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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bad Case of Feliz

Dear Brian Sabean -

I am writing on behalf of a dear friend. He is a lifelong fan of the Giants and a good-natured soft-hearted prototypical San Franciscan who wishes nothing but the best for his fellow man and, indeed, all living things. Unfortunately, recently he has been poorly. He is weak and does not leave the house. I cannot tell if he is sick or whether he despairs. If he is ill, I do not know the cause. All I can tell you is that the last time I saw him well we were watching the Giants. We were enjoying the wonderful experience of baseball and the light-hearted exchange of observations which so often accompanies it. Such observations, perhaps, should never be taken wholly seriously. For, after all, even grizzled managers and sagacious general managers like yourself, who have dedicated their whole lives to understanding the game, are challenged daily to interpret its intricacies. I regret, I made a passing comment. It was not intended to hurt. But it was made with the sophomoric boldness and carelessness of an amateur armchair quarterback. I claimed, offhandedly, that there was no worse everyday player in all of major league baseball than Giants third baseman Pedro Feliz. At first, my gentle friend took it as it was intended, as a facetious hyperbole. Morover, mainly for sport, he set about attempting to prove its outrageous inaccuracy. But as he fell deeper and deeper into his research he became solemn, and belligerent. He called me cruel, callous, and coy. Possessing nothing but the fondest feeling towards all who wear the sacred Giants uniform, he had never even considered that the team taking the field might be composed of anything less than the very best possible combination of players available to the organization. The Giants, he felt assured, would not stand for it. Certainly, they would not always win, but they would always field the best talent that was available to them.

As it turned out, however, it was difficult to believe that Pedro Feliz was anybody's best option. Superficial indications suggested that Feliz was a moderate defensive third baseman, with decent power (22 HR), and the ability to drive in runs (98 RBI). But a closer evaluation of his statistics revealed a frightening picture. In 2006, of the 160 players qualifying for the batting title, Feliz finished 155th. But, of course, many solid run-producers, like Adam Dunn, Eric Chavez, and Troy Glaus, also finished with very low batting averages. Any semi-knowledgeable 21st Century fan knew the there were many better indicators of a players worth. Unfortunately, such statistics did not provide any better evidence of Feliz' value. In OBP, he finished 157th, only surpassing three light-hitting shortstops, none of whom still had starting jobs in 2007. In OPS, he finished 147th, and what was worst, dead last among starting thrid basemen in both categories. It was a depressing picture, but my friend, ever the optimist, insisted that 2006 must have been an unusually bad year. As it turned out, however, in 2005 Feliz finished 146th out of 148 qualifying players in OBP, and 123rd in OPS. In 2004, 154/161 and 92/161. My friend began to wonder, for all of those times he could remember Feliz driving home a run, how many times had his heroes - Bonds, Vizquel, Alou, and Durham - been stranded on the basepathes or mowed down as part of a double-play, the only category in which Feliz had finished in the top 25 in the MLB in each of the last three seasons. What was going on? How could a player who had performed so badly for so long, and was now well into his thirties, with not the slightest hope of sudden drastic improvement, still be the Giants best option at a position which was generally expected to produce offensively? Forlorn and exhausted, he conceded. Feliz was the worst everyday player in baseball. It was true. And, worse yet, he found that Feliz was being paid over $5 million in 2007, as much as Chad Tracy, David Wright, Garrett Atkins, and Ryan Zimmerman - far superior third basemen all - combined. He shut off the television broadcast. He laid his head in his hands. He asked me to leave.

Since then, he has not left his home. I cannot conclude with certainty that his current condition is directly related to Pedro Feliz, but I cannot help but think that he may feel some relief, show some signs of recovery, if only you can provide an explanation as to why Feliz remains in the Giants lineup on a daily basis. I know, being ever faithful, that he believes that there must be a logical beyond what we can conceive of, and if you could find it in your heart to articulate it to a layman and save my dear friend, Mr. Sabean, I would be forever in your debt.


Dr. Hippeaux C. Bold

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