I doing here in front of all these people?!" It was only a matter of time before that proverbial shoe hit rock bottom...

Meanwhile, I was at a California Dems rally featuring Bill Clinton and Gavin Newsom, registering voters on an iPad and following the game via my pocket radio and the ScoreCenter app on the ol' iPhone. (No, I haven't thrown down for a Slingbox yet.) As every other person in line saw my orange and black lid and earbuds, I was peppered with questions about the score, and it suddenly hit me that the Giants had begun to usurp the public consciousness of the Bay Area. We'd been waiting so long for a winner — since the 49ers last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in the mid-90's — that any significant championship run by any of our local teams created a bandwagon of epic proportions. This would culminate with a Million Fan March on City Hall in early November, but as I braved a light drizzle, doing my civic duty while the most important game of the year played out in my ears, it was still just a thought, a notion, a hope. Sometimes, that's enough to bring a community together. Okay, off my soap box. Back to Dirty...

Pop quiz: Which starter led the Giants' rotation in ERA and BAA in 2010? (Cue Jeopardy! theme...)

If you had Jonathan (freaking) Sanchez, you're right. I've said all along that this guy has the best natural stuff on the squad, and I've taken a number of hits for it, but the numbers are starting to prove me right. In fact, the 27-year-old bundle of nerves has improved his IP, W-L, ERA, HR/9, WHIP, and BAA every year since becoming a full-time starter in 2008, and 2010 was easily his finest season as a pro (13-9, 3.07 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .204 BAA). It's no secret to fans that Dirty has been a different pitcher since he no-hit the Padres in '09, and he's slowly but surely continuing his epic trek to consistency. Without much fanfare, he has become a legitimate front-line starter.

On any other team — except perhaps the Phillies — he'd be a No. 1 or 2. With the Giants, he's still No. 3 (and after #MadBum's October, perhaps he's slipped to No. 4 in the hearts of fans and bloggers). That's not only a testament to the strength of the rotation but a commentary on his reputation. If he has more starts like his season-saving performance in Game 162 and less like the epic collapse at Citizens Bank Park, he's going to make a lot of money in this league, and he's going to help his team reach the promised land. Let's hope he's got an SF on his cap when that day finally arrives.

Thanks, Dirty.

29 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #24: Barry Zito, SP

I sing the song of Barry Zito, who transferred to 'SC from UC-Santa Barbara the year after the Trojans' last National Championship and still got a bullpen named after him. Barry and I were classmates, but God strike me down if I ever came across the guy, on campus or off. I didn't follow the team all that much in those days. Didn't follow baseball much in those days. Never much cared for the A's colors — green and gold? Really? But ever since he came across the Bay, I've felt an affinity with "The Other" Barry.

Here's a perfect little conundrum that sums up the paradox that is Barry Zito's tenure with the Giants: In April, he had a WHIP of 0.88 and an opponents' batting average of .187. In September, he posted a 1.19 WHIP and a .189 BAA. Pretty similar months. So why was Zito 4-0 in April and 1-3 in September? And why did he fall apart before our very eyes when we needed him the most on the season's final weekend?

There are a lot of reasons one could cite. As might be expected, Barry went deeper into starts at the beginning of the season than he did at the end (35.1 IP in April vs. 26 in Sept.). By the end of the dog days of summer, he was ceding control of the game's outcome to the bullpen, for better or worse. In April, Zito did something he'd never done in a Giants uniform: he went an entire month (of more than one start) without allowing a home run. He gave up two bombs in September. He struck out just as many batters in September as he did in April, but his September yielded three more walks than his April. These are all minor factors, to be sure. But baseball is a game of details, moments in time that turn a game, a homestand, a season around. More often than not, those moments have not broken Barry Zito's way since his arrival at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

But who's gonna cry for a guy making over $18 mil a year? Not me. Not you. And certainly not Barry Zito. How do I know? Because he was right there in the clubhouse crowd spraying champagne and beer on his teammates and talking humbly to the press like the professional he is. I can't help but think that's a little of the 'SC education wearing off. Wait a minute... What education? This is U-S-C we're talking about here...

Thanks, Barry.


A short note to commemorate my 100th post in this space. Pretty freakin' sad that it's taken a year and a half to get to this point. Here's hoping the next hundred are in the bag by Opening Day. Of course, if that came to pass, it would likely mean the Giants were faced some sort of unforeseen existential development between now and then... Okay, maybe I'll just pledge to talk to you more. After all, communication is what drives any marriage.

Thanks for reading.

28 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #25: Cody Ross, OF

I sing the song of Cody Ross, the best waiver claim in the history of Major League Baseball. Who woulda thunk it that one of those Giant killers we love to hate would suddenly be thrust into the role of messianic October hero? Yet there he was, popping a pair of jacks off Roy Halladay to lead the Orange and Black to a Game 1 victory in the National League Championship Series. (Btw, as reported in many other reputable news outlets, Cody Ross spelled backwards is Ssory Doc.) And now it seems he's here to stay — at least for another year. But seeing as how we've only had the guy in the fold for a couple months of ball, who's to know what he could do over a full season with this Band of Misfits? (Hardcover out soon — pay Baggs his money!) And what a couple of months it was...

After being plucked off the Marlins' roster — primarily to keep the West-leading Padres from improving their chances down the stretch, it took #RossIsBoss a good little while to crack into the regular outfield rotation. Fans will recall that over the first three weeks of September, Jose Guillen was getting the majority of reps in right despite his gimpy legs and inconsistent bat. But Cody proved that patience is a virtue, contributing in key situations and waiting for his chance to shine. That chance came when Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean decided it was in the team's best interests to keep Guillen off the postseason roster and plant Ross in right field. Permanently.

That's how it came to be that Cody Ross hit .294/.390/.686 for the postseason, that he was crowned NLCS MVP, that he lifted the trophy with all the little flags on it into the night on November the 1st in the year of the Giants. A-freaking-men for waiver claims!

Thanks, Cody.

27 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #26: Tim Lincecum, SP

I sing the song of Tim Lincecum, who fought through the roughest season of his life and survived to show us why he's a two-time Cy Young winner, leading the league's finest pitching staff through a rousing September pennant chase and one of the most memorable postseason performances in baseball history — well, certainly Giants history. Matt Cain had the 0.00 October ERA. #MadBum had the shock and awe of youth. "Dirty" Sanchez had the attitude — when he wasn't being mocked by the road crowds. But "Big Time Timmy Jim" drew the toughest assignments and came out on top (nearly) every single time.

How good was Lincecum in the 2010 playoffs? Good enough to beat fellow Cy-Youngers Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee a combined three times — and I'd posit that he out-dueled the Doc in Game 5 of the NLCS, despite taking the loss. In NLCS Game 1, he brushed off the wolf whistles and tasteless mockery of Philly Phanatics to twirl a 7-inning gem. In the decisive Game 5 of the World Series, Timmy struck out 10 over 8 innings, allowing only a solo homer to Nelson Cruz before giving way to Weezy in the 9th. For my money, that beats his 14-K night against the Braves to open the playoffs. I was at the Cove for the NLDS game, and I can attest that Timmy was electric. After a leadoff double, Atlanta had none chance, and with a 1-0 lead, our dynamic young hurler had zero margin for error. But deep in the heart of Texas, under the brightest of lights, against a pitcher nobody on earth thought could be beaten — let alone twice in the same series — this kid made the entire sports media universe eat a big helping of crow. The picture above tells the whole story. Edgar Renteria was the hero of the evening, but only one Giant deserved to be carried off on the shoulders of his teammates.

It's amazing to look at that picture and think back to just two months before it was taken. You'll recall that in August, Lincecum put up what were easily the ugliest stats he'd ever posted at any level: 0-5, 7.82 ERA, 1.82 WHIP. Most disturbing of all: opponents hit him at a .311 clip. That's not getting it done if your name's Todd Wellemeyer. But if your name's Tim Lincecum, it's an existential moment. Throughout his career, questions of durability have followed this guy like flies trailing a water buffalo. He only slipped to the Giants with the 10th overall pick in the '06 draft because six other teams — that's six — passed on him in favor of another pitcher. (So far, the only one of those six making any waves is Cal's own Brandon Morrow, drafted by Timmy's hometown Mariners and now with Toronto.)

It's no secret why six teams (!) got cold feet over a Golden Spikes winner and the Pac-10's all-time strikeout leader. If you listen hard enough, you can hear every scouting director's exact words: "He'll never last with that funky windup." Well, Giants fans who've come to know their Ace and his dedicated father, Chris, understand that the funky windup is what transforms Tim into Timmy and Timmy into Big Time Timmy Jim. We've read Verducci's SI cover story. We've listened to "Father Knows Best" with Mychael Urban — sadly no longer a part of Giants weekend broadcasts on KNBR. Most of all, we've watched this kid as he's developed into our team's first superstar since Barry Lamar Bonds. And those of us who've been on his bandwagon from the start know one thing for certain: Tim Lincecum's not going anywhere except up, up, and up. And as he goes, so go your San Francisco Giants.

Sure enough, when he took to the bump in September, Timmy had made the adjustment every great player needs to make early in his career, once the league starts to catch on to what he's doing. Over his final six regular season starts, the Freak went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, and .201 OBA. He didn't have to skip a single start or work out the kinks in the bullpen. He did it on the fly, in the middle of a pennant race, with all the eyes of the baseball world watching and waiting for him to fall to pieces. No doubt, this team would not have hoisted the Commissioner's Trophy without contributions from all 42 men who wore the orange and black in 2010, but there is no one player who meant more to their success than this guy. We knew that before the season even began, but that god awful August made it abundantly clear. Take him out of the mix, and this team doesn't even sniff the postseason.

Thanks, Tim.

26 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #27: Denny Bautista, RP

I sing the song of Denny Bautista, whose season in the Sun with the Giants can be summed up in a single lede: "The Giants designated reliever Denny Bautista for assignment to create roster space for Todd Wellemeyer, according to the team on Twitter." Now, that's not to say the dude was god awful for the Orange and Black in 2010. In fact, he posted some decent numbers. But anyone who's a fan of efficiency in baseball need not buy a ticket to see Mr. Bautista. Aficionados of strike-throwing relievers might also find themselves more than moderately frustrated with his inability, on occasion, to locate the strike zone with a compass and map. Bottom line: The eventual World Series Champs couldn't build a better bullpen around a cohort of guys they couldn't predict. They already had enough characters as it was. After they gave him the ol' DFA, Denny refused to accept an assignment to Fresno and became a free agent. He'll try to make it back to the Show with the Mariners this year. I wish him the best of luck.

Thanks, Denny.

Countdown to Scottsdale #28: Matt Downs, IF

I sing the song of Matt Downs, who doubled in his last AB for Los Gigantes de San Francisco before being DFA'd in August, ostensibly to make room for Mike Fontenot on the 40-man roster. I should know. I was there. A beautiful Sunday in June. The Giants beat the A's behind three jacks, two from Aubrey Huff.  Downs doubled with one out and got to third on a sac fly before Andres Torres stranded him with a whiff. Par for the course for this 36th-round draft pick out of Alabama. He filled in admirably through a rocky May, plugging holes in a leaky middle infield that featured more hammy pulls than a rodeo — I don't even know what that means, but go with it — and he always had a winning smile for his teammates. Now, when he's walking down the street, Giants fans will smile back.

Thanks, Matt.

25 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #29: Eugenio Velez, UTL

I sing the song of Eugenio Velez, who began the 2010 season as a platoon starter and ended it as an afterthought — one of those guys in the pictures of the World Series victory celebration who you'll have to identify for your grandchildren one day. In his short time with the Orange and Black, Velez became such a fan favorite that his recent defection to the Hated Ones at Chavez Ravine drew nearly as much ire as that of NLCS hero Juan U-RIBE (more on that to come). Velez — or "Count Chocula" as he came to be known by fans, bloggers, and talking heads alike — consistently impressed with his speed and clutch hitting, particularly the over-sized power he generated with an under-sized body. Few of us will forget the sight of a dude listed as 6-1/162 sending the rawhide flying into the Arcade like a Sally Struthers infomercial version of a certain juicer, er, future Hall of Famer. But even fewer of us will miss E's haphazard behavior on the base paths, his inability to play left field with even a modicum of confidence (or skill), and his uncomfortable-looking batting stance. (Don't try this at home, kids.)

One of my happiest memories of Eugenio came in a game I left early — and referenced in Countdown #42 — last April in Los Angeles. The G's had gone down early and big to the Hated Ones, and though I hated to do it, I had to return to the downtown convention center to fulfill my duties as a California Democratic Party delegate. As I inched forward in standard LA traffic on the 110, I tuned in to Doyer radio to catch the last few innings. Trailing 10-3 entering the 9th, the Giants scratched out a pair of runs and had another pair on base with two out when Velez went yuck-a-doo and launched a rally-killing homer 400-plus feet into the night. I nearly drove into the center divide in excitement, but I managed to pull off the freeway and stop the car in time to hear Renteria end the game with a grounder back to the pitcher. If the boys had pulled out a W that night, I probably wouldn't have forgiven myself...

Typically, my colleagues at McCovey Chronicles hit the proverbial nail on its head with this post shortly after Velez signed with the Doyers. I'll leave you to chew on that as we all look forward to Opening Weekend, when we get an answer to the age-old question: "How would Count Chocula look in blue?"

Gracias, Eugenio.

Countdown to Scottsdale #30: Mike Fontenot, IF

I sing the song of Mike Fontenot, the little guy with the funny face who toed the line at the hot corner and found his way into a lot of other roles down the stretch for the eventual World Series Champs. The product of a waiver trade with the Cubs, Fontenot only had to travel between clubhouses at AT&T Park to complete the deal since the Northsiders were in San Francisco at the time. (Dude even mashed a two-run double to help beat the O & B the night before.) As a Giant, this former first-round pick hit the lightest .282 a man could hit down the stretch, posting a .329 OBP and only slugging .310. Due to a lack of depth from the left side of the plate and the need to spell an overweight and overwrought Pablo Sandoval, Fontenot landed on the postseason roster and can even claim to have appeared in a World Series game — though he didn't get a chance to bat. The thought of bringing back this funky hombre doesn't exactly get my neck hairs standing at attention, but I'm willing to admit it's not a bad idea to take out some insurance on Camp Panda Redux.

Thanks, Mike.

24 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #31: Chris Ray, RP

I sing the song of Chris Ray, who didn't allow a run over his first five appearances in orange and black after the trade that brought him to the eventual World Series Champs and sent longtime backstop Bengie "Big Money" Molina to the eventual American League Champs, setting up what turned out to be an anticlimactic showdown some four months later. Though he didn't toe the rubber in October — or November, for that matter — Mr. Ray will long be remembered as a footnote in the verbose chapter of Giants lore that will one day pertain to one Gerald "Buster" Posey. Prior to the July 1st trade, the Giants were 40-38 and floundering in fourth place in the West, 5.5 games back of the Padres. From that day on, with Posey as the everyday catcher, los Gigantes went 52-32. When you're chewing on those numbers, does it really matter that Chris Ray posted a double-digit ERA during the dog days of August? Or that he's tied with Matt Cain for the shortest name on the 2010 club? Or that he could've been a hero on the second-to-last day of the season, when he tossed 2.1 scoreless in relief of an ineffective Barry Zito in a game the Giants nearly stole to clinch the West? Nope. Not a damn bit.

Thanks, Chris.

Countdown to Scottsdale #32: Javier Lopez, RP

I sing the song of Javier Lopez, who came to San Francisco as a LOO-GUY (Lefty One Out Guy), only to become the most dominant and reliable southpaw in the 'pen, eventually setting up Brian "Weezy" Wilson in October. While Jeremy Affeldt was the lockdown heart and soul of the 2009 Giants relief corps, he took a significant step back in the miracle '10 season and gave Brian Sabean a little added work around the trade deadline. Of course, in situations like these, Sabes knows just who to call: the Pirates' front office. Within a matter of hours, the eventual World Series Champs landed Lopez for a couple Quadruple-A players (John Bowker & Joe Martinez), and after the addition of Ramon Ramirez, the bullpen went from potential liability to one of the club's greatest strengths. It'd be nice to think Giants brass knew all along the benefits they would reap when Lopez mowed down Jayson Heyward, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Josh Hamilton, and every other lefty slugger he faced during the postseason run. And maybe they did. But needless to say, some of us in the fringe were not pleased at the time of the deal. Maybe that's why we're out here in cyberspace and Sabean still has a corner office at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Well played, sir.

Thanks, Javier.

23 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #33: Mark DeRosa, DL

I sing the song of Mark DeRosa, who came to the Cove to make an impact with his bat and ended up doing it with his heart. Remember when DeRosa went yard on Opening Day in Houston? Neither did I! That's because the most enduring memory of Mark DeRosa's 2010 Giants season — and quite possibly his entire career — is of the guy in the black team hoodie, rushing to the top step to greet his teammates every time they did something worth congratulating. And while it's a very simple gesture, it's a gesture that can't be made if you're not in the building. When he finally succumbed to the knife, DeRosa could have easily slipped away home to sit on the fat checks our team was obligated to cut him. But he stayed, and to paraphrase John Wooden: the game revealed the character of the man. Perhaps he'll start 100 games this year. Maybe he'll ride the pine. Either way, you can't blame a healthy guy when his body falls apart due to the vagaries of time.

Thanks, Mark.

Countdown to Scottsdale #34: Ramon Ramirez, RP

I sing the song of Ramon Ramirez, who was great when all we needed was good. The 'pen was tired. No, they weren't tired. They were gassed. The team as a whole was cruising, but each game was bruising, and entering August, everybody was playing in slow motion. In the final days before the non-waiver trading deadline, Brian Sabean dipped into his bag of tricks and started dealing. One of the pieces he plucked from the rosters of the Red Sox — and other unwitting contributors to the Giants' success — was this pitcher with an alliterate name. All he did was give up 2 ER over nearly 27 IP down the stretch for the eventual World Series Champs. He didn't have quite as good a time in October, but we won't hold that against him. After all, it turned out pretty good for us.

Thanks, Ramon.

22 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #35: Madison Bumgarner, SP

I sing the song of Madison Bumgarner, and there's really not much else to say. The dude is epic. From a wingspan of Amazonian proportions to the badger-imitating snarl of his windup to his eternal cool under the brightest of lights on the game's biggest stage, this kid exemplifies a professional demeanor that is so very rare among the very very young. The results in 2010 were pure brilliance.

Madison (or #MadBum to the Twitter faithful) was drafted out of high school in the first round of the 2007 First Year Player Draft, alongside Tim Alderson — who came to pro ball from college, a bit more polished, but without the natural talents of his younger contemporary. Both of them began a steady rise through the ranks, reminiscent of a Cain or a Lincecum, but as the Giants seemed poised to add a pair of stellar arms to their rotation, Alderson's numbers began to wax and wane, and he was traded to the Pirates as part of the deal that netted Freddy Sanchez.

Suddenly, Bumgarner's success was sacrosanct to Brian Sabean's ability to measure and evaluate talent. If he'd been an absolute flop, it could've been the final nail in the coffin for current club leadership — at least with the fans. And yes, there were growing pains, particularly due to an unhealthy obsession with velocity during Madison's first cup of coffee in September of 2009. The fact that the kid was at the end of the longest season of his life didn't seem to register in the rumor mill. The common (mis)perception was, "He's a bust."

So when #MadBum didn't crack the rotation out of camp, it surprised only the very hopeful, and it was likely the best thing that ever could have happened to him. Along with Buster Posey, Bumgarner formed a tandem that came to the big league club like the spoils of a blockbuster trade in which the Giants didn't give up a single thing, tried and tested and ready to lead the team down the stretch to their eventual destiny. And when he returned to the bump at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, he brought the heat, wrapped in a little orange bow.

I could go on, but there are still so many stories to tell... Suffice it to say that we can't hide #MadBum from the world any longer. After that World Series performance, he's probably the best known fifth starter in Major League Baseball. Don't worry, we'll get into the Zito Affair later in the countdown. For now, just let me say...

Thanks, Madison

21 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #36: Brandon Medders, RP

I sing the song of Brandon Medders, who looks kinda funny but pitches like he means it. Try though he did, Brandon just couldn't make 2010 his year. Luckily, the rest of the team was able to pick him up a bit. And if he's lucky, he'll even get a ring for his troubles. If he does, it might make the night of May 19th sting a little less. That's when he gave up 6 runs and a pair of jacks over one horrific inning of janitorial duty in Phoenix. The next day, Brandon was back in Fresno. The irony of his season — and likely his Giants career — ending in the ballpark where he made his name as a member of the D'backs did not escape your buddy Butch.

Thanks, Brandon.

Countdown to Scottsdale #37: Joe Martinez, P

I sing the song of Joe Martinez, who took a line drive off his face and lived to tell the tale. Between Todd Wellemeyer and Madison Bumgarner, there was Joe Martinez. He was brought up from the Grizzlies to spot for Wellemeyer after the latter pitcher came up with a gimpy quad somewhere between home and first and halfway through the month of June. He got pretty well lit up in his one and only start and was relegated to the bullpen before being shipped off to the Pirates in the deal for "The Other" Javy Lopez. In July, he bailed out Jonathan Sanchez after Dirty gave up a 5-spot over 3.2 in D.C. Little Joe somehow kept a clean sheet over 1.2 innings despite 3 hits and a pair of walks, but didn't factor in the decision when the Giants rallied late to win 10-5.

Thanks, Joe.

20 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #38: Todd Wellemeyer, SP

I sing the song of Todd Wellemeyer, who did his college pitching for Bellarmine — related in name only to the alma mater of Pat Burrell, Kevin Frandsen, and yours truly — and joined the eventual World Series Champions to fill a very specific need: seat warmer. Madison Bumgarner had the inside track for the 5th Starter gig, but his Spring doldrums suggested he wasn't quite ready for prime time. So he got a few more months to mature in the Central Valley while Mr. Wellemeyer was busy posting one of the starkest home-road splits in recent baseball history (ERA: 2.97 home/10.07 road; OBA: .213 home/.323 road). Still, if you're gonna suck, it's best not to do it in front of the faithful. In that regard, this half-year rental was a smashing success. And when he eventually hit the turf with a sidelining injury, his timing could not have been more perfect for facilitating the emergence of #MadBum.

Thanks, Todd.

Countdown to Scottsdale #39: Ryan Rohlinger, IF

I sing the song of Ryan Rohlinger, who rode the perpetual yo-yo from Fresno to San Francisco and occasionally fought his way into the lineup when Pablo Sandoval was in one of his deep slumps or neither Uribe nor Renteria had a healthy hammy between them. His only RBI was an afterthought in a game at Citi Field during an ugly May road trip that Aaron Rowand won with a late home run. The 6th-round pick out of Oklahoma is likely nearing the end of his options in orange and black, but at least he can walk away with a ring.

Thanks, Ryan.

19 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #40: Darren Ford, PR

I sing the song of Darren Ford, who took second on a bunt, third on a short-hop pitch, and home on an errant throw, and in the process propelled the World Series Champs to a critical September victory. On a team with slow gaits and cranky legs, this guy's speed stuck out like a sore thumb the minute he landed at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. I can picture the "Say Hey Kid" marveling at the speed of the young Mr. Ford, musing under his breath, "You know, once upon a time, I could run just like that..." He may not be able to hit a lick in the bigs, but thanks to Bruce Bochy, we may never find out. Thanks to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, at least he's got a fighting chance.

Thanks, Darren.

Countdown to Scottsdale #41: Emmanuel Burriss, IF

I sing the song of Emmanuel Burriss, who returned from the dead (aka the 60-day D.L.) to bat .400 down the stretch — in five ABs — for the eventual World Series Champs. In an era when African American Major Leaguers are about as rare as a magnanimous attorney or a buffalo nickel, Manny became the first product of the Washington D.C. public school system to play in the Show since 1981. I must admit to being none too pleased when he slipped into the second bagger role after Kevin Frandsen tore his Achilles in the Spring of 2008, but it's hard to hate on a guy with a smile as big as a house. Not sure yet if he's got the staying power, but I wouldn't bet against him, and I wouldn't stand in his way.

Thanks, Manny.

18 January 2011

Countdown to Scottsdale #42: Waldis Joaquin, RP

I sing the song of Waldis Joaquin, who I had the pleasure of seeing get lit up at Chavez Ravine on April 16th while on sojourn from the California Democratic Party Convention. He wasn't alone that night. The only Giant getting anything done was Geno Velez, but that was long after I'd retired to Chano's. In his four games with the 2010 team, Dub-Jay did manage to collect a hold, in his first appearance, on the second day of the season. I can't believe I'd forgotten it.

Thanks, Waldis.