Monday, October 26, 2009

Buster Olney's Point of View

Don't think playoff baseball is different? You're not a player, Are You? was the Olney article in ESPN mag and it uses Randy Winn.

With the end prize at long last in sight, the ghosts of playoffs past-better known as guys who have made it through a series or two- share their tales. And when they do, Randy Winn can only listen.

The Giants outfielder has played 12 seasons, about 1600 games, more than any other active player who has never reached the playoffs. But with the NL wildcard up for grabs that could finally change. (We know it did not.) "When you are a kid, you dream about playing in the big leagues," Winn says. "But once you get drafted, you dream about the postseason."

And when you do, you wonder if it will feel any different from every other time you've stepped on the diamond. The ghosts of October have the answer.

The ghosts would tell Winn preparation means everything. Before Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, Dave Roberts stood in rightfield, pretending he was taking a lead off first. Red Sox coach Lynn Jones played the role of a Yankees reliever, with his back to Roberts. The game began without Roberts in the lineup, and he retreated to the clubhouse to loosen up, just in case he'd be needed as a late-game pinch runner. There is no space to sprint in Boston's tiny clubhouse, so he got loose by leaping to touch items mounted on the walls-the TV near Jason Varitek's locker, the steel bars by Manny Ramirez's digs. "I was like a little kid," says Roberts. "It's kind of comical, thinking back."

The ghosts would tell Winn he will store memories, but maybe not the kind he expects.

Stop, right there!

This is where the Giants organization has to know what it is that will help them score runs.
What is it that will help the team win games? They have to get players into the fold that make scoring runs something not so difficult. Give the pitchers a reason to believe they have a chance to win every time they toe the slab not so much as believing in their ability to throw and their teammates ability to field but also believing in their ability to manufacture runs. By having teammates who can lose the ball into the outfield stands or rocket balls off the wall moreso than dinking and dunking balls where opposing fielders are nowhere to be found.

(thanks to Buster Olney for the inspiration of this rant.)

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why Bring Bruce Bochy Back?

For the past two seasons Manager Bruce Bochy was given a free pass because of the anemic lineup he had to work with. With the exception of Pablo Sandoval, the Panda, there was nobody in the lineup that posed a threat. Pitch around Pablo and let the guy batting after him hurt you. Often that batter was Benjie Molina. And for the most part, since arriving in San Francisco, Molina has put up solid numbers. Unfortunately, because he is so slow afoot, if he led the inning off with a single, chances are it would take 3 more singles to drive him in. And the station-to-station brand of baseball usually doesn't net the best results. Too many times the inning ends with the bags loaded or runners on second and third but no one scores.

The unbelievably consistent pitching of Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and (late season acquisition) Brad Penny got very little run support. And Barry Zito, who finally came into his own and delivered some stellar outings, would lead the league in least amount of run support. An ominous statistic his fellow pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are all too familiar with.

Talk show host, Damon Bruce, rants about how the Giants only seem to be concerned with being competitive vs. doing what it takes to win the division. When you look at their recent history it's hard to disagree with the usually negative Bruce.

Signing Edgardo Alfonso was not an upgrade but rather a far cry from having Jeff Kent.
Signing a broken down Edgar Renteria when it was reported that Detroit had to get rid of him because his defensive skills have diminished to a point where he was a liability. And although Detroit did one of the all-time el foldos in baseball history they were much better in 2009 than they were in 2008 and they'll point to their improved defense with Adam Everett at short and Brandon Inge moved from catcher to third base. And no Edgar Renteria.

Some teams have a way of landing on the luckless side of things. When the Giants acquired Freddy Sanchez from the Pittsburgh Pirates it looked to be a good move for the orange and black. That was until Sanchez spent frequent bystander time on the disabled list. Nobody saw that coming. But it's the kind of thing that happens to the Giants. Can you say Noah Lowry?

This off-season will go a long way to showing the Giant faithfuls of the lunatic fringe just how bad Brian Sabean and his cohorts want to win the National League Western Division. It's a very competitive division with everyone having just as much chance as the others to win the division.

Whoever makes the moves that most improves its roster that will be the team favored to win the division when Spring Training begins.

(thanks to Damon Bruce for his rant on the Giants being satisfied with being competitive)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Umpires...Brought to You just in time for Playoffs

These arbiters of baseball are given too much flexibility in the way they are allowed to do the job they were hired to do.

Personally I am not familiar with how all Umpiring Schools are run and why they teach what they teach (the emphasis on what they think is important and all that stuff) but I did attend the Joe Brinkman/Bruce Froemming school located in Cocoa Cocoa Beach, Florida. Home of former TV sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie.

The only glaring incident happened when the Wisconsin born Bruce Froemming taught his method of umpiring the bases. To Froemming, getting the call right wasn't as important as where you were when you made the call. In other words, as long as you weren't out-of-position nobody could have a reasonable conclusion as to why you made the call the way you did. Because one thing you weren't was out-of-position.

Hank Greenwald, the former Giant, Yankees and A's announcer, has an autobiography that is a must read for local sports fans. The information in this book is enough to keep you interested.

Anywho, Hank has some opinions on umpiring. I am delightfully compelled by Hank's insights on umpires because Hank's thoughts are remarkably close to my own.

The next big baseball war will involve umpires. Something that speaks to the question of integrity. Why is it that whenever you mention that word, it raises the cry, "How dare you question our integrity?" Why not?

Major league umpires have become untouchable... if a player is disciplined for actions involving an umpire, it's announced to the world. When was the last time you were informed of an umpire's being fined or suspended for his conduct?

Is there integrity when an umpire deliberately follows a player who is walking away after an argument and tries to bait him into saying something so he can throw him out of the game? Where's the integrity when 3 umpires know the fourth has missed a call and won't say anything because they don't want to "show him up"?

Where's the integrity when an umpire misses a play and refuses to ask for help? Where's the integrity when an umpire decides to "stick it" to some player who has the nerve to question a call? Where's the integrity when umpires put themselves above the rule book and announce they'll decide what the strike zone should be?

(Says Hank) I'm not talking about bad judgment with regard to balls and strikes. That speaks for itself. I'm talking about the arrogance that allows umpires to adopt the attitude they're all-powerful and rulebook be damned. The point is, the questions of integrity raised here are not ones I alone should be raising.

They should be raised by league presidents and the commissioner. What else do they have to do that's more important? When were umpires granted infallibility status, and how did I miss that?

How come baseball can deal with Pete Rose, but won't raise the question of integrity when it comes to umpires? Do you think for a moment that an umpire can't affect the outcome of a game by "sticking it" to a player on a ball or strike call at a crucial moment? Do you think an umpire can't affect the outcome of a game by arbitrarily throwing a player out?

Next time you hear an umpire say he threw out a player because "he showed me up," ask yourself this question: To Whom?

Umpires often throw players and managers out of games because they're afraid they'll look bad in the eyes of their fellow umpires. They're afraid not only of what the other guys on their crew will think, but of what their brethren watching the highlights on TV that night will think. They're officiating not in the best interests of the game but in the best interests of their image. (I've had people tell me umps have had TV games taped for them in their clubhouse so they can hear what announcers said about them afterward.)

(thanks to Hank Greenwald's insights)

Kevin J. Marquez