The Giants are insisting that there is little reason to be that concerned about Barry Zito, despite the fact that two of his three spring starts have smelled like a slaughterhouse. Well, given that logic, there shouldn’t be any reason to be that excited about Ray Durham, either.
Truth of the matter is that Zito won’t be as bad as he’s shown this spring. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be any better than he was during his 2007 flop. He may well be better, but he’s gonna have to prove it.
Same with Durham. He may not hit .218 again, but I doubt he’ll return to the .280-with-pop guy that he was a couple of seasons ago.
These are just two names I’m throwing out there for the Giants. To go over the rest of the roster would be too darn depressing.
OK, let’s start with the optimist’s refrain.
IT’S ONLY SPRING TRAINING!!
Alright, enough of that. If you are optimistic about the Giants these days, then you’re one of those folks who thinks, really, a win in the California Lotto is going to happen this week. This team is hideous right now, and if you read about the deathly silence in the clubhouse, it seems that fact may be setting in with the inmates.
Barry Zito’s latest miserable outing is only the tip of the ‘berg. Zito is well on his way to being the biggest free-agent bust in baseball history, and the fact that he’s tinkering with his motion again means his head is not right. Again! He can point to excess motion and “fewer moving parts,” but perhaps it’s all code for “He’s not very good anymore!”
Now, I like Barry a lot. He’s a little out there, and he’s become much more aloof than in his early days as an Athletic, but he’s not anti-social or stand-offish. So he’s the kind of guy I’d like to see have success. I just don’t see it happening. His fastball is average, and his curveball is nowhere near what it was. Talked to scouts in Arizona, and they think that the early struggles Barry is having is not a mirage but rather what he is. Yikes!
Same can go for the Giants, who to this point have the worst record in the Cactus League and have shown they struggle with the routine play. You have to feel for manager Bruce Bochy, who has nowhere near the solutions to all the questions and must be wondering how he got himself into this mess.
Back from a couple of weeks in the desert (actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I was back Thursday), and brought with me some early impressions.
— Carlos Gonzalez is the real deal. The centerpiece of the Dan Haren deal appears to be the A’s best everyday prospect, and the gap between him and the others appears to be large. Gonzalez did something impressive every day I was around the A’s camp, and I had a handful of veterans tell me, “Watch out for Carlos Gonzalez. He’s going to be a star.” Maybe it doesn’t happen this year, but it’ll happen eventually.
— Gio Gonzalez might remind folks of Vida Blue. He’s left-handed, has a high leg-kick, and the ball seems to release from his hand with explosion. Not sure he throws as hard as Vida did, but from what I saw, his stuff moves. Again, this is a guy to watch.
— The Giants are going to be miserable. On the couple of occasions I saw them, they had trouble making routine plays. On many of the days I didn’t see them, stories of ineptitude found their way to the press box. I know, I know, it’s spring training and you can’t draw solid conclusions. But if the Giants avoid 95 losses, I’ll be stunned.
— One other anectdode that could be indicative of the Giants’ chances. A local network sports anchor told me his station had interviewed a bulk of what’s expected to be the Opening Day roster, and each interview ended with this question: “Give us a reason why the Giants won’t finish in last place?” The almost-unanimous answer, the anchor said: “We’re scrappy.” If that’s all you’re clinging to, then the mountain ahead is awfully steep.
— Barry Bonds is out of sight, but he’s not out of mind. Heard his name dropped by scouts and executives in conversations just about every day I was down there. The consensus: Somebody will sign him by the end of July.
Wanted to follow up to Rhonda’s comment on my previous blog. In general, I’m not a big fan of using the “He stinks,” analogy. It’s too simplistic and rarely fair.
That said, those two words are the words I’ve heard most often when his name pops up in discussions with other writers, talent evaluators and scouts. And generally, the conversation goes something like this:
So far, Frandsen has yet to show he can hit consistently at the big-league level. He hasn’t shown his glove or range are anything special. His speed is average. I realize he’s a relatively local kid (Santa Clara), and as players go, he’s pretty friendly. But the bottom line is that the Giants considered him an outstanding prospect two years ago, and if you hear differently from them, they’re lying. If Frandsen is struggling to be an extra infielder on a team that figures to lose at least 90 games, what does that say about his ability?
Anybody out there think this doesn’t have the makings of one of the most miserable seasons in Giants history?
Latest misery, category No. 1: Noah Lowry. He had surgery on his throwing arm today for a very strange injury. So strange, that the Giants apparently couldn’t find another player in their long history has had the same problem. Lowry’s pathetic spring has inspired memories of Steve Blass and Rick Ankiel, and Lowry thinks such comparisons are ludicrous. Maybe so, but everytime he goes to the mound and is wild, those whispers will start. By the way, the heavy rumor in Arizona was that Lowry was going to be the primary trade bait in the Giants’ attempt to lure Joe Crede away from the White Sox. If that’s the case, that trade is off for a while.
But the bottom line is that until he gets out on the mound and can prove he can still throw strikes consistently, there will be a lot of wondering going on. Who knows, maybe Ankiel and Blass had the same ailment and it just went undiagnosed.
Giants misery No. 2: Kevin Frandsen. Hate to throw out the tag line, “He stinks,” but that’s what I’m hearing more and more about this kid. And what does it say that the Giants would sooner use somebody with no big-league experience _ Ivan Ochoa (never higher than Triple-A), Brian Bocock and Emmanuel Burriss (neither higher than Single-A) are the candidates now after the Giants scrapped the Frandsen-to-shortstop scenario. Omar Vizquel, get well soon.
The A’s won’t admit it, but there has to be concern in the organization that the left side of the infield is feeling some familiar twinges.
Third baseman Eric Chavez has done no activity since Friday after getting an epidural in his back on Friday, and after talking with him Monday, it’s pretty clear he’s discouraged about his prospects for Opening Day in Japan. Chavez sounded very down in his interview, and though it’s awfully hard to gauge a guy’s mood, you can tell when he’s optimistic or pessimistic and Chavez seemed the latter.
Meantime, Bobby Crosby missed today’s exhibition game with upper back spasms. The A’s emphasized that the pain came from the upper to mid-portion of the back and not the lower half. The lower half is what got out of whack two seasons ago when Crosby missed 52 games.
Still, back injuries are tricky and it’s hard make them go completely away. So no matter what they say, it has to be nervous time for the A’s.