Lincecum. Cain. Sandoval. Those are the only players on the Giants’ 25-man roster whom I insist that they keep, and as much as I like him, I’m not entirely positive about Sandoval. But what do we hear today? Brian Sabean’s after somebody who can freakin’ hit. Well, that’s good, but the other part is that supposedly he’s shopping Cain. Well, heck, it could be worse: it could be Lincecum.
Part of the problem is that the Giants don’t have much to trade, at least not at the major league level. That is, the Giants’ most tradeable assets are guys they don’t want to trade. Or at least Lincecum. Occasionally we hear rumors about Bengie Molina, but how much could the Giants really get for a catcher in his mid-thirties; a man who, by himself, is The Argument for baseball to introduce the Designated Runner; a man who really seems to have trouble corralling pitches at the letters? Really, it’s hard to fault him that much, but he’s the Giants’ cleanup hitter, and his best OPS with the team was last year’s .767; this year it’s .766. Again, I like to use the trick, which really isn’t a trick, of dividing OPS by three to get an idea of how a hitter’s doing. That is to say, Molina’s OPS/3 is .255, which is about as good an OPS as .255 is a batting average. Molina doesn’t walk, which might lead you to think he makes up for it in his Big-Money sluggitude. He doesn’t. Right now he’s slugging .484, which is his best as a Giant to date, and that’s only 400 points below Barry Bonds’ slugging percentage in 2001. Now, nobody expects him to be Bonds—that would be ridiculous—but for crying out loud, a cleanup hitter slugging .484 isn’t doing a lot of cleaning up.
Molina, however, should hardly be the whipping-boy for the Giants’ troubles. I’m not sure who should be, though, because there are plenty of candidates including (but not limited to) Randy Johnson, Jonathan Sanchez, Aaron Rowand (who led off the game by taking an 0-2 pitch at his shins for strike three—have I complained enough about the umpires lately?), Travis Ishikawa, Rich Aurilia, Edgar Renteria, Fred Lewis, Brian Wilson…. It’s disheartening, isn’t it?
Johnson, by the way, has managed to throw two or three good games as a Giant, but EEEEEE! staffer emeritus David Beck compared the situation to that of Steve Carlton. This was a reference, as you old-timers know, to the Giants suddenly picking up the future Hall-of-Famer on waivers during the 1986 season—a guy once so great that when people mentioned “Lefty,” you knew who they meant—and hanging onto him long enough for him to go 1-3 with a 5.12 ERA… before Carlton announced his retirement from baseball… a week before he signed with the White Sox. (Yeah. “Retired,” we said. “Yeah, suuuurrrre.” He pitched into 1988.)
I told Dave I’d be delighted if Randy Johnson were putting up Carltonesque numbers—and I was talking about those 1986 numbers. Only because he pitched pretty well a couple days ago, his ERA dropped 60 points to 6.26. Until then, he’d given up a home run every four innings.
One thing Carlton and Johnson do have in common is that… remember that weird Levi’s commercial in the early ’80s, the one with the blonde in the tight jeans hollering, “Travis! You’re years too late!”? Well… while you’re busy trying to rid yourself of mental images of blondes in tight jeans—and good luck to you—here’s a list of some other players the Giants were years too late in acquiring: Moises Alou, Shawon Dunston, Steve Finley, Marquis Grissom, Yamid Haad, Orel Hershiser, Randy Johnson, Kenny Lofton, Mark Portugal, Dan Quisenberry, Benito Santiago, Darryl Strawberry, and Barry Zito. I know other teams do that as well, but put those guys on the field, and you’ve got an awfully impressive team. Except Haad. Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.