Spring and Baseballs are in the Air!

It’s back!  Giants baseball is back!  What a long wait this has been.  I can’t believe how sweet it was to hear the voices of Jon Miller, Mike Krukow, and Duane Kuiper announcing the Spring Training game yesterday on KNBR.  It was like reuniting with old friends.  Even though the real season has yet to begin, Dan (my hubby) is already anticipating with dread the late dinners and monopolized TV.  But I am one happy camper.

There’s a lot to talk about after the first game yesterday.  Plenty of my boys got to show their stuff.  I’ll mention the standouts:  Timmy pitched for two innings, starting out a bit shaky and allowing a few hits and a run, but improving as he went along.  I was glad to see that he got on the mound after he had been suffering from back strain during the week.  Brandon Belt, who had some hitting problems last season once pitchers dialed him in, went 3 for 4 including a solo home run.  He also went 2 for 2 during an intersquad game during the week.  Sounds like whatever he is doing differently is working – keep it up, kid!  Another boy who is being watched for his offense is Brandon Crawford, and he went 1 for 2 (you should be proud, Ginny!).  Hector Sanchez, the baby catcher who came up at the end of last season, went 1 for 2 as well, his hit being a solo home run.  I think he’s definitely one to watch, especially since he can switch-hit (look out, Eli!).  As far as the new guys, Angel Pagan, known for making too many errors last year, did make one error during the game, getting a bit overzealous trying to field a ball and missing it.  But fellow new guy, Melky Cabrera, was able to get to the ball and make a spectacular throw to home, getting Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks out.  Even Timmy was surprised that the ball got home so quickly.  Keep it up, Melky!  It’s nice to finally see (or at least hear) this guy in action.  Pagan did redeem himself by going 1 for 3 with one run and he stole a base, another thing he is famous for.  That speed will definitely come in handy this year in those close games that we are all used to.

I forgot to mention something about Angel Pagan in my last blog.  I noticed at FanFest that he was wearing #16 and that Bochy is wearing #15 again.  You might recall that Bochy gave up his #15 to Carlos Beltran last year.  It’s good to see that Bruce can wear his old number again now that Carlos has moved on.

In other Giants news, there has been an interesting story going on with one of the Giants minor leaguers.  His name is Angel Villalona from the Dominican Republic.  He signed with the Giants in 2006 for a record $2.1 million signing bonus when he was only 16 years old.  He played in the Giants minor league system as a first baseman.  He was a standout player, hitting .267 with 9 home runs and 42 RBIs in 292 at bats during the 2009 season.  In September of 2009, he was arrested and charged with a murder in the Dominican Republic.  He went back home to face the charges.  Two years later, all charges were dropped, and the Giants added him to the 40-man roster late last year to prevent him from being drafted by another team.  He was scheduled to come out for Spring Training this year, with a locker awaiting him in the clubhouse.  But according to Andrew Baggarly of Comcast SportsNet, his locker is now gone.  He has been having issues obtaining his visa, so that must mean the issue will not be resolved any time soon.  What a crazy story!  If he was wrongly accused, I really feel sorry for this kid – he hasn’t been able to play during probably the most productive years of his career (he’s now 21).  On the other hand, who knows what really went on in that barroom in the Dominican Republic that night, and would you feel comfortable playing with someone who had been accused of murder??  I’ll continue to follow this story and let you know what happens.

I mentioned Andrew Baggarly earlier.  He is the new Giants Insider for Comcast SportsNet.  I am really enjoying his updates on the boys from Spring Training.  He gives lots of details so you feel like you are a part of it all.  He also does stories on some of the players who aren’t always in the spotlight.  Take, for example, Eli Whiteside.  I was tickled to find that “Baggs” did a story specifically on Eli.  You can check it out here.  He talks about Eli’s elbow problems last year and the treatment he had.  I’m hoping that this means Eli will have a much better season this year.  Looking forward to reading more of your posts, Baggs.  Welcome to Comcast SportsNet.  I hope to meet you at the Comcast BBQ this year (Maybe I can even get him to read my blog!).

Even though Dan isn’t a big Giants fan, he sure does give me some good fodder for my blog (including some ideas for the Fight Club piece I did).  We were in the car yesterday listening to part of the game (much to his chagrin).  He loves to make fun of Mike Fontenot’s name, pronouncing it in a variety of incorrect ways.  I mentioned to him that there is a new guy on the team who also has a silent T in his name, Ryan Theriot, and they are both utility players.  Right off, he said, “Ah, they are the Oh Boys!”  I love that!  So from now on, these two will be referred to as the Oh Boys.  It’s also interesting that they knew each other before they came to the Giants – they played together at LSU and on the Chicago Cubs.  Comcast SportNet recently did an interview with the two of them, and it was pretty funny.  It will be interesting to watch the two of them together this season.  They are actually starting one of the games on Sunday together, so it will be like old times (Theriot at shortstop, Fontenot at second base).

I’m listening to one of the games right now on KNBR.  Melky Cabrera just got a double.  WOOHOO!

Also, I just got some inspiration from a post by my sister on Facebook (note how I am multitasking today).  I posted that I’ll be listening to both Giants games today.  She asked why there are two games going on.  I just learned this, but for some of the Spring Training games, they split the teams so that more guys can practice.  After all, that’s what Spring Training is all about: getting in some practice before the season.

Update:  Melky got stranded at second.  Come on, guys!  This is sounding unfortunately familiar.  Work on getting those base runners home!

There have been a lot of updates from KNBR and Comcast SportsNet regarding the status of Buster Posey in the last few weeks.  This makes total sense – everyone out there is anxiously awaiting his return to the game since his horrible accident last May.  It was sounding like he would be ready for the first game of Spring Training, but Bochy has kept him out of the first two games.  They don’t want to push him into base running before he’s ready because it’s really tough on your ankles.  I’m definitely behind this – he has plenty of time during Spring Training to work his way back.  We don’t want him injured again.  We need him so badly.  One of the fringe benefits of the Posey coverage is that in almost every pic of Buster, my boy Eli is in the background!  I have been loving this.  Here’s an example.  I do wish Eli hadn’t cut his hair, though.  He has beautiful curly hair.  I’m hoping he just cut it because it’s hot in Arizona.

Update:  Bee delay.  A swarm of bees gathered in center field.  The broadcasters are totally fascinated by this.  They’re talking about how the “bee wranglers” are coming out to deal with the bees.  We’re getting the play-by-play on the bee incident.  Oh, how I’ve missed these guys!

In a non-Giants (thankfully) baseball story worth mentioning, I’m sure most of you heard about the Ryan Braun incident.  Ryan Braun, outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, was voted Most Valuable Player for the National League last year.  He received a 50-game suspension at the end of last season for violating baseball’s drug rules (his urine had a high level of synthetic testosterone).  Braun appealed the decision, and an arbitration panel overturned it recently.  It was overturned on the grounds that the sample was not taken to a FedEx office directly to be sent to the screening lab, but instead it was kept at the collector’s home for 48 hours before being sent off.  The collector apparently did this because there was no FedEx office at the time that could immediately ship the samples.  So basically Ryan got off on a technicality – he’s not explaining how the high level of synthetic testosterone got into the sample, especially when the seals on the containers had not been tampered with.  Braun went so far as to have a press conference after the decision, restating his innocence and his disappointment at how this whole affair has affected his career.  I was able to watch the press conference live, and I have to say, I felt really sorry for the guy for everything he had to go through and for the fact that he had been voted MVP and didn’t get to enjoy it because of the controversy.  Then I got my wakeup call from the media.  Almost everyone in the media is saying that he only got off because he has a good lawyer who was able to find a technicality.  I learned that this isn’t the first time someone has done this.  So I need to stop being so naïve when it comes to such issues and look at the whole picture.  Granted you’re innocent until proven guilty, but from everything I’ve heard, I think Ryan just got lucky this time.  I hope if he did take something he wasn’t supposed to, this will be a wakeup call.  There may not be a loophole next time.  Of note, Braun struck out in both his at bats today during the split squad game against the Giants, and received boos from fans during both at bats.  Also, the fact that he won’t be suspended directly affects the Giants.  Every game they play against the Brewers this season will be within that 50-game window, and if the suspension had held, they would not have had to play against him.

Update:  Hector Sanchez just hit an RBI in the first play after the bee incident.  Giants go ahead.  HEEEEEEEE!!

We had some sad news about a past Giants player recently.  Gary “Kid” Carter passed away from brain cancer on February 16th at the age of 57.  He was an 11-time All Star and played for 19 seasons.  He played catcher for the Giants in 1990, and that year became the all-time National League leader in games caught with 1,862.  I actually remember watching him that year (I think I have a thing for catchers).  He had a great smile and a noteworthy career, and he passed way too soon.  Rest in peace.

I thank KNBR for continuing to school me in the wonderful ways of baseball.  I had the privilege of listening to an interview with Brandon Crawford on the Murph and Mac show on KNBR last week.  That’s one of the great things about Spring Training – the boys aren’t as busy, so they are more available for interviews.  I have been ODing on them this week!  Anyway, during the interview, I learned that a shortstop does more than just wait for a ball to come to him and field it.  Brandon mentioned that he knows what pitch will be thrown (from watching the catcher’s signals) and he knows how each batter tends to hit.  This helps him to figure out where a ball will go when it is hit so he can be prepared to make a play.  I had no idea all this was going on.  Sorry, Brandon.  I will definitely appreciate you more now.

Update:  Hector Sanchez gets hit by ball while running the bases and is out.  Bummer.  Did you know that’s how it works?  If a batter hits the ball and it hits you while you are running, you are out.  We’re always learning here!

A major change has been made in the way the post-season will work this season.  Here’s a link to the story as it was reported by Comcast SportsNet.  It was announced this week that MLB will be adding one additional wild card team for each league.  There will be a single game playoff between the two wild card teams before the division series.  This change has been endorsed by Commisioner Bud Selig’s 14-member Special Committee for On-Field Matters (had to include that because that name made me crack up!).  I did not understand why they would go from an even number of playoff teams (four) and mess that up with an odd number of teams (five), making it necessary to do that extra game up front.  So what’s the deal?  Then I got some schooling from reading Dave Benz’s article on the matter (you can read it here).  According to him, what it all boils down to is MOOLAH!  At first I wondered what he meant, since there would only be one extra game in each league – how much more money could that bring in?  But then he explained further:  This will keep more teams in the race to the playoffs longer, thus bringing in more fans to their regular season games.  If you’re team is out of playoff contention, attendance drops off drastically.  So thank you, Dave Benz, for helping me overcome my naiveté in thinking that MLB does things solely for the fans’ benefit.  I need to remember that this is a business, after all.  And I’ll just hope that this rule ends up benefiting my boys!  Another change in the post-season this year only will be that the 5-game division series will begin with 2 home games for the lower seeds followed by 3 home games for the higher seeds (it’s usually 2 home games for the higher seeds followed by 2 home games for the lower seeds followed by a home game by the higher seed if necessary).  Got that?  I’m sure we’ll get lots of reminders about this once the post-season is here.

Update:  Eli got a hit!!  Go, Eli!!  His batting average is .333 right now!

I am so ready to go to some games this season.  I finally broke down and bought the Ryan Vogelsong shirt I’ve been wanting – I love that boy!  I’m hoping his back injury isn’t serious (he hurt it lifting weights) and he is out there pitching soon.  I also bought Ginny a matching Brandon Crawford shirt so we can root for our boys together.  Can’t wait for the first game we go to together!  Maybe we can get both of out shirts signed by our boys!

Both of Sunday’s Spring Training games are over at this point (this thing takes a long time to write!).  One squad beat the Diamondbacks 11-1 (WOOHOO!  That was the bee-delayed game) and the other tied the Brewers 1-1.  What, you say?  TIED?  There is no such thing as tie when it comes to baseball, right?  Well, that’s not true (more baseball education coming your way).  I found out that in Spring Training games, you can have a tie as long as at least nine innings were played.  The reason is basically to save the pitchers’ arms, especially when you have split squads and you run out of pitchers.  You have to remember; the goal during Spring Training is not really to win the game (even though that’s nice!) but for the players to get practice.  You don’t want to burn out your pitchers before the season even starts.  As long as the managers decide it is OK, they can stop with a tie.

I just found out that tomorrow’s Giants Spring Training game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet.  Guess where my butt is going to be tomorrow night?  Maybe I’ll even do a spit count to get into practice.  Hope you all will be watching with me.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!!!!!

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