Snakes, Rockies and Padres, Oh My

Welcome to Czar’s blog #14 of 2017

The worst team in history?  Not really

I’d like to start today’s blog by highlighting the team that really was the worst in history:

Cleveland Spiders, 1899 (20-134, .130)
This is the holy grail of bad baseball. In 1899, the owners of the Spiders purchased the St. Louis Browns franchise. They didn't give up their controlling interest in the Spiders, however, and decided to leverage their newfound conflict of interest by trading Cleveland's best players—to themselves. They decimated the Spiders' roster, sending the best players (including Cy Young) to St. Louis and fielding a team that became the worst in baseball history. After a 10-1 Opening Day loss, the Cleveland Plain Dealer pronounced on its front page "The Farce Has Begun." Had it ever.
The Spiders won consecutive games once all season. Home games were so poorly attended that other teams refused to travel to Cleveland to play them. As a result, the team played only 42 home games and were forced to play 112 games on the road, losing 101 of them. The pitching staff gave up 1,254 runs (averaging 8.1 per game), batters hit 12 home runs all season, and the Spiders set numerous other records that no team would ever want to own. In the end, the National League performed a mercy killing, disbanding the Spiders and three other teams as the league contracted from 12 teams to eight.

This puts it in context. The Spiders are now the Cleveland Indians, with the longest modern era winning streak since the 1916 New York Giants.  Doesn’t that make you feel better?

The G-men are currently last in the NL West (and worst in baseball, behind even the Phillies) and the two goals for the remaining games of the season are first, not to lose 100 games, and second, to have an effect on the battle for wild card in the upcoming series against the Snakes and the Rockies. Of course, the first choice in the draft may not be so bad either.

Personnel Issues to address in the off-season, and maybe in September

Will the Panda come back?  The jury is out, although with a .178 BA he is clearly not even hitting his weight.  It’s a no-loss decision for the G-Men to invite him to Spring Training, but the competition at 3rd base next year (Arroyo and Ryder especially, and lots of FA hopefuls) will be intense.

Will the Bullpen Improve?  Well, it can’t get any worse than it’s been this year.  There are signs of hope if (1) Melancon heals completely and can return to the form that caused the G-Men to spend all that money on him, and (2) Will Smith’s Tommy John operation is successful and he comes back like he should.  Coupled with a reinvigorated Sam Dyson and a slew of young relievers the bullpen should come around.  The issue will be finding dependable slots for the young arms so that they know their roles. 

Speaking of bullpens, did you see the dugout meltdown the other night by Eli Whiteside, the 2010 back-up catcher, current bullpen catcher and coach and Crash Davis clone?  It was a thing of beauty.  That is the kind of attitude that the Giants need to prosper. That, and either trading Hunter Strickland for a bag of peanuts, enrolling him in an anger management course or teaching him a second pitch.

Position player roulette?  The problem isn’t that we don’t have good position players, it’s that they aren’t playing well together.  The team has been out of sync all season. Belt is out with concussions, Hunter Pence is streaky, Span is fine when healthy but is slowing up and has a weak arm.  Add to that the fact that left field is a black hole and every rookie that has come up has gone back down injured (see: Parker, Arroyo, Slater) and you have a last place team made up of good players.  Crawford, Panik and Tomlinson (super sub) are not going anywhere, and Buster’s legend grows game by game.

The Pitching Staff, all that bad?  I don’t think that Bum is fully healthy. That is something to be addressed in the off-season. Cueto is apparently coming back and when he doesn’t have blisters he’s good.  Samardjiza is a flame thrower but Matt Moore (who cost us Duffy) is a lost cause.  There are also great young arms ready to break out – Stratton and Blach being on top of the list.  The bottom line is that the talent is there but is not performing.  Again, the team is out of sync.

The Coaching staff and the Front Office – is it their fault?  I do think that this is where the blame lies.  Bochy is a hall of fame manager but seems grouchier than usual this season (losing does that to you I suppose) and the front office hasn’t made any moves to really shake things up – like trading Bumgarner for Stanton (just kidding, but maybe not).  There will be a lot of questions to discuss before spring training 2018 rolls around.

The Snakes and Rockies – Battle for the Wild Card, or the Division!

This is why the remaining games of the season (until we get to the Padres, which will be baseball games played for pride and to prevent 100 losses) are important.

The Rockies are chasing the Snakes for the wild card, along with the Pirates and the Cardinals.  It is conceivable that three NL West teams could be in the playoffs and it’s up to the Giants to play well enough to see that doesn’t happen.  The Dodgers have clinched at least a wild card (and seem to be falling apart – did someone take Joba’s rum?) but these last series are critical, and the G-Men have a real role to play. 

Let’s see if the Gigantes can suck it up and make a statement.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

Giants v. Cardinals

Welcome to Czar’s blog #13 of 2017

It’s time to enjoy baseball like you did when you were little

Tonight, I watched the G-Men give it up (once again) to the “rebuilding” Padres (5 and 10 in 15 games against the Friars this year), with some truly epic errors, including two on one play that had the ball bounce off Tomlinson at third, go to Crawford playing deep short, who threw it in the stands in a “Nuke La Loosh” moment.  The boys left something like 12 men on base, and were blanked 5 – 0. This road trip against the Snakes (swept in Arizona) and the Padres ended up 1 and 5. That was not a good follow up to the 4 and 3 home stand against the Brewers and the Phillies last week.

I thought to myself, “why do I watch this game?”  I answered myself (the G-Men often leave one talking to oneself): because its baseball, it’s pure, the rules are exactly the same for both sides, you never know what will happen in any moment and it’s fair competition.  I’ve loved the game since Little League and always will.  I know that the Giants currently are really down but that will not last and every game offers a shot at redemption. This is a team with a lot of pride.

Approaching the game that way we can always look out for the moment when it all comes together for a team, or a player – the pitcher that hits a home run, the rookie that gets his first hit, the sparkling defensive play to save a game, the perfect Jon Miller story.

We are little once again enjoying a pure child’s game in a world dominated by strange adults. Let’s enjoy it that way for the next month, keep speculating on the moves that management is looking to make and then gear up for the playoffs (where I expect to be rooting for Dusty and the Nationals – he deserves it).

I for one am looking forward to Friday night when rosters expand and the kids from Sacramento arrive eager to prove themselves in the big leagues.

The Rumor Mill continues on Stanton

Right now most of MLB thinks that the Giants are the team best situated to make a run at Stanton, presuming that the Derek Jeter owned Marlins want to dump salary and pick up a boat load of players. I don’t think that any player (except Bum and Buster perhaps) is off the table in a trade, and having a draft pick in the top three won’t hurt either if that’s what is needed to make a trade. I am well aware that we are talking about next year but we have to; the Gigantes were officially eliminated from the playoffs last week. 40 games back will do that to you.

The 4-Game series against the Cardinals

The Cards are in third place in the NL Central (6 games back behind the Cubs and the Brewers), and playing .500 ball. Realistically, they are out of the playoffs.  However these are two of the original baseball franchises, and are both proud teams.  This will be a hard fought series. Tomorrow night is Bumgarner (2.33 ERA) versus Wacha (4.33).  Friday the rosters expand and the Cards are bringing up their phnom from the minors (Flaherty, a 21 year old fireballer with a 2.13 ERA in the minors).  It will be a fun four game series!

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

The Phillies and the Brew Crew starting on Thursday night

Welcome to Czar’s Blog #12 of 2017

The Big News- Giancarlo Stanton cleared waivers!!!

OK, that’s no guarantee that the G-Men would pick up his $325 million contract (which is why he cleared waivers) but would he look good in the Orange and Black, or what?  That would be a move equal to the 1993 move that got Barry Bonds from the Pirates and rejuvenated the entire franchise (and kept them in San Francisco).  Stanton is a pure stud hitter and he has a legitimate shot at Bonds record.  When I saw him hit at AT&T I was blown away AND he hits right handed, which is the shortest porch at AT&T. He would protect Buster, probably start in left field and eventually move to right when Pence retires or moves on.

Enough of the dreams…

Where are the Giants right now?

Last place is not a good place to be but the Giants are playing good ball, and are enjoyable to watch.  They took three straight 2 to 1 series at home (from the A’s, the Snakes and the Cubs) and lost two series on the road 1 and 2 to the Nationals and the Marlins. Yes, that is the definition of a .500 ballclub but at this point in the season it is what it is (and it is better than six weeks ago).

However, it is ALWAYS worth it see a Buster Posey AB or throw from behind the plate.  Without Buster’s stabilizing influence who knows where we would be.  It’s fun to watch Buster get the Barry Bonds treatment (intentional passes in clutch situations).

The pitching is coming around.  Bum is back, Blach and Stratton look like starters in the future, Melancon is off the DL, Dyson was a steal (thank you Rags) and Samardjiza continues to pitch like a Notre Dame wide receiver.  Clearly the coaching staff is setting up for next year; and that’s what they should be doing.

At some point this year we will have to say good-bye to Matt Cain.  He’s been a stalwart Giant for 10 years, has earned three rings and pitched a perfect game.  He goes out with his head held high. I will miss him.

The DL – the bane of this Season but time to let the players heal, and the kids learn

Belt, Morse and Panik (all concussions), Cueto (blisters), Slater (Groin strain), Gomez (inflammation) and Smith (Tommy John) are all out and there is no good reason to rush them back. Let the Sacramento River Cats, San Jose Giants and the Richmond Flying squirrels see what they can do in the show. 

I like what the brain trust is doing.  Management is methodically testing every potential star in the system to see who rises above – Jarret Parker looks good, Ryder Jones looks adequate. Gomez is an interesting prospect but I’m not too sure that those behind them are ready.

The Panda experiment – working better than expected

Pablo came back appropriately chagrined and apologetic.  He was accepted in the clubhouse and he brings energy to the field.    He’s not hitting his weight yet but maybe that will come. Myquestion is whether or not he is keeping the hot corner warm for Arroyo, or if he may be a trade chip for Stanton.

The Series – the Phillies and the Brew Crew

The Phillies are in a rebuilding year, to put it mildly. They are the only team with a worse record than the Giants and their sole goal appears to be to get the number one draft choice in the spring draft.  Rebuilding year is being kind. They are being torn down to the ground.  They are coming off being swept in San Diego, losing a series to the Mets 1 and 3, and losing series to the Angels and Rockies in August.  The probable Giants pitchers for the 4 game series are Samardjiza on Thursday. Moore on Friday (when I’m going), Blach on Saturday and Bum on Sunday.

Then the Brewers come into town for a three game series.  The Brew Crew may be fading a bit but they are in a death match against the Cubs and the Cards for the NL Central crown (the three teams are a game and half apart). They will be in Denver before coming to AT&T.  They have strong hitters (Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw, Pina and Santana, among others), decent pitching and they are motivated.  This will be a good series.  Expect the G-Men to look for redemption by knocking a contending team out of the playoffs.  That will also be the theme through the end of August and through September.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

 

 

From the Lair with Love - A's and Snakes

Welcome to Czar’s blog #11 of 2017

 

This is a very short blog because I am up in the mountains with the slowest possible internet connection. However baseball stops for no man.

Where are we heading into this week?

Last place says it all. We did split the last homestand 5 and 5, but followed that with three straight one run losses (including tonight in extra innings) to the team that resides in LA and does the wave. You can’t say that the G-Men aren’t trying.  They have more extra-inning games than any other team in baseball but the injuries and the bad karma have taken their toll. It is time for prayers and maybe a human sacrifice or two. Let’s take a vote on the sacrifice, shall we?

Extra Czar’s credit for the most creative choice.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

The Giants Return Home on Monday for 10 Games

Welcome to Czar’s blog #10 of 2017

 

It’s now the second half of the season, is there still hope?

There is always hope but competing for a play-off spot is a dim dream that would require a winning streak never before experienced in MLB.  What there is hope for is another 2 and ½ months of solid baseball where the G-Men are hitting, the pitchers are dealing, the runners are being advanced and the fans are in the stands drinking great wine and eating crab sandwiches on a bright summer day.  This is San Francisco after all.

As the introduction to the Czar’s blog archive on our website puts it (we can’t be reminded too often):

“…They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”  - Field of Dreams

What do the Giants Need to compete?

Power bats.  That is what is missing.  Only Posey is hitting as well at home as he is on the road. Recall the days of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent when the G-Men had as many dingers as anyone in baseball.  That is no longer the case. No one has a really good explanation (and blaming the park is bogus) but it’s clear that we need boppers.  Watching Stanton during the Marlins series was an eye-opener.  He reminded me of the great Giants hitters of yore, from Jack Clark to Will Clark to Matt Williams to Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent. I would salivate over seeing Stanton in a Giants uniform.  Not going to happen but we can dream.

I’m not the only one who has noticed the lack of pop.  I suspect that as Bobby Evans starts to wheel and deal for position players in the minors this need will be foremost in his thinking.

The Pitching in the second half

Bum is back tomorrow, and has two months to make up for his egregious motorcycle ride in Colorado.  Is he chastised?  I tend to doubt it.  Will he come back with a chip on his shoulder?  Undoubtedly.  A stud pitcher makes everyone better.

Cain is moving to the bullpen and will be a spot starter as his career winds down, and he seems fine with that (so are we). Cain has had a lot of good years in the Orange and Black, and he will eventually be on the wall on King Street.

If Samardjiza and Cueto don’t get traded (and they won’t unless the price is really good – Cueto has gone on record as saying that he wants to stay) the rotation could end up being what it should have been all year- that’s a good thing.  Thebottom line is that that pressure is off and the upcoming series (against teams playing generally at the same level as the Giants are playing, except for maybe the Tribe) should do a lot for pitcher confidence.

The Bullpen after the break

We really like Sam Dyson.  He’s a project that worked out.  I don’t know when (realistically) Melancon is coming back but the two of them would be a welcome sight in the 8th and 9th innings.  I still think that Strickland is a head case and the other guys are question marks (Kontos has been good though).  I think that if the back end of the bullpen is strong it will take the pressure off the young guys and they will also perform better.

What do the Giants need for the future?

See above: big bats.  The injuries to Austin Slater (probably out for the year) and Arroyo (maybe back in September) are really a bummer.  Those two are the future at left field and third base (although Hwang is looking like he is going to be more than adequate this summer, especially backed by Gillespie).  We do have Jarret Parker coming back, maybe in one of these series.  He was playing very well when he busted his shoulder open against the wall.

Now we need a young center fielder and a right fielder (does anyone think that Hunter has more than another year, maybe two, left in him?).  Look for outfielders with pop in the minor leagues to be the players that Evans goes after in trades. 

Speaking of trades I would be very surprised if Span is a Giant on August 1st but I would hate to see Crawford, Panik and Belt also gone (all are great defensive players) but who knows what will happen.  The only untouchable players to me are Posey and Bum.

The upcoming series – The Indians, Padres and Pirates – time to get healthy!

The big test will be the Indians, who are currently leading the AL Central by 2.5 games.  The Tribe is playing Oakland this weekend and coming into AT&T on Monday.  The studs are Jose Ramirez (.332 BA), Encarnacion (18 dingers) and Corey Kluber (2.80 ERA) and the games will be fun regardless of what happens.  If the G-Men take the series that will be incredibly motivating. 

Regardless, how can anyone not like the Tribe? They are middle America and field of dreams baseball personified.

Then we get the Padres, 5 games in front of the G-Men in the NL West and in a rebuilding year (around Wil Myers). Never ever forget what the Padres have done to the Giants over the years. I doubt that the Friars will come into AT&T overconfident but this is an important series. If the G-Men come out of this by closing up the division the season will be a lot more fun. One game at a time.

At the back end of the long series will be the Pirates, who are Andrew McCutchen’s team.  The Bucs are in 4th place in the NL Central and looking up at the Cubs and the Brewers, and down at the Reds.  The teams are actually pretty evenly matched and the series ought to be really fun.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

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