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Living on the Edge of “Just About There”

While exploring what the 2014 season might bring for the San Francisco Giants a couple of distracting questions keep popping up.   

Exactly when did the Giants organization establish permanent residency at a place called "just about there" when it comes to their low-rated minor league system? And when did the media and fans start accepting that same empty phrase as a substitute for statistically evaluating their Major League players?

The current example of this trend is pitcher Yusmeiro Petit. Petit was recently called up from Triple-A Fresno, started three games and is 3-0 with 0.91 WHIP and a 2.05 ERA. He also has 30 SO in 26.1 IP. And that nice sample also includes a near perfect game pitched against Arizona this week.

Now all of a sudden Petit is a lock for the 2014 starting staff and will help lead the team back to legitimacy next season. Which, by the way, would be great. But fans and local media are eager to believe that Petit's stuff is just this side of Clayton Kershaw without knowing anything about his background.

I recently listened to the one hour of sports talk radio my current health plan allows per month and it was a revelation.

It seemed that just about every caller and the commentators believed Petit is either a rookie who just came up through the Giants' farm system, or that the Giants have discovered a phenom missed by every other MLB organization.

Except for several things.

Petit will turn 30 years old next year. In 2013 Spring Training camp with the Giants he went 1-1 with a 1.58 WHIP and a 7.11 ERA in five games. And didn't make the team. In 2009, Petit started 17 games for the Arizona D-Backs and put up a 2-10 record with a whopping 1.517 WHIP.

But now he's unstoppable?

How many times have we all heard the following comments about Giant players whose performance has been poor, or whose stats tell a different story than the party line: "He's finally putting it all together… ", "he's just about there… ", "this guy has learned how to pitch (or hit)… ", "he has really turned his season around". And so on.

San Francisco Giants fans and media seem to be distracted by the team's insistence that various players are "just about there". Once again.

That message is also constantly peddled at the Major League level.

We've heard variations on that same theme about Pablo Sandoval dozens of times the past five years: "He's finally learned the value of conditioning and losing weight". Or about Tim Lincecum the past three years: "Lincecum is finally putting it together", or "Timmy's focused now like never before… ", and so on.

And how many marginal players have we heard the same about in recent years?

For a peek into the real world of actual up and coming prospects who will be dominating the Major Leagues in the next five years, take at look at the 2013 All-Prospect All Star Team from MLBTradeRumors.com. But sit down and brace yourself– you won't find even one Giants prospect mentioned anywhere on that list.

The purpose of the Giants' "just about there" puffery seems to be all about dumbing down fans and the media, hoping they'll substitute crossing their fingers for actually evaluating talent and performance. Not only is it a nice distraction, it saves Giants ownership from spending all that money on player development and addressing the real problems facing next season's 25 man roster. 

In the world of "just about there" the San Francisco Giants are still #1.

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