Sunday, November 30, 2014

Baseball Fans and the Wild Card

I followed the baseball season fairly closely this year, especially the pennant races and post-season. I picked up on some conflicting sentiments that were attributed to fans on behalf of the media.

First, during the pennant races, I frequently heard about how much fans liked the wild card format that baseball has. Now that there are two wild card teams, the fans like it even better. You see, the wild card format creates extra excitement because there are more pennant races than there used to be, and the wild card format allows more teams to be in it at the end. Their regular seasons have more meaning.

Second, during the World Series I frequently heard about how TV ratings were so low. Fans simply weren't interested in a World Series played between two sub-90 win teams. (Both the Giants and Royals were wild card teams.) They wanted the top teams to face each other.

So, let me get this straight. The teams that the fans wanted to see in the pennant races were the teams they didn't want to see in the World Series? Huh? This may seem kinda simplistic, but you can't have teams making the playoffs that have no chance of winning the playoffs.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reflections on Game 6

2014 World Series Game 6: Kansas City Royals 10, San Francisco Giants 0.

Contrary to what this looks like at first glance, this was as painless a way to lose a game 6 that there is. Why would I say that?

The loss did not prevent the Giants from winning the World Series. And, they lost no emotional energy in the process. The game was over early. Aside from Bochy bringing in Petit for a long relief appearance with the hope of still scoring, it was over. Petit was better suited to start an inning at the beginning of his long relief. As it was, he was called on to put out a fire, then hold the Royals for a long period of time while the Giants came back. When he couldn't put the fire out, Bochy changed strategy.

He switched all of his focus to game 7. He lined up all the pitchers he did not want to appear in any game 7 scenario whatsoever, and used all of them to finish out game 6. The Giants never even scored, so there never was a possibility of losing a heart break game 6. Every run the Royals scored after taking Peavy out was actually meaningless. The crowd was on fire and the Royals were loving every minute of it, but it really was meaningless. They weren't driving a proverbial stake in any further, run by run. Bochy even put in the non-regulars to get WS appearances: Susac, Arias, Duffy.

But the biggest reason game 6 was painless, was that NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. There was no Dusty Baker to give the game ball to a pitcher while the game was still being played. There was no Scott Spiezio. There was no Tim Worrell. There was no career-ending arm blowout by Robb Nen. There was no Candy Maldonado losing a fly ball in the lights, there was no Bill Buckner, Don Denkinger or Steve Bartman. All the infamous game 6 collapses in history were not there. There was no psychological, emotional or physical damage. Just a looking forward to a game 7 with a stacked bullpen...the best bullpen in baseball.

Game 6 was one of the few times in this great game where it cost nothing to start thinking about tomorrow while it was still today.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Well, many people are calling the Giants' World-Series-winning ways "Dynasty." Yes, the Giants have dominated this decade, and winning three titles in five years is certainly nothing to write off. Usually, though, dynasties have consecutive championships. But I won't deny the use of the word. I simply put spaces between the letters in my title.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

That's Why You're Still In The Minors

I saw my first AAA game a few nights ago as my family was returning from vacation. We stopped in to visit family in Fresno, CA, and were treated to tickets to Friday night's Grizzlies game (our very own SF Giants AAA club). This was only my third minor league game ever, and the other two were years ago, both A level games.

I brought my 9 year old son, and we were pleasantly surprised by tickets in the front row behind the Grizzlies dugout. We immediately saw a number of players who have been up and down to and from the Giants. Catcher Hector Sanchez was there, rehabbing from an injury. Tyler Colvin, Juan Perez, Tony Abreu, George Kontos, Nick Noonan, and longtime hot prospect(ish) Gary Brown were there. Several others that weren't in the game, too. My son knew all these players, as he is an avid follower of all things Giants, as well as a star player on his own teams.

A great teaching/learning opportunity was continually in front of us. It became obvious to him that the level of play was not quite what it is in the majors. And with each mental or physical mistake the players made, the fans would react with a shout to the offending player of, "That's why you're still in the minors!"

Never having been to a AAA game, I saw stark examples of what I already "knew" to be true. It's the small things that make the difference. I pointed out a number of them to him, and he noticed a number of them all by himself. Fortunately for my son, he tends to learn these things fairly quickly, and these things often separate him from his peers.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dropped Third Strike

(written several weeks ago, published today)

Baseball's "dropped third strike" rule (on any third strike not caught on the fly and held by the catcher, the batter is allowed to advance to first base, unless first base is occupied with less than two out) has played a big part in our family over this last year, especially this last weekend. Our 9 year old son was introduced to the rule last year with a travel team he played with, then this year with his 9-10 yr old "house ball" team (regular league). The 9-10 division has the rule as part of regular play.

Now, on his 10U travel team, the "dropped third strike" is a common occurrence. I don't quite like the term "dropped third strike," as it implies that the catcher drops the ball. The majority of these cases at a young age have a batter swinging and missing at a ball that is in the dirt or somehow out of the reach of the catcher.

This weekend, the Mets visited AT&T park. A 9th inning rally was started on a dropped-third strike, as Angel Pagan started running to first. The Mets catcher picked up the ball and threw wide to first, allowing Pagan to reach base. I used the opportunity to explain to him the importance of making the putout on such a play as it could easily lead to a score.

The next morning, he was catching for his team, and the very first batter reached on a "dropped third" that was a wild pitch. We had just talked about it. Later in the game, however, an exciting play took place. With a runner on third and one out, a batter swung and missed at a ball in the dirt for strike three. The ball bounced in front of the plate by about a foot. The batter started running to first, my son picked up the ball, bluffed the runner back to third and threw to first to get the out. But the runner took off for home immediately. The first baseman picked up on the play and instead of covering first with a stretch, he swept across first base like a shortstop would and fired a bullet home, six inches off the ground in front of the plate and just got the foot of the sliding runner. Double play!

It is amazing how a rule I knew my whole life was suddenly intensified to me overnight. I'll never look at the dropped third strike the same way again.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day 2014

Opening Day is finally here. With all the rain outside it doesn't feel like it. Both the Giants and A's open tonight, barring rainouts. The G-Men open in the desert, while the Athletics are to open at home. The Giants/A's exhibition game on Saturday was rained out, and my 9 year old has had his last three games rained out, tonight's included.

Whatever happens, it is always great to see regular season baseball being played. More importantly, it will be heard on the radio. I watch a lot of baseball on the radio. Welcome back!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

MLB: Stop the Regular Season Games Overseas

I have no idea why MLB plays overseas games as part of the regular season with a week left in Spring Training. But I think it should stop.

This year, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks played two games in Australia a week ago. They were part of the regular season. Each team came back to the States to finish up Spring Training. Why do these exhibition games count? It makes no sense. That two teams are "ready" for play a week early and have to endure a flight half way around the world and adjust to a new time zone is silly.

I don't have a problem with the exhibition games, as baseball should be looking to expand into new markets elsewhere, but to make these games count is simply not necessary. They take home games away from the two teams that play, games that could be enjoyed by the fans of the teams in their normal ballparks. They take the revenue away as well. These games could easily make as much money overseas if they were simply exhibition and not regular season. They mess up the standings and the flow of the regular season. They are played in the middle of the night our time, and prevent fans from even watching or listening to them.

MLB: Please stop.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

We Could Use a Giants/Dodgers NLCS

As I pointed out a couple of posts ago, the Giants and Dodgers have played in five of the last six NLCS. The only problem with this NLCS domination is that they have not played against each other in the NLCS.

The curious thing to me is that I have not heard more fans express their desire for an orange vs. blue showdown. It would be great for baseball and it would be incredible for the long standing rivalry. To prop up my point, I will refer to history.

Some of the greatest memories in baseball history have occurred between ardent rivals. Let's look at the Giants/Dodgers past. In 1951, the greatest rivalry in baseball history produced the greatest pennant race in baseball history. That race ended in a tie on the last day of the season. A three-game playoff was scheduled. The results were the greatest home run in baseball history along with the greatest radio call in all of sports history.

Another great playoff moment came from the other great baseball rivalry, the Yankees and Red Sox. A wild pennant race ended in a tie in 1978, and a one-game playoff was scheduled. Bucky Dent had his name changed in New England. And what about the ALCS in 2003 and 2004? I'm tired of hearing that the Red Sox were the first team to come back from being down 3-0. No. They were down 3.9-0 with Mariano Rivera on the bump about to save a series sweep and came back. And we can't leave out the near-mirror 1962 pennant race between the Giants and Dodgers. A miracle in the last week of the season by the Giants to tie forced another 3-game playoff and a miracle 4-run rally in the 9th inning of game 3 gave the Giants the pennant.

No pair of teams in baseball history have been in more pennant races than the Giants and Dodgers, and no pair of teams in baseball history have had more 1-2 finishes than the Yankees and Red Sox. Note: too many of the Sox/Yanks 1-2 finishes were not close 1-2 finishes so really don't count as pennant races. But my point stands. The two biggest rivalries in history have produced some of the greatest playoffs ever. And this is why I think 2014 would be a great year for a Giants/Dodgers NLCS. Hey, how about an accompanying Yanks/Sox ALCS with the winners playing each other in the World Series?