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Archive for the ‘San Francisco Giants baseball club’ Category

Pablo Sandoval, and Point of View

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Folks, I’m a baseball fan, so maybe this will make more sense to me than to you. But here goes…

A few years ago, third baseman Pablo Sandoval was on top of the world. His then-team, the San Francisco Giants, had won the World Series, and his power hitting was a big part of that effort. He had every right to feel proud, much less satisfied, and he certainly did.

But he also became a free agent, able to sign with any team, not too long after achieving that pinnacle. And because he was feeling buoyant, or maybe just because he was feeling “immature” (his own words now, but I’m getting to that), he got very angry with his team, the Giants, and signed with the Boston Red Sox instead.

Now, just signing with another team is not a big deal. (Yeah, it hurts as a fan when your favorite players do this, but it’s a part of the 21st Century baseball fandom experience.) But saying bad things about your now-former team is a big deal.

But at the time, Sandoval’s point of view was that he was a big power hitter. Surely, playing in Boston with the Green Monster (a very famous wall, for non-baseball fans) was going to help his power numbers. And anyway, he was frustrated with the Giants because they’d told him he had to keep his weight down. (My guess there is that the Giants wanted Sandoval on the field, and to keep him free from injury. But that’s definitely not how Sandoval took it. As a larger-sized person, I completely understand that impulse, mind you…but I digress.)

Unfortunately, Sandoval’s belief did not carry water. He went to Boston, but didn’t do particularly well. He ended up fighting nagging injuries, appeared to gain weight (which may have contributed, but may not have), and because he’d signed a very large contract, quickly fell out of favor with the Boston fans.

Then, he was designated for assignment this year, and given his outright release. Which is a very humbling thing for a baseball player…not something anyone ever wants, even though Sandoval’s contract was and remains guaranteed so he will be paid.

This story has a happy ending, of sorts, because Sandoval was re-signed by the Giants to a minor league deal. And Sandoval apologized for his previous comments, saying he was “immature” and that he really hadn’t felt that way. (My guess is, he was just angry over a wide variety of things, and didn’t know how to express himself.)

So, Sandoval adjusted his point of view, and realized that he’d had a good experience in San Francisco after all. The fans loved him there; the front office treated him well; he’d been given good medical support; and he’d played well.

That’s why he is back with the Giants farm system, and is attempting to get his hitting stroke back.

Now, what’s the lesson the rest of us non-baseball players can learn from this?

Sometimes, life is all about the point of view. And our point of view may not be accurate. We can make mistakes. And when we do, we have to own up to them.

It’s not easy, no. But if you can swallow your pride — as Sandoval did in signing a minor-league deal with the Giants — you have a chance to still achieve your heart’s desire.

I know I’ve made my share of mistakes in this life. I can’t take all of them back. (Some of them, I would not take back, because that’s the only way I learned. But again, I digress.) But one thing I have learned is that Sandoval’s reaction here was right on the money; he told his pride to take a hike, and did what was necessary to try to rejuvenate himself and his career.

More of us should be like Pablo Sandoval. (Further writer sayeth not.)

2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Leaves More Questions than Answers

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Folks, for the second year in a row, the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, is at the center of a scandal.

Last year, of course, the big scandal was that no one was voted into the Hall whatsoever (I wrote about that here).  But this year’s scandal is nearly as bad, considering — despite big names such as seven-time Most Valuable Player Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young Award Winner Roger Clemens being on the ballot again, the Baseball Writers of America voted only for three men — Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, all first-time nominees — and ignored everyone else.

Mind you, Glavine, Maddux and Thomas were all deserving candidates. I’m glad they got in. But I’m frustrated that Bonds and Clemens didn’t even get 40 percent of the vote, all because the BBWAA would rather punish alleged steroid users than celebrate great players.

This hypocritical attitude has already forced 3,000 hit club member Rafael Palmeiro off the ballot (he didn’t get the required five percent to stay eligible), has caused former All-Stars Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s candidacies to be largely ignored despite their memorable home run record race in 1998 that reinvigorated baseball, and has caused Bonds and Clemens to wonder if the BBWAA will ever allow either one of them into the Hall, either.

And I’m not the only one wondering about this. Keith Olbermann, on his ESPN sports show last night, asked again why the BBWAA insists on behaving in this fashion. (Granted, Olbermann is much more miffed about 3,000 hit club member Craig Biggio once again falling short of the Hall, this time by a mere two votes, than by the exclusions of Clemens or Bonds. But the point is much the same.) Olbermann believes at bare minimum that the BBWAA should allow voters to vote for more than ten people, the current maximum.

Here’s a sample of a few other good blogs on the subject, the first coming from writer Jonathan Weber at The Ballclub, a blog devoted to the New York Mets that in this case discusses the case for catcher Mike Piazza in detail:

But once again, the argument revolves around who didn’t get in, and central among the snubbed is Mike Piazza. Piazza’s credentials don’t need to be discussed. Neither do those for the similarly snubbed Craig Biggio or any of the others who probably should be taking their rightful place in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls.

The issue obviously lies in the voting process, and how those 571 individuals choose to cast their votes. It becomes, then, a rather subjective process and a bias against certain players who might have rubbed one, or several, of those 571 the wrong way. Or, however many of those 571 that choose to vote based on some archaic principle that only makes sense to them. Invariably, we get stories like the ballot holder from Los Angeles who voted for Jack Morrisand nobody else. Of course, what ends up happening is that Craig Biggio, who should be a Hall of Famer whether you feel he’s a compiler or not, falls 0.2% shy of election, and Mike Piazza falls 12.8% short.

Neither Biggio or Piazza has been specifically implicated of any wrongdoing. . . Piazza’s problem is basically guilt by association—though he’s never failed a drug test and never been specifically implicated for steroid use, he’s of that era so the suspicion will follow whether he’s guilty or not. At this point, if you haven’t gotten a smoking gun on Piazza, you’re probably not going to, because there really aren’t any guns left for the players of that era.

(Emphasis and ellipsis by BC)

This blog from St. Louis Cardinal Baseball.com writer Ray DeRousse points out the real problems with leaving Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, and the others out of the Hall:

Imagine it is the year 2114. A young boy from San Francisco visits Cooperstown with his family. The kid strolls through its corridors, gazing with wonder at the memorabilia enshrined in glass and the bronze faces of baseball’s greatest players staring back at him along its hallowed halls. Slowly, his excitement turns to confusion.

“Dad, where is Barry Bonds?” asks the boy.

The father stops, temporary stumped. “He’s not here,” he responds carefully. “Barry Bonds is not allowed to be in here.”

This confuses the boy even more . . .

Is this really the kind of conversation we want in the corridors of Cooperstown 100 years from now? Apparently the writers charged with voting players into the Hall of Fame do, as they used yesterday’s election ballot to strongly rebuke several players of the PED generation . . . (including) Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro.

(Links to Baseball Reference removed because they’re already extant in this article, and ellipses added to condense quote — BC)

Even Yahoo Sports writer Jeff Passan, with whom I’ve had my differences, wrote this:

As one side seethed about the indignity of Greg Maddux failing to show up on 16 Hall of Fame ballots and another side bellowed about the shame of Dan Le Batard giving his vote to Deadspin readers and another wallowed in the misery of Craig Biggio falling two votes shy of induction and the entire operation reached levels of rage and fulmination and wrath that have turned sports debate today into the modern-day Cuyahoga, a conflagrant river of pollution, a harrowing fact fell to the background.

The man who may be the greatest hitter ever and the man who may be the greatest pitcher ever are going backward in their efforts to join the Hall in which they belong.

If Passan, a man who’s seething hatred of Brewers OF Ryan Braun is already legendary due to Braun’s PED use (and subsequent cover-up of same), can say this, why can’t the rest of the baseball writers?

Oh, wait.  At least a few have, including Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel beat writer Tom Haudricourt, who admitted to voting for Bonds, Clemens, and a number of others (he didn’t vote for Palmeiro as Palmeiro failed a drug test).

But it’s obvious that many in the BBWAA are retaliating against supposed PED users, though there’s another factor in play — that ten-vote rule — that Haudricourt discusses here.

My view is simple. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro, Piazza, and Biggio are all clearly Hall of Famers and should’ve been elected into the Hall right away. But because the BBWAA seems to want to be punitive, these men aren’t getting into the Hall.

How do you fix this? Olbermann’s suggestions (referenced in this article by the Washington Post) of adding people like Bill James, some sportscasters like Vin Scully (perhaps Brewers-own sportscaster Bob Uecker might qualify for a vote due to his fifty-plus years in baseball?), and even a fan vote counting for one percent overall sound like a step in the right direction.

But one thing is clear: this must be fixed.

Because this is wrong.

Brewers Play Giants; My Thoughts

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My late husband Michael was a San Francisco Giants fan.

Of course, this isn’t surprising, considering he was a long-time San Francisco resident.  That his father and mother both supported the Giants, as did his brother and sister . . . well, that probably helped a little, though Michael wasn’t the type to join in just for the sake of joining.

Nope.  He loved baseball because it was — and is — a game that can be measured.  Baseball statistics make sense, to the degree that different eras can be compared and contrasted, as are various players, their situations and their teams.

Michael loved his Giants.  Which is why me watching my Milwaukee Brewers team play them is ever so slightly bittersweet.

I keep thinking about how Michael would enjoy this year’s Giants team as much as he would’ve enjoyed last year’s — the 2011 Giants once again have stellar pitching, defense, and play well as a team, all things Michael appreciated as a long-time baseball fan.  But, of course, it’s my Brewers playing the Giants — the Brewers, who mostly live and die by the long ball.  By the big inning.  Who aren’t exactly known for their skills at base-stealing, small ball, or for any of their starting pitchers.

I mean, think about it.  Who do you know on the Giants pitching staff that’s a big name?  Tim Lincecum.  Matt Cain, who’s pitching tonight.  Barry Zito, though he’s not done well this year and hasn’t justified the huge amount of money the Giants spent on him a few years ago.  Jonathan Sanchez, perhaps the best #5 pitcher in baseball.  And previously-unknown Ryan Vogelsong, perhaps the best story in baseball this year as he went from getting his outright release in 2010 to having the best ERA in baseball — 2.02 — in 2011, with a 7-1 record in fifteen starts.

Whereas the Brewers have two pitchers who’ve pitched reasonably well throughout — Shaun Marcum, who’s pitching tonight, and Randy Wolf.  Then, we have two wildly inconsistent pitchers who can be either really good or really bad — Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo.  And, finally, we have Chris Narveson, a guy who is better known for his bat than his pitching, though he’s had a decent year thus far.  And let’s not even start about the Brewers defense, as I could go all day about how many ways the infield in particular needs improvement (only Rickie Weeks is relatively solid at second, though he does not have great range; Casey McGehee has had some good moments but mostly isn’t known for his glove; Prince Fielder’s fielding has regressed this season, so he’s once again a well below average first baseman who holds his position due to his fearsome bat; and, of course, Yuniesky Betancourt, who hits better than he fields, but doesn’t exactly hit a ton considering his overall .250 batting average coming into tonight’s game).

I have mixed feelings here, because I see how the Giants are by far the superior team.  The Giants have pitching, defense, and overall team chemistry, even if they don’t hit particularly well . . . their pitching makes up for a great deal, which is how they win games.  While the Brewers have hitting, hitting, and more hitting, with some good outfield defense (Corey Hart in RF is good, Ryan Braun has really improved in LF but hasn’t been healthy recently, while Nyjer Morgan plays a decent center field and has speed — mind, losing Carlos Gomez due to a broken collarbone hasn’t helped), some good to better pitching amidst massive inconsistency, and more hitting.

So it’s a battle of two different styles of baseball being played out tonight in this Brewers-Giants game (currently, as I write this, the Brewers lead 3-1 in the top of the sixth).   Good to excellent hitting versus good to excellent pitching and outstanding defense.  A worthy game, one which I’ll enjoy as best I can, wishing all the while that my wonderful husband were still alive to share it with me.

Still.  I am here, and I see at least some of what Michael would’ve seen in the Giants, as I’m also a long-time baseball fan who appreciates excellent pitching and defense.   I can’t recreate a conversation which didn’t have a chance to happen, though I know what sorts of comments Michael made when he and I watched his Giants play in 2002, 2003 and 2004 . . . I suppose because I’m thinking so much about what he would’ve seen had he been here to observe it, at least a small part of Michael has survived.

And that, at least, is a good thing.  As is the enjoyment I get from watching my Brewers and Michael’s Giants.