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It seems like this space has spent plenty of time ruminating on the Brandon Villafuertes and Jeff Fasseros of camp, and faint whispers on Armando Benitez. The Benitez move was given a tenative thumbs-up -- love the player, hate the money -- by some, but most embraced the move like a crate of limes on the S.S. Rickets. He was the best player available at a position of dire need, and the Giants got him.

The reports out of spring training are coming out that Benitez is big. Well, yeah. We all had an idea.

No, the reports say, you don't understand how big.

We have a pretty good idea.

No, see, when Benitez sits around the house, he sits around the house.

That's not true. That's just an old joke.

Okay. But the dude is big.

So Benitez appears to camp looking like a wider obelisk from 2001, which fits, because he's being counted on to spur the Giants to the next evolutionary strata. It seems like the beginning of spring is reserved for some catty Joan Rivers pre-Oscar show, where reporters dutifully relay who has put on pounds, who has lost pounds, and who has lost pounds as a result of not, you know, wink wink, read between the lines. As Benitez walked down the red carpet, reporters knew the only steroids he was taking were found in the five steaks he ate for brunch. The weight issue is of little concern, though, unless the performance starts to follow. The Giants have a closer, and a good one.

There were the whispers that Benitez can't handle pressure in the postseason, with the key example being the 315-foot pop-up he allowed to J.T. Snow. Other notable postseason failures include Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, Roger Clemens. Well, they all were at one point of their respective careers. Reggie Jackson's first 80 at-bats were a dead ringer for the first 80 of Barry Bonds. Reggie became Mr. October, while Barry would still be a choker without 2002. Archetypal chokers probably do exist, and are soiling the gene pool at this moment, but we will never be able to distinguish them from the victims of sample size. That is the weakest concern with regard to Benitez.

If we can realistically expect Benitez to save 40 games and blow six chances, what would Dustin Hermanson have done for a fraction of the cost? Probably save 38 and blow eight. But Benitez is a much, much better pitcher. He's a pitcher worth bringing into the eighth inning because of his talent, not because he took classes at the emergency closer correspondence course. He's a pitcher who can come in with a runner on third and one out, and realistically get a strikeout.

Comfort level is an intangible that is probably overpriced. It might be way overpriced. Back when the Giants traded for Nen, there were some rogue comments made on message boards suggesting Mike Vilano could have done just as well as Nen for a fraction of the price. Not to paint all anti-Benitites with the same brush as those goofy folks, but the difference between a good pitcher, and someone with a chance to be good for much cheaper, is the Giants have no business messing around with the latter. The Herges experiment left scorched earth for miles, and the team was willing to overpay to prevent it from happening again.

Benitez is one of the top relievers in the game, and one who has consistently outpitched his peers. As baseball fans, we have to love Benitez. As armchair G.M.s, we wonder if the overpayment could have been avoided. Right now, it's more fun to be a baseball fan.


To which reliever tier does Benitez belong?

This poll is closed

  • 41%
    Top Five
    (5 votes)
  • 50%
    Top Ten
    (6 votes)
  • 8%
    Top Twenty
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Not ranked (Tino Martinez only)
    (0 votes)
12 votes total Vote Now