Column: Lack of deadline deals could haunt Giants
With the baseball trading deadline come and gone last week, contending teams seem poised to make a run at the postseason.
Some teams made a lot of moves – the New York Yankees come to mind with Monday’s acquisition of slugger Jose Canseco, along with moves made for Denny Neagle and David Justice – while other teams did very little to improve their weaknesses.
The Giants, who are in the middle of one of the better races for a division title, made one very minute move in picking up veteran reliever Doug Henry. Their main adversary, the Arizona Diamond Backs, pulled off one of the biggest coups of the year when they got Curt Schilling from the Philadelphia Phillies for a song.
Making big trades or last minute deals doesn’t always ensure a pennant for a team, but the Diamond Backs certainly made the point they are serious about repeating as National League West Champions. All Schilling’s done since arriving back home in Phoenix is win his first two starts in dominant fashion, one after out-dueling four time Cy Young winner Greg Maddux and the East-leading Atlanta Braves.
Combining Randy Johnson with Schilling gives Arizona one of the most potent one-two punches since Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.
The Giants, on the other hand, picked up a no-name journeyman middle reliever in Henry. The relative quietness from the phone of General Manager Brian Sabean was a bit of a surprise and disappointment, considering all the activity that has come from his office in the last four or five years.
In 1997, Sabean pulled off one of the bigger blockbusters of the decade when he acquired Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, and Danny Darwin for a bunch of minor leaguers.
While it’s true that some of those players are leading the White Sox toward an American League Central crown, Sabean knew that he needed big leaguers at the time and was willing to forsake some of the future for the present.
And that’s what he should have done this year as well. Granted, the Giants have a line up loaded with power and feature current and former All-Stars, but the bench is not as deep as it seems to be.
If (or when) Barry Bonds, Ellis Burks, or Jeff Kent go down with an injury, there is a serious drop off in quality of play and power in their backups.
Recent history provides an excellent example: Last season both Kent and Bonds spent a lot of time on the bench, nursing various injuries. The Giants were mired in around the .500 mark. When they were both in the lineup, San Francisco made a run at the Diamond Backs, but it was too little too late as they finished 14 games behind – a distant second place.
This year may be a similar situation because the Giants really don’t have any big bats sitting on the bench, should (knock on wood that this doesn’t happen) Bonds or Kent find their way to the DL.
While Calvin Murray and Armando Rios have the potential to become everyday players, they have not shown power or the ability to hit on a regular basis yet.
The Giants didn’t really need to go out and get a rent-a-pitcher or a big arm for the stretch-run, like the D-Backs did, because their pitching staff is full of live, young arms who have been doing a good job.
While most of them don’t have any postseason experience, that may work into the Giants favor. As the old sayings go, “ignorance is bliss” and “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.”
Hopefully, that is the case with Shawn Estes, Russ Ortiz, and Kirk Reuter.
San Francisco also has a couple of hurlers who have been to the postseason and the World Series in starter Livan Hernandez and closer Robb Nen, a pair who helped the Florida Marlins win it all in 1997. So, if Dusty Baker has any notion of throwing an inexperienced young pitcher in a big game, like he did with Solomon Torres in 1993, the year the Giants won 103 games but not the West, he can always run Hernandez out there. After all, he was the MVP of both the NLCS and World Series in 1997.
So, I applaud Sabean for not mortgaging too much of the future on some 30-something pitcher like Rolando Arrojo or Mike Mussina, who were on the trading blocks, but I would have liked to see him pull the trigger on a big bat as an insurance policy for his aging superstars.
I’m sure that the Yankees are not too worried if Justice or Bernie Williams can’t play once in a while because they have a slugger with 440 homers to his name sitting in the dugout in Canseco.
Don’t really Need this:
So, Mr. Sabean, I don’t question your ability to make astute decisions, in fact you have probably forgotten more baseball than I’ll ever know, but I can’t help but wonder why you didn’t pick up someone like Will Clark, who seemed to come at a cheap price and is paying huge dividends with St. Louis (he already has four dingers with the Red Birds), or Henry Rodriguez, who went to Florida (a team which has tighter purse-strings than a pre-reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge) for next to nothing.
There seemed to be a lot of teams willing to unload players, why couldn’t you hook up with any of them?
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