Archive for the ‘I Love the Giants’ category

If I had a ballot…

January 8, 2013

…I’d ballot in the morning. I’d ballot in the evening, all over this land.

And assuming that ballot were for the National Baseball Hall of Fame (“the Hall” for the remainder of this post, because I’m not typing that entire name over and over again), here’s who’d be on mine this year.

  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Jeff Bagwell
  • Mike Piazza
  • Jack Morris
  • Lee Smith

Tomorrow, the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (hereafter “the BBWAA,” because, well, see above) will announce their selections. I fully expect, based on the electors who’ve already publicized their votes, that Bonds and Clemens will not make the Hall in this, their first year of eligibility. Indeed, I would not be surprised if Bagwell doesn’t make it either, though the case for his election or omission is more easily argued from either side, in my opinion. (I doubt that Morris, who’s on the ballot for the 14th year, and Smith, who’s on year 11, will ever be elected, for different reasons than the aforementioned players.) Piazza? Hard to predict.

But let’s get this on the table right now: If Bonds and Clemens — the greatest offensive player and pitcher, respectively, of their generation — are not elected to the Hall tomorrow, as I suspect they will not be, it’s a travesty.

Most, if not indeed all, of the electors who left Bonds and Clemens (and possibly Bagwell and Piazza) off their ballots will say it’s because they cheated the game by using performance-enhancing drugs (“PEDs,” because… you know). Here’s the first problem with that: We don’t know whether they did or didn’t.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: We do know. Game of Shadows, and all that. Well, I read Game of Shadows right after it came out, and it impressed me at the time as the work of two muckrakers trying to make a name for themselves. There’s a ton of speculation in the book, and a lot of “he said, they said” scuttlebutt from sources the writers declined to identify, but not a great deal of what folks in the legal profession call “evidence.” The fact remains that we’ve never seen the results of a positive test for PEDs that Bonds failed, and I’m not sure we ever saw one from Clemens either. Bonds was tried in federal court, and was not convicted of perjury regarding PED use. (He was convicted on a single count of obstruction of justice, which may yet collapse on appeal.) The last time I checked, our legal system still operated on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

But what about the evidence of our own eyes? Bonds grew from Bill Bixby (or Eric Bana, Edward Norton, or Mark Ruffalo, take your pick) into the Incredible Hulk right practically in front of us. Don’t get me wrong — I think he used PEDs. I don’t know whether he took anabolic steroids, but I’d guess he at least took human growth hormone (HGH). But what I think and guess is essentially irrelevant. My inferences, deductions, and suppositions are not proof. Like most people, I believe in a lot of things I can’t prove, and I’m entitled to those beliefs. I can’t, however, prove that someone is guilty of something simply because I believe it to be so. Two years ago, I was the foreman on a jury that convicted a man of murder. My fellow jurors and I convicted the defendant on the basis of evidence, not because we looked at the guy and said, “Yeah, I think he did it.” I believe Bonds, Clemens, and every other player suspected of PED use deserves the same consideration.

There’s another factor in this that frequently gets brushed aside. PED use, while clearly contrary to the spirit of fair play and integrity, was not against the rules of baseball during most of what today gets referred to as “the Steroid Era.” Make no mistake, using those substances was against federal and state laws. But unlike, say, cycling or the Olympics, baseball itself did not explicitly prohibit their use, nor test for said use, until well after PEDs were epidemic in the sport. Was that a loophole? Sure. But you can’t penalize people for taking advantage of a loophole if one exists. All you can do is close the loophole, and say, “No more.” Baseball has now done that — we might argue about how effectively — but that creates no retroactive license to go back and slap the wrists of players who might have engaged in activity that was not prohibited by the rules of the sport that then stood. If San Francisco starts metering parking on Sundays (which, not coincidentally, the city did on January 1), the meter reader can’t send me a ticket for not feeding the meter on a Sunday before the law changed.

One more point, and I’ll stop the ranting. People inside the game, whose expert opinions I respect, have estimated that at the height of the Steroid Era, as many as 75 to 80 percent of MLB players may have used PEDs to some degree. That means guys like Bonds and Clemens — and what the heck, throw Bagwell and Piazza in there too — were not outliers if indeed they used. They were part of the flow of traffic, just as you or I are when we nudge our cars upward of the posted speed limit to keep pace with the cars around us. (And we do. Let’s not be all sanctimonious here.) Does that make it right, if they did it? No. But it does mean there was a clear majority of players who were equally in the wrong. Which, to my mind, levels the playing field. It’s no longer “cheating” — and again, as noted above, it actually wasn’t cheating under the then-prevailing rules of the game — if everyone, or nearly everyone, is cheating. Ask the NFL Players Association, which turns a consistent blind eye to the widely intimated idea that perhaps 75 to 80 percent of its membership uses HGH to this very day, even though such usage is currently against the rules of their sport.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love baseball. It has been part of my life for more than 40 years, a part that I now love sharing with my daughter. And I consider myself a purist in a lot of ways — I prefer the National League style of play in which pitchers came to bat, and I enjoy seeing the fundamentals of the game practiced at the highest level. It makes me sad that we had a Steroid Era (assuming we’re not still having a PED Era in some fashion, which may be another example of assuming facts not in evidence). But let’s not kid ourselves: We did have such an era. We did not have a period in which a random handful of players — Bonds and Clemens included — used PEDs. We had a period, probably 20 years or more, during which the majority of major league players “juiced.” The idea that “everyone did it” doesn’t make it right, but it does need to influence how we view those who might have done it, and especially how we evaluate them within the timespan in which they played. Are we going to pretend, from the standpoint of the Hall, that those 20 years didn’t happen? That the statistics don’t count? That the games weren’t played? Ridiculous. We watched, even attended the games. We saw the achievements. They happened. And what’s more, we as fans of the game supported them, with our ticket-buying dollars, with our eyes on the television set, and with our ears to the radio. Let’s not act as though we didn’t. It’s hypocritical to harass the prostitute after we’ve paid for the services.

To those writers who take the holier-than-thou position that Bonds and Clemens, and others of their generation, don’t belong in the Hall because of the PED scandal, I say, “Take a good look in the mirror.” If you covered the game during the PED Era, and made your living by doing so, you were part of the problem too. You could have washed your hands and walked away. But you didn’t. You continued to draw a paycheck from a sport filled with guys dosing up with whatever BALCO and other pharmaceutical factories cranked out. You kept telling the stories, and selling the game. And don’t say you didn’t suspect, because if you didn’t then, why do you now? If you closed your eyes and held your nose all of those years, why can’t you do the same now, and acknowledge the accomplishments — within the context of the game as it was being played during their careers — of the men who provided you the means of your livelihood? Don’t act as though you’re better than they are. You are not.

If I had a ballot for the Hall of Fame, I’d check the boxes next to the six names listed above. Barry Bonds was the most amazing hitter I ever saw. Roger Clemens was one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. Mike Piazza ranks among the best to ever play behind the plate, both defensively and offensively… even if he was a Dodger for a lot of that time. Jeff Bagwell is a borderline call for me, but I’d vote for him. As for Jack Morris and Lee Smith, the former was the best starting pitcher in the American League for an entire decade, and the latter was one of baseball’s first and finest true closers.

In case you’re wondering, my exclusion of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire has nothing to do with whether I think they did or didn’t use PEDs. McGwire was a one-trick pony — a player whose only tool was power. He rarely hit for average, had no speed, and for most of his career was a subpar defensive player. He was a beefed-up Dave Kingman or Dick Stuart, to put it another way. Sammy Sosa wasn’t even that good — a pretty solid mid-level star who had a couple of spectacular seasons. I wouldn’t vote for either of them, not because of PEDs, but because to my mind, they weren’t Hall of Fame-caliber players. (Craig Biggio? Tim Raines? Please. Very good, but not great players, whose stats are at least partially inflated by longevity, especially in Biggio’s case.)

You’re welcome to disagree. I won’t argue with your opinion, or your right thereto. But this is my ballot, and I’m sticking to it.

The perfect Cain

June 14, 2012

Over at — a site owned by a network that typically can’t be bothered to cover the Giants because, after all, we don’t have real sports out here on the Left Coast — David Schoenfield just asked the question, “Did Matt Cain throw the greatest game ever?”

Well, let’s see…

Matt Cain's perfect game: June 13, 2012

No hits.

No walks.

No baserunners.

27 up, 27 down.

14 strikeouts, tying the record for the most ever in a perfect game… a record set by Sandy Koufax, who for five seasons may have been the greatest pitcher ever.

A feat accomplished only 22 times in the 130-plus years of baseball history.

Yes, Mr. Schoenfield…

I believe he did.

You go, Matty. We’re glad you’re on our side.

An SI cover I’ve waited 35 years to see

November 2, 2010

At long last, I can scratch one huge item off my bucket list…

Sports Illustrated: SF Giants Win the World Series

The San Francisco Giants are the champions of the world.

To Big Time Timmy Jim, who won four games in the postseason and flat-out locked the Texas Rangers down over eight innings to notch Game 5;

To Edgar Renteria, the shortstop we all thought was washed up, but who discovered the Fountain of Youth in the playoffs and crushed the home run that won the Series;

To the best pitching staff in baseball — starters The Freak, The Shotgun, JSanch, MadBum, and Z-Man, plus relievers BWeez, J-Lo, The Surge, Crazy J, Jairo, Willie Mo, Rockin’ Ramon, Runz, and Ray;

To the undisputed Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey;

To Huff Daddy, The Boss, and Pat the Bat, guys the Giants picked up off the scrap heap and the waiver wire and revitalized their careers;

To Andres the Giant, Fab Freddy, and Magic Juan, coming through in the clutch with timely offense and sparkling defense;

To Panda, Little Mike, Ishi, Eli, Nate the Great, and A-Row, doing their thing and contributing;

To The Big Giant Head and his coaching staff — Rags, Wotus, Bam-Bam, Bobby, Flan, and Gardy — who pushed the team to excel every day;

To the Giants’ ownership group and front office staff, who signed the contracts and wrote the checks;

To the guys behind the scenes — clubhouse men Murph and Harvey, the training and conditioning team, the non-roster coaches and special assistants like Shawon, J.T., and Will the Thrill;

To the Giants Hall of Famers who never got there — The Say Hey Kid, Stretch, Cha-Cha, and The Spitter — but who keep reminding us what it means to be a Giant;

To the world’s greatest broadcasting corps — The Big Kahuna, Kuip, Kruk, Flem, Papa, Erwin, and Tito — who called every pitch and every swing;

To every last Giants fan everywhere, who’s stuck it out through any part of the past five decades of frustration…

Thank you. And good night.

Orange October: Electric Boogaloo!

October 23, 2010

A wise man once said that one picture is worth a thousand words.

2010 National League Champions: Your San Francisco Giants!

Yeah… that says it all.

Congratulations to my Giants! Special kudos to:

  • Cody “The Boss” Ross, who was named Most Valuable Player of the National League Championship Series;
  • “Magic” Juan Uribe, who hit the big home run in the eighth inning, giving the Giants a lead they would never relinquish;
  • Brian “The Beard” Wilson, who slammed the door on the Phillies by getting the final five outs, including a Statue of Liberty strikeout of Ryan Howard to end the game and the series;
  • Bruce “The Big Giant Head” Bochy, who pulled all of the right strings;
  • and Brian “Sabes” Sabean, who picked up guys like Ross, Pat “The Bat” Burrell, and clutch reliever Javier “J-Lo” Lopez when the Giants needed extra help down the stretch.

On to the World Series!

It’s getting Orange up in here!

October 3, 2010

Your San Francisco Giants are the 2010 National League Western Division Champions.

The San Francisco Giants are the 2010 National League West Champs!

This is all you know in life, and all you need to know.

Way to go, G-Men. Bring on the Braves!

Oh, and here’s a season-ending question for San Diego Padres starting pitcher Mat Latos

Who’s your mercenary now?

Just a reminder

September 29, 2010

For those of you keeping score, I’m still on jury service through next week. Hence, the paucity of posts.

That’s all that’s going on. I’m perfectly fine. And it’s not that I don’t love you, honest. (Well, perhaps one or two of you. You know who you are.) So, please don’t worry.

I’ll get back to a more regular update schedule once the trial is over.

In the meantime…

…how about those Giants?

My love for you will still be strong after the Boys of Summer have gone

April 5, 2010

Spring is here, spring is here,
Life is skittles and life is beer.
I think the loveliest time of the year
Is the Spring —
I do…
Don’t you?
‘Course you do!

— Tom Lehrer, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”

And if Spring is here, that can only mean one thing…

Baseball is back. And all is once again right in the universe.

Here’s how I think the 2010 season will play out. Your predictions, like your mileage, may vary.

National League West

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Diego Padres

In case you haven’t noticed, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is one pretty good pitcher, one decent pitcher, and a whole heap of duct tape and baling wire. Their bullpen flat-out stinks. That’s why they won’t repeat. Meanwhile, the Giants have the best five-man rotation in baseball, and the best bullpen in the National League. That, and an improved offense, is why they’ll win the West.

National League Central

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. Milwaukee Brewers
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Pujols. Albert Pujols. This is all you know in the NL Central, and all you need to know. The Reds are going to surprise some people, though.

National League East

1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

The Phillies, already an imposing team, will only be better now that they can throw Roy Halladay at the league every fifth day.

NL Wild Card: Colorado Rockies

NL Champion: Philadelphia Phillies

American League West

1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland Athletics

The Mariners have the potential to sneak up on the aging Angels, and by next season, Seattle should be the class of the division. I think, however, that the dudes from Disneyland still have one more good run in them.

American League Central

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians

Joe Mauer is the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols. The ChiSox will make the race interesting to watch, but new ballpark fever will carry the summer for the Twinkies.

American League East

1. New York Yankees
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

The Red Sox aren’t as much better as everyone in Boston wants to believe. The Rays are rapidly developing into an off-the-radar powerhouse. But man… the Yankees look invincible right now.

AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays

AL Champion: New York Yankees

World Series Champion: Philadelphia Phillies

Hero of the Day: Jon Miller, Hall of Famer

February 1, 2010

Today, SSTOL offers a laurel and hearty handshake to San Francisco Giants voice Jon Miller, who today was announced as the 2010 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award — meaning his induction this summer into the broadcasters’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The Big Kahuna” — as his broadcasting partners lovingly refer to him — joined the Giants’ on-air team in 1997, replacing another beloved local legend, Hank Greenwald. Before coming to San Francisco, Miller was the voice of the Baltimore Orioles for 14 years, preceded by brief stints with the Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox. He’s also been the play-by-play announcer for ESPN’s weekly Sunday Night Baseball telecasts since 1990.

Big Jon’s trademark humor and literate style have endeared him to Giants fans, as well as the national audience. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a genuine Bay Area native — born in The City and raised in the East Bay. As an even more narrowly specific local angle, one of Miller’s first broadcasting jobs was doing the evening sports news at Santa Rosa’s KFTY-50 back in the early 1970s. (A youthful Kahuna appears at 1:19 in the linked YouTube video clip.)

Among Miller’s signatures is his pronunciation of the names of Latin ballplayers, for which he uses a pitch-perfect Spanish accent. He frequently tosses an “Adios, pelota!” into his home run call when, say, Pablo (Kung Fu Panda) Sandoval crushes one over the left field wall at AT&T Park.

The Kahuna is under contract to broadcast Giants games for at least the next three seasons. Here’s hoping the newly minted Hall of Famer enjoys another couple of decades calling baseball by the Bay.

The Hawk flies in

January 6, 2010

It only took nine years — in my never-humble opinion, that’s eight years too many — but slugging outfielder Andre “The Hawk” Dawson finally gained election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dawson didn’t make the necessary total by much. To be enshrined, a candidate has to pull a minimum of 75% of the ballots submitted by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA). Dawson netted 77.9%, 15 votes above the cutoff. Last year, he fell 44 ballots shy.

I’ve no explanation why it took Dawson nearly a decade to be elected to the Hall. Anyone who saw him play recalls The Hawk as both a formidable hitter and a talented outfielder during his lengthy major league career. He suffered a good deal from injuries toward the end of his run, and he hung on as a shadow of his former self for about three years beyond the point at which he should have retired. (I can name a few dozen legends of the game who committed that latter indignity, starting with two of my favorites, Willie Mays and Willie McCovey.) But in his prime — beginning with his Rookie of the Year season in 1977 and continuing through his last year with the Chicago Cubs in 1992 — Dawson defined the phrase “money player.”

I’m thrilled that he’s in.

If I’d had a ballot this year, I’d have also voted for:

Roberto Alomar, one of the two best all-around second basemen of my lifetime (Joe Morgan was the other — Jeff Kent, an average-to-dreadful defensive player, was the best offensive player I’ve seen at the position).

Jack Morris, the American League’s best starting pitcher throughout the 1980s.

Barry Larkin, a terrific shortstop on both sides of the ball.

Lee Smith, one of the most imposing closers I’ve ever seen, and former holder of the career record for saves.

I would not have voted for Bert Blyleven, whose 400 votes left him five short of election. Blyleven will get into the Hall eventually — which, if it accomplishes nothing else, will stop his annual whining about not getting in — but he shouldn’t. Blyleven may be the most overrated pitcher of the modern era (unless that’s Don Sutton, who’s already in the Hall, and should never have been elected). His current vote total is inflated by writers who simply look at the numbers, and not at the actual quality of play. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every year until he finally cracks through: No one who actually saw Bert Blyleven pitch thinks he was a Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher. And if they do, they don’t know jack about baseball.

Every year, I’m stunned by the wasted votes at the bottom of the tote board. This year is no exception. I don’t know who the two writers were who voted for Ellis Burks, or the two who voted for Eric Karros, or the guys who cast solo votes for David Segui, Pat Hentgen, or Kevin Appier. These clueless people should never be allowed to vote for anything that involves baseball, ever again, period. (Burks, an outfielder who contributed two-plus excellent seasons for my beloved Giants, was a very fine player and, by all accounts, an outstanding teammate. But if he was a Hall of Famer, I’m Barry Bonds.)

Oh, and Mark McGwire? We’re not here to talk about the past.

The Freak abides

November 19, 2009

Believe it or don’t, I was completely surprised by today’s announcement that the Giants’ Tim “The Freak” Lincecum won his second consecutive Cy Young Award as the National League’s best pitcher in 2009.

If I’d been voting, I’d have voted — as did the San Francisco Chronicle‘s respected baseball beat writer, Henry Schulman — for Chris Carpenter of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Don’t misunderstand — I loves me some Timmy, in a platonic, athletic-appreciation sort of way. I do believe that he’s currently the premier pitcher in the NL, if not in all of baseball.

Carpenter, however, had the better season. Which is, in my opinion, what the Cy Young should recognize.

There’s no question that Lincecum far outstrips Carpenter in terms of raw power. Timmy’s 261 strikeouts to Carpenter’s 144 tell that story. Carpenter, however, isn’t a strikeout pitcher. He’s a do-anything-to-get-batters-out pitcher. It’s not as sexy, but in baseball terms, it’s just as effective.

With almost identical offensive support and WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) scores, Carpenter won two more games than Lincecum (17 vs. 15), lost three fewer (4 vs. 7), and surrendered almost a quarter-run less per nine innings (2.24 vs. 2.48). More significantly, Carpenter did the majority of his damage in the second half of the season, as the Cardinals were charging toward a division title. As Schulman writes:

The 34-year-old right-hander went 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 15 starts for a team that ran away with the National League Central. To me, that defines dominance.

To me too, Henry.

By comparison, Timmy went 5-5, 2.67 down the stretch. Not awful, but not exactly awe-inspiring, either.

I was fortunate to see Lincecum pitch in person twice this season — on June 12 against the Oakland A’s, and again on August 10 against the Cincinnati Reds. In the earlier game, Tim was dominant to the point of near-unhittability, pitching his second career shutout. In the late-season outing, he pitched decently, but looked tired and had measurably less oomph on his normally overpowering fastball.

Carpenter seemed to get stronger as the season wore on — all the more remarkable given that he pulled a shoulder muscle and sat out five weeks early.

So, if I’d had a vote, I’d have had to throw it Carpenter’s way.

All of the above being true, as a Giants fan  — and as a Lincecum fan (and I rarely find myself rooting for individual athletes in team sports) — I’m thrilled that the majority of the Cy Young balloteers didn’t see it my way. Lincecum is a better pitcher than Carpenter overall, and if that’s how you roll the Cy, rolling it in Timmy’s direction is the right call. Without doubt, if I had to win one game for all the marbles, Lincecum is the guy I want on the hill chucking the pill.

And let’s be real. If he avoids injury, Lincecum will likely plant a few more Cy Youngs in his trophy case before his career is over. Don’t forget, 2009 was only his second full season in the major leagues. He’s already won the Cy in both of them.

That’s a record that no pitcher in baseball history can touch.