With a heaping helping of faith and wishful thinking, I’m picking the San Francisco Giants to win the National League West this year. Even as I typed that sentence, the nagging voice in my head was saying, “What about the Diamondbacks?”
The pick comes down to arms versus bats, and the Giants have the better pitching. But I have my doubts about the San Francisco staff this year. I don’t think Tim Lincecum is a lock to have another dominating season, and I fret about closer Brian Wilson’s health.
On offense, the Giants should be more productive this year. That’s predicated on the iffy proposition that Buster Posey regains most of his 2010 form, Brandon Belt proves he can hit as a starting first baseman, and Melky Cabrera approximates his 2011 numbers.
I put the Diamondbacks a close second and the Rockies hard on their heels in third, with the Dodgers and Padres trailing.
That analysis and $1.35 will get you a tall Pike Place Roast at Starbucks.
AL, NL, all around the game: the West Coast is a barren landscape for hitters in Major League Baseball.
I’m most acutely aware of the offensive struggles of the San Francisco Giants, the defending world champions who rank last in runs, 28th in hits and 25th in home runs.
The Giants play a lot of games against the San Diego Padres, ranking 27th in runs and hits and dead last at 30th in homers.
I was expecting that when I checked out MLB’s team stats tonight, and I figured the Seattle Mariners were likely company in the lower offense echelon. But I was surprised to find that the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers and even the Los Angeles Angels are for the most part in the nether regions of hitting statistics.
I thought the Pacific Coast stood for (Wally) Moon-shot power. For the Bash Brothers. For Barry Bonds. No more.
Since we can’t bring back steroids, I do suggest that some of these clubs reconfigure their stadiums. I recall way back in my childhood that the Indians moved in their fences to try to stoke some run production at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
Given how the outfield walls of modern parks like AT&T and Petco are integral parts of the fields, it’s unlikely clubs will want to tinker with those designer dimensions. But I’d like to see what would happen.
I love a good 2-1 pitchers’ duel as much as the next guy, but every few days I’d like to see the local nine rake the walls the way the Yankees and Red Sox do.
Posted in Baseball
Tagged Baseball, baseball stadiums, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners
Is this guy eager to play ball or what? Adrian Gonzalez checked in to the Boston training camp in Florida yesterday, the first Red Sox player to do so. It will be fascinating to see how Gonzalez does in his first season for the BoSox after five seasons with the San Diego Padres.
I have a great deal of respect for Gonzalez as a hitter. Every time he came up to bat against the San Francisco Giants, I’d twitch a bit, knowing that with one swing of the bat he could change the course of the game.
Gonzalez has been a big deal in San Diego, but I doubt most baseball fans in the east know much about him. If he gets off to a fast start, he’ll receive a huge amount of attention. And if he produces against the Yankees, the sky’s the limit.
Here’s how the story should read: “Bud Black, who guided the San Diego Padres on a 10-game losing streak that cost them the Western Division title, was named National League manager of the year on Wednesday. He edged Dusty Baker, whose Cincinnati Reds took the Central Division but didn’t win a playoff game, by one vote.
“Bruce Bochy, who led the San Francisco Giants to a surprising and unexpected victory in the World Series, finished a distant third.”
Let’s face facts. Bochy got hosed.
I have no quarrel with Black, who did a fine job keeping the Padres in the division lead most of the season. But the Padres went into that late-season tailspin. They had ample opportunities to retake the lead from the Giants, but they didn’t.
The Giants won.
So at a minimum, Bochy — whose team had no greater or lesser expectations of success this season than the Padres — should have received more votes than Black.
So that leaves Bochy versus Dusty Baker. In their last meeting of the year, the Giants crushed the Reds. And the Giants had a better record than the Reds, another team with expectations of success no greater or less than those of the Giants.
I know that the vote is taken at the end of the regular season, but even then, Bochy was the best.
My vote doesn’t count, so I guess I’ll just cast my ballot — with a big black “x” next to Bochy’s name — to the wind.
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It was a Sanchez-Sanchez kind of day at AT&T Park. Jonathan Sanchez got the victory, pitching five shutout innings. Maybe even more important, he tripled and then scored what turned out to be the winning run on an RBI single by Freddy Sanchez, who came in to score when Aubrey Huff doubled.
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I wanted Barry Zito to excel to today. To put the horrid outings behind him. To justify his gargantuan salary. To redeem himself, to be the hero, to be the man as the San Francisco Giants clinched the American League West title and advanced to a glorious post-season.
It didn’t happen.
No. 75 didn’t get past inning No. 3.
What a huge disappointment for the Giants and for their fans. Now they stare down the Padres, who have owned them virtually the entire 2010 season, for one more game. Maybe even two.
Based on a million permutations involving the Phillies and Braves and tie-breakers and God knows what else, the Giants may still make the playoffs even if they lose on Sunday.
Today was the day they should have clinched (yes, I’ve put the painful Friday night loss in the series opener behind me).
So what happens tomorrow? Will Jonathan Sanchez be able to keep his emotions in check in the biggest start of his career?
I hope so. But I won’t be surprised if it all comes crashing down on the Orange and Black.
“Pennant race” conjures images of clutch hits, great catches, overpowering pitching and long shadows slanting across the diamond. But with baseball’s division structure, there isn’t a true pennant race left.
Right now, the team I follow — the San Francisco Giants — has a slim lead over San Diego and Colorado in the National League West. The Yankees and Rays are locked in a tight battle in the American League East.
To me, the pennant represents the league championship, rooted in the pre-playoff American and National leagues when eight or 10 teams vied for the title and the right to play in the World Series. So it was in 1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as illustrated above.
In a diluted way, today’s races for the division championship and even the wild card playoff spots are a part of the pennant chase.
So I’ll do my best to cast off my curmudgeonly traditionalist attitude and accept that even a team in the hunt for the wild card is in a “pennant race.”
I don’t want to burst anyone’s gonfalon balloon.
Posted in Baseball
Tagged American League, Baseball, baseball playoffs, Colorado Rockies, National League, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, wild card