Dirty Thoughts: What Nobody Wants to Say Out Loud About Jonathan Sanchez

A frustrating start on (insert date here) by J. Sanchez.

He's expendable.

Phew! Havent' been smited yet, so I guess I can keep going.

Remember when we were all nixing EVERY trade proposal that had Jonathan Sanchez in it? Everything  with Sanchez as the centerpiece was regarded as way too much to give up from the Giants standpoint. He had too much potential. He was part of a great, young, homegrown rotation.

And he threw a no-hitter! How do you trade a guy like that? Oh yeah...

Jonathan Sanchez has long-since been considered one of those "once he turns the corner" pitchers. Statistically, he's largely unhittable, which is impressive. Since 2009, opposing hitters are batting a paltry .213 against him. That's like, Javy Lopez/Sergio Romo/Setup Man/Closer status. Which for a starter is pretty unheard of.

His K/9 rate? Great! It's almost 10! But last year he led the league in walks. And this year? He leads the league in walks.

But for some reason, those walks never score, and no one knows why. Sanchez has a great reputation for frustrating EVERYONE on the baseball field. His own manager and pitching coach for walking half the stadium, opposing hitters for not being able to hit him, and then the opposing team and fans for not letting all those walks score.

Sanchy's 28 now. And although he is much, much, much more valuable than Eugenio Velez, I feel like we're entering similar waters. Get it together. We're getting impatient.

KNBR's Damon Bruce say a lot of things I don't agree with. For example,
"What makes Brandon Belt different from Lance Niekro? From Dan Ortmeier? Weren't they supposed to be the first-basemen of the future?" 
Really? Do we have to explain that to you?

But he said something else in that segment that I honestly had to agree with.
"When Jonathan Sanchez leaves the Giants, which he will at some point, he will not be missed." 
Frank. To the point. Taking an aggressive stance. But wrong? I don't know.

I feel like at some point during 2011, every Giants fan has looked at a start by Sanchez and said to themselves, "THAT was a lot more stressful than it should have been." Same goes for 2010. And even 2009.

He has always been on the verge of turning that corner, but for some reason just can't get over the hump. Tim Lincecum is fighting through a rough patch now, just as he did last August. Matt Cain has consistently been underratedly great, but has had to deal with an utter failure to support him throughout his career.

Ryan Vogelsong is doing crazy things, and whatever devil he made a deal with is, for now, going to continue to get free garlic fries at AT&T Park. And despite last night's record-setting anomaly, I would still feel more comfortable throwing Madison Bumgarner out there for an important game than Sanchy.

First, here's what I'm NOT saying. I'm not suggesting that the Giants cut ties with Sanchez altogether, or that he's totally useless. I mean, he's straight up dirty, and nobody can hit him when he's on. But it just seems that he's off a lot more often than he's on.

What I'm NOT saying is that they should dump him for a backup catcher, or a backup catcher that the Giants would make a starter. Trading Sanchez for George Kottaras would be un-Sabean, because the Giants have a tendency (these days) not to get screwed on trades. And Sanchez IS a quality pitcher. (And he hits doubles. Only doubles.)

So what am I saying? I'm saying that if there is a deal to be made out there somewhere, including Sanchez is no longer a dealbreaker for me. At all. Bumgarner? Cain? Wheeler? Dealbreakers. Sanchez? Not so much.

IF IF IF Jose Reyes becomes available and the Giants can manufacture a package with Sanchez instead of Wheeler, I wouldn't storm 24 Willie Mays Plaza with pitchforks and torches. Mostly because I don't know where to find pitchforks and torches, but also because that would no longer break my heart to see.

Barry Zito (sigh) is complicating things. And what the Giants have proven so far is that he is going to be around for 2011. He's not going anywhere. He has thrown very well during his rehab. And it's not to say that Zito is better than Sanchez, but the Giants are not going to move Zito. Period. So his position is much more solid.

There is no easy way to remedy the six man rotation that the Giants will have by the end of the month. The rotation as it is now is still sixth-best in the majors in terms of ERA. And even though there is a lack of "depth," according to Mychael Urban, there are certain things out there that can be done.

I can't really speculate, or suggest that 1) Vogelsong can keep it up or 2) Sabean can do it again with another free agent/trade addition. I will point out that Zito is coming back, and Runzler has been stretched out at Fresno.

And I will say it again, if the right deal comes up, and fictional GM Yandy Balderson wants prospects and an established major league starter named Sanchez for his shortstop, I won't complain.*

Sanchez is Torture Baseball personified, and I don't know how much more I can handle.

*Pending prospects.


Giants Fail to Mount Late-Inning Comeback, Sellout Streak Now in Jeopardy

The Giants sold out AT&T Park for the 28th straight game last night. The first couple weeks were rife with walk-offs, comebacks, and thrilling wins. This past homestand? Not so much.

They've teased us a couple times, but we've been spoiled by that ridiculous mark in one-run games, and since they didn't come back against the Reds last night, there's probably one guy who won't come tonight, breaking that streak that dates back through the playoffs last year.

Let's be clear: the pace that the Giants were winning one-run games was unsustainable. But now we expect the magic to happen.

When Miguel Tejada hit a double in the seventh, that was it. Our Giants were going to come back and tie the game, it would go to extras, and pinch-hitter Tim Lincecum would hit an inside-the-park homerun to send us home in the 14th. It's Monday night. It's standard.

But the offense is a little sputtery right now. No one is really hot, and the guys who are supposed to be carrying the offense aren't. Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross keep hinting at getting back to last year's production level, but then they take ugly oh-fers and remind us that it's no longer 2010.

However. The Giants are still defending World Series Champs. And they're still in first place. I'll take it.


Miguel Tejada has been disappointing, to say the least. But it seems like whenever he's on the ropes, he has a game that, for a second, reminds us that he won an MVP award and got 200 hits. Twice. Worth six million dollars? No.

But last night, he hit two doubles, made two fantastic plays at third base, and definitely outshone World Series MVP and World Series ring recipient Edgar Renteria in every respect after the pregame ceremony.

Sure, the Giants lost, but you can't say that Tejada didn't do everything he could last night to prevent that from happening. What I don't want to do is have reach Rich Aurilia/Randy Winn/Aaron Rowand status, where he just never sucks quite enough to outright cut him.

Sometimes you just wish he'd go Milton Bradley on the Giants ONCE. Maybe drop some blatantly racist comments at a press conference, or out of nowhere punch Ron Wotus in the face, or post junkshots on Twitter. Because that would make it easy.

Miggy, if you keep playing like yesterday, the villagers with the pitchforks and torches will go away.


Madison Bumgarner is getting Barry Zito'd is getting Matt Cain'd.

Matt Cain is an elite pitcher. I'll say that with certainty. His record doesn't reflect it because for the first half of his career, the Giants would score 0.7 runs per game when he pitched. Barry Zito then started to give him a run for his money for "pitcher that the offense doesn't like." Granted, Zito gave up an extra run (or two) per game that made it worse, but the Giants still didn't score very often for him.

Now it's Madison Bumgarner's turn. It's at the point where it is now passé to say hashtag #Cain'd on your "Giants Lost" tweets. The correct term is now #MadBum'd. Get with the times.

Bumgarner is 2-8. He leads the NL in losses. It's bad. It's bad because he's good.

It's also bad because, in those 8 losses, the Giants have scored like so: 1, 1, 5, 1, 0, 0, 4, 6, 1, and 0.

That means Bumgarner, in order to even get a no-decision in seven of those games, he has to give up a run or less. Perfect, or a marginally less than perfect. Other than that, you lose. Sorry Madison, that's the big leagues. Or at least the big leagues with the Giants.

The only consolation is that he's throwing well. His W-L record might not reflect it, but the peripheral numbers are there. Low ERA (3.23), low WHIP (1.308), keeps the ball in the yard, decent K/BB ratio. He'll get better. Just keep giving the Giants a chance to win and eventually (hopefully) they will.


Filling the Void: No Posey, No Problem

The Giants were supposed to be lost without Buster Posey. And for a couple games, they were. They were despondent. Listless. Oh, and they couldn't hit.

But then something happened, and the theme that seemed to get the Giants through most of 2010 came back. That theme? Different day, different hero.

Yesterday it was the 7-8-9 batters that took center-stage. Matt Cain was Matt Cain, and sprinkled in some old Matt Cain by putting himself on the board with an RBI double in the sixth. Eli Whiteside was 2-3 with the go-ahead run in the sixth and then the insurance-run single in the seventh. He also threw down the signs while Matt Cain was being Matt Cain.

Now, Eli Whiteside is not Buster Posey. We all know that. But he had two big hits yesterday.

And other people are starting to step up. While Posey was slowly building his way up to .300, Freddy Sanchez was doing the same, and has since come into his old form that we remember from last year, taking the ball the other way and, like Posey, hovering around .300 for the past couple weeks.

And because of the disappointing year that Aubrey Huff has been having (even as I write this, he's rolling over a breaking ball to second and audibly frustrated on the TV mics), Sanchez has been moved to the three spot. For some reason, though, I can accept that.

Randy Winn was never a number three hitter, but for some reason, when Mike Fontenot and Freddy Sanchez hit third, I don't lose any sleep over it. But Sanchez has been clutch over the past month, and that's good for the Giants. Cody Ross has also been hitting a little bit, and Nate Schierholtz has had some big hits as well.

But the biggest surprise in Posey's absence has really been Brandon Crawford. Not Brandon Belt, who was placed on the DL with a broken bone in his wrist, but shortstop Brandon Crawford. With Miguel Tejada not doing anything at all, and Pablo Sandoval hurt, Crawford has emerged as this year's kid to watch.

Sorry guys, but Nate Schierholtz is no longer a kid to watch. And Manny Burriss, as much as I love him, isn't either. Both of those guys have had their share of major league experience. And Crawford is John Stamos! What's not to love? That play up the middle in the seventh yesterday saved a run, and even though that run ended up scoring, it was still a pivotal point in the game.

The Giants haven't had a shortstop with his kind of range since Omar Vizquel. I'm not saying that he has Vizquel range (yet), but as Andrew Baggarly said it best yesterday. It just hasn't happened recently. And then the kid, who hit a grand slam in his major league debut (in case you forgot), delivers a go-ahead hit in a low-scoring series to back a hard-luck pitcher.

Crawford is playing the part right now, and it seems to be shifting around every game. And on a team where your biggest stars are on the mound, the lineup has to be full of heroes in order for you to win. The Giants are doing that right now, and they're doing a pretty fine job at defending their title so far in 2011, even without their cornerstone catcher.


Sabean the Stupid? Think Again

San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean has been catching a lot of flak across the country for his brutal comments on Derrick Cousins and his collision with Buster Posey. For those who aren't familiar with Sabean, a lot of it is warranted.

For those of us who know his history, this is honestly a nice surprise. Far away from the tire-kicking, wait-and-see, not-speculating-on-that Brian Sabean that we've seen for the past years, this guy comes out and honestly says what a lot of us have been thinking.

And you know what? He's earned it.

Sabean is the longest-tenured GM in the Majors, surviving (15) years, two World Series, two 90+ loss seasons, and an almost seamless ownership transition.

He's had his share of travails that have alienated him among many Giants fans. He's not the most popular guy on campus. But last year, everyone kind of shut their mouths and watched. Because the Giants had a new philosophy: build that farm system. And it worked.

The 2002 World Series roster boasted such homegrown names as Rich Aurilia, Pedro Feliz, and Russ Ortiz. Everyone else? Not ours. Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, JT Snow, Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, David Bell, Livan Hernandez and Robb Nen all came via trade or free agency.

The 2010 World Series featured a homegrown rotation of Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner. The setup man (Sergio Romo) and closer (Brian Wilson) were both drafted by the Giants.

And finally, there are position players coming up to match. Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, Nate Schierholtz, Manny Burriss, Brandon Crawford. And of course, Buster Posey.

This isn't just any catcher that Sabean is protecting. It's BUSTER POSEY. Tim Lincecum may be "The Franchise," but Posey became the remaking of the Giants philosophy made flesh. He was the savior, the symbol of the good things to come.

And Sabean needs him. Buster Posey is the reason that Sabean's house isn't a pile of ashes with a "Torcato in '02!"  sign planted in it. And now he's out for the year.

Sabean has never been of the inflammatory sort. He's more of the "WHY CAN'T HE SAY ANYTHING DEFINITIVE" kind of guy.

So maybe he's not used to this whole taking-a-stand thing. But he took a chance and did it. The Giants needed a boost.

Pablo went down. Zito's out. DeRosa is out. Ford and Fontenot are on the DL. And, before St. Louis at least, all those heroes that Sabean looked like a genius for bringing in for 2010 were failing to recapture that magic.

Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Andres Torres and especially Aubrey Huff (until last night) are nowhere near the level of play that made last year so great. Miguel Tejada hasn't exactly been...satisfactory.

Posey wasn't just the catcher. He was the handler of the staff. He was the cleanup hitter. He led the Giants in HRs and RBIs. And he's still leading all National League catchers at the All-Star ballot.

And really, even though we all know Sabean has been curt at times, at the very least, does he ever say anything clearly without thinking it through first? Even when you do get a straight answer, you're not really satisfied.

So when he calls out Cousins, it has a purpose. It's not to belittle the rookie, or browbeat or threaten him. Sabean is simply saying, you took out MY guy, and I don't really care what happens to you.

For those who interpret the comments to be wishing a career-ending injury on Cousins, that's a little extreme. Is someone going to buzz Cousins when the Giants and Marlins play next? Probably. Are they going to run out to right field and cleat him in the face? Epic, but no. Death threats to Cousins? Also a little extreme.

Sabean isn't an idiot. Shrewd, frank, kind of an asshole, yes. But reckless? Not really his style.

So I can't help but think that 1) that's how much Buster Posey means to everyone up and down this organization, and 2) Brian Sabean has other motives.

As you can see, Sabean is getting a call from Joe Torre, so maybe that was his endgame all along. The Giants also played pretty damn well against the Cardinals too. It may not have been conventional, or popular, but Sabean is getting what he wanted, which should come as no surprise.