A brief reflection of winter while awaiting the first pitch

First, let me say that this off-season has been unlike ANY that I (or any of my fellow die hard fan-friends, for that matter) have ever experienced. In fact, I don’t think that many would argue that it felt like much of an off-season at all.

While the Orange faithful recovered from their November hangover, the trophy began its trek around the state and across the country to NY and the hall of fame. A mediocre football year for our local teams kept the euphoria of the Giants year buzzing. The relief that the team was able to hang on to 95% of its championship roster, helped everyone begin to savor the prospect of a repeat. And then…. Spring came!

By the time last September’s success began to materialize, my typically critical view of Boche’s (and the front office’s) decisions began to evaporate. Obviously, this crazy formula of youthful trust and the plugging and playing and shifting of key guys, turned out to be one of two things, depending on who was asked…

The Dodger and A’s fan will quickly tell you what a stroke of luck it was for the Giants to trip and stumble into their good fortune, at just the right time.

While the notable Baseball writers, commentators, veterans and Giants fans (bandwagon or life-long) will tell you what a remarkable accomplishment it was to beat the Braves who were on such a roll they may have overtaken the Phillies for the NL East, had the season lasted a week longer. Then, they beat the National League’s eventual Cy Young award winner (Roy Halladay) TWICE. And then they rolled through an INCREDIBALLY hot Ranger team in only 5 games, beating yet another one of the game’s best pitchers (Cliff Lee) TWICE!

Lucky??? I really felt sorry for fans that couldn’t just suck it up and “Say, Hey! Nice job, San Francisco… You earned it.”

And let me say here and now, on opening day 2011… It’s time for the naysayers to eat their words while they watch our 2011 Giants put any thoughts of luck out of their minds while they humbly work their way through the season and strive for another amazing run.

When the 2010 September call-ups were announced last year, my last critical opinion was not to question why Darren Ford, a .251 hitter for double-A Richmond, would be called up… but rather… why Brandon Belt, a .352 overall minor league star, would not? And the answer became clear. Ford’s speed on the base pads was certainly valuable, no question. But while Belt’s bat would have been nice.. our eventual September battle to clinch the division (on the season’s last day, no less) would mean that Brandon would spend a lot of that month on the bench waiting for a situational at-bat that a left-handed Huff would no-doubt take anyway.

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Meanwhile, there was no certainty that Huff would return in 2011 and if Belt was going to make a 2011 debut, he was going to need more work. So they wasted no time getting him into the fall league under the instruction of one of the best first baseman I’ve ever seen play, J.T. Snow. If Huff had not returned, Belt’s rise to the big club would have been eminent.

As it turned out, Huff did sign a 2-year deal to return to the Giants and when they went to Scottsdale this year, it was apparent that Mr. Belt would get plenty of time in Fresno to hone his craft. But to everyone’s delight, Belt did NOT take that news with complacency. He hit .282 in 70 at-bats this spring with 3 homers and 2 steals. Writers could not leave him alone. Fans with fresh memory of Buster Posey sitting there in Fresno when he could have done SO much to help the club, were starting to pressure anyone who would listen, NOT to let one of our best hitters (on a club continually criticized for its lack of pure offense) to sit idle.

The decision was made.

Just as our highest paid player (Barry Zito) was left off the post-season roster to make way for a bright, up-and-coming star, Madison Bumgarner… It appears the team has decided to move another highly paid player (Aubrey Huff) to a somewhat foreign position (right field), in order to afford the 1st base slot to Brandon Belt on opening day. And for the first time in lord knows how many years…. I’m perfectly in agreement with our opening day roster. Obviously, we’d all like to see a healthier bearded Wilson warming up in the 8th today but I think Boche will find an adequate bearded replacement, should it be needed.

On the other hand, with the likes of Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner starting things off… followed by the likes of Posey, Huff and Belt in the center of our line up, maybe a closer wont be so necessary after all??

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The sun is out. The grass is cut. An amazing new logo will be painted behind home plate. Let’s play!

(photo credit: “aganorange”)


Christmas in Cooperstown

Happy New Years everyone!

I just returned from my nearly annual trip to up-state NY where I grew up… and of course, that meant a trip to Cooperstown.

hall ext.JPGThe town is charming on any occasion but the holiday décor and the dusting of snow made it especially picturesque. Otsego lake was nearly frozen over with many locals crouching under tents atop it, ice fishing. It was cold and blustery on the day I went with many of the local memorabilia shops closed for the winter.

Double day field looked lonely and abandoned with a sheet of snow across it’s outfield and a couple more inches of the white stuff piled upon its dug-out and grand stand roof tops. But then as I trekked further up Main Street the museum cam into view and that familiar red brick façade transcended an otherwise ‘anti-baseball’ scene to a near “pay ball” kind of vibe. The huge stone entry in front of the building is actually heated from beneath, removing the possibility that ice and snow might blemish its appearance. (OK.. it probably also reduces the chance of someone slipping but the fact that they never have to shovel it IS pretty cool!).

Then you walk in and it’s like the winter just ends. The aroma of freshly cut grass, the warmth of summer and the anticipation of the game are blended perfectly with the ‘sanctuary’ feel of a church or a world class civic center. You pay your admission without even asking the price and you begin your day-long ‘gaze’.

I really thought I’d see more on the Giants amazing run but I guess they’ve been a little slow getting the exhibits updated this year.

There is a huge hall devoted to pitching and a special display noting each no-hitter. With this having been “the year of the pitcher”, I thought there might be something noting the overabundance of no-no’s this year (especially the ultra-rare post-season no hitter by Doc Holliday who had already thrown a perfecto earlier in the season)… but nothing? Most of the displays’ stats ended at the 2009 season conclusion.

Another ‘peeve’ (borderline annoyance) was the over abundance of Yankee articles. I’m well aware if the significance of the Babe and Gehrig and DiMaggio and Mantle, etc. But the hall has added an entire room painted in pin stripes, glorifying the NY team on its own. No other single team is given even a fraction of as much attention by the HOF as is given the Yankees.

Another new addition is the “library” wing off the back. There, you find a new theater highlighting baseball themed movies, a press exhibit and a children’s area.
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My kids and I had lunch at one of the local diners featuring all of the traditional ball park food along side many local favorite sandwich creations. The wait staff proudly wore shirts displaying their town’s new credo…. “Cooperstown. A drinking town with a baseball problem.”

I’ll have more photos and useless info to share after the New Year. Of course with only 45 days till pitchers and catchers report, there will be much to ponder and debate while the 2011 Giants team takes shape. For now and for the first time ever, I get to look back on a year that brought the World Series trophy to MY team’s home and age old adage “wait till next year”, did not apply.

56 years of waiting have come to an end…

It’s taken me a while to write this post because Monday night was so laced with utter emotion and euphoria. As the last pitch was swung on (and missed) by Cruz, my heart leaped… and I let out a yelp and then ran for a tissue.



win.jpgTo borrow a Hank Greenwald call…. “56 years of waiting have come to an end…. The Giants have won it all.” There is no one left to face and no one left to beat. This final post-season series and season have ended with a win and for a few precious months, the Giants are known (to the best fan base in sport) as champions.

When the MLB network, ESPN. Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports and just about every other “expert” made their predictions in March, NO ONE (that I’m aware) picked this team to win their division, much less, win it all.

The Giants broke camp with 2 former Cy young winners (Lincecum and Zito), a dominant righty with Cy Young potential (Cain), a crafty lefty who had thrown a no-hitter the year before (Sanchez) and a crazy-good closer (Wilson) along with the offensive potential of Juan Uribe, Bengie Molina, Aubry Huff, Mark DeRosa and a speedy Manny Burris. But they could not buy their way into playoff conversation.

To the “experts'” defense, who could know that Sabean would bring Cody Ross and Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez into the mix? Who could have predicted a rookie like Buster Posey would come up and steal the starting catcher’s role from a guy named “Molina” and then hit effectively in the clean-up spot. Who could have suspected that an even younger rookie named Bumgarner would be called up to impress everyone so much that we’d willingly sit the highest paid pitcher in baseball, to have him throw in the year’s most important games instead!

They may have needed all 162 to clinch their division, thanks in part to an incredible run (and melt-down) by the Padres… But they finished off the Braves in 4 and the heavily favored Phillies in 6. Then, against a team that eliminated the Rays and Yankees (the best 2 records in baseball), a team who featured elite offense, and a TON of momentum…. They won it all in 5. They beat their best pitcher twice and despite home field advantage, spotted the other guys 3 home games to our 2.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is.. They didn’t just eeek this out. It wasn’t a fluke or ‘Hale Mary’ victory. These guys earned this and for all of the fans and former players that never stopped hoping, Monday’s clinching victory brought an emotional rush that will linger in this fan’s memory for quite some time.

I’ll have a lot more to say and write as the off-season sends me into baseball withdrawal. But I’d like to remind anyone who actually reads this thing about a moment of significance earlier in the season.

It was April 9th and in our home opener against the braves and we went to the bottom of the ninth down 4-2. Geno Velez led off the 9th with a double but Rowand struck out and couldn’t move him over. Then a guy named Renteria stepped to the plate and on a 1-2 count muscled a “High Drive…. DEEP to left field and this baby was OUTA HERE”.

Game tied. Rowand would eventually redeem himself with the game-winning hit in the 13th and the Giants won it.

Fast forward to game 5 of the World Series. The Giants are on the brink of greatness and it’s the top of the 7th. Ross singles. Uribe singles. Huff lays down the only sacrifice bunt he’s ever executed in his career to move them both into scoring position. Burrell strikes out for the 2nd out and the chance to sacrifice our first run home is gone. Then… a familiar clutch hitter steps into the box. It might be the final at-bat of his career. He made it count.



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The Giants team (and everyone who has ever cared about them) found sleep easily. The torture and 56 long years of waiting were over.



There were no Bronx bombers, Bash brothers or Rally monkeys to stop them this time… They won the World Series….

And they deserved it.

For the 3rd time in 52 yrs… we need 1 more

As everyone knows, 2010 is the 4th pennant that the San Francisco Giants have won in their 52 years by the bay, which works out to a league championship about every 13 years. That kind of frequency sounds pretty good where Cleveland or Kansas City standards are concerned but if you happen to be a Dodger or Yankee fan?… then not so much.


Remarkably, in 3 of those 4 World Series appearances, the giants were 1 win from earning the crown jewel of baseball. And if not for an earthquake juggling pitching match-ups, they may have worked their way to within a win in all 4. 


62 series.jpg1962 was precarious. The Giants were down 3-2 and had to win game 6 to force a game 7 which went right down to the wire in the 9th but the Giants fell short.
89_World_Series.JPGIn 1989 the Bay Bridge collapsed, the cypress collapsed and the Marina district caught fire… no one could think about the series but when they finally did, the A’s had their ace and #2 guy rested to repeat games 1 and 2 and that was that. In 2002 the Giants won games 1, 4 and 5, sending the series to Anaheim with 2 chances to win the clinching game. Despite being ahead in game 6 by a score of 5-0 lead going into the bottom of the 7th the Giants lost the game, 6-5. 
Then, Bengie Molina hit a 3-run double in game 7 to cap a 4-1 win and a first -ever championship for the Angels.

Now after all of that time with the Giants, Bengie plays for the Rangers, hoping to spoil yet another Giants championship just 1 win away.


2010_World_Series.JPGAnd now after only 5 games the Giants are, once again, a game away from winning their first World Series in the city by the bay.


Bumgarner pitched like a 38 year old veteran on Sunday and lived up to every expectation he could have ever been given. Heading into the 8th, his pitch count was in line and he got out of that frame 1-2-3. I sincerely believe that Bochy would have stuck with him in the 9th, had he not wanted to keep Wilson fresh for game 5.


Wilson got the rare 1-2-3 inning in the 9th and just like that, we have only one more to win and 3 games to make it happen.

Sound familiar? (Like … the last 3 games of the regular season.)


This is when Lucy pulls the football back and Charlie kicks at air and falls on his but… right?


Not this time. A LOT more optimism has ensued and unless we face a game 7 (HEAVEN FORBID!), we’re guaranteed 3 shots at the elusive commissioner’s trophy.


I said it in the final Padres series and I’ll say it now.. We can’t lose 3 in a row? Not with the final 2 in our yard? 


Can we?

Rangers avoid the 3-0 curse

I guess you might call Saturday night’s game fairly typical for an “American league” style contest. All of the runs were score via the long ball.


Cruz doubled to lead off the 2nd and Kinsler grounded out moving him to 3rd. Francoeur grounded out, stranding Cruz at 3rd and with 2 outs, there was no way Sanchez wanted to mess with Molina…especially with the left handed Moreland on deck. Given Sanchez’ history against lefties, pitching around Molina was the right thing to do. Giving Moreland a fastball…was not. The count was 3-2 though and he certainly didn’t want to walk him.



We all know what Moreland did. * 


Sanchez had been VERY stingy with the long ball to lefties, allowing only 5 all year. Meanwhile, Moreland had NEVER in his career hit a home run off of a lefty. Yes, fate was hard at work last night. The only other lefty in their line up… also homered. Hamilton’s was only a solo shot but the damage was done.


The Giants were also to power 2 balls over the fence but they were both solo shots. Moreland’s proved to be the game winner.


Cody Ross hit his 5th post season HR. The guy is absolutely on fire. Stay hot Cody! And the Panda made his DH debut by knocking the rust off his bat while hitting into a double play in the 2nd. He struck out swinging in the 5th and flew out to center in the 7th. Hopefully, he’ll fare better if Bochy decides to stick with him in Sunday’s game against Tommy Hunter.


Pat Burrell has 3 lifetime at-bats against Hunter (1 for 3) Cody Ross is hitless in 1 at bat over 5 years ago. Otherwise, the Giants have zero history against Hunter. Well?.. Maybe it’s time they make some? And with the exception of Jorge Cantu (1 for 3) the Rangers have never seen Madison.



So with it being Halloween and the whole orange and black theme going on, I’m hoping we can make things a little more frightening for the Texas foe on Sunday.


(*photo credit-Robert Deutsch USA Today)

Tragedy and Triumph side by side.

This post comes with slight delay while I try to calm my childish excitement and look at the series with an objective mind and cautious optimism.

Here I am on one hand, soaking in each local sports writer’s take on the Giants dominance, while at the same time, grimacing at the national take…insisting that these games were much closer than they appeared and how the Giants continue to play above their abilities. On rare occasion, a national personality would say, “At what point do we have to accept the fact that this is a really good ball club?”


-Maybe when they go 51-30 in the second half to make up an 7.5 game deficit to beat the Padres?

-Maybe when the starting staff combines for a sub-1 era, beating the Braves in 4 games?

-Maybe when they beat Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt (twice) to take the LCS over the incredibly favored Phillies in just 6 games.

-Or… Maybe when they knock off Cliff Lee and C.J.Wilson and outscore them 20-7 in the first 2 games.

Maybe this is the point that some might start realizing that, this isn’t just the luck of a few over-achievers… These guys really are that good.


Then another national reporter’s comments caught me a little off guard. He said, “These fans in San Francisco are a bona fide factor. They rival the biggest east coast stages, by far. Be it Philly, Fenway, Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, these people in San Francisco are flat out passionate and we saw it first hand.”


We are.


phillip.jpg             My son in 2005 (torture passed from generation to generation)



Whether it’s on opening day of a year that reeks of struggle…or on an Orange Friday night against the LA bums in blue… or a lazy Sunday against a non-contender… The true fans are there. The hat ladies. The rally pumpkin. The dog. There’s my friend Paul in 138 and Ron in 107. Big Ed in 315 and as always, Peter and Larry in the front row of 119 wishing Sue was here to see this!

Passionate to the core.


But so are those guys… You know, those guys on the other bench. As I said at the start, with triumph, there is tragedy. You need only gaze into the other dug out… or through the camera’s eye into the living rooms and sports bars of another city to feel the torture in their hearts.


Sometimes you enjoy the sweet taste of triumph and sometimes, Mr. Kinsler, you come up short by just an inch.


This isn’t villain vs. hero. It’s mano y mano. “Man to man”. Someone has to win. And despite months and months of loyalty, dedication and passion, someone has to lose. To a fan… or a player…or a gambler or a team owner, we’ll all feel it in our hearts.


The series is far from over but I’d like to send a message to all of you Ranger hopefuls. This Giants team and the orange fog surrounding them aren’t here to ‘beat’ you. They’re here to prove to themselves and their fans that they ARE worthy of a little more credit…. That they can play this game with dignity and win…. And that most of all, after 56 years, for all of the players and fans who’ve supported them, they truly deserve this.

Cue Mr. Bennett. Game 1 – Giants

Was anyone else as touched, as I was to see Bengie’s gestures while being announced in the pre-game ceremonies? With the way he’s been performing for his new team, he could have come back to AT&T with an avenging swagger. But he deserves a lot of credit for the humble dignity he’s shown despite it all.


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Oh yeah… Then there was the game…


There were several occasions through the regular season when this team would go a week or more eking out 1 or 2 run wins and then out of the blue have an explosion of offense. And I had been privately wondering when that might happen in the post season but I naturally assumed that the quality of pitching they were facing would obviously prevent such a thing.


The last guy I expected to see our bats come alive against would be Cliff Lee.

Freddy couldn’t seem to miss an opportunity. Aubry and Cody had scorchers up the middle and about the only guy who hadn’t touched Lee was Uribe. Juan was delighted to see Darren O’Day present the ball from a different angle and promptly made a souvenir out of it.


Lincecum was certainly not presenting his best stuff in the first few frames but as the runs came, so did his stuff. His pace and command seemed to improve with each inning and when he finally faltered in the 6th, Casilla came in and made Elvis look foolish. It was good to see the guys in the pen get some work with some offensive breathing room, removing any jitters they may have been feeling on this huge stage.


Tony Did an awesome job on singing God Bless America and I especially liked hearing his signature tune, signifying the win.




If I had suggested to anyone that Cliff Lee would have given up 7 runs before finishing the 5th inning, I would have been historically ridiculed. Kind of like those folks that said the Giants were “lucky” to squeak by the Phillies and picked Lee and the Rangers to sweep us.


For you non-believers who still think the Giants are over achievers… and still pick the Rangers in 5, may I present to you…

Mr. Matt Cain.