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Giants CEO: Team Will Abide by the Hall of Fame Votes Before Honoring Bonds

In the coming weeks, one of the most impactful and controversial classes for the Hall of Fame will have judgment passed on them—at least for their first year of eligibility. One of those on the list is all-time home run leader Barry Bonds, whose career, despite being acquitted of any wrongdoing in a court of law, will forever be tied to the steroid era.

Bonds is certainly a huge part of the San Francisco Giants history and although not being part of the teams’ two recent (and only) World Series titles, his name and his actions still set off widespread debate amongst Bay Area faithful.

Should he get in, should he not.

An election to the Hall would also benefit the Giants’ brand, who could use that justification for even more business gains in an area where baseball is really rivaled only by the success of the 49ers in popularity. Will the Giants take a stand in the “should he or shouldn’t he go to the Hall” debate?

Team CEO Larry Baer talked about the possibility of Bonds getting into the Hall of Fame, as well as the benefits of the decline of the steroid era on Bloomberg Television’s “Money Moves” this weekend.

“We don’t have a vote; it’s the baseball writers who will make that call,” Baer said on the show. “You have to look at the accomplishments he had over the length of his career and then establish the criteria from the era which he played in. When that is set then we can make a fair judgment.”

Baer did go on to say that he thought MLB has done great work bringing the steroid era to an end and that the policies work, even though they did cost the team their star outfielder Melky Cabrera for the better part of the last two months of their surprising run to the 2012 title.

Will we see Barry Bonds Way adjacent to McCovey Cove any time soon? Apparently, the team will take a wait and see attitude with their star crossed home run king, and will let the writers make the decision for them in the coming months.

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Wakefield and Dickey Toss Opening ‘Knuckleball’

One of the opening weekend highlights of the ongoing TriBeCa Film Festival in New York was Saturday’s outdoor screening of the new documentary Knuckleball!, which tells the stories of (to date) the last two professional pitchers to use the dancing, dazzling knuckleball as their primary weapon, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey. 

What made the evening special was a clinic that the two hurlers, along with famed practitioners Charlie Hough and Jim Bouton, conducted for kids just steps from the film seating at the World Financial Center.

The knuckleball is a “pitch born of desperation,” or so said all four of the pitchers prior to the screening, though not in so many words.  That may be true, but the long careers enjoyed by Wakefield, Dickey, Hough, Phil Niekro, Wilbur Wood, Hoyt Wilhelm and other knuckleballers attest to the value of harnessing this tantalizing pitch, even when it can’t really be harnessed.

“No one is getting drafted as a knuckleballer,” said Dickey (a first-round pick of the Rangers as a fireballer in 1996), whose tribulations started almost immediately when a special test indicated a missing ligament in his throwing arm.  If ever a first-round pick could become an immediate underdog, here it was.  A few years of struggles at the big league level led, almost accidentally, to a shift from the hand to the fingernails.

“It’s a dying art that needs to be emphasized,” said Wakefield of the pitch that is now thrown only by Dickey among pitchers at all levels of organized ball.  “The filmmakers did a fantastic job in capturing what the pitch can do and how it affected our lives.”

Wakefield was switched from a first baseman to knuckleball pitcher, the “desperation” coming in the form of the alternative, which was his release from the Pirates.  After taking Pittsburgh by storm as a rookie, the ball stopped dancing his way, leading to his departure a year after making the All-Star team.  Boston picked him up, with Phil and Joe Niekro on board as instructors, and the rest is history.

Knuckleball! delves into these parallel careers, and through a brief sit-down with Dickey, Wakefield, Phil Niekro and Hough, gets into some of the psychology of throwing the pitch and what it took for these quite similar personalities to excel at it.

The directors will host a special screening at Independent Film Festival in Boston on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre,

The film could probably use more of these all-time greats, but the Dickey and Wakefield stories are compelling, and the access granted last summer gives fans a look inside their clubhouses and living rooms, but more importantly, inside their heads.

Jerry Milani is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first-hand.

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Fantasy Baseball 2012: 5 Solid Apps for Covering the Diamond

While the A’s and Mariners got things going last week in Japan, for most fans, next Thursday and Friday will mark Opening Day. This weekend is also mega-fantasy baseball draft time, with thousands hunched over laptops and around tables trying to slide the next great move onto their teams.

The end of 2011 was certainly the time when technology and analytics arrived in baseball. From tablets players were using to a new level of Moneyball, along with all the trimmings of social media, baseball 3.0 is probably here for good. So with all that in mind, here are some choices for engaging in baseball in the stands, on the beach, or on the laptop. At Bat (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad: Free, with subscription, Android: Free/$14.99) At Bat is the king of all fan engagement tools. It is also probably the most expensive, but you get everything for live audio streaming  to highlights, statistics and news specific to your favorite/chosen teams. Owners that also have MLB.TV can also watch every game on their mobile app, with angles not even available on broadcasts.

Bloomberg Sports “Front Office” (iPhone, Microsoft, iPad $3)

In three years, the Bloomberg Sports tools have gone from unwieldy to very functional, and lots of fun for the fantasy player and for the general sports fan.  This is the second year that Bloomberg has offered a mobile app which allows you to sync all your leagues and gives you up to the minute updates on your players. It looks great, runs well and is one-stop shopping for those who play in multiple leagues. There is also a PC version available that is more expensive and has things like instant alerts sent to your phone.

ScoreMobile (iPhone, Free)

ScoreMobile is a free app that covers many sports, but its biggest asset is baseball and its link to Rotowire, which has some of the best stats and updates available for fantasy players or even casual fans.  The baserunner feature gives you a quick check of score and goings-on during a game as well as a series of alerts to follow any series of happenings in an MLB game.

Team Stream (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android: Free)

Team Stream, which is powered by Bleacher Report, lets users create customized feeds around their favorite team in all sports. Receive push notifications every time there is noteworthy news about your chosen team and enjoy the beautiful layout and sharp writing found within the app.

FanGraphs Baseball (iPhone, iPod Touch: $2.99)

A little more technical but really impressive is the app FanGraphs has built. It allows you to track every play of every game, and provides great visuals that make baseball understandable and user-friendly.

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Rick Peterson Glad to Be Back in the Game

Last year at this time, Rick Peterson was getting ready to take a trip to Italy, not the place where one of pitching’s most innovative minds usually spend March. It was just the second time in more than 35 years that Peterson had been away from a baseball diamond for any substantial stretch of time. This year, although not back in a major league clubhouse full-time, the New Jersey resident is back in the game, with one of the most challenging and intriguing roles he has ever had, as director of pitching operations for the Baltimore Orioles under new General Manager Dan Duquette.

“It’s a great challenge to help Dan and Buck sculpt this vision of pitching form and analytics from the ground up, and I’m loving what is going to be a very interesting challenge for me at this stage of my career,” he recently said from spring training, where he is helping put in a new system-wide approach to pitching for the O’s.

Now startups in baseball are not strange to Peterson; he arrived both in Oakland and New York to organizations much in need of a pitching makeover, and his success in turning around the staffs of both the “Moneyball” A’s and then the Mets are well documented. His work also left its mark in Milwaukee, where two years ago he helped implement a system that has made John Axford into the closer that he is today for the Brewers. Still, the man who had had all that success did not have a Major League home last year, so Peterson spent the time with some off field pursuits, and continued to work in baseball with his company 3P Sports, as well as with Bloomberg Sports helping that company expand its position in the baseball analytic field as a consultant. The result of the year off the field was phenomenal in his growth in understanding the game.

“I had a rare perspective last year to look at pitching and mechanics and analytics as a whole due to my work with Bloomberg,” he said. “That work gave me the ability really for the first time in my career as a coach to look at many pitchers and what they were doing, and as a result I was able to stand back, improve on the ideas I had learned over the years, and now apply that to this brand new role with the Orioles.”

His organizational role with the Orioles will bring him to every level of the organization, implementing a plan that will develop and cultivate pitchers with a system of bio-mechanics and data that will complement all the physical tools young pitchers have. The first step is in spring training, where the Orioles have also brought in Dr. James Andrews and his team from the American Sports Medicine Institute to help us evaluate the mechanics of all the pitchers in the organization.

“By working with ASMI, we are creating a great footprint from which to build our programs,” he added. “It is the first time anyone is using this approach across the organization from such an early stage, so it is exciting and we think it will really give us a leg up on evaluation of all our pitchers and prospects going forward.”

That consistent approach is what Peterson thinks will help turn the fortunes of the young pitchers in the system, and it is one which will be brought and positioned with coaching staffs at every level.

“We will work with the coaches to make sure they understand and give their input into the program, and we think as it becomes successful, is one that will be replicated elsewhere,” Peterson said. “It is great that everyone from Mr. Angelos on down has bought into the system, and that we have people like Jim and Buck to let us establish the program.”

As far as the day-to-day goes in his new role, Peterson said he will be on the road evaluating pitching talent and prospects more than spending time in Baltimore.

“My role is to help in any way, and that really starts with the young guys we have in the system and the coaches working with them,” he said. “If there is a specific need for me to be in Baltimore that’s great, but my real role is in developing and implementing what will make us successful for the long run, that is what makes this such an exciting challenge.”

That challenge will of course also lie in how well Baltimore will be able to grow on the Major League level, in one of the deepest divisions in baseball. However, even with those challenges, Peterson, a baseball lifer, is glad to be back in and around the game full-time.

“Last year I got to go to Italy and the Caribbean and do some things with analytics I never had the chance to do, but this is my life and where I want to be, and where I think I can help make a difference,” he added. “Heck, I have come full circle since the Orioles drafted me in high school — it took me over 30 years to finally get here!”

Hopefully the journey back is a fruitful one for Peterson and the Orioles organization. 

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