Here is an early link to my Thursday column on the Giants’ messed-up pitching staff. The full text runs below:
When I attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn, Mrs. Bernstein, my 10th grade English teacher, said we always should include a topic sentence in our essays. It was a rule. So, here’s today’s topic sentence:
The Giants entered this season grossly unprepared.
Is that topic enough for you, Mrs. Bernstein?
In the last 40 years, I’ve learned to suppress topic sentences, to imply them. It’s more subtle that way. But today, an in-your-face topic sentence is necessary. The Giants sure need to get the blunt message. They screwed up.
I’m talking about starting pitching, or as sports writers write, “pitchingwise.”
No blame to the Giants for right fielder Hunter Pence getting whacked on the arm and going on the disabled list.
No blame to the Giants for first baseman Brandon Belt pulling his groin going after a pop fly on Tuesday. But, honestly, a professional athlete, a trained athlete pulls his groin running after a pop fly in the second freaking game of the season? Hardly a topic sentence, Mrs. Bernstein, but a fascinating topic, nonetheless.
Pitching is the topic of blame. And the blame goes to Brian Sabean, whatever his new title is, to Bobby Evans, also with a new title, and to Bruce Bochy, same old title — great manager. In fact, all three are great. They tend to win the World Series, may even win it this year. Warning: Don’t bet the mortgage on it. In their combined wisdom, all three should have understood one thing. Shaky starting pitching.
You could add, vulnerable starting pitching. Old starting pitching. Questionable to the max. I mean, let’s review the situation.
Matt Cain couldn’t answer the bell for his first start. Mrs. Bernstein, I know that’s a mixed metaphor. I know pitchers don’t answer bells. Boxers answer bells. So, give me a “D” for mixing my metaphors. Better yet, write a letter to my mother. Double better yet, sue me.
The Giants were depending on Cain to be a stalwart in the rotation — whatever “stalwart” means. He would be the third or fourth starter.
The former Tim Lincecum brings up the rear — more on him in a moment. Cain would take the ball every fifth day. Big horse that he is, he’d eat up innings. Devour innings.
Of course, no earthly reason existed to think he’d devour innings or even be a nibbler. He’s coming off elbow surgery — allegedly no big deal, just cleaned out that sucker and gave him an oil and lube in the bargain. In spring training, he was leery of letting his pitches rip. Might have been afraid of ripping his arm. And now he’s hurt again, is out two weeks, three weeks. Who knows? In the past two seasons, his record is a whopping 10-17. And the world-champ Giants were depending on him?
He would have been risky enough in the Counting-on-the-Guy Department. Then you throw in Jake Peavy. World-class competitor. World-class guy. It’s just that he has mileage on his arm. (I know you can’t have mileage on an arm, Mrs. Bernstein. Please don’t lecture me.) Peavy has mileage on his arm, anyway. And now he has mileage on his back.
He’s another one who couldn’t answer the bell. Ryan Vogelsong, supposed to be a reliever, had to answer the bell for him. Vogey suffered a late-round TKO after giving up two three-run dingers. Ding. Ding.
So, let’s get this straight. Peavy has a dead arm. And Vogey is just plain dead.
Now comes my second topic sentence — hey, I’m building my argument here: No guarantee Cain and Peavy will be good whenever they return. Dear Reader, you can copy down Topic Sentence No. 2 or merely underline it in red.
The burden of proof certainly is on Cain, who hasn’t been good for years. Is he still a frontline pitcher? I don’t know and you don’t know, either. Same goes for Peavy. Will he be healthy enough to be good?
Is this any way for the Giants to start a season?
You assume Tim Hudson will be good. Give Hudson and the Giants that. Although, come on, no guarantees come with Hudson. Old guy. Probably his final season in the bigs. But, OK, give him a pass.
Lincecum is a total unknown. All that talk about his dad correcting his pitching motion in the offseason. It made for good spring copy. Let’s see the Timmy motion in a real game. Question: Pitching coach Dave Righetti doesn’t know how to fix a crummy motion? I’m just asking.
The Giants should have understood how vulnerable their rotation would be. Grade school kids understood that. And here’s the killer. James Shields was out there. Shields is a very good pitcher. Shields went to the refurbished Padres.
I read the Giants had their reasons for not getting Shields. Reason us no reasons. They need Shields today. They needed Shields in the Vogey start. Sure, this is second guessing, but why don’t the Giants have James Shields? Why don’t the Giants have a strong, healthy rotation? It’s their job to have a strong, healthy rotation. In April.
Note to Giants: There’s no rule against going for the World Series two years in a row. Even Mrs. Bernstein knew that.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.