At 10am on Thursday, someone is gonna be very unhappy.
When you look back at the list of players the Giants used during the season, the roster is only slightly less lengthy than Wilt Chamberlain's slate of conquests. The challenge: to trim the menagerie down to The Chosen 25 for the NLDS.
Now keep in mind that this list isn't set in stone: the victors can make alterations after each series. But invariably there's a name or two that leaves fans scratching their heads. "How'd that guy get left off?" or "He made the team?" are often uttered. And sometimes that choice can be the difference between winning and losing.
Does anyone doubt the Angels benefitted in 2002 from the unlikely addition of K-Rod? How about the Giants leaving Eric Young off the roster in 2003, and because of it having no runner available for JT Snow at the end of Game Four?
In 2010, the speculation surrounding the Giants centers on two guys. Do Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand make the squad? And in a side-bar conversation, do the Giants have the nerve to tell the highest-paid players on the squad, "Grab some pine, Meat"?
There are some locks, and some perameters that fuel the specualtion.
It appears the Giants will go with 11 pitchers and 14 position players. I like the move. First, I'm still a bit twitchy from Felipe Alou's inexplicable decision to carry 13 pitchers in 2003 (see Snow reference above). Plus, with the Giants probable starting eight somewhat, uh, challenged defensively, one can expect a lot of mix and match as guys like Burrell or Guillen have to be removed for better gloves should the Giants need to protect a late lead.
But which 11 pitchers do you take? A three-man starting staff of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez has already been announced. Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo are obvious as the closer and set-up man. Bochy relies heavily on Santiago Casilla. Javier Lopez is the lefty specialist de jour. That leaves four spots.
Do you trust Jeremy Affeldt? Did Ramon Ramirez earn a spot? Has Chris Ray? Are Dan Runzler and Guillermo Mota healthy enough to trust in this situation? And in the biggie -- should you need a fourth starter do you go with Zito or rookie Madison Bumgarner? Ouch. Three of these guys ain't gonna be there come Thursday.
Runzler and Mota have health issues, but I'm splitting my call. Runzler goes, Mota stays. Coming off the knee injury, Runzler has thrown just 2 2/3 innings since the All-Star Break - and he wasn't that dependeable before he got hurt. Love that lefty fastball -- hate the walk rate. Plus, the Giants aren't exactly short of southpaws. Keeping Mota is hard, but he looked great against San Diego. He's only thrown five innings since mid September (and three of that was last weekend), but he gets the nod over Chris Ray, who hasn't been an intergal part of the team.
So it comes down to this: Zito or Bumgarner? Experience or a live arm?
There's no question that, today, Bumgarner is pitching much better (and in the playoffs you don't need five starters). Will he turn to tapioca in the spotlight? That's the question. Would the Giants be better off going with expereince in a big game?
Well, we saw Zito's performance Saturday, and games don't get much bigger than that. Experience wasn't worth a rip. Throwing strikes impresses me more, and Zito avoided the strike zone like he was lobbing gasoline-filled water balloons and the Padres were swinging torches. Plus, the bullpen really needs to look like a bullpen. It's been one of the more consisent elements of the team over the past two months (that and the lack of offense), so mucking it up by keeping Zito as the potential "long man" is inviting some really bad kharma. Unlike Zito's relief outing versus Cincy earlier this year, Bumgarner at least has some bullpen experience that doesn't make me cringe.
Position players? Well, again there are locks. Aubrey Huff is the man at first base, Freddy Sanchez holds down second, Pablo Sandoval at third. Across the outfield expect Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and (shudder) Jose Guillen. With two DHs you need defensive outfielders in reserve, and it would be nice if they could hit a bit (that means not swinging a sliders in the dirt) so say hello to Cody Ross and Nate Schierholtz.
So with 14 spots to be awarded, 10 are gone (and we still don't have a shortstop). The remaining candidates: Manny Burris, Mike Fontenot, Darren Ford, Travis Ishikawa, Edgar Renteria, Ryan Rholinger, Aaron Rowand, Juan Uribe and Eugenio Velez. A few cuts are easy. Ford and Rholinger were just September roster filler, and Burriss not muich more than that. But then.....
Okay, let's solve the shortstop issue first. There's no disguising how I feel about Edgar Renteria. Yes, he's a former World Series hero. That was also 13 years ago. In my opinion, he contributes nothing to the team (unless you place a premium on trips to the disabled list). He can't be trusted as the everyday shortstop, so the job falls to Uribe (and his 24 home runs) by default. With Uribe in the line-up, we need a utility infielder, and Fontenot fits the bill. If nothing else, I at least trust him to go three consecutive series (?) without spiking himself.
Two spots left. Burris, Renteria, Ishikawa, Rowand, Velez. Do you want speed? Defense? A bat? Versitility? Tough choices.
I keep Ishikawa. Nothing against Huff. He's done yeoman's service at first base, but in the ninth inning of a critical game, he's the Giants' best defensive option. He's also a semi-competent lefthanded bat. That may not be as big a factor against Atlanta, who has a lefty closer, but who else do you keep? Leave off Ishikawa and your only other option at first is shifting Sandoval across the diamond and putting Fontenot and third -- which mans you're now forced to keep Renteria or Burris to have a reserve on that side. No thanks.
So the final spot comes down to this: Rowand or Velez. Insert your favorite expletive here. I ask the question: What Would Bochy Do?
I've often wondered how either of these guys still has a job. Velez's greatest contribution to the 2010 season was adding to the humor quotient by taking a line drive off his melon. Rowand's greatest contribution was losing his job to Torres. It would be a stuning indictment of the front office to leave three of the team's biggst contracts -- Zito, Renteria and Rowand -- off the postseason roster.
They won't do it. Rowand is number 25.
Hey, the guy is no longer an offensive threat, but as a righty he does give Bochy an option to counter Ishikawa from the port side. And despite his offensive shortcomings, he's still a good defender. Six outfielders is a reach, but not many outfields would include both Burrell and Guillen so perhaps that's a wash. For what it's worth, Rowand has a .478 average (11 for 23) against Game One starter Derek Lowe and a .381 average (8 for 21) against Game Two hurler Tommy Hudson. Hey, if he stinks it up and the Giants advance, they can always make a move.
Oh, wait a mininte. We need a catcher. I guess that kid, what's his name, Posey? Yeah, he'll do. And tell him he can bring that Whiteside guy in case someone needs to carry his jock.
So that's my team.
Rotation: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner (swing man).
Bullpen: Wilson, Romo, Affeldt, Casilla, Lopez, Mota, Ramirez.
Catcher: Posey, Whiteside.
Infielders: Huff, Sanchez, Uribe, Sandoval, Fontenot, Ishikawa.
Outfielders: Burrell, Torres, Guillen, Ross, Rowand, Schierholz.
No way do I excpect the Giants will follow my line of reasoning but I can't wait to see (a) how close I get, and (b) what their reasoning is for the spots where we disagree. Whatever choice is made, we'll have to live with the guys they keep.
Unless, of course, it's Renteria. Oye!