Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December Brides

The San Francisco Giants blindsided pretty much everyone by making a major deal with pitcher Johnny Cueto.  It's for six years though in practical terms, it's really for two.

So no sooner did Jeff Samardzija convince everyone that he was a great fit as a San Francisco Giant than the Cueto news had to be absorbed.  On the face of it, he seems a less certain fit. His undeniable talent and uneven temperament, and a demonstrated penchant for getting rattled by hostile fans in away game ballparks, will require the kind of support the Giants organization and his teammates can provide, if he responds to it.

It's a big roll of the dice--even more so than Samardzija, who may not have his raw talent but really wants to be with the Giants, for all the right reasons.  After a bad half season in Kansas City, Cueto wasn't getting the free agent offers he probably expected, and this deal with the choice of becoming a free agent again in two years was apparently the decider, not the team.  Of course he has ample motivation for doing well in the next two years.   Cause $46 million a year isn't enough, I guess.  Update: Cueto sounds like a better fit in this account.

The Giants probably had little choice really, as division rivals the Diamondbacks and to a lesser extent the Dodgers strengthened their pitching.  The guy who loses in all this is pitcher Mike Leake.  A couple of weeks ago he was in the driver's seat, choosing between Arizona and SF, both good situations for him.  Now he's probably not getting an offer from either.

If the Giants can stay healthy--or healthier than last season--they may need just one of those guys to rebound.  Cueto has the bigger upside, they say, if he can return to form.  Both can give innings (which was Leake's m.o., so he becomes unnecessary) and Cueto can be dominating.  If both do well, the Giants will be hard to stop.  But with the Cubs strengthening their team, the Central division is also going to be very competitive.  Wild Cards may again be hard to come by in the West.

Now it looks as though the Giants will look at rookies for the outfield, with Gregor Blanco getting the start in left but able to play center when needed.  Though a deal for a second-tier player might yet happen, they say, it doesn't look like a proven home run hitter is headed this way.

In basketball, less than 24 hours after they beat the Celtics in Boston in double overtime, the Golden State Warriors lost their first game of the season, to the Bucks in Milwaukee, at the end of a 7 game road trip.  A game that should never have been scheduled that way.  So they stand at 24-1, with only a couple of more games in December.  Does that make sense, NBA?

In football, the Pittsburgh Steelers luck may have turned this season.  Though the running back the Bengals injured out for the season is still out, Big Ben is healthy, and the Bengals quarterback essentially injured himself, and he's out for the season, too.  The Steelers won big, but picking off the second string quarterback for two touchdowns really helped.  Next game is Denver at home, against their second string quarterback.  The division is still possible but unlikely--the Bengals, like the Steelers, have some relatively easy opponents late.  But if the Steelers beat Denver and don't screw up against weaker teams in the final two games, chances are pretty good for a wild card.  And the team that gets healthy and jells at the end of the season can go pretty far.

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