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Why I care about Zack Wheeler

But just for a day.


In 2011, right before the trading deadline, I made a special effort to go to Municipal Stadium because Zack Wheeler was pitching. I told my wife, "We have to see this guy before he's traded."

To which I ask 2011 Grant, "Why? Why would you do that to yourself, you sick freak? What was there to gain?" But that guy can't hear me screaming from the future, and he ended up sitting behind home plate and watching Wheeler's entire start. It wasn't the most dominant start, but there were fastballs and fasterballs, curveballs and curvierballs. All the good stuff. He was an exciting young pitcher, if I may be so bold.

I argued in favor of the Carlos Beltran trade. That is I ended up, like most things post-2009, talking myself into it.

I trust the Giants' evaluation of young pitching, but I don't think this was a case of them not liking something about Wheeler, or thinking he was damaged goods. They just wanted Beltran more than other teams. And I don't really blame them. He makes the Giants better. So while I'm disappointed that they had to give Wheeler up, I'm excited for Beltran to make the Giants better.

Probably Stockholm syndrome. Maybe Munchausen syndrome. Could be China Syndrome. Dunno, but it was messed up. Beltran disintegrated because he's made of moist graham crackers, and by the time he returned to the lineup and raked, the Giants were out of it. In retrospect, it wasn't a great idea to ferociously target a rental player in the same season Buster Posey was out for the year.

But in the middle of the disappointment and excitement at the trade, all I could think was one thing: At least they didn't give up Gary Brown. That was in the middle of Brownmania, when the Giants were virtually guaranteed a top-of-the-order dynamo with Gold Glove potential. Wheeler was a young pitcher. The Giants had a squillion of those. They'll never stop pitching! But Brown, man. He was everything the Giants have been missing.

What the Giants should have done was trade Andres Torres for Angel Pagan that summer, then signed Pagan to a $50 million extension. We wouldn't have understood it at the time, but it would have eventually made sense.

Now it's 2013, and the Giants are struggling with their pitching. They don't need a center fielder -- they have one under contract for the next three seasons, and their best defensive center fielder is playing left field. The Giants need young pitching. Oh, man, how they need young pitching. Like, right now.

Here's what the Giants found when they looked for pitching reinforcements in the minors:


Wheeler is a couple hours from his first start in the majors. Dang, how I wish that excitement was ours. And while Brown is on a hot streak, he's fallen into the same wormhole that most draftees in the latter half of the first round fall into. It happens. But it didn't for Wheeler. Oh, Wheeler.

So today is a melancholy day. While I've already argued that Giants fans can't complain about Wheeler because of that thing that happened when Ryan Theriot was a DH, it'll be a while before the Giants get another top-10 draft pick. I hope. And it'll be a while before there is another prospect as good as Wheeler coming up. Maybe we'll get the same thrill with Arroyo or Crick or Blackburn or Mejia. For today, though, we know it's a ways off.

Of course, Giants fans shouldn't complain about anything for the next 10 years unless they're horrible, greedy people. But, well, say, that description fits. Sorry about that. We'll be done in a second.

My only consolation is a scenario in two years, when Wheeler is finally coming into his own and the Giants are flush with pitching again. Bumgarner and Cain are still outstanding, Kurt Ainsworth is on the All-Star team, and Martin Agosta and Chris Stratton are successful right away. And, lookie there, that right-handed outfielder with the speed and defense is exactly what the 2015 Giants need. Hey, that permutation makes as much sense as the teams from the last few years. Baseball is filled with plot holes.

It's going to sting just a bit to watch Zack Wheeler pitch for the Mets, though. I'm going to root for him for no particular reason. I'll feel better tomorrow -- probably because being a Giants fan is pretty freaking cushy right now -- but for today, I'll sigh a lot and smoke cigarettes in the rain.

We get exactly one day to get emo about Wheeler. It's here. Take advantage of it.