The season is one-quarter over so on this off day, before the quick road trip to Arizona and return home it is time for Surf Maui to issue grades.
It is important to keep in mind that the 2018 Giants– despite biblical levels of injuries (Cueto, MadBum, Belt, Williamson, Panik, Samardzija, Posey Longoria, Duggar, Crawford etc.) were over .500 and only two games behind the Dodgers until Mid August, by which time McCutchen was traded, Posey Cueto, Duggar and Samardzija were shut down. Healthy, that team was hardly a tear down candidate. The prospects, however, for a successful 2019 season, were premised on three things: (a) The ability of the core players to return to the offensive production of their prime or successful years; (b) the continued growth of the younger players such as DRod, Duggar, and Garcia from prior years; and (c) the acquisition of solid players to improve the team, now and in the future as Zaidi promised. The losing record this season tells part of the story, but not all of it. So let’s pass out grades.
FRONT OFFICE and GM: GRADE F (But only because there is no F minus)
Larry Baer: Just at the time that the team needed front office needed leadership, Baer managed to get himself suspended for the first half of the season. It really makes no difference whether his domestic contretemps was sufficiently severe to justify the suspension, because (a) it happened (b) it was on video; and (c) in the current atmosphere a suspension was inevitable. It remains to be seen whether Baer can ever recover from this. However, the real point is that his absence left no one in place who had a sense of Giants history, a finger on the pulse of the players and fans, and who possessed the gravitas to reign in the worst impulses (of which there were plenty) of Farhan Zaidi. Failure to sign or trade for any quality players to upgrade the team, has not only resulted in a losing team, but a disaster at the box office, where attendance is down more than 10,000 per game measured by tickets sold and far more than that by fannies actually in the seats
Farhan Zaidi: By any standard you could choose, there are no words in the dictionary sufficient to describe the degree of abysmal failure of the first six months of the Zaidi Administration in charge of Giants Baseball Operations. But let’s just use the metric that Zaidi set for himself when he took over. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Zaidi as follows:
“We want to acquire players who make the team better in 2019 and beyond. … Zaidi pledged to improve the Giants by making “one good baseball move after another.”
Unquestionably he has failed in coming close to accomplishing either goal. Let’s consider Zaidi’s statement in light of the known Giants needs for 2019– power hitting outfielders and starting pitching. I’ll give him the acquisition of Kevin Pillar– simply because we gave up nothing to get him and Pillar has had a bunch of clutch hits. I’ll even give him the possibility that Drew Pomeranz may turn out to be a valuable asset–though certainly not so far, and maybe even Steven Vogt (though why a “rebuilding” team would keep him over Garcia is a mystery to me).
Examine the rest of the transactions: Connor Joe and Michael Reed (your opening day starting corner outfielders) picked up off the waiver wire as not good enough to make the Reds or the Twins. THOSE WERE TWO THIRDS OF OUR OPENING DAY OUTFIELD. There were no better moves to be made in the entire off-season? Pul-eeze! This is what Zaidi meant by “making one good baseball move after another… and acquiring players who make the team better in 2019 and beyond?” Maybe he meant acquisitions making the team better by getting rid of them quickly? Let’s take the rest of the acquisitions: Parra: Failure and gone; Solarte: Failure and gone; Kratz: Failure and gone (though why they signed a 38 year old catcher with a lifetime average slightly north of the Mendoza line is beyond anyone); Gerber: Gone after a short unproductive stay–perhaps back some day; Venditte: Failure, gone. Tyler Austin (we’ll see); Newest dumpster dive Aaron Altherr cut from the Phillies after hitting .030) If you want to see what the Giants outfield has looked like this season go to https://www.mlbdailydish.com/2019/5/16/18622988/figuring-out-the-giants-outfield
It is undeniable, therefore that by his own self set standard, Zaidi has thus far been an unmitigated disaster. That leads to the more pressing concern, his “ability” to recognize talent and build the team. Assuming that the Giants will be disposing of assets to build for the future, Zaidi has shown a negative ability (reverse Midas touch?) to recognize value or talent. Given his performance to date he is far more likely to be completely fleeced than to get value or even a fair return. He is like Jack trading his prized cows (MadBum, Will Smith, etc) for magic beans (the Connor Joes of the World) Based on his performance to date, there is absolutely no basis to conclude that he is up to the task of either successfully evaluating talent or supervising a rebuild. I would not be unhappy if the Giants Connor Joe’d him.
So Surf Maui’s grade for Zaidi thus far is an F minus (Okay I lied. I created a new category just for Zaidi based on his cataclysmic performance). Zaidi’s role in this losing season stems from his inability to improve the team as he had pledged to do. There is plenty of other blame to go around:
THE CORE PLAYERS: GRADE C-
With few exceptions the performance of core players on the field has been a disappointment to say the least. Longoria, Belt and Crawford have not only failed to return to their career bests, or even averages, but have regressed to some degree. Of veteran position players only Sandoval (who tellingly was supposedly was the last player to make the team, and even that supposedly because Bochy wanted him) has played up to and beyond expectations. Panik is also below hopes and expectations, though he did have an outstanding spring and has started to hit recently.
Posey gets an incomplete because he is coming back from major surgery and has started to hit more recently until he was concussed. Pillar is as advertised, a solid defensive player, low average, but key hits and RBI’s. He is not a long term solution. Holland miserable lately (though he isn’t alone, and pitching in miserable Colorado conditions didn’t help. Samardzija has shown flashes of resurgence, and MadBum, with a few hiccups seems to have regained his prowess. Bullpen for the most part has been solid. In addition to the decline of these veteran players, the failure to improve the lineup to give some more production has hurt.
There is nothing here to trade and the return for those who are tradeable will be minimal–even assuming Zaidi could recognize it if he saw it–doubtful based on performance so far.
So as I have expressed on many prior occasions, to me, for any number of reasons it is crazy to trade MadBum for “prospects.” First, prospects are exactly that, prospects, and with the exception of the rare can’t miss player (who wouldn’t be dealt anyway) it is very difficult if not impossible to know with certainty what you are getting in return–maybe its Connor Joe. Second, assuming for a second that the goal is to be “competitive” in three years time, who would you rather have on your pitching staff, Mad Bum even if he is declined to a number 3, 4 or 5 starter, or some unknown commodity– who could possibly– but only possibly be a serviceable starter? In addition cost is not really an issue since (a) the Giants have oodles of money to spend and MadBum plus or minus a competitive team more than pays for himself by putting fans in the seats and (b) you are not talking about the total cost of a number 3 starter (for example) but rather only the difference in cost between MadBum and a likely lesser quality MadBum. Moreover, MadBum gives you a shot to win every single time he goes out there.
That was true at age 20, it is true at age 30 and it will be true at age 35. If the Giants are going to be in the playoffs in the next 6 years I want MadBum pitching the elimination game. He is truly one of a kind. Finally, I would be willing to bet that MadBum would like to stay, especially since Posey will be here, he would likely give somewhat of a hometown discount.
Here is yet another possible reason not to trade MadBum. I had read somewhere that he could be given a qualifying offer, which if true and he does not accept would yield a draft pick that is likely to be as valuable as any trade piece. And if he does accept pt we keep him for a bargain. I am not sure about these facts but if true, it is a no brainer.
Thus, resigning MadBum now, makes far more sense than trading him. Besides, pitchers like Will Smith and Watson–who will be free agents next year would likely yield as much as MadBum, without giving up a Forever Giant.
THE PROSPECTS: GRADE C
The Giants were also counting on several younger players to step up in order improve. These included Duggar, DRod, one or more of the pitching prospects, and Williamson (though he no longer qualifies as a younger player.) Duggar has shown promise. He has been inconsistent at the plate and made some stupid baserunning plays, but has been very good on dcfense and overall has delivered. DRod’s demotion to the minors speaks for itself and for someone who was a rookie of the year candidate last year, has been a major disappointment. Beede has shown great stuff, but has never has even a medocre major league appearance. It is too early to write him off, but so far a big disappointment coming off a great spring. Anderson’s one start was promising, but way too early to tell. Bergin and Gott have shown promise, and at the beginning of the season Moronta looked like a stud, only to regress lately, despite great stuff.
Mac Williamson has had multiple chances (some of them not very long) and last year unfortunately cut short by concussion. He has proven time and again that he can crush AAA pitching, but has never hit consistently in the big leagues–though some would say he was never really given consistent at bats. He was recovered from the concussion and raking (again) in AAA, this year and the fact is that given the lack of alternatives he deserves a long look of playing regularly for at least the next six weeks to see once and for all if he can hit major league pitching. There is little to lose at this point.
MANAGER: Grade C+
It is well known that I am a big fan of Bruce Bochy, who in SM’s opinion is one of the berst managers of all time. Frankly I don’t see that his in game managing has declined at all, as partially evidenced by the fact that the Giants lead the major leagues in one run wins. Given the lack of options and personnel, I also don’t see that there are a lot of different choices that he could have made with the lineup. His major task thus far is dealing with the, innumerable almost daily roster changes, trying to salvage the bullpen when the starters give up multiple runs early almost every day, the stench of losing and inevitable dissension that such engenders. Still, everyone has to bear some of the blame, so I have given Mr. Bochy a gentleman’s C+.
THE FANS: Grade D
The fans are showing unmistakable signs of “what have you done for me lately.” They are like the college alumni who support the newly hired coach “win or tie.” Yes, it is important to vote with your feet–or in this case by not putting your rear ends in the seats, but I am disappointed by those who have been crying tear it down since 2015– without any coherent plan in place. I would actually give the fans a D -. However, Zaidi’s failures give the fans a justification to be not be graded too harshly.
OVERALL GRADE: D (would have been C-, but Zaidi’s failures were too much to overcome)
BONUS SURF MAUI GRADE– JOHN WICK 3: Grade A+
Greek Giant has been anxiously awaiting the opening of John Wick 3, even before the closing credits of John Wick 2 were completed. So despite my drug induced back recovery stupor, GG dragged me to opening night of John Wick 3. It was once said that its star Keanu Reeves, showed acting emotions from A to B, but he is perfectly cast in the part of John Wick an assassin, who has been attempting to retire now for a combined six hours of film. The “plots” are beyond absurd, but as mindless violence with cleverly staged fight scenes and gory deaths and dismemberment this series is the Citizen Kane of stupid movies. You will definitely be grossed out. It’s embarassing to admit SM had his eyes closed for several of the more gross scenes. Not that Vailsunshine would ever go to this movie, but if she did, her eyes would be covered for more 90% of it.
Surf Maui Bonus John Wick 3- Giants Quiz:
Which number is higher? The number of people killed in the first five minutes of John Wick 3, or the number of different players who have played left field for the Giants in the last two seasons?