Brian Sabean has no excuse not to lock up Matt Cain long-term

San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Matt Cain celebrates after winning the 2010 World Series after defeating the Texas Rangers 3-1 in game 5 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on November 1, 2010. The Giants won the series 4 games to 1. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

“But he won the Giants a World Series.”

That’s the response I get whenever I criticize San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean. As if his one improbable World Series victory erases the blunders that the man has made before, after, and even during the Giants’ title season.

Yes, the Giants won a championship in 2010. But what does it say about Sabean when four of the top five players on his payroll were Barry Zito (who didn’t even make the postseason roster), Aaron Rowand (who shouldn’t have made the postseason roster), Edgar Renteria and Mark DeRosa (who didn’t make the postseason roster because of his wrist, which was held together by Elmer’s Glue when Sabean signed him in the offseason)? Sure, Renteria wound up being worth every penny of his $10,000,000 salary that year when he hit the eventual game-winning home run off Cliff Lee in Game 5 of the Series. But thanks to injuries and poor play, he was largely a non-factor in two seasons before that memorable home run.

Remember Cody Ross? Phillies fans sure do. Ross hit two home runs off of Roy Halladay in Game 1 of the 2010 NCLS and also hit a solo shot off Roy Oswalt in Game 2. If it weren’t for his bat, the Giants may not have reached the World Series that year, nevertheless won the whole shebang.

And Ross would have never made the postseason roster had Major League Baseball not conducted an investigation into Jose Guillen’s potential use of performance-enhancing drugs. Sabean acquired Ross that year in efforts to block any semi-productive player from going to the Padres, who at the time were leading the Giants in the NL West race. The fact that Ross wound up turning into “Ross the Boss” was more a product of luck than Sabean’s shrewd maneuvering. At one point, the Giants were thinking about putting Guillen (who ran like he had Oakland tied around his legs) on the postseason roster instead of Ross.

That spectacular pitching staff that the Giants currently boast wasn’t exactly all Sabean either. It was scouting director Dick Tidrow that gave such glowing reports on Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner. (Not to mention closer Brian Wilson and former top prospect Zach Wheeler, whom we’ll get to in a moment.) Granted, Sabean deserves praise for pulling the trigger on this players during the draft, but too often he receives credit for “finding” the talented arms that the Giants currently have in their starting rotation.

Which leads me back to Cain. It’s embarrassing to read some of the reports out of ‘Frisco these days about Cain’s contract situation. The 27-year-old right-hander is set to become a free agent after the 2012 season unless the Giants can hammer out a long-term deal, which apparently is more difficult than correctly picking every winner in the NCAA tournament. It was only recently that Cain suggested that he’s considering testing the market. Before then, he stated how he wanted to remain a Giant but Sebean has yet to come to terms with the soft-spoken starter, who has meant as much to the Giants as Lincecum. (Had Cain received more run support from that putrid thing Sabean calls a lineup every year, maybe he too would have challenged for a Cy Young by now.)

There’s simply no good reason for Sabean not to lock Cain up to a long-term deal. If the righty wants $100 million, then the Giants should oblige. I mean, why not? Sabean had no problem overpaying Zito, Rowand, DeRosa, Renteria and Miguel Tejada, but he’s going to balk at signing a productive player? Are you kidding me? If Cain doesn’t get $100 million from the Giants, he’ll find it on the open market next winter. Thus, if he truly wants to stay, then all Sabean needs to figure out is if he wants to see Cain in a Giants’ uniform next season, or in Yankee pinstripes. And while there’s plenty of time to hammer out a deal before now and November, players usually don’t like discussing their contract situation during the season. Thus, Sabean’s window to sign Cain is closing.

Let’s not forget that Sabean was also the professor who traded Wheeler to the Mets at the trade deadline last year for a two-month rental named Carlos Beltran. Then Sabean didn’t even attempt to re-sign Beltran this past winter, even though the Giants had the second-worst offense in terms of runs scored last season.

Granted, not every decision Sabean makes turns to sulfur and he does have to worry about surpasing Cain’s deal when Lincecum because a free agent after the 2013 season. But the philosophies behind some of his moves are absolutely mind-boggling. It’s almost like the guy wakes up and says, “What’s the least logical thing I can do today while running this baseball team? Trade Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for one miserable year of A.J. Pierzynski? Yes. Yes that sounds good.”

If Sabean loses Cain in November after already dealing Wheeler for what amounted to nothing in return, then Lincecum turns around and heads to Seattle to play for his hometown Mariners (which is a distinct possibility), maybe then people will drop the whole “But he won the Giants a World Series” bit.

Because if Cain isn’t in a San Francisco uniform next season, there will only be one man to blame.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

YouTube star Keenan Cahill performs with the Giants’ Brian Wilson & Cody Ross [vid]

I’ve never been one to discover YouTube clips that go viral overnight. Usually my co-worker John Paulsen sends me something on Skype or a friend e-mails me a link. And even then, I open it, I laugh (sometimes), I delete it and I move on without sending it to someone else. I’m bad when it comes to these things, which is kind of ironic considering most of my day is spent online.

With that in mind, you’ll have to excuse me for not knowing who Keenan Cahill is. For those who are also unaware, he’s the 16-year-old who has found YouTube fame by lip-syncing and dancing to pop songs on his home computer. If you go to his YouTube page, you’ll find all of his videos, including one that he did of the Ghostbusters’ theme that I thought was pretty funny.

What makes Keenan’s story touching is that he has a rare genetic disease that has stunted his growth. When he’s not traveling to L.A., France or the Bahamas, he goes to school and undergoes weekly enzyme replacement therapy that doctors hope will extend his life. You can read about his story in this Chicago Tribune article.

Since we’re a sports blog and I’m a huge Giants fan, I thought I would post one of Keenan’s latest videos (which, of course, was sent to me by a friend), where he performs Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” with Brian Wilson and Cody Ross. The Giants put the video together as a fundraiser for Keenan and besides Wilson’s facial expressions, you have to check out Giants’ mascot “Lou Seal’s” dance moves. It’s rather amazing that a man dressed in a huge seal costume can move like that…

Team of destiny or just the better team? Giants finish off Rangers, win 2010 World Series

Following their 3-1 win in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday night, somewhere in this country someone started writing about how the 2010 San Francisco Giants were a team of destiny this postseason.

But their status as 2010 World Series Champions has nothing to do with destiny. They were just the better team.

In the NLCS, people expected the Giants to lose to the Phillies, who had the better offense, the better pitching, more experience, etc. But when the Giants knocked off the defending NL champs to reach the World Series, people expected them to succumb to the mighty Rangers, who had the better offense, a pitcher in Cliff Lee who never loses in the postseason, etc.

But it was the Giants who came up with the clutch hits. It was the Giants’ Bruce Bochy who outmanaged the Rangers’ Ron Washington. It was the Giants’ pitching staff that turned in one of the most dazzling performances that we’ll ever seen in a Fall Classic.

A team of destiny? The Giants were just flat out better. The Rangers, with all their power and with all their Cliff Lee, were absolutely dominated in four of five games. And that’s a good Rangers team, mind you. They didn’t get to the World Series by accident and something tells me that this won’t be this group’s last crack at a championship. They’re also a classy bunch from their manager (who heaped tons of praise on the Giants in his post-game presser), down to the grounds crew that let San Francisco fans celebrate on the field hours after the game.

But back to the Giants. It was rather humorous to listen to people use the term “lucky” when it came to this club in the postseason. Do you know what they had to do in order to get to this point? First off, they had to beat Mat Latos and the Padres on the final day of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth. There’s nothing lucky about winning 92 games, I don’t care if San Diego choked over the final two months or not.

There’s also nothing lucky about beating Derek Lowe (twice), Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, C.J. Wilson and Cliff Lee not once, but twice, including once with the series on the line.

Think about that for a second. The Giants, with their cast of misfits, went through some of the best pitchers from this decade in order to win a World Series. Luck had nothing to do with that. Luck also had nothing to do with this team being able to clinch every series on the road (Game 4 at Atlanta, Game 6 at Philadelphia, Game 5 at Texas).

Read the rest of this entry »

Bumgarner dominates Rangers, Giants now one win away from championship

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the Texas Rangers during Game 4 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Arlington, Texas, October 31, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Here’s a six-pack of observations from the Giants’ 4-0 win over the Rangers in Game 4 of the World Series. San Fran is now just one win away from becoming World Champions.

1. It’s hard to oversell how good Bumgarner was.
Had Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner walked onto the field in Game 4 and proceeded to give up five runs on eight hits to the Rangers in their home ballpark, people would have shrugged and said, “What did you expect from a rookie pitching in the World Series?” But the fact that he went eight innings without giving up a run and limited the Rangers to just three hits was unbelievable. The Rangers had only been shutout once at home this year. Once. Bumgarner faced the league’s top hitting team and completely dominated them for eight innings. He needed just 106 pitches to record 24 outs and struck out six while holding Texas without an extra-base hit. Think about that for a second: Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Vlad Guerrero, the seemingly unstoppable Mitch Moreland – zero extra-base hits. Unreal. Madison Bumgarner was unreal in the biggest start of his young career.

2. Bochy continues to make all the right decisions this postseason.
Every move that Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy has made this postseason – from changes to his lineup to handling the pitching staff to defensive adjustments in the later innings – has paid off. He made two underrated moves before Game 4 that will certainly be overlooked in the Giants’ victory. One was benching a highly ineffective Pat Burrell and replacing him with Nate Schierholtz, which forced Cody Ross to move to left field. The move gave the Giants a major lift defensively, as Ross made at least one great catch that would have surely fallen in front of Burrell for a base hit. And who knows, there may have been others that would have led to Rangers’ runs. Schierholtz wasn’t any better than Burrell at the plate, but it didn’t matter. Moving Ross over to left and getting Burrell out of the lineup was the key. The other move Bochy made was replacing Aubrey Huff with Travis Ishikawa, which gave the Giants a better defensive first baseman and allowed Huff to concentrate solely on his offense. The end result was that Huff hit a two-run homer in the third, which was really all the offense San Fran needed with how well Bumgarner was pitching. (Of course, the double Andres Torres hit to score Edgar Renteria in the seventh and the homer Buster Posey hit in the eighth certainly helped ease the tension for Bumgarner and the rest of the club.)

3. The Giants continue to get all the breaks, but…
From calls on the base paths to near home runs to balls that bounce off the top of the wall instead of into the stands (or over the wall for home runs), the Giants have gotten all the breaks in this series. That said, they’ve also made their own breaks too. Their starters have been better, their bullpen has been better, their offense has been more clutch and Bruce Bochy has outmanaged Ron Washington. So when it’s time for one team to catch breaks, it’s been the Giants who have been most deserving. That may be salt in the wounds of Rangers fans, but it’s true. The Giants have just been better.

4. Rangers need way more production out of the heart of their order.
The Giants’ pitching is outstanding – maybe even the best in baseball now. But there’s simply no excuse for this Texas team to have gotten shut out in two of the first four games in this series. Vladimir Guerrero’s at-bats on Sunday were putrid. Josh Hamilton has been nearly non-existent since his play in the ALCS. Nelson Cruz’s power…well, what power? The heart of the Rangers’ order has turned to mush since the start of the World Series and if it doesn’t come alive in less than 24 hours, then Texas will be watching the Giants celebrate on their home field Monday night. No offense to Mitch Moreland, but he can’t be your best hitter in a lineup that consists of guys like Hamilton, Guerrero, Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young.

5. The umpiring has been brutal thus far.
I can’t even begin to describe the zone that home plate umpire Mike Winters had on Sunday night. He was calling strikes high, low, inside, outside – it didn’t matter. Then he called balls that were high, low, inside and outside. He was all over the place and the fact that Madison Bumgarner went eight innings while only giving up three hits is a freaking miracle. It was bad on both sides and it only got worse as the game went on. Pitches that were called balls in the first three innings were called strikes in the last three innings. Winters’ performance was bad and unfortunately, it only fell in line with the rest of the home plate umpires this series. And the guys on the base paths weren’t any better, as replays showed that the Rangers got screwed on two bang-bang plays at first base. Major League Baseball can’t be too happy with these umpiring crew this series. This is the best the game has to offer?

6. It’s redemption time, Cliff Lee.
The Rangers are in a bad spot down 3-1 in the series, but they still have plenty of life left. First and foremost, they need to take it one game at a time because if they get caught looking ahead, they won’t make it past Monday night. They have their ace on the mound in Game 5, but unfortunately for them their ace was shelled in Game 1 and they’re also facing the Giants’ best pitcher in Tim Lincecum. That said, it’s highly unlikely that Lee has two bad games in a row and Lincecum doesn’t like pitching in warm climates (San Francisco hardly constitutes as a warm climate – especially at night), so if the Rangers’ bats come alive then there’s no doubt they can force a Game 6. Their backs are up against it, but they have the advantage in Game 5 and they need to keep that in mind.

Matt Cain, Babe Ross help Giants take lead in NLCS

Aug. 12, 2010 - San Francisco, California, United States of America - 12 August, 2010: San Francisco Giants MATT CAIN.

I’m not a pitching coach and my hectic sports blogging schedule prevents me from ever becoming one, but if I may offer up some advice to the Phillies’ starting staff: Figure out a way – someway – to get Cody Ross out. Because dude is killing you.

Once again, Ross donned a red cape and an “S” on his chest for the Giants, as he singled home Edgar Renteria in the fourth inning to give his club a 1-0 lead. Aubrey Huff followed through with another single off starter Cole Hamels later in the inning and the Giants went on to beat the Phillies 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the 2010 NLCS.

Ross, who has to be the most unlikely postseason hero for the Giants (outside of Eugenio Velez – now that would be something), is now hitting .348 in the playoffs, with four home runs, seven RBI, eight hits, three runs scored and three walks. It’s amazing to think that he probably wouldn’t even be playing right now if it weren’t for Jose Guillen’s back injury.

Of course, if not for Matt Cain’s dazzling pitching performance, Ross’ latest heroics may not have mattered.

I’m running out of adjectives to describe the pitching that we’ve seen so far in the NCLS. Cain limited the Phillies to just two hits while pitching seven scoreless innings to pick up the first postseason win of his young career. He threw 119 pitches and while he walked three and hit two batters, he also struck out five and got in and out of jams all afternoon. It was also his first career win against the Phillies, who were shutout in the postseason for the first time since the 1983 World Series.

Read the rest of this entry »

Related Posts