GBC Reader Volume 2, Issue 1: Torture While All Hail Madison Bumgarner

Opening day in Phoenix was a massive, thick-beamed wood rollercoaster ride built by Madison Bumgarner that went off the rails in such a familiar manner it felt sickening – or for the less dramatic and more experienced fans, like typical Giants baseball.

During the frustration, I got into a Twitter discussion over the use of the word ‘torture’ to describe Giants baseball.

We all fell in love with Mike Krukow’s term in 2010 because it felt like a pure assessment of the near-misses that made it up: the earthquake, the 100 win season fail, the Angels in ’02, Pudge in front of the plate.

But personally, the torture I felt for 30 years was washed away by the immense wave of relief I felt on November 1, 2010 when we finally won it all for the first time in SF.

Giants fan Ted G, 57, disagrees. For him, SF Giants baseball is uniquely agonizing across decades win or lose. He thinks Krukow’s phrase, “Giants Baseball … Torture,” is emblematic of our pathos as an organization and the struggles we eternally endure.

“The term torture has nothing to do with not winning. Totally about how they go about creating situations that are torture.” – Ted G, @TedSFGman

I can see that, but whatever remnants of the feeling of torture that may have remained for me were certainly washed away by winning the way we did in 2012 – my favorite of the championships. We had to retire Melky Cabrera. Pablo hit 3Hrs – two off Verlander – and Romo dared and won with an incredible fastball to end it with Miggy looking.

Madison going out there in 2014 and ripping it away from the Royals cemented my feeling that we have earned well-deserved titles, establishing a kind of dynasty in an era when the back-to-back World Series championship has disappeared.

There hasn’t been a back-to-back World Series Champion in the 21st century. So for me, this ain’t torture any more, it’s working the details.

But enough about torture, lets get to

The first GBC Reader of the year:

It was a rough game because of the blown saves, but being opening day on the road, it really shouldn’t matter that much in the face of what Madison Bumgarner accomplished: the first pitcher in the 140 years of this game to hit two home runs on opening day put himself in position to win twice before the bullpen’s struggles came to bear. It was epic and #TheLegendofMadBum continues to grow.

Ashley Verala, the West Coast Fan Girl @wcoastfangirl has a sweet piece she calls Last True Renaissance Man of Major League Baseball about our Mad Bum.

Brisbee noted that Bumgarner was also the first Giant to hit two dingers on Opening Day since Barry Lamar. And Grant’s coverage of the debacle it became is actually considerably temperate – I think fatherhood is mellowing him out.

Hank is back in his seat for another long season and here’s his takeaways.

MLB dot com Columnist Joe Posnanski has some really excellent things to say about Madison’s performance, really putting the scale of MadBum’s audacity in nice perspective. He includes Statcast data regarding the speed of these HRs that if you haven’t checked out yet, you gotta see.

Haft chose to focus on MadBum’s dominance on the mound. Man, did he look good.

I like AlPav’s headline for his pretty close-up view of the guts of this one. Ruthian Game For the Ages from Bumgarner pretty much sums it up.

Baggs however seems to have felt more like I did. His piece drips with the wretched agony of cheating MadBum of the win.

But Mark Simon and Sarah Langs at ESPN were enthralled by our heroic pitcher.

I didn’t really have time to make this great, but hey, it’s the first one of the year. I’ll add some links later if I find more content.

I also apologized on Twitter for rage tweeting the value of Mark Melancon’s contract excessively yesterday. I am sorry. It was petty lashing out at the collapse and an irrelevant memory of last year that fueled my rage.

Which brings us to Jake Mastroianni’s piece about everyone who overreacted to the opening day loss.

Happy New Year everyone.

Love ya,

MTK

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Screeee! Thunk-thunk-thunk! Is This Thing On? Opening Day and GBC is Back

It’s opening day! Madison Bumgarner vs. Zach Greinke in Arizona. Here’s your starting lineup:

  1. Denard Span – CF
  2. Brandon Belt – 1B
  3. Hunter Pence – RF
  4. Buster Posey – C
  5. Brandon Crawford – SS
  6. Eduardo Nuñez – 3B
  7. Jarrett Parker – LF
  8. Joe Panik – 2B
  9. Madison Bumgarner – P

Grant Brisbee wrote that the Giants considered using MadBum in the 8-slot! But that the serious shortage of left-handed batting made it unrealistic.

I miss the switch-hitting Panda. He’s in pretty good physical condition this year and I think Boston just might start getting some value from ol’ Pablo, the greatest bad-ball hitter in recent memory.

I hope so. I’d be happy for him.

I got nothing. Just needed to dust this off for the season.

Happy Opening Day, Everyone.

Love,

MTK

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The GBC Reader, Issue 14: Final GBC Reader of the Year

This was a really tough second half to endure – an exhausting grind.

I’m really proud of the Giants despite the epic collapse of the second half because they gutted it out. I’m proud they kept their eyes on the prize and just enough distance between us and the rest to do what we expected and make the playoffs.

Of course, I dreamed of winning the division, especially after our first half of the season, but I expected us to at least claim a wildcard, and it turned out to be a tough slog just to pull that off.

Kudos to Bobby Evans and co., for pulling the trigger on the Matt Duffy trade, without which I am unsure we would have done it. And for picking up Nunez, too.

Well on to the Reader:

Steve Berman sighting! The Bay Area Sports Guy found some pretty sweet stats

“I saw this on CSN and thought it was a small sample worth noting:

— in four starts at Citi Field, Madison Bumgarner is 4-0 with an 0.62 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 29 innings.

— Noah Syndergaard against the Giants: three starts, 3.66 ERA, 1-2 record, 14 strikeouts in 19.2 innings.”

and has some nice quotes and other data here.

Here is Brisbee’s piece on clinching.

And AlPav has his wrap of the season with CSNBA footage galore of the celebrations.

I don’t have much more except to say this will be the last of the GBC Readers because now I know we will all be reading everything out there together – making this compendium of links obsolete.

 

Let’s Go Giants!

 

 

Win It ALL!

 

 

 

come on Baby!

 

 

 

 

yeah!

 

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Beat LA and Seize The Division

The second half has been very much like a root canal but at last, the playoffs are around the corner and the Giants have just a little more work to do to ensure we’re once again in the postseason in an even year this decade.

All Giants fans are of course confident that if we just get in we can go on an epic tear with our postseason roster, as we have done in each of the last even years this decade.

That confidence resides within all of us but was best phrased in all caps by Grant Brisbee in 2012 before the World Series vs. the Tigers. (You can’t spell Brisbee without S-E-E-R).

But today and this weekend the pathway is clear:

Beat LA and Seize The Division.

It is a pleasure to beat the nemesis, but certainly it means the most when there’s the postseason on the line and we handle business. I really hope we show some force this weekend and seize the wild card – a sweep would be sweet.

I still believe we can do this despite not having a closer, or even a bullpen I trust. Because I believe we do have Champions Blood. When the chips are down, we got as good a chance as anyone.

If we end up playing the Mets, as I think is likely now, I am starting to wonder whether we should start Cueto rather than Bumgarner … which seems crazy to type, but there it is.

Samardzija out of the ‘pen might be a thing we see this weekend and in the postseason, which also seems crazy.

But we gotta win one at a time, so for right tonight, I am dressed. Let’s get it on!

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Beat LA

Seize The Division

Let’s Go Giants!

 

Love,

 

MTK

 

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The Giants Biggest Home Stand of the Year

And so it comes to this.

The best first half in the majors and the second-worst second half in the majors sums to the most important home stand of the year with twenty games to play.

Seven games: three against the Padres and four against the Cardinals who are outside looking in and trying, with the Mets, to pry us from atop the National League Wild Card standings.

The difference between eking out the Wild Card and seizing the division from the nemesis lies in these next seven games. We have to take five.

We were happy in June. This team looked built to make the run. The pieces all made sense and our record was the result of beautiful play. We were happy because we won without Pence, Panik, Duffy and Romo. If anything we were enthused because we knew we’d have them all back healthy for the stretch run. The pain of last year when all the injuries hit in August was fresh in our minds. (To be honest we’ve been pretty lucky in that regard).

Johnny Cueto tore it up and started the All-Star Game. We voted Belt into the summer classic with vigor. Cain and Peavy were mostly bad, but it didn’t seem to matter. Until he went down Romo was a great set-up man for Casilla who collected the majority of his 31 saves and looked like he could be the closer. (That team still exists).

Then this epic collapse of hitting and failures in the bullpen in the second half necessitated re-engineering the rotation, forced us to deal beloved Duffy.

I for one fully support what I think was swift and bold decision-making by Bobby Evans, Brian Sabean, Larry Baer, Bruce Bochy and staff. We had to do something quick and if we didn’t pick up Matt Moore, I am not sure we would even have a chance right now. Add to that the success Eduardo Núñez has had at third and at the plate, and I’m more than pleased we made the deal.

If we have to play the Mets or Nats in the play-in game I am confident we can send out MadBum and have a great chance to win. But thanks to the trade, I now also feel, with Cueto starting against the Cubs, then Samardzija/Moore and back to Bumgarner, we actually have a shot to beat the league leaders, to win the NLCS.

and today, David Schoenfeld, the SweetSpot Blogger on ESPN says,

“Consider:

  • The Giants are due to play better. Maybe they weren’t actually the best team in baseball when they ended the first half with a better record than the Chicago Cubs, but clearly they’re not the second-worst team in baseball.
  • Baseball teams are streaky. While the Giants’ extreme splits are abnormal, a bad stretch doesn’t necessarily predict more losing. They’re just as likely to go on a nice winning streak now. That’s baseball.
  • The Dodgers play 13 of their remaining 20 games on the road, and they’re 47-27 at home and just 33-35 on the road.
  • The teams have six games remaining against each other, including the season-ending series in San Francisco.
  • Hunter Pence is hot, with eight hits in the Arizona series. Buster Posey is due to get hot as well, right?
  • Strickland, if he does win the closer’s role on a regular basis, will be fine. He has a 2.41 ERA in his major league career and has held opponents to a .202 average (.213 this season). He has been the Giants’ best reliever over the past two seasons. So why has Bruce Bochy been so hesitant to name him the closer? It probably goes back to the 2014 postseason, when Strickland, with just seven innings of big league time, allowed six home runs in eight appearances. It’s tough to trust a guy in close games after seeing that, but Strickland is a solid reliever and has earned the opportunity. (As a bonus, rookie Derek Law, with a 1.94 ERA and excellent peripherals, is due to come off the DL this week.)”

Which brings us to the biggest home stand of the year.

Our biggest concern is a big one: the bullpen is a mess. Our second biggest concern is an ongoing lack of timely hitting, a situational slump at the plate particularly with runners in scoring position that has made #RISPsigh a thing now.

But on the positive side we got what we asked for, all the pieces we need and we are healthy. Hunter Pence just decided to turn it up several notches. Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey know the stretch.

Panik has to follow Núñez who has also been making it happen. Span and Pagan gotta get hot at the same time and Belt … I need you Brandon, I need some power from you. More aggressiveness at the plate. I love the walks and the on-base percentage, but take a chance and rock that thing.

The sharpness is returning to the starters. I like that. And the bullpen? Well I know this, they can’t do it without our support. I can’t be there, but the yard better be rocking.

Let’s Go Giants! Take ’em one day at a time and win ’em all.

25 Guys One Common Goal

Win Today!!!

 

 

 

 

Love,

MTK

 

 

 

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September Baseball

September is a funny time for baseball fans whose teams are in the running. My nails are all chewed down to the cuticle. My hair gets a little greyer each year in September. There is agony and joy wrapped up in this beautiful game that confounds and delights us.

I can remember my son’s first SF Giants game like it was yesterday. It was a September 17th game against the division-leading Rockies. This was 2009 and my kid was seven years old. It was Randy Johnson Poster night and he still has his orange My First Ballgame certificate from the Giants and his poster celebrating The Big Unit’s 300th Win, which came that year with Johnson in a Giants uniform.

The Giants trailed the Rox by just two games and Matt Cain was on the mound facing Jorge de la Rosa. We had watched and listened to the Giants all summer and I bought tickets to that game because I figured it might be the one that either got us into a playoff chase or ended our run at the Rockies.

In the ninth, down 4-3, the Giants had runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs, and we were standing and yelling our guts out when Edgar Renteria grounded out to end the game. The Rockies took a three-game lead with them out of town and we never got closer to the playoffs that year.

The following September of course was our epic run-down of the Snakes that culminated in us stealing the division on the last day and eventually the 2010 World Series Championship And since then, like clockwork, we’ve had a good September every other year and taken it all the way to the World Series, winning twice more. Amazing.

Our runs and collapses in perfect order these last six years have added a powerful, albeit false, pressure to this year.

We ought to be realistic about the incredible run we have just made and see it as unprecedented in quality. We ought to acknowledge we may be fading now not because we cannot do it, not because we don’t have the talent, but rather because we may just finally be out of steam from what has been an exceptional amount of success.

Changes to the team are at the heart of this: the loss of pitchers Petit, Vogelsong and Hudson and the fading of Lincecum and Cain have weakened our formidable staff. Even Javier Lopez doesn’t look as dominant as he has these past few years (not to mention he can’t be spelled by Affeldt anymore either).

Our attempts to just plug in Cueto and Samardzija and Matt Moore and a slew of relievers cannot be expected to align with our every-other-year success. It’s a different team.

In terms of hitting, we lost Pablo and I know how much you all love Matt Duffy (I do, too), but the Panda was a special part of our Championship years. We’ve had four third basemen since Sandoval left … just two years ago. We squeezed out much of the last talent from other hitters: Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff (THE BUNT ON NOVEMBER 1ST!), Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Theriot, a doping Melky Cabrera. And despite Posey, Pence, Panik, Pagan and Crawford hitting well, hitting remains a problem whether we win or not, which is why winning the World Series the way we have has been even more amazing.

Point is, I don’t want to get all wound up and agonized if we don’t manage to find success all the way to the World Series again. I think the expectation we should is inflated, unrealistic and for some solely predicated on the fact it’s an even year – which is meaningless.

This September may be the end of an amazing dream. If so, I would rather celebrate how successful these last six years have been and lose with the grace of a winner.

I am not giving up. I am in this fight daily and rooting for our boys to do it again. It would be unreal if they did it again. I mean, what a dream – a dream that just keeps not ending? Wow. I want it. I believe we can do it … because we have.

But to expect it isn’t cool.

So let’s turn that even year expectation down a bit, yeah?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The GBC Reader, Issue Thirteen: Headed to the Ravine to Seize Back the Division, Beat LA

I was all excited to start the 13th Reader with a link to David Laurila’s excellent interview with Dave Righetti for Fan Graphs – a rare opportunity to hear Rags speak about pitching. It’s fascinating – particularly the comments concerning speed control and its importance to command.

I read it right when it came out and it was just so cool. I learned so much from just those few questions and answers. I was going to write about it, but then found Brisbee had already gushed, and since we agree materially that you should immediately go check it out, I didn’t.

Anyway I was all excited to get up and put it into this issue of the reader … but then this morning I had to endure Ken Rosenthal on Rich Eisen’s show talking about the gritty team in Los Angeles and how tough Chase Utley and Justin Turner and – “even the young guys”- Corey Seager are … gimme a break …

Then I had to watch them score 18 runs in Cincy in the day game that puts them a full game ahead of the Giants as we head into this week’s three game series down at Chavez Ravine – and now this reader is headed toward what’s wrong with us.

I am convinced we are the better, more stable and more experienced team. We’ve been on a streaky collapse, a downtrending rollercoaster, but it isn’t from injuries or bad play as much as difficulty getting things to gel.

We’ve been inconsistent in many aspects of the game at different times and we have a hard time getting it all to come together at once. But when it does, anyone can see we’re built to win.

We’re struggling to get long missing pieces to fit back together. Panik returned and took a while to warm up, and right when Pence got back he got a black eye. Here’s Brisbee on Hunter Pence‘s struggles since returning from the DL.

We’re working to bring on new guys – Eduardo Nunez and Matty Moore and Will Smith and others – Joe Nathan, possibly. Some of these are having moments of brilliance, but it isn’t easy to make it all work together right out of the box and there has been disarray.  Here’s Baggs on the Newest Giants and their struggles.

Make no mistake, we are going down there this week to Beat LA and seize back the division for good for the rest of the season. However, since we’ve fallen so mightily, there’s no shortage of “What’s Wrong With The Giants?” pieces.

John Shea did a genuine and honest inside-the-clubhouse piece about what the Giants themselves think is wrong with the energy or vibe of the team.

Around the Foghorn’s Laith Agha focuses on the hitting woes of the G-men and intends to address pitching as well, next.

Somebody called Mike Schwarz writing for something called isportsweb led with “The San Francisco Giants have been the worst team since the All-Star break.” – in this analysis of our woes.

On a lighter note, Speaking of Hunter Pence, ESPN Sr. Writer Eddie Matz did a nice little Burning Questions segment with the lanky, right fielder – such a personable and likable guy.

And Gregor Blanco’s White Shark Blog this week is a really heart-warming post about the guys on the bench – Conor Gillaspie, Ehire Adrianza, Trevor Brown and himself.

It was a well fought game that almost was a no-no for Samardzija: CSNBA posted the AP piece on Yespedes busting up Samardzija’s no-hitter.

Phil Rogers of MLB.com says the nemesis is better than us and will win the division.

But I believe in our team. Man, I hope we go down there and sweep the nemesis.

Beat LA.

 

 

 

 

Love,

MTK

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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