Entries in Jeff Samardzija (6)


Only an exhibition game? Not Giants-Dodgers

By Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Only an exhibition game? Not when the Giants play the Dodgers. Not with the image of Marichal and Roseboro still hovering in the mind. Not with the memories of Reggie Smith climbing into the stands at Candlestick to try and attack a fan. Not with the Dodgers finishing 40 games ahead of the Giants last season.

“You wake up,” said Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, “you know you’re playing the Dodgers and everything changes inside of you.”

What didn’t change was the Dodgers pummeling the Giants, 9-3. Wait, a week ago the Giants pummeled the Dodgers by the same score, 9-3. So that’s it. They end the Cactus League at 1-1. But in truth that’s not it.

Not when a century of history, beginning back when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants, shadows them. Not when tales of Bobby Thomson’s pennant-winning home run, the “shot heard ‘round the world,’ are revived. Not when thoughts of the brawls and the boos never die.

Steven Duggar, the rookie centerfielder, who may or may not be on the roster when the Giants break camp, who Sunday, with Scottsdale Stadium packed to the extreme (12,141) hit his third homer of the spring, sensed that this was no ordinary exhibition.

“There was more buzz,” he said. “You could feel the vibe.”

Once they were in neighboring boroughs in New York City. Then they shifted to California, some 400 miles apart. But for spring training, ever since the Dodgers moved into their complex at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, the clubs are probably separated by only 25 miles.

And their fans are everywhere, attired in Giants black or Dodgers blue — and aren’t those two colors symbolic of the brawling between the teams, and unfortunately occasionally between the fans?

“Beat L.A.” is the normal chant from a Giants crowd. You didn’t hear that Sunday at Scottsdale. What you did hear were boos when Yasiel Puig’s name was announced and after he doubled in the first inning to drive in a run for the Dodgers, one of his two hits.

You also heard, “Let’s go Dodgers.” How did those people get in?  

How Chris Berman, the retired ESPN announcer, a professed Giants fan — you don’t have to be impartial in television — got in was through the Giants. He was invited by team management and even went out to the mound to change pitchers in the seventh inning

“A bit of levity,” said Bruce Bochy, the Giants’ manager.

After last season, the Giants can use some. Last place. The Dodgers in first, en route to the World Series. Spring games are not supposed to mean much — other than Giants vs. Dodgers — but a study of the starting lineups for each team indicates L.A. is far superior.

The heart of Dodgers' order, three through six, is Cody Bellinger (who Sunday had a hit); Puig (who had two hits and an RBI); Yasmani Grandal (who had a home run and two RBI); and Joc Pederson (who was hitless). Puig is batting .400.

The Giants' strength, if they have one, is pitching. Jeff Samardzija started Sunday for San Francisco and was decent for his third start. He did yell at home plate up Mark Ripperger in the second after a pitch was called a ball. The crowd picked up his displeasure and hooted a bit, but that was about it. Other than Samardija’s three walks in the inning.

Samardzija said he enjoyed the reactions of the crowd, which lifted the game from the ordinary. “They had a good turnout,” said Samardzija, of the Dodgers fans, “and we had a great turnout. It gives the game a little more excitement when the fans are into it more.”

Most spring games, Bochy is unconcerned with what occurs. He cared about this one. “We didn’t play that well,” he conceded.

“The rivalry? Look at the sellout. We wish we had played better, but we did beat them at their place. There’s always added interest when these two teams play, a lot of noise.”

Baseball as it should be. The games don’t show in the standings, but they certainly do to the fans.


Of Samardzija, Mays and strawberries in the wintertime

By Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Baseball still gets down to one person throwing a ball — pitching — and another trying to hit it. As it has been for 150 years. Before analytics and metrics.

When scouts saw a kid who could do it all and told management, “Sign him.”

A kid like Joe DiMaggio. Or Stan Musial. Or the man who was holding court in the Giants spring clubhouse, Willie Mays.

In an hour or so, Jeff Samardzija would make his first start of the exhibition season, work what he thought was effectively, at least to a point of self-satisfaction, an inning and third, allowing four runs Tuesday in a game that San Francisco would win, 14-12, over the Diamondbacks.

Then Samardzija would head to his locker, at the opposite end of the clubhouse from the table where Mays sits anytime he chooses, and Samardzija would lament the trend to replacing pitchers by the book, not on how they were performing, and the obsession in the sport on items such as launch angle and spin rate.

Whatever angle Mays launched balls at during a Hall of Fame career never will be known. But he hit 660 home runs, and missed two full seasons, 1952 and ’53, when he was in the Army — “I probably would have hit 40 each year,” he said unpretentiously. He also played home games for 23-plus seasons at cold, windy Candlestick Park.    

Oh, was he special. From the start. “We got to take care of this kid,” Garry Schumacher, the publicist of the New York Giants, said in the 1950s. “We got to make sure he gets in no trouble because this is the guy — well, I'm not saying he's gonna win pennants by himself, but he's the guy who'll have us all eating strawberries in the wintertime.”

At this moment, at his table, the top autographed by Mays — “They sell it for charity,” he pointed out — Willie was eating a taco and, between bites, asking for a Coke.

“No Cokes,” he was told. “They want the players to cut down on sugar.” So Mays settled for water.

Willie will be 87 in May. His vision is limited. “I’m not supposed to drive at night,” he said to a journalist who also has eye problems. “But I feel good.”

It has been said one of the joys of baseball is that it enables different generations to talk to each other. A grandfather and his grandson, separated by 50 or so years, may have little in common. Except baseball. The game is timeless.   

Three strikes and Mays was out. Three strikes and Buster Posey’s out. Batters still are thrown out by a step. “Ninety feet between bases is the closest man has come to perfection,” wrote the great journalist Red Smith.

The closest any ballplayer has come to perfection is Mays. We know he could hit. He could run, steal any time wanted, third base as well as second. Defense? The late San Francisco Chronicle baseball writer Bob Stevens said of a Mays triple, “The only man who could have caught it, hit it.”

On Tuesday, writers were hitting it off with Mays when rookie pitcher Tyler Beede, the Giants’ first pick in the 2014 draft, sat down next to Mays. They were separated by some 62 years — Beede is 24 — but instantly they began a conversation.

“Where you from?” Mays asked Beede, a star at Vanderbilt, who is from Chattanooga.

“You play golf? Mays asked. Beede said he did. “Twelve handicap,” he added.

Mays laughed. “Got to watch you 12-handicap guys. Pitchers, they’re always playing golf. They have the time between starts.”

Willie was a golfer until he no longer could see where his shots landed. He started the game at San Francisco’s Lake Merced Golf Club, struggled for a while — “I can’t believe I can’t hit a ball that’s just sitting there, not moving,” he said when learning — but became accomplished.

Then Pablo Sandoval dropped by, almost literally, practically sitting in Mays' lap and wrapping Willie in a bear hug. “I need some money, I’m broke,” said Pablo. The two laughed.

Willie is rich. In memories and friends.


S.F. Examiner: After finally winning three straight, maybe the Giants are on to something

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

AT&T PARK — Maybe. That’s the only appropriate word. Maybe the Giants are about to play as everyone thought, as their manager Bruce Bochy conceded, to expectations. Maybe the breakout — their first three-game win streak of this so-far rotten season — is an indication.

Or maybe it’s just a tease.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner 


S.F. Examiner: Graveman tops Samardzija in Bay Bridge Series warmup

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Exhibition games are baseball in reverse. “You get the starters their work,” said Bob Melvin, the A’s manager, “and then it’s time for the young guys to finish and get the win.”

Which is exactly what happened Monday for Oakland. Against the Giants

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner


Samardzija on Giants-Dodgers: It’s a rivalry for sure

By Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — They were booing the announcement of the other team’s lineup. Before an exhibition game. Before what, in effect, is a workout, if with a lot of accoutrements. But it was the Dodgers, and for a sellout crowd of 12,127 at the Giants spring ballpark, that fact transcended everything else.

As one of new kids on the block, and on the mound, understood full well.

“It’s a rivalry for sure,” said Jeff Samardzija. “I love it.”

The majority of the fans at Scottsdale Stadium did not love the result, the Dodgers winning 5-2. It wasn’t a good day overall for the Bay Area against L.A., with the Lakers throttling the Warriors.

Of course, that one mattered, in the standings and in the records. This one mattered only for the emotions of the spectators. Not that they should be ignored.

When people are chanting “Beat L.A., Beat L.A.” in Arizona, in early March, one grasps the significance of what, other than the individual performances, is a contest of insignificance. Except for the people who buy the tickets and buy into the idea that beating the Dodgers makes their lives better.

“It’s to be expected,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. He didn’t need to add that the Giants and Dodgers have been facing each other since 1890 when the Giants were in one New York borough, upper Manhattan, and the Dodgers in another, Brooklyn. They’ve played more than 2,400 times, not including exhibitions.

“The booing, the fans, probably adds a little excitement for the players,” said Bochy.

As usual this time of year, Bochy doesn’t get too excited or depressed, other than for a serious injury. He was upbeat about Samardzija, in his second Cactus League start, going three innings, striking out five and allowing just one run. It’s what the Giants need from a man signed as a free agent for $90 million who is supposed to be No. 2 or No. 3 in the rotation.

If Giants relievers Clayton Blackburn, who was the loser, and Jake Smith each gave up two runs, well, nothing to be worried about. Even if it’s against the Dodgers.

The Giants' lineup was without Buster Posey, taking a day off, and Hunter Pence, who’s been out with soreness in an Achilles tendon but is supposed to be ready on Wednesday.

Brandon Crawford again was the designated hitter — even when two National League teams meet, the DH is in effect in the exhibition season — because of a sore throwing arm. He should be back at shortstop the middle of the week. Crawford’s swing is fine. He homered in the sixth.

The Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, who singled and drove in a run, was the main target of the derision. Giants fans simply do not like the man. And Chase Utley, who reportedly has won the appeal of a two-game suspension he received for taking out (and breaking the leg of) Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in the World Series, also was booed loudly.

“You’ve got two passionate fan bases,” said Samardzija, “and they’re going at each other more than the players are. That’s good.”

Although he’s new to the Giants, Samardzija is not new to rivalries. He pitched for the Cubs, who couldn’t escape the presence or success of the Cardinals. Before that, he played football for Notre Dame.

“It could be USC or Michigan,” said Samardzija. “Those were big games for us. We could have a down team or they could have a down team. It never really mattered. There was so much at stake.”

A wise man would say that virtually nothing is at stake in baseball during the first week in March, but when the opposing team has LA on its baseball caps, logic is secondary. Memories of Tommy Lasorda lording it at Candlestick Park remain, even with Lasorda retired and Candlestick destroyed.

For years, the Giants were the Dodgers' foils. As the lyrics went, paranoia strikes deep, into your life it will creep.

Giants fans cannot forget or apparently forgive.

“For the players, these games are just workouts,” said Samardzija. “But we have to understand the people take these games seriously. You don’t want to go out there and be too loose.”

To borrow from Samardzija’s thoughts, don’t we just love it?