The Giants blew a chance to re-shape their club for a bright future because neither owner Peter Magowan nor general manager Brian Sabean can be realistic about their team.
Because of the shortage of players available during the last days of the interleague trading period, Jason Schmidt’s value was at its peak. The Giants could also have gotten more than Ray Durham is worth when dealing with an American League club which could use a designated hitter.
As it is, both will be gone from the Giants next season. Schmidt, who is already showing signs of decline, will still get a large contract as a free agent, and good luck to the team that signs him. Durham will be picked up by an American League club which could use him as a DH, but he will have no further value to the Giants. Age has turned him from a mediocre second baseman to a bad one, and he no longer is a baserunning threat.
To those who wonder who would replace Schmidt in the rotation, Iask: Have you seen what’s happened lately? Schmidt is not winning, and neither are the Giants. He’s still overpowering in stretches but not for the whole game.
In his last start, he retired 17 straight hitters at one point but then just lost command — and the game. Whether it’s physical or mental, he hasn’t been the same pitcher since that 16-strikeout game against Florida almost two months ago.
Durham? He’s always just one step away from the disabled list.
That’s symptomatic of the problems with this team, which relies too much on players well past their prime. To have a chance at the postseason, the Giants have to have everybody healthy and functioning at their peak. That’s difficult with a young team. It’s impossible with this one.
Magowan and Sabean would tell you they can’t give up on this season, with the NL West a noticeably weak division and the Giants still within striking distance of the top — though they’re closer to last place than first.
The question they should have asked themselves instead: Are we going to give up on the next five years? The Giants had a window of a year and a half to rebuild the team, starting with July. The tickets are sold for this season and they’ll have no trouble selling tickets next season, with season tickets tied to the All-Star game.
Instead, Sabean has been trying to patch the holes with minor moves. He brought in 39-year-old Mike Stanton, who needs a powerful rear-view mirror to see his best years. He brought in Shea Hillenbrand, who has been with four teams in four years because he has the reputation of being poison in the clubhouse. Now, Sabean is talking of trying to re-sign Hillenbrand for next season. Please, Brian, no! It’s one thing dealing with Barry Bonds, who was the best player of his generation. It’s quite another dealing with Hillenbrand, who is just slightly above average.
In his first year as GM in 1997, Sabean drastically re-shaped the team, bringing in Jeff Kent and J.T. Snow, among others. He had a chance to jump-start the process with this team by trading Schmidt and Durham when their market value was highest. It will be a much tougher job next season.