Giants Need a Bird in the Hand Not Two in the Bush

I see fans and pundits left and right complaining about the Giants trade for Sir Sidney Ponson. I will admit I was one of those at the very beginning. But then I dug a little deeper into the numbers and into our new pitcher and I've liked what I've seen and read.

The bottom line on the trade to me is that at the trade deadline the reality is that we had Schmidt, Williams, Moss, and Foppert as our starting rotation in the playoffs PLUS we all have forgotten that it was not so long ago that Schmidt was pulled for a start because of tendonitis, so if he goes down as well, we have Williams, Moss, Foppert, and Brower. Because Rueter, after suffering his setback that Thursday, could not be reliably counted on to pitch for us in two month stretch before the playoffs. There was uncertainty in the rotation, to put it mildly.

Where Demand and Need Meets Supply

We needed to get a starter who is experienced and is doing well this season plus our scouts have vetted him and pronounced him good to pitch for us. I can't answer for the last but on the first two points, I recall the remaining starting pitchers on the block were Suppan, Ponson, Weaver, and maybe Vasquez (who reports said was taken off the market but the prez of MLB today said that there was no such action taken).

Unfortunately, many teams were close enough to either the division lead or wild card to want to deal their good pitchers, especially the ChiSox and Toronto, who both had a couple of pitchers others would covet, unless they were knocked out of the race. There's no way the Pirates trade with us, and Weaver has a huge contract next year AND isn't doing so well, so that left Ponson, who has been doing well, is experienced, and can eat a lot of innings to boot.

Worse Case Pitching Rotation Scenario

I still think we overpaid in potential but right now many of us are not interested in potential, but rather in who is potentially pitching for us this year in the stretch run of the last two months of the season plus perhaps the playoffs:

BEFORE TRADE:

Best case scenario - Schmidt, Rueter, Williams, Moss
Possible case scenario - Schmidt, Williams, Moss, Foppert/Brower
Worse case scenario - Williams, Moss, Brower, Foppert

AFTER TRADE:

Best case scenario - Schmidt, Rueter, Ponson, Williams
Possible case scenario - Schmidt, Ponson, Williams, Foppert/Brower
Worse case scenario - Ponson, Williams, Brower, Foppert

The problem was and still is that Rueter is a huge question mark and Schmidt has a slight question mark based on his recent tendonitis. Do you want to risk a worse case scenario of Williams, Moss, Brower, Foppert now and in the playoffs or would Ponson, Williams, Brower, Foppert make you feel more comfortable? Plus, there is the additional risk that Williams may hit the rookie wall in September or October since he has never pitched that deep into the year since the minor league season ends at the end of August plus he has been held out before because of arm problems in the past.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Giants take a flyer on Kevin Appier, since he has had some success in recent past seasons, just not this season. Heck, they brought up Hermanson who hasn't had success in years. Both are "throw jell-o on the wall and see what sticks"-kind of a deal, however, not surer things, relatively. With all the injuries that has beset the rotation this year, the Giants needed some insurance of good pitching performance, and, as we all know about insurance in baseball, you have to pay through the nose for it.

Alternative Reality

I have seen discussions about the Ponson trade include talk about how the Giants should have kept Ortiz, how Moss was coming back fine lately so why do the move, how Ainsworth was about ready to come back, and how not really good Ponson is.

First off, Ortiz. People have been bitching and moaning about losing Ortiz all season long, but here's the 411: Ortiz pitched horribly in 2 of the 5 games during the playoffs last year and had an ERA of 5.76 with a WHIP of 1.6 and 13 walks in 25 innings. His results this season is no better than what he had did before with the Giants when many of us were bemoaning his wildness and erratic performance. He doesn't necessarily do better this year in the playoffs, Mazzone or no Mazzone.

Moss throws a few average starts after the All Star game and people are ready to annoit him better than Ponson, who has not pitched as well since the break. But these people conveniently forgot about his Mr. Moss' Wild Ride that we rode in May, June, and July. He has been truly Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde all season long and we have no idea which one will show up if we started him in the playoffs. One big sucking question mark but the fact is that he has been lousy much longer than he has been "wildly" effective this year. Do you really want him as our #2 or #3 pitcher, possibly, in the playoffs? I don't see that as a recipe for winning any series.

Ainsworth has pitched well in limited time with the Giants and supposedly was ready to come back, but that doesn't mean that he would have been successful. Ponson was the best of the lot of starting pitchers available for trade and the price was dear as we lost one of the annoited ones in Ainsworth. But, still, that is all Ainsworth was for us, potential. And his success so far does not mean that he will succeed in the long-term. There is some risk that he will falter like many other prospects has before, though I have faith that he will eventually achieve and succeed. But we need success in next three months, not in the future, so good-bye Kurt.

Ponson may not be the best around but Baseball Prospectus had him rated as 13th best in AL this year. He was the highest ranked by them out of all the pitchers on the trading block, except for Colon, who may or may not have been actually on the block. And while he was not that good in his first three seasons - though still better than Foppert in a hitters park vs. Foppert's PBP - he was greatly improved last year and improved again this year, which shows that he is learning and growing and improving.

In addition, this trade meant that none of our potential playoff competition could get him, which is another big plus for overpaying to get him. Addition by subtracting from the competition. Plus the Giants, by getting him, gets a little energy from the trade as well as a little spur in their rear ends, as they could see that if they don't suck it up and produce, they could be watching the playoffs with Moss instead of with Bonds.

As a consequence, much of the value of Ponson will be realized by the Giants in the next two, hopefully, three, months of baseball left. All this is why it is worth the risk of loss of Moss' and Ainsworth's potential for the Giants to obtain him now, even if he should leave the team as a free agent. That is because he provides so much positives in the next couple of months that having Moss and Ainsworth does not provide.

Bird in the Hand Versus Two in the Bush

This trade proves the logic of that old saying, "a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush." The two in the bush has not really contributed much since late May and for every good "wild" game Moss has, he has had a number of poor ones. In addition, their potential is just that, potential. It could be as real as Russ Ortiz or as illusionary as Ryan Vogelsong or Jason Grilli or Salomon Torres, as much as we all may hope that they will do it.

I would like to believe that Ainsworth will be all that we had hoped he will be, and I will follow him on his career now that he is an ex-Giant, something I don't do for every ex-, but he is of no help to us now, which is when we need him. Moss, as noted, has been Mr. Hyde much more than he has been Dr. Jeckyll and, if anything, has more closely resembled Heckyll and Jeckyll, for those who remember those two cartoon birds. Both most likely would not have been major contributors to the Giants post-season efforts, should we make the playoffs.

And this bird in our hand, Oriole Sir Sidney Ponson, provides a lot of value to the ball club. He is a proven inning eater and we need that with all the starters having been replaced by rookies or long relievers unable to go more than 6 innings regularly. He has pitched well this year and continues a progression of career improvement that shows that this year is not all a fluke, though his 14-6 record probably is. In the worse case scenario, he could be the veteran pitcher in the rotation, leading Williams, Brower, and Foppert. In all likelihood, he should do better than what Moss would have done, and at this point, that is what we want.

Plus, I've liked his attitude from the beginning. Almost every time I see a quote from him, he is cracking a joke of some sort. For example, there were a couple of good ones in the San Jose Mercury article on Ponson. Once, a girlfriend noticed that he looked like Cartman from South Park so she bought him a t-shirt with that cartoon series for him; some might have been offended by this but he was seen wearing it in the dugout (from my view, with his hat off, he looks more like Curly in the Three Stooges). About his knighthood, he joked, "I tricked some people at home." He understood how silly it is that he got it for baseball but was good natured about it.

All this means to me that he is able to diffuse pressure via humor. So he hopefully will not let the playoff pressure get to him even though he's never been in the playoffs. Plus he may make his teammates more at ease by cracking a joke. Bill Walsh once cracked the whole team up by dressing and pretending to be a bellboy when the 49ers arrived for their first Super Bowl, for example.

The other part I liked was his attitude about joining the Giants. He was grateful for joining a winning team, understanding that he has a good opportunity here and now and that the post-season free agency can wait until then. He was eager to experience, and contribute to, the Giants' playoff efforts, and confident enough to say he can help the team go far. And yet he was still self-effacing and matter-of-factly.

Lastly, I love this quote from the Mercury article, "I want to win, and I want to keep winning." You and the rest of us, Sir "Curly" Ponson, you and the rest of us.



Martin Lee writes 'A Biased Giant's Fan's View' for SFDugout.com when the mood and muse strikes him. He will believe to his dying days that Bobby Bonds was robbed of being the first 40-40 player. E-mail him at GoGiants_25@yahoo.com and maybe he'll reply back.

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