Monthly Archives: July 2012

Welcome Back!

There is nothing like a healthy sweep at home to set the stage for the second half; especially after the devastating road trip with which the Giants ended the first half. And the Giants reclaimed first place to boot. That said, the upcoming road trip to Atlanta and then Philadelphia (the two cities they rolled through on their way to history in 2010), will likely feature some of the most important games of the season.

OK, so maybe that last bit is a lie, but get used to hearing it from every press outlet for the rest of the season. The way I see it, every game is equally important. There was a very unimportant game on Monday, April 12th, 2010, in which the Giants came head to head with the Pittsburg Pirates. They beat the Pirates in that contest even though it wasn’t a critical game. If they had lost that game, there wouldn’t have been a parade down Market St that November.

All the games are crucial, critical, instrumental, foremost, imperative, decisive, vital and momentous; and every team out there is a major league team that can beat you.

Timmy is not back. But it has nothing to do with the fact that his 8 inning, 11 K, shutout performance is diminished in any way by the lineup of the Astros, which is being said on the Twittersphere by some influential people. If the ‘Stros don’t count, do the Giants get credit for those three wins? Or the other two wins they have on the season against Houston? And while we’re at it, let’s strike Cain’s perfecto from the records as well. Who cares if they are the worst team in baseball, you still have to beat them in 9 innings (or 12 as the case may be). Also of note, the Padres had nearly the same record as Houston coming into the second half and they took 2 of 3 from the formerly first place Dodgers. Two of the worst teams in baseball effectively changed the standings in the NL West. There are 162 games in the season, and even the worst teams are going to win some of them.

Lincecum’s accomplishment against Houston was a huge step forward and a great way to start the first half. However, I’m not going to proudly proclaim his revival. He’s had great outings like this before only to be followed by collapses, so he’s still got a lot to prove. His record is substantially better at home so this next start of his in Philly is going to be crucial.

At the end of the year, replays will be shown of the turning point in the season; Evereth Cabrera, hands on hips, taking off from third when Kenley Jansen was busy kicking dirt around on the mound. The third baseman, Hairston, was looking right at Cabrera and didn’t even raise the alarm until he was halfway home. All with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning.

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Giants Reign Over Kansas City

At the beginning of the 2012 All-Star game, it was hard not to feel like the ESPN commentators, Joe Buck and the always eloquent Tim McCarver, didn’t really appreciate the amazingness that is the SF Giants. It might have been in part that at least two Giants trotted out in the first inning in lieu of two NY Mets (Cain for Dickey, Sandoval for Wright). Before the game, they were calling Dickey “unbelievable” and Cain “good”. They brought up the allegations of ballot stuffing and even implied that Yadier Molina should be starting (if you read between the lines with a healthy dose of west coast cynicism). That, of course, was before the Starting Four put on a clinic on how to do the All-Star games right.

After the game, McCarver could only say that they were “freaking amazing” and Buck couldn’t stop talking about how much he wanted a pair of those bright orange cleats. Ok, maybe my DVR screwed up and I didn’t see anything past the 7th (not that there was anything to watch at that point) but I can imagine they said something along those lines.

So yes, the Giants ruled Kansas City, Melky got the much deserved MVP award (for which Pandoval must have been a close second), and the NL is officially on a winning streak. However that doesn’t negate the fact that for about a week, the entire country was a little more anti-Bay Area than normal. But Giants fans didn’t do anything wrong. Aren’t we allowed to vote 25 times each? And if you happen to have more email addresses, aren’t you allowed to use those as well? This is no different from when I used to amuse myself as a kid at Candlestick by making designs in as many ballots as possible. Mets GM Sandy Alderson sent barbs via Twitter at Giants fans, but you know the Mets were trying just as hard to get their fans to stuff the boxes.

When you step back and look at it, the All-Star game is really a popularity contest, not two carefully selected teams showcasing the best of the best. This is unavoidable when the decision is made by a mass of relatively uneducated people who vote as many times as they can for their favorite players. Is Pablo Sandoval the best 3rd baseman in the game? He’s damn good, but David Wright might be a little better than him right now. Is Pablo the most popular 3rd baseman? You betcha! If you want the players with the best statistics, then have a computer pick the All-Star team. If you want the best athletes, have the players vote on all the starters. But don’t whine about the system when it doesn’t work in your favor.

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Giant All-Stars

Today will be the first time in history that four All-Stars don black and orange (figuratively) on the field in the first inning of the mid-season classic. There have thrice been three Giants starters, most recently in 2001 when the front office strategy was to surround superstar Bonds with slightly lesser superstars. While there could easily be more Giants on that lineup, the four that made it each have their own great stories.

Pablo Sandoval is making a return appearance and brings a batting average of 1.000 into this game. While it’s his second appearance, it is his first start. Also, he got snubbed in 2009 when Shane Victorino was chosen by his own manager over Sandoval as a last minute injury replacement. Melky Cabrera gets to return to the stadium of a team that traded him away in the off season. I’m sure you are aware of how that trade went; Giants get a possible team MVP while the Royals get a pitcher who has only thrown 6 innings once this year, is on the DL, and likely would have been released or demoted to the minors by the Giants. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives.

Matt Cain has the third best story of these four. He has pitched in shadows most of his career, most recently in the shadow of Lincecum. He picked a good year to discreetly burst forth and is finally getting that national recognition he deserves. He even was an All-Star quietly, getting to two previous games but never pitching in them. In a rather controversial decision, he gets the starting nod over R.A. Dickey. By far the best story of the bunch is Buster Posey.  A little over a year ago, he was writhing on the ground with a broken leg and multiple ligaments torn. An injury that would have ended many careers, or been substantial setbacks at a minimum. Heck, I probably would have taken more rehab time to get back to my desk job than he did to get back into the crouch. He has shown very little trace of such a significant injury so far this year, and even has a stolen base (bringing his career total to 4). And now he is an All-Star, setting the record for number of NL All-Star votes. (Not that I’m keeping track, but Scott Cousins has hit .190 with Miami this year and is currently in the minors. Correction, Cousins is on the active Miami roster).

Near misses:

Ryan Vogelsong was just edged out for ERA leader by Ryan Dempster, who accumulated enough innings on his last start to qualify for the league leader board. But Vogelsong has been lights out since he came off the DL, and is now one of the top 4 pitchers in the NL (by ERA), all of whom were left off the All-Star roster. In fact, 7 of the top 10 pitchers (again, by ERA) are watching the game from their couch. Vogelsong is tied for second in the league for tough losses (losses despite quality starts) and leads the majors in quality start percentages at an amazing 94%. He has pitched into the 6th inning in every start so far this year. Just a teensy bit of extra run support and he would have likely been on the roster.

Santiago Casilla has been an amazing fill in closer. He is actually 3rd in the league in saves, with 21. However, he has somewhat imploded over his last 5 outings, with one save in 5 opportunities. That also raised his ERA from 1.59 to 2.84. I have to imagine that if he came in with to the break with a sub 2.00 ERA and three extra saves under his belt, he would also be on the roster.

Did anyone else catch the Old-timer and Celebrity game? I almost didn’t watch it, but at the last second I realized I had absolutely nothing better to do. I’m glad I did. It was much more entertaining than the HR Derby (and isn’t this all about entertainment?). It was also amazing and inspiring watching the wounded veterans out there playing ball.  And if I hadn’t watched it, I wouldn’t have seen Jon Hamm hit his HR. I thoroughly believe the only thing that would have made his trot around the bases better (as it is, he officially leads all major league players in HR trots) would have been a three-piece suit and a scotch on the rocks.

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