Monday, June 29, 2009

Purpose Pitch?

One of the things I love about baseball is the little games within the game.

Take the 9th inning of the series finale between the Giants and the Brewers. The Giants had lost the first two games of the series but were shutting the Brewers out 7-0 as Milwaukee came up for its last at-bats.

And there was a fascinating scenario to start the inning: Giants lefthander Jonathan Sanchez, who'd been yanked from the rotation after several poor starts, was summoned from the bullpen. At the plate: Prince Fielder, the Brewers slugger who'd hit a huge home run the night before and then smoked a walkoff double to complete a Brewers comeback.

Oh, and by the way, had followed that hit with a preening moment, standing between the mound and second base with arms upraised, awaiting his onrushing teammates.

Anyway, Fielder digs in. Sanchez peers in for a sign and delivers. And it's a fastball right at Fielder's ribcage. He takes the pitch off the back of his right arm and two things are clear: he's in some pain, and he's really ticked off.

Fielder glares at Sanchez for a good long time. Sanchez goes back to work, showing pinpoint control while striking out the next three Milwaukee hitters to end the game. Despite a reported stroll down the runway toward the Giants clubhouse by Fielder after the game, there's no further retaliation. Case closed. Or is it?

The Giants deny Sanchez threw at Fielder on purpose. But is it possible that they thought he crossed the line with his postgame display on Saturday night?

Or could the roots of this be even deeper: the game in May 2006 when Fielder, then a rookie, crashed into Giants catcher Todd Greene on a play at the plate? At the time, some questioned Fielder's tactics, suggesting he went out of his way to nail a defenseless Greene. In fact, Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow invoked the Greene incident immediately after Sanchez hit Fielder.

Now, you should know that Johnathan Sanchez wasn't even in the ballpark the day Fielder blasted Todd Greene. He wasn't called up from the minors until three weeks later.

But baseball scores can take a long time to settle. Todd Greene's been out of baseball for years, and even avid Giants fans may have trouble remembering him. It's entirely possible that a few people kept him in mind.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Few Things I Don't Understand

The universe is full of unanswerable questions. Here are a few of mine:

  • If Manny Ramirez is suspended, how come he's playing? Isn't a minor-league game still a game?

  • Why in the world does the NHL hand out its postseason awards in Las Vegas, a city which has never, ever hosted an NHL franchise?

  • What's with the people who actively root against Phil Mickelson? I get that some people pull for Tiger Woods, but does that make Phil a bad guy?

  • What the heck happened to Dontrelle Willis?

  • If the Giants are as offensively-challenged as everyone seems to think, why are they (as I write) holding the wild-card playoff lead?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Boy, We Stunk

Just God-awful.


The KCBS/Adams Pool Solutions team showed up at the Madden/Mariucci bocce tournament and was thoroughly thrashed.

While it may be true that the Ponderosa Homes team that drilled us 10-1 ended up playing in the championship game, it is also true that we lost another game by a healthy margin and needed a fluke roll-off to beat an Oakland Raiders team that featured two Raiderettes playing in their go-go boots, hardly considered optimal footwear for bocce.

And now, let the finger-pointing begin.

I spent part of the day chatting with San Jose Sharks defenseman Brad Lukowich about the soul-searching now underway in Shark-land after the team's first-round playoff defeat. The team has committed itself to a top-to-bottom review. Supposedly, everyone and everything is in play. No stones unturned, no egos unchallenged.

Well, I wish the Sharks well. When I suggested a similar no-holds-barred review of our dismal failure, I ran into a chorus of "well, we played just fine; I don't know about the rest of you."

It may be a long offseason.

Photo courtesy Ed Jay Photography

Monday, June 1, 2009


Some guys, you just root for.

Look, I can read the numbers. I know Rich Aurilia has been struggling at the plate this year. I know he's not getting any younger. But I just like the guy.

Only the other day, I got into a mild disagreement with someone who said he thought Aurilia was done, a guy who needed to be released. In fact, as the Giants faced a series of roster moves a few days ago, it seemed plausible that Aurilia would become the odd man out.

But the old guy (OK, he's only 37) proved his worth just yesterday, coming off the bench to start a game-tying rally and then smoking a long home run to put the Giants ahead in a 5-3 victory over St. Louis.

I'm sure the 2-for-2 day took a weight off Aurilia's shoulders (and maybe Giants GM Brian Sabean's, too), but the fact is, Aurilia is still a valuable major-leaguer.

He can play any infield position and while his range isn't what it once was, he's still surehanded and throws well.

He's a smart veteran who won't hurt you with a mental mistake.

And despite that batting average (the 2 hits yesterday brought him up to .200 for the season), I still think Rich Aurilia is a dangerous hitter. He hit .283 last year, the bat speed is still there, and I've always felt Aurilia was a very tough out in a clutch situation.

Let's hope we keep hearing "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" (the Beastie Boys tune that serves as Aurilia's walk-up music) a while longer.