What Changed?

There are a lot of excuses as to why the Giants are so terrible this year. Some of them are even valid. But there's one problem: this team is having little go wrong that didn't happen last year. And it was last year's team that set a new standard for regular season domination in San Francisco.

The story is very familiar. Rob Nen, despite hopes of a return in Spring Training, is out for the year. Schmidt and Bonds have missed short stretches in the first two months, while Ray Durham has missed extended time due to injury. Edgardo Alfonzo is off to a painfully slow start. Starting pitching has been inconsistent, and the bullpen has been taxed.

And yet, they won 100 games. They led their division from alpha to omega. They dominated the division like they were the Yankees playing in a minor league division.

So why, with all this happening again, is it such a different story now?

There's an obvious answer: they're losing. Instead of being a first place team, after being swept out of their own stadium by Pittsburgh, the Giants are in 4th place. They are 8 games behind the first place Dodgers and have fallen behind Colorado. But why they aren't winning, and why this season seems so bad, stem from deeper reasons.

And a big part of it is attitude. The fans and the players.

This year was perhaps the greatest public relations blunder in this ownership's tenure. For heaven's sake, guys, don't start off an offseason by telling everyone you're cutting payroll! Even if you are. Even though the result of the ‘cutting' of payroll brought the budget to the same place it'd been the same time the previous year. And they wondered why fans were pissed off to start the offseason.

Then they made the A.J. Pierzynski trade, and broadcast another intention: that this team would be improved through trades, not free agency. And what did they do after that declaration? The only other trade made was getting 5th outfielder Dustan Mohr for a minor leaguer, and the rest of the team's ‘improvements' came through free agency.

And then they spent the rest of the offseason bragging about how good all the starters would be. There were claims made about Neifi Perez's power (which produced 1 HR in all of 2003, and a total of 48 over 9 years in the majors. And 26 of those came while playing for Colorado!), about Michael Tucker's high average (which has broken .270 once in his career), and about Brett Tomko's newfound pitching skill. Most Giants fans who looked at the stats weren't buying it to begin with. That the fans' fears have proven very true, and very obvious, has only pissed the fans off more.

It's not that we were mad for being lied to, it's that the lies were stupid lies that no one believed. And the Giants ownership and organization did it to fans all winter long. And they wonder why the fans are nearing a revolt, and why there are increasing numbers of empty seats at SBC Park this year.

The ownership really isn't going to want to see the drop in season ticket holders that is coming. And there will be quite a drop.

And then there's the players. The comments aired in the paper recently by Barry Bonds weren't a surprise. The truth is, they were the truth. The team wasn't performing, and they couldn't blame it on youth or inexperience. They got a number of veterans to come in and play, and they just aren't. And the charge that management didn't get the right veterans isn't exactly a novel suggestion.

Early failures and fan displeasure have led to a team that just doesn't look like it cares out there. Too many of these players are taking the double plays and strikeouts in stride, and quite frankly, it adds to the fan displeasure. Make fun of Ruben Rivera all you want for his boneheadedness, at least he was running his ass off, even if he was running in every direction.

It's not like there's any big mystery to a number of this team's failures early. Let's start with a number of the Giants having no clue how to hit a breaking ball, or being able to lay off a change up. Tucker, Feliz, Perez, Mohr, and Pierzynski have all been extremely susceptible to this. And to avoid double plays, how about trying to put some lift into the swings to avoid hitting the balls on the ground?

This isn't rocket science. It may not be as easy as I say it, but for heaven's sake, what would be wrong with locking these guys into a batting cage until they learn to keep the bat on their shoulders until they get a pitch they can hit? And why isn't it being done? (This isn't a rhetorical question, Felipe Alou. I'd like an answer)

And it just gets worse. The sniping in the clubhouse doesn't help, and it appears that A.J. and Tomko can not work together anymore. Which is, quite honestly, appalling. Mostly because out of any two guys on this team, they are the ones that need to rub off on each other. Tomko desperately needs to take some of A.J.'s devil-may-care attitude when it comes to his pitching. He gets too bothered by mistakes made by him or his teammates, and he lets it get to him on the mound. We saw it with Shawn Estes, and it's not that different now. Meanwhile, if A.J. is going to make friends on this team, Tomko is the guy to start with. He's the most personable, friendly guy on the team, and is the one who doesn't seem like he'd fall into clubhouse cliques. A.J. is here for the long term. He can piss off the rest of the league if he wants, but he needs to have friends in the clubhouse. Maybe then he won't miss Minnesota as much.

I don't know if any changes can happen this year that will make a difference. With each loss, more on more guys I know who I count on to be optimistic get more and more frustrated with the team. And with each loss, it's more and more apparent that some of the guys on the field just don't care about playing.

Maybe the attitude change needs to start at the top. Get ownership to stop lying to us (and perhaps themselves) about what we have and what we don't. And then act on our problems. Dustan Mohr isn't batting his weight; send him down! Neifi Perez is the #13 hitting shortstop in the NL (16 teams), and his vaunted defense is only the 8th best amongst his peers. There's no reason to keep playing him when Pedro Feliz has said he prefers playing shortstop over playing first base. There are a couple of players in Fresno who are playing their collective tails off, and doing very good. No, they aren't going to win us this year's World Series, but are they really going to be any worse than who's playing now?

Maybe if the management shows they care and they play the players who seem to care, they can salvage the fans who in droves are starting to not care at all, anymore.

OTHER NOTES FROM THE WEEK THAT WAS:

  • As bad as some of our players have been, they are outperforming the players they replaced. Tucker's .255 doesn't look so bad when compared to Jose Cruz Jr. batting .200 in a hitter's park at Tampa Bay.

  • Meanwhile, A.J.'s hitting has improved to .250, over Benito Santiago's .242 average. And A.J. has only grounded into 2 more double plays than our former DP threat.

  • The shortstop position may be the most shocking. Up until this week, Rich Aurilia was performing at the same level as Neifi Perez. Aurilia put together a couple of good starts to pull away from Neifi, but the .240 batting average and sub-.300 OBP and SLG are not looking all that great either.

  • This weekend showcased some of the worst officiating I've seen in a long time, and not just the Giants. The worst local blown call was Saturday when Yorvit Torrealba tagged out Daryl Ward at home plate by a few feet. It wasn't even close, and if there was any doubt the tag was made, Yorvit's hand was clearly hit by Ward's arm sliding by. Yet, he was called safe by home plate umpire Bruce Froemming. Today, it was Mike Winters calling out Hammonds on a strikeout after Jason Kendall trapped a foul tip after it hit his chest protector (which should not be considered a caught foul tip). And both umps called for check swing strikeouts without asking for help from umpires down the lines. This was even going on in Houston, where the Mets got cheated of an inning ending out (and a run) when a runner was called safe despite lying on top of the fielder while being tagged while both were off the base.

    Umpiring is a tough job, and mistakes will be made. But none of the above plays were close. And if one umpire doesn't have a good angle, the others who saw it need to step in and make the right call. Not even the strongest union in the world could argue that these guys are doing their jobs right, right now.

  • If there are going to be trades to be made, perhaps Sabean should make sure that the Mets are noticing Edgardo Alfonzo. It's not a very big secret that his swing gets better when he's around his family, who are New York based. Last year, Alfonzo found his swing when his family moved out for the summer. This year, Alfonzo's started to come around since the road trip to New York. The Mets can handle his payroll, and Alfonzo is still a New York favorite. And Ty Wigginton hasn't shown any signs of being a valuable or consistent third baseman since taking over for Alfonzo last year. Alfonzo would surely welcome a return to New York, and the fans would probably like it. Alfonzo may be the Giants 2nd best hitter, but he's not actually it enough to justify the payroll space right now.



    Love me, hate me, idolize me, or laugh at me, just don't ignore me. Let me know what you think: write me at kevin@ugcfilms.com .

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