Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Life of (Rick) Reilly and other Major League Stuff

In the 2/8/2010 issue of ESPN magazine, Rick Reilly was on a roll (with the lettuce and tomatoes). His article entitled Some See Jocks Behaving Badly. I See a Cup Half-Full.

Here are some of the morsels of delight...

You can't knock the smile off my face with a snowball. I am Optimist Prime. You see a recession? I see a pawnshop boom. You see global warning? I see terrific new surf spots.

It's been bad news if you're a Mark McGwire fan. He copped to using steroids throughout the '90's, which surprised exactly three (3) people, all of them at the Beijing Dominos Association.

It's been bad news if you're a Tiger Woods fan. Unless you think launching a Scud missile into the middle of your family, losing tens of millions a year in endorsements and having to live like Howard Hughes is a sweet move.

...Lane Kiffin, an unproven, scatter-mouthed, rule-breaking 34-year old whose combined head coaching record is 12-21. Kiffin's leaving the Vols was especially bad news for Kiffin's 1-year old. Monte Knox Kiffin, whose middle name is an homage to Knoxville. Honey, do you have the Wite-Out? Maybe we can pencil in "Troy" on the birth certificate?

...Trading Pete Carroll for Kiffin as your crosstown rival (UCLA) is like trading a hangman for a hangnail.

Some Major League Baseball Prospects according to ESPN mag (same issue as Rick Reilly article)... Max Kepler, 16, OF, Twins. Home Country: Germany Germany's top export: Charlie Getzien (145 wins, 1884-1892).

Many German immigrants played pro ball around the turn of the 20th century but that pipeline dried up. (Yeh, something called World War I.) Last July the Twins gave Kepler an $800,000 bonus-the most ever for a European position player. Kepler, son of ballet dancers, is understandably raw, but his blend of power, speed and athletic grace reminds scouts of J.D. Drew.

Hak-Julee, 19, Cubs. Home Country: South Korea. South Korea's top export: Chan Ho Park (120 career wins). Lee, who signed in 2008 for $725,000 was money in his stateside debut: He hit .330 and stole 25 bases for Boise of the short-season Northwest League. Those numbers look even better when you consider his competition was mostly players drafted out of college. The 6'2" 170-pound Lee has the makings of a classic leadoff man. His blazing speed led one scout to dub him the Korean Jose Reyes.

Alex Liddi, 21, third-baseman, Mariners, Home Country: Italy. Italy's Top Export: Reno Bertoia (batted .244 from 1953-1962).

After three ho-hum years in the minors, the 6'4" 176-pound Liddi, broke out last season, batting .345 with 23 homers Class A-High Desert. Playing in one of the best hitter's parks in the minors didn't hurt but scouts also love Liddi's lean frame and athleticism.

Jurickson Profar 16, SS, Rangers. Home Country: Curacao. Curacoa's Top Export: Andruw Jones (388 career home runs). The 6'1", 185-pound prefers to play every day, passing up the chance to pitch. The Rangers gave him a 1.55 million bonus last July. Profar, who homered in Curacao's 2004 Little League World Series title game victory, was the talk of the instructional leagues this past fall.

Julio Teheran 19, RHP; Braves. Home Country: Colombia. Colombia's Top Export: Edgar Renteria (2,185 career hits).

Only one Colombian pitcher-2006 Mariner Emiliano Fruto- has ever won a big league game. Braves signed him in 2007 for $850,000. The 6'2" 160-pound righty dominated the rookie-level Appalachian League in 2009, posting a 2.68 ERA for Danville.


K Korner by Tim Kurkjian

Why did the Kansas City Royals give 35-year-old Jason Kendall a 2-year, $6 million contract? KC pitchers led the majors with 89 wild pitches last year, and catcher Miguel Olivo led all backstops with 10 passed balls. Kendall had just 4, and the team thinks the pitching staff will be more confident with the veteran behind the plate.

By re-signing catcher Benjie Molina, the Giants have shown they clearly believe their top prospect, Buster Posey, needs more time in the minors. "He can hit in the big leagues right now," says one scout. "But I saw him in the Arizona Fall League, and I don't think he can catch Tim Lincecum's stuff yet."


Who could have guessed nature's call could lead to a call to a lawyer? In 2008, a fan who said he merely took a potty break during the seventh-inning singing of "God Bless America" was promptly booted from Yankee Stadium. "If a club conditions something like that," says Matt Mitten, director of Marquette's National Sports Law Institute, "it has to provide notice up front, put it on the back of the ticket, make announcements and spell out the consequences." Because the Yanks didn't, the desperate fan took home $10,000 and the seventh-inning stretch now extends all the way to the can. (One of those Blue Collar comedians, Bill Engvall, has that bit of needing to have a sign for everything. Un-be-lieve-able. Only in America, eh Don King?)

(thanks to ESPN mag for the information)

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spring Training Fever and More

The Thursday Examiner (2/18) had an interesting take on the upcoming major league season and our San Francisco Giants.

First point, Who will be the fifth starter? All indications are that top prospect Madison Bumgarner is the lead horse to become the Giants' No. 5 starter this season.

Then in an article neatly tucked in the corner it mentions Todd Wellemeyer, who was invited to camp. Wellemeyer is the lead man, the way I see it. In 2008, the 31-year old righty won 13 games and posted a 3.71 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals. I had him on my fantasy team. You guys/gals who play fantasy know how it is playing. You get to know just how solid a ballplayer is or is not. Wellemeyer may have been dropped a time or two, but I always found reason to pick him back up.

2nd point: Can Schierholtz stay in the lineup? Nate Schierholtz has been one of the Giants' top outfield prospects for years, but has yet to crack the starting lineup. This appears to finally be the year Schierholtz will get that chance.

3rd point: Will Aubrey Huff regain his form? Which Huff will the Giants get? The player who is a career .282 hitter with three 100-RBI seasons or the guy who hit .241, including a miserable .189 in 40 games with the Detroit Tigers last season? Spring training will be everybody's chance to see if Huff is the real deal.

About Mark DeRosa, a career .275 hitter who has clubbed over 20 homers each of the past two seasons.


I saw this interesting tidbit in the 2/8/2010 ESPN magazine.
The piece was called "Journeymen"

Don Newcombe. The Newk won 27 games in 1956, earning the Cy Young Award and MVP. The Brooklyn Dodger hurler faltered soon afterwards and in 1961 was out of the majors. He resurfaced in 1962 as a first-baseman for the Nagoya Dragons of the Japan league.

He belted 12 homers and batted .262 in 81 games.

In looking up Newcombe's career I spotted that in 1955, as a Dodger, he belted 7-HRs, drove in 23 runs and batted .359. In 1959, his last hurrah in the big leagues, he pitched for the Cincinnati Redlegs. He had a 13-8 win/loss record and an ERA of 3.16. He batted .305, had 21-RBI, with 3-HR.

Let the records show, Don Newcombe could hit. And he proved it in his Japan journey. To come back as a position player and succeed I thought was pretty neat.

"Golly gee, Beave, cut it out!"

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Little Henry Schulman

In yesterday's Chronicle, Henry Schulman had this to say, in reference to Tim Lincecum's remark, "I think last year was a good springboard for this season to jump off of."

Schulman's response: Those who stand on that springboard understand the jump is healthier if the pool is full.

Good stuff Harry.

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jack Clark...former SF Giant and STL Cardinal

Lately Will Leitch has been hitting the bullseye in his articles. And if they're about baseball there is a good chance I'll be sharing them with the readers of the Cha Cha Bowl blog.

In the 2/01/10 issue of Sporting News, Will's World had this to digest.

...I can only think about what it means to be 12 years old through the prison of how I felt when I was 12. It's different now. It's the same way my father didn't understand how I could play Nintendo when I was 12, the same way his father didn't understand how he could watch so much television, the same way his father didn't understand that newfangled radio. Everything is different and complaining about how Things Aren't the Way They Used to Be is a grand American tradition.

Which brings me to Jack Clark. In 1985, St. Louis' first baseman hit 22 home runs, which at the time seemed like the most home runs a Cardinal could possibly hit. Clark wasn't my favorite Cardinal-those were Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee, of course- but he was superhuman. Clarks stats have aged well. His walk rate and on-base percentage weren't appreciated at the time, but in a Moneyball age, we see he probably was better than we remember.

Clark blasted new St. Louis Cardinals' hitting coach, Mark McGwire, saying, "Just seeing him in uniform makes me want to throw up." As for other players who have admitted to steroids use: "They should all be in the Hall of Shame. ...They're all creeps. All these guys have been liars."

Jack Clark became the guy at the breakfast table, reading the newspaper, banging his fist, "What the heck's going on with this world?!"

You never see active players say any of this. They don't look to the past because they live in the present. It's not until their careers are over that they realize what they've lost, what they didn't appreciate, what others accomplished that they didn't. But this is precisely what fans do. Fans watch sports, in part, because they imagine how they'd do things differently if it were they playing.

Up until the last comment about fans imagining they were playing I was in total agreement of and couldn't have said it better. But as a fan I never thought of how it would be if I were in the majors. I realized early in life that I wasn't as talented as these players and just figured everything they did was to make them the best player they could be. That's why when I see a bitter Jack Clark statement about how the steroid era was filled with liars I don't think he understands.

Sure, he may not have "cheated" but you mean to tell me he didn't do anything to try and get an edge over his opponents? To what degree you cheat is not what is important. It's that you felt the need to do whatever it took to make you better. And if it made you better you would be paid accordingly. If the cost meant years of life, that would be something to seriously consider even though we all know nobody is guaranteed tomorrow.

I watch sports to see the best players participate. And I hope that one day those players put it all together for the team I root for most, the San Francisco Giants. I hope to one day see the Giants win a World Series title.

Kevin Marquez

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Talking Baseball

Tim Lincecum was signed to a 2-year contract, the pitchers and catchers are getting closer to reporting to Spring Training, at their top flight Scottsdale facility so I figure it's time to talk a little baseball.

Occasionally I'll read a survey or see an article on a player and an interesting tidbit is found within its contents. In the January 18th Sporting News was a survey on the newly retired, sure-to-be Hall-of-Famer, Randy Johnson.

Toughest thing about Johnson: His stuff, size or demeanor?
"His stuff, because you-and he- didn't know where it was going to go sometimes." -Mark Whiten

Which current pitcher compares to Johnson in his heyday?
"Not many 6-10 ugly lefties out there."

A February 1st article was a question and answer and the question was, What does it matter if you strike out, fly out or ground out? An out is an out. Am I out of my mind?

Answer: You can actually tax a pitcher more by making him throw more pitches to strike a batter out instead of rolling over the first fastball down and away at the knees.

It used to be the pitcher who started the game finished the game. And the thinking was to make your opponent earn their outs. It was an embarrasment to most players when they approached or surpassed 100 whiffs in a season. That is no more. Nowadays an out is an out because of the almighty pitch count.

Everything revolves around the pitch count. When teams are at-bat they are schooled to not be so aggressive and swing at the first pitch. Even if the pitcher has a history of getting the first pitch strike? One might ask. YES, even if it's likely to be the best pitch you are likely to see. That's absurd.

Don't give a hitter instructions to do something that might be exactly what the pitcher is hoping he'll do. Let the batter utilize his strengths against what he has ascertained to be the pitcher's weaknesses and see who wins the batter.

A strikeout is an out, like any other. But don't you think the more a batter strikes out the more that game within the game starts to get inside his head. And he begins to guess wrong and a good catcher will detect this in the batter's body language and instruct his pitcher to do whatever it takes to thoroughly confuse the hitter to where he's not going to be a factor. If the pitcher and catcher do a good enough job it could put the hitter in a slump.

Good hitters don't let the game within the game get to them. But as Yogi Berra once said, 'Ninety percent of the game is half mental.' A lot of what happens is between the ears of the player.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Let's Look at Roster Changes Within the NL West

In the National League Western Division there are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.

Arizona worked on bulking up their pitching staff with the additions of Aaron Heilman, Bob Howry (remember him Giants' fans?), Edwin Jackson, and Billy Buckner. All right-handers.

They acquired a solid second-baseman in Kelly Johnson and former Pirate first-sacker, Adam LaRoche.

Colorado signed Miguel Olivo, a catcher. Re-signed Jason Giambi and utility infielder formerly with the Baltimore Orioles, Melvin Mora.

San Diego signed pitcher Jon Garland and catcher Yorvit Torrealba. If you recall, they ended the season as one of the hottest in an already good division. They have a lot of young talent that kicked some butt in September. So we shall see if those players improve without all of the growing pains.

Los Angeles Dodgers have Ramon and Russ Ortiz as non-roster invitees. Also on that list are: Justin Knoedler (former Giant farmhand), Doug Mientkiewicz and Brian Giles. Giles really tailed off last season but he's well-respected and the Dodgers are smart to give him a looksee.

The re-signed Vicente Padilla and Brad Ausmus. Signed Jamey Carroll (INF) and Reed Johnson (OF). Not bad for a team that won the division last season.

Last but certainly not least, YOUR San Francisco Giants.
We know about Mark DeRosa, a versatile player with some pop in his bat and Aubrey Huff, a good low-ball hitter who is said to be suspect with the glove. Nate Schierholtz will have an opportunity to win the right field job and replace last year's almost automatic out, but solid defender, Randy Winn.

Is Dan Runzler the real deal? The lefty who came up late last season and did remarkably well. Does Ryan Rohlinger give reason to replace Edgar Renteria. I realize the Giants will have to do some juggling of infielders but this is a game of who is hot and who is not. Who is not will be riding some pine and they have versatility in Pablo Sandoval (1B-3B-C), Juan Uribe (3B-SS-2B) and the aforementioned Mark DeRosa (OF-2B).

They added Guillermo Mota, Todd Wellemeyer,B.Y. Kim as non-roster invitees to help bolster their solid bullpen.

My buddy Rich will be attending Spring Training's first week and I hope he can add some insights as well as photos of his trip to see the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

Kevin Marquez

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Congrats to Jon Miller

I heard on this morning's (Brian) Murph and (Paulie) Mac show (5am-9am, KNBR; Mon-Fri) an interview with Jon Miller who took time away from his "Colombian cruise" to speak about receiving the Ford C. Frick Award and being inducted into the Baseball broadcaster's Hall of Fame.

He will join both Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, two voices Miller said got him interested in the craft of play-by-play for baseball games.

I am currently reading a book on the Beatles by Tim Riley and his description of how the Beatles put together their songs rings so perfectly true to me it was as if I went back in time and recalled the emotions I shared with the lyrics and styles of each and every Beatle tune.

That's the way Jon Miller must have felt when he was able to meet those who first made him interested in broadcasting. And then to get a congrats from non other than Willie Mays himself, the player who made baseball such a great game to listen to (on the radio) or want to go out and see in person.

Murph recalled the time he interviewed Jon Miller when baseball was trying to figure out ways to speed the game up and he asked Miller what Miller would do about "speeding up the game" and Miller's response was , 'What could be better than watching a three-hour baseball game?'

Miller then went on to say that one of his most precious memories was the time there was a rainout and the Giants had to play back-to-back doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday one week. Heaven on Earth!

When you listen to Jon Miller broadcast a game you can tell it's the only thing on his mind. He's not multi-tasking, he's concentrating on how to deliver the game in a most listenable fashion with an occasional anecdote to keep some levity in the air, because after all it is only a game. But it's a game he is passionate about and he will do everything in his power to make the listening audience feel as if they were there in-person. You can almost taste the peanuts and hot dogs when Miller gets on a roll with the intricacies of the game and almost always wraps up his strategy with a humorous one-liner.

Congratulations to Jon Miller.

Now if only we can get enough of those voters who realized that Jon Miller belongs in the Hall of Fame to listen to tapes of Bill King so he too will get his due, because the former voice of the Warriors and Raiders is most definitely worthy of the same honor bestowed on Jon Miller.

Kevin Marquez