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San Francisco Giants

The San Francisco Giants make it historically difficult to be a Dodgers fan

It’s been 56 days since the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championship in five season. I know the days. It’s tattooed on my brain. That’s how long it’s taken me to write this article–enough time to heal and get up from off the floor.
I couldn’t watch the World Series this year. Not an inning. As a huge Los Angeles Dodgers fan, seeing our time-tested rivals play for yet another title was just too much for me to grit through. It was a feeling I had become accustomed to—a very same set of stomach acid-inducing ulcers that burned the lining of my gut two years ago. And then two years before that. Worse yet, I knew it was coming.
From the moment that Brandon Belt hit a monstrous home run in Nationals Park during their 18-inning slugfest with Washington (the same night as the Dodgers’ lone playoff win), I knew that there was no stopping the Gigantes as they walked down the golden road they were all-too familiar with. It was the same formula I had seen twice already in the last five years—dominant starting pitching, an unheralded bullpen that would bend but not break and a motley set of hitters whose stars aligned all at the same time. I knew the recipe. I could smell it.… Read more...

20 Days of Thinking Blue: The toughest competition in the NL West?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
Who is the Dodgers’ toughest competition in the NL West?
Can the answer be no one?
No, it can’t. This isn’t soccer. There are no ties.
Let’s get this out of the way: barring a string of injuries, the Dodgers will win the NL West. And it could be by a wide margin. Let’s take a look at the field:
Colorado Rockies: The Rox finished last in the NL West last season, and with good cause–they were pretty horrible. The team is obviously in the midst of a rebuilding movement, with Todd Helton retiring and young guys like Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and Willin Rosario taking over key positions around the diamond. Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau should add a little more pop behind All-Stars Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but the problem with the Rockies is, and is usually never the offense.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Brian Wilson to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers get: RP Brian Wilson (one year, $1 million)
Let’s get this right out of the way, Dodger fans. Blogger supreme Mike Petriello took all of the words right out of my fingers:

Now before we discuss the merits of any possible signing, we probably should discuss the elephant in the room: you hate him. Of course you do. He was a Giant, and not only was he a Giant, he was a huge part of their 2010 World Series title, even getting the final out. He’s a big weirdo with a giant, annoying, beard. He got into that thing with Casey Blake. He was in those tremendously irritating “Black Ops” Taco Bell ads. If Taco Bell was a place I would ever go to eat, ever, those ads would be enough to put a stop to that. I’M BLACK OPS.

If there’s such a thing as “good and evil” in the Dodgers / Giants rivalry these days, Wilson is probably the defining face of it. You can’t hate Buster Posey or Matt Cain, who are both outstanding players and reportedly solid people. You can’t hate Tim Lincecum, especially now that he’s a shell of himself, because he’s just too goofy. Hunter Pence? Maybe, but he’s been there for barely a year. Barry Zito? It’s too much fun to laugh at his contract. Pablo Sandoval? Sergio Romo? I guess? No, if there’s a recent villain of this rivalry, it’s Wilson.

But know this: you hate him because he’s not been on your team. If Wilson did all the same things but had been on the Dodgers, you’d treat him like a folk hero. If Yasiel Puig was wearing black & orange while tossing bats and sliding into the plate on home runs, you’d despise him. It’s the way the sports world works, and that’s okay. Let’s just not pretend it’s anything otherwise.

He’s exactly right. I’ve hated Brian Wilson with the most visceral of hatreds usually reserved for Los Angeles sports team killers like Mike Bibby, Barry Bonds, Paul Pierce and his wheelchair. I’ve hated how he dyes his beard, how he still has a stupid haircut despite being over 30 and how he never seems to blink. I’ve hated his attitude, his brashness and his arrogance, but I’ve mostly hated how it’s been…completely justified.… Read more...

NL West Preview: Respecting the Reigning Champs, Beyond All Reasonable Logic

The reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants should be the unquestioned favorites for the division. But looking at their opening day line-up, they’re not bulletproof. Not even close.
The roster that brought them two titles and perhaps a Scott Cousins rampage away from a third is still intact, but maybe that’s not the best thing. SS Marco Scutaro played out of his skull for the last three months of the season (.859 OPS, .362 batting average), but he’s a 37 year-old shortstop, and those age about as gracefully as whatever that’s currently replacing Meg Ryan’s face. OF Hunter Pence will be 30 in a few weeks and just came off his worst offensive season ever. The former Phillie is in a contract year, which bodes well for an improvement in performance, but he also did almost nothing to contribute to the Giants’ 2012 title. The 6-7-8 slots in the line-up are inhabited by the bodies of 1B Brandon Belt, OF Gregor Blanco and SS Brandon Crawford, who are better suited for late-game defensive replacement duty rather than everyday hitters. I would be shocked if between them they hit 15 home runs this year. Buster Posey–arguably one of the top-5 players in the entire league–is of course in the middle of the order, but he’s the only sure thing there. 3B Pablo Sandoval and OF Angel Pagan have All-Star potential, but are extremely unsteady performers.
On paper, with a line-up with so many questions and so much dead weight, how could MAMBINO possibly pick them to win the division?
Because we have to.…

Criticizing the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers is Easy…But Maybe Not Right

“Pitching and defense. Defense and pitching. Either way, with both going this well simultaneously, 3-0 is exactly where the Giants are supposed to be.”–Mike Bauman,

“And, especially, one win from popularizing a way to win baseball games that most people thought had gone out of style in, like, 1992: Throw the ball. … Catch the ball. Pitching. … And defense.”–Jayson Stark,

“The best defense in all of baseball made all of these very good, very young pitchers look even better…Given everything they just accomplished, and the path they took to get there, we should rank the 2012 Giants right there among the four greatest playoff stories of the past 40 years.”–Jonah Keri,

The pundits couldn’t be any more correct. This past October, the San Francisco Giants won their second title in three years with the best pitching staff top to bottom in the Majors and a spectacular fielding defense. In a time when the Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and Red Sox spend $100 million on a hitting lineup alone, the Gigantes surrounded their all-world hitter and 2012 NL MVP in Buster Posey with understated trade bait and shrewd scrap-heap pick-ups. GM Brian Sabean built a team similar to the Dodgers squads dominated the 70s and 80s, with each of their athletic solar systems built around the gravitational pull of a titanic pitching staff and defense.

In October, the Dodgers watched helplessly as the Giants won their fourth pennant and second title in a span of time where neither of those accolades were accomplished in Chavez Ravine. To add insult to injury, San Francisco did all of this by playing Dodgers baseball
Is the Giants’ 2012 run the new paradigm of the greatest game? Build an unbelievable, indomitable staff and bullpen with an air-tight defense behind it? Then employ just one elite hitter and let the rest of the offense sort itself out down the line? The Tampa Bay Rays, Evan Longoria and the best defense in baseball certainly would support that notion. So would the World Champion 2011 St. Louis Cardinals, who had a near-retirement Lance Berkman as a cheap, understated signing, 28 year-old would-be star in David Freese turned NLCS and WS MVP and youngsters Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso playing over 300 games combined.

This new era of team-building is in many ways a throwback to the “purity of baseball”: a more placid offense with an enhanced focus on throwing and catching. There’s perhaps the perception that because the Giants focus so much on pitching and defense rather than the flash of a crushing offense, that their payroll reflects such a modest set of demands. It’s as if the focus on such basic, spartan tenants of the game absolves San Francisco of spending exorbitant amounts of money like any other major market team. 

Quite the opposite: the Giants were seventh in payroll last year, with three players making over $16 million dollars. However, they all were pitchers (Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain) and eight of their ten highest-compensated players were hurlers. The Giants payroll weight shifted towards the very manner in which they won two titles, but it certainly wasn’t cheap. The core of these two teams were built around homegrown prospects, including Posey, Lincecum, Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo, further romanticizing a team without extravagantly expensive hitters. How is it that San Francisco didn’t have a chorus of skeptics denouncing their high-spenRead more...

World Series Wrap-Up: A Giants Concession Speech from a Dodger Fan

This is a chat conversation that happened between KOBEsh and friend of the blog and detested San Francisco Giants fan Nick. The narrative is “hate” and the mood is sullen.

nick: where’s the MAMBINO WS recap?
me: ….I’m working on it It’s going to be a really respectful, hateful concession speech
nick: i’ll take it

Truth be told, I didn’t watch a minute of Game 4. The thought of the Gigantes winning the World Series whilst my beloved Dodgers sit at home made me nauseous. Physically, emotionally, metaphysically–you name it, I wanted to throw it up. In my mind, visions of the on the mound celebrations came and went, with Sergio Romo shouting to the sky like Thor…except I wish he actually got struck by lightning. The injured Brian Wilson and his cartoonish face parading around the dugout like a Disney sports movie gone awry. World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval chugging around the bases after another titanic hit, defying all regular season expectations and any reasonable cardiologist’s prognosis for life expectancy. Hunter Pence nervously ticking about the outfield waiting for the final out, not knowing if he was more worried about catching the ball or everyone realizing how incredibly overrated he was. All these nightmarish scenarios danced around in my head, and kept me watching weeks old episodes of Monday Night Raw rather than the deciding game of the World Series. Worse yet…it’s the second time in three years I made that decision.

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series last night, sweeping the Detroit Tigers and capturing their seventh title in the Motor City. It’s the doomsday October scenario of any tried and true Dodger fan, short of hearing over the P.A. system “and now entering the game for Los Angeles, Jonathan Broxton”. There is no team–not any team from Boston, MA, South Bend, IN or Philadelphia, PA–that I detest with such a fervor as the San Francisco Giants. Save for a Boston Celtics Finals win in LA, there is no sports situation more grave, more upsetting and more nausea-inducing than seeing the Orange Devils from the Bay emerge victorious. Nothing.

But the worst part? They deserved it. Vomit bag number 1, filled.

me: Dude – it just wasn’t even fair
I knew Detroit was toast from the minute they swept the Yankees
nick: it was almost a shock when they scored
they looked flat the whole series
me: I couldn’t believe it
nick: our shutdown pitching was just unstoppable

The Giants couldn’t be have been more dominant over the four-game sweep, holding the Tigers to six runs in four games, including 20 consecutive shutout innings. The story wasn’t just that the Giants destroyed Detroit’s offense; it’s the manner in which they did so. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers’ two all-world sluggers, were very literally almost shut down, going a combined 4 for 27, with one extra base hit between them, a 3-run shot by Cabrera in the deciding Game 4. Delmon Young, the ALCS MVP, fared the best out of D-Town’s big hitters, going 5 for 14 and knocking in 1/6th of his team’s complete runs…with 1 RBI.

All in all, the Tigers combined for a team OPS of .489, which essentially means that manager Jim Leyland would have been better off if the team had 9 Endy Chavezes batting instead. The team was limited to a stunning five extra base hits and a .159 batting average, all historically feeble numbers. The Giants’ bullpen, led by a resurgent Tim Lincec… Read more...

MAMBINO’s World Series Preview

The 108th World Series starts tonight, so let’s set the stage:

The American League’s Detroit Tigers will be playing in only their third World Series in nearly thirty years, seeking their first title since 1984. Led by a pitching staff including reigning AL Cy Young and MVP award winner Justin Verlander peaking at the right minute, the Motor City’s professional baseball team will attempt to complete their quest of resurrecting a once proud franchise, a task they couldn’t quite finish off in 2006. 

Meanwhile, the National League champion San Francisco Giants are seeking their second title in three seasons. Prospective NL MVP Buster Posey and NL Cy Young hopeful Matt Cain have helped keep the SF squad at the top of Major League Baseball, despite losing Brian Wilson for the season in April, All-Star starting OF Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension in July and Tim Lincecum to an abduction last season that still hasn’t been solved. The Giants could be the first National League team to win two World Series within a three year span since the mid-seventies. In related news, I will vomit for a week straight if this happens.
In true MAMBINO fashion, we polled our rugged writing crew and came up with a consensus pick to win it all. However, in the interest of hedging our bets, we’re also going to bring you the alternative opinion. Let ‘er rip!

Why the Tigers will win the World Series in 5 Games
The Source: Defense wins championships right? Isn’t that the key? Good pitching beats good hitting?

It seems easy enough. The Tigers have been dominant on the mound. Look at their starters over their 9 postseason games: 62.0 IP, 7 ER. That’s pretty good. The guys in the bullpen have been solid too, except, of course, the set-up guy and the closer. But it hasn’t mattered. The starters have been going deep, the bullpen has been near perfect, and instead of watching Valverde blow saves and dance about it, manager Jim Leyland has been using the very solid Phil Coke. He’s earned 2 saves against the Yankees in the ALCS and totally owning the clubhouse open mic during the ALCS Game 4 rain-out with killer “guess what I found in this guy’s air duct” stories. 
Actually, Benoit and Valverde, the “reliable” 8thand 9th inning guys, are the only Tiger pitchers to give up runs out of the bullpen.  Oh well; Leyland has been picking his matchups well and it’s paying off. With a sweep of the Yankees, Detroit’s got their starting rotation set just how they want it and everyone is well rested. Plus, one of the advantages the Giants having coming in is their momentum but with Verlander on the hill in game 1, San Fran could hit the wall hard.
As for offense, hitting is always tough in the postseason. The Tigers haven’t been blowing anyone away with their huge power numbers but their lineup is a scary one to face. You know Austin Jackson, you know Miguel and Prince, and you’ve probably heard about Delmon Young winning the ALCS MVP, committing hate crimes, and driving in 8 runs in 9 postseason games – great. But some of the lesser known guys are playing well too. Jhonny Peralta is leading the team in first-name misspellings and a .343 BA through the first two series, rookie Avisail Garcia is hitting .333 with 4 RBI, and good ol’ Don “No really, I look like this and play professional sports” Kelly even won a game for us back against Oakland. 
The Giants seem like a team of annoying guys who aren’t great hitters but get big hits. Plus Buster Posey. So they’re hot and the best way to stop a hot team is good pitching. That

Instant Trade Analysis: Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants get: OF Hunter Pence

Philadelphia Phillies get: OF Nate Schierholtz, RP Seth Rosin, C/1B Tommy Joseph

GM Ruben Amaro and the Phillies started the second act of their rebuilding process by trading outfielder Hunter Pence to the offense-starved San Francisco Giants, just minutes after shipping fellow OF Shane Victorino to the Los AngelesDodgers. Amaro has single-handedly fortified the NL West by addressing the needs of the two contenders for the division crown.

In Pence, SF oddly enough gets a bat and glove very similar to former Giants outfielder and financial millstone Aaron Rowand. The now former Phillie has proven to be an annual 25 homer threat, having hit an anomalous 25 every season between 2008 and 2010, with 22 in 2011 and 17 this year. He’s a near lock for a performance of around a .280 batting average, 90 runs, 25 homers of course and 90 RBI. Pence has shown some plus speed, but his stolen base numbers have tapered off as he’s gotten closer to 30. Defensively, he’ll fit in very well alongside Melky Cabrera in left and Angel Pagan in center. The Giants could very well have the most steady defensive outfield unit in the NL West, along with their rivals in Southern California. 

His effect on the Giants lineup should be significant, but not exactly because he’s that much of an offensive difference-maker. Overall, Pence is a very, very good complimentary player, but not the type of offensive force that can transform a lineup around him, like how both Hanley Ramirez is doing now on the Dodgers, or Manny Ramirez did four seasons ago. He’ll hit in the middle of the lineup for the Giants, surrounded by Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera. Like Sandoval and Cabrera, Pence is merely a borderline or fringe All-Star who is there to simply prop up slugging catcher Posey, rather than form a deadly middle of the order threat, like the Dodgers’ Kemp/Ethier/Ramirez trio, or the killer Hamilton/Beltre/Cruz mashing unit in Texas. Hunter will definitely help an 11th ranked NL offense in SF, both in that he’s a well-above average player, and by who he’s replacing.

As seemingly always with the Giants since Barry Bonds left town over five years ago, GM Brian Sabean has allocated most of his resources to pitching, rather than creating a competent offense. Of course, this seemed to work two years ago when the world collapsed upon itself, as Cody Ross won the NLCS MVP and the San Francisco Giants opened up the gateway to the depths of  Hell and won the World Series. Even in spite of their title, the Giants continue to disappoint the baseball watching world at large. SF should be busy establishing themselves as the next dynasty with their pitching, much like the Yankees did in the late nineties behind a dominant staff, a fantastic pen and of course, that juggernaut offensive lineup. The Giants don’t have the same type of checkbook that New York GM Brian Cashman had at his disposal, so Sabean struggles to cobble together another borderline feeble lineup season to season. The best part of this trade might be that Pence is under contract next season as well, albeit for nearly $14 million a year. I’d expect the Giants to try and sign him long-term, to a deal reminiscent of Aaron Rowand’s four-year, $60 million dollar pact. Pence might not be worth that type of money on the open market at large, but in the context of a SF team that always seems to be scrambling for hitters, it could be a shrewd deal in the future, relative to their usual situation.

The price to get Pence, like