Miscalculations Will Doom Giants in 2005

I can't tell you how comforted I am as a nearly 33-year fan of the Giants that Brian Sabean recently admitted that he miscalculated the talent of his team. "Miscalculated."

I swear that's the word I saw in pristine print less than two weeks ago in the San Jose Mercury News. That's just great considering the most passionate, die-hard, gas-to-the-goods fan sitting here earning dillweed for this column could have told him that back December. Relying on Barry Bonds to cover deep holes wasn't going to work this time for Sabean. As a grand jury testimony and an alleged mistress might tell you, Barry Bonds has 99 problems and a pitch ain't one.

There are 3 million fans who annually attend his games that would have been able to echo this sentiment back in February. However, for whatever reason, the Giants unloaded a ridiculous amount of cash for a .240 hitting catcher and a closer who time and time again has sucked the tannins from litter boxes when it's counted the most. Clearly, Mike Matheny and Armando Benitez benefited from the seller's market that existed during the off-season, and who can blame them for cashing in on another team's quiet desperation? I don't. Remember, my editor, Yahoo and my fans don't pay me for this. I didn't want to write this. I felt I owed it to them.

To Matheny's credit, his work ethic is superb. His insight has led to the Kirk Rueter's re-establishment as a frontline starter and he fields his position exceptionally well. That's all well and good and all but it leaves me thinking that they've had this all before at a greatly reduced cost. Over the years they've thrown Bob Brenly, Bob Melvin, Terry Kennedy and Kirt Manwaring behind the plate and never received the Posada-like numbers that makes a GM turn into a guy with nothing but Round Table Pizza and the DVD anthology of Jenna Jameson's greatest moments on a wife-free weekend. And that thought leaves me wondering what is going on in the Giants' dugout. Why couldn't pitching coach, Dave Righetti, have insisted that Rueter throw inside? Matheny's arrival was celebrated when he offered this less-than-staggering idea, but why did it take a journeyman catcher to suggest it in the first place? Didn't Righetti once collect a paycheck from Steinbrenner, i.e., didn't he have to put up insane results for an insane boss with insane expectations? Didn't this guy pitch a perfect game on the 4th of July in Yankee freakin' Stadium? I know Matheny and his wife have a superbly close relationship, according to his former manager, Tony LaRussa. Perhaps Righetti is afraid of getting snubbed for the Arbor Day Potluck and Badminton Day at the Matheny Estate. Outside of that, I can't for the life of me imagine why Righetti is on eggshells with his own pitching staff. Meanwhile, Yorvit Torrealba sits in the dugout for another year like the good soldier that he is, thereby hindering his development while the Giants throw nearly $3 million a year to Mike Matheny. Oh Draconian Devil, where art thoust power numbers, Benito Santiago? Da Vinci Code anagrams aside, I am curious as to the labyrinthine reasoning behind Matheny's inflated salary, if not role, on the team.

Then there is the matter of Benitez, heretofore known as “El Floppo”, who has always amounted to nothing more than a bigger version of the one who laid the foundation for the 2002 World Series Game 6 collapse, Felix Rodriguez. Fans and experts alike point to Benitez's success with the Florida Marlins last season with his miniscule ERA and weighty save total. But therein lays the rub. Who, other than Dontrelle Willis' mother, expected the Marlins to win let alone challenge in 2004? As a result, Benitez was able to lay low and pad the stats when the fifty-plus opportunities came his way last year. A save under the radar is just as good as one by Mariano Rivera against Boston when it comes to negotiating a free agent contract. No one outside of the player's union and assemblage of agent scum is sadder about this fact than me. And look how El Floppo Mas Grande did as soon as he was thrust back into the spotlight this season: he emulated the same behaviors that cost him jobs for both New York teams and Seattle. Specifically, he smelled like my underwear after a summer Vegas trip. This is a guy who surrendered that memorable 3-run bomb to J.T. Snow in the 2000 NLDS…. when Snow hit major league pitching about as well as I do! And what did he ever so briefly do in a Giants uniform? He blew lead after lead, struck out virtually no one and then detonated his hamstring while covering first base.

Whenever I hear about a blown hamstring, I immediately think of a thorough lack of conditioning. How often did Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan and Barry Bonds (NOTE: Be nice! No Balco jokes!) blow out their respective hammies? Zilch. The blame of a torn hamstring lies squarely on Benitez's shoulders. So, couple his less than confident approach on the mound with a lack of conditioning, and Benitez settles right near the top of my crap list.

I know that Yahoo is awarding a position in the Giants front office for the winner of their fantasy league. Will this future winner have Sabean's ear? He/she should because it doesn't take a rotisserie geek to know that banking on a World Series championship on a meek-hitting catcher and a mentally (and now physically) cramped closer is a boneheaded move. Keep in mind that I'm not even getting into lambasting the signing of Moises Alou who packs more urine into his bat than power. Remember that this is the guy who admittedly wee-wees on his hands to toughen them up. His bat, thus far, has not had the fecal ferocity transfer from his hands to his lumber, judging by all the first-pitch pop-outs and weak, inning-ending grounders. Felipe Alou should suspend his kid's allowance and send him to his room without eating one morsel of Orlando's Cha-Cha Bowls.

With these pains, aches and screw-ups in mind, coupled with the trade of Russ Ortiz for Damian Moss and acquiring Sidney Ponson as the “ace” for the 2003 postseason, Sabean has arrayed an impressive assemblage of hardcore flops to his mantle of missteps. Yes, he brought you Jeff Kent and Jason Schmidt but he hasn't brought the fans the one thing that can make demons like Bucky Dent disappear and absolve the sins of men like Donnie Moore and Bill Buckner. He hasn't delivered the one thing that can erase a half century of suffering. He has done just well enough for them to lose and 2005 looks to be no different.

Keith Larson writes for SFDugout.com because he's lived and died with the Giants since 1972. He welcomes all words of praise and insult at keith49ers@yahoo.com, but mentioning anything having to do with Game 6 is to be done with extreme caution.

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