Entries in Giants (221)


SF Examiner: Time for government to forfeit case against Bonds

SAN FRANCISCO — To the question of whether anyone remains interested in Barry Bonds in his second year out of a Giants uniform, there is a clear and present answer: The U.S. attorney’s office does.

But not to join their team.

They are hardly interested in putting Barry behind, say, the No. 3 hitter. What they want is to put him behind bars.

Lots of luck.

A few days past, federal prosecutors filed a brief requesting a reversal of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston’s well-known decision to bar from Barry’s perjury case evidence she determined to be hearsay.

Yes, Judge Illston’s ruling came back in February, and this is June, but the wheels of justice grind slowly, sort of the way Bonds moved out in left field his last year with the Giants, the 2007 season.

Peter Keane, Dean Emeritus of the Golden Gate University School of Law, told the New York Daily News that the recent government filing “reeks of desperation,” and is merely “postponing the inevitable.”

So feds, give it up already.

We admire your perseverance and attention to detail. If George Washington told the truth, ballplayers probably ought to do the same.

And anybody who has dealt with him, in a courtroom or in a clubhouse, understands Barry can be uncooperative, abrasive and a pain, thus there is an eagerness to get after the man.

But enough. Barry didn’t sell people sub-prime mortgages. Barry didn’t run off with anyone’s 401 (k). Barry didn’t tell the world Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

The government essentially is wasting millions of our dollars trying to make a mark against a guy who has made his mark, 762 career home runs. What if he were just a singles hitter with a .238 lifetime average?

“These documents tend to show that Bonds was lying when he testified in the grand jury that he did not knowingly take steroids,” U.S. attorney Barbara J. Valliere wrote in a 56-page argument dealing with Bonds.

Los Angeles attorney Mark Geragos, who represents Bonds’ trainer Greg Anderson — aka The Guy Who Won’t Talk — called the government’s appeal “the last vestige of scoundrels.”

The dirty rotten kind or just the ordinary garden variety?

Maybe Barry is guilty, maybe he isn’t. What does it matter any more?

The guy we could call the Slammer for all those long balls is not going to the slammer. He’s almost certainly not even going to trial.

Which is fine with me. Spend the money on something worthwhile, cancer research, feeding the underprivileged. I keep getting images of Javert, the police inspector in Les Miz, who stalks Jean Valjean through the years.

Does America care more that Bonds seemingly cheated in baseball than a lot of guys at banks and loan agencies cheated people out of their homes?

Can’t the feds and Barry, who now also has domestic problems, call this battle a tie without plans for a makeup game?

Bonds’ attorneys might tell the prosecutors how much they admire persistence. The prosecutors might tell Barry and his counsel that while there’s no clock in baseball there should be one in perjury cases.

Then the attorneys can write books and make tons of money. It’s as American as apple pie, motherhood and denial of steroid use.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes at and
E-mail him at

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Copyright 2009 SF Newspaper Company

Randy Johnson makes the Bay Area smile

As the man himself said, “It’s nice to have this moment.’’ More than nice, it was exciting. It was uplifting. For Randy Johnson. For his family. For baseball. No less significantly, for the Bay Area.

Maybe this hasn’t been a complete sporting wasteland. The Sharks had the best record in hockey before they collapsed as normal in the playoffs. Cal football had a winning record. But mostly, we’ve been through tough times.

The Giants, the A’s, the 49ers, the Raiders and the Warriors all have had a losing season, the 49ers and Raiders multiple losing seasons. We needed something to make us smile, to make us cheer. To make us remember the enjoyment inherent in sports.

On Thursday, we remembered.

On Thursday, Randy Johnson won his 300th game. He did it in a San Francisco Giants uniform. A carpetbagger, in a way. A “rent-a-player.’’

A newcomer who is an old-timer. But who also grew up in the region, Livermore, and has deep ties even if for the previous 20 of his 21 years he played in Montreal, Seattle, Houston, Arizona and New York.

The last memorable occasion was Barry Bonds’ 756th home run. Steroids didn’t matter. His personality didn’t matter. Barry drove one to centerfield and the strobe lights flashed and the crowd screamed. The ordinary had become the extraordinary.

Now, finally, another thrill. We’d been spoiled through the years, the Catch, Baron Davis’ dunk against Dallas, the Raiders’ Sea of Hands, Canseco’s blast into the upper desk in Toronto.

Do you recall Dave Stewart out-staring and out-pitching Roger Clemens? The instant the Giants captured the pennant in 2002?  Now we can recall 45-year-old Randy Johnson, laconic, iconic, bringing one home for Northern California.

“It was a long road,’’ Johnson said on the Comcast postgame show. “If there is one word to sum it up, I persevered.’’

Not just on a rainy afternoon in Washington, when the 6-foot-9 Johnson made history by becoming the 24th pitcher and sixth lefthander to reach 300 victories. But through a career in which, because of his size, he had to perfect mechanics and later had to come back from injuries.

Baseball, it’s been said, is less a team sport than a series of concerts by the artists. Still, when a baseball player helps himself, with a well-pitched game, with three hits in four at bats, he is helping his team. All of Johnson’s wins meant 300 victories for the clubs on which he played, number 300 coming for the benefit of the Giants.

“I’m exhausted,’’ conceded Johnson, who came out with a 2-1 lead after six, watched the defense make some spectacular plays to retain the advantage and then sat in the dugout when the often hitless Giants picked up three runs in the top of the ninth.

“I had a senior moment when I thought I was 25,’’ said Johnson. “Just think about it. I’m coming on 600 games.’’

Johnson’s son, Tanner, in a Giants uniform, was with his father. “I think the coolest moment has to be able to share it with a son,’’ Randy said.

“I wish my dad was here,’’ he added, referring to his late father. “But I haven’t been able to think about that for the last 17 years. I hope he was watching from up above.’’

The rest of us were watching from down here. And from everywhere. At Nationals Stadium, everyone seemed to be a Johnson fan, even those in red Washington caps. Baseball fans appreciate records, whether set by their team or the opposition.

Maybe Randy deserved a better stage, a larger crowd, but scripts are not to be prepared in sport. Everything is extemporaneous. You never know what might happen. Or what might not happen. Any hope that number 300 would be recorded at home, at AT&T, was incidental. You take what you can get.

Johnson went out and took this one, pitched beautifully. Which is what is needed for the Giants, a team that is last in hitting.

“I came here,’’ Johnson said of joining San Francisco, “to help this team turn things around.

“The one thing a pitcher has control over, essentially, is strikeouts. He has no control over wins that he gets. But wins always outweigh the strikeouts. I wanted to be known for winning games rather than for strikeouts.’’

He’s known for both. And in the Bay Area he’ll be known for an afternoon when we remembered the excitement of a magic moment. Welcome to the club, Randy.

Giants needed a win against the Mets and got one 

SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants needed to win it. Nothing could have been more obvious. We didn’t need the observation from manager Bruce Bochy on that necessity, although we had it.

“Some games are bigger than others,’’ said Bochy, defying the baseball axiom that 162 times a season nothing varies, “and we needed to win this ballgame.’’

Which they did win. Showing poise. Showing skill. Showing the rest of us, the doubters, that while they’re not going to be winning any championships, as long as the Dodgers keep scoring runs in bunches, the Giants will be a presence. Four in a row they had lost, one to the Washington Nationals and then, through various methods, the first three of a four-game series against the New York Mets.

Four in a row, and Bochy sighing, “The last thing you want to do is get swept at home.’’

And because of Matt Cain, and a couple of double plays, one with nobody out and the bases loaded in the second inning that went first baseman Travis Ishikawa to catcher Bengie Molina to Ishikawa, it would be the last thing.

Against a team that had scored 24 runs in the previous three games, against a team that starting back in 2008 had beaten them eight consecutive times, the Giants on Sunday evening stopped the Mets, 2-0, before a third straight sellout crowd, this announced at 43,012.

They tell us you never know what you’ll see at the old ballgame. What we saw was the Mets getting no runs while their pitcher Mike Pelfrey got called for three balks, the most by any pitcher in the big leagues in 15 years. The first two balks were in no small part responsible for each of the Giants’ runs.

“That was a break for us,’’ said Bochy.

So for two consecutive weeks, the Giants have been at .500 or above. That wouldn’t have been the situation with another loss. They were 18-18 before the first pitch. Now they’re 19-18. Now closer Brian Wilson’s nightmares are squelched. Now the Giants once more can believe in the pitching upon which they must rely. Or haven’t you seen the batting averages?

Yes, Pablo Sandoval, who had a first inning single, was balked to second and scored on Bengie Molina’s single, is at .314. And Molina, the rock, is hitting .304. But Eugenio Velez, who led off and played second, is at .111. And Nate Schierholtz is .217. And Ishikawa is .236. And Aaron Rowand .248. And Randy Winn .255.

If it is to be done, it will be done by pitching, and so Sunday, when the game-time temperature was 76 degrees and ESPN was carrying the telecast, it was done by pitching.

Mostly by Cain. Then Bob Howry. Then Jeremy Affeldt, who stopped a possible eighth inning rally by striking out Gary Sheffield and forcing pinch hitter Angel Pagan to hit into a double play. Then, at last, by Wilson, who after disintegrating on Thursday and Friday had a perfect ninth.

“We dodged a couple of bullets,’’ agreed Bochy. “Couple of huge double plays saved us. We played well defensively. Matt worked hard the first couple of innings, and he got through it. He kept his composure and made pitches. I wasn’t sure in the second we were going to get six out of him.’’

In the second, you couldn’t be sure you were going to get two out of Cain. He walked the bases loaded with nobody out. Then the double play. Then a groundout by Pelfrey. Then a sigh of relief.

Cain had thrown 49 pitches by the time the inning closed. “But he’s a horse,’’ said Bochy.

Rachel Alexandra? Mine That Bird? This was Cain’s Derby and Preakness. If he couldn’t go wire-to-wire, he could go 119 pitches, go through six innings, go far enough and strongly enough to improve his record to 4-1 with a 2.65 earned run average.

“This game was huge for our team,’’ said Affeldt. “Matt did everything. His pitching kept us in the game, and he had a big hit.’’

That came in the fifth. Rowand was on third after a single, Pelfrey’s second balk and a groundout by Ishikawa. Bochy, knowing Cain is good bunter, called the suicide squeeze. Rowand took off, but Pelfrey’s pitch dove so severely that Cain could just knock the ball foul.

With the count 3 and 2, Cain had to swing, not bunt. He swung and lined a single to left, bringing in Rowand.

“Matt Cain doesn’t panic,’’ said Affeldt. “When you needed what we needed, he gave it to us.’’

Cain said he tried to keep his emotions in check. “When you get into the situations I put myself in,’’ he said, “you have to stay calm. It worked out great.’’

After four straight losses, it was about time.

Newsday: Sheff leads Mets' hit parade to support Santana

Special to Newsday

SAN FRANCISCO -- The story keeps getting better, for Gary Sheffield, for the Mets. The man who was unwanted the first day of April now is described as the man who has given character to a team criticized the previous two years for lacking it.

Three in a row for the Mets over San Francisco. Yesterday, when the fog was absent and the temperature reached the high 70s by the bay, the Mets pounded the Giants, 9-6, before another sellout of 41,336 at AT&T Park.

Three in a row, 11 out of 13, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel talking not about what but how, about the "little things,'' primarily from Sheffield.

"Our biggest at-bat'' is what Manuel said of Sheffield at the plate in the first. There already were two runs in, Carlos Beltran having doubled home Luis Castillo and Alex Cora.

"Sheff gives himself up,'' Manuel said. "He went the other way, to the right side. He got a base hit anyway, but I thought that set the tone for us for the whole game.

"If we're able to play that type of game and run and have occasional power, then we can be a pretty tough team.''

They've been a problem team for the Giants, taking eight straight from San Francisco dating to 2008.

This one was supposed to be a battle between historic lefthanded pitchers: the Mets' Johan Santana and the Giants' 45-year-old Randy Johnson, with his 298 wins. "It was special to go against him,'' said Santana (5-2, 1.36 ERA), who finally allowed an earned run after 221/3 innings.

For the Mets - who had 16 hits, 11 off Johnson (3-4) in four-plus innings - it was special the way they went after the 6-10 lefthander.

With Carlos Delgado on the disabled list and Jose Reyes still nursing a sore calf, the rest of the Mets finally gave Santana some support. Beltran had three hits and three RBIs. David Wright had three hits and three RBIs. And Sheffield, who was released by the Detroit Tigers on March 31 and joined the Mets on April 3, had three hits.

"Leadership?'' Manuel asked rhetorically after someone tossed in Sheffield's name. "When he does what he did today, when he's the number four hitter and sacrifices himself, that's what you're looking for in leadership.

"I think this is where he's been all his life, handling responsibility. But the thing I have to be careful of - he's kind of in the evening of his career, so to speak - is to give him days off, make sure he's fresh. That's going to be a big key for us.''

Wright has nine RBIs in the series, which ends Sunday. He said he's getting good pitches to hit. That's because of the guy who precedes him in the lineup: Gary Sheffield.

"He's got some huge hits for us,'' said Wright, who has 27 RBIs, one fewer than Beltran. "He provides a presence in the middle of the lineup, provides a presence against lefthanded pitchers - and righthanders, too. One swing of the bat if the pitcher makes a mistake, and he knows the ball is going to leave the yard.''

Through a career that has taken him to Milwaukee, San Diego, Florida, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta, the Yankees, Detroit and now the Mets, the 40-year-old Sheffield has hit 501 home runs, two in 2009.

"But seeing a number four hitter, a future Hall of Famer, trying to advance a runner,'' Wright said, "makes us understand we should expect that type of play from everybody.''

The Mets, who have scored 24 runs in the series, led 3-0 after one inning. The Giants got an unearned run in the third and two runs, one of those unearned, in the fourth to tie. But 10 men batted for the Mets in a four-run fifth in which they had six hits, including an RBI double by Beltran, a two-run double by Wright and an RBI single by Ramon Castro. Castro had another RBI single in the ninth, and even Santana had a hit.

Said Manuel, "We've gotten everybody involved.''

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Copyright © 2009, Newsday Inc.

The City That Knows How, and knows baseball

SAN FRANCISCO -- They call it The City That Knows How. Ryan Zimmerman wouldn’t disagree. It’s also the city that, despite the digs about fans on cell phones or wandering about the park looking at the bay, knows baseball. And knows Ryan Zimmerman.

The streak, Zimmerman’s streak, came to an end Wednesday. It was halted at AT&T Park by several Giants pitchers, most notably Barry Zito.

In 30 straight games, Ryan Zimmerman, at age 24 one of the great young ones, had at least one base hit. Until Wednesday.

Zimmerman’s Washington Nationals finally beat the Giants, after nine consecutive defeats, two this season, whipped them, 6-3. And that softened some of the disappointment. After all the basis of sport is to win. But next to that, there always are numbers.

The Giants fans, and attendance was announced as 30,120, wanted a win. That didn’t happen. They also wanted Ryan Zimmerman, of the Washington Nats, to go on hitting. That didn’t happen either.

So, when Zimmerman in the top of the ninth hit a grounder, which San Francisco shortstop Edgar Renteria turned into a force play, when the hard reality had hit that Zimmerman would end the game without getting a hit, the crowd rose and applauded.

A standing ovation for a visiting player. A standing ovation for a rare achievement.

“They’ve got very knowledgeable fans out here,’’ Zimmerman said later in the clubhouse. “They know baseball. They love baseball, and it was special. Anytime you get people on the road telling you good luck and are cheering for you, it means something. It was pretty cool.’’

For more than a month, starting April 8, Zimmerman hadn’t played a game without getting at least one hit. Until he went 0-for-3 with a couple of walks. One of those walks, in the seventh inning with Nats on second and third, was intentional, but neither Zimmerman nor his manager, Manny Acta, was bitter about the tactic.

“I understand completely,’’ said Acta. “I would have done the same thing.’’

Ryan was the 26th player to hit in 30 consecutive games or more. Pete Rose got to 44 in 1978, which sounds like a lot until compared to the iconic mark of 56 straight by Joe DiMaggio in 1941.

DiMaggio was a San Franciscan, of course. Grew up here, as did his younger brother Dom, who died only the other day. A lot of these young athletes are unable to reference the legends of their sport, but Zimmerman knows full well who and what about his game, about our game.

“I almost snuck one through there in the ninth,’’ he said in reflection. “They made good pitches on me today. It’s tough to get hits. Thirty games makes you realize how much better 56 is than 30. But this was fun. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot going through the experience.

“You don’t usually have people on the road saying they hope you get a hit. It’s cool. I think that’s one of the best parts of sports. Fans actually appreciate the game whether you’re on their team or not.’’

They appreciate the game in the Bay Area. The garlic fries and the big glove in left and across the bay the world championship pennants flying at the Oakland Coliseum may be worthy of conversation. But the ones who show up in the stands are not merely spectators, they’re fans in every sense of the word.

They’ll cheer a well-placed sacrifice bunt as much as they will a double to left. They love hanging the letter “K’’ on the wall after every strikeout by a home pitcher. And they understood what Ryan Zimmerman was doing. His uniform didn’t matter. It was his play, his hitting, that counted.

“We want to thank the Giants fans,’’ said Acta, the Nats skipper. “What they did, the standing ovation, was very classy. You don’t get that everywhere you go.’’

The Nationals, the former Montreal Expos, have the worst record in the majors. The only time they had been mentioned was in the punch line of jokes, such as the one borrowed about the old Washington Senators built on George Washington: “First in war, first in peace, last in the National League.’’

Then Ryan Zimmerman started hitting. And until Wednesday didn’t stop.

“I think we’ve gotten a little of attention because of him,’’ Acta said. “It puts us on the map, what he did.’’

What he did was stunning, even for Zimmerman.

“To get a hit every single game, there’s got to be a little bit of luck involved,’’ said Zimmerman, “but not wasting at bats, not swinging at bad pitches is hard to do. Every game, to put four good at bats together is not easy, especially against the talent you’re facing on the mound.’’

Zimmerman did it for 30 straight games. It was worthy of a standing ovation from The City That Knows How.