Time to Blow It up - An Open Letter to Brian Sabean
by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
July 4, 2007
Itís time to blow this thing up. Exactly one half of the way into the season, the 4th of July now upon us and the trading deadline rapidly approaching, the Giants sit in last place with a 35-46 record and are12 games out of first after going 9-18 in the month of June. They are headed nowhere quick.
Itís time to blow it up.
Since you took over in 1997, the Giants have never finished lower than 3rd and have never been eliminated from post-season play any sooner than September 24. Youíve been riding high on the hog for 10 long years. Itís clear now, however, that the run is over. The best this team in its current state can hope for is 4th place and maybe 70 wins. Your job is on the line and has been all year long. Everyone knows that. There may not be anything that can be done to save it, but going all out one more time in a futile attempt to grasp the ring isnít going to do the trick. Knowing when to cut your losses and begin to build on next year may or may not cut it, but itís likely your best bet.
Itís clearly time to blow it up. By trade or by wavier Brian, please blow this thing up.
All season long the Giants have failed to score runs. They are 13th in the NL with 4.24 runs per game. Among 131 pitchers with at least 60 innings thrown, Barry Zito ranks 114th in run support at 3.84 per game, Noah Lowry ranks 115th at 3.82, and Matt Cain is tied for 117th with 3.63 runs per game. Your hitters are 13th in the NL in batting average, 12th in on-base percentage and 14th in slugging. Even with Barry Bonds marching towards Hank Aaron, the team went into play on Tuesday tied for 12th in the league in home runs. Itís got to be clear what you need to do. The offense has got to be overhauled.
Where to start? Well let me suggest your first move to be to rid this team once and for all of the offensive liability that is Pedro ďSir-Swing-And-Miss-A-LotĒ Feliz. This past off-season I wrote the book on Pedroís inadequacies, calling into question your decision to re-sign Ďol Popup Pedro (for nearly more money than both leaguesí MVPs combined!). I wrote that there was nothing to suggest that heíd ever figure it out. With the season half over, itís got to be blatantly obvious that I was correct.
Entering the year, Feliz had the second lowest career OBP of any big league hitter with at least 2,000 plate appearances (.288) and had seen his season averages drop from .305 in 2004 to .295 in í05 and finally to .281 in 2006. That .281 OBP last year among all batters with at least 640 PA tied him for the 15th lowest single season mark in major league history (and 3rd lowest among third basemen). Through the Giants first 81 games this year that mark is now down to a dismal .275. He is batting .240 and slugging .418.
Heís not even approaching his pathetic career marks (.252/.288/.436 entering the 2007 season). He is on pace to draw 28 walks, score 58 runs and knock 26 doubles, all career lows in full-time play. His misguided faithful will point to the fact that heís on pace to hit a career high 24 home runs, but I point out to you that the 72 runs batted in he is on pace to collect would also be a career low. And thatís not even taking into consideration how Pedro has historically been a better first half hitter (.257 lifetime 1st half hitter, .241 2nd half hitter, .230 September hitter). Pedro Feliz, Brian, is on pace to put up the worst numbers of his abysmal major league career. I have three words for you; designated for assignment.
I donít know what possessed you to bring him back, but itís time for him to go. Sure heís among the top defensive 3B in the league, but this team canít score, and Pedro Feliz is a major contributor to that problem. Release him, Brian. Now. ASAP. Please!
OK, enough Pedro for now (I could go on and on, believe me). Letís move forward.
Now I donít exactly want to use the term Ďfire sale,í but for this team to get better, certain parts must be sacrificed. Some have suggested that once he surpasses The Hammer, even Bonds should be traded for younger, cheaper talent. My opinion? No freaking way, Brian!
Perhaps itís just the sentimental part of me talking here, but Barry Bonds is among the top 5 players of all-time. And while rapidly approaching his 43rd birthday (the candles will be lit two weeks after the all-star game), he is hitting like no other player his age before him with 17 HR to go with a line of .305/.517/.614. His 1.131 OPS leads the majors, and in his last 31 games since May 27 he is batting .363/.564/.663. Plus, heís doing it all without a qualified bat to protect him. Heís been doing it, in fact, without a big bat to protect him since Jeff Kent pissed off Peter Magowan (bless him for saving the Giants in í93) and you were forced to let him leave after the í02 World Series.
Barry Bonds has provided most of the Giants offense this year and nearly all of the excitement for the fans. I would not only not trade him, Iíd approach him about a contract extension so as to ensure he reaches the 3,000 hit mark and finishes his Hall of Fame career in the orange and black. No Brian, donít trade Bonds.
Aside from Bonds though, there arenít too many untradeables. Barry Zitoís contract would be nearly impossible to move, so any discussion there would be moot anyway. You might as well forget about him.
His 2-9 record and control issues aside, 22-year-old Matt Cain has thrown the ball extremely well all season long. He, Zito and 23-year-old rookie Tim Lincecum form the foundation of what is likely to be one of the top rotations in all of baseball for years to come. None of those three are going anywhere, particularly Lincecum.
What does that leave? 21 guys who shouldnít be out looking to buy new homes in the next few weeks, thatís what.
Your top two bargaining chips are veteran right hander Matt Morris and young lefty Noah Lowry. Morris most certainly ought to go. He is owed nearly $13 million next year on a back loaded contract and having been one of the leagueís top pitchers all season long, his veteran arm could be packaged in a deal to acquire either Carlos Gomez or Fernando Martinez from the pitching desperate Mets. Lowry, on the other hand, is young (26), left handed, and signed to a very affordable long-term deal. He too could be dealt for good return. With stud lefty Jonathan Sanchez waiting in the wings, either one or both of these guys ought to be moved to acquire more offense.
Other veterans who might have some value in the trade market are second baseman Ray Durham, center fielder Dave Roberts, right fielder Randy Winn, catcher Bengie Molina, relievers Steve Kline and Vinnie Chulk and first basemen Rich Aurilia and Ryan Klesko.
Durham, after a hot start, has struggled this year, but he is a good second half hitter who could be an important stretch run pickup for someone much like he was for Oakland in 2002. Heís batting only .253/.322/.406 this year, but at the same point last season he was batting .252/.331/.460. From that point on he hit .327/.385/.603 with 16 HR and 54 RBI. However, the drawback to trading him is being left with the unproven Kevin Frandsen at second base. Frandsen has hit just .255/.327/.353 in 102 at bats this year while showing about as much patience at the plate as Feliz. Still, Durham could bring in a good bullpen arm and a low-level positional future prospect and moving him needs to be considered strongly
Ryan Klesko has a potentially potent bat, and has hit .317 with 5 HR in his last 27 games. There should be a market for him. Randy Winn has cooled down of late, but he could be moved to create a permanent spot for Nate Schierholtz. Moving Bengie Molina (who was cheated out of an All-Star appearance by the absurd selection of Brian McCann) would require the acquisition of another catcher (perhaps the Braves might like Lowry in a deal for Jarrod Saltalamacchia?), but Bengie has been one of the top clutch hitters in the game the last several years. This season, he leads the Giants in RBI (44) and is batting .347 with runners in scoring position (including .405 with 2 outs). Bengieís former team, the Angel, as well as the Phillies and Cubs, are possible contenders who could conceivably be interested in a catching upgrade.
Feel free also, Brian, to move younger players such as Brad Hennessey, Kevin Correia and the speedy but defensively inept Fred Lewis.
Mark Sweeney was brought in to play the role of pinch hitting specialist, but in a season-and-a-half, he has batted just .225 in that role (16-for-71) and his .194 BA this year isnít likely to garner much attention. Like Feliz, he ought to be jettisoned immediately simply to create room for younger players.
Aside from Bonds, Zito, Cain, Lincecum and anyone currently wearing a future prospect label, the only other player you should not deal is shortstop Omar Vizquel. The future Hall of Fame defensive God may be past his prime with the bat, but he currently leads all major league shortstops in fielding percentage (.989) and zone rating (.909) and is second in range factor (4.97). The way he plays the position is a joy to watch for Giants fans everyday and more importantly, he is my wifeís favorite player. DO NOT TRADE MY WIFEíS FAVORITE PLAYER, BRIAN! Simply let him walk into the sunset when the season is done.
Iíve long supported you Brian. You have a great track record and have put together contending teams for the better part of a decade. This year, though, the wheels are falling off. The ship must be righted. 2007 is a wash but you can still possibly salvage your job by moving swiftly to lay the groundwork for a successful 2008 campaign. To do that, though, youíre going to have to blow this thing up. And without a doubt it needs blowing up. This ship is a mess Brian. Blow it up. Blow it up now.
Richard Van Zandt
Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard resides in San Francisco, California and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.