The All-Star Game

One question for you guys this afternoon. Did you stay up and watch the entire All-Star Game?

I caught about the final six innings, and I can’t imagine anything that happened in the first nine topped any of what I saw. Aaron Cook’s 10th-inning escape with the bases loaded and no outs (the Colorado pitcher should’ve been the MVP), the incredible defense by Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, and the nerves experienced by AL manager Terry Francona (I could feel how nervous the Red Sox skipper was, could you?) were great theater.

I have to say, though,  that all this talk about how to avoid the tough decisions Francona and NL/Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle faced is bunk. If you’re going to play the All-Star Game to determine home-field advantage in the World Series — a ludicrous notion, by the way — then you play to win. If you’re a player at the All-Star Game, then you’re available to be used. Period, end of subject. If, say, Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir throws 100-some pitches on Sunday and the Rays don’t want him used in the All-Star Game, then DON’T SEND HIM.

I think a lot of this could be avoided if managers resorted to playing the All-Star Game the way they did back in the day. Starting pitchers should go 2 or 3 innings. The starters should play 4 or 5 innings. We should not see situations like we did Tuesday, where Giants closer Brian Wilson was removed after two batters — and two outs — to be replaced by someone else. Why is it so vital that everybody play? What is this Little League?

On the A’s front, I didn’t see Justin Duchscherer, but I take very little out of what a guy does in All-Star Game (unless his name is Jay Howell or Atlee Hammaker). It rarely portends to anything big picture. I’m glad Duke got a chance to pitch, because he didn’t get an opportunity in 2005. That sure affected him an adverse manner, didn’t it?





Harden heading out?

You knew a rumor of this sort was coming, it was only a matter of time. But just heard that the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs are in discussions with the A’s involving Rich Harden.

First thought: The Cubs might be responding to the acquisition by their NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers of starter C.C. Sabathia. Second thought: This won’t be the only rumor involving Harden between now and July 31.

I’m leaning toward thinking the proper avenue for the A’s is to deal Harden. He’s been quite hittable his past two starts, and perhaps they think they’re playing with house money now that Harden has made 11 straight starts without getting hurt. I’m sure there’s continuing concern that Harden can break again, especially since his fastball has lacked a little life in his past couple of starts.

Besides, the A’s are a longshot to win the American League West, and I don’t see them making a move in the wild-card standings unless they get completely healthy. They haven’t been completely healthy since the Lincoln administration (joke, people). The A’s have shown how replenishing with young talent can breathe life into an organization, and no reason to think they won’t get a bountiful of talent for Harden.

Still, you’d hate to stumble into a playoff berth and not have Harden on your roster.  Imagine a Cubs-A’s World Series in which Harden was pitching Game 7 against the A’s? (Yeah, right)

By the way, this question was posed to me during a radio show today? Who has a better shot to make the playoffs, the A’s or Giants? Had to say the Giants. How wack is that?





Bye, bye Barry

Well, I was technically correct. Said Barry Zito wouldn’t make it past the fifth. And he didn’t. The Giants pulled him after a five-inning, four-run effort. Score is still 4-0.

Zito did the one thing the Giants can’t afford; he put them in a hole early. The Giants will not be overcoming many big deficits this season, especially against bulldogs like Dodgers ace Brad Penny.

By the way, this was Zito’s fourth straight Opening Day start. He’s about to be 0-4, and his ERA is 9.49 (12.1 IP/13 ER). Wanna explain again Mr. Bochy why Matt Cain wasn’t pitching this one? 


Oh, Barry

Barry Zito and the Giants are off to a wonderful start. I stated earlier that I thought Zito wouldn’t get past five and one of the readers said that was generous. Maybe it was.

Anyway, he was down 3-0 by the time he recorded his second out. A leadoff double by Rafael Furcal that was barely fair (a bad break), a single by Matt Kemp that scored Furcal. An awful throw by new center fielder Aaron Rowand that allowed Kemp to go to second. And then a long home run by Giants fan favorite Jeff Kent.

This team is not good.


Opening Day

Well, re-Opening Day, I guess. Regardless what you call it, the season is upon us. Chance to revisit some last-second decisions by the A’s and Giants.

— Sending Carlos Gonzalez to the minors was a no-brainer move for the A’s. I don’t care how many tools a guy has, minor-league seasoning is almost always necessary. If Gonzalez is everything the A’s think he is, he’ll be back in the big leagues (to stay) before we know it.

— Gotta imagine Dan Johnson’s future with the A’s has a short leash. Wrote about that today, and unless there’s a significant injury to Daric Barton or Mike Sweeney or Jack Cust, his playing time will be limited. The A’s will consider it a gift to get him through waivers if and when the time comes, because he’s decent insurance in case either of the above three bombs. That said, a 9-for-52 spring doesn’t inspire much confidence that he’ll become a more consistent hitter.

— Let’s temper the “Rich Harden is back” enthusiasm. I agree, the guy generates an incredible amount of buzz, but it’s only one start. He’s whetted our appetite in the past.

Love stories like Steve Holm’s. Every spring, somewhere, it seems a guy whose page in the media guide you never even stop to browse ends up on the big-league roster. Unfortunately, it also says a whole lot about the Giants’ depth behind the plate.

— Not thrilled that the Giants are going with so many veterans on Opening Day, but listened to Mike Krukow on KNBR this morning, and he rationalized that veterans are more equipped to handle the hype of Opening Day. Maybe so, but if the Giants truly are in a transition and development year, then why wait?

— Barry Zito won’t last past five innings today. 


More Bay’s-Ball Answers

Slightly more than 48 hours to domestic Opening Day, and a weekend until the Giants get going for real. A chance to answer some more questions abou the locals.

1) Does acquiring Coco Crisp make any sense for the A’s?

Sure it does. But not immediately. Take some time and see if Chris Denorfia can play. The A’s got him when he was recovering from Tommy John surgery, after all, and if you like a guy that much, give him time to show what he can do. If it doesn’t work out, then Crisp would be a decent short-term solution (but I wouldn’t give up a ton for him) until Carlos Gonzalez proves he’s ready.

2) What’s going to happen with Dan Johnson? Is it possible he winds up with the Giants?

First of all, he’ll end up with some rare physical malady. Sorry, twisted humor there. Bottom line is that Johnson will be the forgotten man for the A’s if Jack Cust, Mike Sweeney and Daric Barton stay healthy and productive. General manager Billy Beane is very good about moving guys to situations that are more suitable for them, so I’d be extremely surprised if the A’s kept Johnson around to rot. He’d be a decent solution for the Giants if Dan Ortmeier flames out at first base, but at this point, what do the Giants have that the A’s need?

3) Are the Giants going too far in removing everything Bonds-related from their park?

Absolutely. I mean, first they sell their soul for the guy and cripple the franchise in the chase for the almighty home run record. Now, they want to pretend he didn’t even exist? I’m all for the Giants moving on (two years too late), but don’t pretend Bonds was never here. It’s hypocritical, and the fans will see right through it.


You got questions …?

I’ve got some answers for you. We get rolling for real — let’s face it, baseball at 3 a.m. in another country is only so “real,” — with the locals on Monday, so with that in mind, here are some thoughts on some pressing questions.

1) What’s the story with Eugenio Velez and his fielding ability. It would seem the Giants would be trying very hard to find a spot for him, and with so many questions about third base, why doesn’t he fit there?

Talked to Giants beat writer Andy Baggerly about this one, as well as a couple of scouts, and the consensus is that Velez’s glove is a major question, but that he probably is a bit better defensively at second base than at third. Therefore, when the inevitable physical maladies hit Ray Durham, that’s where I’d expect to see him.

 2) If Carlos Gonzalez gets sent down to Triple-A, how long will it be before he’s called up? 

I would imagine the A’s will exercise patient with their prized acquisition from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their philosophy always has dictated that they’d rather a guy get four at-bats a night in the minors than two or three a week in the majors, especially at this stage. Plus, Gonzalez has never really proven himself above Double-A. So my guess is we might not see him until late in the season. Unless, of course, he proves to be overwhelming the competition in the minors.

3) Who gets traded first? Huston Street, Joe Blanton or Rich Harden?

Depends on whether the A’s are successful or not, because I could see all three spending the whole season here. 

 Huston Street didn’t help his value with his Opening Night blow-up, but he could still prove himself attractive to other teams. And if Keith Foulke impresses like he did in Japan, that might make the A’s even more open to moving him.

If Harden performs like he did against Boston, then the A’s will have all the big wigs trying to broker a deal for him. But again, if the A’s stick in the race all summer, don’t be surprised if all three spend the entire year here.

I’ll have more answers for you Friday morning.


Barry, Barry concerned?

The Giants are insisting that there is little reason to be that concerned about Barry Zito, despite the fact that two of his three spring starts have smelled like a slaughterhouse. Well, given that logic, there shouldn’t be any reason to be that excited about Ray Durham, either.

Truth of the matter is that Zito won’t be as bad as he’s shown this spring. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be any better than he was during his 2007 flop. He may well be better, but he’s gonna have to prove it.

Same with Durham. He may not hit .218 again, but I doubt he’ll return to the .280-with-pop guy that he was a couple of seasons ago.

These are just two names I’m throwing out there for the Giants. To go over the rest of the roster would be too darn depressing.

Your thoughts?


Is 2008 bye, bye baby?

OK, let’s start with the optimist’s refrain.


Alright, enough of that.  If you are optimistic about the Giants these days, then you’re one of those folks who thinks, really, a win in the California Lotto is going to happen this week. This team is hideous right now, and if you read about the deathly silence in the clubhouse, it seems that fact may be setting in with the inmates.

Barry Zito’s latest miserable outing is only the tip of the ‘berg. Zito is well on his way to being the biggest free-agent bust in baseball history, and the fact that he’s tinkering with his motion again means his head is not right. Again! He can point to excess motion  and “fewer moving parts,” but perhaps it’s all code for “He’s not very good anymore!”

Now, I like Barry a lot. He’s a little out there, and he’s become much more aloof than in his early days as an Athletic, but he’s not anti-social or stand-offish. So he’s the kind of guy I’d like to see have success. I just don’t see it happening. His fastball is average, and his curveball is nowhere near what it was. Talked to scouts in Arizona, and they think that the early struggles Barry is having is not a mirage but rather what he is. Yikes!

Same can go for the Giants, who to this point have the worst record in the Cactus League and have shown they struggle with the routine play. You have to feel for manager Bruce Bochy, who has nowhere near the solutions to all the questions and must be wondering how he got himself into this mess.


Arizona rumblings

Back from a couple of weeks in the desert (actually, in the interest of full disclosure, I was back Thursday), and brought with me some early impressions.

Carlos Gonzalez is the real deal. The centerpiece of the Dan Haren deal appears to be the A’s best everyday prospect, and the gap between him and the others appears to be large. Gonzalez did something impressive every day I was around the A’s camp, and I had a handful of veterans tell me, “Watch out for Carlos Gonzalez. He’s going to be a star.” Maybe it doesn’t happen this year, but it’ll happen eventually.

Gio Gonzalez might remind folks of Vida Blue. He’s left-handed, has a high leg-kick, and the ball seems to release from his hand with explosion. Not sure he throws as hard as Vida did, but from what I saw, his stuff moves. Again, this is a guy to watch.

The Giants are going to be miserable. On the couple of occasions I saw them, they had trouble making routine plays. On many of the days I didn’t see them, stories of ineptitude found their way to the press box. I know, I know, it’s spring training and you can’t draw solid conclusions. But if the Giants avoid 95 losses, I’ll be stunned.

— One other anectdode that could be indicative of the Giants’ chances. A local network sports anchor told me his station had interviewed a bulk of what’s expected to be the Opening Day roster, and each interview ended with this question: “Give us a reason why the Giants won’t finish in last place?” The almost-unanimous answer, the anchor said: “We’re scrappy.” If that’s all you’re clinging to, then the mountain ahead is awfully steep.

Barry Bonds is out of sight, but he’s not out of mind. Heard his name dropped by scouts and executives in conversations just about every day I was down there. The consensus: Somebody will sign him by the end of July.