The Kung Fu Panda has Left the Building

Well, no use denying the inevitable. Pablo Sandoval has left the Giants to join the Boston Red Sox. Both Brian Sabean and Mike Krukow have come out and said that they wished him well in Boston and thanked him for his contributions to three rings in five years. They appear to be saying the right things despite the disappointment of him leaving SF.
Folks, I am not nearly as magnanimous.
This stinks. If we are to believe what is being reported, the Sox got him for $100 mill over 5 years, while the Giants offered $95 mill over the same period. The Giants said that they thought they would get the chance to put in a ‘final offer’ but it appears they were not allowed to do that. So Pablo leaves the only franchise he has ever known, a franchise he said he wanted to be with ‘for life’, a franchise that nurtured him through weight issues, hamate bones breaking, sexual assault charges and a litany of other personal issues. He leaves a fan base that adores him, dresses in panda hats to honor him, delighted in every accomplishment he did while looking the other way when he did not do well.
A few facts to consider here. Pablo has been with the Giants 7 years, but it really a tale of 2008-11, 4 years but with a horrible 2010, then 2012-14 or three years. Leaving out the horrible ’10 season, his OPS was exactly .900, which was excellent. For ’12-14, his OPS has slid to .762, with drops every year from 2011 (.909,.789,.758,.739). OPS for a corner infielder should be in the .850 to 1.000 range, so a regular season .739 is really not very good.
His weight. The Giants have been frustrated for years with his weight, all reports are that the BoSox would be including a weight clause in his contract. I’m sure he is saying all the right things but one thing is for sure, the Boston media and the fans will not be, in ANY way, forgiving if he looks fat and plays as if it effects him.
As a casual observer, when he has a lot of pressure on him, his performance suffers. I’m not talking about postseason. Early this season, after he had rejected a Giants extension, he played horribly. The pressure of a ‘walk year’ really got to him early on, he had to rally to put up a .279 batting average. He struck out more times than ever in his career and his walks were down. He averaged a little over 9 errors a season through his first 4 years, his last three he averaged 14. He was a finalist for 3B Gold Glove but did not win and it didn’t seem like he had a chance.
Lastly, I think that the Giants and their fans lose their minds a little when it comes to resigning their players. $20 mill or very close to it for a .279 hitter, with little or no pop, only 2 All Star appearances and just one, thats right, one player of the week honor in 7 years? For that kind of money, the Giants could get a top-of-the-rotation arm (Lester, Hamels) or a middle-of-the-order hitter (Cespedes, Tomas, Upton) and figure out 3B on the fly. Isn’t Marco Scuturo still under contract? Adam Duvall? Chris Dominguez? Matt Duffy? Basically, my belief is that when Sabean said they had no options in-house, that was to make their pursuit of Pablo seem important. It’s not. They may go out and find a stopgap, Chase Headley maybe, but they have lots of IF options.
Pablo will find out quickly how much patience the Red Sox nation has and at $20 mill per, they will be on him like white on rice. If he starts like 2014, hitting .193 on May 13th, he will experience something in Boston that he never has in SF, hatred.
Others may wish him well but not me. Any respect I had for him was gone, he is now Jose Uribe heavy.

Did the best team win?

As the analysis of the Giants third World Series win in five years circulates, there is a large number of columnists/bloggers that decry the fact that the ‘best’ team didn’t win. HOGWASH! Regardless of how many wins they had in the regular season, the post season awards like Manager of year, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young or MVP, the bottom line was this in 2014, when it counted the most, the team that played the best, won. Once the postseason starts, any reference to the regular season should be ignored, because the Giants have shown that they shine when the lights are brightest. The Pirates, Nationals, Cardinals and Royals know that directly, the Dodgers have learned that their ‘stars’ do not shine when too harsh of a light is placed upon them. Kershaw has proven himself to come up small in October. Puig can not be trusted to even play in important games. And Donnie baseball looked like the inexperienced manager he really is.

So when Kershaw is in his trophy room, gazing at his Cy Young and MVP, does he think about how he has all this hardware but Mad Bum now has three rings? Who was the best pitcher in the NL, $30 mill/year Clayton or the guy who won the Wild Card game, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP and threw the last pitch of the year? If it truly is all about winning, you know the answer to that question.

Let’s recap shall we, postseason useless awards based on the regular season versus a Ring and a Parade. Giants and their ecstatic fans will gladly take the latter.

From the shores of McCovey Cove, mid October 2014

What a game last night. My first playoff action of the postseason and I picked a good game to attend. The place was a-rockin’ and the Giants faithful in full throat. Maybe it’s because most of the games I attend, I sit out in the open, but where we were at last night was undercover and man oh man was it loud. First couple times the Giants did something, the crowd erupted and I jumped. Got used to it though. Maybe not good for my hearing but joining 40k nutcases in rooting on their guys was something to experience, if you never have.
So, with Buster Posey having 2 hits last night and 3 RBI, do you think Mike Matheny, the Cardinals manager, has changed his mind about him? If you don’t recall, Matheny was the All Star manager this year, as the Cards had lost to the BoSox in the World Series. As for the catcher position in the All Star game, Yadier Molina was voted in, LuCroy and Mesoroco were appointed based on steller first halves offensively. But Molina was hurt and had to be replaced. Matheny picked Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks as the replacement. So Mike Matheny, you didn’t feel that Buster Posey was any better THAN THE FIFTH (5TH!!) BEST CATCHER IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE? REALLY?
Here are the final OPS numbers for the regular season (BTW Mesoroco struck out 103 times, Montero 97, Buster 69)
Mesoroco .893
Posey .854
LuCroy .837
Molina .719
Montero .699
One last point. When Buster came up in the 6th, with a runner on 2nd, 2 outs, the crowd started chanting POSEY, POSEY, POSEY, reminiscent of the Barry chants from the 90’s. And what did Buster do with 40 thousand fans chanting his name? Base hit of course, RBI and the final margin of victory. Geez, I loooooove that guy.

Disrespected

And to think, I used to like Mike Matheny. Heck, he ended his career as a Giant and I have a bobblehead of him in orange and black. Well folks, that box gets scooted waaaaaaaaaay to the back in my display case after this week.

The 2014 Giants are a cute little story. Low expectations coming in, they roared out of the gate, ending up something like 22 games over .500. Then everything fell apart in June, as we all know. But with a little resugence here lately, they are only one game back of the dreaded Dodgers.

At the beginning of June, they were a lock for 4 or 5 All Stars. In the end, only two went, Pence and Hudson.
The issue I have with Matheny is his appointing Miguel Montero to replace Molina, rather than Buster. So you are telling me Mike, with Molina voted in, LuCroy, Mesarasco and Montero named to the team, that BUSTER FLIPPING POSEY IS NO BETTER THAN THE 5TH BEST CATCHER IN THE NL????? Are you on acid? LuCroy and Mesarasco lead NL catchers in OPS, with Mez on top with a smaller sample size and 26% K rate. The other 3’s OPS are from .751 to .760, not a huge difference. Buster has a better average than Montero and much lower K rate (21% to 13%). It’s not as though the D-backs didn’t have another All Star, Goldschmidt started and played most of the game. And they have spent most of the season in the cellar. But the Giants, in 1st most of the season, have 2 All Stars, one doesn’t play and the other plays sparingly. So WFT Matheny?

A little rant about Fox. Was there one mention of the Giants during the entire broadcast? Pence took RF in the 7th and there was no mention of the defensive change. As he has his one at-bat, the booth was talking with John Farrell, so his name was not even mentioned on the broadcast. I know this was the Derek Jeter lovefest, disguised as a baseball game. But C’mon Man! One of the NL’s glamour franchise, the team of Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, Mel Ott, Bill Terry, Willie Flipping Mays, Willie McCovey and the greatest I’ve ever seen, Barry LaMarr Bonds, does not get just a whiff of respect from the national media.

That’s okay, you can apologize as you hand Larry Baer the trophy in November.

Two Perfect Games Ruined by the Left Side of the Dodger Infield

By now, all of us have heard about Kershaw’s no-hitter and how it would of been a Perfect Game if Hanley Rameriz doesn’t throw away a routine ground ball.  But that is not the first time the current Dodger infielders have caused this to happen.  With the Giants, Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter, the only blemish was an error by Juan Uribe, the Dodgers current 3B (when he is not injured, which is quite often).

Pitching and defense used to be the trademark of successful Dodger teams.  No longer.  Dodger stadium used to have some of the biggest foul territory in baseball.  Until the O’Malleys sold the team that is.  Dodger ownership knew back then that they had a built-in advantage.  But with News Corp and then the slimy McCourts as owners, they looked at the stadium and decided to trade 20 sheckels of silver for their souls.  They changed the configuration of the ballpark to put more seats in closer to the field.  Why?  Dollar-dollar-bills y’all.  So they neuter their stategic advantage for a little extra do-ray-mi.  In a stadium that seats 56k plus, and does not sell out BTW, they added a few hundred seats and sold their collective soul.  They only way to describe it is short-sighted.  That sound you hear is poor Walter O’Malley spinning in his grave.

While we are on the subject of the boys in blew, this was in USA Today -

Due to a negotiating impasse between Time Warner Cable and multiple TV providers in the area — including DirecTV — only an estimated 1.5 million of the 4.8 million homes in Los Angeles had access to the Dodgers’ new SportsNet LA network for all of Kershaw’s no-hitter.

Again, this proves that the Dodgers do not care if their fans see the games on TV or not.  3.3 million homes could only get the game on radio and if they wanted to see the last pitch, they had to watch it on SportsCenter.  Pathetic.  How can the 2nd largest market in the country deny fans access to the most popular team in So Calif?  For that matter, how can the 2nd largest market in the country HAVE NO NFL TEAM??? 

It just goes to show that the owners of the Dodgers and the NFL, DO NOT GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT THE LA FANS.  You could argue that point but you would be wrong.  My take is simple on their fans, they get what they deserve.  Arrive late, leave early, more interest in doing the Wave than the game on the field, they are TERRIBLE fans for the most part.  There are a few long time fans that don’t deserve this treatment, but there are so many more that do, that they deserve any issues they have.  Couldn’t have happened to better group of losers. 

Weekend with my Girls and a Special Moment for Morse

I was lucky enough to go to the games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with some of my favorite people.  On Saturday night, my daughter and I attended Wine Fest 1 and had a great time.  She spotted a old friend of mine, Tom W. and his wife Terri.  It was great to see them and spend a little time with them, while enjoying the fruit of the grape.  The game did not disappoint either, with Vogie spinning a gem.  On Sunday, I went to the game with my niece Zan, a high school teacher in the city.  She is also an ordained minister and has been named department chair at her school.  Another great game to watch, with MadBum dealing.  So after both games I turned both of these young ladies over to their husbands with an elevated blood alcohol level, being sure no one was driving drunk.

I believe it was the 5th inning of the Sunday game, Giants were up 4-1, bases loaded, none out.  It looked like they were going to break the game open.  But after Buster struck out and the Panda popped up, it came down to Michael Morse to have to get a hit to get any runs.  And he did deliver, a three run double, basically putting the game away.  Of course, the crowd went nuts as “one run will score, two runs will score, they will all score!”  I love bases clearing hits, it is so exciting.  As Morse was standing on second, the crowd had not died down completely and they showed him standing on the bag on the big screen.  Then something truly special happened.  The crowd rose back up and started cheering louder, not for the runs scored, not for the team, but for that one moment, they cheered for Michael Morse.  And they kept cheering.  He didn’t know what to do but he could not stop smiling.  Can you imagine how that felt?  Morse, an MLB nomad, between stints in Seattle, Washington, Baltimore, comes to SF and the fans embrace him with an ovation that was impossible to ignore.  After all those years of not having a MLB home,  AT&T rises up and says, in no uncertain terms, THIS is your home, big boy.  I looked over at Zan and said, if there are baseball gods out there, Michael Morse will never play another game in another uniform.  I sure hope that turns out to be true, because we LOVE him and I think that he feels the same way about our wonderful Giant fans. 

There is no free lunch

Sorry kids, but there are a few indisputable truths out there.
Life is not fair.
Nice guys do not finish first.
We all do not have an equal opportunity to succeed.
And….there is no free lunch.
Todays blog concerns the hissy fit going on between the Dodgers, their new cable deal and the availability of broadcast games to their fans. If you go to the LA Times website, there are banners on every page showing a Dodger player with the heading “Don’t Miss This”, with a 800 number to call your provider.
LA fans were ecstatic when Magic and his well-heeled buddies bought the team from the scumbag McCourts. They were thrilled when this new ownership group brought in a number of big money players, extended their best guys, ending up with the highest payroll in MLB. The world looked pretty flipping rosy for the Dodger faithful.
That is, until the bill became due.
The biggest economic trend in baseball are the HUGE new local TV contracts that are being signed. Based on those deals, teams are locking up their young stars and trading for high-priced talent from other clubs.
That’s great right? Until the bill becomes due.
Folks, that is exactly the basis for the viewership dispute in LA. Time/Warner cable spent billions, with a big B, for the rights to broadcast in the LA market. Did we expect them to lose money on their deal? Of course not. But unless they can get an inflated rate from other providers, this stalemate will not be resolved.
A personal gripe. We have DirecTV at home and while we are 225 miles from LA and 200 from SF, we are in the LA market (somehow). As such, we get blacked out in our Extra Innings package from the SF feed and only have the LA feed available. In past years, it was kinda okay, at least we had Vinnie to listen to. This year however, nothing, nada, zip.
The fact that Time/Warner covers roughly 30% of the LA market, means 70% of Dodger fans cannot get the games. Vin Scully, when he is at home in the valley and the team is on the road, can’t get baseball on TV.
There is no end in sight to this dispute. Cable contracts and coverage areas have been contractually negotiated for years in advance. T/W may increase their coverage a little, 3-5% maybe, leaving 2 of 3 fans out of luck. DirecTV will not cave to higher rates, they have to think of the entire nation. So this will go on and on.
And this is the first salvo in a long battle between teams and their fans. As these new cable/local contracts are signed for big bucks, this scenario will continue to play out across the country.
By the way, the Giants have a stake in their local provider, CSN Bay Area. Those teams with these types of arrangements can dictate terms and will not alienate their fan base.
In my mind, and obviously not Bud Selig’s, MLB is doing a great disservice to the fans in this situation. They have not considered what happened to the NFL in LA. Once teams left and the area got used to NOT having local teams, the LA market has adapted and just doesn’t care anymore.
Just goes to show, everyone hates LA fans, even their team.

Morse Code

A week into the new season and the Giants are 5-2, all on the road, oh and by the way, first place in the NL West.

With this type of start to the season, you would have guessed that the starting rotation has been lights out.  Well, not exactly.  MadBum has had one good and one terrible start.  The Cainer has had two bad starts, Lincecum and Vogelsong have been lacking in ther starts.  Tim Hudson is the only starter that has held up his end of the bargain.

So how have they been winning?  By bashing of course.  Pagan is on fire, Belt has 4 HR already, Brandon Hicks (who?) is the latest in a long line of under-the-radar pickups that has done well.  But in my opinion it comes down to the new free agent LF, Mike Morse.

Have you seen this guy?  He is big, burly, somewhat hairy and there is no doubt what he wants to do to the baseball, crush it.  It takes about a minute of watching him to know what he is about, power.  I think the impact he has on the other hitters in the lineup is not being discussed enough.  With a big bat in the lineup, the other guys do not have to press to provide power.  Pablo, Pence and Posey are generally line drive hitters that can occasionally go out of the park.  All three of them should be concentrating on hitting gap-to-gap, high average at bats that keep the line moving, because they know that Morse is sitting there waiting to drive them in.  It effects the opposing pitcher too, as he is the one guy in the lineup you know can go out on any swing.  Which means the guys up when Mike lumbers into the on-deck circle will get a lot of fastballs.

My nickname for the big guy, The Bouncer.  You may not want him to but he will take you out of the building.  Plus, he has a striking resemblance to many of the guys that have thrown me out of bars (allegedly).

This is a great start to the season for the orange and black.  After all, it is an even numbered year, OUR TURN!!

Bonds Stock is Up

Barry Bonds is at Giants camp this week.  Yesterday, there was a slew of articles about his arrival, with some of the comments not necessarily positive.  Any comments from the Giants was overwhelmingly supportive.
This creates a huge divide between the Bonds supporters and his detractors.  It is unfortunate that most sportswriters tend to lean to the detractors side, including CSN Bay Area’s own Andrew Baggerly.
It seems like the press was expecting Barry to come to camp with a full confession of his sins.  All the articles I read had some verbage about ‘the face of the steroid era’ or ‘disgraced former star’.  I read an online article from AFP (whoever or whatever that is) that was titled ‘Drug Cheat Bonds in Giants Camp’, ignoring the basic fact that when (or if) he did use PEDs, it was not illegal in MLB. 
Bonds did not respond, to his credit.  He is still appealling his Obstruction of Justice conviction and could not answer PEDs questions, even if he wanted to.  Did you hear that Baggs?  Ratto?  But still they insist he pull a McGwire and sob into the camera.  Hogwash.
Barry owes the media NOTHING.  He never was on great terms with them anyway, mostly because he never forgave the way they treated his father.  I don’t know about you, but if a close family member of mine was run out of multiple cities for perceived off field issues, especially given the immense talents he had, I would not treat them very well either.
Barry was the best hitter I ever saw, bar none.  No one was pitched around on a night in and night out basis that he was, yet he still produced numbers no one has ever matched.  He might get 1-3 strikes a NIGHT when he had 5 plate appearances.  For goodness sakes, he was intentionally walked in the bottom of the 9th with bases loaded and his team down 2.  And it worked, just ask Buck Showalter.
I was lucky enough to be at some of his great games, the night in 1993, when a local sports-hack said he should be traded, then he tied the game with a double in the 9th and won it with a HR in extra innings.  There for 660, with Willie meeting him at the plate, not a dry eye in the house.  There for 715, when he became the best left handed HR hitter in history.  And finally, when he did pass Aaron, the classy way that the Hammer congratulated him on the video board, while Bud Selig watched with his hands in his pockets, like the Used Car salesman he is.
One thing I have learned over the years is that personal experience trumps what someone has to say every time.  A friend of mine followed the Giants on a roadtrip to Arizona one year, staying where the Giants did.  She came down to the lobby and in a setting area off the lobby was Bonds, with 3 or 4 friends, chatting away.  Ever so politely, she asked him for an autograph.  Based on what was being written about him at the time, she expected him to bite her head off.  Just the opposite, he was very accomadating, gave her the autograph, even had one of his homies snap a pic of the two of them, both with huge smiles.  A copy of that picture is one of my most treasured Giants keepsakes.
Todays news from camp was the way Bonds went around, talking htting with the Giants players.  The comments from Crawford, Pence, Morse and all were like kids that had just seen Santa, they could not believe how fortunate they were.  I just wish the media understood that sentiment.
 

Second base is not second fiddle

Two things caught my attention over the last few days. 

First was an interview with Marco Scuturo.  Man o man did that guy sound down in the dumps.  He was talking about his various injuries from last season and how they have carried over into this spring.  Apparently, they have been working on his ‘core’ muscles and he has yet to pick up a bat.  Opening Day is a little over a month still, but that is worrisome.  Don’t forget what Marco did for the Giants in the 2012 postseason, so he deserves every benefit of the doubt.  But he is 38 this season, range has been reduced at a key IF position and it is anyone’s guess how his bat will play.

Second thing I saw was that the Mariners are looking to move their 2B, Nick Franklin.  The article said that the Mets and others were looking at him as a SS.  He came up as a SS, was not good in that role, moved to second and did a lot better.  He was a rookie last year, poor average but good power, 12 HR and 20 2B in 369 AB.  In the same article, it said the Mariners were looking for starting pitching, with Iwakawa out and Walker not expected to start the season with the team.

Hello?  Yusi Petit!  I know, the Giants want to keep him as depth, but the Filthies just let Chad Guidan go, so pick up the Chadster again for swing man, spot starter.  He excelled in that role for SF last season.  Or trade them one of the jillion bullpen arms I have been reading about.  Another thing that the Mariners were looking for was right handed hitting.  Hello, Juan Perez and or Tony Abreu.  Or even Hector Sanchez.

In any case, it seems logical for Sabean to check into this.  The Giants have a great utility man in Arias, make Franklin everyday 2B, which will improve your IF defense and when Scoots is healthy, maybe a platoon or move Nick to the bench.  He would be a nice LH bat with a little pop off the bench.  It also provides insurance in case

a}   Pablo leaves for free agency at season end, move Scuturo to 3B

b}   Pablo gets hurt or

c}   Marco isn’t ready for a while

A bench with Arias, right handed batter and Franklin, left handed batter would work if everyone is healthy.

To me this makes way too much sense to at least not consider.  Go get ‘em Sabs.

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