Tag Archives: Willie Mays

Phillies visit San Francisco for a season-defining long weekend

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The Philadelphia Phillies (59-55) will continue their roller-coaster ride of a 2019 regular season out west with a long weekend visit to face the host San Francisco Giants (56-59) at Oracle Park.

The Giants, who stormed back into the National League Wildcard playoff picture with a scorching hot July, have stumbled backwards in August. Since flipping the page over on the calendar, San Francisco has gone just 1-6.
Wins in just four of their last 13 contests, including dropped two of three to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, have dropped the Giants 3.5 out in that Wildcard race with four teams now standing between them and a spot in the postseason.
For the Phillies, losses in three of their last four games leave them tied for one of the two NL Wildcard berths. However, there are now five teams within 1.5 games of one another in what looks like it is shaping up to be a wild sprint (stumble?) down the stretch.
The biggest problem for both of these teams of late has been an inability to score runs. The Giants enter the series having put just 17 runs up on the scoreboard across their seven August games. That is an average of just 2.43 runs per game. Meanwhile, the Phillies have crossed the plate just 23 times over their own last half-dozen, or an average of 3.83 runs per contest.
The Giants have averaged just 4.24 runs per game over the entire 2019 season, the second-lowest per-game output in the National League. They also have registered the league’s second-lowest OPS, and have the second-lowest home run total in the NL, ahead of only the rebuilding Miami Marlins in each of those categories.
Things aren’t much better statistically on the mound for San Francisco. The pitching staff ranks just 10th of the 15 NL ball clubs in batting average against (.254) and OPS against (.754) as well as strikeouts. The Giants came in at 18th of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball in our latest MLB Power Rankings released one week ago, with the Phillies ranking in the No. 14 position.
With so many teams between them and a postseason berth, this is now a pivotal series for the host Giants. If the Phillies manage to somehow take three of four here, that would probably sound the death knell for the 2019 season by the bay.
For their part, the Phillies need to come out of this with at least a split. That would allow the club to return home next week having gone no worse than 3-4 in a two-city western swing.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

TOP LINEUP THREATS

Kevin Pillar (30/CF): .252/.281/.420, 13 HR, 42 XBH, 56 RBIs, 55 runs, 9 steals
Brandon Belt (31/1B): .233/.347/.390, 12 HR, 33 XBH, 39 RBIx, 57 runs
Evan Longoria (33/3B): .239/.314/.439, 13 HR, 30 XBH, 39 RBIx, 38 runs
Pablo Sandoval (32/3B): .267/.312/.507, 14 HR, 37 XBH, 41 RBIs, 42 runs
Mike Yastrzemski (28/LF): .264/.316/.477, 10 HR, 24 XBH, 34 RBIs, 37 runs
Scooter Gennett (29/2B): .218/.233/.310, 1 HR, 6 XBH, 7 RBIs, 5 runs (90 plate appearances with CIN/SFG)
Gennett arrived in a trade deadline deal from the Cincinnati Reds, leading to the release of longtime Giants second baseman Joe Panik.

SPOTLIGHT PLAYER

Buster Posey: A Georgia native now in his 11th big-league season, Posey was the first round pick of the Giants at 5th overall in the 2008 MLB Draft out of Florida State University.
After receiving a cup of coffee in September 2009, Posey became the Giants starting catcher in the 2010 season. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award and finished 11th in NL MVP voting, then led the Giants past the Phillies in five games in the NLCS enroute to the first World Series championship for the franchise in 56 years.
Two years later, Posey made his first of six NL All-Star teams, won his first of four NL Silver Sluggers, and won that NL MVP Award. He also once again helped the Giants to a World Series crown.
Posey and the Giants would add a third World Series championship to their franchise trophy case in the 2014 season. In 2016, Posey won his long career NL Gold Glove Award at catcher.
The wear and tear of catching more than 900 games at the big-league level have taken their toll on Posey, who is now 32-year-old. Still, he has been behind the plate in 74 of the team’s 115 games this season.
He received a nine-year contract at $167+ million which runs through the 2021 season with a 2022 team option. It will be interesting to see whether the Giants can remain a playoff contender over the next year or two, and if not, whether he could end up moving on to another team. For all the world, Posey feels like a one-team player to me, and he will make an interesting Hall of Fame case one day late in the 2020’s.

GIANTS SHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS

Thursday – Madison Bumgarner (29/LH): 6-7, 3.92 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.175 WHIP, 140 hits over 144.2 IP across 24 starts with a 142/30 K:BB
Friday – Tyler Beede (26/RH): 3-6, 5.38 ERA, 5.50 FIP, 1.602 WHIP, 84 hits over 73.2 IP across 15 games (13 starts) with a 69/34 K:BB
Saturday – Jeff Samardzija (34/RH): 8-9, 3.70 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.164 WHIP, 111 hits over 126.1 IP across 23 starts with a 110/36 K:BB
Sunday – Conner Menez (24/LH): 0-1, 5.73 ERA, 7.49 FIP, 1.273 WHIP, 9 hits over 11 IP across 2 starts with a 10/5 K:BB

THE SKIPPER

Bruce Bochy – (reprinted from CBP series 7.30.19)
Now 64 years of age, Bochy was actually born in Landes de Bussac, France while his father was serving in the U.S. Army. His family ultimately moved to Florida, and he became the first round draft choice at 23rd overall in the 1975 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros.
Bochy reached the big-leagues with Houston in 1978, beginning what would become a nine-season career as a player in Major League Baseball. A catcher, he was famously plowed into by Pete Rose, who was scoring what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the 10th inning as the Phillies rallied to tie up the 1980 NLCS at two games apiece. He was the backup catcher with the San Diego Padres team that won a National League pennant in 1984.
After his retirements as a player, Bochy was hired to manage in the San Diego minor league system. In 1993 he was moved up to the big club, taking over as the third base coach. Then for the 1995 season, Bochy was finally hired as manager of the Padres. Over 12 years as skipper in southern California, Bochy amassed a 951-975 record, guiding the Friars to four division crowns and a 1998 NL pennant.
Let go following the 2006 season, Bochy immediately caught on as manager with the division-rival Giants, and has been the skipper in San Francisco ever since. Over 13 years by the bay, Bochy has a 1,029-1,021 record and has led the Giants to three World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. His 2016 team went to the postseason as a Wildcard team.
Overall, Bochy is now in his 25th consecutive season as a manager in Major League Baseball. He has a combined record of 1,980-1,996 between his work with the Padres and Giants organizations. He is just 28 wins behind Leo Durocher for 10th place on the all-time MLB managerial wins list, 60 behind Walter Alston for 9th place on that list. That top ten spot is his goal, as Bochy has battled health issues and has already announced that this will be his final season as manager.

THE BALLPARK

Oracle Park: Originally opened for the 2000 season as “Pac Bell Park” and having undergone two prior name changes, most recently to “AT&T Park”, this gorgeous facility took on the “Oracle Park” name this season.
Lying off the San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is visible from the right field bleachers, beyond which lies China Basin, now nicknamed “McCovey Cove” after Hall of Famer Willie McCovey. The Cove is a hangout via kayack and small water craft for souvenir hunters hoping to snare a home run ball flying entirely out of the yard.
To hit a ball into that cove, batters have to lift one over the 24-foot high right field wall, that number in feet chosen to honor Willie Mays, the Hall of Famer who wore that number with the Giants.
Behind the left field bleachers is a giant Coca-Cola bottle, which lights up after any Giants home run. Playground slides can be found inside the bottle, which is located in a park-like area. Next to the bottle is the “Giant 1927 Old-Time Four-Fingered Baseball Glove” art work.
It is 309 feet down the right field line to that wall, out to 365 feet in right field and 421 to right-center, the deepest part of the ballpark. Around to dead center field it is 399 feet, then 404 in left-center, 364 in left field, and finally 339 feet down the left field line.
Though the Giants have won three World Series titles earlier in this decade – 2010, 2012 and 2014 – all of those championships were clinched on the road. The ballpark has been the site of three no-hitters, including a 2012 ‘Perfect Game’ thrown by Matt Cain.
The semi-finals and championship round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic were held here, and the park was an official sellout for Giants games over 794 consecutive games between October 2010 and July 2017.

SERIES WEATHER REPORT

Thursday: Partly cloudy with temps dropping from the lower-60’s at the 9:45 pm EDT first pitch into the upper-50’s during the series opener with winds moderate off the bay and just the slightest chance of precipitation.
Friday: Partly cloudy with temps in the lower-60’s at the 10:15 pm EDT first pitch and remaining consistent all evening with winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during the game.
Saturday: Sun breaking out for the 4:05 pm EDT first pitch with winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during the game.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, gorgeous afternoon for what will be a 7:05 pm EDT first pitch. Winds moderate off the bay and a 20% chance of precipitation during this ESPN Game of the Week.
San Francisco area forecast from The Weather Channel
Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Phillies opposition preview: San Francisco Giants

MLB Defensive Team of the Year 2014

Andrelton Simmons of the Braves is the best
defensive shortstop in the game today

For the casual fan of the game, the least appreciated and valued part of most baseball games is defense.

Until some egregious error is made that costs their team a run, or worse yet, a game, many fans simply do not value this part of the sport nearly enough.

Simply put, good defense is vital to a team succeeding over the long haul of a 162-game season, and can prove the difference in what are often tough, low-scoring playoff and World Series games.

Just as much as a massive homerun in a close game, or a key base hit at clutch time, or a pitcher striking out a batter in a pivotal moment with runners on base, a sensational dive, leap, catch, throw…sometimes all four together, can change the course of a game, a series, and a season.

Many of my fellow Phillies fans, who shared the thrill of the 2008 post-season run to a World Series crown, might have a hard time remembering some of the big hits during that series against the Rays. But every single one of those fans remembers “The Deke“, the Chase Utley defensive play that may have been the real difference.

The Phils were up 3-1 in the series and trying to win it at home, avoiding a return to Tampa where anything could happen. Game 5, tied at 2-2 after 6 innings, had been delayed by monsoon-like rains that had caused a suspension of play for two days.

The teams finally returned to action, exchanged runs, and went into the top of the 7th tied at 3-3. The Rays had shortstop Jason Bartlett on 2nd base as the potential go-ahead run with two outs as speedy 2nd baseman Akinori Iwamura stepped to the plate and shot a grounder up the middle.

With Iwamura’s speed, it looked to at least be an infield hit. Utley fielded, and turned as if to throw to try to get Iwamura at 1st base. Tampa’s 3rd base coach, Tom Foley, sensed an opportunity to take the lead at a pivotal moment and frantically waved Bartlett to the plate for the go-ahead run.

It was here that Utley made a play for the ages, the type of heads-up, hustling play that has defined the Phillies’ 2nd baseman’s career. Instead of throwing to first, Utley actually pumped his arm, and in the same motion turned and fired a one-hop throw to catcher Carlos Ruiz. “Chooch” fielded it and dove to tag out Bartlett, who himself was diving headfirst for the plate.

The Phils scored a lone run in their half of the 7th to re-take the lead at 4-3, and two innings later Brad Lidge dropped to his knees after striking out Eric Hinske to give the club it’s first championship in 28 years. As much as any other factor, it was the Utley play that keyed the victory.

Jim Edmonds, June 10th, 1997, my personal fave

Whether it was Willie Mays’ “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series, Joe Rudi leaping against the left field wall in the early 1970’s, or Ozzie Smith diving into the hole in the 1980’s, Derek Jeter’s “The Flip” in 2001, or my personal favorite of all-time, Jim Edmonds’ version of “The Catch” in 1997, defense has not only sparked victories, but defined them.

The following are my own choices for the 2014 Major League Baseball Defensive Team and Player of the Year.

———————————————————–

Best Defensive Team
Kansas City Royals

Defensive Player of the Year 
Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta (shortstop)

Defensive Team of the Year
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, LAD
2B – Dustin Pedroia, Boston
SS – Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta
3B – Chase Headley, NYY
C   – Jonathan Lucroy, Milwaukee
LF – Alex Gordon, Kansas City
CF – Jackie Bradley Jr, Boston
RF – Jason Heyward, Atlanta
P    – Zack Greinke, LAD

Hall Welcomes the Hawk


On September 11th, 1976, the Montreal Expos were winding down the final weeks of both that ’76 season in Major League Baseball and their final season at Jarry Park. The following season they would move into the new Olympic Stadium, built for the Summer Olympics which the city had hosted that summer.

On that particular night, however, the team was on the road in Pittsburgh, and the 4-3 loss suffered at the hands of the perennial N.L. East power Pirates was the Expos 90th of the season. The night would be lost in memory but for one small tidbit. Starting in right field for the Expos on this night would be a rookie prospect by the name of Andre Dawson.

Dawson had been an 11th round draft pick of the Expos just a year earlier, the 250th player selected overall in that draft. Dawson would go 0-2 in that night’s game and would be lifted for pinch-hitter Jose Morales in the top of the 7th inning as the Expos rallied from a 4-1 deficit to cut the lead to 4-3. It would be one of the only times that Andre Dawson would be removed from any kind of Montreal rally for the next decade.

Dawson thus began to get his feet wet in the Majors that September with 85 mostly uneventful at-bats for a last place team. His batting average was just .235, and he hit no homeruns. In 1977, however, it was a different story. Dawson was a starter right from spring training, and ended up as the National League Rookie of the Year after posting a .282 average with 19 homeruns and 21 stolen bases.

Those Expos of ’77 improved by 20 wins over the previous year, and Dawson’s bat and centerfield play was only one of the reasons for the fans of the franchise to finally feel as if a winner might soon be coming to MLB’s only Canadian franchise. The franchise also had a 23-year old catcher named Gary Carter and 23-year old outfielder Ellis Valentine on board to build around.

This group of players would lead the team to it’s initial glory years, finishing with the franchise’ first-ever winning record by posting 95 victories in 1979 in what was the first of five consecutive winning seasons. That run was highlighted by the 1981 season in which the Expos made the playoffs for the only time in their history before losing the NLCS to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Andre Dawson was one of the main reasons that the Expos experienced so much success into the early 1980’s. He regularly would hit .300 and was a consistent power/speed combination offensively while his strong glove and arm developed to the point that he led the NL in putouts for three straight years from 1981-83 and became a regular Gold Glove winner.

After a decade of mostly success in Montreal, Dawson became a free agent following the 1986 season. His knees had taken a pounding on the Olympic Stadium turf, forcing a move from centerfield to right field and taking a physical toll on him. One of the key requirements as he sorted through his free agent suitors was getting to play his home games on grass. For this reason he campaigned to sign with the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs general manager at the time was Dallas Green, who believed that Dawson was on the decline and did not want to sign him. Dawson and his agent presented Green with a contract offer that included a blank salary which the team could fill in itself at any figure that it deemed appropriate. Green took the challenge and filled the contract in at $500,000 with another $250,000 in incentives, a healthy pay cut from Dawson’s final Montreal season.

At 32 years of age and with his knees mostly shot, Dawson’s days as a centerfielder and speed threat were mostly over. But he had slid over to right field where his strong arm and excellent range allowed him to remain a Gold Glover. At the plate, Dawson exploded with the Cubs as one of the greatest power hitters in the game, and would end up being rewarded with a 5-year contract extension to stay in the Windy City.

In his very first season at Wrigley Field, Andre Dawson showed the Cubbies and Green that he was worth a full contract by putting up a season for the ages that resulted in his winning the National League Most Valuable Player award. He bashed 49 homeruns and knocked in 137 runs for a team that Phillies fans might find interesting included a 24-year old, 2nd year pitcher named Jamie Moyer.

In 1989, Dawson battled injuries to help lead the Cubs into the NLCS where they were beaten by the San Francisco Giants. He continued to put up consistently strong years for the Cubs, including a 1991 season in which he bashed 31 homers and drove in 14 runs. He would wind his career down with two seasons each playing for the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins, with his final game coming with the Fish on September 29th, 1996.

During his 20-year MLB career Andre Dawson had been an 8-time All-Star, including the winner of the 1987 Home Run Derby. He was a 4-time winner of the Silver Slugger for hitting excellence at his position. It wasn’t nearly all about offense for the all-around Dawson, however. He was also an 8-time Gold Glove Award winner. All of this to go along with the ’77 NL Rookie of the Year and ’87 NL MVP awards.

Finally, Andre Dawson was one of only 3 players in MLB history to finish his career in the 400/300 Club (at least 400 homeruns and 300 stolen bases) with the others being Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. After waiting the requisite five years, Dawson received just over 45% of a needed 75% vote in his first year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

In 2003, Dawson, who was nicknamed ‘The Hawk’ during his playing career, received his only World Series ring as a member of the Florida Marlins front office, and he currently serves that team as a special assistant to the team president. He had his #10 retired by the Expos before the franchise moved to Washington. It was announced just yesterday that he was finally elected to full enshrinement as a player in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

I watched Andre Dawson all throughout the 1980’s and into the early 90’s as one of the most dominant all-around players in the game during that pre-steroid era. In the first half of his career he had it all: power, speed, arm, defense. Later in his career he remained a consistent middle-of-the-order power threat. He won major awards, including an MVP for a last place team. In my opinion, Andre Dawson’s election to the Hall is a long overdue honor.