08 December 2012

Wally Pipp had a headache, too.

Beware the Ides of November.
Like a lot of 49ers fans, I feel for Alex Smith. Like a lot of 49ers fans, I like Colin Kaepernick. Like a lot of 49ers fans, I agree with all the pundits and prognosticators: Colin has a "higher ceiling"; "gives the coaching staff more options"; "puts the team in a better position to win."

Whatever the cliché, it doesn't take a trained eye to see that the offense is far more dynamic with Colin than it is with Alex, and it doesn't take a sensitive soul to be stirred by his long, accurate bombs down the sideline. Who among us didn't get butterflies in their stomach when he dropped that ball into Kyle Williams' mitts to open up the Monday night dismantling of Da Bears?

Without question, Alex is a master gamesmith, and I mean that with the utmost respect. Alex is a smart football player – which some might consider to be a contradiction in terms. He is a savvy football player. But he is also a limited football player. More acutely, he is a limited quarterback. And he knows it. So he plays it safe. And for a year and a half, Harbaugh and Friends were willing to play it his way, crafting a playbook around his particular talents: short crossing routes, screens, and a heaping dose of Frank Gore up the middle. Alex responded by going 19-5 and leading this team within two muffed punts of a Super Bowl berth.

But somewhere in the ether around the Great Draw of 2012, the honeymoon came to a screeching halt, ending with Alex dazed and confused on the sideline, unaware of his own surroundings, let alone the powers that were conspiring against his future as the 49ers starting quarterback. I take no issue with the decision to proceed with Colin Kaepernick at the helm. I think it's a good call for the long-term success of this team. And I'd rather keep Harbaugh's heart from blowing a gasket out of frustration with having to make due with Alex Smith over the rest of the season. But this whole deal has rubbed me wrong from the beginning, and I may as well add my two cents to the pile.

I like Jim Harbaugh. As a USC alum, that's hard for me to admit. I think he's a tremendous motivator and a damn fine coach. It was obvious from his work at Stanford, and it's just as obvious with the Niners. But I have to say he really mucked up what could have been a very clean break. Like a dude who can't quite bring himself to break up with his steady in order to sleep with the supermodel, he waited for an opening, an out, an excuse. Had he sat down with Alex and Colin prior to the Great Draw and told them where he wanted to go with the team, I would have had no problem with the move, and I don't think Alex could've either.

But Harbaugh didn't do that. He used the opportunity presented by an unfortunate injury to have his cake and eat it, too. And while I won't besmirch Coach's character over what seems to be a singular incident, it leaves me questioning his leadership skills, among other things. Had Alex not been concussed in the first Rams game, would he still be the starter on this team? Or did Harbaugh see something in practice that made him think Colin's time was coming soon? If he's wanted to roll with Kaep since he traded up to draft him in 2011, why not let Alex go to the birds (or the Dolphins) and start with #7 under center from day one of camp?

In 2010, the Giants' brain trust decided to open the season with Bengie Molina behind the dish and give Gerald "Buster" Posey a few more months of marinading in Fresno. They signed Bengie to a one-year deal, and while the writing wasn't exactly on the wall, Bengie could read the script. When Buster came up in May, it was a gradual transition. Like Harbaugh with Kaep, Bochy found ways to work Posey's bat into the lineup, at first base, catching every fifth day, then every third day. By the time July rolled around, it was only natural that Bengie move on and Buster take his place. Bengie could have taken offense, but he understood the rules of engagement. So he took his lumps to Texas and got to face off against his former mates in the World Series. He even got a ring for his efforts.

If the 49ers win the Super Bowl this season, Alex Smith will get a ring. but he'll earn it wearing a headset — or his helmet — on the sideline. He'll have to watch Harbaugh's new protegé get the pregame pad pops while he sucks down cup after cup of 'Rade, crunching the wax paper in his tiny hands and cursing the day he went headfirst up the middle. And he'll wonder if Harbaugh called the play on purpose. Okay, maybe that'll just be me.

06 October 2012

So, who starts Game 3?

Why so serious?
It's been a while, but I'm not gonna bore you with a long disclaimer. If you really want to read my each and every thought, you're probably already following me on Twitter. Let's talk playoffs...

Told you guys the wild card game was a bad idea. But seriously: horrendous call; awful error by Chipper in his farewell game; sloppy, to say the least. The evening game went about like I expected. The O's should not be taken lightly. And you probably shouldn't fall behind them after the 7th inning, if that 75-0 record is to be believed. And I guess it is.

But what about the Giants? Well, what about them? I told you they'd be here, and they're here. Granted, they followed a path quite different from anything you or I expected. But they're here. And once you're here, anything is possible. Just ask Kevin Garnett.

Overall, I think the Reds and G's are a good matchup. Good to great starting pitching, even by Charlie Manuel's standards. Lineups that can score runs in bunches when everything's clicking. Live arms and personalities in the bullpens. And a couple master tacticians and veteran apologists pulling the strings. There will be pitching changes.

At first blanch, I don't think anyone likes the idea of the 2-3 NLDS format. The favorite would probably prefer a 3-2 setup. The dog might prefer to play more critical games 3 and 4 at home and try to "steal" one of the first two on the road. But the travel time just isn't there this year if we want to keep the World Series out of November, when the casual sports-watching world switches over to hoops and pigskin.

But you gotta like how this stacks up for a team like the Giants, who boast one of the best home field advantages in the league and played incredibly stout on the road in the second half. They've had bad patches at AT&T this season, with power outages and uncharacteristic collapses. But there's been very little fault to Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner within the friendly confines in 2012. And they've both had success this season against the Reds – with and without Votto.

If the Giants can jump out 2-0, it's hard to imagine them getting swept in the 'Nati, especially with the Horse coming back in a decisive Game 5. The pressure would be on Dustiny's Children to be perfect, and it's not hard to envision a 3-and-out scenario if the Reds can't win one at the Cove. But this is Giants baseball. We all know that whatever happens, it's gonna be torture.

So let's go ahead and assume we're headed back to GABP at one game apiece. Who do you throw in the pivotal Game 3? It's been two months since the Giants lost with Barry Zito on the bump. Or has Tim Lincecum earned the right to take the pearl with the season in the balance? Regardless of who pitches, if they lose, we see Cain on short rest in Game 4.

Personally, I give it to Zito. And I'm not gonna lie, there's a lot of sentiment behind that pick. But the fact is, he's got his stuff going right now, the team feels confident behind him, and THEY HAVEN'T LOST A GAME HE'S PITCHED IN TWO MONTHS. I love Tim Lincecum and everything he's done for this team. But he hasn't been the same this year, for whatever reason, and we all know it. We can see it without looking at his FIP or WHIP.

So let's stop wetting the bed over this and go with what makes sense. And wouldn't it be a great story if Zeets goes out there and dominates? Seriously. Ink for days...


I'm already on record on the Twitter thingy, but I'll say it here just to be sure: Ryan Vogelsong is going to come up huge in some capacity in October. Maybe he'll do his best impersonation of Affeldt in Game 6 against the Phillies in 2010. Perhaps he'll pull an extra-inning assignment in a marathon Game 2 and get the walk off hit in the bottom of the 15th. Whatever may occur, Vogey has earned his place in Giants lore, and I hope he gets his moment in the spotlight. I just hope Joe Buck is sick that day...


Okay, I guess I can't get away without some grander predictions. I could go back to the picks I made in a #HeatCheck blog that never was about three weeks ago, but it wouldn't make much sense given the eight teams remaining in the current idiom. Suffice it to say I had the A's winning the West and someone else didn't even mention them in the playoff picture. #Butchtradamus

Here's who I have in the final three rounds:

Giants d. Reds
Cardinals d. Nationals

A's d. Tigers
Yankees d. Orioles

Giants d. Cardinals
Yankees d. A's

Giants d. Yankees

I'll be honest. I think we might be headed for a Bay Bridge Series, but I'm convinced the A's would win, which I can't bring myself to predict. Yes, I feel ashamed.

Enjoy Cueto-Cain, e'rybody.

28 June 2012

Down on the Farm: "Baby" Giants Report

Went down the street to watch the San José Giants last night. I had no idea it was a fireworks night, or I probably would've waited for another day. When I go to a game alone, I prefer a sparse crowd. Makes me feel like less of a loser baseball geek. Hard to think a fish can disappear easier in a smaller pond, but that's how it feels.

Anyway, of course, it's packed with families, and with families comes kids, and with kids comes the church-like stand-up-sit-down routine every ten seconds because somebody's little brat can't sit still for five freaking minutes – as if it's a chore to watch the bloody game.

I'm the kinda guy with tree stumps for legs, so I have to sit on the aisle to be able to stretch out. In a sparse crowd, this is no big deal. But on a fireworks night at Muni, it's f***ing torture. It becomes even more tortuous when the usually solid Jack Snodgrass gives up six runs over the first three innings...

27 June 2012

What's the matter with Tim-my?

First off, he's not a bum, and it disgusts me a little to see him being treated as such on he blogs and the Twitters and the interwebs. Everyody needs to chill the mess out for a second and remember all the memories this kid has brought us in his relatively short time in the Orange and Black...

Okay, now that we've paid reverence to the past, what about the present?

On paper, and in life, it's pretty much a mixed bag. Throw out the wildly inconsistent innings in which he's been lit up like the White House Christmas Tree, and his numbers look halfway decent. Throw out the W/L record, and his K/9 is still above average. The walks are troublesome, but like the runs, they're mostly coming in bunches – after all, walks and runs go together like Dylan Hernandez and In-N-Out. (Rimshot!)

It's not like we haven't seen this movie before. Remember this guy? How many times did we curse his name for throwing four perfect innings with seven strikeouts wrapped around one inning when he melted down and gave up the farm? All the talent in the world and probably the best pure stuff on an All-Star staff, but ne'er the personality to harness it.

Seems like los Gigantes are burdened with a number of anxiety-ridden players. Not surprising. Baseball can be an anxiety-inducing sport. Most of the action comes during times of inaction, when the mind and the heart are sent racing with all the possibilities of what could result from the next pitch, the next swing, the next short hop...

But compared to other clubs, the Giants seem to have a higher percentage of dudes with very little barrier between the deep recesses of their subconscious and their waking mind. I'm not gonna name names, but if you follow this team, you know exactly who I'm talking about. Maybe that's fitting for a squad from psychedelic San Francisco. But it doesn't help when your goal is winning championships.

And that's exactly what Timmy's done his whole career, in the professional and amateur ranks...
  • He won the Golden Spikes Award his senior year at UW and set a Pac-10 record for strikeouts.
  • He made a grand total of 13 minor league starts between Salem-Kaizer, San José, and Fresno.
  • He took home Cy Young Awards his first two full seasons in the Show.
  • And in his third full season, he overcame the first adverse month of his career and led his team to its first World Series title in over 50 years.
All of this despite coaches, scouts, and other baseball know-it-alls attempting to convince the rest of us that he never had a shot at greatness because he was just too small. This kid's been confounding expectations every step of the way, and I get the distinct impression he loves doing it.

A lot has been made of Chris Lincecum's remarks to USA Today accusing the media of bashing Tim and his legacy. In my humble opinion, dad needs to shut his trap. The beat writers have a job to do, but it's not disrespecting anyone to point out the fact that his kid has a 6-plus ERA and the team is 2-12 in his starts.

I paid more attention to Tim's comments in the same article about lacking confidence in his stuff and putting the weight of the world on his shoulders.
I've never gone through anything like this in my life. I've set the bar high for myself, and I know I'm not coming through. I've been wearing these (expletive) losses hard. Real hard. This game is my passion, and this is killing me. I know I'm going to come out of this eventually. I just wish I knew when.
That's a pretty heady quote to read from the alleged ace of your team's starting staff. But let's focus for a second on one line from the quote: "I've set the bar high for myself." If you want to know what I think is buggin' Timmy (and doesn't everybody?), that's the kernel of truth upon which I'll hang my hat.

Think of a kid who loves video games. Plays 'em so much, he gets bored testing his mettle against better and better computer opponents at higher and higher difficulty levels, until one day, he's got nothing left to prove to himself, and he chucks the game in a pile with his other conquests.

That's how I look at Timmy right now. Throughout his career, playing baseball has been like a video game, and he's been dominating at each and every level. He had a slight hiccup in August 2010, when his thumb slipped off the controller thanks to some leftover potato chip grease. But he picked himself off the mat and beasted for another calendar year.

Then, sometime late last season, he realized that he's already beaten all the levels of this game. He's got nothing left to prove. The only challenge left is the next start. The next inning. The next batter. The next pitch. And every now and then, it doesn't seem like enough of a challenge.

So he loses focus. And when he loses focus, he loses intensity, and when he loses intensity, he loses his edge, and it's that edge that's put him where he is today. If you want a professional second opinion on this, check out Bengie Molina's comments to my friend Dan Brown at the Merc.

There's a consistent buzz on Twitter about the drop in velocity from his halcyon days of humping 96-97 in the 8th inning. But he's not getting any younger, and this happens to every pitcher. Like Bengie says, the dude's still got the stuff – hence the 1+ K/9 average – he just needs to learn how to pitch again. But to do that, he's got to have the desire.

So if Ryan Vogelsong said anything to Timmy in the dugout after his near-disaster first inning against the A's on Friday night, I'm guessing it went something like this:
Dude, you know what I've gone through in my career, and I wouldn't give it up for anything, because the challenge and the heartache and the pain has made me stronger as a player – and a man. But I might be tempted to give all that up if I could switch places with you for one night and know what it's like to be the most feared son of a bitch in the baseball universe.
We'll find out today if the lesson stuck. Good luck, Timmy.



This was Vogelsong following a loss to Jered Weaver and the Angels last Wednesday:
For me to get people to start to believe that I’m for real, I’ve got to beat the Kershaws, the Weavers. I wasn’t able to do that tonight and that’s disappointing. I still feel I’ve got something to prove every time I step on the field. For people to stop thinking last year was a fluke... those are the games I’ve got to win.
Want to guess how many runs the Giants' offense posted for Ryan that night? I'll give you a second to think about it... If you answered, "Zero, zip, none," you're the winner of a set of steak knives.

This is why we call the man Vogelstrong. He has the attitude you want to see out of your entire pitching staff: "So what if we got shutout? I should've won that game." That's not to mention that he'd already beaten Kershaw once this season – and just did so again.

I don't know what the future portends for this wandering soul, but man oh man if he isn't leaving us a pair of the most gritty and triumphant seasons we've ever seen as a memory to impart to our grandkids...
Eat your Wheaties, and play like Ryan Vogelsong!

25 May 2012

Around the Melky Way

I hate to add to the deluge of phallus stroking over Melky Cabrera, so I won't. But I had to give this post a catchy title with a milk pun so it would get mad hits on Google. I'm also loathe to talk about Brandon Belt because it's like beating a dead baby giraffe. And I'd rather not ponder what we're going to get from Timmy in a little less than an hour.

But I feel like this moment in the Giants' season is screaming out for something, a defining moment. I've seen teams like this before. We all have. They meddle around the .500 mark for a month or two before catching their stride and riding a summertime wave into the postseason... or falling off the deep end entirely, the dog days of summer slowly, agonizingly ripping away every last shred of our pride.

14 May 2012

Hating comes full circle.

My latest obsession is #haters. But not just any haters. Haters who hate for the sake of hating. The absolute bottom of the barrel of hate. Blind hate. Senseless hate. Hate that defies all logic. And in the case of sports fans, hate without recourse. Hate that festers unfulfilled over a lifetime of anguish, eventually boiling over in a stream of vitriol directed at teams that aren't listening and couldn't care less – no matter how much money you spend on garlic fries and panda hats.

Hate borne of an inability to do a damn thing about how one's team handles its business.

Take, for use of a convenient example, the recent #FreeBelt phenomenon. Anyone who follows los Gigantes and their 253 thousand followers on the Twitter thingy knows the hate for Bruce Bochy goes far beyond his reluctance to get down on his knees and bow at the altar of the Baby Giraffe. It extends to any opportunity our grizzled ol' manager takes to tweak the lineup.

01 May 2012

April Showers Post Mortem

Reading through the fairly standard What-Have-We-Learned-After-One-Month blogs and off day stories, I was struck by this note in @stewardsfolly's Sunday postgamer:
OK, so April wound up 12-10. Not bad, considering an 0-3 start, a struggling ace, a lost closer, a projected starting second baseman who never played and Aubrey Huff’s ineffectual start and subsequent anxiety issues.
Makes you think, don't it? Wasn't this year supposed to be easier?

Hadn't Los Gigantes kicked the injury bug that plagued them throughout 2011 after successfully avoiding major trips to the trainer's table in the Year of Glory 2010?

Wasn't Aubrey Huff supposed to rebound with his typically inflated even-year production after stealing the Rally Thong back from the Hall of Fame?

Didn't Dave Groeschner find a magic potion to heal Freddy Sanchez of his San-Francisco-itis once and for all?

17 April 2012

Early Observations from Section 104

Courtesy of the Butch Husky Estate © 2012
Ten games in. Time for a bunch of irrational and reactionary tweeting about Lincecum sucking out the wrong side of the bong, the Melk Man going Iced Mocha over the last three contests, and the need to lock up Buster Posey into his retirement years.

Or, we could just throw a few bullet points at the white board of life and see what sticks in a month or two. Anything's better than obsessing over Matt Kemp's OPS two weeks into the season.

With that, here are my 10 observations from the first 10 games of the young season...

Game 1 (D-Bags 5, Gigantes 4): We could legitimately focus on Timmy in three of these points, but this game was instantly noteworthy because last year it would have been over after the first inning. This year, there's a little more pop, a little more bop, and a little more je ne sais quoi. This year, they're going to make every game interesting. At least we all can hope they do.

06 April 2012

Opening Day Open Thread

Okay, so I'm not so blind as to ignore my analytics. I don't expect a robust conversation, but it's Opening Day, and I'll probably have a lot to share, so consider this Butch's Open Thread of One...


Observation 1: 11:58 AM

Seriously, Bochy? After the virtual joy fest that has been the roster selection process, you're going to plug The Riot in at second base? Just when you thought it was safe to say the youth movement is on, the Brain goes and pulls one our of his old cap of tricks. Oh well, I guess I can move Manny back to my fantasy bench for now... And I thought that was such an inspired late-round steal!

21 March 2012

An Open Letter to Larry Baer

Dear Larry,

We need to talk. It started a few years back, when Lew Wolff got it in his head that Oakland wasn’t the best home for the ballclub he’d recently purchased. The A’s play in a rundown stadium in a decrepit area of town in front of a dwindling—albeit loud and loyal—fanbase. The organization’s limited revenue stream prevents it from building a consistent winner and essentially makes them a ward of the league.

Enter San Jose. After it became abundantly clear that the City of Oakland has no earthly idea what it’s doing, and the fever dream that was Fremont faded quickly away, Northern California’s largest city was left to reap the spoils: a professional franchise in a sport that actually draws national interest.

20 February 2012

OMFG! Spring Training!!!

© SB Nation Bay Area 2012
Alright, everybody. Take a deep breath... Hold it... Now let it out, slowly... There, doesn't that feel better?

Every year around mid-February, I'm consistently shocked by how shocked I am that fans get so damn hyphy for the beginning of baseball operations in Arizona. Seems like there's enough hunger among the faithful to rival a medium-sized third-world nation – or Detroit.

Obeying Newton's laws and taking advantage of today's 24-second news cycle, the beat writers come along for the ride, tweeting and blogging updates every time Brian Wilson blows his nose or Tim Lincecum ponders an In-N-Out run.

Today was a prime example, as Giantsland was rocked by news of Wilson throwing off a mound for 15 whole minutes, Charlie Culberson dropping a weight on his finger, and Ryan #Vogelstrong tweaking a muscle in his back and coming down with a cold.

It's enough to make you wonder: Does the media obsess over this stuff because we do, or do we obsess over this stuff because modern technology makes it so darn obsess-ible? I mean, accessible.

23 January 2012

Deep, deep, Jacques Cousteau pockets.

In case you missed it, while the 49ers were turning a dream season to mud, Timmy turned down five years at $100M from los Gigantes. This is not a huge red flag, so you can catch your breath and try to avoid having a coronary. It's just another salvo in the never-ending cock-measuring contest that is contract negotiation.

The Giants are doing their best to keep costs down by lowballing Timmy on the back end of the deal, and Timmy's agent is doing his best to get his client every cent he rightly deserves. These are the standard postures of labor-management relations, and it's not surprising to see them arise again and again in baseball. After all, the MLBPA is one of the strongest private sector unions in the country.

Labor negotiations are all about comparisons and precedent. Good union reps know what the best-compensated employees in their field are making, what kind of benefit plan they enjoy, how many bathroom breaks they get every day. They use this data to force management to bring their contract offers up to par.

21 January 2012

Where the sun don't shine.

Before I start, a quick reminder that it's easier for me to squeeze in a tweet than squeeze out a blog. So if you'd like more than intermittent updates, I advise you to visit me @ButchHusky.

Okay, shameless plug aside, let's talk numbers...

According to Baggs' Friday night missive, Brian Sabean has successfully brought his team in at the $130M payroll ceiling established by the Super PAC that pulls the strings at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. The coup de grace will be the contract currently being forged with a two-time Cy Young winner with wavy hair, a funky windup, and the heart of a champion.

It's no small feat, but I doubt we'll be hearing much about the front office's uncanny ability to work an abacus over the din caused by so many millions of dollars going to someone so young. If Sabean's minions merit a mention, it will most likely be to deride their choice to avoid a gratuitous contract for a power hitter who would quickly sour of AT&T's spacious confines in favor of investing in the proven horses who won us one World Series and could easily win us another.