Entries in Buster Posey (20)


Bochy on the Giants: ‘I like to think this was a start’

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — Still learning. “That’s the goal,” said Buster Posey, "to learn.” About the Giants, and himself. To learn how to improve, and even for a former MVP, a World Series hero, the education never stops.

For Buster. For manager Bruce Bochy. For the fans, after a week of successful baseball that finally arrived after too many weeks of failing baseball.

They learned, and we learned, that for a few games at least the Giants were able to combine pitching and hitting, play as they once played, play — yes — as they were supposed to be playing.

They won five in a row, five out of seven on a home stand that concluded Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park with a defeat, not surprising since the other team was the Dodgers and the other pitcher was Clayton Kershaw.

“He was his usual good self,” said Bochy, an understatement of sorts. Pitched the first seven innings. Didn’t allow a run. Impossible to win if you don’t score, although the Giants finally did, on an Eduardo Nunez bases-empty home run off of ex-Giant Sergio Romo in the ninth. It was a bit of face-saving in a 6-1 defeat.

In effect, the game was over in the first when Yasmani Grandal doubled in two runs off of Johnny Cueto. Kershaw with a 2-0 lead before two innings had been played? “Very tough,” said Bochy.

Two words that apply to the Giants' road trip, which starts Friday at St. Louis and then goes to Chicago. The Cardinals are in first in the National League Central. The Cubs are World Series Champions. Posey will learn something about the Giants.

“I like to think this was a start,” said Bochy of the home stand. “We lost the opener (falling 12 games below .500), and everyone is thinking we’re out of it.

“The thing I liked is we played Giants baseball. We were in games, got quality pitching, which gave us a chance.”

In the previous few games, at Cincinnati and New York, they barely had a chance, losing 13-3, 14-2 and 6-1. The return to San Francisco, to AT&T, a pitcher’s park, changed scores and perhaps attitudes.

“We kept people away from the big inning,” said Bochy. “The thing I like about this team is there’s a sense of confidence. We just have to keep playing the way we have been.

What appeared to be a reminder of the historic Dodgers-Giants rivalry popped up — in a manner of speaking — in the third. Cueto, possibly upset with himself after giving up the first-inning hits on two-strike counts, yelled at Grandal in the third for stealing signs from Posey after the first-inning double. An inside pitch, and like that both dugouts and bullpens emptied. And that was it.

In fact, Kershaw walked through the three dozen or so players from both teams that, as is the situation in most baseball confrontations, were just grabbing or yelling and marched to the mound to take his warm-ups for the bottom of the inning.

After the game, Grandal and Cueto (now 4-3) apologized to each other. No ejections, no fines and, for the usual sellout crowd at AT&T Park, no real excitement.

“It caught me by surprise,” Grandal said of the Cueto pitch, and no, he wouldn’t dare steal a sign and relay it to a batter, one of the many unwritten rules of a sport that has many.

“We talked about it,” said Grandal, the Dodgers' catcher. “We apologized, so we’re on good terms, I guess. Let’s not make it a larger deal than it really is.”

Everything between the Giants and Dodgers is large. San Francisco fans have forever chanted “Beat L.A.” Dodgers fans, and, wow, were there great numbers at AT&T, many of them hoisting a blue banner that covered much of the right centerfield bleachers, shouted “Let’s go, Dodgers.”

On Wednesday, after losing Monday and Tuesday, the Dodgers went. It’s obvious they’re a very good team. The Giants? We, and they, still are learning.


More odd-year agony for the Giants

By Art Spander

It’s an odd year, isn’t it? We should stop there, when it comes to the San Francisco Giants. It isn’t so much that in even years, at least three of them, everything goes right and the Giants win World Series.

It’s that in odd years too much goes wrong.

Buster Posey was run over at home plate in May 2011; he missed the rest of the season. Hunter Pence’s arm was broken by a pitch in spring training 2015; he never was completely healthy throughout the year.

And now, Posey again, in 2017. Hit by a pitch two days ago, the first home game of the season. Put on the disabled list with a concussion.

Odd years aren’t a jinx, they’re a curse. For the Giants, there’s nothing odd about the odd years, there’s something evil. Already they’re in a hole. And they had Buster.

A terrible opening week, losing every game except one. Now they lose Buster, who’s drilled in the head.

The Giants will take no chances with Posey, their main man, their cleanup hitter, their star. Nor should they. After Posey was run over at the plate in 2011, Major League Baseball changed a rule, providing catchers more protection. But that’s on defense.

In the National League, everyone comes to bat, and even wearing a helmet is vulnerable. Posey was unable to duck a Taijuan Walker fastball.

A pitcher’s job is to keep a hitter off balance, to instill fear. He throws inside, usually without any repercussion — or concussion. This inside pitch at 94 mph couldn’t be escaped.

“The fact he is a catcher, taking shots, it doesn’t take a lot,” said Bruce Bochy, the Giants manager, of being properly wary about bringing Posey back too soon.

Bochy knows. He was a catcher. We all know. The year Bochy took control of the Giants, 2007, their catcher the previous season, Mike Matheny, retired because of concussion symptoms, headaches and dizziness. That was a decade ago. Now Matheny is manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

"This is not a shoulder, a knee or an elbow,” Matheny explained on making the decision to quit playing.

"We're talking about the brain. ... I didn't expect this. I don't think anybody did."

Ten years later we have learned so much more, from studies of NFL players and athletes in other contact sports. Talking about the brain? All those stories of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Catchers are jarred by foul tips off their mask, dangerous for a man recovering from a head injury.

“You get hit in the head,” said Bochy, “it doesn’t take a lot.”

So Posey is out a week. At least. Are the Giants so quickly out of contention?

“I think we’re better able to withstand this short-term,” said Bobby Evans, the Giants' general manager. “We’re going to exercise caution.”

Nothing is more important than a person’s health. Whether it’s Buster Posey, an MVP, or a lesser player, the responsibility is to the individual. The Giants, a caring organization, will err on the safe side.

“I don’t anticipate it being a long time,” Posey said. “That’s based on how I feel.”

Also how the medical people feel. Football players, in the vernacular, would talk about “having their bell rung.” Trainers would show a hand and ask how many fingers were being held up. A correct answer would get the player back into the game.

Then two days later, the man would complain about headaches, about reacting slowly. Now the majority of sports have developed what is called concussion protocol, applied before an athlete can be cleared.

“Obviously,” Posey admitted, “we’ve seen some guys with lingering effects. Again, I feel pretty good.”

Pretty good, however, isn’t good enough.

“I think it was a smart move,” Posey conceded about being placed on the DL, “especially being a catcher and having the one (Monday), and you never know if you’ll get some more.”

In this odd year, the Giants — struggling, without Buster Posey for even a few days — don’t need any more.


Football made Samardzija appreciate baseball

By Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — He was a football player, a very good one too, a receiver who set records at that most famous of football schools, Notre Dame. But Jeff Samardzija also played baseball, and he said perhaps the sport everyone thought he would choose as a pro provided the reason for the one he actually selected.

“Maybe playing football,” said Samardzija, “gave me an appreciation for pitching.”

He is a thinker, Samardzija, a fireballer. And Wednesday, in the Cactus League opener for the Giants, with whom last December he signed a $90 million, five-year contract, he did both, thinking and throwing.

Then, after the Giants’ 4-1 win over the Angels, Samardzija did a great deal of talking.

He threw 32 pitches in two innings, allowed a run and a hit, walked four.

Exactly as he would have wanted, a game in which he had to work, had to use his guile as well as his power.

“Trying not to do anything stupid,” said Samardzija, who didn’t.

An exhibition but hardly meaningless, at least not to Samardzija. Or to the Giants’ main man, Buster Posey, who insisted upon starting so he could get in synch with the new guy — and vice versa. An exhibition, but also an opportunity to learn.

“Buster is so cerebral,” said Samardzija. “He took the load off my shoulders. This was a great first day.”

Great because after four to five months of inactivity, the 31-year-old Samardzija was on a mound. And, in a way, on a soapbox. “I was OK putting the first guy on,” he said. “Even the second guy. I had to work out of something.”

Which he didn’t, since Angels catcher Carlos Perez, who led off with a double, eventually scored on a sacrifice fly after two walks. But Samardzija said he’ll get the ball down in the next game.

“I didn’t mind the first walk,” he said. “Didn’t want to walk the second one. Like pitching in the late innings, I had work out a situation there. It was good to get this one out of the way.”

Spring baseball is viewed differently from the dugout or clubhouse than it is from the stands, where more than 8,000 were crowded, dining, drinking, laughing and, when San Francisco got a home run from Conor Gillaspie in the third and then three fours in the sixth, cheering. 

When someone told Posey, who had one swing, one single and two innings behind the plate, that Samardzija wasn’t “just going through the motions,” Buster was happy. “Glad to hear him say that,” offered Posey of Samardzija. “Otherwise it’s a waste of time.”

Posey had faced Samardzija infrequently when Jeff was with the Cubs, Athletics and White Sox. The Cubs, who sent him to Oakland for young shortstop Addison Russell, tried to sign him again as a free agent last winter, but Samardzija decided on the Giants.

He spoke of the great charge-and-throw defensive play made by Kelby Tomlinson on the Angels with runners on in the top of the second. Tomlinson was at short, in place of All-Star Brandon Crawford, who was the Giants’ designated hitter. And Tomlinson is a second baseman, although he was a shortstop in this game.

“It’s not a coincidence they have a guy like Tomlinson who can step in,” said Samardzija. “That’s because of the organization. You understand why they’ve won.”

Samardzija didn’t dislike football. He simply enjoys the day-to-day pace of baseball. In football, he said, there’s a week between games. In baseball, there’s 24 hours.

Some time ago, in the late 1950s, Pat Richter was a multi-sport letterman for the University of Wisconsin and faced the same choice as Samardzija. The general manager of the Dodgers, trying to persuade Richter to sign with them, reportedly asked him, “What do you want, kid? A bonus or a limp?” Richter went to the NFL.

Unlike Samardzija.

“I love baseball,” said Samardzija. “I like talking about it. I like playing it.”

Assuming he plays it well, the Giants will love Samardzija. Maybe they already do.


S.F. Examiner: No matter the changes, Giants will answer bell 

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Storm clouds swirled in the distance, above the Superstition Mountains. But Tuesday, for the Giants’ first full-squad workout of 2015, there was only sunshine.

When you’re the World Series champion, anything else would be unacceptable. So Panda has crossed the continent. “A good player, a good teammate, always a happy person,” center fielder Angel Pagan said about the dearly departed Pablo Sandoval. “But we have to move on.”

Read the full story here.

© 2015 The San Francisco Examiner 


Giants: Lunacy, magic, destiny

By Art Spander

SAN FRANCISCO — This was lunacy. This was magic.  This was destiny.

This was baseball at its best and worst, baseball of misplays, brilliance and autumn satisfaction.

This was the no-chance Giants doing what that they seem programmed to do, lurching through the first round of the playoffs, while their opponents, this time the Washington Nationals, wonder how life and sport can be so unfair.

They were lucky to be here, the Giants, needing a wild-card win — on the road, against Pittsburgh — to get to the National League Division Series. That enabled them to advance to the best-of-five against the Nats, who had the more wins than any team in the league during the regular season.

But this isn’t the regular season, this is the Giants’ season, as was obvious from the Mumm’s Napa sparkling wine being spritzed Tuesday night through a clubhouse reeking in grapiness and joy.     

Yes, there were the Giants, celebrating their very bizarre, but very real, 3-2 win over the Nats, and the series victory, three games to one.

This was Hunter Pence crashing into the padding between the fourth and fifth archways in right field at AT&T Park to make a catch, which surely was shown on a dozen replays and should have been on a hundred.

This was beleaguered Ryan Vogelsong courageously going 5 2/3 innings in what some suspected might be the last game he would ever pitch for the Giants — of course, now it will not — and saying his thoughts were about getting teammate Tim Hudson into the next round for the first time in Hudson’s career.

This was the offensively challenged Giants, who kept leaving the bases loaded and had only nine runs in the four games, scoring on a walk, an unfielded bunt, a ground out and finally, breaking a 2-2 tie in the seventh, on a wild pitch.

“I have a gritty bunch out there,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “I told them earlier, there’s nobody’s will that’s stronger than theirs.”

And probably nobody’s fans who were louder than theirs.

When the Giants went out for the ninth, under a full moon that had risen behind the centerfield scoreboard, AT&T Park was cauldron of noise.

And not long after the final out, a grounder to second baseman Joe Panik, the Giants raced around the extremities of the ballpark, slapping hands with fans who they could reach or waving gleefully at those in the upper decks.

“We were determined not to get back on the plane and go to Washington,” said Bochy of a possible fifth game.

Instead, they will get on a plane and fly to St. Louis, where Saturday they play the Cardinals in the opener of the best-of-seven NL Championship Series.

As if things couldn’t be any better by the docks of the Bay, the Cards earlier in the evening came from behind to stun Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. As we know, many of the good people in Northern California so despise L.A. they’d just as soon the Dodgers lose as the Giants win.

On Tuesday, both took place.

What a screwball few days. On Saturday, Buster Posey gets thrown out at the plate trying to score from second, and the game goes 18 innings, the Giants winning. On Tuesday, Posey again gets thrown out at home place trying to score from third when Nats reliever Aaron Barrett flung one over the catcher’s head on an intentional walk.

“I was just trying to score, both times,” said Posey. He was ducking sprays of sparkling wine and trying to grab his twins, who along with the members of many Giants’ families had been brought to the clubhouse.

What a screwball few days. Tony Bennett, the 88-year-old crooner best known for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” was brought in Monday to sing “God Bless America,” done before the home seventh of important nationally televised games.

He botched one of the verses, transforming “ ...oceans white with foam...” to what sounded like “ripe with gold.”

People laughed. People shrugged. A botch, but not nearly as critical as the botches made by the Nats, letting bunts roll untouched, bouncing pitches in front of home plate.

"I wish I knew the formula, the secret," Bochy said of the Giants’ success. "They seem to thrive on this type of play. They elevate their play. I tell them, 'It's in your DNA.' But I can't say there's a silver bullet. I've been on the other end, too, in these short series. There's no magic formula, trust me.

“It was one of the strangest games, how we scored. But that’s our way sometimes. We scratch and paw for runs. And we got a break.”

They also got a tremendous effort from Vogelsong, who, despite his struggles in the season, somehow got it done in the postseason.

The 37-year-old, 0-4 with a 5.53 earned run average in September, held the Nats hitless until the fifth.

"That's what I expect out of myself in these games," Vogelsong said. "You can't treat it like any other game. I don't. Some guys do, but I treat it like the last game I'm ever going to pitch."

When he was replaced in the top of the seventh by Javier Lopez, after Pence’s great catch and a long out by Jayson Werth, the crowd began to chant, “Vogey, Vogey, Vogey.”

“Just a gutty effort,” said Bochy. “I’m proud of him. I really am. He really came through for us tonight.”

He wasn’t alone. At AT&T, maybe the oceans truly are ripe with gold.