Welcome to Czar's Blog #8 of 2018 | It's August - are you ready for some baseball?

There are two months left in the season, and the beginning of August schedule is brutal – do the G-Men have a shot if they can survive this period?

The Giants continue to play .500 ball.  They are 56 and 54 (4th place, 5 games out) as this post goes out. Right now the 4 game winning streak looks good but then again three of those games were a sweep of the bottom dwelling Padres after losing 3 out of 4 to the very hot Brewers.  The current series against the Snakes is huge and Bum came up big last night in an 8-1 victory. 

Starting Monday the 1st place AL West Astros come into AT&T, and then the 3rd place NL Central Pirates (with an almost identical record to the Giants), and then a series on the road against the 1st place Dodgers, and their new lineup. If the Giants come out of the next 13 games with a record better than .500 we can think there is actually a chance of a late August, early September, run.

One wonderful thing about baseball is that, as Yogi famously said, “it ain’t over till it’s over.” And folks, it is not over yet.  Our job as fans is to go to the games, cheer for the orange and black and encourage them to victory.  The Giants also have 5 more games at home than on the road in September.  That should be an advantage.  I intend to be there for every game I can get to; if for no other reason than to feast on crab sandwiches, and suck down Betty Sue’s infamous late inning Irish coffees.

If the Giants tank the next three weeks we can talk about emptying the River Cats bench to see what the future looks like.

Can the Giants overcome the loss of Cueto and the Panda?

Cueto is out until mid-2019 with Tommy John.  It was apparent in his three starts since his rehab that his arm was off.  The big loss is Panda.  His hamstring tear is an ugly injury and he will be missed.  He was the best back-up infielder (including at catcher), the best Giants pitcher (lowest ERA 0.0) this year and a clutch pinch-hitter. This makes Belt’s return imperative; especially considering that Posey just left the Snakes game with concussion symptoms after taking a wicked shot off his mask.

So, bottom line, Cueto will be missed but the pieces are there to pick up the slack; especially with the young pitchers (Rodriguez and Suarez) backing Bum and Holland. Panda is not replaceable. However, anymore starter losses and we are in trouble.

I predicted that the Giants would stand pat, and they did – what does that mean?

 See Czar’s blog #7 for details of the prediction.

It means that the young guys get to play for the next two months, we will see a constant shuttle between the AT&T and Raley’s field in Sacramento. There was no one player out there worth emptying the minor league system (even if the G-Men wanted to do that, and to blow the luxury tax threshold).

The bullpen is good (Ray Black is the real thing) and getting better, we may have a chastised Strickland back within a week or two and the G-Men have one of the best ERA’s in baseball.  On the hitting front we are in the top ten in dingers and this team can score runs; they just must do it in clutch situations.

Standing pat was the right thing to do.  Let’s play the hand we have and try not to draw to an inside straight.

The upcoming Series against the Astros and the Pirates, 2 of the best teams in baseball – will these two series tell the tale?

These two series are important, and are against dangerous teams.  This is a test and every Giants fan will be watching closely.  The G-Men must win at home to have a shot.  Now is the time.

That’s it!

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

The Czar's Blog - Halloween Parade Edition 2014

Welcome to our friends who love the San Francisco Giants, and to the last Czar’s blog of 2014 – the Halloween (my birthday present) Parade edition!


There isn’t anyone on the planet that doesn’t feel in awe of Madison Bumgarner after his MVP performance in the NLCS and in the World Series.  However the G-Men are a team and, as it turns out, a team of destiny.  Was there anyone in SF not watching that game last night?  I’m still speechless.


Warriors or Cockroaches – or both?


Brian Sabean said that this is a team of cockroaches – they will not die! And they did not die. Bruce Bochy, a manager that is destined for the Hall of Fame with Miller Huggins, Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy and in the modern era, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre, said it best: “These guys are warriors.”


The first team since the “We are Family” Lumber Company (the 1979 Pirates with Willie Stargell) to win a WS game 7 on the road, and the first Giants team since the 1905 Giant with Christy Matheson to have a pitcher that essentially won 3 WS games, the last one on two day’s rest.  Clayton Kershaw might get the Cy Young and has been designated as the “Best Pitcher on the planet” but, if so, MadBum is the best pitcher in the Universe. 


Move over Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, MadBum is now your teammate!


I was there for the Bumgarner shutout at home in Game 5, the Ishikawa walk-off in Game 5 of the NLCS over the Cardinals, the Juan Perez double off the top of the wall that sealed Game 5 and we all saw the Crawford Grand Slam in the Wild card game but nothing beats the look on Hunter Pence’s face (batting almost .500 in the WS – are you kidding?) when he comes to the plate with the swing that looks like he is trying to destroy the ball with the bat.




This incredible post-season was the ride of a lifetime. Every player contributed. No one was selfish and no one pouted about not playing as Bochy masterfully shuffled the players like chess pieces across the board of the game.


The Panda was clutch (the best third baseman in the game – will he return?  We hope so!), Joe Panik found his groove (especially on that double play in the 3rd last night!) and may be the best 2nd baseman to play for the Giants since Joe Morgan and Jeff Kent (although Marco Scutero and Robbie Thompson are up there also), Brandon Crawford’s arm and range was the difference in the defense (we can watch him all day long – so smooth), Gregor Blanco played a center field for the ages (up until that 9th inning error last night that MadBum had to work through), Michael Morse came through with the big hits when needed (“May the Morse be with you”), Brandon Belt’s defense and bat were key and, most important, Buster Posey was nails even though he is clearly exhausted. 


Buster – take the next two months off and savor what you just did in directing this pitching staff!  If Pence is the heart of the team, you are the brains and the will.


Think about it: 18 innings over the Pirates in the Wild Card game; which the G-Men were in only because of a great April, May and September that overcame a swoon for the ages in June, July and into August (including being swept by KC in KC).  Then the NLDS against the Nationals (probably the most talented team in baseball this side of that LA team that won’t be named), then beating the Cardinals in the NLCS on a walk-off home run in the ninth inning of Game 5 by the most unlikely of hero’s – a 1st baseman cut in May, put on waivers, picked up by the Giants and sent to AAA and then converted to LF.  Travis Ishikawa lived the dream for all of us.


Hats off to the starters and the bullpen! Hudson playing at 39, Peavy who came in from the Red Sox to replace Cain when he went down, Vogelsong (who has the best game face since Will Clark), LInceum who pitched a no-hitter and then made himself available for relief, Romo, Affeldt, Casilla and, of course, Yusmiero Petit.  We would not be there without Petit. Kudos to the bench - Arias had key hits, Duffy  and Susac were nails for rookies, Perez literally saved Game 7 with an awesome catch. 


The point is that everyone contributed (including Strickland - who appears to be a special Bochy project).  Finally don’t forget the coaches (underrated all, especially Wotus and Flan) and the front office, Baer, Sabean, Bobby Evans, the scouts (like Pat Burrell, still contributing after all he did in 2010) and all the wonderful people who are part of the Giants family – as are every one of us.


We are told that both Bochy and Pence gave a speech to the team before Game 7.  Bochy said to remember the tough teams they defeated on the road over the last five years (and make no mistake the G-Men are a GREAT road team) and that they have won (now) 9 consecutive post season series.  Pence got up and simply said to remember what he told the team in spring training – they were playing for a parade in October.


Well, it’s October and it’s parade time. We will all be at our office on California street on Friday and will be walking over to Market Street about 11 am to get our place to greet the  2014 World Championship San Francisco Giants as the floats come down Market Street.


Join us at the Parade, and then mark your calendars for the Black and Orange Big Bottle Party on December 4th at 4 pm at the University Club.  This year will be truly special and we have a 12 liter Balthazar of a specially bottled zin (made with love by the Michael David Winery) from the 2012 WS as a feature.


The next Czar’s blog will be during Spring training before the 2015 season.  The G-Men will have a major target on their back and the title of dynasty in the making.  It will be a great year and we will all be part of it. There is nothing more special than baseball.


I can’t wait!


Let me leave 2014 with this thought, and with the picture below:


“…They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”  - Field of Dreams






The Czar

The Mets, Nationals and Rockies

Murderer’s row?   The G-Men are in first place at 38 and 21 with the best record in the NL (the A’s have the best record in the AL). We are at least 7 games over the Dodgers and 8 1/2 over the Rockies.  This is simply the best Giants team I think that  I’ve ever seen and I’ve been watching them since 1958. Yes 2002 was a great team, so was 1962, 2010 (and for that matter 1989) was scrappy (and tortured) and 2012 was stubborn (they refused to give up – ever) but this team is like magic; good in all phases of the game, good hitting, great defense, good pitching, great bullpen, balanced, sane, playful, really well managed and capable of more two-out rallies than any team in baseball.   Then the G-Men go to St. Louis and take 3 out of 4 from the Cardinals (with…

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Giants v. Braves, Giants v. Marlins

How do you like our first place best in baseball G-Men?  

I’m live blogging Hudson’s start against Kershaw in LA right now and the G-Men are up 3 to 2 in the 8th. This last two weeks has been awesome, and a little bit unreal because the Giants haven’t been exactly blowing everyone away – they are just doing all the little things right and showing incredible balance in the process. The boys are 6 and 3 on the current road trip and if they beat the Dodgers today they would finish the road trip at 7 and 3. With a 10 and 5 home record and a 13 and 9 road record the Gigantes are 23 and 14 -  the best record in baseball (tied with the Brewers, who are beat the Yankees 6-5 today). The reasons are pretty simple: solid rotation, really good defense, timely hitting, great game management (I’ve never seen so many defensive shifts from the Giants that paid off) and a shut-down bullpen.


Probably the best part about this April to May run is that it’s been almost all against the NL West.  This will make September a lot more fun because everyone else in the division will be pressing to improve their divisional record while the G-Men work on just winning games.  It’s much too early to say that we are looking at a playoff team but I’ll go out on a limb and say that if anyone in Vegas bets against the Giants, they will lose their money.


Now we get down to the grind of the regular season where every game teaches us something more about the Giants, the NL West and the rest of the National League. Interleague has been fun (and sweeping the Tribe was a blast, not to mention sweeping the Braves in Atlanta) but the interleague games are still a sideshow.


The Players and the team so far


There are several issues that are cause for concern.  The bench is not hitting very well except for Hector Sanchez, who while hitting only .222 seems to get big hits and RBI’s in the clutch (15 RBI’s so far, for a bench player that’s pretty damn good). Tyler Colin was just brought up from Fresno to replace Belt but hasn’t had any real AB’s yet. The Panda continues to struggle, batting below the Mendoza line, and the worry is that his contract year is really getting to him. That might be the biggest issue to worry about right now but Bochy (who has Pablo batting 4th today) is doing his best to give him a chance to work through his struggles.  If the Panda starts to rake, May and June will be really fun. Pablo’s got 2 hits today, a good sign.


Posey on the other hand is back up to .300 and is just absolutely solid (someday when he gets into the HOF you will telling your grandchildren that you saw Buster play – two great tags at home plate today). Morse is the team leader in RBI’s (24) and is second behind Belt in HR’s with 8 dingers.  Morse is a force of nature. Crawford is making everyone forget Omar. Brandon is one highlight reel play after another, and with 4 HR’s, 17 RBI’s and a .263 BA. Speaking of the Brandon’s, Hicks is only batting .198 but has 6 HR’s, 12 RBI’s and is playing a stellar 2nd base (after starting out a little bit raw).  Hicks also hit a 2 run dinger against Kershaw, which put the G-Men ahead 3 to 2.  We like this young man J Stay tuned on this game.


I still love Angel Pagan, hitting .307 (tops on the team) with 3 HR’s (all to start off games), playing an awesome center field and being the straw that stirs the drink (speaking of Pagan, he hit a double off Kershaw in the 6th).  That said, Pence still has to get hot. When he does the offense will only get better.


On the pitching side, Hudson is money (ERA under 2, and 4 and 2) and is leading the team even with Bumgarner at 2.83 and 4 and 3. The rest of the staff is coming around.  Vogelsong (who you might remember I thought might be done) is back under a 3.93 ERA, Lincecum and Cain have both had consistent quality starts and what can you say about the bullpen except best bullpen ERA in baseball. It’s hard to pick anyone out.  Machi has 5 wins, Romo is 12 for 12 in saves and Casilla and Affeldt have been stellar.


The Injury Report


The injury report now includes Belt (broken thumb yesterday, soon to be replaced at 1st by Morse) as well as Scutaro and I think that Cain is still hurt (he couldn’t control his fastball yesterday because of the sandwich cut injury to his finger). Scutaro has apparently started rehab games in AZ but being placed on the 60 day DL is not encouraging.  The thing to watch on this homestand is how well Morse handles 1st (apparently Morse came up to the Majors as a 1st baseman, which is encouraging) and if the LF position can deliver some pop without Morse there.  Belt will be back in 6 weeks they say, which would be the end of June for the Padres and the Reds series.


This next six weeks will be a real test for the bench and we may see more action from Fresno if Colvin can’t cut it.


The Homestand, and the NL West


This seven game homestand against the Braves and Marlins will be followed by three games on the road against the Rockies, then home again for six games against the Twins (interleague) and the Cubs (always fun).


The Marlins and the Braves are both at the top of the NL East, with the Braves on top by one game (21 and 15).


The Braves are angry after the sweep they took at home.  This is going to be tense series of nail biters.  Look for Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman to be big hitters, with Teheran (1.71), Wood (2.87) and Santana (1.99) all with stellar ERA’s.  The Braves series will be all about pitching and defense I expect.


The Miami games, on the other hand, will be power and pitching. Hopefully the better defense of the G-Men will carry the day. Look for Giancarlo Stanton (.296 and 11 HR’s) and (of all people considering the ex-Brewer was in Japan last year) Casey McGeehe batting .307. The pitchers all have low ERA’s and in a stroke of luck I understand that we will miss the phenom - Jose Fernandez.  Trust me, that is a good thing.


A last word about the NL West. The Rockies are the surprise team, one game behind the G-Men, the Dodgers are playing down to their attitude (poor- though I must admit that the beach chair promotion was entertaining – no one could blow them up), the Padres are where they were expected to be and the Snakes are busy self-destructing. However with three teams above .500 (the G-Men, the Rockies and LA) the division is clearly one of the best in baseball.


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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