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Category Archives: SF Giants

He’s a Giant! He’s a Catcher! He’s Busta!

Buster Posey was voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player on Thursday. This season Posey had returned after being out more than half of last season after a collision at home plate that left him with a devastating leg injury. Not only did he fully recover, but in 2012 Posey set career highs with a .336 average, 24 homers and 103 RBIs. He helped the San Francisco Giants get to the World Series and win it in four games, becoming the World Champions for the second time in 3 years. Posey is the first catcher in four decades to win the award, determined by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Posey’s 2011 collision

My admiration for catchers is immense. In my opinion, they do the hardest job in the game, squatting for 9 or more innings, up and down, up and down–the physical wear and tear alone is enormous. Then there’s the psychological aspect of managing pitchers, who, as I’ve pointed out before, are frequently psychotic.  

Catchers are underpaid and underrated. Jorge Posadawas my favorite player partly because of his position. I used to call him “Jorge-He-Does-It-All” whenever he hit a clutch home run or a Grand Slam. He was a catcher who hit well.

Jorge Posada

Not superlatively, but well; some catchers can barely connect bat to ball. They’re also notorious for not running very fast on those wobbly “catcher’s legs” that are always going up and down, up and down…okay, no need to belabor the point. It’s a tough job.

That’s why, when a Buster Posey comes along, give credit where credit is due. He’s only 25 and just starting his career–with a bang. It’s going to be fun watching him mature and get even better. Go Buster!

Slideshow: Baseball’s Greatest Catchers

 

Barry Zito’s Chatter: The Loneliness of the Ace Pitcher

Barry the Beautiful

I had to laugh when I checked my stats today and saw Dirty Laundry got its second highest number of views of all time yesterday. Under “Search Terms” were several variations of “Barry Zito Talks To Himself.” The phrase linked readers to the many posts I’ve written over the years about Zito, who I’m obviously mad about (if only he wasn’t so much younger than me…).

Anyhow, it’s true: Barry talks to himself on the mound with no shame or embarrassment. I don’t know if he’s conscious he’s doing it, but he must be, since he’s such a conscious human being–he meditates and does yoga regularly. I’d love to be a fly on the mound so I could hear what he’s saying. His chatter must help him in some way with pitching. Besides, pitchers are known to be the quirkiest players in baseball; some are nearly psychotic. I wrote a post about this once–but I left Zito off the roster of loco pitchers, since he’s so sane compared to the others. I mean, what’s a little muttering on the mound? It’s not like breaking a player’s hand (Hernandez to A-Rod) or throwing broken bats at them (Clemens to Piazza) or knocking down old men (Pedro Martinez to 70-something Don Zimmer).

When I was a kid I had a friend who talked to herself. She was an only child, and she told me she did it because she was alone all the time with nobody else to talk to. I’ve been talking to myself more and more as I get older, even in public; I’ve tried to control it, but cannot seem to stop. Part of the reason I do  it is because, like my old friend, I’m alone a lot these days.

Maybe that’s also Barry’s reason: up on that mound, he’s so very alone. Maybe his self-conversing is an antidote for The Loneliness of the Ace Pitcher. Whatever the reason, if it helps him do what he’s doing these days, he can do as much of it as he wants.

Go Barry Baby!

Is Baseball Losing Its Heart?

Miguel Tejada. © Rubenstein, photographer Mart...

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(Photo: Miguel Tejada)

This season baseball fans have been witness to a sad spectacle as Jorge Posada, Yankee catcher for over 15 years and undoubtedly in his final year as a pro, was first thrown out of the catchers’ position and then taken out of the lineup indefinitely. Fortunately, the fans went crazy supporting Posada with standing ovations and signs professing their love, so he’s occasionally allowed up at bat now. But it’s been disheartening to see a long-time loyal team player be roughed up and unappreciated.

Last week the SF Giants dumped Aaron Rowand and Miguel Tejada for lackluster season performances. Being older veterans of the game, chances are they’re not going anywhere else. Tejada is an icon of major league baseball, a kid who rose from abject poverty in the Dominican Republic to become a great shortstop beloved by teammates and fans alike. His story is so emblematic of the DR kids who eat, sleep, and breathe baseball in hopes of making it in America one day as a player that several children’s stories and bio’s have been written about him. For his rags-to-riches story to end like this is sad. Sad and shameful.

Baseball is known for swimming in sentimental swill over everything from the American flag to the retirement of an announcer. While it can sometimes be a bit much, we’ve come to expect regularly scheduled sobfests on the diamond; I for one usually find myself caught up in whatever event is being milked for all it’s worth. Given this propensity for emotion, it seems strange and cruel that someone like Miguel Tejada should go out on such an ignominious ending. And despite an extensive search I could find no sports writers expressing regret or sadness about it; almost everyone is cheering the Giants for “finally” making the decision to “get rid of dead weight.”

Could baseball be losing its heart as it continues down the path of greed and wins at any cost? Is it going to become a game where the bottom line is produce or get lost? Of course, it already is; but will it get even more heartless? After all, this is the sport with “Ya Gotta Have Heart” as one of its most famous anthems. The sport in which most teams host an annual old-timer’s game, during which guys who played 30 or more years ago toddle onto the field to weakly throw a pitch and get wildly applauded. This is the sport that honors its human resources.

Let’s hope Posada, Tejada, and Rowand get more of a farewell than they’ve been shown so far, and that baseball starts wearing its heart on its sleeve again.

Ya Gotta Have Heart

You’ve gotta have heart
All you really need is heart

When the odds are sayin’ you’ll never win
That’s when the grin should start.

You’ve gotta have hope
Mustn’t sit around and mope
Nothin’s half as bad as it may appear
Wait’ll next year and hope.

When your luck is battin’ zero
Get your chin up off the floor
Mister you can be a hero
You can open any door,
there’s nothin’ to it but to do it

You’ve gotta have heart
Miles ‘n miles n’ miles of heart
Oh, it’s fine to be a genius of course
But keep that old horse
Before the cart
First you’ve gotta have heart

“Heart,” from Damn Yankees

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The Return of Barry Zito

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After four years of disappointing performance as a San Francisco Giant, Barry Zito returned from rehab after a sprained foot  (his first rehab in 11 years as a pitcher), last week. He didn’t just return healed, but HEALED. He might not be the old Zito who was one of the most outstanding pitchers in baseball when he was an Oakland A, but he’s definitely made a comeback as an ace in his first two outings, and I, along with other fans, am thrilled to death. Not only is he pitching like he used to, last night he did it  after a three-hour rain delay!  As MLB pointed out, “Many starters would have called it an evening, for fear of injuring their throwing arm or aggravating one that might have stiffened. But unlike Detroit starter Max Scherzer, who vanished after the delay, Zito returned to pitch four shutout innings.” (emphasis mine for comparison purposes).

I’ve adored Zito for many years. Not only because he’s so physically adorable, and when he’s good he’s very very good, but also because his windup and delivery is a thing of beauty; and because he does yoga, meditates, and plays guitar — evidence of a consciously evolving human being.

So welcome back, Barry. I sure hope I’m not jinxing you by declaring your comeback after just two games, but I’m optimistic it’s going to continue. Love ya, babe!

Two of My Other Posts on Zito:

Zito Razzle Dazzles

The Ballad of Barry Zito

Hot Stove in The Wintertime

Baseball with clock to represent a "curre...

Image via Wikipedia

Yanks Lose Lee

Cliff Lee either has more integrity than most baseball players, or he’s a doofus; I have a feeling it’s the former. Lee did what few baseball players ever do: he turned down more money and the chance to be a New York Yankee in favor of returning to the Phillies, the team he loves.

The Yanks made no bones about wanting Lee, and it would’ve been a great acquisition, considering that last season’s pitching rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, and JJ Burnett contributed to a dismal post-season. Sabathia’s an ace pitcher, and Andy’s as reliable as ever – but both had their off days in 2010, while Hughes and Burnett, especially the latter, stank. Which is not to say the rest of the team were much better: except for Robinson Cano, who was almost the league’s MVP of the year, they were a sad sight. Still, you know what they say: good pitching wins the game. And 2010 was the Year of the Pitcher, when other teams’ aces pulled off some astounding feats.

That’s why Brian Cashman’s attitude about losing Lee is so baffling – and so maddening.  “I really don’t think we’ve got a lot of holes,” he said, referring to the rotation. “We’ve got one of the best in the league in CC. We’ve got a kid who won 18 games for us last year in Phil Hughes. And I really believe that A.J. Burnett is going to bounce back for us next year.”

Groan. That inane mantra about Burnett was repeated endlessly last year, to no avail. The Cash Man’s remarks are sour grapes and, worse, they reek of laziness. I was under the assumption that the Yankees’ top priority during the off season would be to resolve their pitching problem. I wonder if they’re pursuing anyone else now that Lee rejected them.  I also wonder what the ineffectual Girardi thinks of the situation. I get the sense that the whole staff is lackadaisical. Which leads me to what’s really on my mind vis-a-vis the NY Yankees: George’s departure into the ether. Clichés are so true:  You don’t miss your water till the well runs dry and You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.

If King George was still around, it’s quite possible the Yankees would have snagged Lee. Someone would have persuaded him to say yes, either his good friend Sabathia, or Cashman, or Girardi, or the scouts who do this sort of thing. While they offered Lee the usual mega-bucks, money, as was proven here once more, is not everything, not even when it comes to the Yankees. When George Steinbrenner wanted a player, by god, he got him.  He pushed and pressed and flogged everyone until they sweat their balls off and the deed was done.

Unfortunately, George’s heirs, Hal and Hank, don’t seem to give a damn. Nor do they have the vaguest notion as to how their father did what he did. Those negotiations with Derek Jeter, for instance, were downright shameful, and I am seriously concerned about the future of the team. Will the House that Ruth Built and the team that George maintained come undone over the next few years? To quote the kid in Angels in the Outfield, Hey, it could happen.

SF Giants Rule

Meanwhile, I’m lucky to have other baseball pleasures to keep me from a Yankee-induced meltdown. These pleasures are closer to home – to my current home, that is, not my heart-home in the Bronx. In the Bay Area I’m smack dab in the middle of the place that in 2010 witnessed one of the most dramatic World Series in the history of the game. Up until now, though I swear I tried, I just couldn’t get into the Giants. Couldn’t stand Barry Bonds, yet once he left, the team lacked charisma. I’ve been in love with Barry Zito for years, but his Giants performance has brought mostly heartache. For a few years I followed the A’s, but with Billy Beane relentlessly decimating the team, I couldn’t stick it out; it was too gut-wrenching to watch players leave every other week.

And then along came the 2010 Giants, suddenly making headlines in September. I perked up, tuned in, and saw charisma to spare. I don’t have to tell anyone what a thrilling WS it was, or how much fun these guys were, or how the city went insane with joy. I watched one WS game from a café near the stadium, and another third of a game from the back fence where you’re allowed to stand for up to three innings. Thus, I was among the crazy partying crowds – and nobody knows how to party like San Francisco. When it was all over, I realized that in 2011 I’ll actually have a home team to root for! I’ve purchased tickets to one Giants game and now I’m waiting for a friend who knows someone who knows someone who sells her season tickets at face value.

Matsui Comes to Oakland

But the Grand Slam came yesterday, when Hideki Matsui, ex-Yankee and the sexiest Godzilla from Japan, with his dimpled smile and twitching shoulders, signed with the Oakland A’s as DH. Now I have to buy some A’s tickets (I usually go see them once a year when they play the Yankees). All the Bay Bridge games are a must. I don’t know how I’ll afford to support my baseball habit with this sudden embarrassment of riches; but I’ll also be able to see the games on local TV, something I don’t get to do as a Yankee fan. It’s going to be  busy baseball season. Only 105 days till it starts!

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