Posted on: November 7, 2011 6:56 pm
Late spring, two years ago, manager Bruce Bochy told me that Jonathan Sanchez was going to be one very important key to San Francisco's season. And as the Giants went on to win the 2010 World Series, he was.
But as the Giants regressed in 2011, so did the frustratingly enigmatic Sanchez. Straight to the point where the Giants finally threw up their hands and shipped him to Kansas City on Monday for outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Difference between the Giants 2010 World Series run and failing to make the playoffs in 2011?
Try 127 runs ... or .78 runs per game.
Only Seattle crossed the plate fewer times than the Giants in 2011.
They have to score more and, in dealing Sanchez, what they've decided is that the only way to boost that offense is to deal from their source of strength, pitching.
It is a key decision for this reason: They do not have much money to spend this winter.
Failing some financial miracle, such as trading Barry Zito, sources familiar with the Giants winter plans say that they do not have the resources to chase Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins on the free agent market. They very well may not have enough to re-sign free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.
As such, general manager Brian Sabean worked to strike quickly, adding to his lineup before some of the affordable bats were taken from the market.
In Cabrera, the Giants acquired a center fielder who likes the big stage, played well with the Yankees and hit .305 with 44 doubles, 18 homers and 87 RBI for the Royals last summer. Just 27, Cabrera also scored 102 runs for the Royals.
He is a smart, quick upgrade for the Giants.
Sanchez will turn 29 in two weeks, has a no-hitter on his resume and compiled a disappointing 4.26 ERA while going 4-7 with the Giants last summer. He missed the final month-and-a-half with a left ankle sprain.
Meantime, the Giants wasted Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and even Ryan Vogelsong, pitching that should have been good enough to take aim at a second consecutive World Series berth instead of winter tee times.
What they ultimately decided with Sanchez sidelined was that he was the most expendable -- or undependable, take your pick, they're probably one and the same -- of their starters.
If there is to be no Reyes or Rollins in the near future, acquiring Cabrera looks an awful lot like what Sabean did two years ago in building the '10 World Series winner: Supplement top-shelf pitching with the right mix of position players to squeeze enough runs across the plate to win more often than not.
It worked in 2010 because the Giants found that mix with players like Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell, and then they got hot just at the right time.
They never did get hot in 2011. If they are to recapture that formula in 2012, Cabrera, a healthy Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez and a bounce-back year from Huff will be among the key pieces.
Barring some found money, they have to be.
Posted on: April 5, 2011 10:05 pm
The reeling Giants took another loss Tuesday, this one 3-1 to the Padres to fall to 1-4, and right now Wilson's absence seems the least of their problems: They've had exactly zero save opportunities in their first five games.
So if a closer is activated in the forest and nobody notices, is he really active? Or something like that.
"After throwing to hitters in LA and playing catch today, he feels great," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said before Tuesday's game.
Wilson has made no secret of his eagerness to return, but the Giants are confident that he's ready.
"Just watching him throw to hitters in LA, he wasn't hesitating," Bochy said. "He was letting it go.
"If your oblique is bothering you, you can't hide that."
You can't hide some of the Giants' fielders, either. They've committed five errors in their first five games (none on Tuesday in San Diego, though pitcher Madison Bumgarner didn't distinguish himself on Chris Denorfia's bunt in a three-run third).
Bochy already is going into overdrive protecting Aubrey Huff -- rightly so -- for his uneven play in right field. Huff was supposed to be the San Francisco first baseman this year, but when Cody Ross suffered a strained calf, Huff went out to right to replace him and rookie Brandon Belt was installed at first.
"Huff played pretty good outfield last year," Bochy said. "In fairness to him, he didn't get a lot of time out there because Ross was there. Give him time."
That's fair. But it doesn't help matters short-term (Ross is expected to miss at least the first three weeks of the season).
"Andres Torres is going to weight 138 pounds by the end of the season with all that ground he has to cover," one scout quipped Tuesday of the Giants center fielder. "He's got from foul line to foul line."
Likes: If you're a fan of San Diego sports, check out Jane Mitchell's book One on One: My Journey With Hall of Famers, Fan Favorites and Rising Stars. All sorts of people -- and stuff -- in there from the popular Mitchell, who has been doing magazine-style, in-depth pieces on San Diego television for years. ... The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. Netflix'd it the other night and what a gem. Julianne Moore is terrific, and Woody Harrelson, as usual, is pitch-perfect.
Dislikes: The Padres changing uniforms again. Now their road unis are gray, not the "sand" color of the past few years. ... Butler-Connecticut, what a letdown. Ugh. ... Made of Honor. Brutal. Patrick Dempsey may be fine for Grey's Anatomy, but keep him on the small screen.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Now Paul is a real estate novelist
-- Billy Joel, Piano Man
Posted on: February 9, 2011 7:32 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 7:43 pm
Dreamed up by Peavy last spring, Woodjock 2010 was a fundraiser that allowed major league players to play out their rock and roll fantasies. Peavy, Bronson Arroyo, Bernie Williams, Barry Zito, Aubrey Huff, Gordon Beckham, Tim Flannery and others all participated in the Scottsdale, Ariz., concert last March that raised money for Team Focus, Strikeouts for Troops, Autism Speaks and White Sox Charities through the Jake Peavy Foundation.
There was supposed to be a Woodjock 2011, too.
"As cool as it was, as much as I love it, I didn't want any distractions," Peavy told me this week. "I didn't want any distractions for the team or for my teammates.
"I want them to know I'm sold out to the cause. I'll bypass Woodjock this year and it will return bigger and better next year."
About 1,200 people attended last spring's fundraiser. The way Peavy figured it, all sorts of athletes put on charity golf tournaments. But you don't often see a ballplayer hosting a charity concert.
But, alas, with Peavy returning from major arm surgery, he intends to direct all of his energy to the field this spring and low-key everything else.
"We'll have some troops out, still, and we'll have a nice dinner," says Peavy, whose charity work with the military started when he played in San Diego.
As for Woodjock, Peavy says, "Stay tuned for 2012. We're going to bring the house down."
Likes: Pitchers and catchers reporting means spring is right around the corner, doesn't it? Check back here beginning next week to join me for the annual Camp Tours. We'll move from clubhouses to batting cages to restaurants and roadside Dairy Queens with the greatest of ease. ... What a fun story San Diego State basketball has been this winter. Can't wait for the SDSU-Brigham Young game on Feb. 26 on CBS.
Posted on: October 31, 2010 11:33 pm
ARLINGTON, Texas -- From the most unexpected of places, the San Francisco Giants struck to seize firm command of this World Series.
Rookie starter Madison Bumgarner?
Heck no. That kid, just 21, has been pitching like a veteran since making his big-league debut in late June.
No. Where the lightening came from in the Giants' 4-0 antler-busting Game 4 World Series win was ... drum roll, please ... from Fort Worth-native Aubrey Huff, who was ensconced in the lineup as manager Bruce Bochy's designated hitter.
Imagine, a National League club marching into an AL yard and flexing its DH muscle. Huff cranked a two-run homer in the third inning, smashing a cutter from Rangers starter Tommy Hunter deep into the Texas night to deliver the Giants a 2-0 lead.
The blast immediately interrupted the Rangers' hard-earned momentum from Game 3 a night earlier. It gave the Giants an early lead that allowed Bumgarner to pitch relaxed with some wiggle room. And it returned the swagger to a club that momentarily was knocked off course, however briefly, on Saturday night.
The game stayed 2-0 until the Giants scratched another run across in the seventh, then it went to 4-0 when Buster Posey, the other half of the first rookie battery to start a World Series game since Yankees right-hander Spec Shea and catcher Yogi Berra in Game 1 in 1947, blasted a Darren O'Day breaking ball over the center-field fence.
But Huff's homer was all the Giants would need. Talk about the Giants Huff-ing and puffing and staring people down in the wake of their ongoing DH struggles. In interleague play this year -- six games in AL parks -- San Francisco DH's combined to go 2-for-22 with just one homer and two RBI.
In Game 3 here, a flat 4-2 loss for the Giants, their DH, Pablo Sandoval, went 0-for-3. Buried within that was a grounded-into-double-play and a strikeout.
Huff's swing kick-started the Giants back to life, and put them in the best position yet to win their first World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
How good is their position? Teams that have taken a 3-1 lead are 37-5 in World Series play.
Posted on: October 3, 2010 10:26 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the end, a $40 million payroll was good for 29th in the majors, 90 victories and one big heartbreak on the final Sunday of the season.
The Padres pushed the Giants to the brink of a one-game playoff back in San Diego on Monday, but couldn't push them over the edge. San Francisco's 3-0 win here Sunday earned the Giants the NL West title, and Atlanta's win over Philadelphia gave the Braves the NL wild-card berth.
The Padres head home for the winter after a summer of vastly exceeding expectations.
Even in losing, this was one special team.
"It shows that if you have a bunch of guys committed to the team concept, you can compete in this league," second baseman David Eckstein said, "We had a good mix of guys. That's the tough thing about it.
"Because no one is going to care because we didn't make it."
Sad truth is, Eckstein probably is right -- but he should be wrong.
What the Padres did should have been headline news. They were the game's best story throughout the season.
They were the perfect team for these roiling economic times. They stretched their budget. They made more with less. They were responsible and paid attention to small details.
"A lot of clubs out there, small-market clubs, I'd love for them to take a page out of what we did," Eckstein said. "It proves anything is possible."
The Padres held first place from June 18 through September 16.
They and the Yankees were the only clubs to not lose more than three consecutive games until the Padres were ambushed by a 10-game losing streak beginning on Aug. 26 that ultimately became a mortal wound.
"It's a team game made up of individual battles," manager Bud Black said. "This truly was a team in the sense that guys cared about each other. The unselfishness. Guys understood what I was doing and what the coaches were doing.
"It was fabulous how strong, as a group, the team concept was. It was awesome."
The whole was far greater than the sum of the parts. And as these Padres quietly prepared for their final charter flight home of 2010, though it was a somber clubhouse, there was pride in what they had accomplished.
"I'm never one to be disappointed at the end of the year," said slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who now, along with closer Heath Bell, probably will re-enter the trade rumors market this winter. "You give it your all. When you play your heart out every day, you have nothing to hang your head about.
"Whether we came up one game short or 10 games short, I gave it all I had.
Likes: The Giants are deserving champions. Totally revamped lineup, and together with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Co. will be tough in the playoffs. ... Every time I come to San Francisco, the beauty of AT & T Park hits me all over again. ... On to the playoffs. ... Michaelangelo's Café in North Beach. ... Congratulations to Coach Jack Giarmo, my old classmate, for notching his 100th win as Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central rolled over Grosse Ile 49-13 on the high school football fields Friday night. Coach Jack has the Falcons rolling again, I love it.
Dislikes: It's always a severe and harsh split when a baseball season ends. People you see practically every day of the summer, suddenly, you're done seeing some of them until next February, March or April. Reaching the end of a season is kind of like reaching the end of the school year. It's been a long grind and you're happy to be done, but you'll miss seeing a lot of friends. Looking forward to seeing some of those friends over these next several weeks in the playoffs.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Educated in a small town
-- John Mellencamp, Small Town
Posted on: March 27, 2010 8:27 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2010 9:10 pm
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- By Memorial Day, spring training records often take on the same meaning as yesterday's newspaper, your old report cards and the snow shovel sitting in your garage.
So here are the San Francisco Giants, who are headed toward 2010 with great pitching and questions surrounding their ability to score runs, absolutely ripping it up in Cactus League play.
Though they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Angels on Saturday, the Giants own the best spring record in the majors at 19-8, a .730 winning percentage. They're half-a-game ahead of Cleveland (16-6) in the Cactus League.
Does this mean the Giants maybe have a leg up on positively answering some of their questions? Leadoff man Aaron Rowand, for example, is hitting .474 with a .771 slugging percentage and a .543 on-base percentage. He is a huge key to what the Giants need to do this summer.
Or, perhaps, does it mean that all these spring wins and $4 will get Giants manager Bruce Bochy a latte at Starbucks?
"It's hard to quantify how you look at wins and losses in spring training," says Bochy, in his 16th spring as manager. "A lot of kids are playing.
"But I'll say this: No matter where you're at or what you're doing, it's nice to win."
With the caveat that it is dangerous to buy into spring numbers too deeply, these are among the Giants' spring highlights:
Todd Wellemeyer's 3-0 record and 1.35 ERA. He's pretty much nailed down the fifth spot in the Giants' rotation.
Young right-hander Kevin Pucetas has opened eyes in going 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA over 14 innings.
Top prospect Buster Posey is making a run toward the opening day roster even though Bengie Molina has the catching spot locked down by hitting .415 with a .442 OBP in 17 games. The Giants are talking about spotting him in at first base and catcher.
Outfielder John Bowker is forcing the playing-time issue with four homers, 18 RBI and 34 total bases in 20 games (57 at-bats).
"It can build confidence in a club," Bochy says of winning in the spring. "We certainly want to be in winning mode, whether it's spring training or the regular season."
So far, so good with that.
Sunblock Day: Lots of sun Saturday, but very windy in the desert. Temps in the high 60s to low 70s.
Likes: Butler to the Final Four! Butler to the Final Four! My Indiana-born parents went to Butler They met at Butler. My poor dad was sweating out the win over Kansas State so badly he had to leave my brother's house and take a walk when K-State took the lead late in the second half. He came back with 2:00 left and Butler back ahead. He's been living and dying with the Bulldogs from afar all season. If there will be a Final Four moment that's more chilling than when Butler takes the court in Indianapolis for its semi-final game, I can't wait to see it.
Likes II: The Bruce Springsteen mix CD playing as the Giants hit before Friday's Cactus League game against the Angels. Who made the CD? Giants bench coach Ron Wotus. Very impressive. ... Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, a musician himself, loved Crazy Heart so much he's seen it three times. ... How about that Kansas State-Xavier game Thursday night? You will not see a better college basketball game. It's rare that you know you're watching a classic at the time it's happening, and that definitely was one of them. What a great, great NCAA tournament this year.
Dislikes: Hate to see veteran Doug Mientkiewicz leave Dodgers camp Saturday to think about things after being told he probably won't make the club. He's a terrific person, and I know he wants to keep playing. We talked the other day and his issue with playing Triple-A is, he's fine with it -- if it's in a place where he thinks he'll get a reasonable opportunity to play in the majors. With the Dodgers, with James Loney at first and the versatile Ronnie Belliard on the roster, and with lefty Garrett Anderson probably on the roster as a pinch-hitter, it doesn't look like he'll get that.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Rock and roll means well
-- Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me