Baseball’s biggest tease

Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum: a one-time ace who still teases greatness.

Giants fans got teased again last week. In the midst of a dreadful, team-wide June Swoon, Tim Lincecum took the hill against San Diego and fired a no-hitter – his second in as many seasons.

This isn’t the fireballing Lincecum of five years ago, however. Watching him today, it’s increasingly difficult to recall “The Freak” that burst upon baseball in 2007 and went on to back-to-back Cy Young Awards in his first two full seasons in the big leagues in 2008-09. That flame-thrower led the National League in strikeouts three straight years, posted remarkable WARs (Wins Above Replacement) of 7.9 and 7.5 in 2008-09, and was widely regarded as the game’s most dominant pitcher and a future Hall of Famer. Continue reading

The name on the front of the jersey

Jeter Rivera

Future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, Yankees throughout their careers…quite a rarity these days.

Gehrig. Feller. Williams. Musial. Banks. Stargell. Yastrzemski. Bench. Yount. Ripken. The list goes on and on. Many of baseball’s all-time greats never changed uniforms in their lengthy big league careers. Of course that’s a rarity now, which makes present-day Yankees greats Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter all the more unusual.

I grew up in an era when baseball was changing dramatically. In the 1970s, as the DH rule and free agency hit baseball, longtime stars suddenly started moving from team to team. I remember thinking how strange it was to see Catfish Hunter become a Yankee, but superstars changing uniforms quickly became the norm. Continue reading

Puig: Astounding to date, but not a Hall of Famer just yet

Eric Young & Mike Piazza

Two future major leaguers, Eric Young and Mike Piazza, as Albuquerque Dukes in 1993.

Twenty years ago I had the good fortune of working in the front office of the old Albuquerque Dukes as Mike Piazza blazed his way through town on his way to the Dodgers and, I expect (steroid rumors aside), ultimately the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was a classic phenom – a late round draft pick taken primarily as a favor to Tommy Lasorda who blossomed into maybe the best-hitting catcher in baseball history.

However, I also remember Raul Mondesi, who had almost as meteoric a rise through the system and to the majors. He was yet another Dodgers product who became a Rookie of the Year, and yet another phenom. He had some very good years, but he never reached the greatness predicted for him when he arrived in the big leagues., and instead of a storied Dodgers career he ultimately wore the uniforms of seven different franchises. Continue reading

America’s pastime on the silver screen: Baseball movies good and bad

Robert Redford

Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in ‘The Natural’

As fall turns toward winter I always start watching more movies, both at theaters and at home. At the same time, I’m in withdrawal since there’s no baseball to watch and the Giants’ off-season looks to be pretty quiet, so I started recalling my favorite baseball movies…especially since I’ll probably be watching many of these yet again in the coming weeks as I await the start of spring training.

I’ve seen dozens of lists of top 10 baseball movies and top 10 sports movies over the years, and usually have disagreed with them (as you no doubt will with mine – and you can vote on your favorite below)…but I don’t think I’ve ever actually done one. My list stretches to 15, but who’s counting? Continue reading

World Series 2012: So much for the pundits’ picks

The Detroit Tigers, at 88-74, had the fewest wins of any division champion in 2012. They were tied with the National League Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals for the fewest wins of any playoff team period. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants were 94-68.

In 2012 the Tigers’ run differential on the season was +56, 13 runs fewer than that of the Giants.

Pablo Sandoval

The dominant player on the field in Game One was a Giant: Pablo Sandoval

Yet a stunning 23 of 28 ESPN “experts” picked Detroit to win the World Series, many of them in six games or less. Several based their picks on the Tigers’ “dominant starting pitching.”

Eight of 11 MLB.com pundits chose the Tigers.

At FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal also picked the Tigers. Continue reading

2012 World Series, Game One

Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval crosses the plate after one of his record-tying three home runs in a World Series game. (DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP)

I was lucky enough to be at Game One of the 2010 World Series, when the mood outside the ballpark before the game was just amazing. Palpable excitement about a team that had survived its division race on the final day of the season and then rolled through the playoffs. This year was a bit different…this team did the opposite, rolling to a division title over the last couple months of the season but then needing miraculous comebacks to win both playoff rounds. There was less hyperactivity outside the park for Game One this year, at least before the game, but that all changed once everyone was inside and gametime approached.

Thankfully, after the 9th inning monsoon in Game Seven of the NLCS, the weather was perfect…a cool, crisp fall day in the City by the Bay. Continue reading

Game Seven

As the FOX commentators droned on toward the end of Game 6 of the NLCS about how “there’s nothing like a Game 7 in all of sports,” one of my happiest thoughts was that I’d get to enjoy Game 7 without Joe Buck repeatedly touting the Sunday NFL broadcast schedule or Tim McCarver butchering historical facts like how Willie McCovey fared in his debut game (It was 1959, not ’58, and he didn’t hit three triples in that game. He went 4-for-4 with two triples and two singles against Robin Roberts. Any dyed-in-the-wool Giants fan knows this and so much more that the national broadcasters fail to recognize. And that’s true for fans of any team…these guys need to do their homework before they start throwing out historical anecdotes.).

Anyway, enough about MLB on FOX. I grabbed tickets for Game 7 while Ryan Vogelsong was throttling the Cards in Game 6. Despite some pre-game raindrops and a veritable downpour in the ninth inning, Marco Scutaro caught that final popup and my daughter and I got to enjoy one of the great moments in San Francisco Giants history in person…the 2012 National League pennant. On to the World Series!

A few scenes from the day, thanks to my trusty iPhone: