Friday, September 30, 2011

Get Real. Get Higher.

I think I’ve heard most of Sabean, Bochy, and Baer’s public comments regarding their future plans moving into 2012.  Now, and only now, I’m getting VERY concerned.  I keep hearing the same things.  Their top priority is retaining their pitching staff, and that is their “Gold Standard.”  I hear about how the team went 5-8 during Beltran’s injury time.  I hear how losing our #2 and #4 hitters was a tough loss.  I hear “after we sign our pitchers, we’ll see what kind of money we have left.

Damn.  We absolutely need to transform our expectations and perceptions.

I haven’t once heard the top brass say, “it is a crime if we don’t get offense to support our pitchers and allow us the best chance to win games.

It seems to me that the Giants organization has the ‘assumption’ that we can keep our top pitchers like Cain and Lincecum with a lackluster offense.  I attribute this to the front office’s stubbornness.  They see we won the World Series in 2010 with a sub-par offense.  They see we’re only 6 games off from the same number of wins this 2011 season with one of the worst offenses in pro baseball history.

And this doesn’t appear to faze them.  It doesn’t seem to concern them.  Not in the least.

We should have expectations as high as the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies.

We can’t run Belt, Huff, Schierholtz, and Crawford out there as our 5-6-7-8 hitters with a pitcher batting 9th.  That simply isn’t a championship-caliber team.  Yes, maybe it COULD get it done once in five years.  But I would highly doubt it.
  • We’re in possibly the weakest division in baseball.
  • We have the most elite pitching from top to bottom.
  • We got Bumgarner, Sandoval and Posey still way under market value.
  • If Belt or Crawford can step up, they are also under team control and under market value for six years.
  • We expect Brown and Panik to be major contributors by 2013.

We also have at least a few prospects that are likely to make a big impact within a couple more years.  Maybe Oropesa, Joseph, Susac, Fitzgerald, Westcott, Hembree, Crick, Sanford, and/or Black.  Maybe even others like Culberson, Peguero, Dominguez, Adrianza,or Gillaspie.  Maybe someone else entirely.

If only TWO or THREE of those ‘future’ prospects really help make a big impact, we’d be in such great shape.  Our payroll balance is close to perfect, with graduated ‘steps’ in payroll increases.  Just when Posey, Sandoval and Bumgarner hit market value or free agency value, we have guys like Brown and Panik cutting payroll in another area or two.  Maybe by 2014 we got Susac, Oropesa, and Crick starting that cycle all over again.  You see what I see?

Take a look at the top outfields in MLB, like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Royals; to name a few.  Can we seriously not have at least ONE outfielder that would be a starter on those teams?  Why not?  We don’t have to have Belt, Torres, Schierholtz in our outfield.  Only if they deserve to be.

I’ve said we have more buying power than the Yankees, and I truly believe it.

They’re pretty ‘locked up’ with some huge contracts.  Plus, they’ve hit the Luxury Tax ceiling a couple times recently and I think are in the 30% or 40% bracket for another year or two.  If they spend, they need to cut some weight to do it, or spend A LOT when you include the Luxury Tax penalty.

The Yankees carried the most expensive payroll for 2011 (no surprise!) at $207M.  The Yankees have $168 million tied up in 10 players.  Luckily the Yanks have a few cheap, team controlled talents like Nova and Montero for a number of upcoming years still.

Same for Philly, they’re kinda stuck.  They are trying to not go over the Luxury Tax limit this next year, so they can lower their Luxury Tax rate if they were to break it two years in a row down the road.  That’s why Oswalt might not get his team option extended.  That probably has a lot to do with whether they re-sign Rollins too.  Maybe they sign J-Roll to a 6-year deal just to break up the average annual salary to stay under the cap.  Yet still allow him to get $60M+ in income.

The Phillies have about $126 million tied up in 8 players for 2012: Halladay, Howard, Oswalt,Utley, Lee, Blanton, Hamels, and Victorino.  That is if they pick up the option on Oswalt and pay Cole Hamels (he’s arb-4).  And I assume they turn down Lidge’s team option.

In contrast, our SF Giants have about $80 million tied up in 15 players; 3 position players, 5 starters, and our entire bullpen, less Ramon Ramirez.  Let’s add Zito’s and Rowand’s salaries…  Our Giants have $105M  tied up in 17 players: F. Sanchez, Sandoval, Posey, Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, J. Sanchez, Mota, Edlefsen, Casilla, Romo, Affeldt, Lopez, and Wilson, Rowand, and Zito.

If we were to look at the Phillies and use their 2011 ‘starting’ budget of $166M…

Let’s build a 25-man roster for 2012.
  • The Phillies need 17 players with $40M to spend.
  • The Yankees need 15 players and are already over budget.
  • The Giants need 8 players with $86M to spend.

Tell me who has spending power?  We probably have more than any team in baseball.  We got revenue.  We got inexpensive stars.  We got elite pitching.  We have payroll balance.  We have what every team in baseball wants...


Ask any GM in baseball, they’d drool over an opportunity to be two or three bats away from a 5-year dynasty.  Most teams have many, many more holes to fill to get to where we are.  Maybe it is a closer and a middle infield with a weak rotation.  Maybe it is three players taking 50% of team payroll in a small market.  Maybe they lack power from their corners, have only a serviceable catcher, and a so-so bullpen.  Maybe a team is bloated with bad contracts and bad draft picks.  Maybe a team is simply good but not great all-around and not very deep with prospects.

If we spend right, and trade creatively; we build a filthy team to go out against anybody from 2012 to 2016 easily.  A couple nice moves along the way, and a couple more prospects make the jump, and that window stays open even longer.

It could really, really happen.

We should accept no less.  I can’t even begin to explain how much NY fans would get on the Giants front office if this opportunity was being wasted there, like we did here in 2011.  It would be intolerable.  It would be unthinkable.

Our expectations should be that high.  We should be feared.  We should have teams saying they would prefer to face any team but the Giants in the first round of the playoffs.  We should have AL teams hoping they win the All-Star game to take away the Giants’ advantage from the home NL games.  We should have teams using off-days to tweak their rotations, to get their aces up against our lineup.  We shouldn’t be facing prospect pitchers and almost be no-hit.

Yeah, the free agency players list is weak.  Go get some creative trades.  I don’t care.  Get the Giants a lead-off hitter.  A shortstop.  A left fielder.  Maybe a back-up catcher and a solid utility player.  The better the players, the better our chances of multiple World Series titles in the next 5 years.

As a business proposition, it is simple.  I’m not talking as a fan.  Hey, new management!  I'm writing to you!  Spend $130M and get a mediocre offense that *might* do just fine.  Or might suck.  Spend $140-150M and have a perennial contender.  The merchandise, tickets, concessions, gate/parking, tv/radio/media affiliates, sponsors, advertising, and playoff revenue streams would surely justify the additional $10-20M.

The best news is, you only gotta spend $140M-ish for 2012.  After Rowand and Huff come off in 2013, you can get to $135M-ish for three years (thru 2015).  By 2016, there will be a couple decisions to be made, for sure.

Don’t try to sell me that crap that our 2-3-4 hitters alone can win us another World Series.  I ain’t buying it.  Build a team that is legit.  Time to get REAL hitters.  I hold HIGHER expectations.

It really is quite simple.
There’s no time like the present.

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