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Chicks, and the San Francisco Giants, Dig the Long Ball

Last night was my first night at the yard in 2011. I failed at going to the park in 2010, only attending five Giants games in one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory, three of which were in Washington, D.C. against the Nationals.

But last night I was at the yard, and I saw something (two things, actually) that reminded me of something that the Giants didn’t have until last year: power. 

Let’s look at the last few years: (NL rank) [MLB rank]

2007: 131 HRs (14) [25]. The last year with Barry Bonds.

2008: 94 HRs (16) [30]. The only team with under 100 homers.

2009: 122 HRs (15) [29]. The number one team had twice as many (New York Yankees, 244).

2010: 162 HRs (6) [11] The same amount as Texas, who was “the best offensive team” in 2010.

You lose Barry Bonds, you lose a lot of power. But even before then, Giants fans were always clamoring for someone else to hit home runs around Barry Bonds. There was no more Moises Alou or Jeff Kent to back him up. And then he left. 

The Giants sure fell in love with the long ball last year though, and they really stressed that they couldn’t rely on it this year to win games. The first few wins of this homestand didn’t need the home runs, but instead were all about “keeping the line moving” and getting runs home. None of them were walk-off home runs, but walk-off hits. 

Last night the Giants fans were treated to two home runs that got them back in the game, and then ahead. I’ll admit, I was already taking a lot of flak from all the Dodger fans that I was with when Barajas hit his homer, and was not expecting back-to-back jacks from Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot in the slightest. 

But then the Panda hit one high and deep to left-center and (from our seats, at least) it barely cleared the wall, giving an Ian Kinsler-esque bounce that went the right way. And then Mike Fontenot, who hit one home run in 2010, stepped up to the plate. He looked like a bat boy when getting his high-fives, AFTER he took Ted Lilly way over the Willie Mays Wall in right.

That was not a cheapie. And it put the Giants ahead. Late in the game, that back end looked very strong, once again. Ramon Ramirez, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson. Game over. 

Homers get it done. If the Giants can sprinkle in a few game-winning hits to go with their bevy of homers like last year, they’ll win more games. I don’t think they’ll live and die by the home run as much, which also leads to less pressing to hit home runs, and a higher overall average and OBP. 

I love when the Giants win, especially when they beat the Bums. Homers by unexpected people just make it more fun.

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Uribe, DeRosa, and the San Francisco Giants Water Buffalo Defense in 2011

Henry Schulman, who covers the Giants beat for the San Francisco Chronicle, published this via Twitter last night. 
Mmmm…candy bar.
It reminded me of a word that has been thrown around Giants camp for the last few years, really since Pablo Sandoval came onto the scene. 

1. Used, serving, or working in several capacities as needed, especially

a. Prepared to play any of the smaller theatrical roles on short notice: a utility cast member.
b. Capable of playing as a substitute in any of several positions: a utility infielder.

Look at that. It’s in the dictionary!


a. Exceeding a norm: supersaturate.
b. Excessive in degree or intensity: supersubtle.
c. Containing a specified ingredient in an unusually high proportion: superphosphate.

That one’s in the dictionary, too.

Now, if we combine the two, we get super-utility, which, in the past couple years, has been a label applied to Sandoval (1B/3B/C), Mark DeRosa (1B/3B/SS/2B/LF), Juan Uribe (2B/3B/SS), and even Eugenio Velez (2B/OF/PH/really?).

We’ve seen how it worked out with Uribe (beautifully), especially last season. In Spring Training last year, Uribe didn’t even have a regular starting position, but it was known that he was going to be playing a lot.

Then Freddy Sanchez wasn’t ready for Opening Day, so Uribe played the first 14 games at second base, hitting .320 and driving in 11 runs. Then Edgar Renteria missed the month of May (and June), and Uribe took over at shortstop.

Then Pablo Sandoval decided that he didn’t like hitting anymore, and Uribe stepped in at third for awhile before going back to hitting homeruns from the shortstop position. In the playoffs, Uribe played third, paving the way for Renteria to win the World Series.

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MLB’s Tale of Two Cities: Can the 2011 A’s Repeat the Giants’ Season of 2010?

A vaunted homegrown pitching staff. A very strong bullpen led by an All-Star closer.

A franchise player behind the plate. A balanced mix of young guys and veterans.

Low expectations. A mild-mannered, baseball-minded manager in the dugout. 

A weak, very winnable division where the other teams made negligible offseason improvements.

Last year was a good year for the Giants. And by good year, I mean they won the World Series. Yes, THAT good. And the above statements pretty accurately describe the team at the start of the 2010 season. 

And if that’s the recipe for success, it looks like the Oakland Athletics are using the same cookbook for 2011. 

Now I’m not going to take that extreme leap of faith and call the A’s the “soon-to-be 2011 World Champions,” but I will say that there are a lot of similarities, both on the team and in the division, that make the comparisons very valid. 

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Hit or Miss: Examining the San Francisco Giants Non-Roster Hitters

A couple days ago, I took a look at the Giants non-roster pitchers that they invited to Spring Training, mainly because I believe that the lack of pitching depth is one of the biggest Achilles’ heels of this team.

But as I stressed in the last post, there is always a possibility of someone making such a name for himself this spring that he works his way onto the Opening Day roster and contributes. Again, see Juan Uribe and Andres Torres.

With most of the Giants offensive core returning, the Giants are once again going to take a look at depth and give their top prospects a crack at big-league pitching. Mark DeRosa is coming back from injury, they picked up Miguel Tejada to replace Juan Uribe and Pablo Sandoval looks to rebound after last year’s downturn. Their biggest need is at middle infield, so I’d assume Brandon Crawford will be subject to an extended tire-kicking evaluation by GM Brian Sabean. 

WIthout further ado…


C Tommy Joseph, 6’1″, 215 lbs

 Buster Posey is the Giants catcher and should be for a long time. I’m thinking forever. That being said, as the Giants’ sixth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America, Tommy Joseph is no slouch.

The 19-year-old catcher is a huge power hitter, as exemplified by his penchant for spraying the upper deck at Tropicana field with homers during a high school homerun derby. Last year at single-A Joseph hit 16 homers, but only had a .236 average while striking out 116 times.

The adjustment to professional pitching out of high school is always a little difficult, so the stats are not alarming. It will be interesting to see where Joseph fits in with Posey behind the plate and Brandon Belt chomping at the bit at first base. He might become a valuable trade chip down the line. 


C Hector Sanchez, 6’0″, 185 lbs

Sanchez (21) also spent time at Augusta last year, but there is a lot less information about him. He walks a lot, which is something Joseph doesn’t do. Sanchez is a lifetime .300 hitter, albeit a summer league and rookie ball, and he hits a lot of doubles.


C Chris Stewart

Stewart (28) was drafted by the White Sox way back in 2001, and his way to the Giants includes stops in Texas, New York and San Diego. Last year for the Padres AAA affiliate, Stewart hit .248/.337/.395, with seven HR and 39 RBIs in 85 games.

It seems he has a knack for getting in the way of the ball, amassing 18 HBPs over the past two years. Again, not much info on him out there, but he, along with Sanchez and Williams, could be viable options at backup catcher if something were to happen to Eli Whiteside.


C Jackson Williams

Williams, 24, was drafted in the first round by the Giants in 2007 and has moved his way up the ranks to AAA Fresno. Given what I can gather, I’m assuming it’s for his work with the glove, because his highest batting average is a paltry .231, and his career .213 mark isn’t good either.

He has thrown out a solid amount of runners (40 percent for his career) and has a .987 fielding percentage. My thoughts on Williams: in Spring Training, there’s a lot of pitchers that need bullpens caught, and Bill Hayes takes vacations. 


1B Brandon Belt

Brandon Belt is pretty much the most exciting Giants prospect since…well…Buster Posey. Or Madison Bumgarner. Basically, if you’re bored with last year’s Rookie of the Year, Belt has all the tools to capturing your attention in 2011.

With all the hype surrounding him and the praise coming from every direction (coaches, Sabean, former players, his mom, my mom, the list goes on), it’s safe to say that he has a legitimate chance at winning the award again.

If we thought Buster Posey was good, apparently Belt is just as good, if not better. His line from last year (his first year in professional ball), which he split between high-A San Jose, AA Richmond AND AAA Fresno: .352/.455/.620, 23 HRs, 112 RBIs. And just for good measure, 10 triples and 22 steals. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. If you haven’t heard about him, I really, really feel sorry for you.


SS Brandon Crawford

The other Brandon, 23, isn’t exactly an unknown either. Brandon Crawford was drafted by the Giants in 2008, and is the top middle infield prospect behind Manny Burriss in the Giants system.

He was the ninth-rated prospect in the San Francisco system in 2010, according to Baseball America. His offensive stats last year definitely regressed, posting a line of .236/.330/.339, but his defense is still good, and with the losses of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, is probably the second-best internal option to back up the middle of the diamond. He’s young, but he has the tools. 


2B/SS Charles Culberson

Culberson was one of the Giants’ first-round picks in 2007, and last year was his best season, statistically, in pro baseball. He hit .290 and had a .340 OBP, even slugging 16 homers out of the second-base position. Again, the Giants are looking for depth up the middle, and he has the opportunity to provide that.


1B Brad Eldred

Eldred, 30, played 11 games for Colorado last year, but hit an impressive 30 HR and drove in 84 runs for their AAA affiliate in Colorado Springs last year. Eldred also surfaced in the majors in 2005 and 2007 for the Pirates, hitting only .199 but bashing 14 HRs in 236 at bats. He’s primarily a first baseman, and at his age will have to perform pretty well to have a shot at beating out any of the kids for the Opening Day roster spot.


2B Nick Noonan

Noonan, the 11th-rated prospect last year, according to Baseball America, was drafted in 2007 as well. He has always been young for his leagues, which has contributed to solid, but rather pedestrian batting numbers (career .268 hitter).

His fielding has greatly improved over the couple years he’s been in the league, and last year was considered the “second-baseman of the future” for the Giants by BA. Most likely he will start the year at AA Richmond, where he began and ended last year’s campaign.


OF Gary Brown

Gary Brown was the Giants first-round pick in the 2010 draft. He is fast. 

Ok, but really, Brown only got into 12 games last season, but if you check out the video, he is FAST. That’s pretty much all I know about him. He can hit, too. Good plate coverage, hits gap to gap and is probably going to be the center-fielder for the Giants in the future. 


OF Terry Evans

Evans, 28, appeared in one game for the Angels last year, had one at-bat and struck out. Aside from that, his career lines in the minors look a lot better. A line of .283/.323/.455 and 15 HRs/72 RBIs constituted a pretty average year for Evans. He did blast 26 dingers in 2009 and hit 33 back in 2006. Evans is a pretty solid corner outfielder and might be able to latch on somewhere in the Giants system if he has a good spring.


OF Juan Perez

Perez was drafted by the Giants in the 2008 draft and played for high-A San Jose last year, posting a line of .298/.337/.472. Not much power, but a lot of speed (10 triples). It’s raw speed, though, as he was caught stealing (15) just about as often as he got the steal (17). Perez played mostly centerfield for the Giants in 2010 and didn’t crack the top 30 in terms of prospects last year.


With the Giants offense pretty much intact, replacing Renteria/Uribe with Tejada and adding in Mark DeRosa, the only one with a real shot at making the club is Brandon Belt. If there’s space for him, he’ll make it, but as the roster stands now, there isn’t even room for him and he’s the consensus top prospect for the Giants in 2011. I’d keep an eye on where they end up, and in some cases, they might end up as trade chips for the stretch run. 

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Pitch Or Go Home: Examining The Giants’ Non-Roster Pitching Invitees

Spring Training is a time for hitters to get back into the swing of things, for pitchers to shake off the rust and for coaches and managers to figure out what their strategy for the upcoming year is going to be. 

Spring is also a time for non-roster invitees, mainly top prospects looking to make a splash and prove they can hit big-league pitching, journeyman major-leaguers looking to latch on with a team, or proven players coming back from injury.

Over the past couple years, the non-roster invitee pool has been a gold mine for San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean. Santiago Casilla was a vital part of the bullpen in 2010 after being a non-roster invitee who missed half of Spring Training with a visa problem. Two years ago Sabean took flyers on Juan Uribe and Andres Torres, and we know how much they meant to the Giants last year. 

In 2011, the Giants will be looking to add depth again, mostly up the middle and on their pitching staff. In addition to the 17 pitchers that they’re carrying on the 40-man roster, the Giants have invited 10 pitchers to Spring Training, including two hold-overs from last year in Guillermo Mota and Waldis Joaquin.

Here’s the low-down on the other eight:

Casey Daigle (RHP) — 6’5, 230 lbs

Daigle, 29, is a former first-round pick of the Diamondbacks, albeit ages ago in 1999. His major-league stats aren’t very comforting (3-4, 7.16 ERA, 1.97 WHIP), but his minors lines are a little better (64-71, 4.72 ERA, 1.54 WHIP). In the past couple years he has made the transition to a reliever, saving eight games last year for Houston’s AAA affiliate, but Daigle has started 131 games in his professional career. His strikeout rate has gone up over his career and his walk rate has gone down, but he gives up a lot of hits in the minors (almost 11/9IP in 11 seasons), which doesn’t exactly bode well in the majors.

Shane Loux (RHP) – 6’2, 235 lbs 

Loux, 31, also has big-league experience, pitching for the Tigers and Angels, including six starts for Anaheim in 2009. Like Daigle, his major league line isn’t impressive (3-7, 6.14 ERA, 1.62 WHIP). His last two full seasons in AAA produced opposite results. In 2008 with the Angels AAA club, Loux was on track for a major league call-up, hauling in a 12-6 record with a 3.98 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. But in 2010 with the Astros AAA team, he was less than impressive, posting a line of 6-12, 5.25 ERA, and 1.40 WHIP. The plus is that his walks have gone down, but the minus is, like Daigle, he gives up a lot of hits.

Felix Romero (RHP) – 6’2, 200 lbs

Romero, 30, joined the Giants organization in 2009, and pitched pretty well between AA Richmond and AAA Fresno last year, posting a line of 5-3 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. His career K/BB ratio is very good (3.78), and he started 14 games for the Flying Squirrels last year. Romero has bounced from the Toronto farm system to Baltimore before settling with the Giants, and he could possibly be in the mix for a relief role. With non-roster relievers, the biggest asset is a low walk rate. Being a reliever takes a lot, but one thing that must remain consistent is the ability to control where the ball is going.

Jason Stoffel (RHP) – 6’2, 220 lbs

Stoffel, 22, was drafted out of Arizona in the fourth round by the Giants in 2009 and is the youngest member on the list. According to Baseball America, Stoffel is the 15th ranked prospect in the Giants system. The closer for the Wildcats, he has a mid-90s fastball and a good slider as his secondary pitch. Last year he saved 25 games for high-A San Jose, and he also posted an impressive 11.7 K/9. Although his ERA jumped to 4.80, he has the stuff that could move him through the Giants minor-league system quickly, a la Dan Runzler/Daniel Turpen.

Ryan Vogelsong (RHP) – 6’3, 215 lbs

If you’re any kind of Giants fan at all, you should know that Ryan Vogelsong is a fist-sized nugget of fool’s gold, given to the Giants so that they could package him with Armando Rios to get Jason Schmidt and Jon Vander Wal in one of the most lopsided deals in Brian Sabean’s GM career. Vogelsong last pitched professionally in both the Philadelphia and Anaheim systems last year after spending three years in Japan. His major-league stats aren’t impressive, but his 10.4 K/9 last year, and the fact that he has experience as a swing-man out of the bullpen, were enough to convince the Giants to give him another shot.

Wilmin Rodriguez (LHP) – 6’2, 211 lbs

Rodriguez, 25, has worked his way methodically through the Giants system, splitting last year between low-A Augusta and AA Richmond. Like all of the non-roster invitees, his stats don’t jump off the page. The ERA is pedestrian (4.02), the WHIP not bad (1.51). He’s a left-hander, though, and you can never have too many of those. But, as is the case, if these guys were top prospects, they wouldn’t be non-roster invitees at 25.

Ryan Verdugo (LHP) – 6’0, 195 lbs

Verdugo, 23, is getting an extended look because of his stellar season last year, when he went 8-1 with a 1.87 ERA between Augusta and San Jose. He also carried a 1.81 WHIP, and was extremely effective out of the bullpen. His K/9 is an outlandish 13.3 for his career, and his K/BB ratio is also very good (2.83). Verdugo is a little wild (six wild pitches last year), but he maintained his strikeout ratio over a pretty hefty workload of over 60 innings in 2010.

Matt Yourkin (LHP) – 6’3, 225 lbs

Yourkin, 29, spent his career in the Marlins organization before latching on with the Giants in 2009. He notched eight saves for AA Connecticut (now Richmond) in 2009 before making the move to the starting rotation for Fresno last year. His stats jumped a little bit, but he could be another one to add to the list of possible sixth starters if he impresses this spring. Yourkin has a low walk rate, a respectable WHIP, and although his strikeout rate isn’t that impressive, he’s still averaging almost a strikeout an inning.


Although nothing can actually be determined until these guys get out on the mound and perform, there is always a chance that one of them will go crazy on Cactus League hitters and make the Opening Day squad. With a Giants bullpen that was great down the stretch and through the playoffs, and with almost all of them under contract for 2011, it’ll take a little more than an impressive spring to bump someone out. But pitching is a commodity than can never be overstated, and if the Giants can stock up on some, they’ll be ready for another title run. 

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Starting 6: Why the San Francisco Giants Need To Address Rotation Depth

When pitchers and catchers report next month, the San Francisco Giants will still be world champions. And they will still be the defending champs for at least the next 11 months, which is comforting for all of us Giants fans. 

The front office has done their part to try and keep it that way in 2011, and with the exception of the heart-wrenching, bile-inducing, loyalty-destroying defection of Juan Uribe to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the roster that got the Giants to the playoffs will look very much the same as it did in 2010.

One part (the main part) of the team that got the Giants to the pinnacle of the baseball world was another outstanding year from the starting rotation. Granted, there were no brilliant standout performances like those Tim Lincecum produced when he garnered back-to-back Cy Young awards,but the consistency and quality up and down the rotation was remarkable.

The lowest ERA on the staff belonged to the rookie, Madison Bumgarner (3.00). The highest, to the oldest member of the staff, Barry Zito (4.15). The average ERA of that starting rotation was a highly respectable 3.35, and the fact that everyone was fairly consistent in this case meant that the Giants were always within reach of winning the game.

However, not one of the Giants’ front four starters missed a start due to injury. Each one of them pitched an identical 33 games. Madison Bumgarner took over for Todd Wellemeyer after his injury, but didn’t miss any games for the rest of the season (or postseason, for that matter). 

And even though San Francisco didn’t carry Barry Zito on any of the postseason rosters, his second-half collapse cannot be discounted. Basically, the Giants were very lucky, and to expect another season of injury-free starters isn’t exactly ridiculous, but careless.

Over the years, the Giants have had a bevy of pitching prospects waiting in the wings. More often than not, they were traded away in the Sabean days pre-dating the current prospect boom (more to come on that). Yet now it comes to pass that they’re all here in the majors, making up 80 percent of the starting rotation. 

There were the dark days of the fifth starter, when the fifth day was split between Brad Hennessey, Dustin Hermanson, Chad Zerbe, Ryan Jensen, Pat Misch, Kevin Correia and others, and when every few days a win was an amazing feat, and was usually due to the bullpen and some late-inning heroics.

Those were not good times.

Remember when Jonathan Sanchez was a swingman/emergency starter out of the bullpen? He’s now the No. 4. And when Tim Lincecum was a rookie phenom? He’s the ace. And remember when we were all itching for the day that Bumgarner would have a chance to crack the already stacked rotation?Well, he did.

And remember when Barry Zito was under contract until 2035? Me too.

The truth is, there’s no longer anyone waiting in the wings in case something happens. That’s not to say that the Giants are without legitimate pitching prospects. Not at all. They’re just all down in the lower minors, and none of them have the kind of experience needed to hop into an emergency role.

Gone is Kevin Pucetas, who was competing with Wellemeyer during spring training last year. Gone is Eric Hacker, who has spent seven years in the minors but recently signed on with the Twins. Denny Bautista had experience as a starter but is also gone. Joe Martinez and Ryan Sadowski aren’t around anymore. 

Dan Runzler has apparently been working on being a starter. With Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt already presenting a southpaw-heavy bullpen, this might be his way to stick with the major league club.

There are still some free-agent starters out there, but I would prefer that the Giants find someone low risk, high reward, who is comfortable with a minor league deal but who can still perform against major league hitting.

The market for such a starter will clear up in the weeks leading up to spring training as clubs start making cuts. 

Again, all five of the Giants starters have a pretty solid track record when it comes to injuries. But you never know, anything can happen. Just ask Stephen Strasburg.

And the Giants have to be prepared.

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San Francisco Giants, World Series Champions: SWOT Team 2010, Revisited

At the beginning of the 2010 season, there were very few people in this world who could have predicted that the Giants would beat the Rangers in the World Series.

But it happened.

Now we have the opportunity to look back with the most glorious of hindsight and laugh at all the predictions we made.

There’s no more what-ifs to think about, and no regrets on any decisions, because every trigger Brian Sabean pulled, every double-switch Bruce Bochy made, and every sign that Buster Posey threw down brought us to where we are right now. 

World Series Champions.

Anyways, it’s time to look back on all the ridiculous ideas I had rattling around my head on March 1, 2010.

And there were some crazy ones.

Again, for those not familiar with the term, SWOT stands for Strengths,Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

Let’s take a gander.

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San Francisco Giants, Torture No More: First World Series Win Since 1954

When it came down to the games that mattered most in 2010, the San Francisco Giants didn’t torture their fans at all. In fact, it seems that every time there was a must-win game, the Giants won it handily. 

Once Edgar Renteria hit his second big homerun in the World Series, did anyone really doubt it could be done? Was there anyone not wearing a Rangers hat that thought Texas had it in them to come back from a three-run deficit against Tim Lincecum, Javier Lopez, AND Brian Wilson while also bouncing back two days later to beat Matt Cain?

I know I didn’t. And it isn’t because the Giants have been just rolling through the playoffs. It’s because of the statistics that back up a Giants win and that it was all quite predictable.

Here are three facts:

With three or more runs of support, Tim Lincecum is 47-8 in his career.

When given the chance, Brian Wilson struck out the last batter of the game 27 times this season. 

Pat Burrell struck out 12 times in 13 at-bats, but for every great regular season pickup the Giants made (like Burrell), there’s been someone else who stepped up in the postseason batting right behind them (like Edgar Renteria).

It might not make sense that the Giants ended up sending Cliff Lee home with an 0-2 record in the World Series (the only two postseason defeats in his career), but then look at it closer.

Look who the Giants beat this year. For some reason, they excel at making bad pitchers look great and then turn around and make the ace of the staff look like a back-ender in the rotation.

Roy Halladay was 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in one start in the regular season, and went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA against San Francisco in the NLCS. Remember, this is a guy who threw a perfect game AND a no-hitter this year against a lineup that was not exactly leading the league in hitting.

Roy Oswalt went 1-3 this year against the Giants in the regular season, without bad peripherals, but still picking up three losses. He dominated San Francisco in Game 2, but was less than stellar coming out of the bullpen in Game 4 and ended up with a no-decision in the series-clinching Game 6. 

The Giants also touched up Cole Hamels during the regular season to a tune of nine runs in 11 innings, good for an ERA of 7.63 and a WHIP of 1.909. In Game 3, he gave up three runs in six innings, but for Matt Cain, that was more than enough to get the win. 

Going back even farther, the Giants beat Derek Lowe twice. They dropped seven in an inning on Ubaldo Jimenez earlier this year. They beat Mat Latos twice in the final month of the season to finally make San Diego lie down. 

There’s something about this team that makes you wonder how they do it. As many have said this year, up and down the lineup (and the roster, pretty much), they’re all pretty much the same. No one jumps off the page, and for that reason, the Giants can either be very good, or very, very bland.

The guys with power (Burrell, Huff, Uribe, Posey) showed up at certain times this year, and between them you can expect just what you got: 15-25 HRs, 70-90 RBIs. 

The guys without power also showed up (Sanchez, Fontenot, Torres, Ross, Renteria), and again gave very solid lines. All of them hit around .275 and could be expected to pop the ball out of the park a few times a year. 

Simply put, although this team didn’t have any huge playmakers, they didn’t have any glaring weaknesses either. The focal point on this team is (and should be) the pitching, and it was. 

It was a team full of complementary players, and when all you need is one guy per game to step up, the Giants put themselves in a very good position to storm into and through the playoffs like it was no problem. 

That’s the strength of this team. There is no drama, because if Burrell strikes out, Renteria has the hero in him to pick him up. If Sanchez fails to move Torres to third, Aubrey Huff has the power in him to crush one over the wall.

Every guy in this lineup can hurt you, and although its not Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols status (that you KNOW he’s going to hurt you), it’s something that carried this team all season. 

So, was it torture? Of course it was. But was it unexpected? Not at all. This was a team of destiny, and boy did they act like it. 

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Out at the Plate: Glenn Burke’s Baseball Legacy Transcends Gay-Straight Barrier

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants will be taking the field against the Texas Rangers in the 106th edition of baseball’s World Series. The players will be trotting out to their respective positions, digging into the batter’s box and toeing the pitcher’s mound with only one thing on their minds: winning.

Yet 33 years ago, the starting center-fielder for the National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers had a lot on his mind. Granted, it was Game 1 of the 1977 World Series. He was technically still a rookie, and was being touted as the Dodgers’ version of Willie Mays.

He was facing one of the most experienced World Series pitchers of all time in Don Gullet, and he was playing his first game ever in historic Yankee Stadium. 

Oh, and he was gay. 

Glenn Burke, still accepted around sports as the first and only player in the big four sports (NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA) to come out to his teammates while he was still playing, was in the majors for only four years before his lifestyle seemingly drove him out of the game. Three decades after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, Glenn Burke attempted to break the gay barrier, but sadly their paths were not parallel.

Burke, an Oakland native and Berkeley High two-sport star, was one of the best Bay Area athletes to come out of high school in the 1970s. Remember, this is a region and decade that also produced Rickey Henderson and Claudell Washington, who have played a combined 42 Major League seasons to Burke’s four. And according to them, Burke was still the best talent out of all three.

Burke may have had the talent and the star power personality to match, but when he began to reveal glimpses of his sexuality to his teammates and management, it started him down a slippery slope that was simply to steep to climb back up.

Out. The Glenn Burke Story is an exclusive Comcast SportsNet documentary that chronicles his descent from the World Series to being traded to the Athletics to a voluntary retirement and down into the abyss of drug abuse, homelessness, and AIDS that eventually took his life, and shows how much his story affected many people who have until now been silent. 

Featuring interviews with Dodger teammates Dusty Baker, Davey Lopes and Rick Monday, among others, as well as A’s teammates Claudell Washington, Mike Norris, and Shooty Babitt, Out gets into the nitty-gritty of Burke’s athletic and post-athletic career.

According to almost everyone interviewed, Burke was run out of baseball because he was gay. The Dodgers apparently offered to pay for his wedding and honeymoon if he got married, and when he refused, he was promptly traded to the Athletics. The situation was no better there with manager Billy Martin, and Burke took a leave of absence from the team to clear his head. 

When he decided to come back, it was starkly clear to him that, while he still loved baseball and obviously had the physical tools to play the game, there was no place for a gay man in professional baseball. Burke then took the celebrity that he did have and played it up, spending a majority of his time in San Francisco’s famed Castro District.

Yet his fame ran out, and his party lifestyle turned into one of drug abuse. The tragedy was compounded when Burke contracted AIDS in 1994. But in the last years of his life, the same game of baseball that abandoned him came back to support him in his greatest time of need. 

Out. is being premiered for a public screening at the Castro Theater on Wednesday, November 10, and will be replayed exclusively on Comcast SportsNet on Tuesday, November 16. Tickets for the screening are $5, with all proceeds benefitting Marty’s Place, which once provided a homeless Burke with shelter and care as he coped with the effects of AIDS/HIV. 

For more information, and for ticket sales, please visit Comcast SportsNet’s exclusive information page.

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World Series 2010: San Francisco Completes Somewhat-Likely Playoff Run

***First of all, I’d like to apologize for my sabbatical from you, my fellow Giants fans. Apparently graduating from college isn’t as easy as it looks, and they usually save the best stuff for your last semester. Thanks for waiting.***

All the Giants had to do was to make the playoffs. 

Honestly, all I needed was for them to beat the Padres.

I’ve been saying it forever—in a playoff series, the Giants, no matter what their offense does, has the best rotation in baseball. 

I believed that, even knowing that the Phillies had their triumvirate of awesome, the Giants matched up very well with anyone the gods decided to throw at them.

They did, and we fans saw just what the Giants are capable of. 

It’s not conventional baseball. There’s good pitching, which can’t be denied. Yet that’s not all a team needs, and it’s not all a team can rely on to get to the World Series. But somehow, the Giants were just good enough in all other categories to make it. 

This team of misfits. Bochy’s “Dirty Dozen.” A Freak on the mound, a thong-wearing designated hitter at first base, a career minor leaguer playing Gold Glove center field. An overweight third baseman. A rookie catcher. Another designated hitter playing water buffalo in left field. And beards. So many beards. 

It wasn’t easy. It was stressful. It wasn’t conventional. It was torture. 

They made it on the most improbable of events.

A managing mistake by a Los Angeles non-manager which led to a burnt-out closer giving up a walk-off home run. A seven-run inning against a previously untouchable Colorado ace. A 10-game losing streak by a San Diego team that had been in first place for a majority of the year. A triple by the worst hitting pitcher in the league on the last day of the season. 

That’s what brought the playoffs back to San Francisco. 

And since the playoffs started, there has been more improbability.

A three-error game by an out-of-position utility man, and a multitude of injuries at key positions made the Braves series interesting. The fact that every game except one was decided by one run didn’t surprise anyone at this point.

Three home runs by waiver-wire pickup Cody Ross led the Giants past Roy Halladay AND Roy Oswalt. Another slew of errors by usually sure-handed fielders like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard put the Giants past the Phillies.

And apparently if you’re playing against the Giants, you can’t make a Willie Mays-style basket catch. The gods just won’t allow it. Just ask Shane Victorino. 

Now they’re playing in the World Series. 

I’m sorry, is that still happening? They haven’t pulled a last minute switcheroo on us have they? 


They really are. And they’re facing a group of guys in the Rangers whose path to the World Series was just as improbable, defeating the two best records in the American League (the Yankees and the Rays). 

After facing the best pitcher in the National League in the last series (Halladay), and beating him once, they’re facing arguably the best pitcher in the American League (in playoffs history?) in Cliff Lee

After facing one of the best hitters in the National League in Ryan Howard, and holding him to ZERO RBIs and 12 strikeouts in 22 at bats, they’ll have to do the same against one of the best hitters in the American League in Josh Hamilton.

But if what we’ve seen so far is any indication, none of that matters to this Giants team.

All that matters is this: There will be good pitching. 

All that matters is this: There will have to be a little offense.

All that matters is this: There will be a hero, and his name will be praised.

Let’s go Giants. This is it. This is where we win.

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