Monday, November 17, 2008

Preeping Toward A Championship

by Cudgy Preep

Editor’s note: Once again, Cudgy Preep steps into the breech (which makes a nauseating squishy sound), donning the mantle of your humble Almost EEEEEE! correspondent—a mantle trimmed with ermine and hand-stitched using silk thread soaked in the tears of Giants fans who are still pissed off about the 2002 World Series. Preep, whose real name also isn’t Bat Fastard, often gets a lot of pleasure from making fun of my employment situation, whether I’m employed or not (that would still be “not”), is, himself, one of the many longtime award-winning Bay Area journalists who’s found himself looking for work despite not having won any actual awards. (I, at least, got a “good website!”-type award about 10 years ago, which I mention solely to rub Cudgy’s nose in it. But I digress.) In any case, Cudgy now has breech all over his best open-toed slippers, chiefly because I couldn’t think of much to say about the two latest Giants developments except “Hurrah!” and “Guh?” I’m hoping Cudgy can be even marginally more articulate.—GP

Recently, not once but twice, I’ve had the distinct lack of pleasure to hear something about our Giants that astounded me unto the point of spitting out my mouthful of microwaved sauerkraut, which I’d attempted to consume straight from the white-hot jar. The first would be Tim Lincecum winning the Cy Young Award. The second would be the Giants’ latest foray into the free-agent market.

“Hurrah!” I shrieked, spattering shavings of pickled cabbage at least seven feet in every direction, for Lincecum had become the first Giant since Mike McCormick in 1967 to win a Cy Young. Marichal? Perry? Swift? Burkett? Krukow? Reuschel? Bryant? Schmidt? Some closer? No effing way, no matter how clearly a given Giants pitcher should’ve won it in a given year.

It’s not just Lincecum winning the award that warmed my cockles. No, it was the combination of that and much of the sauerkraut falling into my lap, which warmed the damn things way more than I would’ve liked. Plus there was the fact that suddenly I felt that there might, somehow, some way, be some kind of hope. I mean, for as long as I’ve been a Giants fan, Giants DO NOT win Cy Young Awards. They DO NOT throw no-hitters. They utterly, utterly DO NOT win World Championships.

But now that one of these three mighty oaks has fallen (or is it “have”? I’m never really sure—I think you’re supposed to maintain subject-verb agreement. That said, I might instead just decide that we’re talking about a different kind of tree), I feel as though the barest whisper of hope might somehow have squeaked its way in through the steel-bolted door of Giants fandom.

Now, I’m not an idiot. I’m not going to go into the 2009 season thinking, “Yeah! This is our year! It’s gonna happen! The Giants are finally gonna get me a ring!” I’ve been conditioned over the years, as has every fan of the type who would read Gregg’s and my stuff, to know that even if there’s something to be enthusiastic about, pessimism and skepticism should always be right at hand. It’s not unlike Dave Barry’s description of his mother’s idea of a balanced meal, namely that for every food item the kids liked, there had to be one that they didn’t. I think the specific items were hamburgers and Brussels sprouts.

Until today there were 171 ballplayers hoping to be signed as free agents. These included a fair amount of big names, lots of “hey, he might fit nicely” people, and plenty of guys who, in testing the market, had better be awfully optimistic and willing to overlook their myriad flaws. And the first of these dominoes (or perhaps oak trees, or maybe beech) to fall was… lefty Jeremy Affeldt: two years with the San Francisco Giants, eight million simoleons, according to, which further insists that the Giants have wanted Affeldt for two years.

Because I’m a Giants fan, I’m guessing that those two years will have been the best of his career, as he put up a 3.51 ERA pitching for the Rockies and a 3.33 in Cincinnati. Neither of these is a mean feat. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved from 46-to-33 in 2007 to 80-to-25 last year. That ought to be a pretty good sign, no? (That’s ought to.) His splits were a little odd last year: .269/.293/.444/.738 vs. lefthanded batters, .255/.329/.391/.719 against that other kind. His ERA was quite a bit higher at home than on the road—another pretty nice sign, given that the Reds play in more of a hitter’s park than the Giants; however, AT&T Park favored the hitter last year, which was weird, especially with no Bonds around.

So at the moment I’m neither excited nor not about Affeldt, who I think has got to be a better choice out of the pen than, say, Osiris Matos or Patrick Misch. (He’s just got to!) In fact, the bullpen as a whole looks somewhat better now that we’ve seen the back of Brad Hennessey (who just signed with Baltimore), Tyler Walker, Kevin Correia, and Gino Espineli. Eric Hinshaw was the best lefty reliever this year, and Jack Taschner was… well, he was a lefthanded reliever. Either way, it looks as though there will be some rather fierce competition among the bullpen lefties next spring, with Affeldt virtually guaranteed a place.

But for $8 million over two years? Guh? I truly don’t get it, and I am convinced that only the San Francisco Giants—Brian Sabean or no Brian Sabean—would poop out that kind of dosh for a middle reliever.

As for the big names, such as C.C. Sabathia or Mark Teixeira, The Marin Independent Journal has Sabes saying, “If their interest in us is sincere, we'll continue to talk. But we're not going to let anything drag out. We won't be used to drive the price up.” The writer, Andrew Baggarly, goes on to say, “The Giants fell into that trap two winters ago in failed pursuits of Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee.”

Does that give you confidence? Hey hey! There’s nothing like knowing for sure that your team is a patsy, as opposed to merely suspecting it all your life.

And finally, in one of my earlier pieces I made passing mention of the silly crush I had on some blonde actress in some English cop show. More than one reader wanted to know who I was talking about, and what show. And I’m still not going to tell you because you’ll only taunt her and send her pictures of me. I shall say merely that I would appreciate it if she left her husband and kids behind to frolic in the surf with me in, I dunno, somewhere sunny and beachy. Probably I shouldn’t mention that it’s the character I’m in love with, not the actress. If she wants my love, she’s got to be a Giants fan—a Giants fan who’s not afraid to remind me that sauerkraut, microwave ovens, and astounding Giants news just don’t mix.

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