San Francisco Giants: of Pandas and pitchers


The trouble with trying to figure out in which direction the San Francisco Giants are going to head, is that the more one finds out about ongoing negotiations, the less one knows overall. Everything is contingent on Pablo Sandoval who, according to his agent, is seeking a six-year contract, in excess of 100 million dollars.

As much as San Francisco is committed to keeping The Panda at third base, even the staunchest Giants fan would have to admit that six years is simply too long a span, to expect that Sandoval will be able to stick to a health regimen, that would allow him to continue to play such stellar third base.

Even Los Angeles does not appear to be interested in a contract of six years’ duration, leaving the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to haggle over the minutia of one of the clubs’ future designated hitter.

Even L.A. does not see the bamboo staying green enough for the Panda to survive six years.

Because that’s what this whole deal boils down to, the assumption that Sandoval will not be able to maintain his svelte figure, and will end up filling the DH slot for a team that can afford to pay his asking price. More power to him, until he faces the Giants.

Oct 11, 2014; St. Louis, MO, USA; A rather rotund San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval hits a single against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third inning in game one of the 2014 NLCS playoff baseball game at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Meanwhile, with the revelation that Bruce Bochy still favors Yusmeiro Petit as a long reliever, instead of part of the rotation, the spotlight returns to Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong, as the first means of completing the five-man unit. Already set in place  are Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson, signed for the upcoming season, the rationale on Lincecum being, that at 17 million dollars, he has to fit in as a starter. 

Of the two, conventional baseball wisdom might deem Jake Peavy the more desirable, but I would argue that Ryan Vogelsong is better suited to San Francisco than the fiery Peavy. Emotion can be a volatile substance, helping in some situations, but harmful in others. Peavy puts his feelings right up there on the marquee with every pitch he throws, and the players on the field know it. But how much does his emotion affect the delivery of his next pitch?

This competitive nature meshes well with the team when things are going smoothly, but maybe not so well when the stuff hits the fan. On the other hand, Vogelsong approaches the mound with the opposite mindset, his infamous sneer molded onto his face, implacable in its set expression of disdain. If Vogelsong shows emotion, it is only after something has gone well, and he is striding off the mound toward the dugout, teammates in tow.

Peavy had a hideous start to last season, winning only once, with nine losses, and a 4.72 ERA, in Boston. When he came over to San Francisco, in July, he went 6-4, with a 2.17 ERA through the rest of the season.

Aug 7, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy (43) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014 Vogelsong recorded an 8-13 win/loss record, with a 4.0 ERA, in 184 and two-thirds’ innings. However, there was a stretch of four consecutive Vogelsong starts in July with no runs of support from his teammates, while posting a 2.92 ERA during those four starts. The team was in the midst of losing sixteen of twenty-one games, and Vogelsong’s win/loss record reflects that tailspin.

Nonetheless, fans did not hear Vogelsong sniveling and they did not see him gesticulating animatedly at his teammates on the field, as his team left him in the lurch time and again. He maintained his scowl, toed the rubber, and went about his business.

I like Vogelsong’s fierce level of competition, and I even like the fact that his energy is less conspicuous than that of Peavy, making him more dangerous in my eyes. It’s not that I dislike Peavy-nothing could be further from the truth. But Vogelsong’s composure, like that of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, is infectious, and I think it breeds confidence among those playing behind him on the field.

Nothing will be determined with the starting rotation until Sandoval’s situation is ironed out, but when it does, and Brian Sabean turns his attention to pitching, it will be interesting to see in which direction he turns: volatile, raw emotion, or sneering malevolence. Personally, I have always held the belief that the one who is calmest, is the one who is in control.

Put you money on Ryan Vogelsong’s sneering scowl, or scowling sneer, if you prefer, and wish Jake Peavy the best.