Posted on: February 19, 2012 6:05 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 6:12 pm
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hang around long enough, you never know where the wind will blow you next. And so it is for right-hander Clay Hensley, who is in camp attempting to win a job in the San Francisco bullpen.
The six-year veteran already has a place in Giants lore: He was the pitcher who served up Barry Bonds' record-tying 755th home run on Aug. 4, 2007.
"It's not something I want to be defined by," Hensley said Sunday morning. "I wasn't the first guy to give up a homer to him, and I wasn't the last guy.
"It's not that big a deal to me."
Maybe not, but Hensley's name will remain permanently stamped on the baseball trivia pages. Bonds' 755th, which tied home run king Hank Aaron, came in Petco Park of a game won by the Padres, 3-2. Bonds rifled a Hensley pitch over the left-field fence to tie Aaron, then hit record-setting No. 756 four nights later in San Francisco against the Nationals' Mike Bacsik.
Hensley, who went 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA in 37 games (nine starts) for the Marlins last year, signed a one-year, $750,000 deal with the Giants over the winter. He does not arrive as an unknown: The Giants drafted him in 2002 out of Lamar (Tex.) University, and Bruce Bochy was the Padres manager in two of Hensley's four seasons pitching in San Diego.
"Am I going to go around signing pictures of 755?" Hensley said good-naturedly Sunday. "Probably not. But I did get a nice bat out of it."
Yes, Bonds sent over a bat -- but not the bat.
Sunblock Day? A little on the cool side at 63 degrees (darn right that's cool, we have high expectations here), but mostly sunny and bright.
Likes: At a benefit in late January, Giants third base coach Tim Flannery and friends raised $60,000 for the Bryan Stow Fund. And attention Deadheads: Check out this cool video of Bob Weir and Flannery doing the Grateful Dead classic Friend of the Devil at the show. "Bob let me sing," Flannery said, beaming. ... Tim Lincecum, a ghostly shade of white, describing why he's happy to get out of Seattle and land in Arizona. "I need the sun. I mean, look at me." ... Totally charmed by Hugo, the Martin Scorsese 3-D flick. And I'm not much for 3-D. ... Go-to place for lunch during spring camp: Subway. It's quick, reasonably healthy and light enough that I can usually get in a late-afternoon run without paying for my lunch sins.
Dislikes: Bronx cheers to the Giants, who have told the nice lady named Kay, who sits outside of their spring clubhouse and checks media credentials, that she cannot read or knit while manning her post. Something about needing to be professional. It's spring training, for crying out loud. Besides, I was looking forward to learning what she was knitting this year.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"She must feel it's awkward
Oh, I said it's Arizona"
-- Arizona, Kings of Leon
Posted on: August 10, 2011 8:21 pm
I ran cross country for four years in high school. I was OK, not great, for a couple of reasons. One, I was smallish back then and not very strong. Two, hay fever clobbered me annually in Michigan, from August until the first frost in late September or early October. Ragweed pollen choked off my breathing passages, and there were days when it felt like I could get no oxygen into my lungs.
Sort of, I imagine, how the Pittsburgh Pirates are feeling these days.
For four months, the Buccos were one of the best stories in the game. Even Commissioner Bud Selig said that Pittsburgh's was the first score he checks every night. For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Bucs were buyers at the July trade deadline.
Then, wheeze, wheeze. ...
Clint Hurdle's club fell into a 10-game losing streak that has all but asphyxiated Cinderella. At 56-60, the Pirates were 10 games behind Milwaukee. Steelers season again is on deck in Pittsburgh.
Well, there are a lot of explanations, but those mostly are just accumulations of pieces of answers from over there and parts of answers from over here. Their pitching suddenly disappeared on them. Their bats went silent. The lowly Cubs and Padres swept them at home, socking the Pirates with their first winless homestand of six-or-more games in their 125-year history.
The Pirates were outscored by 45 runs during the 10-game streak.
Basically, the Pirates confirmed what many believed from the start: They're not quite ready to win yet.
Young legs and fresh arms are as important as ever in the game -- and, with the majority of steroids and greenies evidently expunged thanks to tighter testing, more important these days than at any time since the mid-1980s.
But young talent alone is not enough. Because among the many things the youngsters must develop is stamina -- both physical and mental -- for a 162-game grind.
The story of this year's Pirates is shaping up remarkably similar to that of last year's Padres, who also were the best story in the game until ... yes, until a 10-game losing streak knocked the wind out of them. Only difference was, the Padres skid started a couple of weeks later, on Aug. 26. Pittsburgh's started a month earlier, on July 29.
One common thread is poor Ryan Ludwick. The Padres acquired him last July 31 because they needed more production in the middle of their order. Pittsburgh dealt for him this July 31 for the same reason.
Now Ludwick is something of an unwilling expert on would-be contenders falling into 10-game losing skids and seeing their seasons crumble.
Though the losing streak wrecked their season, last year's Padres did gain a second wind, played in meaningful games all the way to the last day of their season and wound up with 90 wins.
These Pirates are only on pace for 77 wins, and the interesting thing now will be to see how they respond the rest of the way. This is an important stretch. General manager Neal Huntington has built a good nucleus of young players -- Andrew McCutchen, Neal Walker, Jose Tabata (who has been injured), Pedro Alvarez (who is having a miserable season). Pittsburgh is far closer to winning than it has been in a long time.
Still, what they need is some room to breathe, some room to grow. Some air.
That, or some allergy pills.
By my senior year, by the way, we won the league title. I contributed in a few small ways, scoring points here and there, but others did the heavy lifting. Still, it was a great ride and I made some lifelong friends while running over the trails and through the woods.
I still think about those days at this time of year, when school beckons and the baseball season shifts toward its final sprint. Sometimes the trails go uphill. Sometimes they disappear into the woods. The trick is in the persevering.
It would be a shame if things completely got away from the Pirates in 2011. This is an organization that has endured 18 consecutive losing seasons, a record for North American professional sports.
It won't be nearly the same as watching them fight for a spot in October, but if the Pirates can't climb back into the race, watching them battle for a .500 finish will still be pretty good drama.
Likes: Dan Uggla extending his hitting streak to 31 games. ... Sign-stealing controversies. There has been off-the-record chatter about those kind of capers in Toronto for years. It's amusing and entertaining. And my response is, if you think the Blue Jays are stealing your signs, then change your signs. ... The law in the great state of Michigan prohibiting public schools from starting before Labor Day. That's the way it should be everywhere. Summer doesn't end until Labor Day Weekend, does it? ... Here's to Jerry Garcia, who died 16 years ago Aug. 9.
Dislikes: The dancing woman in Cleveland behind the plate in that crazy Indians-Tigers game that ended at 2 a.m. the other night. Can't you just sit still and watch a ballgame? As if she wasn't distracting enough (I was home watching on television), she trended on Twitter. Now I can just see dozens of other wackos following suit looking for their own publicity. Please, no.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Well the first days are the hardest days
"Don't you worry any more
"'Cause when life looks like easy street
"There is danger at your door
"Think this through with me
"Let me know your mind.
"Oh, oh, what I want to know is, are you kind?"
-- Grateful Dead, Uncle John's Band
Posted on: July 17, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: July 18, 2011 12:06 pm
But as is the case with any great artist, sometimes perfection isn't quite enough.
"My dad texted me [recently] and said, 'You're going to have to start doing a commercial for Just For Men, get an endorsement from them, with all the gray hair I'm getting'," Hanrahan says.
In the old days, not many more folks than the Pirates' dads were watching in Pittsburgh. But with Clint Hurdle's club playing well and gaining momentum, it's amazing who's paying attention. The crowds are starting to swell. The Bucs are averaging 23,578, and weekend crowds of 30,000-plus are becoming a regular thing. A community, you might say, is being galvanized by an unexpected source.
"Fans in Pittsburgh are excellent baseball fans," Hanrahan says. "Everyone knows about Penguins fans and Steelers fans, but now we're starting to see Pirates fans. Weekends are selling out.
"Our fans are really knowledgeable, and they don't feel embarrassed to come out any more. Before, the real baseball fans were sitting home cussing out the TV and cussing out the Pirates. And before, the fans who would come to see us were rocking Steelers' shirts.
"But now, you're seeing Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker jerseys everywhere. It's a lot more fun."
Likes: Looking forward to watching the Pirates' next test, 12 games against teams with a combined record of 212-167 -- Cincinnati, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Atlanta. ... Eli Whiteside actually stealing a base on Sunday (second of his career). ... Giants manager Bruce Bochy calling a (successful) suicide squeeze. When you're that offensively challenged, you've got to figure out ways, man. ... The weekend's Tigers-White Sox series. Midsummer, and it's easy to sense that each series is taking on a little more importance. ... National Ice Cream Day on Sunday. How can you not participate in that?
Dislikes: Disneyland ... Mickey Mouse. ... Goofy ... Snow White ... long lines ... overpriced tickets ... waiting in line 45 minutes for a roller coaster and then it breaks down when you're on the platform, up next ... overrated places.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I know the rent is in arrears
-- Grateful Dead, Touch of Grey