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

“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.

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Giants considering eating Zito’s contract?

Barry Zito is apparently so bad that the Giants are actually willing to eat the $64.5 million left on his ridiculous contract just so there’s no possible way his suck will infect Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Jonathan Sanchez.

From Bruce Jenkins at the San Francisco Chronicle:

A source close to the team indicated Tuesday that there is “exasperation” with Zito, that his status as the No. 5 starter is “definitely not safe,” and that the team would even consider buying out his expensive contract before Opening Day if that’s what it takes to say farewell.

Heading into spring training, it was widely believed that the Giants were more than willing to ride it out with Zito, given the overall excellence of their rotation. But there’s a healthy sense of urgency in the world champions’ camp. They didn’t clinch a postseason berth until the final game of the 2010 season, and they realize that just a single loss – something that could be avoided – could cost them a chance to repeat.

There is concern that Zito hasn’t been properly diligent in maintaining his physical conditioning, and that Monday’s performance (five walks in 13 batters) was all too reminiscent of Oct. 2, when he walked home two runs in the first inning against San Diego and took the loss at AT&T Park.

It’s absurd to think that the Giants wouldn’t just ride the situation out with Zito considering he’s nothing more than a fifth starter. Unless they trick some team into taking some of his contract off their hands, they have to pay him anyway so why not see if he can iron out his issues? (I mean we’re talking about a fifth starter.)

But it shows how bad this guy has been that the Giants are willing to pay him $64.5 million just to stay away. As Jenkins points out in his column, at some point the club will just have to cut their losses and move on because he hasn’t shown any signs of being the pitcher he was in Oakland (or even half the pitcher he was in Oakland).

That said, I refuse to believe that Brian Sabean can’t get on the horn right now with his old buddies in New York and have Zito in a Yankee uniform by 5PM today. Even if the Giants had to eat most of his contract, maybe they could save a couple of pennies and acquire a prospect in return (even if it’s a 38-year-old Single-A prospect with bad knees and poor vision). Anything would be better than dumping him and paying him right? You’re telling me that the Yankees, with all of their pitching problems, wouldn’t take a flier on Zito if the Giants were willing to pick up most of the tab? Come on, man…COME ON!

Phillies or Giants: Which rotation would you rather have if you were starting a new organization?

Philadelphia Phillies all-star pitcher Roy Oswalt delivers a pitch during first inning San Francisco Giants-Philadelphia Phillies NLCS Championship game two at Citizens Bank Park October 17, 2010. . UPI/John Anderson

So you’re the general manager of the new Las Vegas Craps team and baseball commissioner Bud Selig comes to you with the offer of all offers.

He says, since the Craps are going to struggle this year offensively with a lineup comprised of over-the-hill veterans and unproven rookies, you get your pick of stealing either the Phillies or the Giants’ starting rotation.

“Sweet mother of all that is holy,” you say to Selig. “Those are the best starting rotations in the game!”

“Yes they are, Craps owner,” Selig says. “But you have to choose one right now.”

So which rotation would you rather have? Let’s take a look at the deets first.

Philadelphia Phillies

Roy Halladay
Age: 33
Salary: $20 million in 2011; $20 million in 2012; $20 million in 2013; $20 million option in 2014.
Career Stats: 169-86, 1,714 Ks, 3.32 ERA, 58 complete games, 19 shutouts
Accolades: Two-time Cy Young winner, two-time wins champion, seven-time All-Star.

Cliff Lee
Age: 32
Salary: $11 million 2011; $21.5 million in 2012; $25 million from 2013-2015.
Career Stats: 102-61, 3.85 ERA, 1,085 Ks
Accolades: Cy Young winner, two-time All-Star, 7-2 postseason record, 2.13 postseason ERA.

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Yankees have considered adding Kazmir and other lefties, but what about Zito?

San Francisco Giants Barry Zito pitches in the first inning against the San Diego Padres at AT&T Park in San Francisco on October 2, 2010. Zito walked in two runs in the first and took the loss in the 4-2 game. UPI/Terry Schmitt……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Ken Rosenthal writes via Twitter that the Yankees have “kicked around” the idea of making trade offers for Scott Kazmir (Angels) and other lefties, such as Joe Saunders (Angels), Gio Gonzalez (A’s), Wade LeBlanc (Padres) and Clayton Richard (Padres).

One name absent from that list is former AL Cy Young winner Barry Zito. I would have to imagine with the amount of pitching depth that the Giants have that Zito would be available for the right price. (Or any price for that matter.)

The problem of course is that Zito has three years and $64.5 million left on his contract. The Yankees have that kind of money hanging on toilet paper rollers in their front office bathrooms, but it’s not like Zito is worth that much coin – even to a team like New York, which could use a starter.

But what if the Giants were willing to pay a portion of Zito’s salary and take very little in return? Would the Yankees be willing to take a risk on him then? It’s telling that the Giants left Zito off of their World Series roster after he choked in the second-to-last regular season game against the Padres (a game in which San Fran needed Zito to pitch well and instead he lasted just three innings), but the Yankees have concerns now that Andy Pettitte has decided to retire. If A.J. Burnett doesn’t round back into form, then the Bombers will have a serious issue on their hands in terms of starting pitching. Zito isn’t Cliff Lee but he’s not Bartolo Colon either.

Then again, maybe this is a deal that works out way better for the Giants and I’m forcing the issue from the Yankees perspective. San Fran signed Jeff Suppan to a minor league deal and while Zito is arguably better than the former Cardinal, Suppan would be fine as a fifth starter (which is all the Giants would require him to be). If they could free themselves of at least a portion of Zito’s contract, then it doesn’t matter what they get back in a trade. It would be a win for them no matter what.

The Yankees, on the other hand, would have to pick up some of the tab for a pitcher that has had major confidence issues since arriving in San Francisco. They already have A.J. Burnett on their roster – they don’t need another one.

But a Zito/Yankees marriage is intriguing nonetheless.

Good to see Barry Zito is still earning his paycheck

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Barry Zito reacts after walking home a run against the San Diego Padres during the first inning of their MLB baseball game in San Francisco, California October 2, 2010. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Barry Zito’s contract continues to be the biggest rip-off in sports history.

Since arriving from Oakland and taking $126 million of the Giants’ money, the only thing Zito has done is strum a few notes on his guitar and lose ballgames.

After Matt Cain got his teeth kicked in by the Padres last night, it would have been nice if Zito stepped up for a change and won a huge game for his club. Instead, he allowed four runs (three earned) over three measly innings of work as the Giants once again fell to the Padres in San Fran. It wasn’t entirely his fault of course, as the Giants’ offense has reverted back to the Jose Castillo days, but he put his team down 2-0 in the first and sucked the life out of them.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, that means San Diego is now just one game behind the Giants in the NL West. These were the same Padres that couldn’t score a run against the Cubs two days ago and looked completely hopeless. But square them off against the Giants and all of a sudden they’re the 2009 New York Yankees.

If I sound like a bitter Giants fan, it’s because I am. Did I expect Zito to win today? No. But again, considering he’s done nothing for that team on the field, I was holding out hope that maybe he’d surprise me. I was holding out hope that he could put it all together, overcome all the struggles he’s had in San Francisco and just rise to the top one time. Just one time.

But no. In the end, he was Barry Zito.

If the Giants somehow overcome the greatest team in baseball history and magically make the playoffs, here’s hoping Madison Bumgarner makes the starting rotation and not this John Mayer wanna be.

Giants Baseball: Torture.

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