Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Batter Up

In baseball today, when you put a pitching staff together, you must build from the bullpen forward. No matter who starts, the bullpen decides who wins the game 95 % of the time.

The most successful teams are the teams with four or five reliable arms in the pen. Take a look at the Cards, the Dodgers, the Red Sox, or even the Devil Rays as examples of teams with balanced bullpens that close tight games.

This brings us to the A’s and Giants.

Ken Macha has a problem. Right now, only Chad Bradford is giving the manager a clean inning. Macha’s body language tells the story when he needs to bring a new pitcher into the game. Looks like he’d rather have a tooth pulled, then raise his arm signaling for a reliever.

The lack of a quality closer and a hard throwing set up man is costing the A’s critical games in the standings. How about Ugueth Urbina? Would the Tigers pick up some of his salary to move him?

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It’s time for one of Billy Beane’s three cornered deals. Orchestrate a trade to get the Dodgers the big hitter and starter they need, get the Royals the catcher and third baseman they desire, and then bring to the A’s Jason Grimsley from the Royals (forget Jason Grimsley he went to Baltimore Monday) and Guillermo Mota from the Dodgers to solve the A’s bullpen miseries.

If the A’s can’t trade for a quality arm, then Rich Harden has got to become the closer with Justin Duchscherer getting the first chance to replace Harden in the rotation.

Can the Angels capitalize on the misfortunes of the A’s bullpen? Perhaps. Anaheim is slowly welcoming back their injured players. The question is, how long will they stay on the field ? Without the big boppers hitting on all cylinders, the Angels are not scoring enough runs to worry anyone.

On the bright side for the Angels, the pen has been strengthened with the emergence of Kevin Gregg and Brenden Donnelly’s return this week. If the Angels regain the lead in the West, the bullpen will be the reason.

Not having a stopper is another problem holding the Angels down. Until starter Bartolo Colon shows he is worth his 50 million dollar contract, the Angels rotation lacks leadership.

Felipe Alou has handled his bullpen perfectly. Giants management left themselves open to criticism by not adding a quality bat or a quality starter in the offseason. However, Alou has seven reliable arms in the pen and the manager has not hesitated to use some combination on a daily basis. The Giants are riding “Johnny Wholestaff” to the top of the NL West.

My all star ballot:

IB Scott Hatteberg: Career year and division leading A’s get one all star from their offense.
2B Alfonso Soriano: Living up to Rangers expectations, numbers aren’t as dramatic as in NY, but good enough to be the best second baseman in the league.
SS Michael Young: Leads the Rangers offense and that is saying something.
3B A Rod: Has concentrated on his game in NY, the fans in the Big Apple won’t settle for his annual disappearing act in big games.
OF Vladimir Guerrero: He’s carried the Angels from opening day.
OF Manny Ramirez: Same for Manny with the Red Sox.
OF Ichiro: If singles count, he’s the man.
C Pudge Rodriguez: The way he has played in Detroit, he showed the world he’s a hall of famer.

IB Sean Casey: The Mayor of Cincinnati can flat out hit.
2B Jeff Kent: Bright spot in a faltering Astro offense.
SS Edgar Renteria: Great glove and crushes lefties with the best of ‘em.
3b Scott Rolen: MVP season in the works, gold glove too.
OF Moises Alou: Won’t shake hands with him, but has kept the Cubs close until Sammy gets back.
OF Barry Bonds: Game won’t start until he shows up,
OF Ken Griffey Jr. 500 homers can’t be taken lightly, no matter how easy it seems to be these days.
C Mike Piazza: Can swing the bat with the greatest who ever caught, but can’t make a little league all star team as a first baseman.

With Curt Schilling’s ankle requiring two shots of the painkiller marcaine, one before he takes the mound and one four innings later, the Red Sox are poised to deal for either Rockies starter Jason Jennings or the Mariners Freddy Garcia before some other team beats them to the punch.

Everyone thinks that Carlos Beltran will be the first Royal traded. Not so fast, KC is shopping first baseman Mike Sweeney, who each year gives the team the option of trading him to one of 8 possible destinations. This year the lucky teams are all on the west coast with the Dodgers most interested.

Sweeney would fit nicely with the Giants too, even at 12 mil per year for the next three years. KC wants a catcher (Yorvit Torrealba fits) and a third baseman (Edgardo Alfonzo). Sweeney could hit third or fifth in the Giants lineup and help the team immensely.

Houston owner Drayton McLane is not a patient man. With the Houston offense in a deep freeze, Andy Pettitte still on the DL, and the rest of the team pressing each day, don’t be surprised to see manager Jimy Williams take the hit by the all star break if the team hasn’t shown renewed signs of life.

If you are thinking about the playoffs, start looking at your bullpen now. You don’t get there without a reliable one.


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