Seeking Answers: Sidney Ponson

I made a comment about Sir Sidney in my last "Who's Hot, Who's Not" article, and it's grabbed some attention, some criticism, and even a challenge. Not for lack of time, I found this challenge worthy of a defined response, and the subject matter was worthy as well. Few Giants fans know everything there is to know about Ponson, and we might as well set some of the record straight.

Lately, I've been seen as a member of the "now" generation, also known as those born before the Summer of Love (summer of 1967). I've been told to get a grip, to stop judging people based on recent performance. The only issue I have with that is the fact that my article, "Who's Hot, Who's Not," has its roots in recent performance. It is true that I should not compare players to prior form, but relativity is somewhat necessary when ranking whether players are smoking or simply on ice. However, I'm ready and willing to admit that I could write a better article; perhaps this is it.

This is true: Sidney Ponson has rarely if never been what most people would call spectacular. In his career with the Baltimore Orioles, from the beginning of the 1998 season to the trading deadline in 2003, Ponson amassed no more than 9 wins each year, except in 1999, when he managed 12, and this fateful year, in which he picked up an impressive 14 in about two-thirds of a season. Simply stated, Ponson has never had a winning record, but this year could mark the end of that.

Either you have it or you don't: This is the scouting report on Ponson. When healthy, he has a low-to-mid-90s fastball. Ponson has also improved his slider, and gaining command of it makes it an out pitch for the 26-year old. He has improved his ability to keep the ball down and in the strike zone, making for more groundouts than fly balls, which may be both a help an a hindrance; the outs are technically "easier," but there is always the chance of getting "dinked to death" rather than having batters go yard all the time.

For the (2003) record: It can be said that Ponson was off and on in April. He collected just two wins, but he managed to whittle an abysmal era of 19.29 to a much more modest 4.80. This is close to where both his career and season ERAs currently stand. As is surprisingly common in baseball, an ERA and a win-loss record are highly overrated. For instance, in April, Ponson allowed 2 earned runs on two occasions. In the first start, he was awarded the win; in the second, Sir Sidney took the loss. In the start that fell between these two "strong outings," Ponson gave up 4 runs, yet no decision was awarded him. Each time, he pitched 7.0 innings, although this number may not account for any batters he faced in the 8th frame and failed to retire.

With the month of May came more of the ERA game for Sidney. He was surprisingly dominant at the beginning of the second month, giving up just one run in his first two May starts, yet he fell back into old form, giving up four earned runs in his next four starts, extending into his first start in June. Despite yielding four runs in each of these starts, Ponson was awarded with the win in the last three of four. He went for 6.0, 6.0, 9.0, and 8.0 innings, respectively.

The rest of Ponson's June appeared shakier, as he won his first three out of six that month, including the aforementioned 4-runs in 8.0 innings. His second outing of the month was a complete game 7-hitter, in which he yielded 1 run—most impressive. The end of the month was not nearly as sweet for Ponson, as he went 1-and-two in for his last three, and his season ERA was barely under 4.00 by the end of the month.

June combined with July were months in which the Giants truly took notice. In July, Ponson pitched the most innings per game so far this season, compared to previous months. He was 4-and-1 on the month, coming out in impressive style comparable to his May statistics, albeit with more innings pitched, more hits, more homeruns, but fewer walks, fewer strikeouts, and the same numbers of runs and earned runs.

And with that, the Giants were sold on Ponson, and traded away still-young and fairly untested Kurt Ainsworth, who was into his third year, despite maintaining rookie status, and Damian Moss, who they had been less-than-pleased with, since his 5-game win streak at the beginning of the season and subsequent downhill slide. These two major-leaguers, along with minor-leaguer Hannaman completed the deal.

Oh, and for anybody who is concerned about strikeouts, which are even more deceiving than averages and records, the most Ponson has recorded this season was 9, coming against the Kansas City Royals on May 3rd.

More fuel for the fire: Now, one of the things that Sir Sidney has going for him is a rubber arm, per se. In his career, Ponson has pitched a very modest, or perhaps impressive 22 complete games, 4 of which came this year. The most he has ever recorded in a single season is 6, in both 1999 and 2000.

Still, keep in mind that this is what is being considered Ponson's "break out" year. He has never put up these kinds of numbers before, so it is difficult to rate his overall performance with the Orioles, and it is equally if not more difficult to rate his performance with the Giants thus far, based on a mere two games. It is true that he has not won in his last three starts, but that does not mean that things could not change, just as they did in April.

What the future may hold: Remember, Sir Sidney's contract ends with the season, so the Giants have a few options in terms of his future. He has been touted as the short-term, let's-get-to-the-World-Series-and-win-it-this-time-around solution, and whether or not he will stay with the team after this season remains uncertain. If he performs, the Giants may definitely consider resigning him, although the budget is still limited; think of all the players whose contracts are up at the end of 2003. There are many, and with the kind of season Ponson has come up with, he may want more money than the Giants can give.

However, if the Giants do sign him, I have heard the idea that the Giants may have him shape up or ship out. The idea of threatening him with a trip to the minors is a possibility, however, I do not know whether that is possible, as I have little knowledge of contractual situations and player options. At this point, Ponson pockets a hefty chunk of change: 4.25 million. Whether he is worth the price is still up in the air.

Amy Lew has been writing close to anything and everything for since its inception. . A Giants fan since age eight (1994), she writes ‘Who's Hot and Who's Not,' does her fair share of special features, and serves an unofficial editor. You can contact her at

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