Monday, January 11, 2010

Same Old Sabean, Same Old Team: Giants Sign Aubrey Huff

I guess I jinxed myself last night. For some reason, out of the blue, I came out of nowhere to defend Travis Ishikawa.

Call it a bad feeling, hunch, whatever. I just knew something was in store this coming week in terms of the first baseman position.

I expected it to be Adam LaRoche.

Instead, the Giants signed Aubrey Huff to what appears to be a one-year deal worth $2.5 million dollars.

Yes, the same Huff that has spent most of his career as a Designated Hitter. The same Huff that posted a .567 OPS and only two home runs in a small, second half stint after being traded from Baltimore to the Detroit Tigers (not to mention complemented their utter collapse to the Twins last season). The same Huff that has only played in one ballpark similar to AT&T Park (Comerica Park) and effectively stunk it up in his tenure there.

At this point, I apologize for what I said yesterday. I almost wish it was Adam LaRoche the Giants signed, even if it meant another year in terms of a contract and a few more million dollars.

At least, he would be a guy worthy of supplanting Ishikawa. At least LaRoche wouldn't be an embarrassment in the infield like Huff most likely will be next season when he'll be missing Edgar Renteria and Pablo Sandoval's ailing throws to first.

Seriously, I'm really just puzzled by this move. I understand it on paper. Huff has good stats (minus 2009) and satisfies a need (a left-handed power hitter). I understand it really was a good contract. It's only one year, it's only two and a half million, and if Huff stinks it up Ryan Klesko style, then Brian Sabean can pull the plug on him. That makes sense.

What I don't get is that the Giants seem to have made their success on pitching and defense last season, and they seem to have just thrown that in the wind simply because everybody kept harking "More Offense! More Offense!" He seemed to be following the right plan when he re-signed Freddy Sanchez, and let go of Ryan Garko. He seemed to make a good signing in Mark Derosa, a guy who can play multiple positions and really hold it down in left field, even if is in the mid-30's and is most likely on the downswing of his career. He made the right call in re-signing Juan Uribe, just in case Edgar Renteria falls off the face of the earth by May (which most likely will happen).

And then, this happens. Huff blows up everything the Giants worked for last year, all because Giants fans, bloggers, and management wanted "dingers" and "immediate run production."

I'm not saying Ishikawa is the second coming of Mo Vaughn. Heck, I don't even know if Ishikawa could reach up to JT Snow level in his career. But what I'm sick of hearing is how pathetic Giants minor league position players are. I'm sick of hearing people hark about how Kevin Frandsen never gets any chances, and then the same people bury Ishikawa when Ishikawa actually puts up similar, if not BETTER numbers than Frandsen in his tenure at Major League level.

Ishikawa may not turn out to be the next Carlos Pena like I imagine him to be. I'll give his naysayers that, just because players usually never live up to comparisons nine times out of ten. However, he's not the next Todd Linden. He's not the next Lance Niekro. Ishikawa is head and shoulders above those guys in my mind. Linden was a great Triple-A hitter, but never could make an adjustment, and Niekro was the benificiary of a surpisingly small stint when JT Snow was hurt. Ishikawa had a good full season as a rookie, and that was despite atrocious road numbers (two home runs, .162 average, .471 OPS), which is more a characteristic of lack of experience rather than his overall play. He can't do any worse than he did last year on the road, and if he can couple that with his solid home stats (seven home runs, .349 average, .935 OPS), he's going to improve. You just can't ignore that.

And yet, Giants fans and management continue to push this idea (and the statistics) out the window, continue to think to themselves that "a proven player" is better, even if that same player may never prove himself again. Seriously, if Sandoval did not have his coming out party like he did in 2009, these same people would have buried the Panda and pined for Jose Castillo again last year.

In my mind, I just don't know if the Giants can do any better next year. I seriously thought they could, I thought Sabean learned his lesson, and then he came out and signed Huff. At this point, I just don't think it's Sabean's fault anymore. In many ways, I believe there is this terrible, hypocritical wave of Giants fans who harp about certain things (don't trade Matt Cain, play Frandsen more, We hate Eugenio Velez) and then make completely contrary arguments (get rid of Jonathan Sanchez, Ishikawa stinks, Giants fans wanting power hitters regardless of the ballparks they played in during their careers).

(Granted, I'm guilty of this as well. I have made contrary arguments in my time here as well. I love Emmanuel Burriss too much. I flip flop on Velez all the time. I actually thought getting Jermaine Dye was a good idea. But it just seems to get worse and worse from fans who only care about RBIs and HRs and don't think you can be successful any other way. I like to think that I observe and care about other aspects of this Giants team.)

Do I hope Huff doesn't stink up the join in San Francisco? Of course. I am a Giants fan, and I want the team to win, regardless of how terrible a team they're set up to be. I'm just frustrated, that's all. I'm frustrated because I thought Giants fans were going to see a team going to be set up to be like the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, a team that took pride in its pitching and defense, and let the hitting come from less heralded guys within their system. Instead, Sabean has given us this: a team that emphasizes big names over potential and progress, just like before, as always. Nothing has changed with him, despite what Giants fans were hoping when owner Bill Neukom handed him that two-year deal this off-season

I'm going to say it here now: the progress we saw as a defense last year? Throw that out the window. The progress we saw with guys within the system finding success at the Major League level? Forget about it in 2010.

Next season is going to look a lot like those years from 2005-2008 where we had "star" names floundering in San Francisco because a.) they couldn't adjust to the ballpark and b.) they were on the downside of their careers. Next season is going to be like those years where it seemed the Giants had no plan, other than good starting pitching. Next season is going to be like those years when we watched Mark Sweeney, Steve Finley and Dave Roberts.

The only difference is they'll have different names and numbers on the back of their jerseys.

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