No Giants In Playoffs? Juan Marichal/Gaylord Perry;World Cup; 49er Quarterbacks
by Glenn Dickey
Jun 30, 2010

GIANTS WOES: The Chronicle’s able beat writer Henry Schulman noted in Monday’s paper that the Giants have lost their last five series against teams with winning records, and the streak has since reached six with the Dodgers this week. . He cited their lack of power, except for Aubray Huff and Juan Uribe, and lack of speed.

If that sounds familiar, it should. I’ve been skeptical of the Giants’ chances for the postseason since the start, for those reasons and another important one: age. I’ve always felt the Giants would fade in August and September because of their age.

And, don’t expect a big move after the All-Star break. Another Chronicle writer, Bruce Jenkins, wrote recently that the Giants were just one 35-homer hitter from the World Series. Well, duh. That’s pretty much been the problem since Barry Bonds left, but Brian Sabean has wasted so much money on Barry Zito, Aaron Rowaand and Edgar Renteria that he has nothing left for a big slugger.

The one positive surprise to me has been Huff. I thought he might be nearing the end of his career but he’s been an excellent hitter with decent power. Despite his reputation as a defensive butcher, he’s played well at both first base and in the outfield. He won’t win a Gold Glove at either position but he looks like J. T. Snow in comparison to Ryan Garko, who was a butcher in his brief appearance in a Giants uniform late last season.

Balancing out Huff, though, has been the decline of Pablo Sandoval. There are multiple problems with Sandoval, which will take time to fix. He’s obviously pressing and trying to do too much, and when a hitter does that, the results are the opposite of what he wants. He’s looking especially bad from the right-handed side, and I wonder how long it will be before the Giants convince him to stick to hitting left-handed only. And, despite the diet he was supposedly on a diet for a time in the offseason, he looks as if he’s actually gained weight. If he doesn’t learn to control his weight, it’s going to seriously shorten his career.

Despite that, I still like Sandoval. He’s been surprisingly nimble at third base, though in the long term, he may end up at first. He works hard and plays hard. If he can control his weight, he should have a productive career. But how much he can help this year is problematical.

Freddy Sanchez has solidified the right side of the infield and hit well, but Renteria hasn’t been able to go to his right since he’s been with the Giants. A key ground ball went through to his right in Sunday’s game, scoring a run. Any other shortstop in the league would probably have kept it from getting out of the infield, at least. Renteria is a streak hitter and has hit well since he came off the DL but Uribe is better defensively. The problem is that Renteria is a one-position player and Uribe can play three infield positions well, so he’ll probably be moved around.

The Giants have little speed except for Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz, and Torres is their only effective base stealer. On Sunday, his speed manufactured the Giants only run in the first inning. He hit a high chopper which went for a hit when Kevin Youkilis couldn’t field it on the run, then stole second and third before scoring on Huff’s groundout.

Torres has been a great feel-good story but his durability is a question. He’s in great shape but he’s 32 and has never played more than 118 games in a season (two years ago at minor league Iowa). His average has slipped lately, which may be a result of playing in 68 of the Giants first 76 games.

Their lack of speed has been the main reason the Giants have led the league in hitting into double plays – along with their poor situational hitting. They’re taking more pitches this year, but they’re still swinging at the wrong ones. Giants fans got on Pedro Feliz for his habit of trying to pull low breaking pitches and grounding into those 6-4-3 double plays, but the entire Giants lineup seems to do that now.

Meanwhile, there have been problems with the starting pitching, which is supposed to be the team’s strength.

Tim Lincecum is only occasionally pitching like the Cy Young Award winner he’s been the past two years. On Sunday, he was totally out of psync; manager Bruce Bochy’s decision to yank him after three innings was surprising but a correct one. Lincecum had already thrown 79 pitchees, not many of them good. The worst was a 3-1 fastball he threw to Jon Lester which Lester hit to the deepest part of the park – a grandslam homer in probably any other park in the country but just a sacrifice fly at AT&T.

Some have theorized that Lincecum is hiding an injury, but he denies that and I believe him. I think his mechanics are off. His delivery is a complicated one, taught him by his dad, and it’s easy to get just a little bit off with that kind of delivery. He needs to send his dad an airplane ticket to San Francisco. He can afford a first class one.

Zito has also returned to earth after a sensational start, which is surprising only to those fans who were not being realistic. A Sports Illustrated story explained earlier that Zito, always a fly ball pitcher, was getting a career-highpercentage of outs on ground balls. That pattern was an aberration that couldn’t last. Now, Zito is throwing fly balls again and they’re going out of the park or off the fences. He had a decent outing against the Dodgers Monday night, though he had to come out after six innings because he had thrown 113 pitchs, but he’s also had some horrendous ones lately. The Giants should be happy if he’s a .500 pitcher the rest of the way.

At the start of the season, I said the Giants would have a good season and make a run at the playoffs but fall short. I see no reason to change that prediction.

COMCAST SHOW: I was on Comcast’s “Chronicle Live” show last Friday, and one segment was with Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, both of whom I saw pitch in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Perry was difficult, sometimes impossible, to interview as a player, but he’s turned into a charmer since he retired. He told his well-rehearsed story about putting Vaseline on his hands before he went into the opposing team’s dressing room to shake hands, planting the thought that he’d be loading up when they faced him.

Most interesting to me, though, was his answer when I asked him his reaction to the 1971 trade which sent him to Cleveland for Sam McDowell. “I hated it,” he said. “I loved living in California. We had a house here and actually kept it for two years after I left. My kids didn’t talk to me for two weeks after I’d been traded. They couldn’t understand why we were going to Cleveland.”

Neither could Giants fans. McDowell had been a very exciting pitcher early, but he had injured his arm, a fact which was apparently known to everybody in baseball but the Giants front office. He did little for the Giants, while Perry went on to win Cy Young Awards in both leagues and be voted into the baseball Hall of Fame.

Perry lives in his home state of North Carolina now – “I moved back to be with my family,” he said. That’s common for Southerners. I know from dealing with the family of my Tennessee-born wife that Southerners are reluctant even to move to another town in the area. Quite different from the Bay Area.

But, Perry said he has always felt closest to the Giants. He and Marichal were in town for a Sunday celebration with the fellow SF Giants who had thrown no-hitters – John Montefusco, Ed Halicki and Jonathan Sanchez from the current team.

WORLD CUP: The competition has been enlightening to Americans who are receptive but it’s also maddening to see the way soccer officials regard the rules of the game as set in stone.

The obvious example is the non reaction of FIFA president Sepp Blatter to the two blown calls on what should have been goals in two separate games. While others were calling for video review, Blatter made no comment, apparently standing by what he said in 2008: “Let’s leave football with errors.”

Soccer (football to the rest of the world) was begun long before the technological evolution which allows for video replays. But, so was American football, but there have been replays of close plays for decades in both the NFL and collegiate games.

Replays would be simple in soccer. Limit them to scoring plays and just have an official check the monitor in the press box.

Meanwhile, the number of officials should be expanded. Again, there’s a logical comparison with American football, which has added officials over the years to be able to watch individual play more closely. But soccer sticks with two officials, though it’s clear they can’t see everything. Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been.

Makes Bud Selig seem like a wild--eyed radical.

The other inexplicable aspect of the last month has been the vehement opposition to the sport by some of the U.S. media. One writer who contributes columns to the San Francisco Examiner, as I do, too, wrote anti-soccer diatribes for three straight weeks. His latest concluded with, “We . . . are . . . Americans. We don’t like soccer.”

There’s no doubt that soccer doesn’t have the same appeal to Americans as the sports which started here, football, baseball and basketball. But, there are still millions of Americans who play and/or watch the game. Does that mean they’re un-American?

If you don’t like the sport, there’s a simple solution: Don’t watch it. Nobody is forcing this writer, or others like him, to watch the World Cup. But he claimed he couldn’t even watch sports highlights on ESPN because they included shots of the World Cup. Good grief.

SOCCER REPORTING: While recounting my personal experiences with soccer, I left out one of the most interesting.

In 1967, two professional soccer leagues were started. One of them put a team in Oakland, the Clippers, and Art Rosenbaum, sports editor of The Chronicle, assigned me to be the beat writer.

There was one slight problem: I had never seen a soccer game.

Fortunately, the Clippers assigned a Stanford professor, Leo Weinstein, who had grown up in Europe and knew and loved the game, to give pre-match seminars to writers, so we could write accounts that had some resemblance to what was happening.

It probably didn’t matter. There were few people in the stands and probably even fewer reading. The foreign-born ignored the Clippers and waited for their birth country teams to play exhibitions in the area, and most of the local fans stuck with the traditional sports. The Clippers, most of whom had been with the Red Star team in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, were good, but they were probably the best team nobody watched.

AMUSING STAT: On a Chronicle blog, a writer noted that 74 per cent of the 49ers completions last year were for less than 10 yards. The writer didn’t explain that the biggest reason for this stat was the fact that Shaun Hill was the starter at the beginning of the season. The stat probably would have been about 90 per cent during Hill’s time. Of course, this writer was one who thought Hill should be starting, which should disqualify him from any further .

PARTING SHOT: “After another night of terrible situational hitting and missed opportunities, I think it’s time for the Giants to start referring to players on base as “men in double play position.”--Janice Hough, Palo Alto

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