Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not Yet at Rock Bottom

The 2013 San Francisco Giants on June 27 are still falling into the abysmal spaces of Never Never Land and will continue to do so until they play a mistake free game and come out on the winning end.

Last night, with Tim Lincecum on the mound and doing an admirable job their world was sent spinning into a bottomless pit of errors and overall bad baseball.

In the bottom of the 6th inning Lincecum got the lead-off hitter, Mark Ellis to hit a grounder to Pa-bloated Sandoval at third base. Sandoval snatched the wicked hop and then threw a bouncer to Buster Posey at first base. Buster is not a first baseman who excels in digging out low throws. Pa-bloated is a player who has to take the shoe shiner's word for it when he asks if his shoes were shined. He had time but for some reason hurried his throw to first and instead of one out no one on base it was runner on base NO OUTS.

Then the catcher, Hector Sanchez, got into the act. Ellis broke for second on an outside pitch to Sanchez, in essence a pitchout, and Sanchez just dropped the ball. Later in the inning, when Andre Ethier also broke for second, Sanchez exhibited a puss-armed throw that floated like a butterfly before it bounced in front of the fielder attempting to catch and tag the on-coming runner. Sandwich a couple of hits and 3 runs are scored. The last one on a wild pitch by Lincecum, who once again got no defensive support from his fellow 8 players. The wild pitch was a case of Tim Lincecum trying too hard to make what wasn't working work.

I think it's time to stop listening to Giants baseball. Take a break, get away from the orange and black. Go on a sabbatical. Learn to do a Tibetan monk chant. I need a new hobby. Not root for a sport where the umpires or referees have a hard time not being homers. Where tag plays and fair/foul calls are relatively easy providing you put yourself in a position to make the call. As for the strike zone, I need a break from, "he's got a small strike zone tonight." Or "seems the strike zone is shrinking." And on and on and on with the descriptions of someone who just doesn't know a strike from a base. A bat from a ball. Easy is made difficult and difficult is "throw in the towel."

Goodbye June. How about "Goodbye Pablo." We can't take your gross negligence on keeping yourself in shape and the instant some other club shows an interest in you we are getting a suitable substitute from that club to replace you. Similar to when the Giants bid farewell to Matt Williams and we got Jeff Kent in the deal. Let's shoot for the moon and if we miss we will still hit a star. Know what I mean?

Perhaps I'll get back into baseball for July. Maybe not.

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Too Shall Pass

During this slump, where the Giants fell from a few games over .500 to one game below, how many home runs by the opposing ball clubs have hit the dang foul pole?

How many times have the Giants' batters fouled one off and the poorly hit foul pop managed to stay in the field of play where the opponents' fouls reach the seats?

After hurting his hand making a head-first slide, Brandon Crawford was anemic at the plate. That is, until his last couple of at-bats in the Tuesday night game (6/25). So hopefully he has snapped out of his funk. A funk he achieved by not sliding properly.

Marco Scutaro had the misfortune of being hit-by-a-pitch and getting "mallet-finger" but he seems to possess an incredible pain threshold and has made it back into the lineup. Unfortunately, when you miss a day or two nobody notices. When you miss a few days the fans begin to notice. When you miss more you begin to notice that your batting swing is not what it was before the pinkie finger on his glove hand was struck by an errant toss of the opposing pitcher.

Pablo, WOW! To look at him is to just be in awe that a person that size can hit the way he can. And he is athletic enough to field his position competently. But it has become apparent that his teammates are over-compensating for the growing Panda like the other night when Brandon Belt fielded a ball in which Pablo was there as if Belt didn't expect him to be there. And the jokes are incessant when speaking of Sandoval. "He's had trouble with the hammate bones and the ham he ate." The guy looks very much like the Babe, with those skinny legs, the big gut and his trot around the bases. Only the Babe did it when he went yard. (And as for filmography, all films in the Babe's day had that problem. Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, all the celluloid heroes in those shadows on the wall had that fast-forward thing happening.) If they tried speeding up the film it'd probably make Pablo fall. Damn, if he did he'd probably Pop!

The bullpen has been dreadful. First George Kontos gets sent down then Jean Machi does so bad it's time to bring Kontos back up. Then they call up this kid Dunning. In the Tuesday night game Dunning loses his focus and attempts to pick off the runner on first even though the batter (Fife) has shown little aptitude for hitting a pitch. The ball rolls away from Brandon Belt and the runner on third scores making the game 6-2.

When you are mired in a slump every mistake is blown out of proportion. As was the case on June 25 at Chavez Ravine. 6-2 ended up 6-5. If not for the inexcusable errant toss to Belt, the Giants would have tied the game in the top of the 9th inning.

Oh well, this too shall pass.

Kevin J. Marquez

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Flashbacks are a Reminder of How It Should Be

Last night in AT&T a batter for the Florida/Miami Marlins made no attempt to get out of the way of a pitch. The kind of pitch that was a little off of the plate and yet because the batter had a chance to become a runner he just stood there and "took one for the team."

Just then I went into flashback mode. Remember May 31, 1968 when Don Drysdale had a consecutive scoreless innings streak going and he was facing the (San Francisco)Giants' Dick Dietz with the bases drunk? He plunked ole #2 and Dietz dropped his bat and began trotting to first only to hear some loud mouth in blue tell him something along the lines of "Not so fast."

Henry Wendlestedt, who had been umpiring since 1966, told Dietz that since he made no attempt to get out of the way he would not be awarded first base. It was within his rights as the home plate umpire. Only, if my memory serves me well, I recall Dietz contorting his body back away from the ball. Only the ball missed the plate by too much for Dietz' attempt to look anything but futile. Unfortunately, for Dietz, he was standing in the strike zone as there was no chance of that ball missing him, no matter what he did.

Wendlestedt saw the opportunity as a chance to put his name in the baseball annals forever. It was at the expense of one game and at the time a record. But some people will do whatever they can to serve themselves if it has a chance of reaching historic proportions. And if you think about it, even the novice baseball fan during the 60's and 70s knew who the hell Harry Wendlestedt was, especially those followers of the orange and black.

Back to Thursday's game. June 20 2013. Why didn't the home plate umpire make the same call? I mean the batter (Dietrich) did absolutely nothing to get out of the way of a pitch just off the plate. In fact, according to play-by-play man Jon Miller, he leaned into the pitch. C'mon man, if you "lean into a pitch" you damn sure should not be rewarded by being awarded first base!

That umpire, Lax Diaz, should be reprimanded. Fined. Whatever means of paying the price for such a lack of attention to detail. (Note: The umpire's name was changed from Laz due to the effort he exhibited on the Dietrich "taking one for the team" at-bat).

(thanks to a book on Dodger Stadium by Mark Langill for the easy access to Wendlestedt's claim to fame. The pictures in this book fall in line with the Rod Stewart lyrics, "Every Picture Tells a Story.")

Kevin J. Marquez

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Damn Giants, Snap Out of It!!

Angel Pagan goes on the disabled list after aggravating his injury hitting a game-winning inside-the-park home run at AT&T. The way to get on the DL, if ever there was "a way."

Ryan Vogelsong foul tips one off his throwing hand and injures his pinky finger.
Marco Scutaro would also have a thrown ball by the opposing pitcher clip his pinky finger, on his glove hand.

Santiago Casilla had some surgery to clean out a cyst of some kind on his leg. Which leg, I couldn't tell you. When I looked up the Giants website and asked for an injury update I got the New York Yankees on some fantasy website.

I'm telling you this time of year is nonsense incorporated. We fans are seeing why the Giants had those currently playing due to the numerous injuries, are not starters. Players like Nick Noonan, Brett Pill, Juan Perez and now Tony Abreu are only here to take a little of the heat off of the starters.

Andres Torres seems to have picked up the pace. Brandon Belt, what can you say about this guy. He seems to get opportunities but his at-bats are adventures I don't think the average baseball fan either feels entitled to or wants anything to do with.

Joaquin Arias rose to the occasion last year when Pablo was put on the disabled list, one of his annual assignments.

Pablo Sandoval, I saw where Scott Ostler had something referring to Pablo's weight and I was interested in his follow-up but for some reason, like the injury report, that too is not available. (In the article it mentioned "we" the readers, would find out on Tuesday. Today is Wednesday and still no follow-up to his half-assed article.)

Ramon Ramirez, Jose Mijares, Jean Machi and Sandy Rosario all need to do their jobs. Pitching will always be the key to this team and with Vogelsong and Casilla still weeks away the Giants cannot, or rather would prefer to not have to, keep going to Triple A, Double A or even Single A to acquire help for pitching innings.

If the pitchers don't snap out of their season-long funk you can kiss this season goodbye. See George Kontos.

Listening to Jon Miller and Dave Fleming when the going gets tough is appalling and hardly informable. I don't need the obvious stated to me when something goes wrong. When Tim Lincecum is giving up hits that are being "muscled into the outfield" and then one of his outfielders misplays a ball that rolls all the way to the fence I, as a listener, would say it wasn't meant to be for #55. He surely didn't get any help from his defense. And it's not like the Fire Department was notified about the explosion their offense created in Pittsburgh, June 11th. I don't know if the umpire was squeezing him because it has become such a common occurrence I don't think the announcers know a strike from a ball on any given night, and they may feel like they've gone to that well one too many times.

Yes, it is frustrating and infuriating to hear the ESPN constant replays of Sport blurbs when the NBA doesn't have it's championship series live over the radio for all to hear. The same mindless banter about how Lebron is not doing something and two virtually unknown Spurs ripped the nets with 16 or so three-pointers. And if I kept it on KNBR, 680AM I would have heard the same lame callers, that call damned near every night and the usually scheduled KNBR employees telling me something I already know.

There's No way out of this asylum, you know?!? And now with the NHL featuring two of the original 6 teams, is there a radio station where I can get the play-by-play rather than go to some over-priced sports bar where the people don't know "lighting the lamp" from Aladdin's lamp?

Damn Giants, snap out of it! Time for Tony Abreu to earn a spot on the roster, as well as the aforementioned pitchers (Ramirez, Mijares, Machi and Rosario). I don't expect much from Pill, Noonan or Brandon Belt even if Belt does have a proclivity for hitting late-inning homers that significantly change the outcome of a game. Gee, I just convinced myself to just endure Belt. Don't expect any more than you've gotten so far. It doesn't seem likely to get any better. Just good enough to wonder what it would be like if Belt could get red hot. But that would probably be better served in a Sleep Train commercial, I suppose.

Kevin Marquez

Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Apology to Sandy Koufax

In light of the on-going critical boredom of ballplayers being accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) I would be remissed if I did not apologize to Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

In my best, or worst, "Get Smart" approach of "Could it be...that the greatest left-handed pitcher used something other than ointments for his left arm?" I recently read an article by Jane Leavy, dated September 9, 2002, entitled "The Chosen One," that makes me feel as impetuous as Jane Hathaway frequently accused the dashing nephew of a rich uncle-who struck oil shooting at some supper- of being.

Those aforementioned situation comedies (in the 1960s) may have described my attempts at giving examples of those who may not have played within the framework of the rules either in society or their chosen sport this article does divulge some hint that the things Koufax took may not have been legal. But in light of his intense pain I can understand why he did what he did.

Here are some excerpts of the article (

Koufax made his major league debut on June 24, 1955, in the 5th inning against the Milwaukee Braves, with the Dodgers trailing 7-1. A mop-up man...The public address announcer mispronounced his name - "Koo-fax"- as Johnny Logan stepped up to the plate. Logan hit a bloop single. Next was slugger Eddie Mathews, who surprised Koufax by bunting back to the mound. Koufax calmly threw the ball into centerfield. Now batting, Hank Aaron. He walked on four pitches. Bobby Thomson-that Bobby Thomson,slayer of Dodgers dreams-followed Aaron to the plate and became the first man ever struck out by Sandy Koufax.

When Sandy Koufax was a rookie, there was no such thing as sports medicine. You didn't rehab injuries. You lived with them, grew old with them. Ice was for martinis, not elbows. Every pitching arm is doomed. Soft tissue and bone can give only so much. The firt intimations of his arm's mortality surfaced on Aug.8, 1964, in Milwaukee. That night Koufax won his 17th game and became the first National League pitcher in the modern era to strike out 200 hitters in four consecutive seasons. He also singled and scored to begin the winning rally. Reaching base proved costly, however. He jammed his left elbow diving back into second to beat a pickoff throw.

X-rays were ordered. Robert Kerlan, the noted orthopedic surgeon and team doctor, took one look at the film and pronounced the bad news: traumatic arthritis. A diagnosis without a cure. Arthritis is an acute inflammation of a joint, usually associated with old age. Pitch by pitch, season by season, the cartilage in Koufax's elbow was breaking down. His arm was old even if he wasn't.

Kerlan knew the long-term prospects weren't good. Pitching is trauma. The human elbow may be one of God's great inventions, but He didn't anticipate a major league fastball during those first seven days. Maximum stress occurs just as a pitcher cocks his arm and begins to accelerate it forward. In that instant the elbow is subjected to what doctors call "maximum load," as two contrary forces, momentum and inertia, converge on the joint. It causes ligaments to stretch like saltwater taffy on a hot summer day.

Today arthroscopic surgery allows professional athletes and middle-aged golfers like Koufax to recover in a fraction of the time they once needed. Dr. Frank Jobe, Kerlan's partner and successor, performed the first elbow reconstruction in 1974, less than a decade after Koufax retired. Tommy John, the surgical pioneer, returned to baseball and pitched for another 14 years. Jobe says, "If you had said to Dr. Kerlan, 'Why does [Koufax's] arm hurt?' he'd say, 'Because he throws so hard.' That's true. What he didn't know was that [Koufax] threw hard enough to stretch a ligament. It wasn't torn, but it was stretched enough to allow two bony surfaces rub together. It must have just killed him."

March is the crudest month for pitchers: when rested arms renew the annual struggle for controlled velocity. Today pitch counts and early outings are meticulously monitored. Pitching a complete game in spring training is unthinkable, even without an arthritic arm. But on March 30, 1965, Koufax did just that. The next morning his roommate, Dick Tracewski, was at the sink shaving when Koufax walked in. "He says, 'Look at this.' The elbow was black. And it was swollen. From the elbow to the armpit it looked like a bruise. It was a black, angry hemorrhage. It was an angry arm, an angry elbow. And all he says is, 'Roomie, look at this.'"

Koufax returned to Los Angeles to see Kerlan, who told him he'd be lucky to pitch once a week. Eventually, and irrevocably, he would lose full use of his arm. Koufax told the doctor, "I'm trusting you to keep me going. I'm also going to trust you to say when you think I should quit."
Palliatives were all that medicine had to offer: cortisone shots in the joint, Empirin with codeine for the pain (which he took every night and sometimes during the 5th inning) and Butazolidin, an anti-inflammatory prescribed for broken-down thoroughbreds, so poisonous to humans that it was taken off the market in the 1970s. It had one major side effect. "It killed a few people," Jobe says.

Koufax regularly used a salve called Capsolin, derived from red-hot chili peppers grown in China, to mask the pain. Players called it the "ATOMIC BALM" - thick, gooey stuff that is no longer marketed in the United States. Most pitchers diluted it with cold cream or Vaseline. Koufax used it straight, gobs of it. Nobe Kawano, the Dodgers' clubhouse man, always made sure he washed Koufax's laundry separately. But once, when the Dodgers donated used jerseys to a local Little League team, the lucky kid who got number 32 ran off the field screaming, "I'm on fire!" He wasn't the only one. Lou Johnson wore one of Koufax's sweatshirts one cold night in Pittsburgh. First he began to sweat. Then his skin blistered. Then he threw up.

If heat was Koufax's salve, ice was his salvation. They didn't have ice packs then; they just plunged your arm in a bucket of ice and waited for frostbite to set in. Trainers fashioned a rubber sleeve for him out of an inner tube-the height of medical technology-that was later donated to the Hall of Fame.

Who could have predicted that by season's end Koufax would pitch 335? innings and set a major league record by striking out 382 men (an average of 10.25 per game). He never missed a turn.

In the 1965 World Series (Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Minnesota Twins) he came out of the bullpen to pitch Game 7, his third start in 8 days. He was a two-pitch hurler. Catcher John Roseboro came out to the mound to ask Koufax why he kept shaking off his signals. "He said, 'Rosie, my arm's not right.' Roseboro said, 'Well, what'll we do kid?' He said, 'F--- it, we'll blow 'em away.'"

In the ninth inning, his 360th of the season, protecting a 2-0 lead, Koufax faced the heart of the Twins' order: Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Earl Battey and Bob Allison-a two-time batting champion, a six-time home run leader, a four-time All-Star and a one-time Rookie of the Year, respectively. Oliva grounded out; Killebrew got on with a single. Koufax then struck out Battey and Allison-his ninth and 10th K's of the game-and left Killebrew stranded at first base, looking on in admiration.

In conclusion, I apologize for thinking that Koufax may have cheated in what he used to help his arm and it may be that he did but the effort is matchless and for that I applaud him.

(thanks to the SI article for bringing clarity to my accusation.)

Kevin J. Marquez

Saw a Story the Other Day, Went Like This...

Looking up some old clippings of the late great Jim Murray (formerly of the LA Times) and came across something he wrote about Sandy Koufax. It has a remarkable familiarity to it about ole number fifty-five in orange and black. Take a look-see for yourself:

"...Sandy wanted to be an architect, and there are still days when he feels he has made a terrible mistake- almost as if Frank Lloyd Wright had decided to become a rodeo rider."

"The trouble was, Sandy Koufax was such a natural pitcher that baseball couldn't afford to let him turn to mere bridge-building. Sandy's fastball was so fast some batters would start to swing as he was on his way to the mound. His curveball disappeared like a long putt going in a hole. Koufax has never pitched an inning of minor league ball, which doesn't make him unique but makes him a member of a very small club. As a result, he has learned his craft slowly. And it's as exasperating as hay fever: one day you have it, the next day you don't. Sandy thinks it is basically a problem of rhythm. You don't know till you hear the music of the first pitch smacking in the catcher's glove-or off the center-field fence-whether you're going to dance or trip over your feet."

Later in the article after rattling off some of the statistics Sandy Koufax had accumulated Murray says: "Sandy is now sure he wants to stay in baseball. And the batters wish he'd go build something."

Anything written by Jim Murray is worth reading. If you enjoy a good chuckle look him up. But be warned, that chuckle could turn into an emergency gasp for life-saving oxygen. You read Jim Murray at your own risk.

Kevin J. Marquez