Two Cents About Matt Cain

You see, the title is funny because Matt Cain is so rich now. Get it? Anyway…

…There’s already been plenty written about Matt Cain. Some of my favorites are available here and here and here. Read them.

If you are opposed to professional athletes earning exorbitant amounts of money, this conversation is not for you. If you are wanting to debate the merits of a won-loss record, please don’t talk to me about Matt Cain.

How much a player is worth, and how you determine worth, is an important conversation, but it has nothing to do with this post, and, in my opinion, it has nothing to do with Matt Cain.

Matt Cain is important to the Giants. Is he the Giants best player? No. Is he even their best pitcher? No. (Side note: the Giants will be paying 3 pitchers roughly 20 million dollars a year to a throw baseball every 5th day and it’s quite possible that none of them are the teams best pitcher…wierd sport).

But, Matt Cain was the great right armed hope of Giants’ future back in 2006. The Barry Bonds era was coming to a screeching halt. All that was left was a fascinating and bizarre march to the all-time home run record. Winning had nothing to do with those last two years.

But there was hope. There was talk of a future built around pitchers and players the Giants had drafted and no more sagging veterans to prop up Barry’s ego. Matt Cain was the first. Later there would be Timmy, and the Panda, and Brian Wilson, and, of course, Buster. But Matt Cain was the first.

And it did happen. In a weird, hybrid kind of way, it happened. Young players, mostly pitchers, drafted by the Giants led the team a World Championship. The only one in San Francisco history. Not Mays, not McCovey, not Clark, not Bonds. Matt Cain and company.

Matt Cain has never given up a run in the playoffs.

To lose Matt Cain would have meant a lot of things, but mostly it would have shown that the Giants lied to us. It isn’t really about pitching. It isn’t really about drafting well, developing players, and keeping them around.

At some point, there is going to be someone who walks. It might very well be Tim Lincecum. I hope it’s not. They can’t keep everyone who comes through the system and succeeds.

But Matt Cain was the first of this wave, of this new commitment and direction, and he could not leave. Couldn’t.

And that is why, even though the numbers seem ridiculous, he had to stay. Had to.

Thank you Giants.

(-SB)

Extensions

As I wrote last week it has been somewhat surprising to observe the reaction of St. Louis Cardinals’ fans to the loss of Albert Pujols. I have not done a ton of research into this, but the overall sentiment has been “total bummer, but we are better off in the big picture.” That’s a very mature response. If/when the Giants lose Tim Lincecum there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in Giantsland.

Right now, the weeping and gnashing of teeth has been reserved for the “moves” made by the team this offseason. Everyone seems to have figured that re-signing Carlos Beltran was a minimum given and on top of that maybe a Jimmy Rollins or a Grady Sizemore or something extra. Nope.

And here’s why. As much money as we may think is flowing around AT&T Park in the wake of the World Series, the serious cash is being reserved for this:

Do you love Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum? Great, here’s what it’s going to take to keep them:

In other words, 5-8 years and probably more than $200 million to keep them both around (Lincecum may make $25 million in arbitration this year which is almost the yearly average value of the Pujols deal).

I’m not saying this to be a downer. I’m not saying this to argue the Giants should trade or let one of them walk. I’m not saying this to argue there shouldn’t be a better option at shortstop next year.

I’m just offering some perspective. No way the Giants can make a move for a big-time bat and keep these dudes in orange and black.

If you are going to blame anyone, blame this guy:

(-SB)

Week in Review (8/29-9/4)

Results:

2-4 (73-67; 7 GB in NL West)

7-0 L vs. CHI; 5-2 L vs. CHI; 4-0 W vs. CHI; 6-2 W vs ARI; 7-2 L vs. ARI; 4-1 L vs. ARI

Well, this was the make or break week and the Giants broke. As I wrote earlier in the week the Giants actually broke back in May and it’s been remarkable that they lasted in the race as long as they did. Let’s face it, the division is weak, but Arizona is good (performing similarly to the way many thought the Rockies would play this year) and the Giants needed to be healthy to compete. They were not (24 DLs this year and their position player out for over 100 games).

To reiterate, there’s plenty to complain about: Sabean will take his hits, Bochy will too, certainly several players need to be accountable for what’s transpired, but I actually think everyone should get a hat tip for not folding in early June. Sabean did what he had to do to add (or subtract) to the roster (even if a few of the moves were questionable), Bochy managed with a lot of spare parts and duct tape, and some players rose to the occasion, came back, or emerged out of no where. 2011 should be remembered as the loss of Posey, but also for Ryan Vogelsong story, the return of the Panda, and the maturation of Madison Bumgarner (among others).

Someone tweeted this weekend (I think it was Rory Paap) that when Burrell went down (again) on Saturday that it was a metaphor for the season. Agreed. Too little, too late, too hurt. But that’s sports.

Hitter of the Week:

Carlos Beltran is a good player. He was great at one point (scroll about half way down to read Pos’s take on Beltran), and watching him play, even in his current-somewhat-diminished state, reveals how much better he is than anyone else in the Giants current lineup. It’s a shame he got hurt, and it’s a shame that most Giants fans will probably complain about this trade for years even though it was pretty sound. I actually think the Giants should consider going after him this offseason. Burrell and Rowand are gone leaving a potential starting outfield of Belt, Torres, and Schierholtz. Ross could come back but probably for around $6-7 million. Beltran for 2 years at $22-24 (similar to Huff) would not be a bad idea. Let Nate be the fourth outfielder and use Ford or a cheap FA to hold down the 5th spot.

Pitcher of the Week:

Another interesting twitter comment. GiantsNirvana asked his followers in the wake of Saturdays crushing loss who Giants’ fans would rather have for the next 5 years: Timmy or Matty? The majority of folks said Both. Which is, of course, the right answer but I was surprised that it was so close. I expected: Tim, Both, Matt. Matt Cain came up big this week and I think the move that will define the Giants for the next five years is whether they extend him this offseason or not. I think they should. I think it is a no-brainer. But the Giants ate a ton of money last week, and they may eat more with Zito in the not-t00-distant future. Can they keep both Cain and Lincecum long-term? Yes please, but if they decide they have to choose, who do you want? Hmmmmmm….

Looking Ahead:

There are several scenarios where the Giants are still alive. The Twins and Phillies are two recent teams to pull off a six or seven game comeback in the final three weeks. It can be done. These Giants are not going to do it. I hope they do, but I just don’t see it.

Here are the priorities: Crawford, Belt, and Torres play everyday as they represent some of the bigger issues the Giants need to consider this offseason: OF, SS, and leadoff. Let Hector Sanchez do the bulk of the catching. Limit Bumgarner’s pitch count to 100. Shut down Wilson, we need him next year. Give Brett Pill a couple of starts (read the last paragraph of Lefty Malo’s post for a good laugh).

Finally, allow Burrell and Ross to say goodbye to the fans who love them. I hope they both get a nice ovation at some point during the final home stand.

That’s about it. A fascinating season that I am afraid has come to its inevitable end.

(-SB)

5 Things

  1. Welcome to the show, Carlos Beltran. Stay hot (and while we wish that, let’s pass the “stay hot” along to Cody Ross and Jeff Keppinger).
  2. Two 2-run home runs. The Giants HAVE to hit home runs if they are going to make a run. HAVE to.
  3. Pat Burrell: 3 ABs, 2 walks, 22 pitches seen. Might not seem like a lot, but I can’t stress how important those kinds of at bats are and how much having a patient approach helps this lineup. Last year, with Posey and Burrell (and even Huff) providing this type of approach the Giants were able to wear down teams in ways this years squad can only dream about.
  4. Good job fans. The crowd was loud.
  5. Matt Cain is good at pitching.
(-SB)

Week in Review (7/25-7/31)

Results:

2-4 (61-47; 2 game lead in NL West)

7-2 L @ Phi; 2-1 W @ Phi; 4-1 W @ Phi; 4-3 L @ Cin; 7-2 L @ Cin; 9-0 L @ Cin

This week started off so great. A series win against the best team in the NL. A trade for the best hitter available. A four game lead in the division and the chance to pad it before facing off against Arizona with the opportunity to really bury them in early August. And then it all went to crap. Now the Giants are heading in to this series against the D-Backs fighting to stay in first, having acquired yet another over-the-hill middle infielder, and having been swept by a team who they should have handled and forced to trade us their catcher. Nothing is easy with this team. Welcome to the Giants, Carlos and Orlando. More on trades later this week (hopefully tomorrow), but now on to the awards.

Hitter of the Week:

Pablo Sandoval: 2 home runs, a .320 average, and at times the only guy who seemed to have any life in the lineup. As great as getting Beltran is, I really hope Pablo gets hot and has a huge final two months. That would be so, so nice!

Pitcher of the Week:

Duel winners this week: Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. First, they both won their starts. Second, they both won against the Phillies. Tim won his coming off an illness which garners bonus points. Third, they continue to annoy the heck out of Charlie Manuel and that is fun to watch. I love that there is some kind of mojo they seem to have against the Phillies, even though they are such a lefty heavy lineup. They also both go in the Arizona series starting today, so hopefully they keep up their good (not great,  wink wink) work.

So, here we go. Three with Arizona for the division, four with Philadelphia for NL bragging rights, and then three with the upstart Pirates. All are in SF but these are some big games. The schedule gets a little lighter after that, but that’s a long ways off in baseball time. Go Giants!

(-SB)

Week in Review (6/27-7/3)

Results:

4-3 (48-38, 2 game lead in NL West)

13-7 W @ CHC; 6-3 W @ CHC; 2-1 L @ CHC; 5-2 L @ CHC; 4-3 W @ Det; 15-3 W @ Det; 6-3 L @ Det

What a strange week. Do we rejoice in the offense breaking out a couple of times for laughers? Do we agonize over what might have been in some of those loses? It’s hard to argue against a 4-3 road trip being successful, but these Giants always manage to do something to make you feel like they could have done more. What a strange week.

Hitter of the Week:

Impossible not to name the Panda who seems to be back to where he was at the beginning of the season. We need someone to hit with authority and he’s the one right now. Brandon Crawford might never be an All-Star with the bat but his line this week was nice: .333, a home run, 7 RBI, a double, and 5 walks! Well done kid: hitter of the week.

Pitcher of the Week:

Barry Zito gets the nod but before I get to him consider this:

  • Lincecum vs. Chicago: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 ER, 7 K…No Decision (Giants lose 2-1)
  • Cain vs Chicago: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 6 K…No decision (Giants lose 5-2 in 13)
  • Bumgarner vs Detroit: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 1 ER, 9 K…No Decision (Giants win 4-3 despite bullpen implosion)
  • The Giants cannot afford to have the big 3 pitch that well and barely come away with one victory. That’s all I’m saying.
Zito though gets the nod for being a gamer and a winner. He obviously knows something about winning games that those other three guys don’t get. That’s why he went 2-0. All kidding aside, Zito is the pitcher of the week for the intangible benefit provided by: (a) pitching on 3 days rest, (b) continuing to pitch after a two and a half hour rain delay, and (c) pitching well while doing a and b. That was the most determined effort I’ve ever seen him make…a good Zito is good for everyone so let’s hope he keeps it up.
Giants got off to a rough start this week against the Pads…three more, then the Mets, then the break. I love Matt Cain.
(-SB)

Winter Inventory

February is upon us and pitchers and catchers are on their way south. Tim Lincecum told me on facebook that he is already en route to Arizona via SF. At this point, it seems fitting to put analysis to the side for a minute and just be fans.

This community post focuses on what we enjoyed last season, our impressions of the off-season, and what we are looking forward to once the 2011 season gets underway. Read it up and feel free to chime in:

Favorite Player of 2010:

  • Josh: Brian Wilson. Now I know that most of you would answer this way and let me be the first to say, you are correct. There is a right and wrong answer to this question and Brian Wilson is the correct response. Reason #1 for his brilliance is his interview skills. Do I need to elaborate? No. But I will. I’ve always wanted a player to interview the way he does. He is in this game for the good times and you can see that in the way he talks and acts. I respect that. I embrace that. I love him. Not in that way. Reason #2 is because he isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong. He is darn good. I hate it when people say “More guts than stuff.” He has stuff, it just isn’t Mo Rivera stuff. I compare him to Maddox stuff. With Maddox, you know he won’t blow you away, he just hits his pitches and somehow got you out. (I still never understood how he was so successful with an 85 MPH fastball). Brian Wilson throws harder, but has the same attitude.  At the end of games, I’d have no idea how we won, but we did. He embodies the Giants season for me.
  • Tim: I know this seems obvious, but I just can’t help giving Gerald Dempsey Posey III this honor. (He’s just Buster to the rest of us). Seeing a 23-year-old kid come in and just take charge of a staff full of huge names was something to behold. He’s got the face of a 12-year-old, and the wisdom of a vet.
  • Jon: Andres Torres. The dude has all the entertaining attributes of a young kid that blew through the minors (speed, glove, leadoff skills, etc)…but he didn’t. Instead, he has an incredible underdog story now culminating in his early 30’s. He was given a chance, he took it, and he was one of the major pieces of the G-men’s World Series puzzle.
  • Steve: So many good choices…love Huff for the value, Posey for the potential, Torres for coming out of nowhere, the pitching staff for doing its thing, Uribe for his jazz hands. I could go on and on. My favorite player of 2010 though was Javier Lopez. Thank you Javier for making me look like a dummy (I hated the trade at the time) and for winning me over with your left-handed awesomeness. I never thought a LOOGY could inspire such confidence! Like Josh, I think Javy’s unexpected greatness represents what kind of year it was for the Giants.

Player You Are Excited for in 2011

  • Josh: Brandon Belt. Oh yes boys and girls, I’m talking minor leagues. I want to see this minx in the majors this year. Are you ready for some sexy numbers? Yes, they are minor league numbers so don’t put him in the Hall yet, but: batting average .352, OPS 1.075 (how the guacamole?), 23 HR and 112 RBI in 136 games last year.  He may need to marinate for one more year in the minors but I’m excited to see what he can do in September…Possibly sooner.
  • Tim: As far as explosive players go, no one beat Cody Ross down the stretch. He was knocking round trippers like his toothy smile depended on it last season, and the team really fed off of his energy. This guy seems to be the real deal, and it makes it even sweeter that no one wanted him, which made him perfect for our squad. I love his attitude, and his knack for clutch hitting, and I can’t wait to see what he does in the batters box and on the field this year.
  • Jon: Pablo Sandoval. To say the least, last year the Panda left his faithful fan base wanting. After an electric rookie campaign (well, not TECHNICALLY his rookie year which is why he didn’t win the ROY) we still have the sweet taste of a Pablo feast on our tongues. We just want a few more courses on the table this year. Let’s just hope the feast Pablo takes part in isn’t literal.
  • Steve: I’m looking forward to watching Matt Cain. The debate about Cain (is he lucky or good) rages on, and I hope Cain keeps sticking it to those who say it’s all luck. I was on the fence until the post-season…He gets people out, who cares how he does it. In a NL stacked with great arms, is this the year Matty moves in to the elite or does it all catch up to him and get a little ugly? I am looking for eliteness: a big 2011 for Matt Cain.

Best Move of the Off-Season

  • Josh: Miguel Tejada. Read my earlier post. The more I think about it, the more excited I get. I’m really looking forward to him at SS. I hope he gels well with the team.
  • Tim: Brian Sabean is doing his best to keep the world champs intact, signing Burrell and Ross to extensions. And yesterday, it was announced that Lou Piniella will be joining the organization. His passion for the game is unparalleled, and I think his fire-spitting personality will be a great addition to the team. I’m excited to see how he settles into whatever role he takes.
  • Steve: Obviously not a ton of moves to choose from, but the thing I liked was settling quickly and painlessly with all the arbitration eligible players. Also, Burrell for a million is a sweet deal.

Best Non-Move of the Offseason

  • Josh: Best off-season non-move was the avoidance of Pedro Feliz. It is well documented that I can’t stand Pedro. He has crushed my heart and soul with so many dang double plays. I saw that he was free, and something told me that Brian was going to pick him up. I would have been devastated. You can have him Royals. Good riddance.
  • Tim: Keeping the front office intact. Alternate Universe: Imagine if Bochy had been in his last year, and we had somehow not been able to re-sign him to be our skip. Who out there would be a capable leader? It would be great to have Dusty back in the dugout, but I’m gonna go with Terry Francona. Talk about an even keel! This guy is Teflon, and that’s what we would need to repeat this year. He’s proven he can win in a big baseball market, and handle the big names in the clubhouse. Lucky for us, we do have Bochy back this year, but if we didn’t, I would hope we could land someone like Francona. Kudos for keeping the leadership together.
  • Jon: I’ll give you a two-for and get myself kicked outta the Bay. Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. Juan was worth some serious cash after his last two years, but the Giants would have been crazy to pay him more than the Dogs are giving him. 3 years @ $21 million, really? Edgar, you are forever at the precipice of Giants lore after your 3 run shot in the WS, but you’re old. Great dude I’m sure, but way too old to demand the kind of cash money you were looking for.
  • Steve: There’s a small part of me that would love to see Carl Crawford in the orange and black. Sometimes I fantasize about Cliff Lee. Also, what if the 49ers had drafted Aaron Rodgers instead of Alex Smith. Anyway, there is a part of me that says, open the wallet and go for it, but the best non-move of the offseason was not going crazy and keeping the band together. The formula over the past two years has been pitching, home-grown talent, and wiser/shorter contracts for useful vets. Keep it going!