Blog Entry

The Giants have issues, the Boss doesn't

Posted on: April 17, 2009 3:46 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2009 4:07 pm
 

The only drawback with that clever MLB 2K9 video game advertisement in which San Francisco Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum offers his animated double some tips on how to behave in the major leagues is this: It doesn't include wisdom from the real Lincecum that helps drag the Giants out of their crappy start.

They limp home this weekend carrying with them one of the game's two worst records. Difference between the Giants (2-7) and the Washington Nationals (1-7), however, is the Giants at least were supposed to have a first-class rotation, and even that's been disappointing.

Some thoughts after a couple of days with the Giants this week in Los Angeles:

  • Lincecum's Cy encore is off to a rocky start at 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two starts. Even at that, Lincecum is the least of manager Bruce Bochy's concerns. The manager's take: Lincecum hasn't yet harnessed his fastball. When the command returns, he'll be fine. Lincecum spent a long bullpen session this week working with pitching coach Dave Righetti on mechanics. In layman's terms, right now, Lincecum's upper body is not in sync with his lower body during his delivery.
  • Randy Johnson started the season five wins shy of historic No. 300 and, after two starts he remains five wins away. He's 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA -- but, for now, unconcerned. Johnson pitched very well in his first start, against Milwaukee until surrendering the first home run to a pitcher he's ever allowed. Yovani Gallardo was the villain.

As for Monday's flop against the Dodgers, in which he yielded seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, Johnson produced a thick fistful of charts from his locker during a conversation Wednesday afternoon, charts he keeps on opposing hitters and regularly refers to for intelligence. Among his points: He produced a similar clunker against the Dodgers while facing Hideo Nomo back in May, 2002 (seven earned runs, eight hits, five innings).

"And obviously, I was in my prime then," Johnson said of the season in which he won his fifth Cy Young award. "Bad games happen."

Johnson, 45, is happy and in good spirits because he's healthy. And he remains confident that things will soon get better for him, too.

And as for standing five wins away from 300. ...

"I'm still looking for No. 1 (this year)," he says. "So let's put things in perspective. I'm feeling good, that's the main thing."

Three more strikes vs. the Giants:

  • Mentioning Barry Zito's name mostly elicits cringing around here. He was blasted again by the Dodgers Thursday night, his ERA is 10.00 and scouts who have watched him just shake their heads. There still are no answers, and every day it looks more like there never will be any answers.
  • The young Giants hitters are pressing badly, as evidenced in part by their embarrassing and toothless streak of going 32 1/3 innings between a real, live base on balls from last Friday in San Diego to Wednesday in Los Angeles "We need to do better in situational hitting," says Giants veteran Randy Winn of a club that has left runners in scoring position in several key places during their six-game losing streak. "For a team that's not going to hit a lot of home runs, those are things we need to do."
  • Third baseman Pablo Sandoval had a big spring and looks like a future star. But he's slogging along at .212, and that was after collecting two hits Thursday night. What he mostly looks like now is a young player who is extremely overeager. And that's played right into the hands of opposing pitchers. "I think he's more overanxious," Bochy says. "We know Pablo, he's always in swing mode. But he's expanded his zone even more."

Hanging with the Boss

Two fantastic nights with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band this week at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. It never gets old. It's always fresh. And as I've said before, as the band heads East, catch them if you get a chance. It's like getting a chance to see Ty Cobb, or Babe Ruth, or Willie Mays in their primes. Even if you're not ecstatic with their new disc Working on a Dream , it doesn't matter.

The show is tailored to current events, as it always is (this time the economy and the struggles so many people are facing), and there are so many standout moments. The first encore song is culled (and updated) from Stephen Foster's songbook from the 1850s, Hard Times Come Again No More . A bluesy, gospel-sounding take, it's different and cool.

Mike Ness from Social Distortion was a special guest Thursday night and the band ripped through Ness' Bad Luck . What a moment. Ness, Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren all blazing on guitars midway through the song was outstanding.

No Surrender , Growin' Up , Thunder Road , Backstreets , Racing in the Street , The Wrestler ... so many highlights. One of the moments that stands out, and it's part of what keeps people coming back, came Thursday night when Springsteen collected signs for song requests from the crowd (as he has taken to doing) and picked out Proud Mary , the old Creedence Clearwater Revival chestnut (I've always wanted to use that word -- I feel just like a rock critic or something!).

Hearing the E Street band play that song was cool enough, but the best moments were those just before they tore into the song. Bruce held the sign for the band to see what they were going to play next, and the look of incredulity on the faces of those on stage was priceless. Lofgren was shouting across the stage to either bass player Gary Tallent or pianist Roy Bittan ( I couldn't quite tell which), double-checking the key, grinning widely. Lofgren held his hands together in the form of a D -- key of D? was his clear question -- hollering and motioning as the band scrambled to get its signals straight.

During the guitar solo midway through the song, as Springsteen played, Lofgren and Van Zandt played a few steps back, grinning at each other in amusement or amazement. Maybe both. It's one of the greatest things about seeing the band in concert, and it's the same thing that happens every time you walk into a baseball stadium: You absolutely, positively can never be sure of what you're about to see. You never know what the next moment will bring. And sometimes they're incredibly uplifting.

At the Dodgers' home opener on Monday, I watched Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle. While I've covered two no-hitters (David Wells' perfect game for the Yankees in 1998 and Eric Milton's for Minnesota in 1999), I'd never seen a cycle.

Then, Thursday night, I'm watching the E Street Band scramble to get its signals straight before Proud Mary and then, later in the show, I'm watching 18-year-old Jay Weinberg sit in on the drums for three songs for his dad, Max (Lonesome Day , The Rising and Born to Run ). Max is going to miss six or so shows in Europe this summer -- I believe around the time when Conan O'Brien replaces Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in early June (Max is the bandleader on the show, in case you don't know) -- and Jay is going to play those shows for his pop.

Jay just killed -- the kid is really, really good. And making the moment even more special, I looked about 15 feet to my right as he was playing on Lonesome Day (I was lucky enough to score a spot in the front row in front of the stage), and Max had come around from backstage to watch his son. Watching the band, watching Max watch his son, watching Van Zandt grinning and beaming at Max down front while playing guitar in front of Jay ... wow.

With baseball and at a Springsteen show, you never know when the next special moment is coming. You just know that, when it does, you'd better catch it, and hold on for as long as possible.


Likes, Dislikes and Rockin'

Likes: Baseball as a social institution? Check out this study that says the divorce rate among people in major-league cities is significantly lower than that among those who dwell in cities that wanted major-league baseball clubs but didn't get them. Bet the NFL can't say that. ... Step Brothers has some pretty darn funny moments. I'm not so sure I would have been thrilled paying $10 to see it in the theaters, but it's definitely worth a rental.

Dislikes: Was going to check out State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams this weekend, but I don't know. I've read two reviews that have scared me off.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And I count my blessings
"That you're mine for always
"We laugh beneath the covers
"And count the wrinkles and the grays

-- Bruce Springsteen, Kingdom of Days

 

 

Comments

Since: Feb 19, 2009
Posted on: April 20, 2009 8:53 pm
 

The Giants have issues, the Boss doesn't

 

1. Los Angeles (LW --) Week 2 record (7-0)

This team demolished the and the at home, en route to a 6-0 home record to begin the season.  All the attention is on , but fantasy owners know that had a monster week including a monster two home run game Sunday.  This team's offense has been scary, and they lead the National League in both Runs (82) and Runs allowed (40)

2. Florida (LW --) Week 2 record (7-0)

The mainstream media is quick to point out that the Marlins 11-1 record comes with an asterisk of beating the 6 times, but this team has also swept the Atlanta and lost only once to the .  Next week starts off good for the fish with a series against the buccos, but toughens up quickly with New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

3. San Diego (LW --) Week 2 record (5-2)

When this team swept the Giants last week, I thought that was a nice way to start the season, but reality is to hit them in the face in New York.  I was wrong.  This team has travelled across the country and smacked both the defending champs and the (in many worlds) NL east favorites, the Mets around.  Bullpen is still shaky, but looks like he's the real deal, with a perfect save percentage.

4. St. Louis (LW --) Week 2 record (3-3)

Tony LaRussa fans aren't surprised by their hot start, but as a midwest teams (despite the history) they are often overlooked, as is he.  The patchwork infield, rotation, and just about everything else on this team just seems to work.  continues to absolutely dominate.  The series with the was one to keep an eye on, and we're lucky enough to have the same two go at it next week in the Lou.

5. Chicago Cubs (LW --) Week 2 record (3-2)

' walk-off HR was huge for a team that has achieved essentially what folks expected from them, in a weak division.  Still, they're tied for first with the Cardinals and their schedule is favorable, with series against the Natty and Arizona.  The +10 differential (vs St. Louis +21) is the big reason why they're here.

6. New York Mets (LW --) Week 2 record (3-3 )

The bullpen certainly looks better, but this team really needs some help offensively.  When you've scored exactly 1 more run this season than the lowly Nationals, you have some work to do.  leads this team in batting average, which is not a good sign.  This team will come around, but from the looks of it, Citi field will deflate many of their slugger's numbers.

7. Philadelphia (LW --) Week 2 record (2-3)

Having Harry Kalas pass away gives them a bit of slack, along with facing a hot San Diego team.  With ' walkoff HR, I expect this team to get on a roll and start playing like defending champs.  is going oppo which, to Philles fans, is a sight for sore eyes.

8. Cincinnati (LW --) Week 2 record  (4-2)

Have to love what you've seen from their pitching staff, with good starts from , Edison Volquez, and .  The young hitting nucleus of and will carry them throughout the season.  Underappreciated pickup in , who has produced offensively everywhere he's been.  Would love to see more consistency from this team, but that's to be expected with a young squad.

9. Pittsburgh (LW --) Week 2 record (3-3)

How about them bucs?  Nice to see them looking decent for the time being.  That pitching staff (pinch me if you've heard this for a number of years) looks like it could develop into one of the league's best.  Nearly swept the slumping Braves, but get a real taste of competition when they face our # 2 team and #3 team.

10. Atlanta Braves (LW --) Week 2 record (1-5)

This ranking is more reflective of how poorly they played this week than it is their entire body of work.  A 6-6 record isn't bad in such a tough division, but when being swept by the Marlins and nearly swept by the aforementioned Pirates, they do not get a pass.  This team is filled with talent and this is supposed to be the year they compete again, but their offense must get it going.  The return of should help matters, but I don't expect him to be healthy for long stretches of time.

11. Colorado Rockies (LW --) Week 2 record (1-4)

This team is in need of an identity and some home cooking (and maybe another start).  Every game of theirs was on the road this week, including an embarrassment of a series against the Dodgers.  They will be on the road some more next week with a rematch of the 07 NLCS, and they've fared well against the D'Backs of late.  They have another shot at the Dodgers next week, but this time after spending the night in their own beds.

12. Milwaukee (LW --) Week 2 record (2-4)

Tough week for this team with a trip to New York and a scrappy Reds team that came to Miller Park with something to prove.  The offense is there, but the pitching is suspect at best.  has alternated good starts, but after that the rotation has been dissapointing.  Rumors they might go after will quickly fizzle after this team sinks lower in the central.  Help is on the way, however, with series against Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Houston.

13. Houston (LW --) Week 2 record (3-3)

Much better showing this week than in week 1, a series win over the surprising Pirates.  Somehow Cecil Cooper has earned an extension, but this team seems to be a shell of itself from the dominance in the middle of this decade.  Michael Bourne is a pleasure to watch in center.

14. Arizona (LW --) Week 2 record (2-4)

Only one team has a worse offense than the DBacks, and they just finished beating them 2 of 3 in a series.  This team was nearly no-hit by the 57 year-old .  They strike out way too much and can't deliver any timely hitting so far.  I don't think this team will stay down here for the majority of the season, but when you go to SF and only score 2 runs in 3 games, you have concerns. 

15. San Francisco Giants (LW --) Week 2 record (2-4)

Another year, another miserable Giants offense.  Wholloped in LA including losses of 7-2 and 11-1, they bounced back with stellar performances on the mound against Arizona.  They have an opportunity to avenge two road sweeps when they face the Padres and Dodgers in the next few days.  looks like his mechanics are a back, and that's a great sign for all fans of baseball.

16. Washington Nationals (LW --) Week 2 record (1-4)

Absolutley dreadful.  Manny Acta says he's going to blow up the bullpen and he should before the Nats brass decide to hand him his walking papers.

 


 



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