Giants versus Dodgers

Welcome to the 4th Czar’s blog of 2015 celebrating our World Champion San Francisco Giants!  The rules are below. 

 

Hunter Pence is back and we are in awe of Brandon Crawford

This has been a good road trip for the G-Men. A split with the Astros and taking three out of four against the Reds, a team that usually hits the snot out of the ball at Riverfront stadium, except that for this series the Giants were the big boppers, with multiple HR’s and double digit scoring for the first time this season. The Giants really like Riverfront and a lot of guys (not named McGehee) got very healthy there.

The biggest news of the road trip was Hunter Pence coming back from the DL and his broken arm (early for the Saturday game) and raring to play.  The storyline was that Hunter was hitting the ball hard in Sacramento for the Rivercats and texted just about everyone on the team (including Bochy) telling them that he was an “offensive machine” and ready to go.  He was not lying: 2 for 3 on Saturday night and 2 for 4 with a dinger today.  How long he can stay at .500 with a 1.000 slugging percentage is anyone’s guess but welcome back Hunter Pence – he is energy personified.

Hector Sanchez went back to Sacramento when Pence came up (good, Hector needs to play and Susac is the better catcher right now) and Maxwell went to the bench where he will be a dependable power bat in pinch-hitting situations. This is a much more well- rounded team than it has been for the last month without Pence.

Good hitting is contagious.  Belt (“Mr. Streaky Hitter”) suddenly got hot, hit three HR’s in Cincinnati and is batting .321.  But the real story is Brandon Crawford, .285 BA, 6 HR’s, 8 doubles, running away with the team lead in RBI’s with 25 and playing all-star caliber shortstop. It does seem that that a couple of grand slams helps the RBI totals.  Let us not forget Aoki, Pagan, Duffy and Panik - all doing well and playing solid baseball. Buster, as always, is in a league of his own – and he does own Riverfront.

The bullpen continues to be the strength of the Giants, who have played in (and won) more one-run games (usually low scoring – this trip was an aberration) than any other team in MLB. Casilla’s three K’s today in the 9th inning on 9 pitches was about as inspiring as a bullpen can get, especially after watching Chapman blow 102 mph heaters past the Giants hitters and still getting touched for hits. The starting pitching is also coming around.  Bum is rounding into mid-season form and the other starters (including Heston who had a complete game in Texas but got knocked out in the third inning today) are delivering 5 or 6 good innings, which sets up the bullpen.  We are seeing the beginning of a pattern that might hold throughout this season. I still don’t trust Vogelsong but he has looked real good in his last two starts.

Right now though, it’s all good.

Good Defense, good pitching, timely hitting and above .500 in second place in the NL West

The mantra of the season will be good defense, good pitching and timely hitting.  While it seems like we should care a lot more about the obscene number of runners left on base in scoring position, or the low team BA, or (until the recent series and ignoring Buster Posey) the incredible lack of power, the fact that the G-Men are two games over .500 and behind the Dodgers in second place the NL West is something that would have seemed like a pipedream three weeks ago  And, as noted below, the LA team is coming into town on Tuesday night for a 3-game series (which will culminate on Thursday with another Bumgarner/Kershaw shootout).

The two biggest lingering questions that I see right now are: (1) what is going to happen when Cain comes back and will he be the Matt Cain of old, and (2) when is Bochy going to get fed up and lose all patience with McGehee, who is still hitting below the Mendoza line and is on track for the all-time MLB record for hitting into double plays. Even when he hit his grand slam on the last home stand (nice to be sure) he followed it in the same game with two more double plays.

Is there anyone out there that doesn’t think that Matt Duffy (the “Duff Man”) shouldn’t be our starting third baseman?

The Upcoming Series against the Dodgers – early season at the OK corral?

This may be the most important early three game series of the year. First the G-Men swept the Dodgers at home in April to break the losing streak and start what is now a really impressive winning streak but then lost two out of three at Chavez Ravine.  These three games will either tighten up the NL West and show the Dodgers what a world series championship team can do when clicking on all cylinders, or it will showcase the powerful offensive Juggernaut that is the team that shall not be named and further separate them from the pack. Get ready for fireworks.

After this series the G-Men go on the road to face the Rockies (will they – or can they? - trade Troy is the question there) in Colorado and then onto the Braves in Atlanta for another Tim Hudson homecoming.

It’s time for baseball!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

Hot Stove Edition

Greetings to the Giants fans who hung in there through thick and thin, in the good years (certainly 2010 to 2014 qualify), and in the challenging years (every year since 1954 J).

 

The purpose of this blog post is to review some of the events that have taken place since the Parade on Halloween (what a day that was!) and the immediate post-season MLB movements that affect the G-Men.

 

Say it ain’t so Pablo!

 

The big news is that the Panda is going to the Red Sox, who essentially made him the same offer that the Giants did ($100 million for five years, with an option for six). He is taking his nick-name with him and we all wonder what a red Panda hat will look like.

 

Why did this happen ? Hunter Pence (after the Parade) got the crowd worked up with a chant to “re-sign the Panda.” Pablo got three WS rings with the G-Men. Pablo was the WS MVP in 2012. Pablo was one of the faces of the Giants and his energy and infectious enthusiasm touched everyone who ever saw him play (to quote Justin Verlander in Game #1 of the 2012 WS – “Wow”!). He was part of the chemistry of the Giants’ clubhouse that created the team that won three WS titles in five years. He will be missed.

 

My theory is that Pablo’s posse (the boys from Venezuela who are part of his entourage) convinced him that the Red Sox were a bigger platform and he (and they) could do better in the long run there. I also don’t think that the posse really liked the Giants brain trust. I have no inside information on that, it’s just supposition based on years of reports of friction.

 

Regardless, the Panda is gone and we all wish him well at Fenway, where he joins Hanley Ramirez from the Dodgers in what is sure to be one of the most toxic clubhouses in baseball.  Good luck with that Panda - -  but always remember that we loved you here and always will. Giants fans are not fickle. We welcomed Orlando Cepeda and Will Clark back and we will welcome you back when the time is right. You will always be a Giant to us.

 

What are the Giants going to do?

 

Pablo’s departure is not entirely a bad thing.  Yes it opens a hole at third base (the Giant’s already have a hole in left field) that needs to be filled but it also frees up a lot of cash to fill the open positions. Pablo’s regular season OPS had been trending downward for the last three years (but his OPS in the post season was unreal) so there are a lot of candidates who could potentially plug the regular season Panda gap, so to speak.

 

The options at third include Chase Headley (just offered three years with the Yankees but maybe the best defensive 3rd baseman in baseball) or to fill the position from inside the organization. For example, Buster Posey (if the G-Men can convince him to move from catcher and put that duty in the hands of Susac), Marco Scutaro (if he’s healthy), Matt Duffy (he might just be up for the job; converted shortstops do well at third) or another young player.   The Giants do have some good young position players who will be going all out in spring training to take the job.

 

If the G-Men go inside or go with a defensive 3rd baseman they could afford to add real power in Left Field.  Right now speculation centers on the Cuban guy, Yasmany Tomas, a hitter with the talent of Puig (although hopefully more mature and without the attitude) or one of the excess Red Sox outfielders (like Allan Craig, or Cespedes or Shane Victorino) any of whom would look good in Orange and Black, especially Craig, a Cal guy like Jeff Kent.

 

Other possibilities (dream big folks) are bringing back Melky (is the Melk man forgiven? Tell us what happened Melky – we are an understanding town) who tore it up with Toronto last year OR one of the excess Dodgers outfielders (like Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier – wouldn’t you love that?).  Right now it looks like there are a lot of candidates out there and the Giants have the money to spend.

 

The Giants are also in the market for a pitcher.  The choices are to re-sign Peavy, go after Jon Lester or maybe try big for Max Scherzer or James Shields. Don’t forget that Sergio is still out there unsigned. Pitching next year will be a challenge once we get past MadBum.  Cain is coming off an injury, Lincecum will be in his last year (as will Hudson) and Vogie might just be retired.

 

What will the rest of the winter bring?

 

Some of us are counting down the days until Spring Training in February and treating the Hot Stove time as winter sport.  Next week are the winter meetings so more rumors will fly and more deals will be done.

 

One perhaps sad note (for Giants fans, not for him) is that Tim Flannery has retired after 33 years in baseball. We will all miss his energy behind third base and will always remember him waving runners home by following them down the line and acting like a wild man. Adios Flan!

 

See you next year at AT&T!

 

GO GIANTS!

 

Ciao,

 

The Czar

Giants v. Dodgers, Giants v. Padres

The decision this year that back-fired  

The Giants were worn out this year. The decision to allow 8 starters to play in the World Baseball Classic in March after going deep into October to win the WS was a terrible decision. The Giants rely on defense, finesse and pitching. When the starters get worn out they put more of a load on the bullpen and the pen that was so stalwart last October started to give up runs; which the poor offense (historically poor) could not overcome. The other terrible decision was not to sign a power hitting left fielder mid-season. I’m not saying that the right person was available but Alex Rios would certainly have looked much better in left field than Gregor Blanco.

 

The good decisions were to sign Pagan and Scutaro to long term contracts and to lock up Matt Cain long term. Unfortunately when Pagan went down following that incredible walk-off inside the park homer run on May 25th (I was there, it was awesome) it seemed like the spark went out of the team. June, July and August was a tail-spin that wouldn‘t stop. People were plugged into and out of the line-up and (with a few exceptions) no one sparked the team.

 

The G-Men have, however, been playing much better in September. They have pulled out of the cellar and took 3 out of 4 from the Dodgers in LA and were 6 out of 10 on latest road trip. The Dodgers series was really fun. They were denied on their home field and left frustrated. Loved it.

 

The Positives and what might happen

 

This has been a banner year for the Brandon’s.  Crawford did better at shortstop than anyone could imagine (he will be a gold glove shortstop yet). He spent much of the season in the .270’s and recently has slumped back to .253.  However if anyone had said that he would even hit .250 that would have been a surprise.  He is just going to get better and better.  Belt, once he accepted the need to change his batting stance, is suddenly a legitimate number 3 hitter.  He’s a big man (and a hell of a First baseman) and if he can learn to play left field he might be the answer to that question next year. He’s currently batting .289 with 16 dingers and 64 RBI’s. Not bad.

 

Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Pray that they are both Giants for the long term. Buster is in a three week long slump (2 for 31 on the road trip) but his average is still at .295 with 15 homers and 72 RBI’s. Buster is the future of the franchise and should be shifted to First and Hector Sanchez should catch (he’s good back there!).  Hunter Pence is the big story. He’s a free agent after October with a .286 BA, 25 homers and 93 RBI’s. He’s an iron man who has played EVERY game this season. He might go over 100 RBI’s on this home stand. The Giants MUST sign Pence and they know it.  The current speculation is 4 years and $60 million.  In my view that would be a bargain. That’s what we paid for Rowand who wasn’t half the player that Pence is, and will continue to be (and Pence just turned 30; he’s a kid).

 

There are two other notable free agents that the G-Men should sign at all costs.  Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval. Timmy is a Giant and should stay a Giant. Yes he has had his ups and downs (10 and 15 record, ERA over 5 this year) but he is learning how to really pitch (only the 3rd pitcher in MLB history to strike out 1,300 by his 6th season) and he’s only 29 years old with 2 Cy Young’s and two WS rings. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Panda seems to be learning how to control his weight and his defense recently has been really good.  Anyone who can hit 3 HR’s in a game is our kind of guy, and he’s done it in the WS and in the regular season against the Dodgers. It’s hard to believe that he has only 13 HR’s and 73 RBI’s with a  .275 BA. This off-season will be really important for the Panda. Getting his brother as a live-in cook may be paying dividends.

 

If the pitching rotation comes back next year refreshed we could be in for a very good year.  I’ll take the playoff’s every other year, maybe with a ring J. Bumgarner is a stud and next to Kershaw is the best pitcher in the NL.  He’s only going to get better. Coupled with a fresh Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong (a question mark only because of his age, certainly not for his attitude –he is the pitcher equivalent of Will Clark, a guy who always played angry) the top of the order should be solid. The 5th starter must be Petit. What a story. I was there for the almost perfect game. Awesome. His pitching against the Yankee’s yesterday (on Mariano Rivera day when Andy Pettit pitched his last game) was a thing of beauty. He is deserving of a really good shot in the spring.

 

That frees up Gaudin for the bullpen (where he is strong) along with Casilla, Romo, Lopez (another awesome reliever) and hopefully Heath Hembree next year. Please (prayer to Brian Sabean) get rid of Jean Machi and Jose Mijares.  Every time they come in they seem to allow the men on base to score. I shudder.

 

The young guys that you will see in the upcoming series to watch: Jose Perez, a young fielder with a great arm and tremendous defense; Nick Noonan and Tony Abreu, both potential good bench players but both ticketed I suspect for AAA to season some more.

 

The Negatives

 

Our bench this year. The bench was very weak. The only player that could really be counted on was Arias, who had a .271 BA with 17 RBI’s off the bench and played every infield position except pitcher and catcher.  The bench is also where Blanco belongs.  He’s good in spots and is a professional but he shouldn’t be a starter.  That’s why I think that the brain trust is looking so hard at Perez right now. Peguero and Keischnick are headed back to AAA, as is Brent Pill (who might end up somewhere else where his right handed bat will be welcome, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in a Cubs uniform with Nate). This will be an area that the management (I suspect) will be looking at long and hard in the off-season and in spring training, which for the young guys starts now.

 

What will the off-season bring?

 

Possibly a free-agent left fielder with power and maybe another starting pitcher.  There are a lot of starters going into free agency this year and the power hitters on the market like Curtis Granderson and Jacoby Ellsbury, maybe even Puig’s Cuban cousin (a team mate on the Cuban national team) the sensational Jose Abreu, will be available.  Of course Robinson Cano will be on the market but he is expected to demand A-Rod money and the Yankee’s are not going to let him go. If the owners go for it and the team payroll gets up around $150 million it could be a really interesting off-season.

 

The two home series

 

It’s the Dodgers and the Padres and the NL West.

 

The Dodgers may lay down and die because they have taken the division (they are crybabies in the best of times) but the Dodgers fans will be at the ballpark in droves and it might get ugly at AT&T. I hope not but I’ve been there with blue dressed drunks trying to blow up beach balls in our park. Back in 1993 a Dodgers fan jumped over my five year old and took a ball from him. Really bush league. Another good example is what the Dodger’s did when they took the division in AZ.  They dissed the Snakes by celebrating on their field and then jumping in their pool in centerfield. Very juvenile (even Senator McCain got in the act) but what do you expect from a team of high-priced superstars with prima donna complexes? Puig is the worst but Hanley Rameriz is right behind him. The Dodgers pitchers (except for Kershaw, who is the second coming of Sandy Koufax) are hot dogs and headhunters.  That’s also why I think that the three strongest playoff teams in the NL are St. Louis, the Reds and Atlanta. Personally I’m rooting for Dusty. This should be his year.

 

The Padres have always been the Giants nemesis. The two teams just match up well and we close the season against each other fighting for third place (maybe second if the Snakes take a dive) in the NL West.  Those games will be hard fought and fun.

 

It’s too bad that we are at the end of another season but it’s been (as always) a great ride.

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

Giants v. Diamondbacks, Giants v. Rockies

The G-Men are out of the race and playing for honor  

The Giants are now 21 games out of first place and tied with the Padres for last place in the NL West. With so many division games left in September (another series with the Padres and two series with the Dodgers, one there and one here) along with the AL East series against the Yankees the boys in Orange and Black have a chance to be a spoiler for the Yankees, and to salvage some pride against the Dodgers.  The goal right now is to avoid being the second team in modern MLB history to win the world series and be last in their division the next year. The last team that did that was the 1998 Florida Marlins, who tanked the next year because all of team stars were sold off (that’s how we got Rob Nen BTW). We don’t have that excuse (it’s virtually the same team) so it’s very important to take some September games and to pull out of the cellar.

 

We should be able to pull ahead of the Padres and maybe the Rockies, who are only three games up on us. The Snakes are probably out of reach, at least based on tonight’s performance where Parra has thrown something like 4 base runner’s out with awesome throws from right field, and he should have gotten Panda at home.  The Snakes are for real.

 

The Positives

 

The Panda hit three home runs yesterday against the Padres and is looking good tonight offensively and defensively against the Snakes. He’s lost 20 pounds and is now eating much better (its reported that his brother now cooks all of his meals).

 

The rookies and September call-up’s are here so we can start to get a look at the future. Heath Hembree (who got Wilson’s number 38, a message from Mike Murphy), Juan Perez, Nick Noonan, Peguero, Adrianza (reputedly a shortstop as good or better than Crawford) and 11 year minor league veteran Johnny Monell (Crash Davis?). Angel Pagan is back and is looking like his old self. That is good for next year.

 

Hunter Pence is solid as a rock and we all pray he gets resigned (he’s a free agent this year). Buster Posey is performing at an MVP level (he plays tomorrow night) and his back up Hector Sanchez came off the DL and is starting to show the power that the G-Men expected from him. Scutaro and Crawford are playing like the pros they are and is it wonderful or what to see Belt hitting in the three-hole?

 

The starting pitchers are starting to look like Giants pitchers again. Matt Cain comes off the DL Sunday and may start, Vogelsong has had several good starts (although he got shelled in the 5th inning tonight). Madison Bumgarner is the Giants best pitcher but is simply not getting any run support and Gaudin is rehabbing from carpel tunnel syndrome. We may see him before the end of the year. Finally Timmy looks like he has solved his mental issues and is actually pitching. Lincecum is a Giant and may he stay one.

 

The relievers are decent but not up to last year. We haven’t seen much of Romo because there haven’t been many save situations (same with Casilla), and Affeldt is still on the DL. It’s hard to really evaluate relievers when the team is behind in most games and all they are playing for is a hold. There will be more about this in the closing blog when we see how September went.

 

The Negatives

 

The G-Men simply cannot hit with runners in scoring position or, it seems, with runners on base at all. We are all really tired of seeing inning opening triples and doubles and stranding the runners in game after game. In the Padres game on Tuesday the G-Men had 13 hits and stranded 13 runners.  That was beyond painful to watch. I understand that Sabean chewed out the entire coaching staff until after midnight. They didn’t deserve the chewing out but the players sure did.

 

What is also painful to watch is Jean Machi. That man always allows inherited runners to score. I wonder why the starting pitchers tolerate it.

 

The G-Men have always been a finesse team, which is fine if you can get the timely hits and make the great defensive plays - -  but they aren’t doing that right now. I don’t know why and I suspect that the Giants brain trust doesn’t know why either. My personal theory is that there is a coven of witches and warlocks in LA somewhere that has cast a spell and our job, like our children did with Tinkerbelle, is to believe and defeat the bad karma.

 

I’m not sure that this is really a negative but we have certainly seen the last of Barry Zito. In a way it’s a shame because he is a good man, was a good teammate and is a class act. I don’t feel too sorry for him because he got perhaps the biggest contract in Giants history for someone not named Barry Bonds, and he married Miss Missouri.  Adios Barry, I’ll always honor number 75.

 

What will the off-season bring?

 

Perhaps the most important events will be free agency signings. Judging by the KNBR commercial quoting Brian Sabean saying “2 Cy Young’s, 2 World Series and the total love of fans – why wouldn’t Lincecum resign?” the Giants campaign to get Lincecum to re-sign has already started. How much money will be thrown at Tim?  No one knows but I bet it will be a lot.  Same with Pence, who is lusted after by most of the NL teams and a lot of the AL teams.

 

Next year the biggest need is for a power hitting left fielder.  Torres is not coming back and maybe not Blanco (although he is a decent 4th outfielder). Who is out there (other than Barry Bonds – wouldn’t that be a hoot)? Time will tell.

 

The last blog of the season (before the Dodgers series) will dissect the team chemistry of the team that shall not be named which, it seems, is a pretty dysfunctional group of (unfortunately) very talented ballplayers.

 

To be continued… 

 

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

 

The Czar

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  85. LIONS AND TIGERS AND TWEETS, OH MY!
  86. AB 2004: Brewer's Incremental Parity with Wine Makers
  87. Expanding, Proud Of It, and Wanting to Tell the World
  88. DC Weighs in Strongly on Third Party Marketer Delivery Services
  89. “Visual Links” between Beer, Wine and Spirits Labels and Retailers Ruled Unlawful in California — the tied house laws run amok
  90. Hard Cider Legislative Update
  91. New Marketing Model for New York – Lot 18 and the NYSLA
  92. Sweeping Changes in Proposed NYSLA Bill Include Expansion for Craft
  93. Minimum Resale Price Policies - How to Control Price-Cutters
  94. AB 2130 – Gloves Off?
  95. “Gluten-Free” Labels for Wine, Beer and Distilled Spirits. We’re Still Waiting.
  96. AB 1252: Sanitation Overkill?
  97. Growlers: Not Just for Beer Anymore
  98. California Legislative Roundup 2014
  99. Build It and They Will Come: Craft Products Get New Privileges in CA and TX
  100. AB 1128: Veto of the “Serve a Minor” Felony Penalty Bill, or How to Lose a Winery in One Sale