Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Giants' Prospects: A Fan's Perspective by Ed Stern

Marty; For the past more than two years this column has been written from the point of view of a traditional fan who has been a follower of this ball club since Polo Grounds days, whose memory goes back to the 1934 World Series when Carl Hubbell took care of the Washington Senators. There is no opportunity here to talk with management or the players, as a beat writer for the press does.

One is not privy to inside information. On the surface, this may appear to be a disadvantage. However, there is something to be said for approaching a team’s problems without being beholden to those who have a self interest in putting the best face on past actions. Not having a stake in decision making, having a fan’s independence, may add a degree of reliability to one’s judgement.

Having said that, let’s take a look at the latest effort by Sabean to turn a club which is going nowhere into a playoff contender.

Click below for more from Ed Stern. The Giants just traded two young, 23 year old pitchers, to the Cubs and Dusty Baker, for Hawkins. Hawkins was virtually ridden out of town by Chicago fans, for good reason. The one inning he pitched yesterday, during which he gave up two hits, two walks and four earned runs, was characteristic of the year he was having in Chicago before being traded.

It has been clear for some time that the Giants needed help in the bullpen. If Hawkins had been available at no cost one might make out a reasonable case, hoping that his Chicago experience wasn’t an aberration, for giving him a short time in which to prove he could shore up a non-performing bullpen. Unfortunately, Hawkins doesn’t come at no cost.

The Giants relinquished David Aardsma and Jerome Williams for the luxury of pitching Hawkins in the eighth inning, as a setup man for Walker, or, if the need arose, in the ninth, as a closer. Aardsma has been touted as a prospective closer by the team ever since he was drafted as a high round selection.

In 2003 he spent a short time with San Jose. He was elevated to Fresno in 2004. In Fresno he appeared in 44 games, pitching 55 innings. He had an ERA of 3.09. He gave up only two home runs. He had close to one strikeout for every inning pitched. He throws in the mid-nineties. The justification offered by the team for trading him was that he needed a second pitch. Assuming that to be the case, for the moment, this is not the first young pitcher with talent similar to Aardsma, who might benefit from good coaching, thereafter becoming an important part of a winning team. Do the Giants have such coaching available?

Williams was the other pitcher thrown into the deal. This move must raise considerable question. Williams, at age 23, has demonstrated in the past two years that he can pitch successfully at the major league level. In 2003, in a game against the A’s, a much more formidable club than the present one, he went nine innings, throwing only 88 pitches, and winning. This was not the only performance of this caliber during that year. This is a pitcher with a demonstrated ability to win.

The explanation given by the Giants, at least as reported in the local press, for giving up on Williams this early in his career, is that he throws sidearm, thereby putting too much stress on his arm. Once again, assuming they are correct, are their coaching skills so absent that his arm movement is impossible to correct? Is this such a lost cause that he is worthy only of being thrown into a deal for such as Hawkins?

This trade has the makings of a disaster. It is not going to turn a team with the pitching problems they have into a contender, needing realistically two or three starting pitchers in the rotation, a made over bullpen, a couple of hard hitting outfielders, irrespective of Bonds’ return or his playing condition.

One thing we can probably be assured of. If it is as bad a deal as it appears to be, the decision makers will find a way to justify it. At the risk of beating a dead horse, remember Joe Nathan. The accepted wisdom, at least as pronounced repeatedly by Sabean and members of the local press close to management, was that Nathan was a late bloomer who didn’t realize his potential until the Twins noted it.

They very conveniently overlook Nathan’s 2003 stats. He won twelve games in a setup role. He appeared in 78 games, with an ERA of 2.96. He had 83 strikeouts, 33 walks.
He has a fast ball and a slider, good enough to make him, without question, one of the outstanding closers in the game today. The fastball and slider didn’t appear overnight when he found himself in Minnesota. The likelihood is that they were present when he was winning the twelve games in San Francisco.

Sabean is still trying to fix broken parts during the season in the hope that the playoffs are a reasonable option. This team is too far gone for that process to work. A complete re-evaluation of the club is in order. This is a team whose first draft choice comes in the 134th round. The A’s will have chosen 7 players before the Giants get a chance to exercise their option.

By making certain that they fill gaping holes, year by year, through the free agency route, they guarantee that they will have few high round choices in the draft. This is consistent with their decision that they do not wish to pay the bonus money for such choices. This is no way to build a young, attractive team.

Give the faithful fans a break. Start rebuilding. Give up on this year. Leave the Hawkins types alone. Give some consideration to trading off some of the few players they have who might be attractive to teams shooting for the playoffs and in need of a helping hand, in exchange for a few prospects who may make a difference in a year or two or three.

Begin to develop your own players. This requires a farm system which has this as it’s reason for being.

Do not give away attractive young talent for over the hill athletes.

Other teams, with fewer financial assets, have done it. All it takes is an intelligent approach to today’s game.



1 Anonymous { 06.07.05 at 1:20 am }


One frustrating thing about the Giants current ownership group has been their apathy in building a minor league organization -it is actually intentional–the stadium was a must to save the team for SF, and the seats had to be filled to pay off the construction costs- now they justify their roster building by stating the need for large attendance to pay off the mortgage, or the need to surround Barry for his run on the records ( and sell tickets ) —signing free agents automatically hits the minor league system because of the draft selections forfeited –in New York and in the early days here the Giants had a bountiful farm system sending a regular stream of incredible players coming thru their levels –do you remember all the superstar players they gave away ( like George Foster ) —

when Rosen / Craig resurrected the team with homegrown guys like Will Clark and Robbie Thompson and Matt Williams and Mike Aldrete and Rod Beck, I think the fan base was really energized — it is inconceivable that this group could even try to do something like this — its just not even in their budgeting

maybe the current drive for last place will become a wake up call

2 Anonymous { 06.08.05 at 1:22 pm }

Your comments are well taken. It’ discouraging to pick up the morning paper and realize that there are 150 young players chosen before the Giants get the chance to pick one. There must come a time when the pattern–signing free agents with a limited life span while relinquishing draft choices—is broken. This may mean a few years when a rebuilding process is in place. So be it. As you say, this year’s pitiful peformance may be a wakeup call. Let us hope the investors recognize it.

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