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San Francisco Giants: 10 Players Necessary to Take the NL West

The San Francisco Giants have turned the page and started their “new season” in San Diego with a splash.  (The Giants took the first game 10-1 without Cabrera.)   But the Giants still have some things to prove to the baseball world; they need to show that they can still win games without anyone cheating.  

Of course, the Giants are leading all of baseball in scoring on the road. 

No Melk, no juice, just a lot of sweat and determination.  Here are the players who can still make the difference; guys who can still win a championship.  It’s time for the fans to leave Melky in the rear-view mirror and focus on the positive aspects of the franchise.

Here they are:

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San Francisco Giants Get a Wake-Up Call from the Nationals

It got ugly in San Francisco on Monday night, it got ugly fast.  Thousands of folks left early, even manager Bruce Bochy said the secret word to an umpire and was ejected after only a third of the game had been played.

To say that the Washington Nationals ran away with the game is an understatement.  Their 21 hits at AT&T are the most recorded by any visiting club. The Nats have taken all four of the games they have played against the Giants this season, putting up a combined total of 38 runs against the Giants pitching staff.

Let’s face it, Washington has the best record in baseball and deservedly so; they are formidable in every way.  I was in the ballpark last night and I can tell you that the Giants seemed deflated.  They were sloppy and slow in the infield.  (Bryce Harper practically sauntered from second to third base when the Giants were too shell shocked to even attempt the throw out; Harper would make it home to score yet another run for the Nats.)

The Nationals were also able to expose the weaknesses and vulnerability that the Giants have in their roster.  The bullpen in San Francisco is not what it once was.  Brad Penny looked like he wanted to run screaming from the mound.  The Giants would utilize six pitchers in their 14-2 loss to the Nationals, and they have to endure two more games.

All this, and the Nationals didn’t even put Jayson Werth in the lineup. (He was a late scratch due to ankle soreness, and apparently mercifulness.)  Ryan Vogelsong, who for the first time all season could not complete six innings of play, admitted (via CSN Bay Area): “I’ll probably lose some sleep over it.”  

I have a feeling Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean might do a little tossing and turning as well.

So is this a wake-up call for the Giants?  A reality check?  Honestly, it probably is.  The franchise needs to just focus on winning the NL West.  As Bochy said last night, “What could go wrong, did go wrong.”  Indeed.

Can the Giants still take this series at home against the Nationals?

Absolutely not.  The truth is that the Giants will be lucky to win one of the next two games, and the only way to do that is to keep it close.  Tuesday’s game sees lefty Madison Bumgarner going for his 13th win of the season against the red hot Jordan Zimmermann.

Giants fans need to hope that Bumgarner will get some early run support from Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.  But the Giants’ sluggers are not going to have it easy against Zimmermann.

Hey, at least Brandon Crawford got his first home run at AT&T this season.

See you guys at the ballpark.


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San Francisco Giants: The Real Ace on the Staff Is Ryan Vogelsong

If the Giants absolutely, live or die, had to win just one game (say in a wild-card situation) wouldn’t manager Bruce Bochy have to put Ryan Vogelsong on the mound?

He’s the obvious choice to me.  

Okay, Matt Cain has that perfect game under his belt.  He’s also got a few really beautiful shutouts this season.  Classic, gorgeous pitching.  But Cain also labored in five terrible innings against the Mets, for crying out loud.  I was there to see the very first pitch go over the wall.

I mean, if you are going to put the Giants starting pitchers in order of preference based on consistency, command and placement, I’d have to go:  Vogelsong, Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum and Zito.  And Vogelsong really gets a lot less respect than he has earned.

I’m not a huge stats and numbers nerd, but his numbers are difficult to ignore.  Sixteen consecutive games allowing three runs or fewer.  This is the longest single-season streak in San Francisco Giants history (since 1958).  Twenty games where Vogelsong has gone for six innings or more.  In 19 starts, Ryan Vogelsong leads all of Major League Baseball with an ERA of 2.22.  (H/T to SFGStats for their diligence.)

Is it possible to discuss the Cy Young Award and not bring up the name Ryan Vogelsong?

In all honesty, Vogelsong scares me a little.  You can’t make eye contact or speak to him on game days, and even the day before he’s a bit squirrely.  Vogelsong is 35 and his professional baseball story is an epic tale of a guy who just refused to stop believing in himself.  I mean, it’s a stinking Kevin Costner movie.

So let’s just admit it: Vogey is the real ace.  Timmy has the hair, Cainer has the perfect game, Bumgarner has that country drawl and Zito has the troops.  Vogey has the fastball, and he used it 73 out of 98 times on Friday…and it was working.

See you at the ballpark.


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San Francisco Giants: Why Bruce Bochy Is the Manager and You Aren’t

I wish I had a dime for every article written about Tim Lincecum lately.  Needless to say, Giants Nation is in full freak-out mode and we’re only one-quarter of the way through the 2012 season.  Well, I’m not writing about Timmy.  I’ve already made my predictions regarding Lincecum and I’m sticking to them.

But let’s take a look at Bochy.  The good decisions, the questionable decisions and the guiding force that leads him through the season.  The Giants manager is privy to a lot of information that none of us can ever even sniff; I think we can all give him that.

Some fans love him, while others want his formidable head on a platter. Here are some reasons Bochy deserves his job more than you do.



Bochy played the game for nearly 10 seasons.  He had 802 at-bats and hit 26 home runs.  He was a decent catcher, and he gets some credibility just because he laced them up.

He managed the San Diego Padres for 12 years, leading them to their first NL pennant in 14 years, as well as five postseason appearances.  He won over 900 games while managing the Padres—the most in team history—and they were on a budget.  He also won Manager of the Year in 1996.

He has managed the San Francisco Giants since 2006.  Obviously, the outcome of 2010 has given Bochy a bit of job security.



Unlike the fanbase, Bochy knows managing takes an exorbitant amount of patience.  It’s a long season, and baseball is a humbling profession.  When fans go insane about Bochy placing aging veterans in the lineup, well, it’s for a reason.  Bochy understands streaks and slumps.  I’ve personally watched him sit right behind home plate during batting practice carefully watching his guys.  He knows what’s up.



Even I have criticized the lack of bunting, or basic small ball play by the Giants.  Bochy has the tools, speed and opportunities to manufacture some runs in 2012; so he’s using them.  His strategy has shifted because his team has shifted.  The Giants are faster, younger and unfortunately more error-prone due to a lack of Major League experience.  Bochy is trying to adjust.



CSNBayarea joked that Bochy has resorted to pulling the lineup names out of a hat.  But how brilliant was it to move Brandon Crawford to the two-hole?  He sees more fastballs now, and he is hitting.  He also sent a message by letting Madison Bumgarner hit eighth, and Emmanuel Burriss ninth.  He does, perhaps, overemphasize the righty-lefty matchups; but that seems to be his thing.  Let’s just give him that.



Bruce Bochy has to deal with Brian Sabean and the front office, not to mention the egos of overpaid ballplayers.  When we are all wondering why we have to watch Aubrey Huff get second, third and forth chances to play, we need to just remember that there are other forces at work.  Some folks are saving face and praying that their big investments pay off—if only a little.  It certainly seems like it was a great move to keep Barry Zito in the rotation this season.  However, I would have avoided Zito like the plague when the season started.



Bochy loves baseball, he likes his players and he knows it is his job to win ballgames.  That is his first priority.  Dealing with the media—especially tedious press conferences after a loss—is just the sucky part of the job.  It’s no fun trying to answer sensitive and difficult questions; and it takes a real diplomat to be able to say enough, without saying too much.  Some information has to stay within the franchise, and going in front of the cameras is a tricky tightrope to walk.



Everyone on the team is supposed to be a professional. But let’s face it, most of these guys are in their twenties and spend a lot of time on the road. That, my friends, is a recipe for questionable behavior.  In many ways the manager has to be a babysitter, a parent and a counselor.  He has to smooth ruffled feathers and step on some toes; and occasionally, he has to put a player in his place.  

So, the next time we all want to rag on Bochy, questioning his decisions and demanding his firing, let’s stand back for a minute and remember all the responsibilities he has.  Bruce Bochy is doing everything he can to help these guys win ballgames.  He’s dealing with injuries, inexperienced players and a fairly tough schedule.  

My plan now is to lay off a bit and see what he comes up with.  Though, I might start complaining again after 80 games have been played.

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San Francisco Giants: Young, Inexperienced and Hungry to Win

The Giants have one of the youngest lineups in the National League, much to the dismay of manager Bruce Bochy.  If you don’t count Aubrey Huff (and who does count Huff anymore?), then Angel Pagan at age 30 is the oldest everyday player. Most of the players are between 25 and 27 years old.

The problems that arise from such major league inexperience are painfully obvious to Giants fans. Leading the league in errors, failures to make correct plays and unproductive at-bats are all things that we have grown accustomed to dealing with lately. The Giants are averaging 3.64 pitches per plate appearance this season (the lowest average in the NL).

The silver lining is, of course, that the Giants are only six games out of first place behind the Dodgers. Pablo Sandoval is coming back soon, and Freddy Sanchez may eventually return too. There is other good news as well. San Francisco managed to put eight runs on the board without Sandoval on Friday night, and that’s the most they’ve scored at AT&T this season. Melky Cabrera is tied for the third-most hits in the NL with 51.

In general the Giants are learning. Both Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt are getting more comfortable watching major league pitching. Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan are showing a real knack for getting on base by any means possible.

And while there certainly are not enough home runs being hit, and there are far too many runners left on base (RISP), the Giants look to be trending upward. The pitching is still there; if Tim Lincecum seems a bit more of a disappointment so far this season, Barry Zito certainly is a bit more of a pleasant surprise.

Reaching the 40-game mark is important. It’s the one-quarter pole and a good time to make an assessment. To me it seems obvious that both Huff and Emmanuel Burriss need to be out of the lineup, and Bochy seems to be getting that message as well.

I believe that the more experience the young players get at this level the more they will be able to perform. Crawford has now hit safely in six of his last seven games. More bases are being stolen, and more walks are being taken.  

If the fielding errors can be reduced, and production at the plate can be even slightly improved then these Giants are going to be right in the mix late in the season. Perhaps equally as important it shows a team that is building a strong base for future seasons. These young guys have a real passion for the game and a hunger to prove they can be a championship team.

Bochy and Brian Sabean should both be congratulated, along with the coaching staff, for bringing together a very positive young team that is learning to work well as a unit and is also having a good time playing ball.

This is an exciting year to come out to the ballpark. The team is different; it’s growing and changing. I get the sense that anything is possible this year. I’m waiting for a real breakout game where the Giants put up double-digit runs. I’m hoping to see a few more shutouts from Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. This is a great year for baseball in California. 

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Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, the Birth of a Legend

Few prospects have been hyped for as long or as hard as the NationalsBryce Harper.  When third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was put on the 15-day disabled list it heralded the call-up heard ’round the baseball world: Harper’s debut.

The throng of reporters and circus-like media frenzy that surround the 19-year-old phenom seems oddly justified.  Bryce Harper looks like the real deal—a legend in the making.  

Of course, all professional ballplayers are special.  They have beat long odds and have risen above scores of other young men for the opportunity to come to the show.  Every name on every clubhouse locker, and each spot on every manager’s lineup card is, in fact, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

But Harper represents something that is even more rare: He is a once-in-a-generation talent.  A player destined for All-Star teams and Gold Gloves, for MVP awards and someday Cooperstown.  It sounds like a hyperbole for a boy that has just begun a career, but deep down it feels like the truth.

Of one thing I am truly certain: Bryce Harper will sell tickets.  Seats will be filled, jerseys will be bought and kids everywhere will start smearing thick eye-black on their faces.  The marketing of young Harper has already begun, and that is a train that will only gain speed.

“Why Harper?” You might ask yourself.

Here’s why:  He’s a five tool player, although I believe he is even more than that. The tools, for those that don’t know the list are: batting average, power, speed, throwing and defense.  

Anyone who saw his 300-foot throw from left field in the seventh inning of Tuesday night’s game knows that his strength and accuracy are, well, other-worldly.  As Dan Steinberg wrote in the Washington Post, “The dude can do things that other people just can’t do.”  

His first hit in the majors was a laser-beam double that went over the head of Matt Kemp in Dodger Stadium.  As Harper sped around first base he knocked off his batting helmet, a calculated bit of theater from a player who will be a true showman of the sport.  Bryce Harper was born to be in the spotlight.

He was recently caught playing softball with a group of strangers in the shadow of the Washington Monument. This is the stuff that a publicist’s dreams are made of.

But Harper is earning the hype on the field.  He’s making tumbling barehanded three-fingered grabs, as well as key hits.  Nationals manager Davey Johnson says of Harper: “The beauty of him is that he hits the ball hard to all fields…He hits the ball where the pitch is thrown.”  

Some critics and insiders are saying that young Harper needs to “complete his development” in the minor leagues.  I doubt Harper is going down, it doesn’t make sense.  He is too compelling to watch, a talent that has far outgrown the minor leagues.  

When you watch Bryce Harper you see someone play the game the way it is meant to be played, the way the best little league coaches taught it.  He catches with both hands, he runs hard, he keeps the hustle and drives the ball.  He loves baseball, and when you distill everything else down—the business, the contracts, the hype and the money—it is really about loving baseball.

Harper doesn’t read anything about himself in the press, he doesn’t need to.  He focuses on his game, and he remembers that baseball is a humbling sport.  Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said, “This guy is performing admirably in the big leagues.  We feel that he’s got a chance to really impact the ballclub.”

The legend of Bryce Harper has begun, and it will be fun to watch.  I have a signed baseball from Harper sitting on a bookshelf in my den.  Beneath his signature he has scribbled the citation of his favorite Bible scripture: Luke 1:37.  It states, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  

I believe that Bryce Harper will be showing all of us that the great game of baseball is about to get just a little bit greater.

See you at the ballpark.

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San Francisco Giants: When Will Buster Posey Stop Catching?

The Giants have discussed permanently moving slugger Buster Posey from catcher to first base, according to’s Chris Haft. That day may not be too far away. 

Buster wants to catch, and he’s superb at the job. He calls a great game, no one denies that. He paints a nice target, and he has a certain stillness and finesse that only the very best in the game possess. He handles the pitching staff like a true veteran, and he even gets along well with the umpires. He likes being behind the dish.

His numbers look much more impressive for a catcher then they do for a first baseman, although he seems to be putting up pretty impressive numbers for any position lately. (.353/.413/.603)  Buster may improve offensively if he doesn’t have the daily grind of squatting behind home plate. Catching takes a mighty toll on everyone who does the job, and he might simply be too valuable a player to leave him there.

Hector Sanchez has progressed in the catching slot much faster then anyone anticipated, and having both Posey’s and Sanchez’s bats in the lineup is a plus. Sanchez is still having trouble in some minor areas, but nothing that can’t be fixed in the next month or so.  

There has also been a question as to other teams intentionally targeting the Giants’ star player. Andrew Baggarly went so far as to call Posey a “marked man.”  Recently Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Sam LeCure threw a pitch that came close enough to Buster’s knees that it elicited a warning from plate umpire Vic Carapazza.  Manager Bruce Bochy said, “It’s how people get hurt, you know?  We lost our guy for a long time last year, and here’s a ball thrown at his kneecaps.”  Indeed.

The Giants also have Tommy Joseph and Andrew Susac in the system. Neither one is ready to progress to the majors, but both are intriguing prospects that show a real depth for the Giants in this often difficult position. Joseph was particularly impressive at spring training this year, and continues to shine in Richmond.

When asked about the four games he has already started at first base, Buster commented: “I’m good with it.”

Brandon Belt’s future performance may be the deciding factor in what Bochy and Sabean ultimately decide to do, or when they make the move.  Buster has repeated stated his desire to remain catching, but affirmed his intent to do what is best for the team.

What’s best for the team may simply be to keep Buster healthy and out of harm’s way. While it won’t prevent pitchers from throwing behind the team’s best hitter (as the Reds did recently), moving Buster to first will, at the very least, protect him from those incredibly dicey plays at the plate.

The transition may be a gradual one this season. Posey has shown a really impressive passion for the game and has come bounding back into the limelight. People hardly mention the fact that he has recovered from a devastating injury, but it’s there, in the back of everyone’s mind. And surely that ankle must still hurt a little, right?

Buster is an amazing athlete and I think Giants fans just want to see him have a long and productive career in whatever position he plays. As he told, “I still say I want to be behind the plate. But I’m not opposed to going over there [first base], when the right time presents itself.”

The time is soon, Buster. 

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San Francisco Giants: 10 Problems the Giants Need to Fix in May


Twenty games is a small sample size—we all know that.  When the season is 40 games old, we can make a better assessment of where the Giants stand and their postseason chances.  

Certainly four games back behind the Dodgers is nothing to get too nervous about.

Even though the 2012 season is young, we’ve seen some pretty amazing baseball already.  

The Cain vs. Lee battle will go down in history as one of the truly great games played at AT&T.  The streak of the Panda and the remarkable return of Buster are also things that the fans can rally behind.

There are some troubling trends as well though—question marks that GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy will be addressing in the coming weeks.  Tell me if you agree with the potential problems that I think the Giants need to fix ASAP.

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San Francisco Giants: Is Aubrey Huff Getting Cut?


Aubrey Huff texted in sick, to manager Bruce Bochy before the San Francisco Giants doubleheader with the Mets on April 23.  Apparently a “family emergency” called him urgently back to Florida.

Well, in baseball timing is everything and Huff’s little excursion certainly raises some eyebrows. Huff is currently hitting .182/.300/.333.  During Huff’s last game he was 0-4, but much worse than that was the appalling error he made in the ninth inning that cost the Giants an unearned run in what would be a rather bizarre 5-4 loss.

Manager Bruce Bochy said: “He had to go back for personal reasons, personal issues.”

So how much empathy do we show?  It’s a puzzle, isn’t it?  Fans can run hot and cold on certain players like Aubrey Huff.  He was adored in 2010.  We all loved him, even when he shoved his hand down his pants in front of Willie Mays and the world.  

Now that he isn’t hitting, making rookie mistakes in the field, and blocking first base from younger, hungrier players he is the goat.  People resent his $11 million salary this year, and his apparently laissez faire attitude toward playing and working out.

He lets the team down on the eve of an 18-inning marathon while another player (Theriot) was just released from the hospital with a terrible stomach virus.  That must have been some text message. Don’t you think he should have called or met with Bruce Bochy before leaving?  I mean, isn’t that the professional thing to do, even in an emergency?

Bochy mentioned that Huff was apologetic in his message.  I bet.  He certainly was not apologetic after the loss on Saturday, in fact he was smiling after the error.  Giants’ announcer and former pitcher Mike Krukow told KNBR that Huff’s performance at second was, “a brain-dead play…it’s unacceptable.

The fact that the usual very supportive Krukow was so verbally (and emotionally) critical of Huff to the media is an obvious test balloon from the front office.  The Giants are preparing to make a move with Huff, if you ask me, although none of my inside sources will confirm anything. 

Aubrey Huff was still missing when the Giants came to Cincinnati on Tuesday.  He is now dealing with GM Brian Sabean.  MLB does have a Bereavement List where a player can leave the team for up to seven games, thus freeing the team to call someone up from the 40-man roster.  

This was not used in the case of Aubrey Huff which tells me that no one in his immediate family has passed away.

What’s the emergency?  

Obviously the truth is going to get out sooner or later.  I believe the longer it takes for the real story to get out, the more the fans will be embittered toward Aubrey Huff.  I thought that Huff would probably exit the 25-man roster when Freddy Sanchez came off the DL.  The rumor is that Freddy returns to the majors on May 11th in time to face the D-Backs.

Before all this happened I predicted that Huff would not finish the year as a Giant, but it’s starting to look like he won’t finish April as a Giant.  It was fun while it lasted, Aubrey.  I hope the emergency isn’t really terrible.  I hope Aubrey didn’t really let down his teammates and his fans by abandoning everyone in New York.  I hope he’s a little bit sorry that he lost his mind at second base, and I hope he’s still got his rally thong on because he needs it now more than ever.

We all get older, and we all slow down.  “That’s the law,” as Butch once told Sundance.  I hope there are better days ahead for Aubrey Huff, but I doubt those will be in San Francisco.  

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San Francisco Giants: 10 Reasons to See a Game at AT&T Park in 2012

Look at you! You’re reading articles about baseball, and the season hasn’t even started yet. You’re a diehard fan and I’m just preaching to the converted, but let’s face it, San Francisco Giants fans have something to be excited about this year.

Okay, so standing-room-only tickets for Opening Day are going for $92 on StubHub, but how about seeing Chipper Jones in his farewell tour with the Braves playing the Giants on August 23 for under $10?

Here are a few of the reasons why you must get out to the yard this year.

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