Looking Behind, Looking Ahead

by The Giants Curmudgeon on September 28, 2007

There I was Tuesday night, alone in my row, gazing out at rows of empty seats. That’s when it hit me. The only thing in San Francisco as empty as AT&T Park these days is an apartment building after Skyline/CitiApartments purchases it.

Aside from the farewell-to-Barry night on Wednesday (perhaps the lamest send-off in sports history), Giants games have been very poorly attended as the Giants have plummeted in the standings. Next year promises to be far worse for attendance, a real test for San Francisco’s baseball fans.

The worst part of Tuesday’s game was not the poor attendance, or even the blown save by Brian Wilson. It was the fans who were so bored that they started doing the dreaded wave. Fortunately, some fans like myself were there to ‘boo’ the wave, but it sure felt like Dodgers’ stadium for a few minutes. Magowan and Sabean better think of something to entertain these fans.

Which leads me to Omar Vizquel. Omar is a free agent this year. The Curmudgeon predicts that the Giants will sign Omar in the off-season. It doesn’t make much baseball sense, but without Barry, and with bunch of new young guys, the club will need Omar to help fill seats. Fans love him, and he is so entertaining at shortstop that he’ll be worth some money despite his age and declining hitting.

Plus, unlike the outfield where the Giants have some young prospects, Kevin Frandsen remains the only promising middle infielder, so it’s not as if playing Omar prevents the Giants from developing young talent at that position.

I will toss my garlic fries in the air if the Giants sign Pedro Feliz to a multi-year deal, or any deal for that matter. At a certain point, a player is what he is, and fantasies about what he could become need to give way to reality.

Pedro Feliz is a 32-year-old, low average hitter with mediocre power. Aside from 2004 in which he hit a whopping .276, Pedro Feliz has hit under .255 each year since 2001. He has mediocre power, consistently hitting 20 dingers a year. That’s not enough to justify his weak batting average and on base percentage. While Feliz deserves credit for developing his defensive abilities and for reducing his strikeouts, the Giants would be crazy to sign him again.

Looking back on this season, the Curmudgeon was right about nearly everything. The Curmudgeon was way ahead of other commentators in calling for a fire sale, and specifically for trading Matt Morris. The Giants waited, and as a result did little to build their team for the future.

But unlike George W. Bush, the Curmudgeon can acknowledge his mistakes. Frustrated that the Giants waited so long to trade Morris, the Curmudgeon characterized Rajai Davis as “underwhelming” before he arrived. True the Giants could have gotten more for Morris had he been traded before he fell apart, and true nobody including the Curmudgeon knew a thing about Davis at the time, but the kid’s got talent. The Curmudgeon has had a blast watching Davis stealing bases and diving for balls in centerfield. Look for a solid year next year from Davis, including 50-plus steals.

The Curmudgeon also favored demoting Hennessy from the closer role, writing that “he’s no closer.” That proved to be true. But the Curmudgeon nominated Randy Messenger for an audition at the position. Soon after that recommendation, Messenger slammed a water cooler, fracturing a finger. Perhaps that “attitude” that appealed to the Curmudgeon proved a little too aggressive. We’ll have to wait until next year for a verdict on Messenger.

There will be stiff competition for the closer role in spring training. Tyler Walker is the leading candidate. Brian Wilson has potential, but only if he can develop a second pitch. He throws a 98 mph fastball, but that doesn’t work in the big leagues unless he can mix it up. As for Brad Hennessy, I see him moving to middle relief, or back to the starting rotation over time.

At the start of the season, we all knew that the Giants lacked offense and a bullpen. That proved to be the case, and the situation has not improved.

I’m not so worried about the bullpen. The Giants have the raw materials (young talent) to develop a decent bullpen.

But there do not appear to be any superstar hitters coming up through the ranks. The Giants should explore signing a top tier, young power hitter in the off-season. Don’t hold your breath though. Having been burned by the Zito deal, the Giants are unlikely to make that kind of move.

Instead, look for a season showcasing young Giants like Dan Ortmeier, Nate Shierholtz and Rajai Davis. Frankly, I’m looking forward to it.

Finally, a few words about Barry Bonds. You have probably noticed that the Curmudgeon hasn’t weighed in on Barry in past articles. The media has been obsessed with Barry, and I figured the last thing you needed was yet another article about Barry. But as the season draws to a close, I will say this:

First, Barry is a superstar. He is one of the greatest ever to play the game, and he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Second, Barry gave fans and the team what they paid for this year, a remarkable achievement at his age and given the horrible lineup in which he was batting.

Third, the Giants were absolutely correct not to sign him for 2008. It is time for a new post-Bonds era in San Francisco.

Fourth, his final home game, in which he could not even be bothered to come out in the post-game farewell “festivities” to wave to fans who have unconditionally supported him and who stayed through a blowout game to say goodbye, says more about Barry’s character than any alleged steroid use.

Onward we go, Giants fans. The good news is that there’s only one direction to go after this season – upward. See you next year.

The Giants Curmudgeon hates soggy garlic fries, corporate stadium names and people who leave in the 8th inning. Send comments to letters@beyondchron.org

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