Restoring the rosters: No. 15 – San Francisco

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
The Giants’ legendary inability to develop hitters under GM Brian Sabean doesn’t keep the team from cracking the top half of the rankings, if only barely.
Rotation
Tim Lincecum
Matt Cain
Francisco Liriano
Jonathan Sanchez
Noah Lowry
Bullpen
Joe Nathan
Brian Wilson
David Aardsma
Scott Linebrink
Carlos Villanueva
Bobby Howry
Jeremy Accardo
It’s hard to beat that one-two punch, and I still have high hopes for Liriano going forward. I’m not sure Lowry is the right choice to round out the rotation, as he may never make it back after two lost seasons. He can be replaced by Shairon Martis, but it’s nearly moot, as Madison Bumgarner, arguably the top pitching prospect in the minors, will claim the spot soon enough.
The bullpen possesses perhaps baseball’s best closer, two more ninth-inning guys and plenty of other setup options. Jason Grilli was next in line for a spot, but the rotation is good enough that the team should be able to go without a long reliever. Sergio Romo was also considered. It’s a couple of years too late for Keith Foulke.
Lineup
CF Fred Lewis
C Buster Posey
RF Nate Schierholtz
1B Pablo Sandoval
LF John Bowker
3B Pedro Feliz
2B Kevin Frandsen
SS Emmanuel Burriss
Bench
OF Todd Linden
C Yorvit Torrealba
INF Brian Buscher
INF Cody Ransom
1B Travis Ishikawa
The scary thing is that this qualifies as huge progress. Three years ago, this would have been an absolutely horrible list populated by Feliz, Torrealba and a bunch of fringe bench players, like Jason Ellison, Lance Niekro and Dan Ortmeier. Feliz and Rich Aurilia were the only legitimate regulars produced during the late 90s and the first half of the aughts, and Aurilia actually spent three years in the Texas farm system before joining the Giants. Even worse, it sure appears as though what did develop did so more as a result of steroid use than from any actual instruction in the San Francisco system.
The lineup above isn’t embarrassing any longer. Sandoval has played like an All-Star this year, and I think Schierholtz and Bowker are both capable of some 800 OPS seasons in the majors. Producing offense at the bottom of the order will be a major problem, but at least the infield defense should be strong.
As for Posey, well, that might be something of a reach at this point. I considered sticking Sandoval back behind the plate and going with Ishikawa at first base, but the Giants are going to need Sandoval’s bat in the lineup at all times. If Posey isn’t quite ready to cut it yet, then Torrealba could start, with Steve Holm as the backup.
Summary
The Giants have improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and they might be even higher in the rankings if they didn’t blow their 2004 and ’05 first-rounders to sign free agents. With injuries taking a toll on some quality arms, the Giants went the entire 1990s without getting a quality return on a first-rounder. However, they’ve been scoring big since with Lincecum, Cain and now Bumgarner and Posey. They should move up further when these lists are revisited in a couple of years.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.