"The offseason is still relatively young, but at this moment I would have to suggest that the most, shall we say, "interesting" news comes out of San Francisco, where on Sunday the Giants signed Michael Tucker. For two years.
Recently, I think I mentioned somewhere that the Royals' Kauffman Stadium has quietly become the best hitter's park in the American League, and by a fair piece. Well, nobody's benefited more than Tucker. In his two seasons at "The K," Tucker's been a damn good hitter: .391 on-base percentage, .531 slugging percentage.
But on the road, Tucker's been Ray Oyler with some pop: .195 batting average, .267 OBP, .311 slugging.
Granted, Tucker's not that bad. Nobody with a functional pair of eyes and a complete set of appendages is that bad. But Tucker's going from the best hitter's park in the American League to one of the worst in the National ... what do you think is going to happen next?
Next year, the Giants will presumably feature an outfield consisting of Barry Bonds (39 years old) in left, Marquis Grissom (36) in center, and Michael Tucker and Jeffrey Hammonds (both in their early 30s) in right. Theoretically, if not for Tucker's road problems and Hammonds' injury problems, a Tucker/Hammonds platoon could be decent enough. But there's a real chance for disaster here, especially if Grissom or Bonds shows his age (hey, it's going to happen eventually).
But wait, it gets worse. Because 1) Tucker is a "Type B" free agent, and 2) the Giants signed Tucker on Sunday rather than Monday, they forfeited their first-round pick in the 2004 draft (to the Royals, or another team if the Giants sign another free agent.
Is two years of Michael Tucker (not to mention a few million dollars) worth a first-round draft pick? Probably not. But the Giants don't care. They don't like draft picks. A year ago, they signed Ray Durham hours before the A's were officially not going to offer arbitration, thus forfeiting draft picks. Why? Because they don't like to spend the money on first-round picks. Or at least not a lot of them at once. The Giants did have a first-round pick last summer, because Jeff Kent signed with the Astros. But if they hadn't signed Durham, they'd have had two first-round picks.
Some of you are wondering, if the Giants don't want a first-round draft pick, why don't they trade it to somebody who does? It's a good question, and I only wish the answer were as good. But the answer is, "They can't." They're not allowed to.
Why not? The idea, I think, is that if you let teams trade draft picks, they'll trade their future for their present, and perhaps foolishly. To which most reasonable persons should reply, "So what?" There are many, many ways in which an organization can shoot itself in the foot. What makes this one so special? What's more, if a team would be stupid enough to trade draft picks for crummy players, wouldn't it also be stupid enough to draft crummy players?
The offseason hasn't been completely unkind to the Giants. They picked up A.J. Pierzynski, who's one of the half-dozen best catchers in the majors.
But man, the Giants are looking at a lineup that includes Neifi Perez, Michael Tucker, and a few other has-beens who were not cast off by the Royals. As things stand now, the Giants will be hard-pressed to win 85 games next year. Then again, 85 games might be all it takes to win the NL West."
As a Dodger fan, I wish this was true, but he seems pretty off on the Giants for 2004, as well as the NL West in general. I think the Rockies might be a lock for last place, because I don't know what the he11 their plan is, but other than that, the other 4 teams could have stuff fall right, and be pretty good. The Giants almost NEVER look good on paper, they just win.
If I were playing third base and my mother were rounding third with the run that was going to beat us, I'd trip her. Oh, I'd pick her up and brush her off and say, 'Sorry, Mom,' but nobody beats me.
Leo Durocher, Brooklyn Dodgers Manager