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Bay Area Baseball

An Alternative To Being a Giants Fan

This might come as a surprise to you, but Oakland has a good team this year, and San Francisco has a bad team:

OAK: 79-63, AL West: 2nd place, 2 Games Behind the Angels, 2.5 GB in the Wild Card.
SF: 64-78, NL West: 4th place, 7 Games Behind the Padres, 12 GB in the Wild Card

So why are the Giants printing playoff tickets? Why all the hubbub around the Giants getting as close as 5.5 games back? Why the media circus around Barry Bonds coming back to play left field three times a week?

That's a really good question. On the road, the Giants have drawn 10% more than the A's in the second half of the season, mostly due to some huge crowds that turned out in St. Louis and Los Angeles to watch their home teams pound the Giants -- and not, as you might expect given local media coverage, because of Omar Vizquel's headfirst slides into first base or Scott Eyre's dominant performance against both righties and lefties. At home, the bad team outdraws the good team by 37%.

What the Giants have are season ticket holders, and they can't cancel mid-season. But visit SBC Park and their anger is palpable in a way that you usually only see on Fox News. Despite their wealth -- season tickets run thousands of dollars per season -- they can't do anything to stop their team's slide into the 7th level of hell. But baseball's an amusement and not a business, right? When you keep dumping money into an inefficient operation, it has no incentive to improve itself, and that's, in a nutshell, how the 2005 Giants came to be.

What's funny (maybe you don't find it funny) is that the Giants could easily be leading their division right now were it not for some stupid, stupid moves by GM Brian Sabean and Manager Felipe Alou. Forget Barry Bonds, just making sure that average players got playing time would have made the Giants as good as the Padres. Here's the low-performing end of the roster:

Michael Tucker: -8 RAA, signed 2004, $2.5 million
Marquis Grissom: -15 RAA, signed 2005, $2.8 million
Deivi Cruz: -5 RAA, signed 2005, $800k
Jason Christiansen: -6 RAA, signed 2005, $1 million
Kirk Rueter: -18 RAA, signed 2003, $6.5 million
Edgardo Alfonzo: -13 RAA, signed 2003, $7.5 million
Jim Brower: -6 RAA, signed 2004, $1 million

That's -71 Runs Above Average (RAA) from the entire group of players, or about 7 wins given up to the monster of non-performance. These guys were -23 RAA as a group in 2004, but they're all well over 30 and declining, and, as a group, they should not have been in the plans for 2005. It's not like average players are too hard to find. Look in your jacket pockets of your lowly farm system and you'll find Jerome Williams, Kevin Correia, Scott Munter, Jack Taschner, Jason Ellison and Todd Linden, who would have provided the same production as the suckers above for 1/10th the cost.

If the Giants had only had the guts to play a few young players -- rather than playing to lose with veterans -- they would have had a real shot at winning the NL West. In 2004, it was playing horrendous players like Neifi Perez that cost the Giants the title; this year, it's playing at least seven players like Neifi Perez. If this wasn't an amusement -- like, say, nickel slot machines -- heads would roll. But they won't -- not yet, at least. That six of these seven brutal veterans are off the roster is a step in the right direction. If the holes in the roster get filled with real talent in the off-season, we'll know that the team's got a chance.

Did I tell you there's an alternative to being a Giants fan? You could follow the A's! They don't waste money, they don't play crappy overpaid players (Jason Kendall notwithstanding) and they don't make 19 pitching changes in a single inning. Oh, and they're right in the middle of the pennant race. They don't have the resources the Giants have, and they might finish a game back and break your heart every year – but at least they'll never put on the Keystone Kops routine the Giants did this year, trotting out an outfield of Marquis Grissom, Michael Tucker and Alex Sanchez. Oh well, your choice…