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

Giants v. Diamondbacks, Giants v. Reds

The G-Men are now 43 and 51 and 6.5 games back in the NL West Greetings to all of our friends who love the two-time World Champion SF Giants! This is it, the second half of the season. The last two months (since about May 15th when Pagan went down) have been the worst Giants baseball since the mid-1980’s. 2 and 18 in the last 20 games before taking three out of four from Padres on the road in San Diego (which included Timmy’s no-no), probably the worst BA in the majors, the most men LOB, the worst defense and the most inconsistent pitching. If you can’t score runs, play defense or pitch you are not going to win ball games.

Why was this happening?  Injuries are one factor. I talked about this in the last blog. Scutaro’s back and finger, Crawford’s finger, Pagan’s hamstring (maybe Pagan will be back in September?), Panda’s weight, Casilla’s oblique, Aria’s hamstring and Sanchez’s whatever.

Well, in the second half we expect Casilla back (on Sunday), the Panda has been looking a bit slimmer (maybe it was an optical illusion but he played some really good D in San Diego), Crawford looks back to normal and has started hitting, Scutaro is steady and we expect Vogelsong back at the end of July.

Another factor (besides healing up) is that the Giants play most of their second half games at home, where they are still 5 games over .500.

In my view the next ten games will tell us whether or not the G-Men are buyers or sellers at the July 31st trade deadline.  Sabean has already said that he isn’t trading Timmy (who has the most value of the Giants) and Cain and Bumgarner are untouchable.  Lopez on the other hand is vulnerable if the price is right (Atlanta is desperate for the left-handed reliever – who is in their farm system?).  The Panda also has value but only for a good starting pitcher to replace Zito (of course if Vogelsong comes back strong Gaudin could back to long relief).

If the Giants lose the three upcoming series (the Snakes, Reds and Cubs), or even two out of three, I suspect that Sabean will go into rebuilding mode.  However if the G-Men play over .500 (maybe 7 out of 10?) then they might be buyers. Sabean has made moves at the trade deadline before. In 2011 he got Keppinger and Beltran and last year he got Pence so expect something to happen.

So, these games are incredibly important and I expect each one to be a sell-out.

The Positives

The Giants have made some good moves. They brought up Tanaka, who is a really smooth player and who might be a factor because he is so versatile.  He looks and plays like Ichiro and was a Japanese All-Star (he’s 32 and hungry and he gave up a big contract in Japan to try to make it in the show – you have to love the attitude and confidence) . He is certainly a better player than Shinjo (remember him, of the neon orange armbands?). They also picked up Jeff Francoeur who, while well-traveled (Atlanta, the Mets and then the Royals) is a really solid defensive player who has hit for power in the past. He sucked with the Royals but maybe the change in scenery will do him good.  I’ve always liked him and he allows Boche to platoon Torre and Blanco in center, which plays to their strengths.

All in all this makes for a solid team.

On the pitching side, Bumgarner is money and Timmy seems to be finding his groove. Gaudin has been solid (the Las Vegas arrest notwithstanding) and with Casilla back in the 8th inning maybe Affleldt will relax.  The G-Men bullpen is actually pretty good but has been overworked.

When they are clicking the infield of Crawford, Scutaro and Belt is solid. Tanaka is listed now as the utility infielder, which is pretty cool because he looked good in left field also. Belt has been hitting with power and may finally be coming into his own and Pence (as wildly streaky as he has been) is capable of carrying a team if he gets hot.

Finally, Buster Posey.  He is one hell of a player and worth coming to watch all by himself.  He’s Bonds without the attitude.

The Negatives

Matt Cain looks lost.. Maybe he can find his groove in the second half but he lasted on one inning in his last start at home. Barry Zito cannot win outside of AT&T.  Thankfully most of the second half games are at home but, regardless, this is his last year as a Giant.

The biggest negative is bad attitude. If the Giants believe that they can win they will. It starts with Boche. Keep your fingers crossed.

What Can the Giants do?  Is there any hope?

Yes, there is hope.  This team won 2 out of the last 3 world series.  That alone earned them the right to be watched no matter what else happens.  I’ll take finishing out of the playoffs every other year for a world series in the other years. The Giants of 51 came from 13 games down on August 15th of that year to tie the Dodgers, win a sudden death playoff and go to the world series.  The 62 Giants did the same thing.  Last year this same team won two sudden death playoff series when they were down to their last game, and then swept the world series. Until the G-Men are mathematically eliminated, they are in it.

Also, I have to point that the Dodgers are getting back into their insufferable mode; arrogant, testy, full of themselves and, what’s the word for it?  Oh yes, assholes (especially that hot dog Puig, there isn’t enough mustard in California for that guy). At the very least if we keep the best team that money can buy out of the playoff’s the season will have been worth it. Rooting for the Dodgers is like rooting for Voldemort.

The Series to come

The Snakes are In first place in the NL West. If the Gigantes sweep, they will be 3 ½ out. If they take 2 out of 3, they will be 4 ½ out. Arizona is steady.  They are 5 games over .500 and won 6 out of their last ten games.  They are 23 and 25 on the road so they are vulnerable. Who comes out of the gate hungrier will decide this series.

The Reds are 11 games OVER .500 but still in 3rd place (5 back) in the incredibly hot NL Central. They are full of All-Star hitters (Joey Votto and Jay Bruce among them) and pitchers like Homer Bailey (who no-hit the G-Men earlier this month).  The Reds are the real test and Dusty Baker likes nothing better than doing it to the G-Men at home.

The Cubs are in 4th place in the NL Central (15 games back) and are going to be sellers for sure, so they will be showing off their trade bait, Matt Garza for sure and probably Soriano, Rameriz and, yes, Schierholtz. That will be an entertaining series, more important for the Giants than the Cubs I expect.

That's it. The clock is on.

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!


Giants v. Padres, Giants v. Marlins

Greetings to all of our friends who love the two-time World Champion SF Giants! The G-Men are now 35 and 31, 1.5 games back in 2nd place

It’s a time of year during which we are still trying to figure out this team.  Yes the Giants are playing .530 ball (below the .570 they need to assure taking the division) but the entire NL West is struggling. Being a game and half back at this time of year is not a cause for serious concern or panic.  We won’t have a good handle on this division until the All-Star break at the earliest, and maybe not even then. One day it’s a struggle and the Giants are being shut out and the next day they are blowing out the best team in baseball.  All we can do is watch and hope that there are no more injuries.

The Pirates series was a microcosm of the season.  Two bad losses (one with 20 runs scored in the game by both teams) and then a 10-0 blow out before heading out to Atlanta.  If the Giants win today they will finish this particular road trip at .500 or above; that’s pretty sweet against the teams they have played (2 out of 3 from the Snakes, 1 of 3 from the Pirates and so far 1 and 0 from the Braves).

The Positives

The offense is the best that we’ve seen from the Giants since the early 2001 and 2002 teams of Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds.  They are toggling between the best and second best batting average and the most runs scored in the NL.  That hasn’t even been affected by the rash of injuries (see below), which is awesome.  The defense is tightening up (we may have the 4 best defensive fielders in baseball, between Torres, Blanco, Pence and now Perez – they cover a lot of ground) and Brandon Crawford is beginning to look like a lock as an All-Star shortstop (besides hitting at a current .294 clip with power). Buster Posey is once again looking like the league MVP, batting .313 with 8 dingers (and yesterday’s three doubles) and looking like Carleton Fisk behind the plate. Hunter Pence has played in every game, is batting .299 and has 11 home runs. These guys are for real.

On the pitching side Cain and Bumgarner have righted the ship and have had back to back shut out games (against the Pirates and the Braves) and we haven’t seen much of Romo because the G-Men have either been so far ahead, or so far behind, that he hasn’t been needed. Gaudin is pitching today against the Braves, and so far he is solid as he has been in his first two starts since taking over for Vogelsong after he went on the DL with a broken hand. There has been a lot of movement up and down from Fresno and it’s been effective; Perez for Pagan, Abreu for Scutaro and a succession of catchers. On the good news side Casilla is looking he might be back next week. He’s needed with Kontos being ineffective and being sent down to Fresno. On top of that when Kontos does come up he has to serve a 3 game suspension for plunking Andrew McCutcheon in the Pirates series.

Can something be both a positive and a negative?  Case in point is Barry Zito, with a 1.78 ERA at home and a 10.94 ERA on the road.  It’s too bad that it can’t be arranged so that Zito only pitches at AT&T.

The Negatives

The injuries that are piling up. Scutaro and Vogelsong out with hand injuries, Pagan with a hamstring that won’t heal and the Panda (overweight by 70 pounds) with a bad foot. Pablo is due back for the Padres series and Scutaro might also be back. Pagan remains a question mark.

We are all wondering if Scutaro will pull a Ronnie Lott and just cut off his little finger that has a bad tendon (it’s called mallet finger – Lott had the same thing before the 1985 playoffs and just cut off his finger so he could continue to play).

The Giants are rumored to be in the market for a starting pitcher because they need Gaudin in the bullpen, and Lincecum continues to be ineffective (and might be demoted to the bullpen himself). Leading the pack of speculation is Bud Norris from the Astros, Ricky Nolasco from the Marlins and Mark Buehrle from the Blue Jays. The G-Men don’t want a rental and each of those three guys are under control of their club for at least the next two years.

The Series to come

The Padres are in 4th place and with the injuries to the Rockies (Tulowitski being on the DL with a broken rib being the worst – he’s out for six weeks at least) they are expected to move up and challenge the Giants.  The Padres are 33 and 34, 2 and half games behind the G-Men so this series could very much result in a major NL West shift. The Friars have historically owned the Giants. This will be an important set of games.

The Marlins, on the other hand, are in last place in the NL East 18 and half games out.  If Nolasco is pitching watch to see how well he does at AT&T.  This will be a tryout. Can the G-Men take the Marlins?  Don’t be too sure.  The Giants have a bad history against last place teams (look at what happened against the Blue Jays in Toronto – they got pounded and then got pounded again at home).

Giants v. Padres; Giants v. Diamondbacks

The G-Men after 15 or so games It’s very early in the season but never too early to start worrying. The G-Men came out of the gate pretty well (they have won every series until the last one) and are currently 9 and 7, but are third in the NL West after being swept by the Brewers in Milwaukee over the last three days. The hot team right now is the Rockies (they are supposedly no pitching but great hitting – however they have had both great pitching and good hitting so far and they are pounding every team they are playing). The Diamondbacks are second in the NL West at 8 and 6 and the Dodgers and the Padres are both below .500.

The G-Men have had problems on the mound and at the plate.  Currently the hitter with the best batting average on the team is Barry Zito, which says something (I’m not sure exactly what).  Buster is at .213 and can’t find his stroke, Belt got the flu early in the season, lost weight and still can’t seem to get untracked (hitting .170?)  The highlight reel guys are Brandon Crawford (who really is looking like the reincarnation of Cal Ripken Jr. and is batting .352) and, of course, Hunter Pence. Who would have believed that Pence would have already had 4 dingers and Crawford 3.

The solid players are the Panda, Scutero, Pagan and the new guy (Nick Noonan) who is really turning heads (although his shortstop range needs work).  The good news is that there have been comeback wins, the team is grinding and they are over .500.

The bad news is that the starting pitchers are looking vulnerable (except Bumgarner , who has a 1.77 ERA and is the star of the staff). Who would have believed that Matt Cain would have a 7.15 ERA after 5 starts (and no victories), that Barry Zito would have a 4.86 ERA and 2 wins (the ERA is mostly due to a REALLY bad inning in Milwaukee, almost matching Cain’s REALLY bad inning in the Cubs game last week).  Vogelsong isn’t doing much better with a 5.89 ERA.

The bullpen has been pretty solid; only one blown save by Romo and the only real injury so far is Affeldt (strained oblique) who is on the DL.  Affeldt’s injury did affect the bullpen rotation, which may have cost the game yesterday (although Zito’s giving up 7 runs in the second inning didn’t help matters much).

This home series against two NL West teams should be a real test.  The Padres are last in the NL West and are a classic “rebuilding team” but they are dangerous. I don’t know when Chase Headley is due off the DL but when he comes back the Padres offense gets dangerous again.  Also, the Padres staff ERA, it should be pointed out, is lower than the Giants.  Can the G-Men use a series at home against the Padres to right the ship?  We will see.

BTW: it was kind of interesting to see the Dodgers and the Padres mix it up last weekend and both lost players, which has hurt the Dodgers more than the Padres. Carlos Quentin was suspended for something like 6 games but the Dodgers Greinke is out for who knows how long with a shoulder injury from trying to match tackles with a hitter (who he plunked) that outweighed him by about 50 pounds (not smart).  Also, the Padres are riding a three game win streak including a victory against Clayton Kershaw and a sweep of the Dodgers.

The D’backs, on the other hand, are busy beating up the AL East at the moment (playing the Yankees, and winning).  Led by our old friend Cody Ross and Paul Goldschmidt, the Snakes have SIX regulars batting over .300 and a pitching staff ERA somewhere around 3.  There is a reason they are in second place with an 8 and 6 record. Arizona is for real and we will see them starting on Monday night.

Every game this year should be like a playoff game and the G-men have now sold ALL available season tickets so getting into the park will be a challenge.  On that note there is extra security this weekend at AT&T so if you get to the tickets, get to the game early.

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

Giants v. Padres, Giants v. Mets

The Positives:  The Giants are in first place in the NL West, 1.5 games in front of the Dodgers and playing their best baseball of the year.  They are finishing up a 4 and 2 road trip having won 2 out of 3 from both the Braves (nipping at the heels of the Nationals in the NL East) and the Phillies (hurting for reasons that are not all that clear because they are a very good team).  This follows up on a horrible 1 and 5 road trip before the All-Star break, redeemed by the G-Men practically singlehandedly winning the All-Star game (four Giants on the roster, with the Panda hitting a three run triple and Melky a two-run homer) and assuring that the NL has home field advantage in the world series. The pitching is as good as it ever has been.  Lincecum has had two good starts in a row (cross your fingers that he’s back), Zito has had something like six straight quality starts (including today when the game was lost in the 11th inning and the fine game he pitched in Atlanta),and Cain, Vogelsong and Bumgarner are simply the best rotation in baseball.  To top it off, the Giants bullpen is really good with Affeldt and Lopez doing their job with little drama and Romo being routinely awesome.

On the hitting front, Melky continues to lead MLB in hits and the G-Men have shown flashes of power (2 dingers from Schierholtz today for example, after a Grand Slam from Crawford yesterday after a three-run homer the day before – Crawford is officially en fuego) and the team batting averages and RBI’s are improving steadily. The defense is also routinely excellent (even though early season errors continue to weigh the stats down) and what can you say about Buster Posey. What a stud!  If he continues the way he’s going (over .300, hits to all field, multi-hit games and solid behind the plate) he will be in contention with Kemp for the MVP

The Questions: Has Nate earned a starting spot for the rest of the season?  If he keeps hitting dingers the way he is doing now there is no way Bochy is going to remove him. Can Blanco return to form?  He missed a suicide squeeze sign yesterday and he looks tired.  He needs a rest.  It looks like Huff is done (for his career I bet) with his latest injury and Hector Sanchez is on the DL but is expected back quickly.  It was a real joy to see Eli Whiteside (Crash Davis incarnate) come up and take a start behind the dish, settle everyone down and get a couple of important hits.

The Negatives:  It’s like a broken record but runners in scoring position continue to haunt the Gigantes, and the power numbers are way low for a contending club.  The Giants are gap to gap hitters but in the smaller ball parks they need to start hitting homers.  That brings me to Brandon Belt.  He is once again lost at the plate. He’s a great defensive first baseman but a streaky hitter, and he is not on a streak right now. If Sabean is going to dip into the trade market by the 31st (during this series of home games, when the trade deadline comes) he has got to be looking for a power hitting first baseman, or someone that can play third and send Pablo to first.  There are a lot of candidates, including Carlos Quentin from the Padres and Placido Polanco from the Phillies.  The Giants just need a solid hitter, not a superstar rental (ala the Beltran deal last year).  None of us know exactly what Sabean is going to do but for sure it’s something. Sabean is constitutionally unable to stop working the phones.

The last word on the negatives has to be Santiago Casilla.  I thought that putting him in for the same yesterday (after he blew a save in the Atlanta game, his 5th blown save in 8 games) was a good call for confidence but he still looks like a deer in the headlights.  Casilla is MUCH better suited to earlier innings. There are a couple of closers out there and Sabean might very well go after one of them, maybe Broxton from the Royals (who are in fire sale mode) if we can stand having another ex-Dodger on the team

The Division: Realistically, it’s between the G-Men and the Dodgers now. The teams are currently 1.5 games apart and playing each other a LOT between now and the end of the season in September (which actually ends up in LA on the last weekend of the season).  The Dodgers are back at full strength with Kemp off the DL and next weekend’s games should be classics, which is why the tickets are already gone. I suspect that the division lead may change more than once between now and October, which isn’t a bad thing as long as the Giants are on top in October.

The Games: The Padres are in fourth place (15 games back) in the NL West (above the Rockies) but have always been tough on the Giants. The Padres certainly know what is at stake and would like nothing better than to be a factor in the division race by knocking off the front runner.  The Mets, who are in third place in the NL East, 8 and /12 games out, are in town for four games.  The Mets (damn it all) just got swept by the Dodgers in NY so the way I look at it the G-Men have to be on the attack big time.

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar

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  81. Appellate Court Ruling Strikes Blow Against State’s Arbitrary Beer Label Ban
  82. Illinois Attorney General's Office Announces Intention to Dismiss False Claims Act Against Liquor Retailers
  83. Commercial Speech And Alcoholic Beverages - Part III
  84. Commercial Speech And Alcoholic Beverages - Part II
  85. Craft Beverages: Social Media Marketing the Effective and Compliant Way
  86. Commercial Speech And Alcoholic Beverages - Part I
  88. The Biggest Retailer in the World vs. the TABC
  89. Rebecca Stamey-White presents Emerging Issues in Wine Law
  90. Top Beverage Alcohol Law Firm Adds and Elevates Partners
  91. Illinois Qui Tam Lawsuits—Private Enforcement Of a State Claim: A Bonanza For A Plaintiff’s Lawyer And A Rip-Off Of Retailers
  92. BOOZE RULES OF SOCIAL MEDIA: The Retailer Right to Pay Exception
  94. AB 2004: Brewer's Incremental Parity with Wine Makers
  95. Expanding, Proud Of It, and Wanting to Tell the World
  96. DC Weighs in Strongly on Third Party Marketer Delivery Services
  97. “Visual Links” between Beer, Wine and Spirits Labels and Retailers Ruled Unlawful in California — the tied house laws run amok
  98. Hard Cider Legislative Update
  99. New Marketing Model for New York – Lot 18 and the NYSLA
  100. Sweeping Changes in Proposed NYSLA Bill Include Expansion for Craft