Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Something You've Never Seen Before

There's an old line about baseball: "You go out to the ballpark every day and you'll see something you've never seen before."

It's probably a wee bit of an overstatement, but last night's game at AT&T Park was truly historic. Before some fans had even found their seats, the Minnesota Twins had scored 8 first-inning runs against the Giants. The 8 straight hits to start the game marked a first in Giants history--New York or San Francisco. And Giants starter Madison Bumgarner became the first pitcher in over a century to give up 9 hits without recording two outs.

If you bleed orange and black, this was not a pretty thing to watch. But if you take the long view as a baseball fan, you should hold onto your ticket stub. Of the tens of thousands of ballgames played since 1900, this one was unique.

For Bumgarner, a young guy with tremendous promise, this game may turn into the kind of scar that serves a purpose. As soon as the last out had been recorded, Bumgarner was telling reporters that he'd absorbed a lesson: when you leave pitches over the plate, big league hitters will hit them.

To be sure, Bumgarner could have been out of the inning with less bloodshed. There was an infield single in there, a couple of ground balls with eyes, and a ball that dropped fair by inches down the left-field line. But there are no mulligans in baseball.

The Giants are struggling right now; the loss knocked them out of first place in the NL West. With their anemic offense, this game was truly over before they even came to bat. Yet the beauty of baseball is this: today or tomorrow, it could just as easily be their turn to make history.

You never know what you'll see at the ballpark.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Bold Stroke

There are those rolling their eyes in the perennial "There go the Warriors again" reaction.

But I think the decision to hire unproven Mark Jackson to coach the Golden State Warriors is exactly the sort of bold stroke the franchise needs to become relevant again.

Jackson's resume includes exactly zero coaching experience and to some, that makes him unfit for the job. Of course, the usual pro sports practice of retreading coaches who've been less-than-successful elsewhere doesn't seem like that hot an idea either.

The Warriors' new owners, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Joe Lacob and Hollywood mogul Peter Guber, understand how to calculate a risk/reward ratio. The Jackson hiring carries little downside (let's say he fails miserably and the Warriors miss the playoffs...whoops...miss the playoffs again) while the upside is pretty well unlimited.

Jackson's lack of sideline experience may or may not be a real issue. This is a guy who was an acknowledged leader and student of the game throughout a long NBA career, and who has spent the last several years watching NBA games and picking coaches' minds as a TV analyst. Do Bay Area fans need to be reminded of the Bob Brenly story? The former Giants catcher had never managed at any level when he swapped a TV job for the Diamondbacks managing gig and led them to a World Series championship in his first season.

Plus, the Warriors pulled off a coup by nabbing Mike Malone as an assistant coach. Malone is a highly-regarded defensive mind and reports indicated he was on the Lakers' short list before they hired their own new head coach.

Albert Einstein once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein never coached in the NBA, either, but Jerry West did. The NBA legend is acting as an adviser to the Warriors ownership and he gets it. West tells San Jose Mercury-News writer Tim Kawakami why he likes the Jackson-Malone hirings, and it pretty much comes down to this: winners take risks. Losers stand pat.

You look at it that way, and this Warriors move is a no-brainer.