Tagged: Brandon Belt

Bliss and Barf

So, do you want the good news or the bad news first on this Opening Day?  I think I’ll start with the bad so I can end with the good.  And I feel some lists coming on:

Bad List (Barf):

  • Two of the five runs scored today by the Giants were scored by the pitcher. Where’s the power??  Belt, Posey, and Parker were hitless in a hitter’s park.  Granted it was against Greinke, but Buster hits well against Greinke usually.  And Belt and Parker are lefties.
  • Once Madison got into the stretch, the game fell apart. All momentum lost.
  • Pitchers blew saves not once but twice IN A SINGLE GAME!! And one was blown by the guy who was supposed to stop all this.  Andrew Baggarly even predicted it on Twitter – “Don’t forget – you can blow more than one save in a game.”  Thanks, Mr. Jinx.  I love how the abbreviation for blown save in the box score is BS – BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT IS!!!
  • They didn’t show the National Anthem on TV so I missed out on some of the Opening Day festivity glory. Thanks new NBC Sports Bay Area for robbing me of my hooplah!
  • We lost. We can’t go 162-0 anymore.  Dreams shattered.

Good List (Bliss):

  • Stud muffin Madison Bumgarner took a perfect game into the 6th
  • Madison Bumgarner, the starting pitcher, hit two homeruns. WHAT??  He’s the only pitcher IN MLB HISTORY to ever hit 2 homeruns in an Opening Day game.
  • Madison Bumgarner now has the most career home runs (16) of any Giants pitcher EVER and the most of any current pitcher.
  • Madison Bumgarner has the highest batting average (1.000 – he went 2 for 2 with a walk) and the highest number of homeruns (2) in all of baseball (hey, it’s true!!). Sorry all of this was overshadowed by the loss today, Dude.
  • Eduardo Nunez went 3 for 4 today. He also made a great defensive play, saving extra bases.
  • Though Brandon Belt didn’t get a hit, he did walk twice. Good eye, Kid.
  • Conor Gillaspie came through with a pinch hit RBI – exactly what he was hired to do.  Nice one!
  • Ty Blach and Hunter Strickland pitched really well in relief. There’s hope for that bullpen.
  • Greinke didn’t look great – hopefully it stays that way throughout the season.
  • I actually got to watch my boys play in a game that counted. BASEBALL IS BACK!!

Bliss and barf – if you are a true baseball fan, you have to take the bad with the good.  Guess that’s why we love it so much.  The rollercoaster ride never ends!  Next game is on Tuesday against the D-Backs.  Get some rest, Boys, and shrug this one off.  We know there is more bliss hiding in there somewhere.  You can do it!  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!  AVENGE MAD BUM!!

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Cruising Into the Second Half

I always hope for a perfect game from the start when I’m watching a baseball game.  Whether it’s from my living room or from the stands, I always have that hope in the back of my mind.  If a game is perfect after even three innings, I’ll text my siblings that we have a perfect game going.  I know this is silliness, but I think perfect games, even no-hitters, are pretty magical.  Just think of all the perfection that has to come into play, both from the pitcher and from the defense behind him, for this rare event to occur.  And one of my biggest baseball dreams is to be in attendance for either a perfect game or a no hitter.  My brother and two of my nieces have had the fortune of experiencing that thrill, being at AT&T Park for Tim Lincecum’s last no hitter.  Well, I may have gotten as close as I’ll ever get this last Sunday as I got to watch Madison throw a near perfect game in person.  I went with my hubby, and we had great field level seats between home plate and first.  Had a perfect view of my boy, and paid homage to him wearing my Bumgarner jersey.  By the 5th inning, you could just feel the tension and excitement building.  Then when Gregor dropped that fly ball (the sun was wicked that day – don’t feel bad, Gregor) and was charged with an error, the perfectness went away.  You can’t have a perfect game with an error, even if it’s not your fault.  Still, the no hitter was on the table.  With every inning he got out of cleanly, the excitement rose in the park.  There were deafening screams and cheers with every out.  He got a standing ovation with every walk back to the dugout.  Then, with one out in the eighth, Jake Lamb hit one to right field and made it to first.  Dreams shattered.  Still, Bum was met with overwhelming and well deserved applause.  After that, he was able to complete the game, allowing only one walk and no other hits.  This was the 4th one-hit game Madison had logged, an accomplishment in itself.  Still waiting for that perfect game or no hitter, but this game was indeed magical nonetheless.  And I’m sure Madison will get that no hitter, if not perfection, someday.

Regarding the seats we had (Section 110), I have to put a warning out there.  This season, the Giants extended the netting at the backstop in order to protect people from flying bats or balls.  The problem is that there is a pole to support the netting, and it can block your view depending on where you’re sitting.  Unfortunately Dan’s view of the batter was blocked by said pole.  Not sure I will sit in those seats again.  Better off being a little closer to first base in sections 109 or 108.  Angel and I sat in 108 last Tuesday, and those seats were perfect – well, except for the fact that there was a pigeon hanging out in the rafters above us.  Luckily he missed us!  Guess being covered doesn’t always provide protection from aerial attack!

Did anyone else watch the homerun derby?  I know a lot of people just ignore it, but there’s just something about seeing a guy hit a homerun.  I always love it.  And this year, Giancarlo Stanton was unbelievable!  He made up for us not being able to watch Madison blast some out of the park.  Stanton hit a total of 61 homeruns during the competition, smashing the previous record set by Bobby Abreu in 2005 of 41.  Five of his homers went 490 feet or more, the longest reaching 497 feet.  Incredible!  And so much fun to watch.  Definitely could have done without Chris Berman’s “BACK, BACK, BACK” calls, though.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this hysterical remix of his calls.  Sounds like he’s channeling a chicken!

My brothers told me that the Giants have some sort of jinx going on with the All-Star game.  They rarely do well.  Unfortunately, my boy Johnny Cueto fell victim to this during this outing.  How did our hero have two guys get knocks off him during that game?  And both were teammates of his last season, Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals.  Think they have some inside info on how to hit off of him?  Or was it just the excitement and distraction of everything around the All Star game that got to Johnny?  The Giants are having him skip his next scheduled start on Saturday, giving him an extra day to recoup from that insanity.  But I’m sure he’ll be back to his regular self in his next start.  Bum didn’t pitch because he had just pitched that gem on Sunday, but he did get to enjoy all the festivities nonetheless, including being booed by all the San Diego fans (at least they booed the Dodgers players, too).  Buster was the starting catcher and got to work with Johnny at the beginning of the game (making Johnny’s rough outing even more strange – he was pitching to his home boy!).  It was nice to see Buster out there representing us, but the only offense he could muster was a walk.  At least it was better than Brandon Belt, who actually made an appearance in the eighth inning but flew out to left field.  Not a reflection on Brandon, though, because the pitcher he matched up against, Yankees reliever Andrew Miller (who happens to be on the Giants reliever radar), was totally dealing.  Even the broadcasters were commenting that they were surprised he could even connect with one of those pitches.  Not a very good showing for my boys.  Then they had to keep bringing up the fact that the only grand slam ever allowed in an All Star game came off of Giants pitcher Atlee Hammaker.  Sheesh!  Poor Giants!

Speaking of Brandon Belt, that kid was so thrilled to be going to his first All Star game.  The Giants front office put out an aggressive ad campaign to get Belt in during the final-vote runoff.  That campaign included this video, one of my all-time favorite Giants productions.  Be sure to check out the website, too – it’s real and hysterical!  Anyway, to thank the front office for all their hard work, Brandon and his wife, Haley, bought pizza for the entire front office, 34 in all.  He was constantly thanking them whenever he was being interviewed about the All Star game, and kept saying he wouldn’t be there without them.  He also wouldn’t be there without his wife.  If you haven’t already, you have got to read his latest blog installment.  It brought me to tears.  In fact, I just reread it, and I’m crying again! Lends some insight into the support team behind every player.  Here’s the link.  Very glad he’s appreciative of her.

Sounds like we’ll be getting some key players back in the lineup and on the mound soon.  Hunter Pence could start a rehab assignment as soon as Saturday, and Joe Panik may start as early as Sunday.  The expected dates for return to the bigs for the two are July 25th for Hunter and July 22nd for Joe.  YAY!  Matt Duffy, on the other hand, is not expected to return soon.  He’s still recovering from an injured Achilles, and the Giants are giving him more time to get back.  Matt Cain is also due to return soon.  He allowed 2 runs over 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start in Sacramento.  He’s scheduled to have one more rehab start and then possibly return to the team July 19th.  It’s really amazing that with all these significant losses to the roster, the boys have been able to continue to compete at a high level, garnering the highest win total in all of baseball at this point in the season (57 and 33).  Love my boys!

I have another installment of “Angel’s Question” for you.  Angel was wondering if, when a manger pulls out a pitcher and he walks to the mound to take the ball, is he required to do that, or is it done out of respect for the pitcher?  I looked it up, and the manager is not required to take the ball away from the pitcher.  I guess that’s just baseball tradition.  When a new pitcher comes in, it is not typically announced to the home plate umpire (unless there is a double switch).  In this case, MLB rule 3.08 applies.  It states, “If no announcement of a substitution is made, the substitute shall be considered to have entered the game when, if a pitcher, he takes a position on the pitcher’s plate.”  No mention of the manager initiating the switch.  I think it’s nice that the manager comes out, though, and it definitely shows respect.  Thanks for another great question, Angel!

Not sure if I’ve mentioned it on here yet, but come Monday I’m embarking on a Giant adventure.  My two brothers, my sister and I are going to be following the Giants to New York and Boston, plus we’ll be attending a game in Philadelphia just to cross it off my list of parks.  I am SOOOOOOOOO excited!  So if I don’t update this for a while, you’ll know what I’m up to.  Look for my sister and I on the broadcast of the July 22nd game vs. the Yankees.  We’ll be sitting in the Finnerty’s section with all the other crazies.  Can’t wait!

Madison takes the mound again tonight in San Diego to begin the second half of the season.  At least he and the other Giants All Stars didn’t have to travel far!  I’m sure he’s going to be fabulous tonight, and considering he’s going against the Padres, who knows what magic might happen!  Keep this amazing streak of happiness going for us, Boys!  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!

First Spit Counts of the Season

I was looking forward to today’s game because Johnny Cueto was scheduled to pitch.  I love what I have seen of this guy so far.  He started off pretty rocky, giving up 5 runs in the first.  I could just hear other Giants fans saying, “Get rid of this bum!”  But he didn’t let the rough start get to him, and he allowed only one other run in the next 6 innings.  That’s a pretty tough thing to do.  It was also probably tough for Bochy to keep him in, but that’s how Bochy shows his players that he has confidence in them.  My other boys definitely backed Cueto up today, starting right off and scoring 2 runs immediately in the first off of Scott Kazmir. Kazmir had only given up one hit in 6 innings during his last start (granted it was against the Padres, but still).  Love it when the guys support their pitcher.  The offense really came through today, and the home runs continued.  To date this season, the Giants have hit 14 homeruns.  14!!!  Buster, Brandon Crawford, and Matt Duffy each have 2, and Angel, Brandon Belt, Adrianza, Panik, Brown, Bumgarner, Pence, and Span each have 1.  We rank second overall in the major leagues behind the Rockies in homeruns!  And their ballpark is a homerun haven!  This is the first time in franchise history the Giants have hit at least one homerun in the first seven games of the season.  I’m liking this!  So the rough start ended up turning into a never-giving-up victory, landing us alone atop the NL West standings.  The boys can have a very happy flight to Colorado this week!

As promised, I have the first two spit counts of the season for you.  I had high hopes for significantly decreased numbers based on the new rule banning chewing tobacco during games at AT&T Park (if you want to learn about the ban, here’s a link to a news story about it), but alas, they are finding ways to spit anyway.  Here you go:

April 9th

Giants:

  • Pagan 3
  • Bumgarner 2
  • Belt 2
  • Strickland 2 (disgusting sprays)
  • Posey 1
  • Tomlinson 1
  • Bochy 1 (seeds)
  • Duffy 1
  • Adrianza 1

Dodgers:

  • Thompson 5
  • Pederson 2
  • Barnes 2
  • Culberson 1
  • Turner 1
  • Ellis 1
  • Utley 1
  • Hatcher 1

Misc.:

  • Umpire 1

Game Spit Master General = Thompson at 5

Giants Game Spit Master General = Pagan at 3

That’s a total of 29 spits during a 3 hour and 20 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 6.9 minutes.

Granted this is one of the lowest spit averages ever, but why are they still spitting so much if they aren’t chewing tobacco??  Today’s Game Spit Master General is none other than Trayce Thompson, younger brother of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors.  Guess he’s trying to get out of his brother’s shadow and make a name for himself in spit history.  Strickland continues to blow out these incredible sprays of spit even though it was obvious he was chewing gum during this game.  Oh well, at least he’s not chewing tobacco.  The umpire who got caught spitting was Jeff Kellogg, the same guy who threw Dave Roberts out of the game on Friday.  Throw yourself out for spitting, Dude!  Also, since this was a Bumgarner start, I did my first snot rocket count of the season – Madison logged 7 today.

April 10th

Giants:

  • Belt 6
  • Cueto 6
  • Span 5
  • Pagan 3
  • Duffy 2
  • Bochy 2
  • Samardzija 1
  • Tomlinson 1
  • Meulens 1 (seeds)
  • Osich 1
  • Casilla 1

Dodgers:

  • Barnes 4
  • Thompson 3
  • Turner 2
  • Puig 1

Misc.:

  • Umpire 1 (wasn’t Kellogg today)

Game Spit Master General = Tie between Belt and Cueto at 6

That’s a total of 40 spits during a 3 hour and 10 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 4.8 minutes.

Unfortunately all three of the new additions logged their first spits today.  My dreams of another non-spitter on the team were dashed.  Brandon Belt gets the most disgusting spits of the game award for three times in a row spitting directly into his bare hand and rubbing it in as he prepared to take his position at first base.  I have never witnessed anything like this before.  Any other time a guy spat into his hand it was covered in a batting glove and he did it to get a better grip on the bat.  Why does Brandon do this?  Is it his way of getting extra spit on the ball for the pitcher??  What’s up with that?  YUCK!  Also I had a guest snot rocket launching by Matt Duffy today who snuck one in during one of his at bats.  Lovely.

Made a couple of interesting observations about the Dodgers during this series.  One is the shift they put on when Brandon Belt comes to bat.  They shift their third baseman all the way over to almost 1st base.  They did this every time he was up.  Once he took advantage of this and bunted towards third base and made it to first.  The broadcasters comment on it every time.  Guess it’s a pretty unusual shift, but I would imagine they do it because he rarely hits out to left field.

I also noticed something that at least two of the Dodger left fielders did (Charlie Culberson and Trayce Thompson).  Each made the last out in the inning, and then each made a motion like they were going to throw the ball into the crowd, but instead kept it in their glove.  What a couple of jerks!  Maybe this happens all the time but I had never noticed it before.  Has anyone else observed this?  Hope my boys don’t do this.

I had read on the SF Giants Gamer Babes Facebook page that Lou Seal has an interesting routine while Renel is announcing the starting lineup for the Giants at the beginning of a game, and I decided to check it out for myself during the game on Friday.  He makes a different gesture for each player!  For example, he salutes for Angel Pagan, he pretends to throw his hair back for Brandon Crawford, he gets super animated for Hunter Pence, and he strikes a Duffman superhero pose for Matt Duffy.  Love it!  Next time you are at a game check him out!

My boys are headed to Colorado for a series against the Rockies starting on Tuesday.  With the way they’ve been hitting homers, I’m really looking forward to what they can achieve in that hitter’s park!  Will be watching when I can.  Come on boys!  Let the momentum from taking the Dodgers series carry you on to more wins at Coors Field!  GO GIANTS!  CRUMBLE THE ROCKIES!

Train to Reign in a New Season

Yikes, it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged!  So many things to chat about!  First off, I need to mention my Spring Training trip – another successful adventure with my brothers.  We were in Arizona for 4 days, and while there attended 3 Giants games.  The trip had some bad and good aspects, so I feel some lists coming on.  Here are the good and the bad of this trip (and some things I learned for next time):

Bad Things (first so I can end on a high note because it was really a great trip):

  • We accidentally planned the trip on Easter weekend. I had already bought game tickets before I realized this.  Besides the fact that I didn’t get to spend Easter with the rest of my family, this meant that both airline and game ticket prices were much more than usual.  Won’t do that again.
  • Didn’t end up getting any current players’ autographs even though I waited for hours before all three games.
  • Went on a hike of Camelback Mountain not knowing that it is an extremely difficult hike, so we didn’t make it to the top (my brother said his back was hurting about half way up – I think he was lying because he didn’t want me to die. I’m not the greatest hiker.).
  • When we got back to the car after hiking Camelback Mountain, we were greeted by a parking ticket. Beware – it’s not obvious where the no parking zones are!
  • We lost all three games we attended, including a shutout by the Dodgers and a game that lasted over 4 hours that was on ESPN (and it only went 9 innings!).

Great Things that made up for the Bad Things:

  • I got to see my boys play up close and personal.
  • We made sure we purchased tickets in the shade this year. So much more comfortable, and worth the extra we paid for them.
  • I got Darrell Evans’ autograph (even though I had to pay for it) and took a picture with him. Such a nice guy.
  • I got to chat with a bunch of other retired players, including Gaylord Perry and George Foster.
  • I got Dave Fleming’s autograph (he was the only Giants broadcaster I was missing). Actually, I also got to chat with Erwin Higueros (one of the Spanish language broadcasters) and I was a dummy and didn’t think to get his autograph as well.  He’s such a friendly guy!
  • I chatted with Jon Miller about my failed hike up Camelback Mountain (he has made it up several times). Also got to shake his hand this time.
  • We found a couple of new restaurants that were fantastic – Joe’s Farm Grill (best tuna steak sandwich I’ve ever had – they have a farm on site where they get their produce) and Little Miss BBQ (be prepared for a looooooong line, but well worth it).
  • Got to see Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa play for the Cubs and White Sox respectively. Really miss those guys.  Travis even hit a homerun!  Unfortunately, neither made their team’s starting roster.
  • Got to see Bob Costas up close and personal during the game that was on ESPN. That man sure has had a lot of work done!
  • Got to see Tim Hudson in the dugout during one of the games (I think he was there because Madison was pitching).
  • Got to see Gregor Blanco hitting balls to his son in the infield before one of the games.
  • Had a close encounter with Sergio Romo’s family during one game. They were sitting on the other side of the aisle from us while Sergio was pitching.  When he gave up a homerun, his son put his face in his hand and yelled, “OH, DAD!!”
  • Got to boo Mat Latos when he pitched for the White Sox (he stunk that day).
  • The weather was milder than it’s ever been for us there – between 82 and 87 degrees.
  • Got to meet and speak with tons of awesome Giants fans. One even showed my Larry Baer’s business card!
  • Of course, one of the best parts was getting to hang out and be silly with my brothers.

A week later, it was time for real baseball.  I could not believe how ready I was for the season to start.  When I heard Mike Krukow mention on KNBR one morning that there should be no more “jimmyjacking”, I knew the season had officially started!  Here’s the 25-man roster for your 2016 San Francisco Giants (I can just hear Renel saying this!):

Pitchers:

Madison Bumgarner

Matt Cain

Santiago Casilla

Johnny Cueto

Cory Gearrin

Chris Heston

George Kontos

Javier Lopez

Josh Osich

Jake Peavy

Sergio Romo

Jeff Samardzija

Hunter Strickland

Catchers:

Trevor Brown

Buster Posey

Infielders:

Ehire Adrianza

Brandon Belt

Brandon Crawford

Matt Duffy

Joe Panik

Kelby Tomlinson

Outfielders:

Gregor Blanco

Angel Pagan

Hunter Pence

Denard Span

Some notes about this lineup:  Andrew Susac probably would have been the backup catcher if it wasn’t for the fact that he was having tendinitis in his surgically-repaired wrist this spring.  He was optioned to Triple-A Sacramento because the Giants still want him to get regular playing time while he is recovering.  Lucky for Trevor Brown!  Also of note is that all our starting pitchers are healthy (as I’m typing this, I’m hoping I’m not jinxing anything).  There was some question about whether this would be the case during Spring Training, and Chris Heston was ready and willing if he was needed to fill in.  I love Chris, but so glad he’s not needed right now.  And I am so, so excited about our starting lineup!  I really enjoyed watching Johnny Cueto pitch the other day and love his style.  It seems like he never has the same motion twice, plus he doesn’t waste any time getting to his next pitch.  Haven’t had a chance to see Samardzija in action, but boy that guy sure is animated in the clubhouse!  I think Hunter has a new buddy!  I’m really excited about Cory Gearrin being in the bullpen.  He definitely proved his worth during spring training, and I’m sure he’ll be an asset.  Meanwhile Ehire Adrianza gets another shot at coming off the bench.  He sure proved himself today with some great defensive plays and that homerun off of Kershaw!  Also with Hunter Strickland starting off in the bullpen this season, it will be interesting to see if Bochy tries him as closer at some point.  Santiago better be on his toes because Hunter is waiting in the wings.

Denard Span is another player that I’m really excited about, both for his offense and defense.  It’s been great to get to know him better through some interviews I’ve seen on the internet.  Here’s one that he did with Randy Winn.  I love the format of this interview – very low key with a former player and a current player discussing the ins and outs of playing in AT&T Park.  Denard also was allowed to be a guest writer for the Brandon and Brandon blog today.  You can see what he wrote here.  It’s also a nice view into his personality, and gives some insight into how other teams view our boys.  And his sense of humor seems to fit right in!

I was extremely lucky to get a great deal on some Field Level tickets to the Dodgers vs. Giants game on Friday night.  I went with one of my favorite game buddies, my sister.  We had seats that were covered so we didn’t get rained on.  It was kind of cool because all the people around us were season ticket holders and they all knew each other.  They were also very nice to us newcomers.  Talk about a roller coaster of emotions during that game!  Going in, all I really hoped for was that Matt Cain had a good start.  He’s been the biggest question mark of the starting rotation.  So glad and relieved that he had a fantastic night.  Just wish he could have gotten a little more run support!  That Dodgers kid Stripling was dealing!  I don’t think anyone was expecting that.  We were both so ticked off because the few Dodgers fans around us were being extremely obnoxious.  Any time the Dodgers would get a hit, they would stand up and face all of us and flaunt it, and especially this one guy named Barajas (had his name on the back of his jersey).  We kept saying, “Sit down, Barajas!”  It was getting depressing because besides Matt’s great showing, we didn’t really have much to cheer about.  We were praying that the tides would turn so that we could shut the Dodgers fans up.  Then by the end of the 7th inning, we were afraid we were going to experience a moment in history – for our arch rivals!  My boys still hadn’t gotten a hit off that kid!  They even started sending notifications on ESPN about it.  The eighth inning came and still no hits, but he did walk Buster.  Then something happened that no one ever anticipated – Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts took the kid out!  We were all in shock – both Dodgers fans and Giants fans alike.  How could he do that, with the kid taking a no hitter into the eighth during his first major league appearance?  The only player in modern history to throw a no-hitter in his first major league start was Bobo Holloman in 1953 (thank you, Andrew Baggarly).  1953!  Dave Roberts, you’re messing with baseball history!!  After the game, I found out that Stripling had a preset pitch count because he had Tommy John surgery and they didn’t want to take any chances with his arm.  I’m sure no one anticipated what would actually happen though.  Stripling’s father even thanked Roberts today for thinking of his son’s health first.  Anyway, after all the booing and excitement of Stripling coming out, I knew things were going to be different because the Dodgers bull pen stinks.  They were ahead 2 to nothing at this point.  Then came the kid, Trevor Brown.  Skyed one out of the park to left.  One of the top ten moments I’ve ever had at a Giants game.  Take that, silly Dodger fans!  We were all screaming and high fiving, but Barajas had magically disappeared.  Of course once he got back to his seat, he got an earful!  Then it went back and forth and we ended up in extra innings.  Brandon Crawford wasted no time and shot the first pitch he saw over the left field wall.  Fabulous!  Again, everyone was screaming and hugging and life was beautiful again.  Plus the fireworks show afterwards was so much sweeter with that win.  And talk about ironic – the music for the fireworks show came from Brandon Crawford’s clubhouse playlist!  We went from the lows of worrying about witnessing a no hitter for the other team to the highs of handing it to the Dodgers with a walk off homerun.  BEAUTIFUL!  And I got to share all of it with my sister, making it that much sweeter.

Here’s a link to the 2016 Giants commercials.  My favorite one is the Bochy one, but there are several that are pretty great.

I’ll end with the news of Brandon Belt’s extension.  He received a 5-year extension which will give the Giants control over him through 2021.  It covers his last remaining year of arbitration and 4 years of free agency.  He will make $72.8 million over the 5 years starting with the 2017 season.  I always find it interesting what some of the details of these contracts are, and for Belt’s he can designate 10 teams to which he can’t be traded to without his consent.  How do they come up with these things?  Why 10?  Did they go back and forth on that number?  Overall, though, I guess it means he really wants to remain a Giant.  Happy for the guy that he’s finally gotten a commitment from the big guys, and glad he’ll be part of the home-grown core for a while.  He’s definitely earned it in my book.  Guess this also means that Buster will continue to play catcher for a while.  Glad about that, too.  In honor of the Belt extension, Pablo Sandoval did some belt extending of his own during the Red Sox game today.  Check this out.  HA HA!!!

I did the first spit count of the season today, but I think I’ll post it tomorrow as I may do another one then.  Always keeping you in anticipation!!  So happy the way the season is starting out for my boys.  Hope they can take the series from the dreaded Dodgers tomorrow.  Looking forward to another exciting Cueto start.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!!  BEAT LA!!

And the Spending Continues!

Just when I was reveling in the fact that the Giants went and spent a ton of money to improve their pitching this off season, they go and surprise us all and spend some more, this time to improve the outfield.  I’m extremely late chiming in on this one, but the Giants signed outfielder Denard Span on January 7th to a 3 year, $31 million contract.  He played for the Nationals last season, batting .301 with an OBP of .365 and stealing 11 bases, making him a shoe in as the lead-off hitter.  He’s also an exceptionally good outfielder, a Gold Glove finalist in both 2013 and 2014.  Most people I spoke with had no idea who Denard was, but I sure did.  I had chosen him several times as a Beat the Streak pick the last few seasons, meaning the guy can hit, and consistently.  So needless to say I was extremely pleased when I heard the news.

There are two potential problems, though – his age (he’ll be 32 when the season starts) and injuries (he only played in 61 games last season because of injuries).  Overall though, I think the Giants made an excellent acquisition in Span.  And based on his introductory press conference (which you can see here in case you missed it), it sounds like the Giants will have Denard play center and Angel play left.  This may have been the motivation for going after Denard in the first place – Angel’s had his share of injuries as well, his fielding abilities are questionable, and it’s his walk year so he may not be coming back next season.  Plus how can you not love a guy who says he’s willing to do anything for the team, even back up Buster!  And that personality and great sense of humor will fit in perfectly in our clubhouse.  Plus he’s got a great smile!  Welcome to the fold, Denard!  Looking forward to some spectacular catches this season!

While doing some research, I came across this story by Grant Brisbee detailing an interesting fact about Denard:  He’s afraid of birds.  Specifically birds flying at his head.  Someone’s going to have to have a talk with the center-field seagulls at AT&T Park and warn them to keep their distance (Ginny – can you speak with your cousins please?).  Or else maybe Denard can go through some seagull exposure therapy to overcome his anxiety.  Too funny!  Wonder if his teammates will take advantage of this fact and start planting fake seagulls in the clubhouse.  Or if seagull hats will take the place of panda hats in the stands.

Two of the Giants from last season have left us and gone elsewhere.  Mike Leake was picked up by the Cardinals, and Dan’s boy Juan Perez was signed to a minor league contract by the Cubs.  I’ll really miss both of them and hope they do well in their new homes.  Juan leaving made it easy for Denard Span to decide on his number as a Giant – he’s wearing his usual #2, Perez’s old number.

Both George Kontos and Brandon Belt have exchanged arbitration numbers with the Giants.  Kontos, who had his best season yet in 2015, is asking for $1.35 million and the Giants have offered $850K.  The numbers are so close that it is expected they’ll settle for something in between, around $1 million.  This is really nice for George who had to battle for a bull pen spot against Jean Machi last season.  Belt’s numbers are much further apart:  He’s asking for $7.5 million and Giants are offering $5.3 million.  It’s much harder to gage Belt’s value as he was injured for a large part of last season due to concussion symptoms.  Again, since the Giants haven’t gone to arbitration with a player since doing it with A.J. Pierzynski in 2004, they’ll probably come to some middle ground with Belt as well.  Interesting to hear the speculation that they probably won’t be giving Belt a multi-year offer since Buster is getting older and may end up eventually playing at first base.  Belt gets caught right in the middle of that one.  Oh well, even $5.3 million is a ton of moolah!

Just a quick mention that Giants minor league pitcher Cody Hall was traded to the Diamondbacks.  You may ask, “Who the hell is Cody Hall?”  Well, I do have a fond memory of him from Spring Training.  He’s one of the two guys that printed their name under their signature in my autograph book when they saw that I had done that under previous autographs.  Such a good kid!  Wishing you well in the heat of Arizona, Cody!

Two Giants were blessed with additions to their families recently.  Brandon Crawford’s family welcomed a son (Braxton) and Angel Pagan’s family welcomed a daughter (Larah).  Congratulations to the Crawford and Pagan families!  Babies are the best!

Can’t leave without mentioning the passing of Giants Hall of Famer Monte Irvin.  I have to admit that I knew little about Irvin before his passing, but from the overwhelming response by the baseball community to his death, I knew I had to do some research and school myself on this amazing man.  After beginning his career with all-star numbers in the Negro League, Irvin was the 7th African American baseball player to enter the Major Leagues, and the first African American to play for the Giants.  He was a member of the 1951 New York Giants team that won the National League pennant.  That season, Monte Irvin, Hank Thompson, and Willie Mays (then a 20-year-old rookie) formed the first all-black outfield in Major League Baseball history.  Also that season, Irvin hit .312 with 24 home runs and a league-leading 121 RBI and finished third in the Most Valuable Player voting, and all this at age 32.  He would go on to win a World Series with the 1954 Giants.  Willie Mays called him his mentor and his friend, saying that Irvin took him under his wing and taught him how to survive as a black man in baseball while also teaching him about dealing with life in New York.  Everyone who paid him tribute both on the radio and over the internet mentioned what a humble and decent human being he was.  Unfortunately for us, he made his home in Texas so he wasn’t around to attend Giants festivities like Willie Mays and Willie McCovey are.  However he did get to travel with the team to the White House in 2014 in celebration of the World Series victory.  President Obama even had a private meeting with Irvin and Mays, telling them that he would not be in his position if it wasn’t for trailblazers like them.  Here’s a link to the tribute video the Giants posted in his honor.  Monte died at age 96.  Fitting that his tribute comes during the blog I’m writing on Martin Luther King Day.

So baseball is almost back!  Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on February 17th.  That’s just 30 days away!  And FanFest is on February 13th!  Can’t wait!  So close I can taste it!  Already planning a Spring Training trip again with my brothers.  Miss all my boys so much!  Until next time, GO GIANTS!  SEE YOU SOON!!

Ginny’s Golden Boy

So happy to report that Brandon Crawford was chosen as the 2015 Rawlings Gold Glove winner at shortstop for the National League.  The winner is chosen by votes from managers and coaches combined with statistical analysis in collaboration with the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR – as in “sabermetrics”).  Crawford beat out Andrelton Simmons of the Braves and Adeiny Hechavarria of the Marlins.  Finally this guy is getting some national attention.  Brian Murphy of KNBR mentioned that this could be due to the fact that Crawford amassed 21 homeruns last season, a personal best that probably turned some national heads.  Brandon mentioned that his All-Star status this season may have also contributed to his cause.  Regardless, the honor is well deserved.  Check out some of the moves that won this kid his award.  Crawford gave kudos to Bench Coach Ron Wotus for helping him reduce the number of errors he made this season by encouraging him to play smarter and not throw the ball if the odds were slim of making an out.  Nice job, Coach!  Something I never thought of that Brandon mentioned comes into play if you want to be a good fielder is your footwork – when you throw, you have to make sure to set your feet and direct your momentum toward the base.  He sure has figured out how to excel at this.  To honor his accomplishment, his wife baked him a cake in the shape of a glove frosted in gold.  Isn’t that just too adorable??  Congrats to you, Kid!

In other Giants news, the Giants declined the 2016 contract options of Nori Aoki and Marlon Byrd.  That would have been $5.5 million for Aoki and $8 million for Byrd.  This doesn’t mean that they won’t be back for sure – just that they won’t be back for that much.  When asked about it, Bobby Evans said that the timing was tough with all the things they need to accomplish this winter.  One of the biggest of those things is finding at least one star-caliber pitcher, so I’m glad at least Evans is thinking that way.  Will definitely be sad though if these two guys don’t come back.  Both made significant contributions to the team last season.  I enjoyed the energy both brought to the team.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

And on the new player front, there has been an awful lot of talk out there about the fact that the Giants may actually make a run for some of the high priced free agent pitchers out there, including Zack Greinke and David Price.  They haven’t been willing to spend the big bucks since being burned in the Zito deal, but they may be just desperate enough to do it this winter.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous to take Greinke away from the Dodgers??  And what a weapon he would be to add to our arsenal.  Would have to learn how to spell his name without looking it up and would also have to get used to looking at his scary eyes, but I’m willing to do anything for my team.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we get someone big.  With Madison as the only known solid starter on our pitching staff, we definitely could use a big boost.  Hoping, hoping, hoping the big bucks come out!

I heard some scary news the other day that Brandon Belt is still experiencing concussion symptoms.  The guy’s too young to be dealing with this!  Distressing to think that this could put his career in jeopardy, not to mention his quality of life.  Definitely keeping the kid in my thoughts and request that you do, too.

I had a few odds and ends left over from the end of the season that I never put out there.  A couple involved Matt Duffy.  Here’s an article in The Player’s Tribune written by Matt about finally making it to the big leagues and what it was like.  The guy can write!  So nice to hear how encouraging the veterans are to the new players.  Definitely could explain how the young kids can do so well so quickly in the Bigs.  Duffy’s dad also put together a photo collection for The Player’s Tribune that chronicles Matt’s life in baseball from the time he was a young lad, including some key moments in his career.  The senior Duffy is an extremely talented photographer.  I especially love his action shots.  You can find those pictures here.  Enjoy.

I learned something interesting near the end of the season about Jake Peavy.  Have you ever noticed that when guys catch for him, they don’t just put that fluorescent tape on their nails to make their signals more readable.  They also cover their fingers in black paint to make that tape even more visible.  Here’s a picture of what it looks like.  Why?  Because Jake Peavy has terrible vision.  In fact, he’s legally blind without corrective lenses.  Even with corrective lenses, the best he can see is 20-40.  In low light situations, it makes it extremely difficult for him to see signals.  Considering this, it’s pretty amazing how well the guy pitches.  You kind of need to see the target to hit it!

I hadn’t written about my boy Eli Whiteside in a while, and then a few weeks back I came across this video where my boy manages to find a way into the spotlight once again.  He participated in the McCovey Golf Classic back in September, along with several other Giants alumni including my BFF Bill Laskey.  How does Eli manage to stay in the spotlight all the time?  Oh well, it makes me happy.  And this video is just reminding me of what a terribly good looking man he is.  Whew!  Also Tiny Felder is one of my new favorite alumni.  And Barry, get over yourself!  And if you don’t care as much about Eli as I do, watch the video to get one more glimpse of my hero, Willie McCovey.  So happy he’s still able to attend the tournament that bears his name.  What a gem.

While searching for the previous video, I stumbled across this one.  A present for Ginny.  The Crawfords visit Pixar.  Definitely an 11 on the cuteness scale.

I’m thinking about adding a feature to my blog next season entitled “Angel’s Question.”  My friend Angel is a huge Giants fan, and every once in a while she’ll ask me a Giants-related or baseball-related question that I can’t answer.  So just in case you’re wondering what the answer is as well, I’ll answer them here.  My first installment in this series answers the question, “Whatever happened to Justin Maxwell?”  The guy was doing really well there for a while up in the Bigs, then he magically disappeared and faded into oblivion.  I looked it up, and although he initially showed promise and was amazing in the outfield, he spiraled into a hitting slump that forced the Giants to designate him for assignment on September 1st.  The addition of Alejandro De Aza to the team may have forshadowed this move.  Interesting to note that Maxwell played in 100 games last season – that’s way more than I thought.  He is currently a free agent.  He’ll probably get picked up next season as I’m sure he can make a positive contribution somewhere.  Thanks for the question, Angel!  Keep ‘em coming!

I still have to compile the spit count data from last season and crown the overall Spit Master General for 2015.  Hoping that will be done within the next week – I know you’re all waiting with baited breath!  Until then, I’ll keep my ears open for any news on roster changes (and that Greinke acquisition!).  Watching the Brandon Crawford highlight video made me realize how much I miss watching baseball.  Have to be patient.  Until next time, GO GIANTS MANAGEMENT!  FIND US SOME PITCHING!

It’s a Byrd, It’s a Plane, It’s…Tomlinson!

First, I have to apologize for taking over two weeks to update my blog.  Would love to do this full time, but life happens sometimes.  So much has happened in the last two weeks, most notably some injuries but also thankfully some much needed contributions from the new guys.  Since August 6th when they started that series against the Cubs, the boys have gone 10 and 13.  That may not sound great, but you have to keep in mind that they are nearing the end of the most challenging part of their season, encountering the Cubs (twice), Astros, Nationals, Cardinals (twice), and Pirates, all of whom are playoff contenders.  And those Cardinals have by far the best record in all of baseball right now at 84 and 46.  The challenge continues this week with three games against the Dodgers.  After that, besides the four games we play against the Dodgers at the end of September, it’s pretty much smooth sailing against a slew of teams with records way below .500.

I wasn’t very disappointed at the loss today, even though Duane Kuiper said it was “barfable.”  I think a list is in order – why I’m feeling positive even after a loss:

  • Aoki and the middle of the order (Belt, Posey, and Byrd) had multiple hit games against a pitcher who had a 1.77 ERA coming into this game (Jaime Garcia). They raised his ERA to above 2 for the first time since the middle of June.  You’ve got to like that.
  • Byrd has made an amazing showing as a Giant – today alone (on his birthday to boot) all of his hits were for multiple bases (two doubles and a triple), and he was responsible for driving in 4 of the 5 runs. Those two hits that he sent to almost the exact same place to just left of the right field foul pole were amazing.  On Twitter, Andrew Baggarly mentioned that you hardly ever see a ball go there, but Byrd did it twice.  And he’s hit three bombs with the Giants in only 9 games, including the grand salami he launched on Friday night to secure a win.  Loving this guy.
  • Kelby Tomlinson does need some defensive work playing second since he’s used to being a shortstop, but he’s also come through offensively for us. His current batting average is .328, he hit his first homerun (of the grand slam variety) on Thursday night to contribute to the win against the Cubs, and he hit a walk-off single on Friday night to end the game.  Superman indeed!
  • The bats of Brandon Belt and Buster Posey appear to have been awakened.
  • Juan Perez has a .389 batting average through the 10 games he’s hit in while in the Bigs this season. WHAT??  Everyone’s stepping up!  I’m so happy for Dan’s boy.  Plus, he’s pulling off stunts like this in the outfield.  Unbelievable!  I’ve heard from guys both on the radio and TV that that was the most spectacular catch they’ve ever seen.  I know it was for me!
  • Jake Peavy continues to provide us with strong outings.
  • Madison Bumgarner – well, he just continues to be himself. Thank goodness for that.
  • Relievers have gotten some rest and have been fairly strong, especially Romo and Lopez who have been “en fuego” (on fire – my siblings and I text this back and forth to each other during games). Well, Lopez did give up his first homerun this season today, but I really think he was jinxed by Amy G. who did an interview with him before the game and mentioned his success.  Oh, Amy!
  • We’re still only 4 games back of the Dodgers (plus they’re losing to the Cubs 2-0 as I write this – GO CUBBIES!).

Lots right there to be positive about.

However, with the good comes the bad.  First off – starting pitching overall.  Besides Bum, Peavy, and Leake, I really don’t have any confidence in the other potential starting pitchers.  Sorry, but you gotta be real sometimes.  Heston didn’t give us anything to hang our hat on today after coming off the DL and getting some rest, Cain has been a big question mark the entire season, and Vogey has been pretty inconsistent.  This is the issue that scares me the most, even more than the injuries.  As far as that goes, Pence and Panik still don’t have a definite return date, but Crawford is scheduled to start the Dodger series on Monday, and Pagan and Hudson are scheduled to be activated on Tuesday when rosters expand (As of September 1st, teams are not limited to only 25 active players.  Guys on the 40-man roster are also entitled to play.  Those dugouts will soon be pretty crowded!).

More bad news this week – Tim Lincecum is still experiencing pain in his hips and back.  According to Andrew Baggarly, Lincecum’s hips locked while he was trying to throw off the mound at the Giants’ complex in Arizona last week.  Lincecum says he has good and bad days, but, “the bad days are outshining the good ones.”  According to Bruce Bochy, when asked about Lincecum’s return to pitching for the Giants, he simply said he’s “not close.”  Sigh.  I feel so incredibly sorry that this is happening to him.  He has contributed so much to the success of this team, and he is loved by so many fans.  I’m definitely pulling for the guy, but it’s not looking good, especially since he’ll be a free agent next season.  Hang in there, Timmy.  We’re all pulling for you.  Hoping for a miracle.

In brighter news regarding the Giants pitching staff, Madison Bumgarner was voted the NL Player of the Week on August 17th.  This came after an amazing 7-day stretch where Bum pitched two complete games against Houston and Washington, the latter being a shutout.  And the guy managed a double and a homerun in the game against Washington.  Where would we be without him??  He even pinch hits (and successfully!)!  I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up being named Player of the Month.

I mentioned in a previous blog that Brandon Crawford’s wife, Jalynne, is expecting another baby.  Well, they recently found out that said baby is a boy!  As Brandon put it in his blog, he’s happy that he’ll have “a comrade in our house of girls!”  No news on the name yet, but I’ll keep you posted.  I’m sure it will be creative.

I’ve got a new spit count for you:

August 29th

Giants:

  • Susac 22
  • Vogelsong 10
  • Byrd 8
  • Belt 7
  • Petit 2
  • Adrianza 1
  • Meulens 1 (seeds)
  • Crawford 1
  • Kontos 1
  • Tomlinson 1

Cardinals:

  • Molina 4
  • Carpenter 1
  • Piscotty 1
  • Tuivailala 1

Misc.:

  • Giants Fan 1 (after catching foul ball)

Game Spit Master General = Susac at 22

That’s a total of 62 spits during a 3 hour and 10 minute game for an average of 1 spit every 3.1 minutes.

I have to give kudos to the Cardinals for keeping the spit numbers way down.  Vogey’s number was up, and I think it’s because he wasn’t chewing gum during this game.  Byrd logged his first spits today.  I’m disappointed not only because he got caught for the first time but because of the telltale bulge in his cheek while he was doing it.  Sigh.  And our friend Andrew Susac was his usual, spitting self today behind the plate.  Also, I’m pretty sure Yusmeiro Petit launched a snot rocket during this game.  He turned his head to the side at one point, and I notice a stream of liquid emanating from his nose area in the opposite direction.  Picking up bad habits from Bum.  And Brandon Crawford – I’m just so disappointed.  I thought so much better of you.  Also typing the name Tuivailala reminded me of how much fun the announcers had pronouncing his name yesterday.  They’re just so silly.

Even though I didn’t do a spit count during the game today, I did make an interesting spit observation.  As if to rub salt into the wound from the loss, Mark Reynolds of the Cardinals expelled the contents of his mouth at the end of the game (an obvious wad of tobacco), then topped that off with a spit.  Jerk.

The boys are off to Los Angeles to start a 3-game series against the dreaded Dodgers.  At least our top 3 pitchers (Peavy, Bum, and Leake) are scheduled to pitch down there.  The Dodgers haven’t announced who they’ll start yet, but you know Kershaw and Grenke will somehow make it in there.  Just keep your fingers crossed that Nori can hit so many foul balls that the starters will be out early and we can have a field day with their relievers.  Their relief staff sucks!  (Just checked – Dodgers are still losing 2-0 in the 7th!  Maybe we’ll only be 3.5 behind tonight!  Plus it’s a no hitter in the 7th!!  HA HA!!).  My boys always seem to rise to the occasion when it comes to opposing the Dodgers, so I’m staying positive.  Really looking forward to these games.  Until next time, GO GIANTS!  BEAT LA!  BEAT LA!  BEAT LA!