What I Learned at Last Night's Game

Brandon Belt is running away.
I don't want to talk about baseball anymore, because it's not worth it.

Last night I went to this place with my friend Joyce, and we hung out with about 41,000 other people, and we didn't do too much. There was something going on in the background, but we had entertainment all over!

Down and to the left, some people in black were standing and yelling at some people in blue, and then the guys in blue were put in handcuffs and everyone cheered!

They did a kiss-cam on the big screen in the middle of the park, and this old lady jumped on her husband and pretty much swallowed his face.

The dancing usher made another appearance, and everyone booed the guy who tried to steal the spotlight from everyone's favorite senior citizen.

The churro guy in our section was awesome. He got a little carried away and almost churro-slapped someone in the face, but everything ended up OK.

I didn't get pooped on!

The End.

Oh the Giants also lost, and Carlos Beltran was booed off the field. That's all. I miss Buster Posey.


It Can Only Get Better...Right?

This is what our offense does...
In my 22 years of going to San Francisco Giants games, last night's game against the Chicago Cubs has to be the indisputable Worst Game I Have Ever Been To. The absolute worst.

I came decked out in my usual Giants gear, hopeful that I'd have a great time. I had a cool Brian Wilson "Fear the Beard" shirt on, even though I knew he wasn't going to get in the game. My friend Joey had his Buster Posey shirt on, even though we knew he wasn't there. I had my Giants snuggie [sic] *wearable blanket even though it looks ridiculous. It had the chance to be fun.

Randy Wells has been in the major leagues for four seasons. Overall, he's 26-28 with a career ERA of 3.96. He has never thrown a complete game. He has never thrown a shutout. Not even in the MINORS. That's right. In EIGHT minor league seasons and FIVE in the majors, Randy Wells has never thrown a complete game. And tonight the Giants got a grand total of two hits off of him.

Meanwhile, Tim Lincecum made three bad pitches. And lost. Granted, all three were homeruns, and Lincecum has never given up three homeruns in one game before. But it was a typically un-Lincecum like night. When he's off, he usually walks a few guys, but tonight he got hit. Hard. Out of the park hard.

When Soriano hit his homerun I was worried that the Giants wouldn't get it back. After the three-run homer, I just knew it was over. Not even Mark DeRosa could save us.

I can't even say anything else. This offense is pitiful. There's no help coming when rosters expand in Fresno. After Cody Ross last year, no one is going to drop ANYONE on the doorstep to AT&T Park because they're all looking to keep their own NLCS MVP. Everyone who can help is on the roster right now.

As Bruce Bochy said, THIS is the low point of the season. Bochy cancelled his postgame press conference with reporters, suggesting that they stop asking him questions and ask the hitters instead. I'll go first.

"Dear Giants hitters. WHAT THE F*** GUYS!? That's all I have to say. Also, will you sign this?"

Mike Krukow called the 2-1 extra-inning win over the Astros last week a "gut-check win." Tonight was gut-check loss. There is no lower to go. You can't score negative runs. There's no feeling sorry for this team anymore.

The Giants hitters have to go in the locker room, tie themselves to their chairs, and let all the pitchers beat the crap out of them. I think Tim Lincecum deserves to take a folding chair to Aubrey Huff's face, especially after realizing that he has had 0 runs scored in TEN of his starts. Madison Bumgarner probably knows how to throw punches well, and Cody Ross has way too many pearly whites.

After recovering from their brotherly rough-housing, they all realize what they have to do, and that they're all friends and teammates that should be having fun and not moping around all the time. That's how it happens in the movies. And since the Giants are on Showtime, that's how it should happen now.

Every movie has it's low point in the story. But in the movies it gets better. For the 2011 Giants, the jury's still out.


Post-Game Wrap: Giants Come Back Twice, Lose

This game was frustrating. Very frustrating. And then exciting. And then frustrating again. And then it went to extra innings. Frustrating extra innings. And then OMG HE WAS F***ING SAFE AND YOU KNOW IT YOU SH*THEAD UMPIRE. And then frustrating again. And then our pinch-hitting options were Schierholtz and Burrell Tejada and Rowand. And our boys could not pull it out.

It started off typically enough. Homecoming stories are always warm and fuzzy. Friends, family, adrenaline. It's great.

When Brandon Belt played in Houston, he bought about a section full of tickets for people wearing "Keep Belt Awkward" shirts and rewarded them with a 4-5 day against the Astros. Brandon Crawford had a huge contingent out from Pleasanton to witness a go-ahead double against the Rockies in his home debut. Nate Schierholtz (Danville) and Pat Burrell (San Jose) have been well-documented in their ties to the local community.

Bud Norris came out of Novato, rooting for the Giants. Bud Norris throws hard. And when Bud Norris can throw his late-breaking slider on the outside corner and back it up with a 96 MPH fastball above the zone, he's going to strike you out. A lot.

The problem is, Bud Norris plays for the Astros. And when you come into AT&T Park and deal here in 2011, you're probably going to frustrate the Giants hitters* and maybe even come out with a win.

There has been a saying around San Francisco for the past couple years. When you pitch a gem, give up  two runs, and lose, you just got Cain'd. This year it kind of morphed into being MadBum'd, who has a terrible record (8-12) despite a pretty decent ERA (3.59), but it all really started with Matt Cain.

So when Bud Norris had a one-hitter going into the seventh inning, and the Astros scored without getting a hit, and the Giants couldn't touch Norris' FASTBALL, you start thinking about getting Cain'd. Again.

Then Pablo Sandoval coaxed a walk. And Brandon Belt stopped striking out long enough to rip a single to right. And then Aubrey Huff came up to the plate, and for the first time since 2010, had a clutch hit off the base of the right-field foul pole to score Sandoval. And then Orlando Cabrera sacrificed in Brandon Belt, and the Giants had the two runs needed to sweep the series.

Instead, silly Matt Cain Cain'd himself and allowed another run in the top of the eighth. A knuckling liner that deflected off Orlando Cabrera for a single. A hit batsmen to a sub-.200 catcher. And then a single to let the Astros back in.

Matt Cain, don't you know that you can't make mistakes? Ever? That's how you have a sub-.500 record even though you're one of the most consistently good pitchers over the past five years.

The Giants went to extras. The Giants won in extras yesterday! Surely they could do it again. But how many times can the Giants come back in one game? We found out today. Two. That's it. They came back in the tenth on yet another Mark DeRosa The Hero moment, and promptly got robbed after DeRosa made a fantastic slide and the umpire blew the call.

And then, for the second inning in a row, the Giants bullpen let people on base. And let them score. Two things that they haven't done all year. Honestly, I just can't see them coming back three times in a game. I also didn't see Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt, and Ramon Ramirez all giving up go-ahead runs in the same game.

What it comes down to is this: If the Giants are going to catch the D-Backs in the NL West, they're going to have to WIN every one of these-type games for the rest of the year. Granted, they're all against sub-.500 teams (except next weekend's series against Arizona), but as we saw this weekend, that means nothing.

The Giants have to win. They won't win without late-inning thunder from the guys who can provide it. They will win if they score more than once a game. Bottom line, forget about trying to catch Atlanta. The NL West isn't exactly there for the taking, but it is still theirs as champs to defend.

This is the last month of the season. Again, it all comes down to this. If they come back, it'll be a great story. If they don't, we can just blame Tommy Lasorda and his voodoo doll.

*The Giants almost hit below .200 in this series. Against the MLB cellar-dwelling Astros. Against two pitchers (JA Happ and Brett Myers) who were combined 7-27 this year.


2011 Giants Baseball: We'll Take It

I, Orlando, take thee Matt, to be part of the offensive effort.
The Giants have been many things this season. They have been walk-off happy. They have been in first place. Most recently, they've been injured beyond recognition. But one thing they have been very consistently all year is offensively challenged. 

So when they have a game like today where they pound out seven runs (that's right) WITHOUT hitting any homeruns (again, you're not hallucinating), and getting a lot of timely hits with runners in scoring position (THIS IS MADNESS), you have to sit back and appreciate it.

Pablo Sandoval doubled in Mike Fontenot in the first. Good start. The Giants are really good when they score first. Granted that Cain walked in a batter in the bottom of the first, but that didn't matter.

The fourth inning rolled around. Aubrey Huff doubled. Nate Schierholtz singled. Orlando Cabrera singled in Huff. Brandon Belt walked. Eli Whiteside singled in Schierholtz. Matt Cain hit a sac fly to score Cabrera. Cody Ross hit a sac fly to score Belt. Eli Whiteside got caught stealing and had his bell rung. But the Giants scored FOUR RUNS. In ONE INNING. 

As Joe Starkey would say, what a bonanza

And because it's the Giants, as soon as you lean back in your chair and unbutton your pants to relieve the pressure of the offensive glut-fest you just took part in, you realize that there's no closer in the bullpen. There's also no Sergio Romo. There's also a tired Ramon Ramirez, a tired Javier Lopez, and a tired Guillermo Mota. 

I mean, as Giants fans, we can't get much more comfortable than we did today. Matt Cain went into the eighth inning with a four-run lead and threw 11 pitches, striking out two. And then the Giants gave him two more bonus runs! A six-run lead for Matt Cain? What could go wrong?

Well, Cain did throw 114 pitches, and was probably a little tired. Good thing Dan Runzler has a 6-run lead to get acclimated to the big leagues again! Wait what? He's out of the game? And Brian McCann is up? And he's the tying run? Ok, make the call. Bring in Wilson Romo Lopez Mota Ramirez Bumgarner Affeldt.

But this is no longer Giants Baseball: Torture. I'm pretty much over that. It was sooooo 2010. 

This is the 2011 Giants. This is when you look at the final score and say

"Oh, we won! It was close, but looks like we pulled it out. We'll take it."

And that's where you leave it. You don't ask questions, because the answer will probably include something about one of your Giants heroes being struck by lightning while scoring the winning run. 

Take today for example. 

The Giants won! Matt Cain is now in double digits for wins, and his ERA is 2.86, good for...ninth in the National League. Sandoval, Ross, and Huff had RBIs. So did Cain, Whiteside, and Cabrera. 

And that's it. We'll take it. Giants win, the people who contributed were supposed to contribute, and we made it. Because if you keep going.

But Brian Wilson wasn't at the game, because he was in Pensacola seeing an elbow specialist. Remember when he was at LSU and had Tommy John? That's in your elbow. And Dan Runzler still gets knocked around like he did earlier in the year. And Jeremy Affeldt has been off the last couple appearances. And Eli Whiteside was "replaced due to an injury to the head." And four of those runs were on sac flies, which are great, but that just means you didn't get a big hit with runners in scoring position. And Jeff Keppinger was warned that if he reinjures his wrist, it could be career threatening. And the good news about Jonathan Sanchez is that he was only "noticeable limping today." And Barry Zito fell off the trainer's table in Fresno onto a set of steak knives that cut through his latest ankle wrap and really, really scratched him up good.
And that makes you sad. That makes you think that the win almost wasn't worth it.

But it was! It totally was! The Diamondbacks lost, and now the Giant are only 2.5 back. Matt Cain was dominant AND he sported a new haircut. Cody Ross is starting to heat up. As long as trainer Dave Groeschner keeps the Band-Aid supply up, I still have faith in this team. And even though we might not love the lineup Bruce Bochy trots out night after night, he doesn't really have much choice.

This team is missing 87% of the Opening Day lineup due to injury. And they're still only 2.5 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks. September call-ups are soon, which means rest for the weary. Those disabled list frequent fliers might even come back and contribute. Buster Posey will bring his babies to the clubhouse, and one Giant a night for two weeks will hit two homeruns for the twins because they're so precious.

We're still here. And after a long game that got way too exciting at the end, I really mean it when I say it.

2011 Giants Baseball: We'll Take It.


San Francisco Giants: Together We're Broken

This is getting ridiculous.

The 2010 Giants were World Series champions partly because they were absurdly lucky with the amount of injuries they had. That's because they had none.

In 2010, the World Series champions had one starting pitcher go on the DL (Todd WeLOLemeyer). In 2010, the World Series champions had Andres Torres replace Aaron Rowand, not because he was hurt, but because he sucked (and was hurt). In 2010, the World Series Champions starting infield took one man out (Edgar Renteria) and replaced him with Juan Uribe.

In 2011, the defending World Series Champions came back with a (supposedly) better lineup. Burrell, Torres, Ross in the outfield. Sandoval, Tejada, Sanchez, Huff across the infield. Buster Posey behind the dish. A strong defensive bench of Schierholtz, DeRosa, Rowand, Fontenot, and Whiteside. They even brought in Brandon Belt to make things interesting.

Out of those eight starters, only one has avoided the DL this year (Huff). Out of those eight starters, Huff also seems like the only one who really needs some time off to think about what he's done this year (not much).

Burrell may be done for his career. Tejada (oblique) was just reactivated, but that's only because new addition Carlos Beltran (wrist) was shelved. Torres (lower leg) is back on the DL. Ross (calf) missed significant time at the beginning of the year. Sandoval broke a bone in his hand and missed six weeks. Freddy Sanchez is done for the year (shoulder), as is Buster Posey (bottom half).

Schierholtz just got x-rays on his foot. DeRosa is floppy. Rowand keeps injuring his core. Fontenot missed a lot of time with a strained quad. Eli Whiteside is healthy, and that's great, but it doesn't exactly solve the Giants' offensive problems.

Heck, even the replacements have been getting hurt. Darren Ford was called up, contributed, but hurt himself. Bill Hall was signed when Freddy Sanchez went down, but then (someone) decided he wanted to see what a shinbone looks like. The Giants traded for Jeff Keppinger, but last night he collided with Braves first-baseman Freddie Freeman and just got an MRI on his wrist. They brought up Brandon Belt a while ago but he promptly got hit on the wrist and broke a bone.

On the pitching side, the 2010 Giants had no problems, except Wellemeyer. But that brought us Madison Bumgarner, so that was seen as acceptable. People flared up with some such minor injury, but it was usually like, "Lincecum Battles Flu, Only Strikes Out 12."

Barry Zito, who had never been on the disabled list in his career, has now been on the disabled list for more than half of the year. Jonathan Sanchez was on the DL with tendinitis in his strike throwing muscles. Santiago Casilla has missed time. Brian Wilson missed a few games earlier this year, and hasn't been the same guy. Now Sergio Romo is going on the DL (and not because of his trick knee).

Heck, even announcer Dave Flemming went down and had to miss a postgame show when he blew up his elbow. That's when you know it's bad, when even the people who don't have ANY part in the physical playing of the game get hurt. Just by watching.

Bottom line: We are all at risk.

San Francisco Giants telecasts will soon be preceded by a Jackass-like warning label. Fans buying season tickets will now sign releases acknowledging "Giants on field may be more injured than they appear."

Today's game is featuring a bench of Eli Whiteside and Mark DeRosa. That's it. I'm assuming Madison Bumgarner will pinch-hit if needed. Matt Cain would be next after him. Then Shawon Dunston.

The real bottom line: The 2011 Giants are getting seven years of devastating injuries out of the way now so that they can seven-peat for the rest of the decade. I hope.


Vogelsong Reaches Double-Digit Wins for the First Time

He gets heated. I like that.

Ryan Vogelsong's season has been well-documented. He's better this year than he ever has been. Vogelsong's "best" year in the majors, he went 6-13 with a 6.50 ERA. In the minors, in 2005, he went 12-8, but aside from that, Vogelsong has never reached double-digits in wins. Ever.

Last start he broke a 12-start streak without a loss, but after today's game, he's now 10-2. That's two losses all season for a minor-league signee who took Barry Zito's place in the rotation. I apologize, that's two losses all year for a top-five ERA contender who made the All-Star Game.

At one point in this game, he retired 17 in a row. His cutter blew up at least six Marlins bats. His curveball was a nice 73 MPH pearl that flopped in the strike zone when he wanted it to, and flopped right out of the strike zone when he wanted as well. He was pounding the corners like he has been all season with the four-seamer and the cutter.

Seven and two-thirds. Eight strikeouts. Four hits. Two walks. Two runs.

Vogelsong is 9-0 when the Giants score at least three runs. It seems like you can say that for every Giants pitcher. Tim Lincecum is 9-2 (46-10 in his career). Matt Cain is 7-1 (56-23 for his career). Madison Bumgarner is 6-1 (13-2 in his career). Barry Zito is still hurt.

On the other side of the plate, OFFENSIVE EXPLOSION. Four homeruns. Finally, the solo homerun streak was broken by Cody Ross in the third inning, when he hit his ninth of the year off starter Chris Volstad. But then Schierholtz in the fourth. Belt in the sixth. Belt in the eighth. And that's all you need.

Belt really made an impression today. He doesn't want to go back to Fresno. Two homers, both of them very impressive. One was an opposite field moon-shot, that Belt said in the postgame was "probably the farthest I can hit it." The other was another no-doubter to right field off of lefty-specialist Mike Dunn, who had never given up a homerun to a left-handed batter in 152 previous plate appearances.

And he played well at first base, making a huge stretch on a bad throw by Orlando Cabrera. Manager Bruce Bochy said after the game that the two bombs will earn him a start somewhere tomorrow. Hopefully Boch sits Aaron Rowand and puts Ross in center, because I still feel that Aubrey Huff is heating up a little bit.

These last two games, however, the Giants offense has not been so stagnant. Yesterday it was timely hitting and breaks. Today they didn't really bunch hits together. Pablo Sandoval struck out a couple times. I can't remember one plate appearance from Jeff Keppinger. But when you hit four homeruns, you don't need to.

The Giants won the homerun battle, won the game, and won the series. That's how it's done. That felt good.


Best at-bat of the day HAS to go to Santiago Casilla, who had his first career at-bat and stood about as far away as possible from Marlins colossus Jose Ceda. Great shot of that here (courtesy Bay City Ball). He now leads the Giants in OBP and OPS (1.000).

For not having any intention of swinging the bat, he sure looked prepared to with his batting gloves on.


Giants Catch Breaks, Do Something Good, Win

The FreaKKKKKKKKKK was in the house.

Everything went right for the Giants in Saturday's game against the Marlins. Everything.

Tim Lincecum played stopper, ace, and The Freak all at once. Seven shutout innings, 10 strikeouts, 2 walks, and only two hits (one of them an infield single). And again, just like his last start, he felt a lot better out of the stretch, so he threw 119 pitches and didn't look tired at all. And pitching coaches all over America cringed and told their sons that they can only do that after they've won two Cy Youngs.

Nate Schierholtz had a double. Just a regular double. But then Logan Morrison overthrew the cutoff man, and then somehow Schierholtz put wheels on his stomach and managed to crawl to third after sliding 10 feet in front of the base.

And then, in typical 2011 Giants fashion, Orlando Cabrera, with nobody out and a man on third, fouls out to the first baseman. And then, in typical 2010 Giants fashion, Javier Vazquez throws a pitch off of the ground, John Buck, and the home plate umpire, and Schierholtz scores.

Aubrey Huff flied out to left field. Except it was an RBI double because Morrison (who for some reason got sent down to AAA after the game) couldn't handle the ball on the foul line. By the way, Aubrey Huff is starting to square up a lot more baseballs. This can only bode well for the Giants.

Jeff Keppinger extended the Giants solo homerun streak. But who cares? Solo homeruns are still runs.

Jeremy Affeldt threw curveballs. The eighth inning was easy.

Brian Wilson gave up a hit, a walk, and had a couple strikeouts. Typical stuff.

Brandon Belt made it before game time and even got on camera a couple times. Baby steps!

It just seemed like everything went the right way for the Giants. The Marlins are free swingers. Lincecum was just wild enough to take advantage of that. When they needed a break, they got one. For once.

To quote Mike Krukow, "You'll get three runs and you'll like it."


Logan Morrison being sent down is interesting. Imagine Posey, Belt, and Morrison entering their late 20s together. The Giants aren't exactly the "swoop on grumbling prospects" types, but man, would that be fun to watch.


According to Marty Lurie, Johnny Damon clearing waivers is also interesting. The Giants need a leadoff man with Andres Torres going down. But Damon is old. Very old. I don't know how I feel about that. Waiver claims should be interesting this year, especially with the Giants starved for production/not having much roster wiggle room without releasing Rowand.


It's hard to see positives in this whole Carlos Beltran wrist injury, but looking ahead, if for SOME awful reason Beltran has to shut it down for a while, doesn't it seem logical that he'd want to come back in 2012? There's nothing worse than asking for a trade to a contender and then not helping them on their stretch run. Just ask Freddy Sanchez, who hit three doubles in the World Series against Cliff Lee. Something to keep an eye on.


Lastly, Barry Zito is hurt again. This bums me out.

QOTD: Is Sergio Romo Better Than Brian Wilson?

No one has better celebrations, that's for sure.

Pitcher A: 3-1, 1.67 ERA, 0.637 WHIP, 53 K in 37.2 IP, and only four walks
Pitcher B: 6-3, 2.77 ERA, 1.404 WHIP, 49 K in 52 IP, and 28 walks

From the surface, I want Pitcher A closing my games out. Those numbers are just scary. Scary control, unhittable pitches, and runs are a rarity. But Pitcher A is Sergio Romo, first-class setup man and beard aficionado, and Pitcher B is Three-Time All-Star Closer and Rockstar Brian Wilson.

First of all, they both do very different things. Very different things. The difference between being a setup man and a closer is more than just an inning. It's an attitude. It's that extra five MPH on the fastball. It's the spandex tuxedo.

Brian Wilson has been very good. He has the most saves in the majors in the last three years. He may have been a liiiiittle bit shaky this year, but his job has never been in question. Wilson is still, no question, the best closer in the National League.

But Sergio Romo just polished off a streak of sitting down 31 batters in a row without allowing a single baserunner a couple days ago. That's a 10 1/3 inning perfect game. His stats are insanely good. In his career, batters are hitting under .200 off Romo (.187). This year, they're hitting a meager .154.

Wilson is not as good this year as he was last year. He's like the Giants team embodied in a player. He added something new, a two-seamer that he throws 95 MPH. And he can control it. He discovered it at the end of last year, and he was supposed to be better this year for it. But for whatever reason, he's not as dominant as 2010.

Walks are up (26BB/74IP to 28BB/52 IP). Opposing batting average is up (.220 to .231). Strikeouts are down (11.2/9IP to 8.5/9IP). He has four blown saves this year after only having five last year. But he has better pitches. It doesn't make sense.

This isn't really trying to make a case for either one. I'm just kind of curious to know what people think. Romo has simply dominated this year. I wouldn't be comfortable if the Giants decided to jettison Wilson and insert Romo as closer, but here in 2011, Sergio Romo has been well nigh unhittable.


Giants Use Long Ball to Win

Multi-homer games happened a lot more last year. I really can't say anything else right now, because I'm busy. But, Giants win, MadBum was the stopper, and Chris Stewart gets to go out today and do it again.



Change for the Better: Who Did It Best?

The San Francisco Giants needed to make a move. They had already picked up Jeff Keppinger to replace injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez, but a high contact second baseman does not a potent offense make.

But general manager Brian Sabean came right out and declared that the front office owed it to the city of San Francisco their best shot at a repeat. Despite being 14 games over .500, the need for an upgrade was very apparent.

The Giants needed a hitter. A real hitter. One that goes boom. One that could make a real difference in the postseason push. And there was a market.

It was going to be expensive. It was going to be risky. It was also going to involve a name that the Giants faithful have been getting excited about for the future being shipped off to another team. Zack Wheeler. Brandon Belt. Eric Surkamp. Gary Brown. Francisco Peguero. Dan Runzler.

But the Giants got this:

These are my boomsticks.
The Giants got a player that immediately was their leader in almost every offensive category. Granted, since being acquired, Beltran hasn't exactly lit up the screen, but the post-trade deadline "trying to hard" syndrome is one that can be cured.

The Giants INSTANTLY got better. And, if we go back a couple weeks, I believe that the additions of Jeff Keppinger at second, Orlando Cabrera at short, and Beltran in right have given the Giants enough offense to carry themselves to another postseason berth.

But San Francisco was not the only team making moves at the deadline. Pretty much any team that would be a possible playoff matchup in October made a significant upgrade.

    The D-Backs added some pitching. Some good pitching. Some good pitching that has playoff experience.

    Some good pitching that has playoff experience that owns an ERA under 3 (2.47), a WHIP under 1 (0.968), and has a 5-3 record (including a complete game shutout) against the Giants.

    This is the same Jason Marquis that made the playoffs every year for ten years (with four different teams) before ending his playoff streak in 2010. Now he's in the NL West.

    Add him to the non-dominant Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, and Barry Enright, and you have a staff to baffle the Giants for days. And then Brad Ziegler to finish it off. And Langerhans will cheer from the bench.

    I think the Diamondbacks are the only team that has a chance to catch the Giants in the West. Everyone else just traded away a key piece for prospects. I like my odds, but after last night, I don't like my odds as much. The Diamondbacks

      The Brewers have a Hairston on their team. Granted it's Jerry Hairston, Jr, and that they made a couple other moves, picking up Francisco Rodriguez and Felipe Lopez, but anyone named Hairston is not allowed. 

      The Giants needed a shortstop. The Cardinals acquired a shortstop in Rafael Furcal. The Giants needed another bat. The Cardinals gave up Colby Rasmus for Edwin Jackson. Albert Pujols is still having a sub-par year. Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter that looked a lot more wild than Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter, and has been traded 23 times in the last 18 months.

      Yet the Cardinals are still a scary team. They still have Jaime Garcia, Albert Pujols, and Matt Holliday. And now that they plugged a hole at short, they're better. Better than Carlos Beltran? We'll see. They need to make the playoffs first.


      Derrek Lee for Lyle Overbay? Ryan Ludwick taking over for Xavier Paul and Jose Tabata? Now That's What I Call Upgrades!

      The Pirates were in first place earlier this year, and it wasn't just the first week of the season. That was like two weeks ago. In July. So for the first time in forever, they didn't look to stockpile prospects by trading away what little talent they had on the team, but instead made some aggressive moves that might give them a chance at making a run at the two teams in front of them.

      This team still doesn't exactly scare me, but they did get better at the deadline.


      Somehow, the Giants took two of three from the Phillies back in Philadelphia. That was without Carlos Beltran. That was also before the Phillies got better.

      The Giants picked up Beltran. The Phillies had to keep pace, so they picked up Hunter Pence from the Astros. Hunter Pence is good. Observe:

      Pence is like Beltran, but younger. 25 HRs a year for the past three years. 85+ RBIs for the past three years. A career .290 hitter. Definitely an upgrade over Ross Gload, John Mayberry, and Ben Francisco. Domonic Brown is good, but still a couple years away.

      Hunter Pence is there already, and in the middle of a lineup that ALREADY features Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Shane Victorino, I am not enthused. The optimist in me says that he's just another batter shut down by the awesomeness of the Bearded Bullpen. The pessimist is asking why the Phillies are allowed to add people to their lineup.


      And since the Houston Astros were feeling so generous to their NL East friends, they also unloaded Michael Bourne to the wildcard-leading Braves. The Braves needed a leadoff hitter. The Astros were tired of Bourn, I guess. Too many hitters around .300 can make you sick.

      The Braves have had off-years from Jason Heyward and Martin Prado, but they're still good. They have just as much of a lock-down back end of their bullpen as the Giants do, and now they've got a legitimate leadoff man setting the table for Dan Uggla to hit bombs.


      So, at the deadline, the Giants are a better team than they were a couple weeks ago. A lot better. The team batting average went up, the power production went up, and the pressure on Pablo Sandoval went down (always a good thing). The decision to have Beltran replace Buster Posey's spot in the lineup was a big step for management to take, but it needed to be done.

      But every other team improved as well, adding a major piece to their puzzle. Now it's up to the Giants to make sure that their additions were better than everyone else's. Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, Juan Uribe, and Pat Burrell are so 2010. Now it's time for Keppinger, Ross, Beltran, and Cabrera to make us remember 2011.