Tag:Giants
Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:34 pm
 

Pagan isn't Reyes, but he did learn from him

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In a perfect world, where money was no issue, perhaps the Giants would have signed Jose Reyes to be their leadoff hitter.

But money is an issue, and the Giants are saving as much of it as they can to pay Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and the rest of their pitchers.

So Angel Pagan, who cost about $100 million less than Reyes after the Giants acquired him in a trade with the Mets, is the new leadoff man.

He's not Reyes, but he did learn from him. And he won't need to be Reyes to be a lot better than what the Giants had atop the order in 2010.

As much as the Giants' offense suffered from the loss of Buster Posey, another huge problem last year was that their leadoff men combined for a .292 on-base percentage. Only the Orioles and Nationals were worse.

Pagan has a .341 on-base percentage in 154 career games leading off for the Cubs and Mets.

"To me, Jose's one of the best leadoff hitters in the game," Pagan said Monday. "I've played with good leadoff hitters, Jose and Juan Pierre. I know what it's all about. My job is to set the table for the big boys, Pablo [Sandoval] and Buster."

But Pagan knows from playing with Reyes that a top leadoff man does more than just set the table. He knows how much the leadoff man can influence the game.

"When you have an energetic person at the top, you have that spark," Pagan said. "You want to bring that type of energy. [Reyes] injected that energy in the lineup.

"Hopefully, I can be that. I'm ready to help this team."

In the first couple of Cactus League games, manager Bruce Bochy has paired Pagan and Melky Cabrera (also acquired in a winter trade) atop the lineup. It's not clear whether they'll both stay there once Freddy Sanchez is healthy, but the plan has been for Pagan to lead off.

Bochy knows that getting the leadoff man on base is crucial if the Giants are to score more runs. They scored just 570 last year, a dropoff of 127 from the championship team of 2010.

"I think it played a critical part in our lack of run production," Bochy said. "We know we'll be more consistent with Angel and Melky.

"Plus, it's hard to imagine we won't do better with runners in scoring position."

The Giants figure they'll get the best effort possible out of Pagan and Cabrera, both of whom are entering their free-agent years.


Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:52 pm
 

Expanded playoffs, and what might have been

The other day, Terry Francona was saying that if the new double-wild-card playoff system had been in effect last year, he'd still be managing the Red Sox.

That may well be true. Not only that, but if the new system had been in effect the last two years, Francona's Red Sox would be on a five-year streak of making the playoffs, and would have missed out on October just once in his eight seasons in charge.

A few other what-might-have-beens:

-- The team that would have benefited the most if baseball had gone to two wild cards instead of one in 1995: The Giants. They would have made it to the play-in game in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2009, which means they would have been in the postseason nine of the last 15 years, rather than just five.

-- The play-in game would have featured two teams from the same division a little less than a third of the time, but it would have given us an all-AL East matchup three times in the last four years. It would have been Yankees-Red Sox in both 2008 and 2010. Had that happened, would anyone have been claiming that the rivalry needed rejuvenating?

-- The second wild card wouldn't have saved the collapsing 2007 Mets, but the 2008 team would have had at least one more game.

-- The Phillies' string of consecutive postseason appearances would now be at seven years, rather than five. The Phillies would have been in the play-in game in both 2005 (against the Astros) and 2006 (against the Dodgers).

-- The Blue Jays, who haven't been to the postseason since their back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993, would have made it in 1998. And the Expos, who didn't make it to the postseason after 1981, would have been there in 1996. But even expanded playoffs wouldn't have helped the Pirates (still no playoff appearances since 1992) or the Royals (none since 1985).


Posted on: February 29, 2012 5:19 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 5:24 pm
 

Rollins didn't leave, but sure thought about it

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jimmy Rollins has never played for any team but the Phillies. With a new three-year contract that will take him through to when he's 36, and a vesting option that could take him to age 37, there's a real chance now that Rollins will never play for any team but the Phillies.

But he sure did think about it.

Rollins said Wednesday that he was intrigued enough by the idea of playing at home in California that he even considered signing a one-year contract that would have allowed him to become a free agent again next winter.

The idea would have been that the Giants, who could use Rollins but had no money to chase him this winter, could be in a better position next year, when they won't be paying Aaron Rowand and will be entering the final year of Barry Zito's contract.

The Giants still need to pay Tim Lincecum and need money to keep Matt Cain as well, so there's no guarantee they would have chased Rollins next winter, either. Rollins, who grew up in Oakland, said he only knows that the Giants "had some players asking around" about him earlier last season.

In the end, Rollins opted for security, and opted to stay with the Phillies. Truth be told, it would have been hard for him to leave the only organization he has known, even if the California option had been open to him.

"This is where I've been since I was 17 years old," Rollins said. "If you go somewhere else, for a while, you would feel like a traitor."

Rollins did have strong interest from the Brewers, but he didn't want to leave Philadelphia to go to Milwaukee. Had there been interest from the Giants or another team in California, the decision would no doubt have been tougher.




Category: MLB
Posted on: November 3, 2011 5:42 pm
 

The perfect fit for Tigers? It's Reyes

The free agent who fit the Tigers best last winter was Victor Martinez. They got him.

The trade target who fit the Tigers best this summer was Doug Fister. They got him.

And the free agent who fits the Tigers best this winter, without a doubt, is Jose Reyes.

Will they even pursue him?

The topic is certain to come up when the Tigers hold their organizational meetings next week, and it's one that could have a big impact on their future and also that of other teams. And the answer may come down to whether owner Mike Ilitch is prepared to tell his baseball people to look past the budget, as he has so many times before.

In a meeting with local media this week, general manager Dave Dombrowski played down the possibility of signing a shortstop and moving Jhonny Peralta to third base. Dombrowski suggested that the Tigers would search instead for a second baseman and probably a third baseman.

Perhaps they will, but they won't find a Reyes available at either spot.

And for a team that badly needs to add speed, and would be helped by having a true leadoff hitter who would push Austin Jackson to the bottom of the batting order, Reyes could be the difference-maker.

Not only that, but Tigers people say that the opposing player who made the biggest impression on them this season was Reyes, when he went 8-for-13 with two doubles and a triple in an interleague series at Comerica Park in June.

Now, can they afford him?

Under their current budget, they probably can't. The Tigers have two $20 million a year players signed to long-term deals (Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera), and worry about adding a third player who could command $15-20 million a year. Also, they worry about giving a long-term contract to a player dependent on his legs (which is why they shied away from Carl Crawford last winter).

But Tigers people always remind you that the owner has the final say, and also that Ilitch is never afraid to spend big for a player who could put them over the top. In every big signing the Tigers have made (and even some of the smaller ones), Ilitch was the driving force.

Will he see Reyes as a similar difference-maker?

That's a great question. But don't be surprised if he does.

Two more things to think about, one regarding Reyes, one regarding the Tigers.

The Giants are another team where Reyes would seem to be a perfect fit, but the word in baseball is that at this point, they are unlikely to pursue him (or to pursue free-agent shortstop Jimmy Rollins, either).

The Giants' budget is tighter than the Tigers', and their ownership is believed to be less likely to bust that budget. After committing money to keep the pitching staff together for another year, it's believed that the Giants have just about $10 million to spend for 2012, and that they intend to spend the bulk of it on a center fielder (very possibly Coco Crisp).

As for the Tigers, here's another thought: What if the Red Sox decide that Crawford just isn't a good fit in Boston, and are willing to eat some of the contract in order to trade him?

Crawford could take Delmon Young's spot in Comerica Park's spacious left field, and would give the Tigers much-needed speed.

Crawford, though, has never liked batting leadoff. Reyes loves hitting there.

Reyes is the better fit for the Tigers -- but only if Ilitch decides to make the money fit.

Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Angels outdraw Dodgers, and Frank, this is on you

I'm sure Frank McCourt will find some way to blame this on Bud Selig.

Or on Jamie. Or a lawyer.

Sorry, Frank. This one's on you, because it sure sounds like the people have spoken.

The Dodgers finished their home season Thursday with an announced crowd of 37,560. They finished their 81-game home season with a total announced attendance of 2,935,139.

Forget that those who have been to Dodger Stadium say the real crowds don't come close to matching the announced crowds. In this case, even the announced crowds are embarrassingly bad.

It looks like the Dodgers will finish six in the National League in attendance.

You know the last time they finished that low? 2000.

You know the last time before that? 1918.

It gets worse.

Until this year, the Dodgers have outdrawn the Angels every season since the Angels joined the American League. This year, for the first time, the Angels will outdraw the Dodgers.

The Giants will outdraw the Dodgers, too. That happened in the first four years after the Giants moved to AT&T Park (2000-03), but it didn't ever happen before (since the teams moved West), and it hadn't ever happened since.

The Brewers, in baseball's smallest market, will also outdraw the Dodgers (who play in baseball's second largest market).

The fans in Milwaukee deserve plenty of credit.

And Frank McCourt deserves plenty of blame.


Category: MLB
Posted on: September 18, 2011 8:56 pm
Edited on: September 18, 2011 10:21 pm
 

3 to Watch: The doubleheader edition

BOSTON -- The Yankees don't have enough pitching. The Red Sox don't have enough pitching.

The low-budget Rays? They have enough pitching.

Crazy, isn't it?

If the Yankees or Red Sox had Matt Moore, you can be sure he'd be starting a game this week, with both teams faced with doubleheaders and cramped schedules.

The Rays have Matt Moore, the top pitching prospect who has scouts buzzing almost Strasburg-style. And while manager Joe Maddon talks about possibly starting him sometime in these final 10 days of the season, he's not yet listed among the Rays' probables.

While the Red Sox go into a doubleheader Monday with Kyle Weiland and John Lackey as their scheduled starters, and while the Yankees hope that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia aren't running out of gas (or, in Colon's case, stem cells), the Rays have the most solid rotation this side of Philadelphia.

Yes, part of it was drafting high all those years when they were bad (the same way the Yankees got Derek Jeter). David Price was the first player picked in 2007, and Jeff Niemann was the fourth player picked three years earlier.

But the Rays took Wade Davis in the third round, got rookie of the year candidate Jeremy Hellickson in the fourth round and found Moore, the latest phenom, in the eighth round.

Maybe they just make better decisions, or do a better job developing pitchers.

They do it so well that they could afford to trade Matt Garza last winter, and could deal Niemann or Davis -- or even Shields -- this winter. Shields would be the toughest to let go (far tougher than Garza), but he would also bring by far the most back to a team that needs offense and has little money to pay for it.

First, though, the great rotation has brought the Rays back into the wild-card race, and gives them a chance of winning it.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. When the Red Sox were rained out on May 17 against the Orioles and rescheduled it as part of a doubleheader this week, they probably figured it would be simply an annoyance as they prepared for the playoffs. Instead, it's a major headache for a Red Sox team struggling desperately to hold onto a wild-card ticket to the playoffs. And this doubleheader, Orioles at Red Sox, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) and night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park, doesn't help. The worst part: The Red Sox are stuck starting rookie Kyle Weiland, who has yet to win and has made it past the fourth inning in just one of his four big-league starts. In the other game, they'll go with John Lackey, has the worst ERA of any regular big-league starter.

2. The Giants have won eight in a row, to put off elimination and put a little heat on the first-place Diamondbacks. The Giants are still five games out, but they go to Phoenix this weekend for three games with the D-Backs, so the race isn't over yet. But the Giants, who can't afford to lose, face Clayton Kershaw in Giants at Dodgers, Tuesday night (10:10 ET) at Dodger Stadium. In five starts against the Giants this year, Kershaw is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA. He'll be going for his 20th win, so he'll be even more motivated. But his opponent, Tim Lincecum, will be pitching to keep the Giants' season alive.

3. While the Red Sox go with Weiland and Lackey in their doubleheader, the Rays will start Shields and Hellickson in Rays at Yankees, Wednesday afternoon (1:05) and night (7:05) at Yankee Stadium. Shields leads the majors with 11 complete games, which makes him perfect for a doubleheader. Wednesday should be interesting for the Yankees, too, if not nearly as crucial. Ace CC Sabathia, who is just 3-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his last eight starts, goes against Shields, while inconsistent Phil Hughes faces Hellickson.

Posted on: September 16, 2011 1:15 pm
Edited on: September 16, 2011 2:38 pm
 

Up 3, 13 to play

BOSTON -- Teams don't blow nine-game leads in September. It just doesn't happen.

Teams do blow three-game leads with 13 games to play. That does happen.

That has happened.

In fact, it's not hard to find teams that have led by four games, or even five games, with 13 games to play, and still missed the playoffs.

The 1951 Dodgers (four games) did it, although it took maybe the most famous home run of all time.

The 1964 Phillies (5 1/2 games) did it, although it took a collapse that tarnished Gene Mauch's legacy for the rest of his life.

The 1995 Angels, the 2009 Tigers and the 2007 Padres (all three games) did it, too. So did the 1934 Giants (3 1/2 games), the 1962 Dodgers (four games) , the 1965 Giants (3 1/2 games) and the 1938 Pirates (3 1/2 games).

The point isn't that the Red Sox are going to miss the playoffs. Most likely, they won't.

The point is that they've moved from "It can't happen because it's never happened," to "It could happen, but it would still be historic."

And yes, the same goes for the Rangers (up 3 1/2 games on the Angels in the American League West), and even the Braves (up 4 1/2 games on the Cardinals for the National League wild card).

Oh, and Mets fans, your 2007 team doesn't make the list. While they were up seven games on the Phillies with 17 games left, the lead was already down to 2 1/2 games by the time the Mets had played their 149th game (and had 13 remaining).

The 1978 Red Sox aren't on the list, either. They led the Yankees by seven games entering September, but led by 2 1/2 with 13 games left.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:00 am
 

3 to Watch: The White Sox crisis edition

If the White Sox somehow find their way back into the race in the American League Central, will Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams stop fighting long enough to enjoy it?

Should they?

Sometimes it feels like the White Sox only play well when they're in crisis. Sure enough, they've won seven of their last 10, during a stretch that included Guillen's strange demand for a contract extension and also, according to sources, a nasty pregame confrontation between Williams and one of Guillen's coaches.

Sometimes it seems that if things get ugly enough off the field, the White Sox respond by avoiding ugly play on the field.

The Sox are still 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, which means they probably need to win at least five of the six remaining head-to-head meetings to have any chance at a miracle run.

The White Sox get their first chance this weekend in Detroit, with three meetings Sept. 12-14 in Chicago. Neither team's schedule is particularly taxing otherwise, which is better news for the Tigers, as the team holding a significant lead.

If there were close races elsewhere, we'd barely acknowledge Tigers-White Sox. But five of the eight playoff spots are basically wrapped up, and baseball is in real danger of a September without drama.

If you want a pennant race, root for the second-place Giants this weekend against the first-place Diamondbacks, who lead San Francisco by six games. And if you like your drama on and off the field, root for the White Sox against the Tigers.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The next seven days might be the most crucial remaining stretch in the American League West, even though the first-place Rangers and second-place Angels will be on opposite coasts. The Rangers have six games at Boston and at Tampa Bay, which could give the Angels (six home games against the Twins and Mariners) a chance to eat into their 3 1/2-game deficit. It begins for Texas with Rangers at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. It could also be an interesting night for the Red Sox, who are starting to believe that Andrew Miller could help them in some role in the playoffs. Miller, the 6-foot-7 left-hander, shut out the Rangers for 6 1/3 innings last week in Texas.

2. The Diamondbacks have won nine in a row, and as everyone in Arizona no doubt knows by now, club president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers vowed to shave their heads if the team ever won 10 straight. That could happen Friday night, when Joe Saunders faces Matt Cain. But the most interesting pitching matchup of the weekend comes a day later, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Ian Kennedy, a Cy Young candidate this year, faces Tim Lincecum, a Cy candidate every year.

3. The presence of Justin Verlander in the Tiger rotation makes it unlikely they'll lose enough games to blow a 5 1/2-game lead. But if the Tigers are to truly be dangerous in the playoffs, they'd likely need Max Scherzer to find some consistency, as well. Scherzer has a 1.64 ERA in three starts this year against the White Sox, but he gave up seven runs in three innings Monday night against the Royals. Scherzer faces Mark Buehrle in White Sox at Tigers, Sunday night (8:09 ET) at Comerica Park.


 
 
 
 
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