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Kevin Frandsen “stinks”

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:

“He stinks,”

 ”At what?”

 ”Everything.”

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?

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Giant headaches

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.

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The dirt on Bonds

Well, this is interesting. Barry Bonds apparently failed not one but multiple tests for performance-enhancing drugs. It’s right there in the grand jury testimony ordered unsealed on Friday.

 Lest you want to stay in denial, grand jury testimony is a legal document, so please, no more “He’s never failed a drug test,” arguments, OK. The guy was dirty. Which obviously doesn’t make him unique, but it does forever taint his career.

The question is whether the news will remove the denial from many of his supporters. What do you think?

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Omar’s injury

There is now one less reason to watch the Giants than there was yesterday. The loss of Omar Vizquel for 4-6 weeks robs us of seeing his smooth-yet-spectacular displays at shortstop, and that’s a bummer for anyone who appreciates that art.

What it does do is give Kevin Frandsen an “in” to show he belongs. Frandsen figures to take over for Vizquel in the interim, though (if Vizquel’s prognosis is correct) that may amount to only two weeks worth of regular-season at-bats. Still, that’s enough time to show that he belongs at second base when Vizquel returns. Ray Durham, thanks to his $7 million salary, has the inside track at that position. 

 Of course, it is possible the Giants will decide to use Rich Aurilia at shortstop and shift Frandsen to third base in the interim. Either way, the spotlight clearly will be on the San Jose native who’s yet to prove he’s as good as was advertised. 

In other words, it may be time we find out if Frandsen is the promising talent the Giants have promised he is, or if his future is as an extra infielder.

Meantime, get well soon Omar. Your nightly highlights will be missed.

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A Giants future?

One of the most convenient stops on the spring training tour is the Tucson Electric Park complex. On one side operate the Arizona Diamondbacks, and on the other the Chicago White Sox. So after checking out what was shaking with the snakes, I wandered on over and got down to business with the White Sox.

Two individual subjects pop to mind, and no, I’m not referring to Nick Swisher.

Start with Joe Crede, the third baseman who many would like to see be a Giant. Crede is in an interesting situation, because it’s pretty much an open secret that the Giants are eying him like a lion does prey, but yet he has to prepare as if he’s going to break camp with Chicago.

“This isn’t the first year it’s happened,” he told me. “It seems like every year there’s something that comes up. That stuff is out of your control. I try not to pay attention. This game is tough enough as it is.”

Crede had back surgery in June to repair two herniated disks in his back, and said he’s now able to “lead a normal life.” How much the aftermath has affected his baseball-playing ability is yet to be seen, and that’s probably what Giants general manager Brian Sabean is waiting for, too. But if healthy, Crede is a tremendous clutch hitter (check out his RISP numbers from 2006, his last healthy year) who could do quite a bit to repair the Giants’ offensive woes. Defensively, he ran neck-and-neck with the A’s Eric Chavez for Gold Glove consideration every season, so you’d think he’d be at least as good with the glove as Pedro Feliz. If, that is, he can bend over.

Another guy I ran into in the ChiSox clubhouse was reliever Octavio Dotel, the former A’s closer. Simply put, this is one of most personable guys in the game. He actually made it a point to ask how I was doing, which is something you almost never hear from players. When Santiago Casilla (then Jairo Garcia) debuted for the A’s in 2004, I sat down for a 30-minute interview with him, and Dotel served as the translator. Again, that’s something you rarely, rarely see.

I’m happy for Dotel, because after years of elbow trouble, he seems finally to be healthy. He’ll set up White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, and if he’s right, that would give Chicago a devastating end-of-the-game combination. Dotel also signed a two-year contract with the White Sox, and he said it’s the first time he’s ever had a multi-year deal. So good for him.

Overall, there’s a fairly good vibe in this clubhouse. It’s tough to tell if it will stay that way, because all teams are optimistic in spring training, and the clubhouses are so small. But keep an eye on these guys. After a brutal 2007, they may be ready to ascend again in 2008.

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On Clemens and more

Back in the office after the final two weeks of offseason vacation, and feeling a bit like it’s the first day of school. Time to catch up on some things I missed, as well as looking ahead:

— The Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee “debate” on Capitol Hill basically revealed nothing. We learned that 1) Clemens is a scumbag. 2) McNamee is a scumbag, and 3) Congress has many buffoons representing it. Honestly, didn’t we already know all those things?

—  Meantime, let’s stop the “Andy Pettitte is a saint”  summations. The man lied on numerous occasions himself, up to and including the tale he put forth in the aftermath of the Mitchell Report. Good for Andy for not lying under oath, but is that what passes for being a forthright person these days?

— Speaking of Pettitte, it seems his congregation is praying for him. He’ll need them, because he faces the New York media today.

— So, the Giants are giving Barry Zito another Opening Day start. Giants fans, if you didn’t figure this out last season, let’s repeat: The best chance Zito has to succeed is to get outside his head. Handing him the ball for the opener, in my humble opinion, is not an effective way to start that process.

— I’m not even in Arizona yet, and I can already smell the fresh air created by the absence of Barry Bonds’ scent.

— Meantime, A’s starter Joe Blanton is a hot commodity, but unless the Reds are ready to part with Jay Bruce or Homer Bailey, among others, and the Dodgers are set to give up a bounty, bet on Billy Beane holding onto Blanton at least until the July 31 trade deadline.

— Eager to see how Jack Cust’s season unfolds for the A’s. True, he seems to have a job nailed down entering the spring, and that’s a first for him. But you wonder how much rope he’ll get. Cust, a career minor-league journeyman before 2007, hit only 11 home runs after the All-Star break, and finished at .217 with 7 HR and 26 RBI vs. lefties. With Mike Sweeney in camp, and the Daric Barton era about to start, Cust may wind up expendable.

More to come after we hear what “Saint Andy” has to say. 

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The Big Game

Just a quick football opinion, before we turn back to our usual subject. After all, the aftermath of Super Bowl XLII seems much more enticing than discussing which of the local nine is in better shape

My take on the Super Bowl (besides the fact that I can make terrible predictions with the best of them): Karma still exists. The Giants’ stunning upset of the Hoodies in Super Bowl XLII is proof of the above.

I speak, of course, of Randy Moss, and I’m sure Raiders fans know to what I’m referring. The fact that Moss quit on the Raiders during his brief two-year stint with them is unforgiveable. It’s one thing to say a situation is a hopeless joke (which in the Raiders case, it is), but to admit that you only “play when I feel like it,” is the worst thing a pro athlete can do. It’s bush on so many levels, we could spend an entire day discussing it.

Thus, the idea of Moss winding up with a ring on an undefeated team while earning accolades as “team leader” was enough to make any Raiders fan puke. Add the prospect of adding “game-winning touchdown” to that scenario would’ve been too much.

Thanks to Eli Manning and David Tyree , Plaxico Burress and the Giants’ relentless defense (one of the greatest performances ever), Moss didn’t get any of those things.  It’s nice to see that the earth hasn’t completely fallen off its axis.

Hearing a lot of commentators suggesting this was not the biggest upset in NFL history. Not only do I disagree, I rate only the USA’s Miracle on Ice hockey win against the USSR in the 1980 Winter Olympics as a bigger upset in U.S. Sports. Take into account the stage, what was at stake, and the dominance of the favorites.

As far as baseball upsets that compare? How bout these:

— 2004 Red Sox over the Yankees in the ALCS: Overcoming a 3-0 deficit in games is probably the only way you can find a true baseball equivalent to the odds the Giants had to overcome in their Super Bowl win.

— 1988 Dodgers over the A’s in the World Series: Conventional wisdom said it all fell apart for the Bash Brothers when Dennis Eckersley gave up Kirk Gibson’s famous home run in Game 1. I say it went to smithereens when Eckersley walked Mike Davis just before it.

1972 A’s over the Reds in the World Series: That dynasty’s first title came against a team that was supposed to dust them in the Fall Classic. The A’s got three of their four wins on the road, including the last one.

1969 Mets over the Orioles in the World Series: Man landed on the moon that summer, and the Miracle Mets beat a 109-win juggernaut three months later. The latter seemed more outlandish. 

– 1954 Giants over the Indians: Cleveland had won 111 games, 65 of them coming from their Big Three of Early Winn, Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia. But Dusty Rhodes’ pinch-walkoff home run in Game 1, and Willie Mays’ amazing catch were the equivalent of knocking a QB on his butt a half-dozen times. 

On vacation for the next two weeks. Next blog will be Feb. 18, when spring training will be in full swing.

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To the season-ticket holders from Brian Sabean

Wonderful tongue-in-cheek write up by John Ryan at the Mercury News today regarding the letter sent by Giants general manager Brian Sabean to season-ticket holders. Saw this myself, sans the humor, and I’m thinking Sabes should’ve consulted Ryan before he wrote it. I would’ve have added only:

“Sincerely,

Brian R. Sabean

Senior Vice President and General Manager and Management Star of the Mitchell Report. 

Enjoy the laughs.

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A’s Fan Fest Weekend

A few thoughts on the A’s Fan Fest, which basically marks the first official weekend of the 2008 season.

— So Jack Cust denied he used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs. What else did you expect him to say? Baseball players have been borrowing variations from the “I didn’t juice,” handbook for years now, and Cust’s explanation was typical. Look, I like the guy as much as anybody on the A’s, and it was impossible not to get caught up in parts of his 2007 season, but like I’ve written so many times in the past, it’s impossible to believe anything a player says these days. Cust may well be telling the truth, but a player’s benefit of the doubt is a thing of the past.

— Regarding Cust’s explanation, it is interesting that we haven’t heard from one-time Baltimore Orioles outfielder Larry Bigbie in a while (looks like he’ll be playing in Japan this year). It is entirely possible, I suppose, that Bigbie was mistaken when he said he lockered next to Jack Cust during their Baltimore days. Or, it’s possible that maybe they were one or two cubicles down from each other, and Bigbie simply used the phrase “next to” in a general way. Again, that’s the problem with all the silence and all the lies. Getting to the truth is like trying to snag a foul ball amidst a crowd of 50,000 people.

—- Here’s why MLB.com is more a public relations tool than a journalistic site: The headline on their Sunday afternoon story was: “A’s annual FanFest a Big Hit.” Funny, only 12,000 people attended, the smallest ever for a FanFest at the Coliseum in the seven seasons they’ve had it there. First time ever below 20,000. I realize MLB.com is the way a majority of fans get their information, and there are great things about that site, but don’t ever mistake it as a bastion of journalism.

—- The story on the site pointed to the 35,000 single-game tickets the A’s sold on Saturday. I’m guessing that’s not going to push them over the 2-million mark when it’s all said and done.

—  Good to hear that the A’s are going to pour more money into scouting and developing, and that they may go higher with their signing bonuses for high draft picks. Don’t think for a minute that getting a Top 5 pick wasn’t on the “pro” side when general manager Billy Beane drew up his pros and cons for rebuilding.

— Finally, very ingriguing column recently by Ray Ratto regarding a possible punishment for the Giants, given their noteworthiness in the Mitchell Report. I believe Ray is right in saying that granting the A’s the rights to Santa Clara County would be the only punishment that would truly fit the crime. I don’t imagine any such thing would ever happen, though, even though A’s owner Lew Wolff goes back such a long way with commissioner Bud Selig. MLB never does anything that sensible.

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A Giant nothing

A few baseball thoughts while lamenting how the Chargers upset try against the Patriots in the AFC title game was Norv’d (terrible play-calling inside the 10-yard line) , and wondering what happened to the Packers’ Brett Favre in the second half vs. the Giants.

— Slightly less than a month until the Giants report for spring training, and Aaron Rowand remains their only major move. How disappointing is that? Obviously, the Giants will be laying a lot on the line with their dynamite starting staff, but Rowand (while a great clubhouse addition) is not a panacea for the offense. The Giants may be trying to position themselves to win a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games, but if no more moves are made, they’ll find themselves losing more games by those scores than they win.

— The A’s signings of Huston Street and Joe Blanton to one-year deals last week mean nothing in terms of their long-term future in Oakland. But the hunch here is that both will start the season and that both could stick around for a rebuilding effort if the A’s perform better than expected in 2008. We’ll know where they are by the trading deadline, when Blanton, in particular, could really net a lot.

— Had an hour-long conversation with an A’s executive last week, and what I can reveal is that one very interesting question was raised. Of all the A’s who have departed as free agents or been traded since Jason Giambi walked away in 2001, which one or two would you still like to have in 2008? My somewhat-lame answer was Miguel Tejada, but you know what, right now, today, I wouldn’t want him. He’s going to make $18 million this season, he’s lost a ton of range at shortstop, and his best days as a hitter are behind him. Still, I would’ve loved to have seen what the A’s could’ve done in 2004, ’05 and ’06 had they signed Tejada to an extension.

— On that subject, the A’s are promoting their annual FanFest hard, with the key attraction being a tour of the team’s clubhouse. Can just hear it now: “This is where Nick Swisher used to locker. This is where Dan Haren used to locker. This is where Miguel Tejada injected steroids ….”

— On the steroids topic, the back-and-forth between the camps of Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee keeps getting more and more interesting. Can’t wait to find out which one purges himself in front of Congress on Feb. 16. Then again, anybody think Clemens is actually going to show up?

— Meantime, it seems as if Andy Pettitte is doing some spin control of his own, regarding his friendship with Roger Clemens.

Finally, a Super Bowl prediction, because it’s never too early:

Patriots 52, Giants 10.