Rip Sabes all you want for questionable moves, but for Melky and Pagan, give him his due

Brian Sabean has become one of the Bay Area’s favorite punching bags during his tenure as Giants GM.

And in many cases, it is most certainly warranted. For most fans, it started when Sabean failed to put enough talent around the best hitter in baseball (BB25) to make continuous deep postseason runs. From there, several moves have exploded in Sabean’s face — the disastrous long-term deals for Zito and Rowand, the signing of washed up vets like Mark DeRosa and some trades that didn’t exactly go as planned.

Most folks gave Sabean a one-year hall pass after the 2010 season. That year, everything Sabes touched turned to gold…Burrell, Ross, Vogelsong, Huff…you know the story.

But after last year’s failed Carlos Beltran deal (I still won’t rip him for taking that chance) and another offseason devoid of an impact free agency signing, it was open season on Sabean yet again. The haters were out in full force.

Time to chill for a while.

Sabean may not have made the big-time splash, but he certainly improved the Giants by roster by leaps-and-bounds with two minor transactions.

Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez for Angel Pagan. Jonathan Sanchez and a minor leaguer for Melky Cabrera.

The first deal was non-controversial. For all the love that Torres and Ramirez earned for being World Series heroes, it was a risk-free move. Torres failed miserably last season and Sabean used Ramirez to take from a position of depth and grab a versatile stick.

The Melky Cabrera deal was met with much criticism, hard to believe after now having watched Melky for two months. How could Sabes give Sanchez, and thus thrust Zito back into the rotation, for a guy coming off of one good season for Kansas City, a team playing glorified scrimmages from May on.

Well, score one for Sabean. Pagan has emerged as a hitter who can do it all. He’s hit everywhere from 1st to 6th in the Giants order and proven he can handle it all. Get on base. Steal a bag. Drive in runs. Clutch situational at-bats. Never takes a play off. Gamer.

And Melky…wow. Given Matt Kemp’s injury, is Cabrera the National League MVP to this point? The argument can certainly be made for the MLB’s hit leader. The Melk Man is a pure ball player with a potent bat, an absolute joy to watch night in, night out.

Two seemingly minor trades have changed the outlook for the Giants. With Panda’s return on the horizon, it’s suddenly exciting to think of all the weapons SF will have at its disposal.

For that, thank Sabean…just once, even if it hurts.

16-17, some good some bad some in between, here’s a swing at what I’ve seen.

If you look at the season-opening series in Arizona as the Giants did (as if it were spring training), then the team finished the month of April with a 12-7 record (12-10 in real life).  However, some good things happened in the opening month after that series at Az.  The team seemed to pull it together, winning 5 of the next 6 series to close out the month.  It looked as though they’d worked out some kinks, as Zito touted a sub 2.00 era and Madison Bumgarner finished the month with a 4-1 record.  It appeared as if the guys had even learned to put up some runs, while Pablo Sandavol and Angel Pagan were both amidst their own 20-game hit streaks.  Some players looked to be emerging as every day guys, like Nate Shierholtz when he destroyed the Mets, going 6-10 in the double header with a HR and 2 3B’s.  

The team was shaping up to be a solid, competitive squad.

Then a couple of things happened that had downhill tumble written all over :  A slumping Aubrey Huff hi-tails it out of the big apple at 4 am…apparently having been on a hellride since February…and merely texts his manager regarding his departure and leaves the team to wonder where their first baseman went. 

Distraction number 2:  Pablo Sandoval goes out with a mirror image of his sidelining injury from last year. 

Result: a 4-7 start to the month of May, during which every positive quality of the Giants’ play to end April has ceased to exist.

While Aubrey Huff was the one with actual issues, Buster Posey was the one who lost 50 pts off his batting average. Nate Shierholtz was the guy who added 3 holes back into his swing.

While Pablo Sandoval is the one that undergoes surgery, Hector Sanchez is the one that leads all young starters with a .211 batting average in May. Ahead of Crawford, Belt, Pill, and Burris.

Unfortunately, when you field a young team like the current Giants lineup, everything has to be in place, well oiled, and working like a charm in order to produce positive results.  One part that must be in place for this machine to work, is the piece that Bochy has campaigned for since day one:  his Veterans. The Giants’ veteran 1st baseman, a General on the squad that took the Trophy in 2010, has figuratively, and now literally, disappeared from the team.  The cortex of our defensive mentality, Freddie Sanchez, has played 0 innings this year in the field, and taken 0 AB’s from the plate. And now, our #3 hitter and best overall offensive player, Pablo Sandoval, is out for 6 weeks; a span of the season where the G’s will play 20 games in a row.

Bochy is, and has been, right all along.  In order for the Crawfords, the Pills, the Burrisses, and the Belts to develop and gain confidence playing Major League Baseball, they need not be thrown into situations EVERY DAY, where the game is make or break depending on the result of their 2-out AB with risp.  The vets need to show the kids how to succeed in those types of situations…they need to lead by example.

With all their leading veterans on the sidelines, the young guns are left to fend for themselves out there a little longer.  Maybe the experience will build rock-solid confidence? Maybe the return of Pablo Sandoval, Freddie Sanchez, and Jeremy Affeldt will spark a new beginning for a Giants team that needs some guidance now more than ever?

In the meantime, we are left with this new type of torture.  One that starts much earlier in the game than it used to. One where you ask yourself multiple times if you are watching an old high school tape.  And ill finish by quoting a legend, as the Giants find themselves 2 seasons in a row now, “standing on a hill in their mountain of dreams, telling themselves its not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.”

Rely on Huff, when times are tough? Expect to ride a road that’s rough.

You can pin Saturday’s crazy loss on a number of factors.

Second guess Bruce Bochy ‘til you are blue in the face. Should he have wasted Brett Pill with Ryan Theriot missing in action? Should Posey have moved to the infield, having played there extensively in college, and Hector Sanchez been left in to catch? Should Vogelsong have been pinch-hit for in the 7th with a man in scoring position?

Blame Posey for making a difficult throw to a pitcher covering first. Hell, blame Theriot for getting sick.

But it all comes back to one guy…

Aubrey Lewis Huff.

When Huff trotted out to second base, nobody was expecting the second coming of Roberto Alomar. What was reasonable to expect was that the guy knew the most very basic of baseball fundamentals.

When a ball is hit to the left side of the infield, your job as a SECOND BASEMAN is to cover SECOND BASE. Safe to say the other 24 guys on the roster could have done it and probably 99% of the fans in attendance as well.

But Huff looked like a deer in the headlights the moment he took the field. If he simply runs to the bag, Manny Burriss gets the easy force out. He doesn’t even have to attempt to turn the double play. 2 down. Runners at the corners. The subsequent ground ball ends the inning and the game continues.

It didn’t help matters that Huff was useless all game long. Weak pop-up, double play, brutal error at first base that led to the Mets big scoring inning. An embarrassing performance.

Huff should not be in there Sunday and with the lefty Johan Santana going Monday, he’ll again find himself on the pine. Memo to Boch: feel free to continue his streak on the bench through next week. At least until he pulls his head out of his ass and decides he wants to contribute.

One week in, started thin, now the Giants tally wins.

3-4 start. Ehhhhhh….whatever though I think we saw this coming after witnessing a slightly unfocused spring training, more or less.

The fellas took 2 out of 3 in Colorado and grabbed the home opener today from the Pirates. First ab for Posey and he bombs one off the left center field wall. Deep. Between Posey and Sandoval they had 3 non-home-run-home-runs. Huff on the other hand, bounced one off the landing and into the cove for a very real 2Rhr. That was a treat to see. Kiss your bicep.

The 3-4 record doesn’t say anything about the team. If you want to see what kind of statement the Giants are making so far this year, look at the RBI category and you’ll notice 10 different guys listed. Look at the Runs stats and you’ll see everybody on there.

When you come away from Scottsdale kinda lax, kinda confident that you got some stuff figured out, you’ll get beat out of the gates based solely on mentality. Now whether the team was actually in this mindset or not is only for them to know for real…however, what is undeniably real is that the G’s played from behind immediately in all 3 of their losses in Arizona. However real it may be, its a non issue as far as I see it and will become a rarity as the season progresses.

Good things to note about the first week of the season:

Melky, effing, Cabrera. Good gracious this is a guy who came to play. Acting like he’s got a chip on his shoulder or something. Its going to be a blast watching him and Pablo play this year…as long as they continue to feed off each other and stay stoked to get hits every day.

Posey is back 100%. Not 80%, not 95%, but 100 FULL percent back. He’s already got an hr and a few Rbi …not to mention we’ve already seen him run the bases, jump out of the crouch, and even take a throw home from the outfield on a play at the plate.

Barry Zito throws a complete game shutout. Barry Zito throws a complete game shutout. Barry Zito LHP #75, acquired from Oakland 5 painful years ago, throws a CG SHUTOUT. What the hell??? When none of the Giants’ all-star phenom pitchers could get passed their respective first innings without runs on the board (plural), Zito comes in and throws a gem like that?? That’s a good note. And it wont happen again. No way. Definitely not. Not in a million years…..I think, maybe.

Bad things to note about the first week of the season :

Pagan. That’s all. If its still an issue a week from now then we’ll talk about it a little more.

The teams got two more vs. Pittsburgh then 3 against the Phillies.

I hate the Phillies.