Giants' youth look to do what Hall of Famers never could

Giants' youth look to do what Hall of Famers never could

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a sense, it hardly seems fair.

From the time they moved from the Polo Grounds to Seal Stadium in 1958, the San Francisco Giants have been a team with enormous star power.

Willie Mays, considered by some the game's most complete player in the post-World War II era, made the cross-country trek with the Giants as they, with the Dodgers, established a major league beachhead on the West Coast.

In time, he was joined by Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, Hall of Famers all.

After a relaively fallow period in the late 1970s through the late 1980s, there was Will Clark, and eventually, the notorious Barry Bonds.

All of them have one thing in common: they never won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants. (Mays had the good fortune to be with the Giants in 1954, when the franchise won its last title).

Which isn't to say they didn't come tantalizingly, infuriatingly close. Mays, Marichal, McCovey and Cepeda had the tying run on third in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series when McCovey's smash liner found its way into New York Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove.

Bonds, having freed himself from the suggestion that he was a post-season flop, was two innings away from winning in Game 6 of the 2002 Series before the (then) Anaheim Angels rallied to win that game, and Game 7, too.

In that way, greats like McCovey, Marichal and the others share a history with great Red Sox stars such as Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as Hall of Famers who came close, but ultimately retired without winning a championship.

Now, a roster full of rookies, castoffs and journeymen are close to doing what their predecessors couldn't. McCovey, who played 19 of 22 seasons in San Francisco, never won, but Aubrey Huff, signed last winter, just might.

Mays, denied in the Bay Area, played from 1958 through 1972 without earning a ring, but Andres Torres, in his second season, is in position to top him.

Marichal, who won 20 games or more six times in the span of seven series yet never won a World Series or a Cy Young Award, came up empty, but Jonathan Madison Bumgarner, who had started exactly one game before facing the Red Sox in June, might soon be a champion.

Fair? Not hardly. But as Ron Washington, manager of the current-day Giants' opponents, is fond of saying: "That's how baseball go.''

These Giants may lack star power -- nobody hit 30 homers, knocked in 90 runs or won 17 games during the regular season -- but this collection of mostly "misfits and castoffs,'' as manager Bruce Bochy refers to them, is halfway toward winning it all.

This anonymous, no-one-is-bigger-than-the-team approach wears well with the fan base, perhaps because it stands in such stark contrast to the Bonds-led teams of recent history. Those teams had a Bonds-or-bust mentality: if Bonds didn't hit, or, as was often the case, wasn't allowed to hit because opponents worked around him, the Giants had little chance to win.

His ego was every bit as big as his swelled head and his persona so dominated the franchise that the entire organization seemed held captive.

That's hardly the case with this edition of the Giants, which is probably why the team has been so beloved by the fan base.

(Side note: Do not make the mistake of lumping San Francisco fans in with their brethren from southern California. San Francisco fans are every bit as dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable as renowned sports cites such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia).

Team president Larry Baer, in citing the team's democratic approach, told the San Francisco Chronicle recently that the mood around the team this season "is how it is in Little League.''

The team's highest-paid player, pitcher Barry Zito, didn't make the post-season roster. But there was room for Pat Burrell, picked up after being releases by the Tampa Bay Rays, and for Cody Ross, put on waivers by the Florida Marlins.

The left side of the infield, which features warhorses Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, look too slow and immobile. Renteria is with his sixth team; Uribe is with his third, but this post-season, they've both been stars, invigorated by the post-season.

Some have said that this Giants' lineup is the most feeble since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, but somehow, San Francisco has averaged 10 runs through the first two games of the Series, yet another manifestation of the team's selflessness and willingness to work together.

This weekend, they may have another thing in common with those Dodgers - a title.

Fair? To the likes of McCovey and Marichal, perhaps not.

But fun? Plenty, and part of what makes baseball so unapologetically unpredictable.

Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

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Francona, Epstein receive grand ovations at BBWAA dinner

BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.

It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.

Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.

Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.

This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.

And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.

“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

Offseason just like any other for Bogaerts

BOSTON -- At first, 2016 seemed like the “Year of Xander.” It turned out to be the “Year of Mookie,” with Bogaerts dropping off a little as the season progressed.

The Red Sox shortstop saw his average peak at .359 on June 12. At that point he’d played in 61 games, hit eight home runs, 20 doubles and knocked in 44 runs. Although Mookie Betts had six more home runs and three more RBI in that same span, Bogaerts had six more doubles and was hitting 69 points higher.

The two were already locks for the All-Star Game and Bogaerts still had the edge in early MVP talk.

Then things took a turn after the very day Bogaerts saw his average peak.

Over the next 61 games, Bogaerts still managed seven homers, but only had six doubles and 27 RBI, watching his average drop to .307 by the end of that stretch. At first glance, .307 doesn’t seem like an issue, but he dropped 52 points after hitting .253 in that span.

And in his remaining 35 games, Bogaerts only hit .248 -- although he did have six homers.

But throughout it all, Bogaerts never seemed fazed by it. With pitchers and catchers reporting in less than a month, Bogaerts still isn’t worried about the peaks and valleys.

“You go through it as a player, the only one’s who don’t go through that are the ones not playing,” Bogaerts told CSNNE.com before the Boston baseball writers' dinner Thursday. “I just gotta know you’re going to be playing good for sometime, you’re going to be playing bad for sometime.

“Just try to a lot more better times than bad times. It’s just a matter of trusting yourself, trusting your abilities and never doubting yourself. Obviously, you get a lot of doubts when you’re playing bad, but you just be even keeled with whatever situation is presented.”

Bogaerts level head is something often noted by coaches and his teammates, carrying through the days he finds himself lunging left and right for pitches. That’s also carried him through the offseason while maintaining the same preparation from past seasons -- along with putting on some weight.

“I don’t know how much I put on, but I feel strong,” Bogaerts said to CSNNE.com “I mean, I look strong in the mirror.

“Hopefully, I’m in a good position when the season comes because I know I’ll lose [the weight].”