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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The price to become a true power: a deal with the devil

So, this is what a deal with the devil looks like. A true Faustian Bargain, where Joe Hardy goes to Washington D.C. to steal a championship from the Damn Yankees.

Sending off what could be a centerpiece to the Giants future -- golden-armed Zack Wheeler -- for what is likely to be a two-month-plus rental, Carlos Beltran, unquestionably qualifies as a deal with the devil.

Is this the price the Giants have to pay to become a true national power? It's the age old conundrum that has puzzled baseball executives through the ages: If you have a chance to win it all now, what are you willing to sacrifice?

Detroit Tiger fans still lament the deal that brought Doyle Alexander from the Atlanta Braves in an attempt to go all the way in 1987, but fell short when they lost to the Toronto Blue Jays in the playoffs.Fans were left to witness from afar John Smoltz' Hall of Fame career unfold over the next 21 years, clinging only to the memory of their 1984 World title.

It is certainly a departure for general manager Brian Sabean, typically covetous of the home grown talent that he has cultivated so well over the past dozen years: risking the future for the promise of instantaneous success.

And it's a departure from the cost-conscious, bargain hunting method with which he put together his band of misfits of last year.

Nothing's guaranteed in baseball, but right now it is a bold, brash pivot for the Giants into terrain traditionally occupied strictly by powerhouse franchises like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies: a splashy trade-deadline move to secure a strong position heading into the final months of a season.

It was painfully obvious that they were desperate to solidify their offense for potential rematch showdowns with much more heavily equipped Atlanta and Philadelphia in the post-season.

If Beltran helps lead the Giants into the post-season, though, that won't be enough: they probably could have done that without him.

It's what he does in October that will determine his historical place in Giants' lore.

It could come down to a half dozen crucial at bats that Beltran takes in the post-season to determine how good a deal this was. If he ultimately carries the Giants to another World Series title, any success that Wheeler has down the line can be explained away.

If the Giants fall short, however, fans will be watching Wheeler's progress through more than jaded lenses.

For now, the Bay Area is abuzz with anticipation. The idea of having a legitimate power and RBI threat to complement the dominant pitching staff has been what fans have cried for virtually all season -- at least since Buster Posey's season-ending injury.

Sabean should have secured his place as among the best general managers in the game with last year's World Championship, but remains still unloved by his own fan base. Maybe this move will finally elevate him into the kind of status that the Pat Gillicks and Dallas Greens of the game won from their fans.

Maybe the national media will finally take the Giants more seriously now that the West Coast boys have added the biggest bat on the market, dipping right into the Big Apple to add a centerpiece marquee player to the middle of their lineup.

And, they did it right under the nose of the Philadelphia Phillies, who made their own bid for Beltran, and who will have to pitch to him Thursday night in the rubber match of the series (against the Phillies' starter Kyle Kendrick, Beltran has a .316 history -- 6-for-19 with one home run).

The Phillies' Roy Halladay is probably wishing the Phillies made a stronger push for Beltran: the Giants' new right fielder has a long history of success against him, hitting .333, with 14 hits in 42 at bats, two HRs and 10 RBI.

Watch for that key matchup in the upcoming four-game series in early August in San Francisco, and of course, if they indeed face each other in the post season.


The ripple effects of the trade were more like aftershocks.

Beltran is starting in right field, moving Nate Schierholtz over to left in what may turn out to be a brutal competition for playing time among Nate, Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres.

We'll see whether Beltran is cut out for the vast depths of right field; perhaps after having to roam so much ground on his 34-year old well traveled knees, he'll put in a request for a transfer to left. Taking Schierholtz out of right field appears to be a downgrade on defense.

Early rumors had the Giants releasing Pat Burrell and sending Brandon Belt back to Fresno.

That is now thoroughly discredited. Burrell is on the disabled list until Saturday, and could not be released until then. The Giants announced this morning that they released second baseman Bill Hall to make room on the 40 man roster. They will likely perhaps send Burrell to Fresno for a rehab stint before deciding what to do with him.

Belt remains on the roster, and Emmanuel Burriss gets the demotion, probably the most natural move to make. Burriss was a backup to the backups, and even then he wasn't the most steady on defense and provided little on offense -- though he had some clutch hits to become a strand, thin though it was, in the mosaic the Giants are weaving.

A Belt demotion would have taken some of the glow off the Beltran deal, so the Giants tamped those rumors down fairly quickly.

Fans want to see Belt supplant Huff; a large and loud contingent certainly believe that Boss Bochy has wrongly limited Belt's opportunities as Huff continued to flail at the plate. Belt's dramatic return just a week ago -- it seems so long ago -- hitting a home run and game-winning double against the Dodgers, was rewarded with a spot on the bench, an outrage to many.

The Giants appear to want to give Huff some more time to buck up, hoping that with less pressure to be the Big Guy he can relax and settle into a more secondary role. It will be interesting to see how long they go with him if he continues his relentless drive for the record number of grounders to second, but Bochy and Sabean seem convinced that Huff can return to form, even though the numbers show that Huff's troubles began last August -- when the heat was on.

Even Pablo Sandoval can stand a little support: he's gone 2 for his last 19 in the last six games, dropping from .315 to .298, and has gone without an extra base hit in the last seven games.

A word on Burrell as he awaits his fate: He would be missed. He was a critical component to last year's run to the World Series, provided a great veteran presence in the dugout and clubhouse. The swagger he brought to the team gave them a bravado they hadn't previously had. He was like John Wayne riding a horse across the Montana ridge as he rounded the bases on each of his majestic home runs.

But it's been clear that he has had no place on the Giants this season; he's lost some bat speed, and the magic -- the power, the clutch hits -- he provided last year just hasn't been there.

Losing Burrell would be more upsetting to the team's chemistry if he is on the active roster. So, it may be that the Giants ease him out of the picture at some point before he could return to the active roster.

In offloading Wheeler, a question remains: do they have anything else they'd be willing to deal from their farm system in another deal that brings a catcher over? Short of prized outfielder Gary Brown?


Matt Cain's shutdown job against the Phillies should not be overlooked by the news of the day. He was absolutely stifling in a much-needed outing after the Giants' abysmal performance Tuesday.

Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, had an interesting take on the difference between the Matt Cain who'd never defeated the Phillies in a regular season game and Wednesday night's version:
"He was very aggressive. He threw more fastballs than I thought he'd throw, but he also had good command... He's changed his arm angle. It used to be higher. He dropped it kind of like three-quarters, and the ball gets harder to see."
Here are the big moments in Cain's crisp performance (7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 H BB 1 SO 1) in Wednesday's 2-1 win:

-- In a two-out threat in the bottom of the second -- on a single to left by Raul Ibanez and a walk to Domonic Brown on an eight-pitch at bat -- Cain fell behind No. 8 hitter Carlos Ruiz two-and-oh. Just when it looked like he was pitching around the dangerous Ruiz with pitcher Cole Hamels on deck, Cain slipped a tantalizing curve in, getting Ruiz to ground out harmlessly.

-- He retired Chase Utley, who has owned him in the past (7-for-15 with three HR, seven RBI), on an easy fly out after giving up a two-out double to Michael Martinez in the third inning.

-- Yet another jam, with a runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the fourth, Brown put up another tough eight-pitch battle to draw the count full. On the payoff pitch, Cain blew high heat right by by the young slugger, a 92 MPH fastball up that he couldn't resist.

-- He treated the meat of the order, Utley and Howard, to his whole repertoire in the bottom of the sixth.  Cain had Utley off balance with a slider on the outside corner, a belt high curve and a changeup for a groundout to second base. Cain fell behind Howard 3-and-1 before unleashing a 94 MPH fastball -- his best of the night -- that Howard fouled weakly, and then an 89 MPH cut fastball that got in on the handle and induced a weak grounder to first to end the inning.

-- In the seventh, Cain's attempt to catch a short pop fly -- he's more aggressive on pop flies than any other pitcher on the Giants' staff -- led to the only run against him. But, after giving up an RBI single to Brown -- off a bad hop at first base -- Cain closed the threat down by getting Ruiz to go after another curve to ground neatly into an inning ending double play.


It was difficult to watch the Brian Wilson-Ryan Howard faceoff in the ninth inning without thinking of the clinching strikeout in the NLCS. I still am amazed that Howard and Phillies fans contend that final pitch, a cutter over the corner, was not a strike. It was clearly over the outside edge.

On this night, Howard took the count full, with Wilson working the inner and outer edges of the strike zone before finally retiring him on an easy fly ball to left. And, yes, it was on a cut fastball.


  1. Not True Steve - at least not true yet about Burrel and Belt. The Giants tweeted that no moves have been made. Hentry Schulman tweeted that Burrel has not been and will not be DFA'd. Someone else pointed out that he's not been on the DL the required 15 days so can't be DFA'd.


  2. doyle anderson was on the 87 tigers that failed to make it to the world series

  3. ah, man, thanks, guys! I made the fixes.

  4. they do have the option of releasing Derosa after he's done rehabbing with Fresno.

  5. Never mind, Derosa is on the 60 DL, don't know when he'll be eligible.

  6. I look for the addition of Carlos Beltran to make the Giants lineup more than the sum of its parts. I also think that, with Carlos on board, now is the time not to send Belt down to Fresno, but to insert him into Huff's spot every day for at least three weeks. Spot play Huff, maybe, but give Brandon some serious playing time against Major League pitching. He might do some damage.

  7. Howdy from Half Moon Bay, Steve. You can be forgiven for your earlier miscalls mentioned above. Lord knows, names and destinations were flying yesterday, and one would think you could rely on the Comcast crew: Michael Urban et al, but apparently not!

  8. Thanks, Between the Lines. Yeah, stuff flies. That's the bad and good thing about blogs: you try to hit the story quickly, and you might boot one because of the quick snap to first; but the good thing is you can go back and correct it.

    You must get a kick out of Krukow every time he mentions the "babe from Half Moon Bay."

  9. Hah! I thought (ask him for me, will ya?) that the phrase might have come from Krukow's association with John Montefusco, who lived in El Granada, which is just north of HMB. But I think those two birds missed each other by just a few years. But it cracks me up every time I hear it - along with "grab some pine - meat," and "that's night life in New York city." (What a character.)

  10. Could someone explain "babe from Half Moon Bay" for me, please? I googled, but found nothing.

  11. Mark, Krukow has just made it his phrase, whenever he sees a woman who makes a catch or shows toughness; actually, it's Gamer Babe From Half Moon Bay. I haven't heard why he singled out Half Moon Bay; I imagine it just came to him.