Tag Archives: San Francisco Giants

Original National League team that relocated from New York City for the 1958 season. They play in AT&T Park.

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2014 Washington Nationals: Denouement

Last month, the Washington Nationals of 2014 completed the 4th best season in DC baseball history, but a second division title — they ran away with the National League East still yielded a first round exit. In the NLDS, they faced the San Francisco Giants, winners of the play-in game and lowest seeded team in NL, but eventual world champions. Four games later, the Nats were eliminated, despite strong pitching. Some strange mental errors and an opportunistic Giants squad overtook the Nats for two reasons:

The Nats bats with four days off did not hit. Anthony Rendon and Bryce Harper, the two youngest hitters on the team, were able to handle being pitched to low and a way. The rest of the lineup was largely helpless and the manager of the Nats, Matt Williams made no adjustments to the lineup, leaving Harper at 6th throughout the whole series. Questions about that decision-making as well as hitting coach Rick Shu are there to be asked.

Williams decision making has been fairly scrutinized. I don’t mind that he pulled Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 with two outs in the ninth after yielding a walk. Facing Buster Posey for a fourth time with a tired arm wasn’t ideal. It just didn’t work out that Drew Storen did not get it done.

Game 4 proved to be much more baffling as Williams inserted Aaron Barrett into the 7th inning of an elimination game on the road instead of Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen. Stephen Strasburg, who had a decent Game 1 start, was also available, but my view is the best relievers available were the best choice. Williams never called for them and the Nats fell.

Was Williams management of the NLDS a fireable offense? Probably not, but I’m not saying I’d be disappointed; I could get used to spelling “Weird Wuss” with curly Ws, I think. His peers voted him NL Manager of the Year, perhaps in the way that I would suggest Hunter Strickland needs a larger stage, like closer on an NL East team. The Nats were not ready for playoff baseball, likely in part due to their success in the last month of season where the dominated weak NL East teams in the New York Mets and Miami Marlins. That schedule can’t be helped – it’s just the way it worked out. However, sticking to a lineup that wasn’t producing and sticking to bullpen roles rather than game situations is hardly unique to Williams.

Or maybe it was the red jerseys.

Now, let’s review the roster:

THE LINEUP

Denard Span‘s NLDS was a microcosm of the Nats year — when he hit, they tended to win. When he didn’t, they lost. 2014 was his most productive season, setting a modern DC hits record. Unfortunately, he only hit in game 3.

Anthony Rendon put up superstar numbers, led the NL in runs and played third base well. He also hit in the NLDS, going 7 for 20.

Adam LaRoche had a typical streaky season, but still played 140 games, had a .362 OBP, hit 26 homers and drove in 92 runs. He also hit a walk-off against the Arizona Diamonbacks in extra innings. He is done in D.C. as there will be no spot for him with Ryan Zimmerman headed to 1st.

Jayson Werth had another strong season at the plate (.292/.394/.455), but was useless in the NLDS. Really useless. His defense is starting to slip, so perhaps a move to left is in order. He also drives too fast.

Bryce Harper garnered more controversy than he deserved and miss significant chunks of time, but after he returned he was pretty much the same outstanding player he’s been his whole career. He also hit three homers in the NLDS. When he’s healthy he’s awesome.

Ryan Zimmerman
couldn’t stay healthy, first injuring his thumb and then tearing his hamstring. He’s done playing third base on a regular basis due to his arthritic shoulder and will probably move to first next season. He’s still a great hitter and not playing third may keep him in the lineup, though he got injured on the basepaths. He continues to be a consummate professional.

Ian Desmond strikes out a ton and tends to make more errors than he should, especially early in the season. He’s in a contract year and with no viable second baseman on the roster, he’ll probably be resigned and continue to put up 20-20 numbers for a few more seasons, but strike out a ton.

Wilson Ramos stared the season batting cleanup, couldn’t make it out of the first game without a trip the DL. He only played 88 games and runs very slowly. Aside from the WILLLLLL-SSSSSSON chant, a forgettable year in several respects. It’s still worth mentioning that the Nats traded Matt Capps for him.

Asdrubal Cabrera was solid at second base for the most part after being acquired from Cleveland for the stretch run and even had a decent NLDS compared to other Nats hitters (ejection notwithstanding) but is probably on his way out. A decent acquisition though, if only to keep Danny Espinosa out of the lineup.

THE ROTATION

Stephen Strasburg tried to hard to make a slider work, but in an up and down season still tied for the NL lead in strikeouts, pitched 30 more innings and walked fewer. He gave up more hits, but locked in during the stretch. His postseason debut was okay, but poor defense helped lead to an early departure.

Doug Fister
got traded for Robbie Ray and hero to fans of a certain age Steve Lombardozi. Fister went 16-6 in 25 starts with only 24 walks and no stolen bases. He also won Game 3. Good trade Mike Rizzo.

Jordan Zimmermann had a very strong 2014, earning an All-Star bid, being arguably the Nats best pitcher and throwing the first no-hitter in D.C. since the Hoover administration. He had an unflappable demeanor and came within one out of a complete game shutout in Game 2, but he walked Joe Panik when umpire ___ squeezed the zone a bit and got lifted. So close…2015 will likely be his final year in D.C. as he is a free agent after the season and indications are he’s ready for a change of scenary.

Gio Gonzalez can be an outstanding pitcher when he’s trusting his curve ball. When he isn’t, he runs into trouble. Always known for a high pitch count, Gonzalez has had trouble in three starts over two postseasons and is prone to brutal fielding lapses. He’s signed the longest of anyone in the rotation.

Tanner Roark was the player the Nats got for the Cristain Guzman rental. If he never pitches another game, it was robbery. Thirty-one starts, 2.85 ERA, 15 wins. That’s after going 7-1 in 2013.

THE BULLPEN

Tyler Clippard, while pigeon-holed into the 8th inning with a lead spot, continued to be a reliable, durable reliever. He did not fare well when sent into close, but overall remained the most consistent fireman on the team AND WHY WOULDN’T YOU USE HIM IN AN ELIMINATION GAME, MATT WILLIAMS?

Drew Storen had a bounceback regular season that had him return to closing late, but that is overshadowed by his giving up the tying run in Game 1 and even giving up a run in Game 3. Seemingly, he’s next year’s closer though Clippard should get a shot.

Rafael Soriano had a strong first half as closer, but fell off the table and almost off the roster in the playoffs. He’s not coming back.

Aaron Barret – Joe West broke him. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. He shouldn’t have been brought in late in an elimination game.

Jerry Blevins was great against lefties. And only lefties. Why do I know this and #9 doesn’t?

Craig Stammen had some big long relief appearances and continiued to be solid.

Ross Detwiler did not make the playoff roster and did not have the faith of the management. It’s a far cry from 2012 when he made the best start of the playoffs that year. He’s headed out of town.

There is some discussion that next year will be a last shot with the current core as Zimmermann and Desmond are in the final years of their contracts. I expect Desmond will be signed and Zimmermann will follow the money to a city not too far from a rural area. Span’s option has got to be picked up because he provides value on the field or as a trade piece. Who plays second base is undetermined. Werth is showing his age in right and will be hard pressed to match those numbers again. Maybe switch him and Harper in the outfield. An extension for Fister wouldn’t upset me and I’m okay with dangling Gio out to other teams. THe NL East should be more challenging as the Marlins and Mets are showing signs of ascendency. The Phillies are not a factor and the Braves stayed in it longer than they really should have in 2014. More divisional competition may help the Nats out and keep them sharp too.

It’s been over two weeks since the season ended and I still miss it. We’ve got the hot stove, winter meetings and of course the court figths with the Baltimore Orioles ahead, but that’s just not the same being able to turn on Charlie & Dave and listen to a game 5 nights a week.

It’s 152 days until Opening Day.

HIGHLIGHTS

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NLDS Game 3: Nats 4 SF GIANTS 1

The 2014 Washington Nationals will play for at least one more night. They kept their season alive with a 4-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, the first game decided by more than one run in the series.

Doug Fister saved the day, making this reaction (Red Porch Report) to his trade all the more funny. Seven innings of shutout baseball. His opposite number, Madison Bumgarner, made a strange decision on a Wilson Ramos two-strike bunt that led to two runs:

It was crazy to listen to on the radio (I was taking my oldest to a Cub Scouts meeting) and weirder to watch later. That’s two games in this series decided largely in part by poor fielding on bunts. Ramos advanced to second too.

Asdrubal Cabrera knocked Ramos in with a double too.

Bryce Harper had a big day in the field and at bat:

This was after the Natmosphere (including me) was convinced Harper was going to be benched yesterday.

Drew Storen couldn’t keep the shutout in the ninth, giving up a run, but still closed the game. Phew.

A great turnaround for the Nats after the 18-inning game that was longer than a flight from San Francisco to Dulles on Saturday night. Tonight’s game is at 9:07 p.m. on FOX Sports 1, 106.7 FM/1500 AM and of course, MLB Audio.

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Game 2: NATS 1 SF Giants 2

The Washington Nationals 18-inning loss to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night has their season on the brink. Win the next game or go home. In the best case scenario, that happens at least three times.

The Nats were one out away from a 1-0 victory, but Jordan Zimmermann walked Joe Panik on some questionable balls. Matt Williams replaced Zimmermann with closer Drew Storen. It wasn’t a bad decision, it just did not work. Storen gave up two hits, a single to Buster Posey and a double to Pablo Sandoval, not exactly scrubs Posey was thrown out trying to score, setting up the longest game in MLB postseason history. Not wanting a tired Zimmermann to face Posey a fourth time is a reasonable position.

It became fashionable to dump on Nats fans for leaving their seats during the 6:23 long game. Some surely went home, while others went to the concourse. Apparently, in the eyes of some out-of-market baseball scribes, this was a moral failing. The temperatures dropped at least 20 degrees since the beginning of the game and the wind picked up. By 10:00 it was quite cold, even more so if you were in the exposed upper deck dealing with the heavy winds.

The game was literally longer than a flight from San Francisco to D.C.:

Maybe the older writers just miss their annual treks to rue Sainte-Catherine in Montreal. I hear it isn’t what it was though.

The Nats primary problem, having given up 5 runs (4 earned) over 27 innings pretty clear — they aren’t hitting. Bryce Harper had two hits in game 1. Anthony Redon had 5 hits in game 2. That’s about it. Nothing from the leadoff hitter Denard Span and little from either Jayson Werth or Adam LaRoche. When you don’t get baserunners, the ump show that grants the opposition more strikes on pitches out of the zone is magnified. Not hitting is the problem. That’s why the Nats are on the brink of elimination.

Game 3 is at 5:07 p.m. Doug Fister vs. Madison Bumgarner on MLB Network as well 106.7 FM/1500 AM and MLB Audio.

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Game 1 NLDS: SF Giants 3 Nats 2

San Francisco Giants 3 WASHINGTON NATIONALS 2

I blame the red jerseys. It’s the playoff opener, wear the home whites!

A few mental mistakes too, like trying to get the lead runner on Jake Peavy’s bunt. Peavy pitched better than Stephen Strasburg, who wasn’t lights out, but didn’t lose the game for the Nats either.

There isn’t an embedded video of the game recap, so we’ll just have to post the highlight:



Bryce Harper
hit that home run farther than any other in his career. Sadly, it wasn’t one batter earlier in the previous inning when the bases were loaded. Ian Desmond struck out. He did it again in the 8th.

Harper also had the Nats first hit.

I listened most of the game and watched the last few innings after I got home from work.

Adam Kilgore had a good gamer in The Post:

Thomas Boswell’s column wasn’t good.

I said Nats in 4 and that’s already the best case scenario. Game 2 is at 5:37 p.m. on FOX Sports 1 or 106.7 FM/1500 AM. Jordan Zimmermann vs. Nats-biller, Tim Hudson.

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NLDS: Nats vs. SF Giants prediction

The afterglow of Jordan Zimmermann‘s no hitter last a few days and gave a brief respite for the anxiety of postseason baseball. Thanks J-Zimm. Another welcome distraction from all of this is the discovery of 1924 World Series footage – Watch rare footage of the Senators beating the Giants in the 1924 World Series (DC Sports Bog) | Film of the Washington Senators Winning the 1924 World Series Found! (Library of Congress)

That’s just outstanding stuff. Walter Johnson, the winning run in the only World Series title to date.

There has also been more wonderful Nats coverage than I can keep up with of late.

Today, at 3:07 p.m. on FOX Sport 1 or in my case, MLB Audio, the Washington Nationals host the San
Francisco Giants, who whipped the Pittsburgh Pirates in the play-in game on Wednesday night. The Nats have Stephen Strasburg starting his first playoff game while Jake Peavy starts for the Giants.

I was hoping for the Giants and told my friend David in San Francisco as much which might be hubris. I think it’s the best possible matchup in the playoffs for DC. David offered this in an email:

It is amazing what a big win will do to your attitude. I still believe that the Nationals and the Dodgers are the two best teams in the National League. But I also will note that the Giants played great last night and a 5 game series is short enough for randomness to trump averages. I suspect the Giants will use Bumgarner for Game 3, which means they will get him only once. Although you speak highly of Hudson, he has been lousy over the past month. At 38, end-of-season fatigue is a real thing. His pitches are elevating on him (typical sign of fatigue) and he’s been crushed for it. The best I’m hoping for from him is that he puts in 5 solid innings, gives up less than 2 runs and then Bochy goes to the bullpen. That will be taxing meaning that Peavy and the other likely starter (maybe Petit, maybe Vogelsong) will need to give a solid performance. But it means we get a travel day after going to the bullpen early.

In our favor, I like that Matt Williams has no post-season coaching experience and the Nationals’ last trip to the postseason ended in humiliating disaster. That is something that might creep into the minds of players that remember it. An ESPN analyst last night had a nice quip. He said the Pirates came into the game last night full of excitement and emotion and the Giants came in workmen-like fashion and the result showed. I thought in the 5th inning when McCutchen was stranded at second to end the inning his body language said he (the best player on their team) was a defeated player. I typically discount all the bluster of “playoff experience.” For instance, the most important players in the Giants 2010 championship, such as Posey, Lincecum, Bumgarner, Romo and Brian Wilson had zero playoff experience combined. Juan Uribe, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria were the only players that had significant playoff experience and their contributions were mixed. Renteria was amazing and a vital component of their success, Uribe played well and Rowand was a total non-factor. But I really do like the fact that so many players on this team have experience winning elimination games–particularly multiple elimination game scenarios. They have the moxie to lose two games in Washington and come home and play their best ball and force a game 5. Some teams don’t have that–the A’s for instance.

Some other things to put in the doom category: Matt Williams (former San Francisco Giants star) quoted “we have miles to go before we sleep.” You know who else says that a lot? Ted Leonsis, who has never owned a team that advanced past the second round.

There is also the concern that the cowardly, subsidized Baltimore Orioles will exceed the Nats this and any season. And then we’ll have to hear about it from the fanboys in the DC media who uncritically cover a Baltimore team as if it were in DC. Even the ones who aren’t openly in the tank for Baltimore are apologists who ignore that the Orioles and their owner Peter Angelos are currently in default to the Nats. It’s a bad situation made worse.

Memories of the 2012 Nats collapse aren’t far away either. They had the Cardinals down 6-0 and lost 9-7, a bitter defeat as any in DC sports history. At least in my lifetime.

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning though. Back in 2004, I decided to ignore my cynicism and get emotionally attached to the idea that baseball would finally return to The District. Then it did.

Nats in 4.

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2014 Nats vs. SF Giants Q&A with my friend David

I sent these questions out before Ian Desmond ripped apart the San Francisco Giants like he was a cop avenging his dead partner (the day before he was supposed to retire) in a 9-2 Washington Nationals win.

David, who grew up on another court in our Northern Virginia suburb, has been a guest prognosticator in 2011, 2012 and 2013 Nats vs. Giants Q&A and prediction with my friend David.


WFY: After a 52 year wait, the Giants won San Francisco it’s first World Series in 2010. Then, they stunk in 2011 and came back to win the 2012 World Series, followed by a rough 2013. Now, in 2014 they have the best run differential and record in the NL by far. Why are they going back and forth between domination and mediocrity?

DFS: There is rumor that rears its head ever so often that the Giants ownership wanted to maximize profit following the World Series both times. The Giants are owned by a consortium of moneymen, like hedge fund managers accustomed to return on investment, and not an old baseball family. I don’t know if there’s much truth in the rumor, but the team did not pursue marquee free agents in 2011 and 2013 and were content with limited talent starting often. Like many teams that don’t have a recent tradition of playoff success they re-signed and overpaid old veterans out of gratitude rather than thinking of the future. The contracts awarded to Aubrey Huff and Marco Scutaro come to mind. This year the Giants did the opposite and added two big names—Morse and Hudson—and each have had a great, positive impact.

WFY: The team with the second best run differential in the NL is facing your Giants for four games this week. The Nats have been great in June, having come within a blown save of consecutive sweeps to get them into a three-way tie for the NL East. What’s the take on the series from the Bay Area perspective?

DFS: I can’t really say. From the limited media I take in about the team no one has said anything about the Nats other the typical sales pitch of seeing Strasburg. I’m curious because I’m a Sports Illustrated reader and they have picked the Nationals two years running to take the National League pennant. I think the perception is that the Nationals are an underperforming squad that has been hurt by key injuries. For instance, I wasn’t aware that they’re in such tight contention in their division. The talk of the town really has been how great the Giants have been playing and that’s it. The two-out rallies and late inning comebacks have been so much fun.

WFY: Each game of this series has strong starting pitching from both sides, but I have to think the Giants have the edge playing at home and the overall dominance of Tim Hudson against Washington. The Giants get a little lucky that they don’t face Jordan Zimmerman who dominated the San Diego Padres yesterday and has been part of a starting rotation that gave up one walk in the past week.The DC bullpen has been quite strong, but gets a lot of work at times. How is the Giants bullpen?

DFS: The Giants bullpen has been tremendous. Saturday’s game was a good example. Hudson pitched poorly and only made it through the 5th inning. The bullpen kept the Giants in it long enough for the team to come back in the ninth. The Giants don’t have anybody that overpowers batters with 100 mph stuff—the kind of pitcher who gets a lot of attention. Romo is an unconventional closer—a guy that throws in the 80s and relies nearly exclusively on an off-speed pitch: his slider. The fans absolutely love him.

WFY: Way back earlier in the year, we briefly discussed Michael Morse, the former Nat turned Giant LF who is having a resurgence. How big has he been for the Giants? How has San Francisco taken to him? Is he as bad in left as I remember? He was a fan favorite here and until recently, his at bat music “Take on Me” was still being played in the middle of the 7th which was kind of weird.

DFS: I’ve been so pleased with Morse. Last year the Giants left fielder and first basemen hit about 20 home runs combined! Posey represented the only real consistent power in the lineup. Sandoval, of course, can be a fearsome hitter but he was largely ineffective last year. Pence was spotty. With Morse (and an improved Sandoval and Pence) the Giants have real hitters batting 1 through 5. Having Pence hit 2nd has been great too because he’s fast and his speed was not optimized when he was hitting 5th previously. The reaction by the fans and team to Morse seems to have been instant adoration. He plays with verve and joy. It is fun to watch him play because he’s having a good time while still delivering. It has been so great to get production out of left field or first base. Posey can play first base on off days and Morse moves to Left. The prior option at Left was Gregor Blanco who bunts for singles.

WFY: Who is the face of the franchise?

DFS: Posey. The team has a ton of character and characters. But Posey’s jersey is the one parents buy for their little boys.

WFY: Bruce Bouchy has a pretty strong resume having won the division and even a pennant with the San Diego Padres and of course two World Series for the Giants. What is his style of managing? Did he help get the Giants to the promise land? Have old managers like Felipe Alou and Roger Craig ever been heard from again?

DFS: I feel very fortunate that the Giants have Bochy. I think managers’ value generally is overstated. Football is the ultimate coach’s sport where expertise in talent evaluation, film study, game planning, and clock management reveal a coach’s value. In baseball, I think the game has historically been a player’s sport and you have to look more closely to see how a manager may be adding value. Bochy has the confidence to assert himself into the game and take strategic risks. In the 2010 and 2012 playoffs his regular line-up changes seemed to pay off beautifully. To wit, using Ryan Theriot as a DH in Game 4 of the World Series made me scratch my head. Theriot scored the winning run. The Giants have been using the Williams Shift frequently and they realign for each batter’s scouting report in more dramatic ways than I’m used to seeing. Bochy also manages with the long-term in mind. He’s not afraid to sit two of his best players on the same day if he thinks it is prudent to give them rest even if that means a much more likely loss. He elected to have a robust bullpen with only 5 bench players (including a backup catcher that plays at least once a week). That can be a problem in extra innings situations or in games where he goes to the bullpen early. But it has worked very well thus far. Those are the type of things that can be lucky, random trends that may disappear down the line.

WFY: The Nats ripped the Phish “WIL-SON” chant from the Seattle Seahawks for catcher Wilson Ramos. How in the world did San Francisco not adopt Phish’s Wilson for former closer Brian Wilson? Or does The City not acknowledge jam bands other than The Grateful Dead.

DFS: My friend Bill used to complain that they didn’t play the Beach Boys when Brian Wilson came out. Now that he is in LA, the Dodgers really ought to do that. I saw the NFL Films piece on Phish. The band actively campaigned its fans and the team to use it. I had never heard of it before the NFL Films piece. The Giants are a bit more folksy and local with their cross-marketing—like Metallica Night, for instance. My favorite tradition is that they play Tony Bennett after every win while playing a film of scenic and iconic San Francisco locations. I almost always stay to watch it and listen to the song before leaving the park.

WFY: Are the Golden State Warriors still trying to move across the bay to a pier? Is there any fallout from the 49ers leaving for the South Bay?

DFS: The Warriors have purchased land in the city to build a stadium. They abandoned a prior plan that would put it right by the Bay Bridge on a pier. I’m not supportive of the move. I don’t follow or really care about the NBA—although I was delighted the Bullets advanced in the playoffs. But I have a great amount of respect for the Warrior fans. They have filled that house through thick and thin. Oracle Arena is in the same asphalt and steel complex as the Coliseum and lacks the beauty and design elegance that some people have come to expect from arenas. It does not have readily accessible night life like the Verizon Center does in DC. But it has its own BART stop and ample parking. And it’s in Oakland. Everyone knows that long-time fans will be priced out by a stadium in San Francisco and I find that to be deeply unfair to such great fans.

The only people that I’ve heard say positive things about the Niners’ move are those that live in the South Bay. Candlestick was one of those places like Veterans Stadium—where everyone to a man complained about it. But to borrow a phrase from Joe Queenan, it was a temple. If you have the time, give this a read: Closing the Cave of the Winds (Grantland) Looking at it without sentimentality however, I don’t blame the city government at all for letting it happen. Football-only stadia represent a bad deal for American cities. They are dormant nearly the entire year but require a tremendous amount of pavement and traffic control. The early reports on the new stadium bring back traffic nightmare memories of Raljon. Evidently the stadium won’t host any Monday or Thursday games because of insufficient parking on weeknights: they will have overflow parking at surrounding locations on Sundays.

WFY: I have probably asked this before, so forgive me if I have, but how has the fanbase evolved in your decade of living there, late Bonds era to 2 time champ? You arrived just in time!

DFS: When I moved out here Bonds was still playing. He was an obstacle to my full adoption of the team. I don’t despise him and am still in awe of his accomplishments, even if not completely earned. But he rubbed me the wrong way and I had a hard time supporting the team fully because of it. I started to self identify as a Giants fan in his first year of retirement, which means I didn’t have to suffer through much before I enjoyed the rich bounty of 2 championships in 3 seasons. Winning does change things in the typical ways. I certainly see a lot more gear these days. The team also has cultivated a more jovial take to marketing itself. The players all have nicknames and fans riff on that by wearing costumes. The team’s commercials are light-hearted and occasionally funny without being too slick.

I don’t remember seeing that stuff when I moved here. Going to a game was an opportunity to watch Bonds in an idyllic ballpark. You didn’t need much more than that.

WFY: We’re to the point where team gear is kind of silly at times, but I’ll ask anyway — what Giants merch you have?

DFS: I have four items—all of which I received as presents. I have two Giants sweatshirts, one cap and some great orange and black argyle socks. I agree the gear has become ridiculous, particularly all the jerseys. Football fans are the worst. Everyone’s walking around with authentic jerseys that look like house dresses when worn by normal-sized people not wearing shoulder pads. When I wear gear I try to keep it understated. For instance, one of my Giants sweatshirts is stitched black on black. Harkening back to another older conversation, I agree with you that if you’re going to wear a jersey, wear one that has no name or number on it. If you must, go retro and cool like the Raider fans that wear Jack Tatum’s jersey.

WFY: Do you have a favorite Giants cultural, film, literature, television reference? What about favorite book about the Giants? I just learned on Uni-Watch today that Clint Eastwood wore a Giants cap in The Enforcer.

DFS: That scene in The Enforcer has Clint going into a whorehouse where he announces himself as Larry Dickman. That film also includes a scene shot at Candlestick during a game against the Reds. It is pretty cool. I’ve never read anything by Don Delillo, but I’ve been told that one of his novels starts with an extended description of the Bobby Thomson game. I’d like to read that. Robert De Niro made a lousy film called the Fan, where he is a rabid Giants fan that stalks a star player played by Wesley Snipes. Nothing else is springing to mind other than a Peanuts cartoon strip lamenting the World Series lost to the Yankees.

WFY: Who takes this series and why? What about the season series? Will they meet again in October?

DFS: As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have much insight into the Nationals, or any other non-NL West team. So this is pure guesswork. I think that Giants split this series 2 games to 2. They’ve been on such a great run that I feel like they’re due for a few bad hops. This team has the fundamentals for a great playoff run. I think they will take the season series and win the NL West. Meeting in October will be up to the Nationals.

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That time Rafael Soriano ruined my son’s first Nats game

Good turnout
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Washington Nationals were on a five game winning streak going into yesterday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants. Dan Haren continued his solid pitching, giving up a mere solo home run over six innings. The Nats scored 3 runs off of Ryan Vogelsong in the 3rd, but only managed 2 hits after ending Vogelsong’s day in the 4th. Fernando Abad and Tyler Clippard kept the 7th and 8th scoreless. Then Rafael Soriano came in, gave up a hit and a walk. Then it got really ugly.

With two outs and a full count, PH Hector Sanchez pulled the ball towards the foul pole, but not far enough for DC fans. Sanchez hit his fourth career homer in 297 at bats over three seasons. Soriano blew the save and cost the Nats a six-game winning streak, series sweep and a most importantly, a win in my son’s first ever game.

Now, the blame isn’t all on Soriano, outgoing manager Davey Johnson put him for the third day in a row ahead of a seemingly important series in Atlanta tonight. Still, Soriano’s the goat here because he walked Roger Kieschnick, a rookie hitting .250 too.

Then again, Haren did strand six runners in his first two at-bats…

I’d be more upset if the playoffs were still a factor and if it weren’t such a perfect day for baseball and time spent with my family. My son, who followed the lead of the Nats bats and napped for the 6th through 8th innings, was disappointed to see the Giants pull ahead after he woke up. I consoled him with the knowledge that the first time I went to a baseball game, my team lost (Royals over Yankees on Old Timers Day) and at my first Nats game they lost too (Opening Day 2005 in Philadelphia). However, if he decides not to become a baseball fan, I’ll forever blame Soriano.

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Bryce Harper in 2013 Home Run Derby; Harmon Killebrew vs. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in the 1960 TV version

Bryce Harper in the cage
Tonight is annual Home Run Derby as part of the All-Star Game festivities at Citi Field New Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.,. Bryce Harper will be the first Washington Nationals representative in the Derby and his father, Ron, is pitching to him (The Wash. Times).

Err, let’s hope not. I’ll have more to contribute to the Nats’ 1st half later in the week.

Before becoming part of the All-Star experience, “Home Run Derby” was a 1960 television show hosted by Mark Scott. Sluggers from both leagues played against each other, though not necessarily interleague. The venue was Los Angeles Wrigley Field, long-time Pacific Coast League home of the Los Angeles Angels and for 1961, the expansion A.L. Angels’ home. From the Wikipedia entry:

The rules were similar to modern home run derbies, with two notable exceptions. If a batter did not swing at a pitch that was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out. Also, the contests were conducted in a more similar fashion to a baseball game than the modern home run derbies, where a player has a set number of outs before his turn is over.

Batters were given three outs per inning, and the player with the most home runs after nine innings won. The defending champion had the advantage of batting last; his opponent batted first. Any ball not hit for a home run was an out. The player did not have to swing at every pitch, but if he did not swing at it, and the pitch was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out, as did a swing and a miss, but these rarely happened as the pitcher was supposed to be giving the batters good balls to hit. If the players were tied after nine innings, the Derby would go into extra innings as per regular baseball.

Harmon Killebrew was featured on the show twice. The first was against Mickey Mantle, a returning champion.

Killebrew unseated Mantle and won the next week, beating out Rocky Colavito. Ken Boyer ended Killebrew’s first run.

Later in the series, Killer returned and lost to Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants.

Jim Lemon, another Senators outfielder, appeared on the show twice but lost to Hank Aaron and Mays, respectively.

Back to the present, I got to see Harper take batting practice last year. He tends to hit line drives about 200 MPH more than he hits towering fly balls. I hope he approaches it that way. If he wins great, but I’m not too concerned. Just don’t mess up the swing and don’t get hurt, pretty much my hopes for any Nats All-Star.

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Nats finish dark West Coast swing of the soul with 2-1 win over Giants in 10

The Washington Nationals finally won again, beating the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in 10 innings. I missed out on the last two innings because I went for a bike ride.

The Washington Nationals just completed a miserable road trip out west with a 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants. It was their first win since last Friday and only fourth of a 10 game trip. The offense struggled, scoring two or less runs five times and getting shut out twice. They were blown out three times, by each of the teams the visited. The Natmosphere, upside-down avatars and all, wasn’t too happy either. Ryan Matteus broke his pitching hand punching a wall. Yunesky Maya got called up. The Nats just seemed to find ways to blow every close game, so I didn’t feel bad about “leaving early” for a bike ride last night. I’m glad to have blown it, because I was tired of the Nats blowing it. The broadcasters deserve hazard pay for that California trip.

Let us never speak of this road trip again.

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2013 Nats vs. Giants Q&A and prediction with my friend David

That was a weird weekend for the Washington Nationals. After taking the first two of a four game series at the San Diego Padres, the Nats lost a tight one on Saturday evening. They didn’t hit (recurring theme) and when they did they ran the bases poorly. Jordan Zimmerman got a hard luck loss — 8 inning complete game (85 pitches) with the winning run coming after he threw a pick-off away. Sunday, Dan Haren put them in a 3-0 hole early and it just got worse, a 13-4 loss and series split.

Now, the Nats are finishing up their California trip with a 3-game series in San Francisco. Mercifully, the last two 10:00 or later starts are over after tomorrow. They face the defending World Champion Giants and as always, I’ve invited my friend David to talk about them like he did in 2011 and 2012. I’ve included some notes he shared with me late last week before asking some questions:

The Giants are a baffling team at the moment. The pitchers keep getting rocked with long balls that always seem to come in clusters. Cain gave up two bombs in one inning last night and then another one inning later. I think much of baseball is randomness and deviation or reversion to the mean. Cain for many years had a spectacular ratio of fly balls to home runs. It appears that is working its way to the league average in a terrible hurry.

What has been so fun about this team is they are actually starting to hit consistently. They are putting up over 5 runs on the board with regularity. That never happened in the 2010 season and happened in 2012 only from the All-Star Break onward. It has allowed for many exciting comebacks and a few terrific walk offs. Last night was no exception: down 6-0 after two or three innings and they managed to win the game.

I had a nice moment on (last) Wednesday. I went to this delightful diner/shack on the Embarcadero for a burger and a coffee for lunch. When I left I started to walk down the Embarcadero back to my office. Brian Sabean, the Giants GM, was walking the other way to the ball park. I gave him a thumbs up and he responded with a head nod. It was a pleasant little exchange. Then a few hours later the Giants gave up 11 runs to the Blue Jays.

Now, on with the questions:

WFY: Looking at the standings, I see the Giants are in the third place with a 24-20 record (better than the Nats) and a 4-6 skid (just like the Nats). The whole team wore high-cuffed pants as a slump-buster yesterday and it didn’t work. Is there a bit of concern about the overall team?

WFY: I know there is concern about Tim Lincecum — what’s going on with him? Bad mechanics, too skinny, other issues (Editor’s note: not an endorsement, just a link)? How long is he signed for?

DFS: I believe this is the second of Lincecum’s two arbitration years. After this season he will be a free agent. Lincecum has no command. Batters know to take pitches and draw walks. Then he pitches out of the stretch and his 89 mph fastball gets killed. The loss of velocity has hurt him badly. His reliable out pitch used to be the changeup, but that’s not terribly deceiving when there is little difference between the changeup and the fastball. An interesting stat on Lincecum is looking at balls in play. He gets batters out exclusively with strike outs. If the ball is in play, it is a hit. I felt for a while that that was just randomness and would self correct. Now I’m not so sure. I’ve stopped wondering or caring about what Lincecum’s problem is. The most creative excuse is that he has stopped smoking dope during the winters, due to more regular drug testing, with the result of him putting less weight on during the offseason. In any event, he is not the pitcher he once was nor do I have any notion that he will be again. The fans love him for nostalgic reasons, but he is a liability on the staff.

WFY: How is Barry Zito doing this year? Does anybody still care that he has a big contract that he hasn’t lived up to?

DFS: Zito started out very strong. After the first few rotations, he and Bumgarner were the only two starters that seemed to have a chance to go 6 innings. He has reverted to the mean and had a few poor outings recently. There is next to no ill will towards Zito from the fan base over his contract. Of course, he has been grossly overpaid, but over the past few seasons the Giants haven’t been in a situation where they lost bidding wars to keep other great players. For instance, they recently shelled out ton of money to Cain and Posey. Also, Zito was electric in the playoffs last year. The win in Cincinnati and Game 1 against the Tigers had Giants fans chanting “Barry!” His RBI in the World Series had to one of the great moments of collective joy that I experienced during the Series. He also handled being left off the 2010 playoff roster with dignity. As crazy as it sounds, the Giants could very well sign him again at the end of the contract.

WFY: I haven’t kept up, but what’s the situation with closer (former closer?) Brian Wilson?

DFS: Wilson is not on the team. He pitched in one game in 2012. He had a second Tommy John surgery and evidently there hasn’t been much interest in him league-wide. The team clearly committed to sticking with Sergio Romo as its closer during the off season and hasn’t looked back. During the Wilson Era, Romo played the role as set up man and/or right-hander specialist. I enjoyed Wilson’s flamboyant personality and his antics, but he was a Mitch Williams-style, take you to the brink and walk the bases loaded, strike out the side type. My aging heart can’t take much more of that. I would have thought he would be popping up locally in lots of ads, radio spots, TV bits a la a recently departed Theismann or Riggins, but he hasn’t.

WFY: What’s the best way to get to whatever phone company the ballpark is named after this week? How is the beer and food at the ballpark? Are craft brews hard to find like they are a lot of parks? What’s the signature foodstuff? Are the hot dogs any good?

DFS: I like to walk to the park. I work in the Financial District. It is a pleasant walk to the ball park from the office. Public transportation options are good as designed on maps, but the practical reality is the ride to the ballpark is sweaty nuts-to-sweaty butts. On the 100 level, craft brews are probably easier to find than macrobrews. In the view reserve, there are fewer beer options, but there’s no problem finding the San Francisco standbys like Sierra Nevada.

The signature food is probably garlic fries. I tend to limit eating at the ball park to hot dogs. The food generally is decent. I tend to just stick with beverage. I think I’ve written to you about this before, but AT&T Park could be a little jarring at first for an East Coast sports fan back in 2003, accustomed to the Spartan offerings of RFK, Veterans or Shea Stadium. Bread bowls and sushi at the ball park felt hopelessly out of place and indicative of a stadium experience for non-fan sports fans. But, in fact, the offerings merely reflect what Californians and San Franciscans like to eat and, more importantly, people’s willingness to not restrict themselves to the limited choice that traditionalists allow.

WFY: Is San Francisco a Giants town or a 49ers town? With both teams playing for the title last year, either way it has to be a good time to be a San Francisco sports fan.

DFS: Tough question. Particularly tough for a transplant who has been here for only 10 years. Before Jim Harbaugh took over, I would have said that San Francisco is a Giants town. You see more Giants hats, sweatshirts, colors every day than you do Niners gear. I think a big part of that has to do with the fact that the Giants play every day. Living and working in the city you see people going to the games. In the morning, you’ll see people with their gear because they are going to the game that night. The Niners play 8 home games a year and they play in a place that everyone drives to.


WFY: Are you enjoying Bay Lights (LED display on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge)? Have you seen them from the ballpark while attending a game?

DFS: I can see the Bay Bridge from where I live. So, it has already become wallpaper for me. I loved the white lights on the Bay Bridge. The dancing lights seem like a logical, natural extension of that. I’ve been to three games this season thus far. But from where I was sitting I didn’t see the Bridge. AT&T Park has a nice democratizing dynamic in that that the cheapest seats have the best view of the Bay.

WFY: Is there any excitement for the Nats coming to town? I mean Zach Duke, yes, ZACH DUKE, is starting for the Nats tonight…

DFS: I don’t think so. The Giants just finished a road trip in which they went 1 and 5. I think people would be excited if they had a three game set against a cream puff. This team really needs to win a series. The Nationals are a good team and my recollection is that the Nationals have gotten the better of the Giants in the past few seasons.

WFY: Your prediction for this series and the season series?

DFS: Nats win this series and the season series.

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