Odd Year Blues: A Ballad


Instead of writing a long-winded essay about what went wrong with the Giants’ 2015 season, from the injuries to the rampant crappy pitching, I decided to simply eulogize the 2015 Giants with song. This is a song I call “Odd Year Blues”. If it seems strangely reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues”, that’s just coincidence talking right there. However, you can totally sing along to it to the tune of “Tombstone Blues”, and you should totally do it. Come on, no one’s watching…

Odd Year Blues

The 2015 season is dead now of course
Sunk in a slew of injuries and remorse
Now we just reminisce about Mike Morse
To the odd year, we are averse

The teeth of the fans began to violently grit
As their Carolinian ace began pitching like shit
They lost to a team that comes from a dank pit
In my 2010 bluray, I will immerse

MadBum’s on the YouTube
The Royals ain’t got no clues
Pablo’s out in Boston
He’s rediscovered food
I’m knelt down over porcelain
With the odd year blues

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Idiocy Upon Idiocy


The Washington Nationals have been a complete disaster this season. Not a disaster in the 100-loss eyesore sense like the Phillies or Braves, but a disaster in that they were picked by most baseball pundits in the preseason to be the National League representative in the World Series, and now they won’t even make the playoffs. Where many analysts predicted brilliance, they’ve instead drowned in a sea of dysfunction. If you had asked me if there were any team that had a chance to win 100 games in 2015, I would have said the Nats without blinking an eye. Instead they might not even finish above .500.

Now, as if that weren’t bad enough, their douchebag closer and ill-advised midseason pickup is trying to kill their best player. In case you missed it, probable NL MVP-winner Bryce Harper got into a dugout brouhaha with noted jackwagon Jonathan Papelbon. Here’s the whole kerfuffle:

Now, we weren’t there and don’t know the whole story exactly, but apparently Papelbon took offense to the fact that Harper didn’t run as hard as he could have on a lazy fly ball and decided to get in his face about it. Why exactly Papelbon felt he had the right to call out Harper (or anybody on the team) in the middle of the dugout in a meaningless game when he’s only been with the team for six weeks is anybody’s guess.

On Sunday Night Baseball earlier tonight, John Kruk pointed out that (and I’m paraphrasing) there seems to be a problem, or Papelbon seems to have a problem, wherever he goes, and it’s not like this kind of thing is a rarity with him. He’s worn out his welcome in Boston and Philadelphia, and he’s probably completed the hat trick with the Nationals after today. It reminds me of the old saying, that if you meet one asshole during the course of your day, they’re the asshole, but if all you meet are assholes throughout your day, you’re the asshole.

I bring this all up because a) Papelbon’s behavior is unacceptable and it pissed me off, and b) I think this is potentially a watershed moment for the Washington Nationals franchise. Harper is hitting .339/.470/.663 with 41 home runs. The last player to put up those kinds of numbers was Barry Bonds. Harper is the best player in the National League and it’s not even close. Oh, and he’s only 22! There’s a chance that he’s going to put up those numbers for a very, very long time.

The Nats at this moment can either prove to their franchise player that they’re behind him 100 percent, or they can screw up the relationship completely. While the team is mostly going to say things in the press like “boys will be boys”, you can bet that anything they do or say that can be construed as taking Papelbon’s side will be perceived as a slight by Harper (and his agent, Scott Boras). That wouldn’t be good for the Nationals, if they have any hope of retaining Harper, who looks primed to be a monster for the next decade, beyond 2018.

Papelbon is a reliever who the Nationals didn’t need, and who I’m sure they’re already regretting trading for. He already caused a dust up when he drilled Manny Machado last week, and Harper’s post-game quotes about the incident (he hardly defended the plunking) are probably at the heart of what happened today. Papelbon has been worth half a win in his time with the Nationals and that certainly doesn’t make up for the gigantic headache he’s caused a team already in the middle of a tumultuous season. If you’re the Nationals, decided who to defend here shouldn’t exactly be Sophie’s Choice.

Frankly, Matt Williams should have thrown Papelbon out of the dugout this afternoon. The Nationals front office, if they have any prudence whatsoever, should suspend Papelbon for the rest of the season (he’s already appealing a three-game suspension for the Machado incident, anyway) and tell him never to come back. If the Nationals balk here and fail to demonstrate to Harper that they have his back, he’s probably going to decide that there are better franchises to play for once free agency rolls around in four years.

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Ryan Vogelsong Has Been Huge for the Giants This Year



Ryan Vogelsong enters this afternoon’s start against the Cardinals with a 9-9 record, a 4.05 ERA (91 ERA+), 96 strikeouts, 53 walks, and 16 homers given up in 120 innings. Those innings have come spread across 20 starts and eight relief appearances. His FIP, if you’re into that kind of thing, is 4.65. Those aren’t numbers that will win anybody a Cy Young Award but, make no mistake, Vogelsong has been a life saver for the Giants this season.

Coming into today, Vogelsong ranks third on the pitching staff in innings pitched, behind Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston. That right there tells you all you need to know about how thoroughly savaged the Giants’ rotation has been by injuries. Four…count ’em, four… of the team’s five members of the projected Opening Day rotation have spent significant time on the disabled list this year. Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Tim Hudson are still on there (though Hudson and Lincecum may be magically healed by expansion to 40-man rosters next week), and Jake Peavy missed most of the first half. For many teams with an eye toward contending, that kind of thing would spell disaster.

Enter Vogey. Vogey isn’t a star. He does nothing pretty. His stuff is underwhelming and some nights it looks like he gets outs on sheer willpower and scowling. He has been perfectly league-averagish in his starts this season, maybe a tad below. He’s had (somewhat inexplicable) control problems and he’s given up too many home runs. Again, not an All-Star.

What he has been is healthy and reliable, and you can’t say that for except Bumgarner. That’s a big deal, as his ability to ably fill in a rotation spot has meant its one less hole the Giants have to scramble to fill (as they did in acquiring Mike Leake) amid all the things that have gone wrong with the pitching staff.

Of course, Vogelsong was purely an afterthought going into this season. He was almost a Houston Astro before those talks fell apart for reasons that still aren’t totally clear. Whether out of loyalty or familiarity or whathaveyou, Vogelsong re-signed with the Giants.

It wasn’t immediately clear what his role would be, and some fans grumbled that it was simply a good will gesture on the Giants’ part. The five-man rotation was set in stone and the team already had themselves a Yusmeiro Petit for long relief/spot start work. He seemed slated exclusively for garbage innings, and was basically signed as insurance in case injuries hit.

Well, the injuries hit. And hit. Immediately. Even when Vogelsong was passed over for a rotation spot for Chris Heston when Cain got hurt in spring, Vogelsong got the starting nod when Peavy got hurt and hasn’t given the job back. Once the starting pitching became decimated it was all too clear what Vogelsong’s value was to this team. As a stop gap option to weather the injury storm, he’s played his part to perfection.

Again, he hasn’t been great, but he’s taken his turn every five days and he’s been league average, and that don’t grow on trees, folks. For example, just look at what the Dodgers are dealing with behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. It’s Brett Anderson, who is solid, and then a bunch of not too much. I’d have to imagine they’d kill for a league average in-house option right about now. Consider also any playoff team now and what would happen to them if four of their top five starters had missed more than a month to injury.* The standings would probably look quite a bit different. That the Giants are ten games over .500 despite all this once again demonstrates how much of a savior Vogelsong has been to the team.

(*Consider, too, that Vogelsong is better than any starting pitcher the Phillies are currently trotting out not named Aaron Nola)

Vogelsong will go out on the mound today against the Cardinals and it’s probably not going to be pretty. He’ll probably walk some guys, throw a lot of pitches, and grit himself in and out of trouble. In the end, though, he’ll probably go six effective innings and be good enough for the team’s powerful offense to do what it does and get the team a win. That’s what he’s been doing all season and that’s a major reason why the Giants are still sniffing October in spite of it all. I feel that he doesn’t get recognized enough for this fact.

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So…Marlon Byrd



The Giants have just finished losing to the Cubs for the fifth time in five tries this year, so let’s divert our attention from the gory details of the game (and Matt Cain’s continued spiritual de-pantsing) and instead toward the newest Giant, Mr. Marlon Byrd. Byrd was acquired from the Reds about five days ago and he instantly ingratiated himself to Giants fans everywhere by walloping a home run in his first at-bat with the team last Friday. Byrd had hit 19 home runs with Cincinnati this season and the Giants wanted him for his power while Hunter Pence is on the mend.

Naturally, upon hearing that the Giants had acquired Byrd, the first thing I did was rush to all the relevant prospect web sites to find out who they had given up for him. The answer is Stephen Johnson, a 24-year-old Double-A reliever with big time strikeout totals but also big time control problems. In terms of projects, this guy seems especially project-y, so that allayed my immediate fears that the Giants had lost their minds and traded Tyler Beede or something to get Byrd. The chances of Johnson ever contributing to a major league ball club in any meaningful way seem remote, but I guess youneverknow.

The Giants are smack in the middle of a hellish stretch of the schedule where, from August 6 to September 3, the worst team they’ll face is the Washington Nationals, who are currently under .500 but talented as heck and everybody expected them to be a World Series contender. Everybody else the Giants have faced or will face in that stretch is either going to be an easy playoff team or will miss the postseason by a hair. So yes, whoever drew up this part of the schedule for the Giants needs to be punched in the throat. Bring on the Rockies already!

Quite conveniently, the Giants lost Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, two of their best hitters, just in time for this stretch. That’s where Byrd comes in. Byrd is an emergency fill-in to help ride the tide in this brutal month and should be perfectly serviceable in that role. The point of Byrd as a Giant is that he’s a power threat and he’ll help recover some of the oomph lost in the lineup as long as Pence is out.

Once the lineup is fully healthy, Byrd will go back to being a bench bat and will have his uses as a late-inning power threat when rosters expand next week. He’s hacktastic and won’t make any fans of whatever is left of the OBP-is-life crowd, but he’s a nice player and a nice stopgap pickup. Honestly, when all is said and done, unless the Giants make the playoffs and Byrd goes all Cody Ross over the team’s playoff opponents, Byrd is probably going to follow Ryan Garko and Orlando Cabrera into the dustbin of midseason acquisitions who we totally forgot were Giants like two years later.

Are you ready for some Marlon Byrd fun facts? Yes…yes you are. Don’t even pretend that you aren’t excited about the 37-year-old fringe corner outfielder.

–Once upon a time, Byrd was a fairly highly-rated center field prospect for the Phillies, and in 2003 he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. Baseball America ranked him 26th on their top prospect list before the 2002 season, and I even remember drafting him way back then in the late rounds of a keeper league I was in. Byrd hit a perfectly impressive .303/.366/.418 as a rookie with the Phillies in 2003, but then completely lost his way the following season and began a long baseball odyssey of barely hanging on with some really bad teams and almost washing out of the game entirely.

–I say he almost washed out of the game, but that’s not entirely correct. He almost washed out of the game…twice. After phailing with the Phillies, Byrd was traded to the then-horrendous Nationals, and when he didn’t do much there, he hooked on with the Rangers, and had a few solid seasons as the starting center fielder in Texas (breaking the 20-home run mark for the first time in 2009). Byrd signed with the Cubs and made the All-Star team in 2010 for a crappy Cubs team, but had to watch from home as his former Rangers teammates won the American League pennant. Byrd then started to fade with the Cubs and by 2012 it looked like his nice little unlikely career renaissance was coming to an end.

But no! The Mets, desperate for any hitting at all, threw Byrd a bone in 2013 and he responded by hitting 21 homers with them and three more after being traded to Pittsburgh. Since the start of the 2013 season, Byrd has smacked 69 home runs and slugged .470 while playing for five…count ’em, five…different teams. He’s carved himself out a nice, if strange, little major league niche as a rent-a-slugger signed in the offseason by bad teams with the intention of being flipped to a contender at the trading deadline. That’s exactly what has happened to Byrd in two of the last three seasons.

— He was a PED guy! Yep, many either forget or don’t care due to the eternal double standard with performance-enhancing drugs and baseball players, but Byrd was suspended for 50 games back in 2012 for testing positive for a banned substance (he was also connected to Victor Conte and BALCO, which generally didn’t portend good things back then).

Not that we should get angry about Byrd’s past (supposed) PED use, but it never ceases to amuse me that many in the baseball media spend so much energy spewing fire and brimstone about Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, or (worse) speculating about guys like Jose Bautista using steroids, while giving the scores of lesser players who failed tests like Byrd (and Mike Morse, remember!) what amounts to a free pass.

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The Making of the Next Great Giants Villain


In the wake of Pablo Sandoval’s departure this offseason, I spent a lot more time and energy rambling about Panda’s career and legacy with the Giants than I did pondering the prospects of the man who would serve as his replacement at third base. However, one simple tweet of mine from November summed up quite succinctly, I believe, my feelings on Casey McGehee as the Giants’ new third baseman. Summed it up better than any 8,000-word article of mine could, in fact:

Now, notice that my unparalleled genius is on display here for reasons twofold. First, that tweet was dated November 19, 2014. The Giants traded for McGehee on December 20, 2014. Second, “it” (that being McGehee’s tenure as a Giant) has not gone well, at all. So you see, I knew the Grand Casey McGehee Experiment was going to be a disaster a full month before it actually started. All hail me.

Let us not mince words. McGehee, as everyone knows, has been abysmal. After Wednesday’s loss to the Dodgers, he’s hitting .169 and he’s been grounding into double plays at a rate that would make A.J. Pierzynski blush (8 GIDPs in 16 games, to be exact). “Hits” McGehee pretty much turned into “Shits” McGehee the second he put on a Giants uniform.

Now, we should let a month’s worth of cold bat, especially at the beginning of the season, slide. Sadly, that’s not how the Twitterverse works. McGehee is the latest Giants player to be raked across the coals online on a nightly basis, and many Giants fans (not just the beer-drunk KNBR callers) are saying it’s already time to move on.

Actually, that’s putting it all too nicely. Some Giants fans want the team to move on, but not until after McGehee is beaten and stomped and chained to the bottom of McCovey Cove. McGehee has been the recipient of the sort of venom from Giants fans that I haven’t seen since the Armando Benitez days of yore. I mean, read that article. Some asshole actually wants the McGehee to die in a fiery inferno because he’s hitting a buck-sixty. The Internet: I get older, the man-children on it stay the same age.

Back on planet Earth, let’s ask if there actually is reason to believe that McGehee is going to rebound. Just based on the fact that he’s a career .262 hitter, which is 100 points higher than his current average, then the answer is yes. Is there reason to believe he’ll actually turn out to be a good hitter over the course of the season? This is where it gets murky.

Proponents will point out that McGehee had a higher OBP than Pablo Sandoval last year and he was a solidly above-average hitter for an NL third baseman. Critics will counter that he slugged just .357, hit just .243/.310/.310 in the second half, and (fancy this) led the league by grounding into 31 double plays. Add in the fact that he had washed out of baseball year before last and evidence is mounting that maybe McGehee isn’t a worthy successor to the Panda’s throne.

This isn’t meant to pile on McGehee. He isn’t the first hitter to have one horrible month where he can’t hit water falling out of a boat. Hell, Giants fans should be all too familiar with this; Sandoval himself hit a lousy .177/.262/.302 in April last year and he turned out fine. Give McGehee another month to right himself and maybe he’ll hit .296, like he did in May of last year.

So the Giants’ big offseason acquisition might look like a bust now, but let’s not overreact to what is still in the arena of small sample size. I realize that telling fans on Twitter and the Internets not to overreact is like telling the scorpion not to sting the fucking frog, but a player, especially a new player playing in a brutal park on hitters, deserves at least two (two-and-a-half?) months before earning our scorn. McGehee looks lost at the moment, but I’m cautiously optimistic about his season-long prospects, maybe just for the sole purpose of serving as the token dickhead contrarian. I unabashedly predict that he’ll end the season hitting something like .280/.340/.380, which would certainly be acceptable production.

Besides, the Giants traded for McGehee (cheaply, I might add) fully knowing that he was just a one-year plan. Worst case scenario here: McGehee stinks for a couple months and the Giants give Matt Duffy a shot. That’s not a sky-is-falling situation. I can, however, think of an even more terrifying scenario. A scenario where McGehee rights the ship, hits just well enough to be above-average from here on out, and the Giants rashly hand him a three-year deal this offseason. Now that’s a scenario that should have Giants fans losing sleep at night.

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