Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pie in the Face Awards for 2007 MLB season

Inspired by the incredibly inconsistent officiating of the National Basketball Association is the
idea that this year I will be paying close attention to the umpiring that goes on in the Major Leagues.

Based on the descriptions and accounts of those games listened to on the radio or viewed on television, I will be awarding those umpire crews whose blown calls changed the outcome of the game (due to their being out of position or by not being willing to admit one of their crew members was out of position to make the proper call, consistently inconsistent strike zone interpretation that favors one pitcher over another, or just because the nature of an umpire's microscopic fuse, or incorrigible behavior was enough for the broadcaster to have an opinion of the man in blue. (Note: an ump who almost always appears like he cannot wait to toss a player, manager or coach from participating in a ballgame has a bullseye on him and it's a reputation he himself has earned. This ump will no doubt qualify for many pies in the face.)

Because the major league umpires are probably the best in all sports, it is likely that a "pie in the face" is NOT awarded every day.

I want to be as light-hearted about this as possible and hopefully bring some laughs to the daily grind of baseball's 162-game schedule. I somewhat borrowed the idea from the Three Stooges, because when they had enough or wanted to let someone have it, it was pie in the face time.

I encourage all the contributions I can get to make this as funny as is humanly possible.


Monday, March 26, 2007

He's Our-Mando

Amidst rumors about his possibly being traded, Armando Benitez says it would be a mistake by the Giants if they were to unload him.

If we can't get a prospect or a proven player in return I say let's see if Our-Mando can back up his words. This may be just the kind of thing he needs to get his blood boiling enough to where he feels he has to prove to the Giants' organization that they made a good move in acquiring him.

Although there is something to consider that concerns me about Armando Benitez. It's that maybe Benitez is a warm weather pitcher. His career season was in Florida and he appears to be dealing this Spring (in the valley of the sun). AT&T park is in San Francisco, the city Mark Twain aptly described many years ago when he said, 'the coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco. '


Saturday, March 24, 2007


Supposedly Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox throws this pitch that
spins clockwise and breaks down and in on right-handed batters when thrown by a right-handed pitcher.

What happens when a left-handed batter is up? Go to the screwball?

Who has the best eyes in baseball?

Generally speaking the best hitters have incredible vision as they can see a particular spin on the ball and know if that ball will or will not break. I'd want to hear from some Hall of Famers before this wonderkind on the Red Sox gets credit for developing the pitch being dubbed as a "gyroball".

What do YOU say? As long as the game has been played why hasn't anyone else come up with such a pitch and how much damage can this do to one's throwing

I'm still a big fan of the knuckleball. Because, for the most part, it doesn't have that much wear and tear on the body. Know who throws a mean one? Lance Niekro. (His father, Joe, threw a few.)


Pacific Coast League

The Pacific Coast League consisted of: the Los Angeles Angels, Hollywood Stars.
Oakland Oaks
San Francisco Missions, San Francisco Seals
San Diego Padres
Seattle Rainiers and Seattle Indians
Portland Beavers
Sacramento Solons (now River Cats)

The San Francisco Seals and Oakland Oaks usually had something to say about who won the league title.
San Francisco Seals won the title in 1909, 1915, 1917, 1922, 1923, 1925, 1928,
1938, 1954 (Seals defeated Oaks), 1957.

Oakland Oaks won the title in 1912, 1927, 1936, 1946 Oaks beat Seals, 1947,

In 1931 the Hollywood Stars beat the Seals to win the title.
In 1935 the Los Angeles Angels beat the Seals to win the title.
In 1943 the Seattle Rainiers defeated the Seals to win the title.
In 1944 the Los Angeles Angels beat the Seals to win the title.
In 1945 the Seattle Rainiers again beat the Seals to win the title.

Glancing at the PCL MVP's you could see why both the Seals and Oaks dominated this league.
1927- Lefty O'Doul - Seals (OF)
1935- Joe DiMaggio - Seals (OF)
1939- Dom DiMaggio - Seals (OF)
1945- Bob Joyce - Seals (P)
1944, 1946- Les Scarsella -Oaks (OF)
1936- Willie Ludolph - Oaks (P)
1950- George "Catfish" Metkovich -Oaks (OF)

For those of you who follow the Oakland Athletics, Jim "Catfish" Hunter was not the first catfish who played in Oakland. In 1950, George "Catfish" Metkovich, an outfielder, won the most valuable player award in the PCL, playing for the Oakland Oaks.
He was nicknamed catifish by Casey Stengel after he cut himself removing a hook from a catfish.


Your San Francisco Giants Announcers

Jon Miller is the best announcer going today. Bar none, he is the most known and his insight is priceless which means the Giants should keep him until he doesn't want to do this gig anymore.

Mike Krukow, Mr. Catchphrase and Duane Kuiper, a player who gets more out of one home run than anyone on planet earth are very down to earth and make the game fun to listen to on the radio.

You hear other teams' announcers and you think they are auditioning for the job. One key to announcing is the home run call. That's the announcer's signature. Catchphrases are also things you reference the "voice" to, as with Krukow's familiar grab some pine meat or Kuiper's you're killing me... These may illicit smiles but they also remind you who it is on the mike.

Who are your favorite play-by-play announcers and why?

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Spirit of Spring Training

Game #3 Giants vs. Mariners

I'll be doing an update later with more detail on yesterdays game agianst the Seattle Mariners. But first, I had to post this image (below). For our third and final game we sat on the sloping lawn behind Left Field. We try to get at least one game per year out on the grass -- which is yet another experience that is completely unique to Spring Training. There we were, partially under a shady tree in ~90 degree weather, on blankets, on a pleasant grassy hillside watching our Giants play ball. Beer and other vendors would weave through our little crowd at regular intervals. Birds chirped from nearby branches. Lots of great conversations going on about San Francisco baseball all around -- "Remember when Dave Burba....?" "We'll have to see but I think that Lincecum would be better as an 8th-inning setup man..."

It just doesn't get much better than that.

I snapped this shot of our little spot between innings late in the game. Dave holds the "Vamos Gigantes!" sign aloft while Denny encourages him (he's the guy at Dave's right). Our other crewmates were off walking around Scottsdale Stadium one final time. Note the beer vendor in red with his back to the camera. They carry these big plastic buckets filled with ice and plastic bottles of beer all around the stadium. Needless to say, they do a brisk business.

Anyhow, I thought this shot just captures THE SPRIIT OF SPRING TRAINING. I'll say more about the actual game later.

(Click on the Picture for a slightly larger/better quality image.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Barry Show

Game #2 Giants vs. Rangers

Barry Zito finishes warming up before the start of the game.

Barry Zito started for the Giants and pitched four full innings. He didn't look real sharp, but still managed to notch three strikeouts. Barry Bonds launched another absolute BOMB that cleared the right field "Salty Pavillion." The Giants beat the Rangers 13-9 in a game that featured plenty of offense, but pretty sketchy pitching.

Todd Linden was the batting star for the Giants, going 3-4 with a single, triple and homer. Feliz looked absolutely lost at the plate in three flailing at bats, but then cracked a sharp double in the fifth. He looks pretty much like the Pedro we all know as opposed to "Pedro 2.0 -- now featuring more plate discipline."

I'll say more later about this game, but the burning "prediction" question of the Spring amongst our posse has emerged: "how many games is it going to take Bonds to break the record"? That was the subject of much heated discussion yesterday during the game and at dinner afterwards. Watching Bonds in these two Spring games, he looks good. He's right on the ball and just mashing it. He looks (arguably) a bit slimmer. Still, some of our crew think he won't get the record until well after the All-Star Break, whereas other guys think he'll go on a tear and get it much sooner.

So, there's the question on the table: how many games into the season do you think it will be when bonds passes Aaron? Our crew's estimates ranged from Game #74 to Game #100.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lots of Canaries

Everybody was chirping, lots of canaries at Scottsdale Stadium 3/9/07, until you hear the public address announcer call out his name. Once HIS name gets announced you get silence. People want to see this guy hit. Me, my priorities weren't exactly in order. It is Spring Training, so I'm thinking about fixing 'me dry troat.'

I'm in line about to purchase yet another cold one and I hear the roar of the crowd.
Barry Bonds' name was just announced over the loud speaker so you know he was the reason for the roar and it just goes to show how he almost always seems to deliver...the goods. I look at the person next to me and say, "What did he just do?" We were both speculating on what he just did and it was neat how the conversation just picked up with people wanting to add in their own two cents. You knew it was good by the way the crowd roared. He just smiled, nodded and went on his way. Smiles filled the area and once again we got total satisfaction from #25.

We are not worthy,

We are Giants' fans.

Soak this guy in for all he's worth. Because you may not see a player of his magnitude, again, for a long, long time.

Prediction: He hits number 756 against the Milwaukee Brewers at AT&T park on July 21, 2007.


When I Say "Knee!" Y'all Say "Crow!"

Game #1 - Giants vs. A's

We headed over to Scottsdale Stadium expecting to see Barry Zito's third start of the Spring. However, when we arrived, we learned that Zito had been pushed back one day and Russ Ortiz would instead be starting for the first time this Spring. This was the only Zito signing of the day.

Look down at the lower right-hand corner. Yep, that's Willie Mays hanging out behind home plate before the start of the game. Willie was meeting and greeting and looking very spry for a man of his years. No explanation was given as to why Zito was pushed back. Hey, it's Spring Training.

Ortiz worked three full innings, allowing three hits and notching one strikeout. All in all, it was an outing that most Giants fans would be very familliar with. Ortiz didn't have one comfortable inning, yet got out of each jam he got himself into. He didn't walk anybody, but the hits he gave up were all fairly loud. He was helped by double plays in the first and second, and survived the (again loud) double to lead off the third by getting his lone strikeout followed by two fly balls. I didn't record his pitch count, but I did keep track of the counts to a few hitters. Yes, he was deep in the count more than a couple of times. Hard to draw any conclusions from this small sample, but I'd say that Ortiz looked rather like the early 200os version of himself. If that's the pitcher he turns out to be (still an open question) you have to think he'd be the fifth starter, heading into April.
Klein, Sadler and Palmer followed Ortiz for one inning apiece and the A's scored all of their 5 runs against this trio. All three Giants looked very hittable, and the A's were basically whacking the ball all over the yard against them (7 hits total). Sadler added to his troubles by walking two batters and throwing an (ugly) wild pitch to boot. It's just Spring Training... lather, rinse, repeat.

The star of the day for the Giants had to be Lance Niekro. He was 2 for 4 with a long two-run bomb to Left, but he also flashed some real nice leather over at 1st. Lance started not one, not two but three very sweet (and timely) 3-6-1 double plays, bailing out Ortiz in the 2nd, Sadler in the 5th and Vinnie Chulk in the 8th.
Lance raised his Spring average to .467 with his performance. And... there seems to be absolutely no room for him in the Giants lineup. Talk around the ballpark was "gee, too Lance he blew his shot last year... maybe he's figuring it out, but it's too late." There's no way Lance makes the Opening Day roster (is there?), but he certainly seems determined to make a case for himself this Spring.
Barry Bonds crushed a solo homer straight down the right field line, over the new pavillion thing and off towards Fountain Hills. The only slight taint to the moment was the fact that Bonds was batting leadoff in the 4th inning after an opportunity for him to bat with the bases loaded in the 3rd was erased by Lance Niekro getting thrown out at the plate by plenty to end the inning. New 3rd base coach Flannery cleary was sending him all the way. Niekro made up for it by hitting his two-run bomb a few batters after Bonds' blast. Both 'taters were off Loaiza who came out of the game shortly after Niekro's shot. I read on SFGiants.com that Loaiza claimed that he "hadn't warmed up properly" before entering the game. Whatever.
It was a really warm day today at the ballpark. The official temperature was apparently 83 degrees, but it felt warmer than that in our seats down the third base line. It was a bit much for our crew newly-landed from the Bay Area. And it's supposed to be a few degrees warmer on Saturday. Hydration, fellas!

Wow, it's great to be back here in this wonderful baseball atmosphere. You always meet great Giants fans at Spring Training, I mean look at the jerseys this crew was sporting a couple of rows in front of us:

We're all rarin' to go for tomorrow -- though some in our crew will no doubt be taking a few more shade breaks during the game. And possibly after the game we'll go sample one of the amusingly-named Mexican restaurants in Scottsdale.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Old-Time Baseball

In checking out baseball's Triple Crown Winners I first look over the hitters who led their respective league in Homers, Runs Batted In and Batting Average.

Then it's the pitchers who led their league in Won/Loss percentage, Earned Run Average and Strikeouts.

The names for both hitters and pitchers aren't really surprising -- although back at the turn of the century, the early 1900s, pitchers like Christy Mathewson and Walter "Big Train" Johnson really put up some unbelievable numbers.

In 1913, Walter Johnson was 36-7 with a 1.14 ERA and 243-SO.

Five years earlier, in 1908, Christy Mathewson was 37-11 with a 1.43 ERA and 259-SO.

And I'm thinking: who could've done better? And the answer can be found in just reviewing the triple crown winners of pitching. One man got his entry into the Hall of Fame because he had a run that wasn't about longevity, usually a pre-requisite for Cooperstown , but because he was the most dominant force the game had ever seen up until he played and not since #32 toed the slab. (What he did on the diamond in baseball, Gale Sayers did on the gridiron in the National Football League. They both accumulated totals never before realized, in a short period of time.)

My choice is Sanford Koufax (born Sanford Braun). He had a run from 1963, 1965 and 1966 where he won the pitcher's triple crown in each of these seasons.

1963: W25 L5 ERA 1.88 SO-306
1965: W26 L8 ERA 2.04 SO-382
1966: W27 L9 ERA 1.73 SO-317

Now I'm clicking around and I come across a couple of pitchers back in the late 1800s who put up monumental numbers. Numbers that had a lot to do with the rules of that day, but nevertheless these two guys had to hurl it.

Perhaps, though, when you see these outrageous statistical numbers you can understand why it was appropriate for baseball's powers that be to change the rules.

Guy Jackson Hecker in 1884 had W-52 L-20..Started 73 games, completed 72 of them.
In that year he pitched in 670 innings, walked 56 and struck out 385.

In that same year a pitcher by the name of "Old Hoss" Charles Gardner Radbourn was W-59 L-12. He started 73 games and completed all 73 games. Threw 11 shutouts in 678 innings. Allowed 98 bases on balls and struck out 441.

But... there were some interesting rules during these times.

1884- Six called balls was a walk (a.k.a. base on balls)
1885- Five balls became a base on balls. Four strikes were adopted for that season only.
1888- A batsman was credited with a base hit when a runner was hit by his batted ball.
1889- Four balls became a base on balls (walk).
1891- The pitching distance increased from 50' to 60' 6".

So you see that in the early days the rules favored the pitcher in that the batter had to be up there swinging. Needing 6 wide ones to get a free pass just wasn't that likely.

And with the pitcher up in the batter's face, they had to have cat-like reflexes with a birds eye view of the pea zipping past them. As medieval as the game was back then, you have to think a pitcher plunking the batter was as much a part of the game as anything else. It was a crude time and these were the pioneers of our great game of baseball. Somebody had to go through the bumps and bruises of a game not yet tailored for its best results.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

McCovey Chronicles!

McCovey Chronicles just kicks all kinds of ass. Certainly, there are several very good Giants blogs out there, and the four we have listed over at the right are (IMNSHO) the very best of the bunch. But right here, right now, I'm gonna give it up for McCovey Chronicles.

I mean, check out MC's recent post which poses the questions"what's up with the ever-enigmatic Pedro 'Pete Happy' Feliz?" and what can we expect from him this year?" :

The eternal question. The tendency with Pedro Feliz is to puff him up as some sort of Keyser Soze of lackluster production; the invincible source of all the Giants' evils and disharmony. He might have been the least productive starting third baseman in the majors last year, at least with the bat. At the All-Star break, though, he wasn't that bad. It seems so distant and abstract, but Feliz was having a Gold Glove kind of year and hitting .274/.306/.486. He wasn't exactly giving the Giants a significant edge on the competition, but he wasn't their main concern.

His second-half was absolutely rugged. He hit .202/.248/.348, which has to be one of the worst stretches in recent Giants history. If the first half was a poor man's version of an early '90s Matt Williams, the second half was Johnny LeMaster without the excuse of playing in a pitcher-friendly era. He just isn't the kind of hitter that will weather slumps well. A pressing Pedro Feliz is even more likely to flail at sliders, and that starts a nasty little feedback loop. Felipe Alou also refused to give him any sort of rest, and the end of the season featured a smoldering husk of a player that wasn't really that good to begin with.

Heh. That's the kind of sassy and savvy stuff that you're just never going to get in our local paper of record. MC's analysis, plus the remarks of the knowledgeable commenters, makes for damn compelling Giants-themed reading. Yet more proof (as if any were needed) that the blogosphere continues to provide essential and unique content far beyond what the mainstream media can or will (currently) offer.

Plus, I'm getting real excited for our Spring Training trip (T-minus 1.5 days!) and McCovey Chronicles has an open Spring Training post today!

After waiting months for exhibition games to start, we're stuck following games that are impossible to care about. If the statistics don't mean anything, the wins don't mean anything, and the losses don't mean anything, what's the point? There isn't a point...unless you're in Scottsdale, sitting in the shade, drinking something tasty, and actually watching players live. It might not be as fun as sitting inside an office on a beautiful day, but it's a start.

So this is an open thread to brag about springs past and present. Are you going to Scottsdale this year? Have you been before? Did you come home thinking Random Player was a star in the making, only to have Random Player eventually turn out to be Gino Minutelli? Did you understand what in the heck the big deal was with The Pink Pony?

I posted my thoughts over at MC as "ChaChaBowlRich". Check it out. And add your own Scottsdale thoughts .... either at MC or right here in our Comments. Been to Spring Training? Going this year?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Spring Training

Well, it's t-minus three days and counting until we take off for "The Valley of the Sun"(TM) for another visit to Giants Spring Training in Scottsdale, Arizona. Kevin (who is writing here under the name silverstreak) and I will be joined by our compadres Bill, Jonathan, Dave and Craig.

We'll be posting our observations of the Giants and the Spring Training Experience.

I can't promise we'll be as thorough (or nearly as pictoral) as the really great reporting going on over at Giants Jottings, but we'll give it a shot.

And if you haven't made the trip down to Scottsdale, you really should. I mean, how cool is it to be on hand for events like the one pictured here.

Yep, that's the very first pitch thrown by Mr. Barry Zito in a Giants uniform.

(Well, OK, so we weren't on hand for that cool event, but we may get to see Barry's SECOND outing in a Giants uniform. Which is pretty damn cool.)

(Photo courtesy of Giants Jottings.)

Caribbean Series

A lot of ballplayers need seasoning so they participate in the Caribbean Series.

It does a lot of players good but one can't get too fired up based on statistics accumulated in this league. If it appears a player (for your favorite team) may be turning the corner in his ascent to superstardom, remember that there was one player- in particular- who made a big splash in the Caribbean Series.

He would win the Most Valuable Player in back-to-back seasons (1998, 1999) and it looked for all the baseball world like this guy was the real deal...

The player I am speaking of is Neifi Perez.

Candlestick Memories

I subscribe to ESPN magazine and a buddy renewed my USA Today Sports Weekly, but because of my work schedule I am not always able to read the issue when it arrives. Sometimes I get to it many, many moons later.

I just got to the January 4, 2007 issue of USA Today Sports Weekly and there was a section of Deaths-2006 passages.

Jack Snow, Curt Gowdy, Kirby Puckett... I remembered. But Steve Howe, the troubled lefty who came up from the Dodger organization and Johnny Callison, the former Philadelphia Phillie, I missed. He played for 16 seasons and was responsible for ending the 1964 All-Star game with a home run.

A Candlestick memory of mine concerned #6 of the Philiadelphia Phillies, Johnny Callison.
In my first game ever at Candlestick Park, sitting in the upper deck between home and third I saw Callison, as a Phillie, hit one off the top of the left centerfield fence and run for a triple. Back then the fence had a yellow line on the top of it and there were bleachers in right field..The stadium would not be enclosed for several years.

As a youngster there was always this emphasis to root for the home team, but occasionally someone on the other team would do something remarkable and you just had to accept the fact that not all of the good players were on the "home" team.

Besides Pitching

This past World Series illuminated the importance of pitchers being able to field their positions. The Cardinals saw a weakness in the Tigers- something no other team detected- and exploited it into a 2006 World Series crown.

Isn't that the way it is with baseball. When a player continually boots grounders or makes errant throws we know he needs to be replaced.

No news is good news unless you flash the leather.

If that player is a better than average hitter the manager will try to hide him, somewhere on the field, so he can have an opportunity do what he does best, which is hit. Unfortunately, in baseball, we all agree that nowhere between the lines is safe if you cannot catch the ball. Sooner or later the ball will find you and when it does you will be exposed for the E that you unfortunately are as a fielder.

Back to pitcher, I see where Carlos Zambrano just signed a big contract with the Chicago Cubs. I had no idea the big man hit 6 homers last year.

Pitchers who can hit is a bigtime bonus. I remember sitting in the upper deck at Candlestick right behind the foul pole in right field when Don Robinson, Caveman, was announced as a pinch-hitter and the Caveman hit one deep into left field bleachers, bye bye baby!

Of course, Babe Ruth was so proficient at hitting he became an outfielder so he could play every day instead of every fourth day.

In 2001, Mike Hampton, of the Colorado Rockies, spurred some curiosity as to the record for homers by a pitcher in a single season. That year Hampton hit 7. You think because he played in Colorado the skuttlebutt wasn't so much how many he hit but where he was hitting them?

The record for homers by a pitcher in a single season (pitcher being defined as a player who pitches in at least 3 games in the given year, and being in a game as their current pitcher
when hitting the home run.)

Wes Ferrell hit 9 in 1931 for the Cleveland Indians. He is also the all-time leader in homers by a pitcher (excluding Ruth, of course) with 38.

2) Bob Lemon - 37
3) Warren Spahn - 35
4) Red Ruffing - 34
5) Earl Wilson - 33
6) Don Drysdale - 29

Note: In the 1968 World Series between St.Louis and Detroit they had similar situations in their batting order. The Cardinals had the slick-fielding but anemic hitting Dal Maxvill ahead of all-world athlete Bob Gibson and the Tigers had perhaps the worst hitting infielder of all-time hitting eighth, ahead of Earl Wilson. That hitter was Ray Oyler..and yet somehow when one bats below .200 it became known as the Mendoza Line...