Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Charm

Alex Omar Hinshaw, born on Halloween (October 31) in the year 1982 of our lord. A former Aztec (from San Diego State) he stands 6'4" and wears the number 52. Bats and throws left-handed.

There's something magical about this guy who could pass as Tim Lincecum's big brother.

On May 30, 2008 he was unable to locate the five-sided slab of whitened rubber set at ground level at the front corner of the diamond. And not because the home plate umpire was devoid of interpreting what a strike was on this particular evening. You don't translate orally to people unable to hear, you use signs. And in this game, with overcast during twilight time, Alex Hinshaw could not find the zone. When he had to come in to the batter the batter obliged by slapping the pitch into left field for a hit.

Out came Manager Bruce Bochy and in came reliever Keiichi Yabu. With no outs and runners on first and second base Yabu induced the batter to hit a ground ball. Only this was a perfectly struck ball that made it into the glove of third-baseman Jose Castillo who stepped on the bag and threw to Ray Durham at second base for the force and then Durham fired the hot potato to John Bowker (at first) for Bowker to put the final squeeze on it and just like that the inning was over. One pitch equals three outs. The Giants defense turned a triple play!

On Alex Hinshaw's worst performance- at the big league level- he somehow came out of it like a charm.


Brian Horwitz, called up for injured Dan Ortmeier, was batting .294, with 5-HR and 18-RBI in 44 games with Fresno. And oh by the way, Outfielder Nate Schierholtz has been tearing it up lately. He hit for the cycle on Monday. Hit a 3-run homer on Wednesday. Was 1-for-3, with 2-RBI on Thursday and went 3-for-3, with a 3-run homer on Friday.

(thanks to the Fresno Bee and Giants Web site)

Kevin Marquez

Friday, May 30, 2008

Aaron "Wile E." Rowland

He fouls balls off his feet, gets hit by pitches, crashes into fences on the fly, is in need of x-rays almost on a daily basis and yet he rarely misses his turn at-bat.

He's reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote in the way he's always around destruction. Although Canis latrans, (the animated version) seems to bring most of his undoings on himself by miscalculating the use of ACME products in his futile attempts at catching a roadrunner, I like the way he always shows up in the next sequence with more madness on slate. Rowand, like Wile E., just never goes away. That's where the similarity begins and ends. Wile E. never lets any type of mishap, (say): explosion, destruction or demolition, get in his way.

Nor does our man Aaron. Besides, Wile E. needs some love.

Randy Winn hit a homer as a left-handed and a right-handed batter. That's Eddie Murray, or better yet, Mickey Mantle type stuff. Think about it, all the home runs hit in the steroid-infested major leagues, how many players can say they hit one from both sides of the plate? In the same game?

It may be time to change my attachment to Brian Wilson's name. In his last two save opportunities, in which he GOT the save, he was not Brian "Wouldn't It Be Nice" Wilson but rather, Brian "Don't Worry Baby" Wilson.

This is the level of performance Dave Righetti, Mark Gardner, Bruce Bochy (and every Giant's fan) had always hoped Brian Wilson would attain.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, May 29, 2008

For Some Pitchers It's All About Slowing the Game Down

In last night's game at the BOB (Bank One Ballpark) fans got to see a pitcher (Arizona lefty-Doug Davis) really slow down the pace of the game. It was like watching a pitcher play softball with a hardball.

Batter's had to adjust their focus to the tempo Doug Davis (former City College in San Francisco player) was delivering his pitches. And the Giants were very successful at making the adjustment as they went on to an 11-3 victory.

Currently there are a few other pitches who use the same approach to their game. Lefties Mark Redman (Colorado) and Jamie Moyer (Philadelphia) are the antithesis of Jim Kaat, who when he was at the end of his career was as close to quick-pitching as could be allowed (an illegal pitch where the ball is thrown before the batter is set in the batter's box. Rule 8.05(e). If there is no one on base, the pitch is called a ball. But if there are any number of runners on base, it is ruled a balk. The ruling of a quick pitch is always up to the umpire.) without getting called for the overly zealous rapid pace. He must have had what the home plate umpire (for his game) liked in exchange for being allowed to pitch in the manner he was pitching.

The other extremely slow-paced pitcher, is knuckleballer Tim Wakefield of the Red Sox. (Wakefield is the only pitcher not a left-hander of those mentioned.) But the general feeling with a knuckleball pitcher is you expect the pace to be altered and in order to grasp what is happening you, as a player, probably welcome the deliberate pace.

Watching Doug Davis reminded me of former Giant and Astro lefty, Bob Knepper. When he first broke in with the Giants (1976-1980) and later with the Astros (1981-89) I don't remember him being any different from any other lefty. But when he returned for the remainder of 1989 and throughout the entire 1990 season, with the Giants, I recall him being very deliberate in his motion and in-between pitches. The guy had a pretty decent career even though his career record was W-146 L-155.

(His best season was in 1978 with the Giants. He posted a W-17 L-11 record with a 2.63 ERA. In Houston, from 1984 thru 1986 inclusive he won 15, 15 and 17 games. His last double-digit winning season was 1988 when he won 14.)

I guess the pitching style of Doug Davis piqued my objet d'art last night since I picked up on something else during the game. It wasn't really last night's game in particular but an accumulation of games throughout the season.

Having listened to Giants' color-analyst Mike Krukow, over the past several seasons, and his baseball jargons or Krukowisms he comes up with, I was wondering why he hasn't once made a comment about Jose Castillo's elephant ears (when the lining of a player's pockets are sticking out of the pockets) since it was he who initially went to the well- for this particular jargon-in the first place.

It's just that with Castillo, the "ears" seem to be a part of his wardrobe ensemble. The Jose Castillo design, if you will.

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

(4) Josh, Biz and Roy of the Negro Leagues

Josh Gibson was born on December 21, 1911 and left us on January 20, 1947 at the very young age of 35.

He played for the Homestead Grays (1930-31; 1937-39; 1942-46) and the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-36).

Known as the "black Babe Ruth."

Walter "Big Train" Johnson, the Hall of Fame pitcher for the Washington Senators, considered the top righthander in the white game by most, said it all:

"There is a catcher that any big league club would like to buy for $200,000. His name is Gibson. He can do everything. He hits the ball a mile, he catches so easily he might as well be in a rocking chair, throws like a bullet. Bill Dickey isn't as good a catcher. Too bad this Gibson is a colored fellow."

He had a terrible time with pop flies but Josh's bat was so powerful the Grays had to make room for him in the lineup. He became the home run threat the fans loved to watch. That he was no Biz Mackey as a catcher or a Bruce Petway, either, no one ever argued.

Cool Papa Bell rates Gibson as a "good" catcher, with a strong arm, and a good handler of pitchers, but said he was poor on pop-ups. Teammate Buck Leonard had an unwritten rule that he'd take every pop up, fair to foul, he could reach. But it was wood , not leather, that put Gibson in the Hall of Fame (in 1972).

In 1942, he suffered severe headaches and had blacked out a few times. Medical examinations determined the presence of a brain tumor, but Gibson was afraid of the results of such an operation and refused to submit to the knife. After banging up his knees as a result of so many plate collisions, when runners came high and hard with spikes flashing, he slowed down as a runner. From one of the team's fastest base runners, he became a lumbering giant the last few seasons. On the evening of January 20, 1947, Josh came home and predicted his own demise, telling his mother that he was going to have a stroke. One version, by Robert W. Peterson in Only the Ball was White, tells of a fun and laughing night as Gibson lay in his bed. He asked for all his trophies to be assembled at his bedside. Once this was accomplished, he laughed, sat up in his bed, then fell over dead.

James Raleigh "Biz" Mackey............Born 7/27/1897 Died 9/22/1965
Regarded as black baseball's premier catcher in the 1920s and early 1930s. His superior defense and outstanding throwing arm were complimented by a batting skill which placed him among the Negro Leagues all-time leaders in total bases, RBIs and slugging percentage while posting a lifetime batting average of .322.

During his career he played for: Indianapolis ABCs (1920-22); New York Lincoln Giants (1920); Hilldale Daisies (1923-31); Philadelphia Royal giants (1925); Philadelphia Stars (1933-35); Washington & Baltimore Elite Giants (1936-39); and Newark Dodgers/Eagles (1935, 1939-41, 1945-47, 1950).

Biz mentored a youthful Roy Campanella. Campanella recalled:
In my opinion he was the master of defense of all catchers. When I was a kid in Philadelphia, I saw both Mackey and Mickey Cochrane in their primes. For real catching skills I don't think Cochrane was the master of defense Mackey was. When I went under Mackey's direction, in Baltimore, I was 15. I gathered quite a bit watching how he did things. The way he blocked low pitches, how he shifted his feet for an outside pitch, how he threw with a short, quick and was accurate without drawing back. I got all of this from watching Mackey at a young age.

Biz is the grandfather of -former Denver Bronco tight end, and 4-time pro bowl player, #88,- Riley Odoms.

Both Gibson and Mackey never played in the major leagues because under the unwritten "gentleman's agreement" policy, they excluded non-whites during these two players' lifetime.

The baseball color line, sometimes called the "Gentleman's agreement," which excluded African-Americans from organized baseball in the United States before 1946. As a result, various Negro Leagues were formed.

Prominent players such as Hall of Famer, Adrian Constantine "Cap" Anson, steadfastly refused to take the field with or against teams with African Americans on the roster. (Anson was researched by Dennis Yuhasz, and seen as a man of high moral standing, a very religious man and yet he was also a bigot.)

During his term in office as the first baseball commissioner, Keneshaw Mountain Landis, has been alleged to have been particularly determined to maintain the segregation, of keeping
African-Americans out of baseball. It was why he was voted in as baseball's commissioner by the majority of the owners during that time. Some of the owners were just as much to blame as they too didn't want some of their players to lose their jobs to African-Americans.

He used the then-existing constitutional doctrine of separate but equal institution.
Seperate but equal is a set phrase denoting the system of segregation that justifies giving different groups of people separate facilities or services with the declaration that the quality of each group's public facilities remain equal.

Although Landis was acredited with serving an important role in helping to restore the integrity of the game, after the 1919 World Series/Black Sox scandal, his unyielding stance on the subject of baseball's color line was a barrier that separated Landis from those owners who wanted to improve their ballclubs and knew the signing of African-Americans would be their best way of achieving such a feat.

Proof of this was that Landis died late in 1944 and Jackie Robinson broke the color line in 1947, with new commissioner, Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler not being so narrow-mindedly focused on keeping the color line in tact.

(thanks to Wikipedia, Baseball-Almanac and The Sporting News Hall of Fame Fact Book)

Kevin Marquez

Sunday, May 25, 2008

(3) Gordon Stanley "Mickey" Cochrane

Born April 6, 1903 in Bridgewater, MA. Died June 28, 1962 in Lake Forest, IL.

Career Stats: G-1482 R-1041 H-1652 2B-333 3B-64 HR-119 RBI-832 SB-64 AVG-.320

Player: Philadelphia Athletics (1925-1933)
Detroit Tigers (1934-1937)
Manager: Detroit Tigers (1934-midway thru 1938)

World Series Champ in 1929 (Phila)....AB-15 R-5 H-6 2B-1 AVG. .400
1930 (Phila) AB-18 R-5 H-4 HR-2 RBI-4 AVG. .222
1935 (Det) AB-24 R-3 H-7 2B-1 RBI-1 AVG. .292

Lost World Series in 1931(Phila) AB-25 R-2 H-4 2B-1 RBI-1 AVG. .160
1934(Det) AB-28 R-2 H-6 2B-1 RBI-1 AVG. .214

After breaking in with the Philadelphia A's in 1925, he quickly established himself as one of the best offensive players ever at the catcher position. A left-handed batter, Cochrane ran well enough that manager Connie Mack (a catcher during his playing days) would occasionally insert Mickey into the leadoff spot in hopes he could get on base for Al Simmons or Jimmie Foxx.

In the 1931 World Series loss to the St. Louis Cardinals , Cochrane became the scapegoat of the press for the A's losing the series. Not only did he bat a paltry .160 but the Cardinals stole 8 bases in the Series (5 by Pepper Martin).

In 1934, Connie Mack started to disassemble his dynasty for financial reasons and sold Cochrane to the Detroit Tigers for Johnny Pasek and $100,000. Pasek was then traded with George Earnshaw (a 3-time 20-game winner) to the White Sox for Charlie Berry and $20,000.

Mickey Cochrane's playing career came to a sudden end on May 25, 1937 when he was hit in the head by a pitch from New York Yankee pitcher, Bump Hadley. No kidding! Cochrane was hospitalized for seven days as this injury nearly killed him. When Cochrane returned to the dugout he had lost his competitive fire. He was replaced midway through the 1938 season. His managerial record was an impressive W-348 L-250, a .582 winning percentage.

Mickey was a close friend of Ty Cobb. Cobb was good to Mickey, helping Cochrane out financially at the end of his life. Mickey, along with Ray Schalk and Nap Rucker were the only ballplayers to show up at Cobb's funeral on July 17, 1961.

In 1947, Mickey Cochrane was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

Of all the information, I was able to gather, it appears that Mickey Cochrane was a serviceable backstop whose main asset was his offensive prowess. This might have been the exception to the rule of defense first for the catcher position. Proving throughout the history of baseball and life in general that there will always be room made for someone who can hit. Life has a tendency to make allowances for those who offer something most cannot.

There is one other thing of note on Gordon Stanley "Mickey" Cochrane. On October 20, 1931 in Spavinaw, Oklahoma, a proud father honored his newborn child when he named him after his favorite ballplayer, Mickey Cochrane. That baby was Mickey Charles Mantle.

(thanks to Wikipedia and Baseball-Reference)

Kevin Marquez

Bandits in Blue

With this recent horrific display of officiating in the big leagues I wonder if some of those bandits in blue are making calls based on the jersey rather than how the play was executed?

We always hear how some fans root for the jersey while others root for the player and it's understood that it's all a matter of preference. Hey, you pluck down the dollars for a ticket you can root how you choose. Wear whatever colors you want and root-root-root for whichever team you so desire. It doesn't have to be the home team.

I marvel at how it's always so coincidental that the popular teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, Dodgers, to name more than a few) always seem to be the benefactors of fortuitous calls. Then you see the behavior of that particular bandit in blue -when questioned by the manager of the team on the short end of the call- and you are almost convinced that's the way it works. Such is life...

Then you see where all the concern is about speeding up the game. How about baseball's arbiters, a.k.a. bandits in blue, do what they were hired to do and call a consistent rulebook strike zone. Is that asking too much of today's bandits in blue?

Teams are so concerned with the pitch count and a lot of that has to do with the extra pitches that have to be thrown on account of the unaccountable bandit in blue -behind-the plate- who for some reason doesn't feel the need to call strikes according to the rulebook. How about that, the arbiter who was hired to see that the rules were adhered to and s/he shucks it all aside for his/her interpretation. I thought that was something only women did and-for the most part- were allowed to get away with? Woman's prerogative an all of that nonsense. Well, guess what sports fans, the way officiating is being handled by the powers-that-be it is as if each and every official gets a mulligan per game. Maybe it's not such a bad thing that little boys and girls grow up to be game officials?

Dear Mr. and Mrs./Ms. Fan: Get used to it! You pay your hard-earned dollars to go see a game, to get away from all the hustle and bustle and what you get instead is schtick. If only you could get away with those incidental blunders at your work place. But you cannot so GET USED TO IT.

And, oh yeah, Mister Numbers-Cruncher, Bill James, how about factoring in the success rate of batters who got more than 3 strikes (courtesy of the bandit in blue behind-the-plate) when they were batting. Probably pretty good, huh?

It's right about this time when the Elvis Presley song-Feel So Bad- plays in surround sound...of course, it's probably just me this happens to.

Feel so bad
like a ballgame on a rainy day
Feel so bad
like a ballgame on a rainy day

Yes I got my rain check
Shake my head and walk away

Oooooooh Ooooooh, people that's the way I feel
Oooooooh Ooooooh, people that's the way I feel.

(date recorded March 12, 1961.
chart debut: May 15, 1961
Peak chart position: #5)

1961 was the year the Los Angeles Angels broke onto the major league scene.
1961 was also the year the Washington Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins, playing their first season in the big leagues.
1961 was the year Willie Mays signed the richest contract to date...$85,000.
1961 was the year Roger Maris belted 61 home runs.

(Thanks to Baseball-Almanac)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, May 24, 2008

(2) Roger Bresnahan - Duke of Tralee

Roger Philip Bresnahan. Nicknamed: Duke of Tralee. Born June 11, 1879 in Toledo, OH. Died December 4, 1944, in Toledo, Ohio.

AB-4481, R-682, H-1252, HR-26, RBI-530, BA-.279, SB-212

Played for the Washington Senators (1897); Chicago Orphans/Cubs (1900; 1915-1915); New York Giants (1902-1908); St. Louis Cardinals (1909-1912).

Player-Manager: St. Louis Cardinals (1909-1912) and the Chicago Cubs (1915).

Played on the World Series Champion New York Giants under John "Mugsy" or "Little Napolean" McGraw in 1905. In that Series his batting statistics were: AB-16, R-3, H-5, 2B-1, RBI-1, AVG-.313

In 1907, Bresnahan introduced the use of a catcher's shin guard.

On July 11, 1911, while player-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, the team was involved in a train wreck while riding the Federal Express from Philadelphia,PA to Boston, MA. Fourteen (14) passengers were killed after the train derailed and plunged down an eighteen foot embankment outside Bridgeport, CT. None of the Cardinal players were seriously injured, due to a fortuitous pre-tip change in the location of their Pullman car that Bresnahan had requested. The Cardinals helped remove bodies and rescue the injured.

Bresnahan was mentioned in Ogden Nash's poem "Lineup for Yesterday."
B is for Bresnahan
Back of the plate;
The Cubs were his love
and McGraw his hate. (January 1949)

Inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1945. On his plaque reads:
Batterymate of Christy Mathewson with the New York Giants, he was one of the game's most natural players and might have starred at any position. The "Duke of Tralee" was one of the few major league catchers fast enough to be used as a leadoff man.

Sabermetrician, Bill James, said Bresnahan being elected into the Hall of Fame was an honor Roger did not deserve. In an article by Stephen J. Dubner on April 1, 2008, the question asked was Who are ten players in the Hall of Fame that do not deserve to be there? He lists Fred Lindstrom, Jesse Haines, Lloyd "Little Poison" Waner, Earle Combs, Chick Hafey, George Kelly, Ross Youngs, Tommy McCarthy, Jim Bottomley and Roger Bresnahan, in no particular order.

Many authorities of the game consider him to be the greatest catcher in the deadball era. This is why I am puzzled as to why writers have the utmost say as to who gets elected and who does not get elected into Baseball's Hall of Fame. These guys may have played stick ball or some summer league but it isn't the same as competing at the higher levels, say college, minor leagues or better still, the big leagues.

When a guy like Bill James spouts off that so-and-so doesn't deserve to be enshrined I say, "What have you done between the lines?"

(thanks to Wikipedia and Baseball Reference)

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Catchers- Exemplary and Worthy of Mention #1

Johnny Lee Bench. (Born on 12/7/1947 ) Played for the Cincinnati Redlegs from 1967-1983.

A standout player for Binger High, in the small Western Oklahoma town of Binger (formerly known as Hoss Spit Flats), his father advised him that the fastest route to the majors was being a catcher.

Called up in August 1967, he batted under .200 but impressed many with his defensive prowess and strong throwing arm. Among those who were impressed was the Splendid Splinter himself, Ted Williams. Williams signed a ball for the young catcher that read: "A Hall of Famer for sure!"

Johnny Bench was credited with revolutionizing the position of catcher. The catcher's equipment was traditionally referred to as the "tools of ignorance" as many catchers lacked the fielding skills to play elsewhere. But Bench inspired many young ballplayers to become catchers.

His use of the hinged catcher's mitt was thought to be a gimmick, when he first used it after an injury to the thumb on his throwing hand, but it became standard issue soon afterward. The new mitt replaced the traditional rigid trapper-style mitt and allowed Bench to tuck his throwing arm safely to the side.

One day when a pitcher insisted on throwing fastballs even though he didn't have much velocity, Bench caught one of the pitches with his bare hand, just to make a point. (A folklorish tale that doesn't include dates and times or the names of the people involved except the hallowed one whose story is being told.)

Johnny Bench had a tendency to block breaking balls in the dirt by scooping them with one hand instead of the more common and fundamentally proper way: dropping to both knees and blocking the ball using the chest protector.

When referring to Johnny Bench's style of playing catcher you wouldn't say 'that's not the way to do it' because #5 could do it that way. It may not have been the traditional method of stopping a wild pitch but Johnny Bench was an athlete with tremendous ability. He had the agility to position himself so that if the ball did skip under his glove his body was still there to keep the ball from advancing any further.

His lifetime achievements were plentiful.
G-2158 AB-7658 R-1091 H-2048 HR-389 RBI-1376 BA-.267
He won Rookie of the Year in 1968.
Most Valuable Player in 1970, 1972
Ten Golden Gloves
Two World Series Championships (1975, 1976* *World Series MVP)
His number 5 was retired by the Cincinnati Redlegs
Elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, NY, ...1989.

His statistical numbers do not show the attempted number of steals versus the number of times the runner was thrown out. But it does show that he often threw out more runners than the number of bases stolen when he was catching. 610 runners got credit for a stolen base when he was catching. 469 runners got caught.

In his career he had 94 passed balls charged to his account.
446 wild pitches charged to the person delivering the pitch.

Statistics don't really tell the tale of Johnny Bench's defensive game. We'll have to leave those memories to people who played with and against him, announcers and or fans, just like with all the other greats who graced the field between the lines of fair/foul play. Such is baseball, when all the accounts of said game, many moons later, is left to folkloristics.

(thanks to Baseball Reference, Wikipedia)

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Baseball Needs Instant Replay

How many calls do baseball's umpires have to miss for the powers that be decide maybe it's time to use Instant Replay?

On ESPN's Sunday Night Game of the Week, a ball hit, by Carlos Delgado, off the top of the wall just inside the foul pole, initially ruled to be a home run was changed to a foul ball. (In the next day's NY newspaper the umpire who first ruled homer apologized for missing the call. A lot of good that does Carlos Delgado.)

On ESPN's Monday Night Game in Houston, a ball hit to the right and above the yellow line. The ground rules for this park clearly state that where the ball hit is to be ruled a home run. Fortunately for Geovany Soto, he wasn't waiting around for the umpires to bungle another call, as the rookie catcher raced around the bases for an inside-the-park home run. As it turned out, the umpires never admitted to missing the call but the batter hustled and got his homer anyway.

On Tuesday, in a game at Coors Field, Bengie Molina hit a frozen rope off the top of the yellow padding in left centerfield and the umpires ruled it a ground rule double. Many replays showed the umpires to be incorrect, yet again.

Yo, powers that be, you've done enough to squash the steroids thing, even though it was you who let it get out of control in the first place (wink, wink). Now it's time to install Instant Replay so that the proper call can be made. Please don't let the umpires influence your decision to use INSTANT REPLAY. They're all a bunch of Judge Ito's who wouldn't know if they stepped in IT, even if a swarm of flies buzzed profusely around them because of the unmistakable stank on their shoe.

Just the mere fact that they do not own up to missing calls is not something that should be rewarded. It's something that should expedite the movement of installing the instant replay.

Let's FIX the problem please!

Kevin Marquez

The Catcher Position

Catcher is a position, like that of the shortstop, that has to be seen as defensively first AND foremost then offensively. Throughout the history of baseball teams have done just fine with a slick fielding shortstop who hit in the low .200s and a catcher who hit an occasional home run or drove in some runs but not much else because it is more important to prevent the other team from scoring runs than to have a team that gives up runs as easily as they score them.

Benjamin Jose Molina, the 2008 San Francisco Giants' clean-up hitter who on occasion does throw out would-be base stealers but for the most part is an offensive-first, defensive-second kind of catcher. (Could it be, he is insulted by the term for catcher's gear, which is Tools of Ignorance?) You can see that by the way it appears- to this casual observer- he doesn't know what to expect from his pitchers. Where he positions himself behind the plate, as to where he'd like the ball thrown looks (to the untrained eye, maybe I'm not giving myself enough credit) like he is in a spot where if the pitcher misses by just that much it could be in the batter's hit me zone.

In other words, instead of putting his pitcher in a position to be out of harm's way he is instead tinkering with the fine line of a hitter's hit me zone and waste pitches which usually leads to a base on balls. This leaves his pitcher with very little margin for error. Of course, baseball like all sports, is a game of inches, but it is the catcher's responsibility to avoid trouble and not lead his pitcher into temptation. A good catcher studies the game and makes sure he knows a hitter's tendencies because he is relaying that knowledge (he has acquired, through all the hours of preparation put into each and every game) to the pitcher by the pitches he is signalling the pitcher to throw. A good catcher does his homework thoroughly enough to be able to distinguish one hitter's idiosyncracies from another. Each and every hitter that has faced his team should have notes on them so when that batter steps into the box the catcher knows what pitch to call for his batterymate to throw. The catcher has to do everything mentally that will help his pitcher physically. Now if his pitcher is as cerebral as he is athletic they can take their abilities, both learned and natural, to another level which makes success that much more possible.

Bengie was on the Anaheim Angels team, in 2002, that defeated the San Francisco Giants 4 games to 3. When I flashback to that memorable Series Bengie Molina's numbers don't come up at all. And when I looked them up I saw mediocrity at best. AB-21, R-2, H-6, 2B-2, RBI-2, BB-3, K-1, AVG: .286. But, he did get a ring while our beloved players in orange and black did not.

I like Bengie's bat but have always scoffed at his defensive prowess. It isn't that he stinks it's that he doesn't do the things that make me feel he is the best guy for the guy on the mound. Which usually sets the tone for how those other seven guys- behind the pitcher- do their job.

Aside from managing the pitcher, he doesn't consistently show the ability to move his body in front of balls thrown- out of the strike zone- by the pitcher. Often you will see him leaning or reaching for these errant tosses rather than getting his entire body in front of the pitch.

But he is the player the Giants' organization has chosen to be their catcher so let's support him nonetheless.

*********************** ************************

In other news, Travis Denker got the call up and Eugenio "Cheesy Cheetah" Velez got the bus ticket to Fresno. Denker was who the Giants acquired when they traded Mark Sweeney to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of last season.

The Dodgers, like the Oakland A's, generally are well-stocked in their minor leagues with high quality ballplayers. Here's to hoping Travis Denker is another one of those gifted individuals.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bullpen Must Deliver or Else

Bruce Bochy has the players he wants, on the current Giant roster, give or take an injury or two. The front office has been working diligently to keep tabs on how players are doing in the minor leagues and seem to be picking the right players to come aboard the big league club.

At some point the responsibility is on the players themselves. Either they can or cannot perform at a big league level more times than not.

Bullpen duty is tough work. But then again so is every roster spot. A part-time player has to know his roll and be ready to contribute in a pinch. Starters don't have any more pressure than anyone else because they are thought, in the eyes of many (or at least those whose opinions matter most) to be the best of the bunch. But if their contributions begin to falter then the necessary adjustments will be made to find someone else who can. Of course, if you have several players struggling to make it happen it's inevitable that it will be a long, frustrating season.

Right now, Charles Vincent Chulk, a.k.a. Vinnie, is struggling to pitch innings without serving up tasty meatballs for opponents to feast on. In fact, judging by the way the batters are drooling in the batter's-box, I'm thinking the more apropos nickname is Vinnie Choke. Based not only on his inconsistent performance but by the way opposing batters seem to be gobbling up his assorted entrees as if they're choking down all they can of Vinnie's offerings.

Word to Vinnie Choke, leave the inconsistencies to the: discordant, pin-the-tail on the strike zone, attitudes-in-need-of-adjustment, umpires.

Kevin Marquez

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's May, Let's Review the 2008 Giants

Looking at the numbers, and the numbers do not lie, as we enter the sixth week of the 2008 major league baseball season this may be what Giants' fans should become accustomed to seeing from the orange and black.

Currently the Giants have three players with at least 4 home runs. As expected, Benjito Molina and Aaron Rowand are leading the way with a surprise, up until now, John Bowker. Veteran Richie Aurilia and young Freddie Lewis are at 3, with mound stud Matt Cain all alone with 2.

Seven players have double-digit RBI's. Molina-20, Rowand-16, Jose Castillo-14, Randy Winn-13, Bowker-12, Aurilia-11 and Lewis-10.

Seven players have scored a double-digit number of runs. Fred Lewis-22, Castillo, Winn-16, Rowand-15, Eugenio "Cheesy Cheetah" Velez and Bengie Molina- 11, Emmanuel Burriss -10. (Ray Durham is at 9 runs scored.)

Seven (7) players have at least 4 stolen bases. Cheesy Velez-8, Winn-6, Lewis-5, Ray Durham, Emmanuel Burriss-4 (Brian Bocock and Rajai Davis also had 4. Davis is now with the Oakland A's and Bocock in Fresno, so he could add to his total later in the season.)

So far the 17W 23-L Giants have been a pleasant surprise. And as you can see by the numbers they are getting contributions from many players. It's lucky sevens so far, from the 2008 San Francisco Giants/Gigantes.

News and Notes********************

On May 12, 2008, in the San Diego Padres game they replaced starter Randy Wolf with Sean Henn. Not a good combination, right? Yes, you'd be right. Wolf was credited with allowing 7 runs while Henn allowed 5.

This day in history...(May 14) On this day in 1994, pitcher Paul Shuey struck out 4 batters in an inning, the first rookie to this in American League history. (It was Shuey's second game in the majors.)

Paul Kenneth Shuey, born in Lima, Ohio, was a first-round selection by the Cleveland Indians in the 1992 amateur draft. He was the second overall pick.

He also has the dubious distinction of being the only pitcher in American League history to have allowed the thirtieth (30) run to score in a game when his pitch was grooved into Ramon Vasquez' sweet spot for a home run on August 22, 2007.

Kevin Marquez

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tim Lincecum a.k.a. The Franchise

After yesterday's performance at AT&T Park, which made his record an impressive 5W-1L, with a 1.61 ERA, the Giants' young right-hander, Tim Lincecum, is fast becoming recognized as the Franchise of your San Francisco Giants.

You hear it mentioned over and over how when a particular pitcher is scheduled to pitch, those days are generally regarded as win days because that's how his teammates feel about their chances when this pitcher starts. This is the kind of positive energy The Franchise has created in his short time with the Giants.

The young hurler who made his debut last season, on the birthday of the organization's best player and arguably one of baseball's greatest ever, Willie Mays, will be just 24 years of age on June 15, 2008.

His only loss was on the receiving end of what could be considered, by baseball fans, the worst call EVER made by an umpire in major league history. On a time-out call that was waved off only to call a balk on Lincecum, which brought in the lead run from third base, this Giants' fan was wishing the fans in attendance could re-create what takes place in The Plaza del Pueblo in Bunol, Spain, on the last Wednesday of every August. That's when La Tomatina - the world's largest tomato fight- happens.

I doubt major league baseball would approve but I propose on Orange days/nights at AT&T, all Giants' fans could bring a supply of tomatoes and only after a vote was taken, by way of the large scoreboard, if it was determined that an umpire made a game-changing call against the orange and black, then at the count down (ten, nine, eight, seven,...) fans could unleash their supply of love apples on that bum in blue.

(thanks to ESPN mag for the info on La Tomatina)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, May 10, 2008

7th Inning Stretch

Harry Caray, the Bud man who was a Cub's Fan, popularized the 7th inning with his rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. But I wanted to see the origin of the Stretch. And as you can bet, aside from Wikipedia, there are tales (referred to as myths) about the Stretch.

The man credited with bringing baseball to Manhattan college in the late 1800s was Brother Jasper of Mary F.S.C. (Institute of the Brothers of Christian Schools).

As the story goes, it was a hot muggy day in 1882 when during the seventh inning against a semi-pro team (the Metropolitans) Brother Jasper noticed the fans becoming restless. To break the tension, he called a time-out in the game and instructed everyone in the bleachers to stand up and unwind.

A popular myth is that our 27th president, William Howard Taft, at a Washington Senators game in 1910, felt sore in his backside and decided to stand up and stretch. Upon seeing the chief executive stand, the rest of the spectators in attendance felt obligated to join the commander-in-chief in a little stretch of their own.

For some reason the image I get, when I try to picture this day in history, is the Mel Brooks character, in History of the World Part 1, as he does the rap song for the soundtrack of that popular movie, entitled
It's Good to Be King.

(thanks to Wikipedia)

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

On the Outside Looking In

In the most recent Sporting News magazine (the one with a wrap-up on the 2008 NFL Draft) Todd Jones, the reliever/closer for the Detroit Tigers had something to say that I wish he had not. Because it'll make anything he says from this time forward have less impact.

He basically gives thanks for his stay in the major leagues and reflects on some of the things that have happened during his tenure. And for all intense purposes he comes across as very grateful. That is, up until he lays this egg-on ME-

Baseball is more uniform now. Umpires adhere to one governing body of accountability. Used to be, they could be fat, pompous pigs- routinely out of position- and eject you with no warning and hold a grudge. Now, they're polite and treat you with respect, and we have a much better rapport with them.

Maybe it's me, but Todd Jones' statement about the umpires really makes me feel like I'm on the outside looking in. And this brown-nosing statement does nothing to educate his readers of how it really is-between the lines of play in the big leagues- only that it's best we do what we can to cover our butts... just in case.

None of what he says is what I'm gathering in from my perspective. Whether it be the box seats, couch or barstool. The only truth to his "wink-wink" to the umpires was that there are no National League umpires and American League umpires (with their pillowy chest protectors). But the 'treating players with respect,' I'm just not getting that vibe! Am I alone in this assessment of major league umpires?

Any time I hear a reference to the word respect I think of the late comedian, Rodney Dangerfield. And with his comedy you got the feeling that 'No Respect' were the veritable words to describe his life. But as for saying a group of attitudes-in-need-of-adjustment treating you with respect, well Todd Jones those are just words. You don't mean it. You're just covering your butt for some game down the road when you don't have good stuff.

Kevin Marquez

Monday, May 5, 2008

Wink of an Eye

I know this is a blog for the San Francisco Giants but after watching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs between the San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars and the effort the players on each team put forth I have to acknowledge them in some way.

We have to support those players who give of themselves on and off the field and present themselves in a professional, sportsmanlike manner. It is important that we, the fans, realize Nice Guys Finish Last because in the sporting world everybody is trying to find the edge to gain the advantage over their opponent so foul play is often more common than fair play.

Throughout the playoffs, the Sharks took the approach of execution within the rules while both Calgary and Dallas shook that off by aggressively attacking the rules and seeing what they were able to get away with. As the series extended into another game they were able to determine what was being called and what was not called.

Last night was proof that Dallas was getting away with all kinds of interference and late hits in a 1-1 quadruple overtime. Unfortunately, there wasn't a thing the Sharks could do about it except to try to overcome this miscarriage of justice and hope the puck would bounce their way. That had been how the series had been called and the officials weren't about to change how they were interpretting their decisions this late into the series.

This is how it will be for the young, scrappy, San Francisco Giants. Umpires will not give them the benefit of the doubt but most likely will give their opponent the benefit of the doubt. Something about a christening into the big leagues. (All rookies must go through. Funny how that is, because the umpires don't have to go through any such thing. But as good as umpires have it, and believe you me they have it pretty good, I still don't see or hear too many little kids aspiring to be an umpire. Thank God for small favors!)

Like these words to Jackson Browne's "The Pretender"

they say in the end its the wink of an eye...

Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the ice cream vendor
Out in the cool of the evening
Strolls the pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there...

I'm going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender.

(thanks to Jackson Browne, off his The Pretender album.)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Don't Touch Me There

Before each game the announcer has a tendency to ask the pitcher, pitching coach or manager what the(ir) approach may be - Why don't they ever go to the home plate umpire to ask him what sort of strike zone he may be giving that particular day/night?????

Another thing, the announcers nowadays never hesitate to mention how a missed pitched by the home plate umpire "the pitcher started off the mound.." is a bad body-language thing for the pither. How is it a bad thing?

Yo, mister announcer, can I ask you a question? This kid on the mound has been doing that ever since he toed the slab. At this point he's doing this by rote, so it's not a thing done to show up the fragile bum behind the catcher in dark clothing. Why are you going out of your way to give the bum ump the benefit of the doubt and not the pitcher? Are the announcers and writers conditioned to kiss the ass of incompetency, which is officiating's closest -most accurate- synonym? Like the two came to some sort of agreement?

I just don't get why the umpires are such jerks about everything.
There isn't a name of an umpire,that comes to mind, who has a fun approach to the game. No Emmett Ashford's exist any more. Why? They all seem to have an over-abundance of douchebaggedness. If that's even a word. (I have a difficult time using the usual four-lettered expletives to describe these Magoos.)

Am I alone, or do you feel the same about the officiating in baseball, football, hockey, basketball, and or soccer?

In last night's game at Philadelphia, between the Giants and the Phillies, Aaron Rowland returned to the City of Brotherly Love to a roaring cheer. And he delivered a homer in extra innings that would have won the game had not Charlie Manuel blew into home plate umpire Darryl Cousin's ear.

What made Charlie Manuel's chat with Darryl Cousins so timely was that his star first-baseman, Ryan Howard, had just got tossed due to the home plate ump having a bad case of rabbit-ears. That Manuel knew exactly which buttons to push was noteworthy. Evidently, the oh so sensitive Darryl Cousins likes a little tongue-Charlie Manuelly-with his promises. Because with 2 out and a runner on, the strike zone was no longer in existence. All that mattered was how Cousins was going to finish the game standing on two feet, since he became so weak-kneed after Charlie Manuel's wet whisper.

Meanwhile, Brian "Wouldn't It Be Nice" Wilson, had to throw 5 strikes (as opposed to the rulebook 3 strikes) and on the fifth one over the dish, Pat "the Bat" Burrell deposited it into the left-field stands for a walk-off home run. That was more than Darryl Cousins could do. He needed a golf cart to be removed from the playing grounds.

Hey, the Giants are a good team to pick on. With their lack of power and abundance of rookies nobody expects them to win. It must've been in a memo to the arrogant umpires.

Such is the case for the 2008 San Francisco Giants. If you're a fan you had better get used to it or its going to seem longer than 162 games.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, May 1, 2008

That WAS the WORST Call

Harry Wendelstedt can thank Gary Darling for replacing him, from what must have seemed like the loneliest position, at the top of major league baseball's all-time bad calls list. Considering the arrogance of today's umpire, it only took 40 years for one of the worst calls to be topped.

In Harry's defense, he was a rookie. In 1968, while umpiring home plate, in a game where Don Drysdale was setting the all-time record for innings pitched without giving up a run. (Fifty-eight -58- to be exact. Orel Hershiser went 59 consecutive scoreless innings, 20 years later in 1988). So you can understand why he claims to have seen something nobody else at Chavez Ravine or planet Earth saw, the night Dick Dietz, the San Francisco Giants' slugging catcher, was ruled not to have made a valid attempt of getting out of the way of a Drysdale pitch! It never occurred to the rookie umpire that maybe the reason Don Drysdale had the scoreless innings streak was because he was fooling the hitters. Well, add the Mule (Dietz' nickname) to the list of bamboozled batters. (What makes this call so bad is that nowadays very few batters exhibit the ability to make-an-attempt to get out of the way of a pitch headed for them. Perhaps the protective gear they are wearing allows them to "hang in there" that much more.)

A youngster trying to prove he belongs over-stepped his boundaries to see to it that a record was set. It was agony for fans of the orange and black but simply marvelous for baseball statisticians, not to mention "bleeders of Dodger blue."

Then, on April 29, 2008, Gary Darling relieves Harry, father of current ump Hunter, of the dubious distinction as the umpire who made the worst call in major league history. (Almost 47 years to the day, when Willie Howard Mays, Jr., hit 4 home runs at County Stadium in Milwaukee...on April 30, 1961.)

This guy had the audacity to make the signal for a "time out" and then, as the pitcher (Tim Lincecum) obliged, he changes his intent and calls the pitcher for a "balk!" It was Darling who balked, not Lincecum.

The idea that an ump would first signal "time out" and then change his mind AND THEN CALL A BALK is without question the reason this IS the worst call in major league history.

There may be an irony here. The previous "worst" involved Hall of Famer, Don Drysdale versus the San Francisco Giants. This call, involved Tim Lincecum, of the San Francisco Giants. Maybe, in time, Lincecum will have a career worthy of Cooperstown mention. And if he does continue to make strides toward enshrinement, it permanently etches this memory -in stone- so Gary Darling can dream this -nightmare of a call- over and over until each sleepless night convinces him he was the bum who made the worst call in major league history.

Kevin Marquez