Posted on: February 15, 2011 4:08 pm

Short winter? A motivated Lincecum threw more

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- You always wonder how pitchers will react to long successful postseasons, followed by short celebratory winters.

You never expect to hear that they upped their winter workload.

Tim Lincecum did.

The Giants right-hander started the final game of the baseball season, winning the clinching game of the World Series on Nov. 1. Not all that long after, he says he was throwing five days a week, getting so sharp so early that he threw all his pitches in Tuesday's first official bullpen session of spring training.

Is it the right decision?

We may not know that for months. What's interesting now is what seems to have motivated Lincecum to work so hard.

"When you see the downs like I did last year -- that month was about as low as I could be -- I don’t ever want to go through that again," Lincecum said.

"That month" was Lincecum's 0-5 August, and it's obvious now that it stuck with him almost as much as his brilliant September and outstanding October.

"Sometimes fear can be the best motivator," he said. "I just want to lay all the doubts to rest."

There aren't many doubts about a guy who won back-to-back Cy Youngs and followed it up by leading his team to the World Series title. But Lincecum hasn't exactly been a workout monster, and his awful August (7.82 ERA, .902 opponents OPS) did raise some questions.

His winter workout routine may answer those questions, even as it raises more.

Is it smart for a guy who threw 249 innings last year (regular season and postseason) to throw more than ever in a shorter-than-ever winter?

We'll have to wait and see.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 14, 2011 5:22 pm

The closer and the candy jar

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants are champions, but the Giants are still fun.

The latest example: Closer Brian Wilson announcing Monday, on the first day of spring training, that the ball from the final out of the World Series is in "a Halloween candy jar."

The team's reaction, through manager Bruce Bochy: "Well, when you mention the name, that's not surprising. That seems appropriate for Willy."

It doesn't sound like this is headed to court.

You might remember that when the Red Sox broke their curse by winning the 2004 World Series, the fate of the final-out ball did end up in court, after Doug Mientkiewicz refused the team's request for the ball.

This is different, in part because Wilson said the Giants have never asked him for the ball . . . and in part, because the Giants are a lot more fun than the Red Sox.

Anyway, the candy jar.

Wilson said that catcher Buster Posey gave him the ball, a while after Wilson used it to strike out Nelson Cruz and give San Francisco its first-ever title. Wilson said he was a little surprised that Posey had managed to keep the ball through the celebration, but he took it.

He took it home, and needed somewhere to put it. And, he said, he saw a left-over candy jar.

"I thought, 'I'm not going to lose it, and it was a delicious treat,' " Wilson said.

Posted on: February 14, 2011 4:37 pm

Bruce Bochy and the road to Philadelphia

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants fans may not want to read this.

Giants fans may think this is just another example of East Coast bias.

So before I even tell you what it is, I'm going to emphasize that the opinions that follow come from Bruce Bochy. And I'm going to remind you that Bruce Bochy is the Giants manager.

And here's what he said Monday morning when someone asked him about the Phillies signing Cliff Lee:

"Because of the track record, you have to look at their staff as the best in baseball."


"I think everyone in the National League would tell you that the road to the World Series is going to have to go through Philadelphia."

Bochy went on to say that his own staff -- the one that beat the Phillies and went on to win the World Series -- doesn't get enough credit, and that "I feel like we can match up with anyone." But he didn't back away from saying that the Phillies staff should now be considered the best.

"Based on track record," he said. "When you sign a free agent like Cliff Lee, that changes the balance a little."

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 13, 2011 2:27 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 3:08 pm

A return to New York (but not to Brooklyn)

The Giants brought their World Series trophy to Sacramento, and they brought it to Stockton. They're bringing it to San Jose, and also Monterey.

And to New York.

Yeah, New York, the city they abandoned 60-something years back.

You think the Los Angeles Dodgers ever brought one of their trophies to Brooklyn? You think the A's took any of their four trophies to Kansas City, on the way back to Philadelphia?

You think the Indianapolis Colts celebrated in Baltimore?

Why is this different?

I'm not sure why, but it is. It is different.

It's different because for some reason, some New York Giants fans (and there weren't nearly enough of them at the end) have stayed with their team. It's different because instead of feeling abandoned and angry, they felt loyal.

That seems a little strange, but there's no doubt it's true.

"A lot of us never stopped rooting for the Giants after they moved," Bill Kent, president of the New York Baseball Giants Nostalgia Society, told the New York Times last October. "The Giants have a big fan base in New York, but you never hear about us."

The Giants heard.

They heard that 1,000 or so fans packed Finnerty's Bar for playoff games (and thus the trophy will make a stop at Finnerty's next week). They heard from fans who said they had never lived in California but were Giants fans because their fathers or mothers or grandfathers or grandmothers had been fans.

And when it came time to plan their trophy tour, general manager Brian Sabean was the one who suggested a stop in New York.

They scheduled it for next week, because Buster Posey will be in New York to accept his Rookie of the Year Award at the New York Baseball Writers' annual dinner.

I'm still not sure why the Giants can do this and have it feel right, but they can.

"That connection is important to us," Giants senior vice president Staci Slaughter said. "The organization has made it a priority to keep it. There was a connection with Willie Mays, and with his love affair with New York. There's a lot of San Francisco-New York connections."

Yeah, but there are plenty of Los Angeles-New York connections, too, and that never helped the Dodgers. And just as the Giants have always included their New York history, the Dodgers have honored their Brooklyn history.

With the Giants, though, it still seems to be a two-way street.

"It is unique," Slaughter agreed.

It's unique, but for some reason, it feels right.

By the way, the Giants have also scheduled a trip to Troy, N.Y. , later this year. The Giants were originally founded -- sort of -- as the Troy City Trojans (I'll bet a lot of Bay Area fans are glad they dropped that nickname!).


It's funny how franchise moves affect people.

There's a huge debate going on right now among supporters of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in England (and I count myself as a proud supporter). The club has considered taking over the London Olympic Stadium, which is seven miles from its current home at White Hart Lane, but is not in Tottenham.

Sometimes seven miles can mean everything. And sometimes, in the case of those Giants fans, 3,000 miles isn't too much.

Posted on: December 22, 2010 12:00 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2010 12:02 pm

Giants No. 10? Don't blame me

Before any of you Giants fans write to me again, you should know that I had nothing to do with naming the Giants winning the World Series as the 10th biggest sports story of the year.

Of course not. If it was my choice, the Giants wouldn't have made the list at all.

Just kidding.

No, I'd have put the Giants higher on the list, if only to avoid overtaxing my e-mail box with more nasty comments from Giants fans.

They already hate me because I didn't pick the Giants to beat the Rangers. Believe me, they haven't forgotten.

Just look.

From Gregg:

"I can't believe CBS pays you. 'Rangers in 5.' Remember that? Evan Brunell is much better at breaking down baseball. You and Daniel Snyder think alike. I will not be reading CBS anymore, until they can present some first-class baseball columnist."

But then you'll miss everything Evan has to say. And he won't like that. Me, I'll do without you.

From Lamb:

"Not only are you ugly, but your East Coast bias makes you idiotic as well. The media just can't handle that the Giants won the World Series. Get over it and face the facts. The Giants beat the Phillies, and they are the best team until they get knocked out of the playoffs in 2011."

See, you're already admitting they're not going to win it all again.

From Leftcoastlove:

"If the Phillies were the best team at the end of 2010, they would be holding the trophy. Let's look back at the reason they lost to the Giants. It wasn't their pitching. Good luck with that pitching, Philly. It looks good on paper, then again [Ryan] Howard looks good on paper, too, until a runner is in scoring position. Then whiff!!"

Are you telling me the Giants won the World Series? Are you sure?

From Brad:

"This is bogus. Who cares about Cliff Lee? The Giants pounded him twice in the World Series. He was responsible for two wins for us. Also, we beat Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt. East Coast haters. Lincecum is better than Halladay. Cain is better than Lee. Sanchez is better than Hamels. Bumgardner [he spelled it that way, not me] is better than Oswalt."

Really, the Giants won?

From Geoff:

"You can say anything you want about the Phillies. The only reason they look so good is they play in the NL. If either the Red Sox or the Yankees were to trade places with the Phillies, they'd be the team with the clear path to the World Series. The Red Sox are considerably better than the Phillies and the Yankees may also be better."

Maybe the Giants didn't win the World Series. Either that, or maybe Geoff is about to get a ton of e-mails from Giants fans.

From Mark:

"Phils the best? Looks like you're blind-sided by their pitching staff. Did you compare their lineup to the Red Sox? Sox 4, Phils 2 in the World Series this year."

What, did Mark forget about the Giants, too? Good, now I don't feel so bad.

Oh, and Giants fans, Happy Holidays to all of you.

And this time, I mean it.

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 17, 2010 4:32 pm

Manager of the Year (except October), Part III

Congratulations to Bud Black and Ron Gardenhire, deserving winners of the Manager of the Year awards.

Now, for the third straight year:

The system needs changing.

In the current baseball world, the world of a three-tiered playoff system, managers of top teams are judged at least as much by what they do in October as by what they do for the six months before October. And yet, the Baseball Writers Association of America still decides the Manager of the Year awards based only on the regular season.

It's possible that Black still wins in the National League, because keeping that Padres team alive in the playoff fight until the very last day of the season was hugely impressive. But don't you think Bruce Bochy, who finished a distant third in the voting (behind Black and Dusty Baker) gets strong consideration to win it if you include October.

Simple question: Of all the managers in the National League, who had the best season (including the postseason)? It may well have been Bochy.

As for the American League, Gardenhire was a fairly close winner over Ron Washington, which was just about right if you include the regular season only. Gardenhire's Twins lost closer Joe Nathan in spring training, and they won 94 games, third in the AL behind the Rays and Yankees.

Add in the postseason, though, and I'll guarantee you that award goes the other way. Gardenhire's Twins had yet another first-round disappointment against the Yankees, while Washington pulled the Rangers past both of the AL East powerhouses.

Black and Gardenhire had outstanding years. Bochy and Washington were better.

The system, as of now, doesn't allow us to recognize that.

Posted on: November 15, 2010 2:04 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2010 2:09 pm

Posey, Feliz top rookies

Giants catcher Buster Posey and Rangers closer Neftali Feliz are the Rookies of the Year, as announced today by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Posey won the National League award, beating out Braves outfielder Jason Heyward in a race that wasn't as close as expected. Posey received 20 of the 32 first-place votes. Heyward had nine, and the other three were divided between Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia and Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez.

Feliz also received 20 first-place votes to win in the American League, with Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson getting the other eight. Because there are two voters from each city in the league, the NL has four more votes than the AL.

Posted on: November 2, 2010 3:10 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2010 4:32 pm

Yeah, I picked the Rangers, but why do you care?

I picked against the Giants in the World Series, and I was wrong.

There. Are you happy now, Giants fans?

I have absolutely no idea why anyone would care who I picked to win, and even less of an idea why anyone would stop celebrating long enough to berate me for a wrong pick. But there were times over the last week that Giants fans had me convinced they got more pleasure out of me being wrong than they did out of their team winning.

It began after Game 1. It didn't let up, all the way through Game 5.

"It would be nice to see some form of mea culpa from you and the other Brainiacs who predicted a different outcome," wrote Chet, who was at least polite about it.

I'm not sure what this says about Giants fans, but I never got nearly as much e-mail about any of my other wrong picks over the years. And believe me, there have been plenty of them.

Maybe I ought to ask Judge and Prisco if 49er fans are the same way. Maybe it's the Bay Area.

I'm not sure I care. I'm not sure why you care.

But since you do, here it is again:

I picked the Rangers in 5. I was wrong.

Oh well.

Now, can we all look back to what we saw over the last month? Here's what I saw, through three rounds, 17 games witnessed in person, most of the others seen on TV, two train rides and nine flights stopping at seven different airports:

Best game: The very first one, or at least the very first one I covered. It's hard to beat a no-hitter, and in more than two decades of covering baseball, I've never seen anyone pitch as good a game as Roy Halladay did in Game 1 against the Reds.

Best moment: The Giants interrupting their celebration at Turner Field to salute retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox. It was a classy, classy move, and it should make anyone feel better that the Giants got two more chances at celebrating -- both of them uninterrupted.

Best moment II: On the field after Game 5 of the World Series, I was interviewing Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, who grew up in Northern California, has been with the Giants for years and had never before won a World Series. Just then, the fans gathered behind the third-base dugout started chanting, "Thank you, Giants!" Righetti stopped, almost tearing up. "How cool is that?" he said. Then, thinking about the celebration back home, he added, "They're going to tear up the city."

Best song: No contest. It was the by YouTube sensation Ashkon , the Giants fan who wrote new words to sing along with Journey's Don't Stop Believing. The best line: "I had faith, and I had hope; And thankfully the Padres choked."

Best T-shirt: I never thought about buying one of those claw and antlers shirts that were so popular in Arlington. I did think about getting one of the "Let Tim Smoke" shirts in San Francisco. If you don't get it, check out Proposition 19 on today's California ballot.

Most disappointing team: Plenty of candidates, but it has to be the Twins, who played so well in September to get the best record in the American League, and home-field advantage through the AL playoffs. And they still got swept by the Yankees -- again. The worst part is that the Twins seemed to know what it would take to beat the Yankees. They tried hard to sign Colby Lewis last winter, and they tried hard to trade for Cliff Lee this summer. They didn't get either, and after they lost in three straight, they watched Lewis and Lee win three of the four games as the Rangers ousted New York.

Worst overreaction to a loss: Phillies fans, who sat in absolute disbelief as they watched the final outs in Game 6 against the Giants. The Phillies won 97 games, the most in the majors (for the first time in franchise history). They were the most impressive team entering the playoffs. They have their Big 3 starters ready for another go next year. And because they lost four of six games to the Giants, they're suddenly too old? Come on.

Worst timing for a movie: Isn't that Moneyball movie supposed to come out soon? Any chance they can rewrite it and reshoot it on the other side of the Bay? The Giants pride themselves on being the ultimate anti-Moneyball team, and the AL champion Rangers don't really subscribe to Moneyball, themselves. Funny that in the middle of a World Series between two teams that believe in old-fashioned scouting, the Mets would hire Moneyball founder Sandy Alderson to take over their organization.

Best team: Yeah, as if I'm going to pick anyone but the Giants. They were impressive, with a pitching staff that dominated and a lineup that didn't look good, but did just enough. I'm happy for Cody Ross, Andres Torres and Edgar Renteria, three of the nicest guys I covered in my years on the Tiger beat. I'm happy for Bruce Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, and for plenty of good people in that organization.

Believe it or not, I'm even happy for the Giants fans, especially those for whom this was every bit the lifelong dream that 2004 was for many in New England, or that 2005 was on the South Side of Chicago.

Maybe most of the country didn't care, as evidenced by the low ratings. Maybe it wasn't the best World Series ever.

But you could say the same about the 1984 World Series, and as I know from my time in Michigan, a whole bunch of people in that state consider it the best World Series ever.

Years from now, a whole bunch of people in Northern California will say the same about this one.

By then, maybe they'll forget that I picked it wrong. Or, at the very least, maybe they'll forgive me for it.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com