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Baseball and Beyond

Small Sample Size

Seems like some ex-Giants have been making the news all over the place lately: "A lot of teams in the big leagues need a guy like me." Edgardo Alfonzo, on his reduced playing time behind Chone Figgins and Adam Kennedy in Anaheim. Really? The prospects out there are pretty poor for a weak-hitting third baseman with below-average defensive skills. Sean Burroughs hits like Alfonzo and fields better, but San Diego traded him to Tampa for nothing, and Tampa promptly put him through waivers. Burroughs is still only 25, and everyone has given up on him. David Bell has also descended into Alfonzo territory, but he plays better defense and has still been a full win per year better than Alfonzo since Edgardo joined the Giants in 2003.

Alfonzo has what's known as "signed by Brian Sabean syndrome". It afflicts others -- aging veterans, mostly washed-up retreads. Previous victims include Marquis Grissom, Neifi Perez, Kirk Rueter and Michael Tucker. Brian Sabean signs these guys to multi-year contracts way after they've left their primes, and feels compelled to play them rather than write off their contracts. Once they leave the friendly confines of San Francisco, where nary a negative word is spoken about a guy who can't turn around a batting practice fastball anymore, they find no love. "But how," they must ask, "can I be making so much money if no one has a use for me? They simply must want me out there, and I will bide my time until the trade deadline."

Edgardo Alfonzo's 4-year, $28 million contract will surely go down as one of the more underrated bad contracts of the Brian Sabean era. Professional athletes haven't been known for their modesty or for understanding the role chance plays in their fates, but if ever there was a time to just sit back on the bench, enjoy your $8 mil, and forget about your pride -- which you surely hurt worse by hitting only two home runs last year -- this is it.

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Apparently there are actually some people out there who are concerned that Dusty Baker hasn't expressed much interest in not re-signing with the Cubs when his four-year deal runs out at the end of this year. Wow. In Baker, you've got a manager who likes to run Jose Macias and Neifi Perez onto the field while running every young player with a modicum of talent out of town. Add to that his inexcusable mishandling of the pitching triumvirate of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano -- who've been among the most abused pitchers in the majors in terms of pitch counts since Dusty took over -- and do you really have a guy you want managing a multi-million dollar investment?

There are hundreds of minor-leaguers out there who are just as good as the worst everyday major league players. But after a few years of not getting cut in favor of the next guy, bad players get the unshakeable tag of veteran dependability. Teams that sign them pay a premium for the privilege of telling the local media that they're trying to re-build with proven veterans. When you don't -- and you spend less money on bad players -- you get creamed a la Paul DePodesta in 2005. The same holds true for teams and their managers. But four years is long enough to prove whether you can win or not; time for the Cubs to try someone other than a name brand manager with a "proven track record."

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Why no actual Giants or A's news this week? The Giants have two top pitchers on the DL, Barry isn't hitting, and they've gotten rained out nearly every day, while the A's just lost a painful series to the Minnesota Twins, and Frank Thomas is something like 2-for-21. The phrase of the week is "small sample size", so I'm just going to give the breaks a few weeks to even out before I spent too much time thinking about them.