Jalynne and I are back home. Everything’s fine. We’re hanging out with Braylyn and having a nice quiet day. I’ll take a few minutes for a short post.
We have a team meeting most days before practice. Bochy goes over the schedule and stuff like that. It is also the time we get to know guys who are in big league camp for the first time. Bochy summons two each morning to introduce themselves. They give their name, position, where they’re from and what they like to do.
Then they get questions from the rest of the team. You can’t imagine the ridiculous questions. They make me uncomfortable. Guys will bait the new player by asking him to name his current favorite song. The player will say what it is.
Then: “OK, now sing it.’’
That’s when I think, “Oh, I’m so glad I’m not up there right now.’’
In my first big-league camp in 2010, the hardest thing I had to answer was Brian Wilson asking why I cut my hair. I had reported for physicals the day before and had pretty long hair. Later that day I got it cut because it was Big League camp and I didn’t want to come in with ridiculous long hair. So Wilson asked me why I cut it.
“Um, I don’t know,’’ I said. “I thought it was a good idea.’’
That was the toughest question. I was lucky.
It’s a fun clubhouse again this year, so Mike Morse fits right in. He’s like a combination of Ryan Theriot, Mark DeRosa and Hunter. He likes to have a good time and has a good sense of humor. He’s also a great storyteller. (I won’t share any here for a variety of reasons.) But as I saw in our first game yesterday, he’s pretty intense on the field and in the dugout. That’s the Hunter part of him.
Morse, Pagan and I are in the same BP group. It quickly became known as the Good Pelo Group. Pelo is Spanish for hair. Who has the best hair? It’s not for me to say. But if you asked Pagan, he definitely would say himself. I think Morse would probably say me. Angel spends way more time on his than I do on my mine, by the way. He puts in his products and smoothes his hair really carefully into this Mohawk kind of thing. I just put gel in and put a hat on. I’m not sure what Morse does.
Then the other day Belt joined our BP group and messed up the Pelo thing. We told him yesterday if he wanted to stay he had to grow his hair.
I hear Belt is doing yoga. It’s almost worth getting up early to see that in person. Almost. But not quite. I like yoga. I don’t like 6:15 a.m. yoga.
Back to the field tomorrow. We have a split squad: here against the Brewers, at Phoenix Municipal against the A’s. Let’s hope Morse draws the Brewers. Not sure he’s ready to see Reddick again just yet.
It’s nothing serious – dehydration from a stomach bug – but Jalynne had to spend last night(Tuesday) in the hospital. She’s less than two weeks from giving birth, so the doctors are being extra cautious. They hooked her up to an IV, and she told me to go home.
“You have a game tomorrow,’’ she said. “Go home and get a good sleep.’’
“It’s a spring training game,’’ I said.
Even if it were a regular-season game, I’d still stay, especially knowing that Braylyn was in good hands with our close friends. Family comes first, no matter what you do for a living.
I slept on one of those hospital cots next to Jalynne’s bed. They are not the most comfortable things. Even so, I know I slept better being there than going home and worrying about her. This morning, the doctors said she was doing well but they needed to continue the IV drip.
I went to the ballpark, which happens to be right across the street from the hospital, and kept in touch all day by text and phone. After I came out of the game, Jalynne texted that the doctors want her to spend another night. So I’m going home to play with Braylyn for a little while , then will go back to the hospital. I think I’ll bring my own pillow.
Lucky for me we have an off day tomorrow. Good timing.
I hope all this doesn’t sound worse than it really is. Everything’s fine. If it wasn’t, would I be taking the time to blog right now?
I have more stuff to share but I’ll do it next time.
Thanks for reading.
I can’t believe how fast this off-season is going by. It’s been three-and-a-half months since I posted – way too long, I know. But I have excuses.
In my last post, I told you about a 12-day cruise through the Mediterranean with Jalynne planned for mid-November. It was my first time in Europe and got to see Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Cannes, Pisa, Dubrovnik. If I had to pick a city, I’d say I enjoyed Rome the most. So much history. You go to the Colosseum and can imagine 50,000 people – more than the capacity of AT&T — packing the place to watch gladiators and whatever other events they had there. You walk through the ancient ruins of the Forum and it’s like a movie set. And it’s right in the middle of the city.
I had a funny experience in Florence. Jalynne and I were walking across the Ponte Vecchio, a famous stone bridge on the Arno River. We asked an American girl if she would take our picture. She did. When she handed back the camera, she said, “By the way, are you Brandon Crawford?’’ It turned out she and her family were from the Bay Area. So Jalynne took a photo of them with me. Small world.
On the last day of the cruise, Jalynne and I celebrated our second anniversary. We had a really nice, relaxing day out at sea. But that night a storm hit, rocking the ship with huge waves and 100 mph winds. I have to tell you, it was scary. Jalynne, who was almost six months pregnant at the time,was especially happy to get back on solid ground and fly back home to Braylyn, who turned one a few weeks later on December 18.
We hosted a combination first-birthday party/Christmas celebration at our house in Scottsdale on December 22 for our families. There were 25 people! My immediate family plus my grandparents, and Jalynne’s immediate family plus a cousin. Plus husbands, wives, kids and significant others (including Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, my sister’s boyfriend). Luckily Jalynne’s parents arrived a few days early to help with the cooking and setup. The weather was perfect for tables outside.
For New Year’s week we went to Park City, Utah, with Jalynne’s twin sister and her husband, my best friend and his wife, and my brother-in-law’s best friend and his girlfriend. It was the first time Braylyn had seen snow and she didn’t know what to make of it. We went dogsledding, snow-mobiling and snowshoeing. I didn’t join the others when they hit the ski slopes. I don’t know if skiing is prohibited in my Giants’ contract, but it’s just not a smart thing for me to do.
All the rest of the time, I’ve been working out at the Giants’ training facility with Cain, Romo and some minor league players. It’s great because our strength and conditioning coach and trainer are there. They can supervise the workouts and take care of all our aches and pains so nothing interrupts our preparation for the season.
I ended up finishing third in the Giants fantasy football league. Javy Lopez was my partner, so we talked almost every Sunday. I’ve kept in touch, mostly by text, with all the guys I played against through the football season, including Belt. He was 10-3 in the regular season; I was 6-7. But somehow I made it to the playoffs – and I beat him in the first round. Roger Kieschnick came in first with Romo and Hunter as his partners. Barry Zito came in second and Timmy fourth.
I’m a huge Niners fan, so last Sunday we had Dan Runzler and his wife Michelle and Jalynne’s brother Johnny over to the house to watch thegame. Not sure what we’ll do this Sunday for the Seattle game. We probably should have the same people. Don’t want to mess with our luck.
I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of you at FanFest, which is just around the corner. It will be great to be back in San Francisco, if only for the weekend. Then spring training. Jalynne’s due in March, smack in the middle of training camp. As Ron Wotus said on the phone the other day, we ought to plan the delivery to coincide with roadtrips to Surprise or Goodyear . . .
Just saw this afternoon that Clayton Kershaw signed a new contract with the Dodgers. As I said on Twitter: 7 more yrs . . . yayyyy . . .
There’s no explaining what’s going on right now. Usually what’s contagious is winning. Like what we did last year. What the Cardinals did the year before. A few guys start going good. Then a few more guys. And soon everybody in the lineup is a threat to break the game open at any time. I don’t know the science behind it. Maybe you’re feeding off each other’s energy. All I know is the domino effect exists because we’ve lived it.
But I’ve never seen the flip side, what’s been happening the last few weeks.
The truth is we actually feel as confident as ever. I was 0-for-whatever when I went up to the plate in the ninth inning with Homer Bailey throwing a no-hitter. I was certain I was about to break it up. Absolutely sure. Well, you know how that turned out.
The point is we’re as confounded as you are. We had a hitter’s meeting with Bochy and Bam-Bam in Colorado. We’re doing everything we can. I watched video of myself comparing recent at-bats to ones earlier in the season. I noticed I was lifting my hands too high during my load, which caused my shoulders to go up, which meant I used my shoulders to swing instead of my hands. I worked on it and felt better at the plate in Cincinnati. My first at-bat there I hit a line drive into center. I thought, OK, finally! I thought it was a double. I’m rounding first, look over and see Choo running it down. Another 0-for day.
That’s baseball. When it’s not going well, it’s really not going well.
Very glad to get a hit yesterday to break the streak, but obviously we need to string a few together.
Away from the field, I take a break from the game by playing PSP. Of course, I’m playing the MLB game. I don’t keep precise track of my record in PSP but I have not lost 10 of the last 11. Baseball is a lot easier when all you have to do is push a button.
I also relaxed on our off day in Colorado by going to see “This Is The End’’ with Belt and Kontos.They’d already seen it but thought it was so funny they wanted to see it again. It was hilarious. A good escape for a few hours.
We have Bum on the mound today against the Dodgers. It’s amazing that as bad as we’ve been going we’re still only five games out of first. Anyone can win this division. It’s going to be a great second half with everyone contending.
A lot of people ask me about Puig. As a fan, which I still am, you always like to see players like him. He reminds me a lot of Mike Trout. He even runs like him. I was on the bench (when I jammed my fingers sliding into second) when he had his first at-bat against us. He swung what looked like a protection flick on a change-up to send the ball foul. I thought, “Wow, that’s going pretty far for flicking it foul.’’ Then it sailed fair into the stands for a home run. I was like, check that guy’s bat. I couldn’t believe it.
I could do without seeing any more of that in person this season. He can save it for Arizona and Colorado and San Diego.
I’ll end this by telling you we’re working as hard as ever. We’re as confident as ever. And there’s still half a season left to play. We have too many great players to continue the way we have. This is the same team that was so good at making comebacks last season and earlier this season. You can’t make a comeback unless you’ve fallen behind. Time for the comeback.
I’ll be watching from the dugout today, only the second time this season I’ve done that. And the first time because of an injury. When I jammed my right-hand index and middle fingers trying to steal second yesterday, I couldn’t tell right away if I could still play or not. The trainers said they weren’t broken, so I went back out for the start of the next inning. Good thing nothing came to me. The pain had arrived full force. When Cain struck somebody out and we were throwing the ball around the infield, I had to chuck a palm ball to Scutaro. I couldn’t use either finger.
It kind of bothers me that some people said it wasn’t a good idea for me to be sliding headfirst. I’ve been sliding headfirst my entire life. And I’ve never been hurt until now.
There’s a good reason why I and so many other players slide headfirst. When you’re going full speed, your body is leaning forward. So the fastest way to reach the bag is to build on that momentum by diving forward – rather than leaning back to slide feet first. Also, if you have to change direction to avoid a tag, you can maneuver more easily with your hands than your feet.
I looked at the tape afterward to see how I jammed my fingers this time when I had never done it before. Like most runners, I slide with my hands open and fingers up – like a “halt’’ gesture — so that my palms hit the edge of the bag. On the tape, it looked like the fielder brought his glove down onto my two fingers before I reached the base, so they jammed into the side of the bag. Bad luck.
Maybe I’d consider holding my batting gloves in my hands, essentially creating fists, so my fingers wouldn’t be exposed. But I think the natural reaction when you’re sliding is to reach out with your hands, so I’d probably end up just dropping the batting gloves.
My prognosis is “day to day.’’ We can’t afford another injury in this lineup. But between yesterday and today there’s been no improvement. I hope the healing process kicks soon, like in the next few minutes. In the meantime: ibuprofen.
Just a note on facing my sister’s boyfriend in Pittsburgh. As you might have read, my sister Amy has been dating Pittsburgh’s rookie pitcher and former Number 1 draft pick Gerrit Cole since they were classmates at UCLA. So she was at the game when he made his Major League debut against us last week. So was Jalynne, Jalynne’s mother and Gerrit’s family and friends. Amy tried to be neutral as she possibly could. She told me the Giants could win the other two games of the series, but she wanted Gerrit to win his debut. Which he did. The first time I was up, he broke my bat with a 97-mph fastball up and in. But I got a hit off him later.
After the game, Gerrit’s parents hosted dinner at a steakhouse across from the park. He was very professional, not gloating or anything. He’s not like that. When I showed up at the restaurant, I had a gift for him: my broken bat, signed.
Hope to see you at the park. Hope I’m in the lineup.
I didn’t do much on my off days on Monday or yesterday. Just relaxed. But Jalynne and I had a great time two Sundays ago at my friends’ wedding.
Getting there, however, was an adventure.
The ceremony was scheduled for 6 p.m. We had a 1 p.m. game at AT&T. I figured I’d have plenty of time to make it to Wente Vineyards in Livermore. Cain had been solid the last month or so, and when he walked three of the first four batters, I thought, “Oh, no.’’
The game went three hours and thirty-seven minutes. When we made the final out, it was already close to 4:45.
I bolted into the clubhouse. Didn’t put any ice on my arm. Went straight into the shower. Got dressed. Went to my car, where I had my tux. Iwas a groomsman. (I didn’t want to put the tux onin the clubhouse. Would have been embarrassing.)
I drove to Livermore, probably breaking a few traffic laws on the way. I had let one of the other groomsmen know I would probably be there right around six. He said they’d drag their feet (not that any wedding starts on time anyway).
I pulled up at 5:58, got somebody to park my car for me and went in with my tux on a hanger. I had about four guys helping me get dressed with all the tux stuff. I was ready by 6:10.
Then we waited on the girls. A shocker, I know.
It was an awesome wedding. I’ve known the groom, Matt, since high school. He was the best man at my wedding. And I’ve known Ali, the bride, since middle school.
Jalynne and Braylyn were there, plus my mom and two of my sisters. They had a photo booth with a bunch of props like hats and wigs. We got into the spirit of things, and Jalynne tweeted out a photo of us being ridiculous.
Now to baseball . . .
I thought I’d share a few thoughts on facing a knuckle-baller like R.A. Dickey. I’ve been asked why a good knuckle-baller can make Major Leaguers look like fools. It’s because you have no idea where the pitch is going. I’ve always heard that when you face a knuckle-baller you look for pitches that are up because they’re going to fall into the zone for a strike. The ones that look like strikes are going to drop, so you don’t want to get suckered into swinging.
Dickey, though, can throw a harder knuckleball that just stays high. You think it’s going to drop, so you swing, and you end up flailing at a pitch sailing over your bat. But he also throws a knuckleball that drops straight down. He throws one that drops and goes away. And he throws one that drops and goes in. You have no idea where any of them are going.
You might have noticed that the Jays’ starting catcher didn’t play. I’m sure it’s because he doesn’t even know what the ball’s going to do most of the time. They put a backup catcher in there who’s more experienced – and who uses a huge glove like a first-baseman’s glove to wrangle in the pitches.
Dickey kills you with his different speeds, too. No matter what the speed, the pitch looks exactly the same coming out of his hand. Against us, he threw from 66 to about 78. That’s a 12-mph difference on the same pitch. Pretty rough as a batter. Think of a guy throwing a fastball at 88 and then 100. That just doesn’t happen.
So my mindset going up against him? I’m still trying to figure it out. I don’t have a hit off him yet.
I was asked, too, about going to the mound on Wednesday in the second inning with a runner on first. What was I talking to Zito about?
Zito had pointed to Scutaro, which indicated that if Zito fielded a comebacker, he expected to throw to Marco, not me, at second. It’s important that a pitcher establishes who’s going to take the throw so he knows who to look for. Otherwise, he could throw it to the wrong guy and the ball ends up in center field.
You might think it would be simpler to always have me take the throw on a comebacker to avoid confusion and to maximize our chances of turning the double play. But sometimes I’m positioned toward third base – for a right-handed pull hitter, for example — and might not be able to get to the bag quickly enough. So the pitcher will let us know he’ll be looking for the second-baseman to take the throw.
In the situation Wednesday, Rasmus was coming to bat. A lefty. But because he’s hit Zito to the opposite field a few times, I moved more to the right than I normally would for a lefty. So Ziti pointed to Marco, figuring he would be in a better position to take the throw.
I went to the mound to tell Zito that I was fine to take the throw, that I wasn’t over too far. If there had been a particularly fast runner at first, then maybe I’d want Marco to cover. But that wasn’t the case. We quickly got it straightened out and I returned to my position.
Rasmus flew out to Hunter, as it turned out. But you have to make sure everybody on the field is on the same page on every single detail. One error, as we all know, can break open an inning.
OK, now that you’re all nodding off, I’ll stop here. I love all the inside baseball stuff, but I’m sure not everyone else does. Thanks for reading it.
See you at the park when we get back.
P.S. I tried to think of a good answer to island girl’s question in the comments section about prom and graduation, but I really don’t have any interesting stories. (I did not give the valedictory speech, in case you were wondering.)
The good thing about a baseball season is it’s 162 games.
That can be the bad thing about it, too.
When you’re on a really rough skid like we are, it can feel like you’re on the bus in “Speed.’’ You’re just hurtling. There’s no time to step back and get yourself righted.
I got home from last night’s loss around 12:45, fell asleep around 1:45, got up at 8:15 and was back at the park by 9:30. During a baseball season, you don’t usually get a breather just when you want it, or need it. You’ve got another game to play. Then another and another.
But that’s the good thing about 162 games, too — you’ve got another game to play. And another and another. You can redeem a loss almost immediately. You don’t have to dwell on the mistakes and missed opportunities. You can get the bat and glove right back on your hands and wipe the slate clean. You can start a winning streak.
Losing streaks and winning streaks are kind of equally mysterious – why they happen, why they end, why they began. You put in your work the same as always. You’re as competitive as always. You’re focused. You’re prepared. All of it. Then the game unfolds in unexpected ways. As Marty Lurie says, “That’s baseball.’’
I don’t see guys in here hanging their heads. We all have short memories. We have to. You probably wouldn’t last very long if you didn’t. I go home after every game – good or bad – and see Jalynne and Braylyn and forget about what happened on the field. They wipe the slate clean. I come to the ballpark the next day with a new attitude, ready to play. I think my teammates are the same way.
Today is getaway day. We have a three-hour flight to St. Louis, then play a night game there tomorrow. It isn’t exactly a night game for us because of the two-hour time difference. It’s a late afternoon game California time. So again, a pretty short turnaround.
Then we’re back to SF Sunday night and have an off day Monday. We play two games here against Toronto and have another off day Thursday. I have absolutely no plans for the off days. I’m just going to relax.
I had a great time our last off day, which was last Thursday. Jalynne, her sister Jamie and I went to Sonoma to do some wine tasting. I’ve lived in the Bay Area all my life and I had never been to either Sonoma or Napa.
I know. Pretty amazing.
Here’s how it came about. Jalynne watches “The Bachelor.’’ I say “she’’ but I actually got sucked into it, too. We got in touch with Ben, who was the Bachelor two seasons ago. He and a few friends and family have a winery called Envolve in Sonoma. Ben’s a big Giants fan, so he invited us up. We spent the afternoon at his tasting room on the square in Sonoma. I’m not a big wine guy, so I stuck mostly with the whites. Maybe I’ll grow to like the reds but I’m not much of a drinker in general, so it might not happen. We had a great time, though, and afterward had lunch at The Red Grape.
It’s about an hour or so til game time. I’m going to grab some food. Then we’ve got Zeets on the mound. I like our chances.
I just got off the phone with Ryan Theriot. The guy really makes me laugh. He’s home in Baton Rouge and keeps in touch pretty regularly. He had looked at the box score and saw I was still hitting well. He didn’t notice the errors.
“Three in the last three games,’’ I told him. “Kind of weird. I had three errors total before that.’’
They were all kind of dumb errors. On a steal attempt, the ball tipped off my glove because I tried to be too quick on the tag. The runner was probably safe anyway, so it was just dumb.
On a cutoff throw, I tried to see where the runner was at first. I took my eye off the ball at the last second, it tipped off my glove and the guy went to second. Another error.
Then yesterday on a double play, I didn’t think Zito was looking at me as he ran to cover first. I was trying to hold onto the ball, but it was already too late and I threw it 20 feet from first base. Another error.
Theriot and I were talking about what’s worse –the booted grounders or the weird, easily preventable errors. I think weird ones are worse because you just want to kick yourself. A ground ball might take a bad hop and there’s not much you can do about it.
Anyway, it was great to talk to Theriot and be able to see at least a little humor in the stupid stuff you still find yourself doing sometimes – even after you’ve played baseball for so long.
Having said that, I’m going out now to take extra ground balls before batting practice.
It was great to get home last night. The plane was maybe a little quieter than usual, but we’re not a team that pouts or panics. It’s May. We have three-quarters of the season left. Once in a while you just don’t play good baseball. Midway through last season, we had that terrible road trip, losing five of six games to Washington and Pittsburgh, I think. Then we came out the second half and did what we did.
And remember we took three of four from Atlanta. That was just a little over a week ago. It’s just the way baseball goes sometimes.
When we landed at SFO, I rode the team bus to the park, picked up my car then crossed the bridge to pick up Jalynne and Braylyn at the Oakland Airport. They came in from LA where they were visiting Jalynne’s parents. The timing was perfect. Braylyn was fussing a little when they got off the plane. When she saw me, she broke into a big smile.
Nothing better than that. Puts everything in perspective.
I was happy to get two hits yesterday, given the skid I’ve been on. But I’d rather have an 0-fer and win than get a bunch of hits and lose.
I started the year so well at the plate, then the hits just stopped coming. You try everything to figure out what you’re doing wrong. I’ve put videos ofmy swing from the past week side-by-side with my swing from the first few weeks. My mechanics are exactly the same.
I was particularly stumped by a fly ball I hit recently to left field for an out. An identical swing on an almost identical pitch resulted in an opposite-field home run last month. What was the difference? I saw it on a slow-motion replay. On the home run, the ball hit the bat square. On the fly ball, it hit a few millimeters off center. A fraction of a fraction of an inch. That’s how thin the line is between success and failure at the plate.
The toughest part of going through a slump is maintaining your confidence and keeping a consistent mental approach. Hitting is all about that. The thing is, almost any kind of swing can be successful. Look at Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro. They have completely different swings,but they’re both good hitters. And they’re both confident in the swings they have, so it works for them.
I think maybe there are certain times when I’m trying to do too much instead of just seeing the ball and hitting it like I was earlier. Maybe I’m overthinking what the pitcher might be throwing.Or I’m trying to pull the ball in certain situations instead of just staying up the middle.
During the game, your teammates aren’t going to offer too many suggestions. They’re busy with their own stuff. But the other day in batting practice, Buster said I was pulling my front shoulder off the ball a little bit. So I tried to incorporate that into my batting practice, keeping the shoulder closed and putting the ball up the middle or the opposite field.
I never lose my confidence on the field. Even when I was getting criticized early last season for errors, I didn’t lose my confidence because I have no doubts about defense. If you can play defense in the minors, you can play at the Major League level. A ground ball is pretty much a ground ball.But hitting in the Major Leagues is different from the minors because the pitching is better. It’s an adjustment. It takes time to develop the same sense of invincibility at the plate that you feel in the field.
A blog reader asked about “the weird pad’’ on my left hand when I’m batting. I think he’s talking about the thumb guard (see the photo). A lot of guys wear them. It keeps the handle of the bat from sinking into the webbing between your index finger and thumb. I think it makes for a quicker bat. And you don’t feel the sting as much when you get jammed. I’ve been using it my whole pro career.
Then when I get on base, I take off the thumb guard and gloves and put on a different thumb guard. I sprained my thumb at the beginning of last year so I wore it all season to protect it when I slide headfirst. This year I jammed the thumb again putting down a tag at second on Carlos Gomez, so I’ve put the thumb guard back on.
A follow-up from the previous blog post. We ended up not going to Sea World in San Diego. One of Jalynne’s nieces was sick. So we walked along the coast to Seaport Village with the dog and the stroller. It was great – and we didn’t have to pay $150 or whatever to watch a sea otter show that Braylyn won’t even remember.
It was also great to go back to our new home in Arizona when we played the Diamondbacks. The best part was sleeping in my own bed. My bed in Arizona is a lot more comfortable than the one here. The bed here is the same cheap one we bought when I was called up from the minor leagues. It might be time for a new one.
A few thoughts on the Dodger series and our tendency to play close games. I think it was Hunter who said we’re addicted to one-run games. We do our best to make sure it’s a one-run game whether up by a lot of runs or down by a lot of runs. That Saturday game, we were up 5-0 and thinking maybe we’d make it 10-0. Then all of a sudden we’re losing and have to come back and win 10-9.
Flan jokes that maybe it has something to do with the yin/yang, fiery/laid-back pairings in our batting lineup. You start with Pagan and Scutaro, then Pablo and Buster, then Hunter and either me or Belt, then Blanco and either me or Belt. It’s an interesting observation, isn’t it?
OK, I’ll be late to the park if I go on any more. Let’s hope for a better game today than the first two against Philly.
I loved giving Pablo a hard time when I had more home runs than he did.
“Yeah,’’ he’d say, “talk to me in September.’’
I had to get my shots in while I could.
It’s great hitting home runs, believe me. I had four all last season and have three already this year. But to tell you the truth I take just as much pride in laying down a crucial sacrifice bunt, like the one last night in the ninth inning.
Sacrifice bunts might not get the scoreboard flashing and the water spouting, but they are noticed by your teammates. They know you did your job and that it was a key to winning the game. My job last night was to move Torres into scoring position, just as in the fourth game of the World Series it was to move Theriot into scoring position. In each situation, the next batter got a hit that scored the runner. If the runner is still at first, he doesn’t score.
OK, so laying down the sac bunt isn’t as much fun as getting the winning hit. You’re not in the newspaper the next day or on the highlights that night. But you know what you did. Last night, after everyone punched Belt in the ribs a few times, my teammates congratulated me on the bunt. I point this out to make the point that winning is a team effort. When you stop playing as a team, you stop winning.
I was really happy for Belt getting the big hit after scuffling the way he has. He was definitely due for a good rip.
People have been asking me why I’m hitting better this year. I made an adjustment in the spring. Former Fresno manager Steve Decker, who’s now the organizational hitting coordinator, was in the batting cage with me down in Arizona. I was warming up as I usually do by hitting off the tee, and Decker was placing the balls on the tee. I think I’ve written about my routine before, about how I position the tee in nine different locations so I practice my swing as if the pitch were in different locations – high, middle, low, inside, over the plate and outside.
Later during batting practice, Decker told me to swing as if I were hitting off the tee at its highest point. That meant I stood taller. My hands were higher. My front shoulder, which usually turned in toward the plate, now stayed more stationary. It was a simpler and shorter approach. It allowed me to have a flatter swing, so I got more backspin, which meant the ball had more of an upward trajectory.
Soon after that, Hunter and I were working on our hitting in Scottsdale while most of the team were playing on the road.
“You’re getting your hands up really well,’’ Hunter said.
We talked about mechanics and why this tweak made a difference.
And it has. I would not have hit an opposite field home run, as I did in Milwaukee, with my old stance.
In Chicago, a group of us went out to dinner – Affeldt, Buster, Hunter, Nick Noonan, Bumgarner, Javy, a couple more, I can’t remember everybody. (Belt didn’t go. He went to the movies by himself. He claims he didn’t know about it.) One of the highlights of any meal is watching Bum eat. It’s entertaining to marvel at the amount and the speed.
When it was time to pay, we considered the old “throw your credit card in’’ game. I quickly pulled an old hotel key-card and tossed it on the table. But in the end, Buster and Hunter split the bill. The one advantage to making less money is you don’t pick up too many checks. But I got Starbuck’s for Buster one day. I think we’re even.
Jalynne, Braylyn and I are flying down to San Diego right after the game tomorrow. We’re going to spend the off day at Sea World with Jalynne’s sister and her two little daughters. I don’t know how much Braylyn will appreciate the killer whales and sea otters, but I know she’ll enjoy herself. She lights up at the smallest things these days. I hated to leave her today to go to the ballpark because she was laughing at everything and having such a great time. Glad she and Jalynne will be on this road trip!