So where was I? Oh, right. August 13. We were 4.5 games behind the Dodgers. We had lost five in a row before finally beating the White Sox.
A lot has happened since then.
You might have seen it.
Belt, Gregor Blanco and I stopped blogging when the team was struggling so much mid-season. And then we started to win. Not that blogging had anything to do with anything. But we figured we’d just focus on winning and, well, you know the rest.
Now that the season is over, and I’ve had a month to rest — sort of (more on that later) — I’m blogging again.
First, I’m really happy for Bum getting SI’s Sportsman of the Year. I haven’t read the story yet, but I hear he sounds a bit like Paul Bunyan. Bum apparently tells the tale of hacking up a snake during spring training last year and finding two baby jackrabbits inside it still alive. I had heard Hunter tell that story when MLB network asked us to do our best impression of Bum. The story was so outrageous I assumed Hunter had made it up. I guess not. Only Bum.
Nothing fazed him the entire postseason — so much so that it was almost kind of weird after Game 5 of the World Series. He had just thrown a complete game shutout in the WORLD SERIES and it was like, “Oh, just another day.’’ Like it was the Diamondbacks in June. I think I was more excited than he was. During the season, you’d see him give a fist-pump after a third out every once in a while. I don’t remember any of that in the World Series.
One thing that wasn’t in the SI story was Bum’s obsession with his hair during the postseason. Every day he was scheduled to pitch, or if there was going to be introductions, you’d know it just by the way his hair looked when he walked into the clubhouse. It was all curly and perfect. His wife Ali gelled it and scrunched it at home then sprayed it to keep it in place. You could whack Bum on the back and he wouldn’t bat an eye, but don’t go anywhere near the hair. He was real sensitive.
I’m also really happy for Joe Panik getting the Gibby (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) Award for his diving stop and glove flip to me at second for the double play in Game 7 of the World Series. I’ve probably watched the replay 50 times. It’s on a commercial on MLB network, so that was a few dozen times right there. And I watched it on MLB.com’s Statcast. It shows that Joe went 18.5 feet to get the ball and flipped it to me in .83 seconds. I released it in .77 seconds and threw it 72 mph to get Eric Hosmer at first. Pretty cool information that we usually don’t see. And pretty cool for me just to relive it.
I’m at home in Arizona now. We spent about a week after the season in the Bay Area with my family then spent time in LA with Jalynne’s family and took Braylyn to Disneyland for the first time. (We bought a season pass, so there is more Disneyland in my future. We’re going again in a week to take my niece.) We were back in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving then finally settled back into our house in Arizona — without either set of grandparents or siblings to help with the girls.
As tired as I was at the end of the World Series — mentally as much as physically — let me tell you that two children under two years old is more exhausting than baseball. They’re nonstop. Our first week in Arizona, I was drained every day. Jalynne managed to schedule them to nap at the same time, so we have a small window of time in the middle of the day to catch our breath.
I took a month off from working out and started up again about a week ago at the Giants minor league facility. I did pretty light workouts but was still ridiculously sore the next day.
I haven’t seen many guys since the season ended, but I’ve been in touch more with Javy Lopez than anyone because we’re co-owners in Fantasy Football. Now that I think about it, just about all contact I’ve had with guys is about Fantasy Football. I think we’re all taking a break from baseball in general. It will be starting up again soon enough. Right now is time for family.
We’ll be spending Christmas in LA with Jalynne’s family. Christmas is a lot different when you have kids – way more fun. Hope all of you have great holidays with your families and friends. Thanks for reading and for all the amazing support you gave us through the entire season. Loved seeing everyone at the parade. I promise to post again soon! And I’ll try to get Belt back on here, too!
That seventh inning was like a burst of pent-up hits. Last few games, we’ve been battling back but haven’t gotten that big hit to put us over the top. Of course, it would be Angel to do it today — the guy we’d been missing. He got the big two-run single, then we piled on. People say hitting is contagious. I don’t know why that would be. It’s a weird baseball thing that really seems to be true.
I had a front-row seat to the play at home that got White Sox manager Robin Ventura tossed from the game. I was on deck when Gregor was tagged out for what would have been the second out of the seventh. Bochy challenged the call. The officials in New York decided Blanco was safe. They said the catcher blocked the plate, a violation of the new catchers’ rule.
I’m glad the call went our way, of course, but I think they have to change the rule. I know I’m not alone in this. The White Sox catcher just had his leg blocking the plate — something that’s allowed at every other base. It shouldn’t be illegal at home. It’s part of baseball. It’s one thing if he had his entire body there. But you should be able to have your leg.
If a catcher is completely off the plate while he waits for the throw, he has to catch the ball then reach back for the tag. As a middle infielder, I know how hard that is. In Pittsburgh, I was covering second on a steal. I caught the ball, reached out and put my glove in front of the bag, expecting the runner to slide into it. But he did a kind of swim move with his arm and maneuvered around the tag. I still probably got him, but he was called safe.
So what’s happening at home is more guys are sliding head first, or more accurately hands first. For a catcher, it’s hard to reach back and tag a guy when his arms can be doing all kinds of maneuvers to avoid the tag.
I’m sure the rule will be revisited and probably changed this off-season. But of course I’m glad it helped us today.
We almost broke through with a big inning last night, too. We had three straight hits in the ninth. Then the second baseman makes that spectacular double-play on Panik’s ground ball. Given my struggles at the plate, I was glad to come through with a single to tie the game, especially against their closer and down to my last strike.
But I must say I was glad not to face Chris Sale again. He’s one of the best pitchers I’ve ever seen. He’s like 6-6 and 150 pounds, just arms and legs. And he throws from way down here so it seems that every pitch is going behind me. His slider breaks about three feet. He starts the game throwing around 96 to 98 mph. He throws his change-up to lefties, too, which not a whole lot of guys do. He is so tough. To be honest, I’d put him right up there with Kershaw.
It’s nice to go into our off-day tomorrow on a high note (unlike our off-day on Monday . . . ) I will be at the Bayview YMCA in San Francisco from 12 to 1:30 supporting their Red Cross blood drive. Joaquin Arias will be there, too. Jalynne’s brother, Jeremy Dantzscher, works for the Red Cross in Southern California. He knows somebody here helping with the blood drive, and when he heard Joaquin was going over there, he asked if I’d go too.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully you’ll have a post from Belt soon. I know he’s been having tests to figure out why he’s still having concussion symptoms. I’m not having nearly as many laughs without my locker mate here. Hope he’s back soon.
August 13, 2014
I know the last two days against the Dodgers haven’t shown it, and we’re dealing with injuries to key guys, but we feel really strong starting the second half of the season. That 14-inning game in Philadelphia told you everything you need to know about this team: We battle. It’s kind of our signature since at least the 2012 post-season. Whether we’re struggling through a few-week stretch or a six-hour game, we fight.
I was happy to get that double in the top of the 14th to put us ahead. But I would have been happy with anybody getting a hit at that point. I received a lot of the credit after the game, but Buster’s home run in the ninth to tie the game was just as big or bigger than mine. Papelbon hadn’t given up a home run all season. And the bullpen was awesome — eight innings and they gave up only one run.
I’ve joked — well, I’m actually kind of serious — about wanting to pitch sometime in a game. But I knew Bochy had to go with Colvin or Blanco if the Phillies had tied it up in the bottom of the 14th and we went to the 15th. There were no position players left on the bench, so Timmy — who pitched the 14th — would have had to stay in the game and play the field. There’s no way Bochy could let me pitch and put Timmy at shortstop. He’d have to play in the outfield, so that meant either Colvin or Blanco would have to pitch. Luckily, it didn’t come to that.
You might have read about the virus or whatever that’s been lingering in the clubhouse for what seems like months now. I’ve had it at least a month if not more, and it’s finally gone. I think Miami shook it out of me. Or maybe it was the All-Star break. I spent the break very quietly, as I mentioned I would in my last post. I saw my grandma one day. Another day we went to Buster’s to hang out and let the kids play. Braylyn, who’s a year and a half, is still a little new to playing with other kids because she hasn’t had many opportunities. But she was good with Buster and Kristen’s twins, who are three. Javy and Renee Lopez were also there with their two kids — their son is almost two and their daughter is four, I think. (I’m not good at guessing ages.) Braylyn would go play with something and want to play by herself. Then she’d join the other kids. She loved the pool. Buster grilled up some hot dogs and hamburgers. It was just a really great, relaxing summer day. When you have so few off days, you really appreciate each one, especially the ones that aren’t crammed with errands and appointments.
So since have some down time during All-Star break, I’ve been feeling much better at the plate. My first at-bat in Miami was maybe my best at-bat all season. I stayed in against Eovaldi for 10 pitches before hitting a two-run homer on the 11th pitch, a 97-mph fastball. I was happy to fight off some pretty good pitches then square up like that. I hit balls hard in the series even if they didn’t translate into hits all the time. When I feel like that at the plate, I know the hits will start to come.
Playing the Dodgers this weekend got me thinking about my favorite Dodgers-Giants memories from when I was a kid. I kind of remember the Brian Johnson game in 1997 when he hit the game-winning home run in the 12th inning to sweep the Dodgers and move into a tie for first place. I’m pretty sure I was at Candlestick for the game that day, but I was really young so I don’t remember it well.
The moment I really remember from the Dodgers-Giants rivalry is kind of unusual. It was a single at-bat. Bonds was facing Cy Young winner Eric Gagne. It was early in the 2004 season. The Dodgers were ahead 3-0 in the ninth. One out. Runner at first. I was at the game with my dad. Gagne was throwing 100 mph fastballs, one after another. Every player not on the field hung over the dugout rails watching power against power.
Bonds fouled the first pitch past the Dodgers dugout.
Then he took a called strike inside — 99 mph.
Ball inside — 100 mph.
Foul into the stands behind the plate.
Towering foul into McCovey Cove off a 101-mph fastball.
Then Gagne threw another fastball — 100 mph this time. Bonds hit it into the center field bleachers.
I thought, “Wow.’’ Bonds just kept battling. The Giants lost, but I’ll never forget that at-bat.
(Full disclosure: I looked up the exact pitch sequence. I didn’t remember every single pitch.)
What’s your favorite Giants-Dodgers moment?
July 27, 2014
With the All-Star Game tonight, I was thinking about how I watched it as a kid. I was a huge Giants fan, but also a baseball fan in general. I liked seeing the players line up before the game because back then, before Twitter and MLB network, I didn’t necessarily know who had made the team.
I was one of those kids who collected all the players’ cards. I’m sure they’re all still at my parents’ house. My dad has plenty of cards and memorabilia that he hasn’t thrown away, so I’m sure he hasn’t thrown away mine. He collected cards from football, baseball, some basketball. He has a boxing glove signed by Muhammad Ali, a Joe Montana football, a lot of cool stuff he got signed at card shows.
That was a big thing for us, the card shows. I’d go with my dad even when I was really young. My dad tells the story of Gaylord Perry holding me as a toddler while my dad took a picture.
It’s kind of funny now going to those cards shows and being one of the people who are signing. The shows are a lot different now. My dad said he’d sit there and talk to a guy for a while because nobody else would be around. Now there’s so much security. They put us in the chairs and tell people no pictures except while we’re signing. They want to get as many people through as possible.
I hope people know it’s not the players refusing to take photos or take time to chat. It’s the people holding the event wanting it to move quickly. So it’s changed a bit since I was going to the shows with my dad. But it’s so cool just to be there and sign stuff for people who want my autograph. It’s cool to think my card might be in a kid’s binder or box.
For me, it’s still kind of amazing seeing Will Clark here in the clubhouse so often, and hitting with Barry Bonds in spring training, and seeing Willie Mays almost every day. I was able to get Mays to sign my dad’s copy of Sports Illustrated from 1970 with Mays on the cover for getting his 3,000th hit. And my dad got to sit with Willie McCovey for a few innings in spring training this year. He doesn’t get real excited about things, but he seemed pretty excited about that.
Thinking about the cards, I remember reading Sports Illustrated for Kids in elementary school. Every issue had nine cardboard cards that you tore out of the magazine. I collected those like I collected every other card. They’d have athletes from other sports — swimmers, basketball players, gymnasts. Years and years later, I was talking with Jalynne and she mentioned the name of a gymnast she knew through her sister (who was an Olympic gymnast). The name sounded familiar to me. Then I remembered.
“I think I have her card!’’
I’m sure I’ll watch the All-Star game tonight because I know we’ll be home. Other than visiting my grandparents in Lincoln (near Sacramento), we’re just hanging out and relaxing during the break. I didn’t watch the home run derby last night. What’s the point if Bum’s not in it? Jalynne leaves tomorrow for LA so she’ll be with her parents during our road trip. The team leaves for Miami Thursday morning.
See you at the park when we return. Thanks for reading.
If the National League wants to win the Home Run Derby, they should pick Hunter Pence to fill the last spot on the squad. Nobody hits home runs in BP like Hunter. He drops bombs out there every day. Morse, too. Morse hits them farther, but Hunter hits more on a day-to-day basis. It’s crazy. He just crushes them. He’d be an awesome home run derby participant. So I’m throwing it out there.
I’m not a BP home run hitter. When I get a home run, like I did in San Diego, it’s not because I’m swinging for the fences. I try to hit line drives, and some go out of the park. Right now, I’m still inconsistent at the plate after eight weeks out of the lineup. It’s frustrating because I want to be 100 percent right away to help the team, and my timing is still not completely back. You can only progress so far when you’re rehabbing in the minor leagues. Playing in Triple A and playing up here are two totally different things. You have to come back up here to make the adjustments.
One thing you might not know: When you’re the big leaguer rehabbing in the minors, you buy the spread. You order from a restaurant or whatever and pick up the tab. And you tip people for helping you out. In both Fresno and San Jose, I bought the spread and tipped the clubbies. You can rack up quite a bill on a rehab assignment. It’s a good incentive not to get hurt.
We’re going through such a tough stretch right now that you can forget one of the basic facts about baseball: It’s a long season. The way we’re playing right now is just that: right now. We’ll turn this thing around. We have to come ready to battle every day and do all the little things well and think only about how we can help the team win.
On Sunday in San Diego, I led off the sixth inning with a bunt. I know some people might have questioned that. I’ll tell you my thinking. The Padres had a shift on against me. There was a huge hole up the third-base line. If they’re going to give me room to bunt, I’m going to bunt if that is what can get me on base. That’s what this team needs right now — to get guys on base and score some runs. Do I want to bunt? Not really. But I want to do whatever I can to help the team. It didn’t work out, but that was my thinking.
Now to the movie reviews. I’ve seen a lot since my last post. For those who missed it, I have a new rating system. I now use a letter grade and a Haylee grade: Haylee awake (HA), Haylee sleeping (HS) or Haylee not available (HN/A).
22 Jump Street: One of the best sequels I’ve seen. Hilarious. You should see it.
Rating: A- and HA (and LHAO).
Cold in July: I watched this in the hotel in San Diego but I couldn’t finish because it still wasn’t over at 1:30 a.m. and I had to get some sleep. The next night we didn’t get home in enough time to finish it. But I liked it enough to share it with you. It takes place in East Texas, though I couldn’t figure out where. There’s a robber who comes to this guy’s house. The guy kills the robber. Then the dad of the robber comes back and tries to kill the guy as revenge for killing his son. Come to find out later it wasn’t really his son that died. It’s the police setting all this stuff up. It’s complicated. An actor named Don Johnson plays a detective. I’ve seen him in other movies, and he’s really good in this one.
Tammy: It was absolutely terrible. Haylee wasn’t feeling it; I wasn’t feeling it. I said, “Do you want to go?’’ We walked out. I was also a little tired. We had just gotten back to Alamo from San Diego and went to the 9 o’clock showing. Melissa McCarthy was so funny in her last movie, but this was bad.
Rating: F and HA (but not interested).
Divergent: It takes place sometime in the future. People are given roles in society, and they take these tests to figure out what their role should be. This girl is tested and she doesn’t fit into any role, so she’s what they call a divergent. They try do away with these people because they can’t control them. So it’s her dealing with that the entire movie, going through tons of stuff. It’s pretty cool. I’m guessing there will be sequels. I’ll watch the next one, for sure.
Rating: B and HS. (It was kind of late at night and it was a two-hour movie.)
The Other Woman: It had terrible reviews, but I heard a lot of women say they loved it. It wasn’t that great. It didn’t make me laugh that much. I’m also not a huge Cameron Diaz person. Leslie Mann’s all right for the most part. Just not my cup of tea.
Rating: C and HS. (Again it was late.)
Transcendence: These people upload a guy’s consciousness onto a computer because he has a brilliant mind and he’s about to die. When his consciousness is let loose over the internet for the whole word to use, he has unlimited capability to do whatever. He makes advances in the medical field and things like that, but after a while he starts taking advantage of it and doing more harm than good. They have to kind of take care of the situation. It stars Johnny Depp and the girl from The Town.
Rating: C+ and HA.
I also watched Phenomenon with John Travolta the other night for the 10 millionth time, and it’s still great. It’s funny. It’s dramatic. It’s not my favorite movie, but it’s one I can watch over and over. I like the soundtrack, too. I watched True Lies again, too, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis. Really good movie.
Update on Lilly: She’s good. No more diarrhea. But she took the longest dump today at the park. She pooped, was finished, then she did it like five more times. She wouldn’t stop. Five right in a row. By the end it was just little bitty ones coming out. It was just ridiculous.
We’re taking Lilly to Texas with us for the All-Star break. We tried out a tranquilizer on her because she got so anxious on the plane last time. We gave her half a tablet (which we got from the vet) to see how she responded. It’s supposed to take 20 to 30 minutes to kick in. Ten minutes later, she squatted to take a pee and just fell over and continued to pee on herself. Not sure what that means for flying.
July 10, 2014
There’s a lot to catch up on. It was great, of course, to win the last two games in San Diego. I’ve been pretty awful at the plate, so I was really happy to make the play in the ninth on Saturday to keep the winning run from scoring. Belt ought to thank me for giving him a chance to hit the two-run homer in the 10th. Nice to have him back, by the way. Looking forward to getting Pagan back soon, too, and hopefully Scutaro, too.
Do I think the team meeting we had on Friday made a difference over the weekend? I do. As we told the media, we talked about having fun and being excited for each other. We were doing more of that earlier in the season. I’m not sure if we started taking things for granted. Of course, it’s kind of a chicken and egg thing. Are we a little flat because we’ve lost a little of our enthusiasm? Or are we not showing as much enthusiasm because there is less to be enthusiastic about?
Now to answer some of your questions and comments.
It was really cool. Braylyn loved all the dogs. I had the opportunity to walk with one of the guide dogs while wearing a blindfold. I have to tell you, it requires a lot of faith. The dogs know exactly what they’re doing — they can tell you when you’re at a curb, or if there’s something in your way, even if a tree branch is hanging low. But I didn’t know the dog’s signals so I wasn’t a very good partner. It’s crazy how fast you think you’re walking when you have a blindfold on. And I kept walking toward the left because it felt like the dog was pulling me that way even though he wasn’t. A really interesting experience.
What did I do July 4th in San Diego?
I watched fireworks with Jalynne and the girls from our hotel window.
How do I keep my composure during a no-hitter or perfect game?
It’s a lot easier during a no-hitter. You’re rooting for your pitcher just like the fans are, so you’re kind of nervous for him. If there’s a ground ball you want to make the play for him. You’d rather the scorekeeper give you an error than have it mess up a no-hitter. It’s way more nerve-wracking in perfect game. If you make an error, you’ve messed it up. In Cain’s perfect game, that’s probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in a game — more than the World Series, anything. I went in cold off the bench in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement. Arias started at shortstop that game, then moved to third when Pablo came out. Sometimes a ball can take a bad hop and hit you in the chest and suddenly you’re the guy who messed up the perfect game. I fielded one grounder and made the play.
Do players talk of a perfect game or a no-hitter in the dugout?
Sometimes it sneaks up on you. I didn’t realize Timmy had a no-hitter til the fifth or sixth inning. I remember seeing a hard hit and thinking, “They haven’t had a baserunner for a while.’’ I looked up at the scoreboard. “OK, that’s probably why. They have no hits.’’ As for not talking about in the dugout, I didn’t use the word no-hitter but I think I might have said, “Timmy has more hits than the Padres.’’
Did my dad ever coach me in Little League?
Was it beneficial?
Yes, but it didn’t always feel that way at the time. He was always hardest on me, but that probably made me better. I’d play harder because I wanted him to get off my back!
And people can say you’re a starter or you made the All-Star team because your dad’s the coach. That made me work harder to prove that wasn’t the case. My dad is not my coach any more but he still tells me stuff. Once a coach, always a coach.
Is there any sort of hierarchy for calling fly balls?
Good question. There is a hierarchy. The center fielder has priority over everybody — outfielders and infielders. Outfielders have priority over infielders. If there’s a popup between the OF and the IF, it’s an easier play for the OF. The shortstop has priority over all infielders. If the ball’s near second base and the shortstop is calling for it, he has priority. If it’s in shallow left field behind third base, and I’m calling for it, Pablo backs off. Infielders have priority over the catcher. And everybody has priority over the pitcher. A pitcher would catch a fly ball only if it’s a low pop-up that only he can reach. You don’t see it very often.
How do the players get to the ballpark?
And leaving after the game? Do you have drivers or do you drive yourself? We drive ourselves. There’s a parking lot for the players.
Thanks for reading and for leaving all the comments and questions. Looking forward to our four games against the A’s!
July 7, 2014
Why not buy a house in the Bay Area? One reason is it’s so expensive. Also, Arizona is kind of in between Jalynne’s family and mine. And we can be in our home during spring training. But eventually we’d like to have a house here in the Bay Area.
Did Hicks and I wear our pants up in New York as a tribute to Belt? No. Hicks said he was wearing his pants up that day, probably just to change things up, and he asked me if I’d wear them up, too. So I did. There were strong opinions here in the clubhouse that I look better with my calves covered. I think they’re jealous.
Toughest part of playing shortstop in the Majors? The speed of the game. The runners, ground balls — everything’s faster. It’s a cliche, but if you don’t step back and take it one pitch at a time, one play at a time, things can kind of spiral on you.
Favorite restaurant in the Bay Area? La Fogata, a Mexican place in Walnut Creek. With two babies, we’re doing more take-out now than eating at the restaurant.
What position I’d play for one game if I could? Pitcher, just to see how I’d do. I still occasionally throw pitches to Pablo during warmups. Maybe Bochy will take notice . . .
Question about whether it’s a good idea for a 9-year-old to play only baseball all year round: When I was nine, I played basketball, soccer and baseball. At 12, I stopped soccer and took up football. Those other sports help your athleticism. You’re not focused on just a few movements. In baseball, you’re using your arm all the time. In soccer I was using my legs and developing a different kind of agility. If you’re a little kid and you’re only playing one sport, you might get burned out. It’s ridiculous how many travel teams there are now. I’d say every American guy on the Giants played another sport, not just baseball.
Does having family members in the stands affect how you play? At this point, no.
Funniest or craziest thing a fan or rival has yelled to throw off my concentration? I’ve heard people yell, “Get a haircut’’ and “Nice mullet’’. I know there have been funnier things but I can’t really think of anything specific.
Strangest thing you’ve been asked to sign? A female fan asked me to sign a certain body part which I did not do. I think she was a little surprised and maybe a little upset. Some kids have asked me to sign their hands or arms and I ask, “Do your parents know I’m doing this?’’ Other than that, I’ve signed people’s shoes, phones, things like that. I say, “You know this doesn’t come off, right?’’
How many times did you laugh making the commercial with Belt? We did about 20 takes, and I’d say 15 were ruined by laughing. It was mostly Belt laughing. I was trying to game-face him. We had a lot of fun.
When my Dad didn’t let me play baseball once because I got a C, what class was it? Honors geometry. And it was actually a C+.
How is Team Brandon doing in the hitting competition? Since we lost Belt, our first-round pick, we struggled a little bit last month. Fortunately I got off to a pretty good start this month and Adrianza had some hits. Bam-Bam replaced Belt with Perez, who’s not an everyday starter so he has no chance to rack up a lot of points. When we also lost Adrianza to the DL, we thought we’d get Panik. But he went to a different group. I’m not sure how this game is being played. I’m starting to wonder if it’s rigged.
Is language ever a barrier in the clubhouse? Yes. No one understands Bumgarner. But now we have Hudson as a translator.
Pitcher that gives me the most trouble? I could probably speak for most of the big leagues and say Kershaw.
That’s it for now. Keep your questions coming. I know Belt wants to do a blog before he heads off to San Jose for the start of his rehab assignment. Glad he’s getting closer to being back in the lineup. We need him. Don’t tell him I said that.
June 25, 2014
So glad to be back in the Bay Area, though I had a good time in Arizona, and not just because we took two of three from the D-Backs. Jalynne and the girls were waiting for me at our house in Scottsdale when we arrived from Chicago. They drove in from Los Angeles as we were flying. And the next day was an off-day. What did we do? A whole lot of nothing, which was perfect. We went to breakfast at one of our favorite places, Butters Cafe, then hung out the rest of the day by the pool. We had dinner at another of our favorite places, Blanco, a great Mexican place on Scottsdale Road.
It’s been great to see Joe Panik do so well his first two games in the Majors. He stopped our skid — at least that’s the story he ought to tell his friends back home. And it might actually be true. That fact he did so well in his first start allowed all of us to get excited for him, which inject a nice boost of positive energy into the dugout. After he got that first hit, five guys came out and gave him high fives and big congrats.
We were even more all impressed with his double in the ninth. That was a great at-bat against a lefty, Joe Thatcher, who I personally hate facing. I don’t think there are too many left-handed batters who like facing him. Panik survived Thatcher’s sliders and cutters to drive a two-strike pitch to the opposite field. It shows you how balanced and mature a hitter he is already.
I saw that approach when I played with him during the 2011 fall league the year he was drafted. He had just made the switch from shortstop to second base, and he took to it right away. I doubt there are too many things that rattle Panik, even playing here tonight at AT&T Park for the first time as a Major Leaguer.
During batting practice today, he told me he had played one game in this park — an exhibition last year against the A’s.
“I don’t remember the 421 sign looking quite so far away,’’ he said, referring to the distance to Triples Alley.
He asked me about the wind and how a pop-up to second might play. I said the wind usually comes in from right, but sometimes it will just change its mind and start blowing the other way. So I said you just have to react to the ball and adjust to it while it’s in the air.
He asked, too, about my batting-practice routine. We usually have five rounds every day, sometimes six. That means you get five or six turns at the plate, taking five to eight or nine swings each time. Some players will go in there and hack and try to hit home runs. Hunter, for example. What I do is the same thing I’ve done since spring training. The first round, I lay down two bunts then take seven pitches and try to go middle and opposite field. The second round is situational routines: hit-and-runs, move-’em-over from second, runner on third with infielders back, runner on third with infield in and one out — that sort of thing. Then I have three rounds of five swings. That’s what I do every day.
We do BP rounds by group, with the starting batting order in the first two groups. Group 1 is Hunter, Pablo, Buster, Morse. For some reason Pagan goes in Group 2, so today it was Pagan, Blanco, Colvin, me and Panik.
Panik also asked about my routine defensively during BP. I usually take 15 to 20 grounders and throw to first, then take 15 to 20 more and throw to second as if turning a double-play. I told him if he wanted, he could take ground balls and flip them to me at second. So we did that today.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. In the next blog, I’ll answer your questions. Wow, there are a lot of them!
Thanks for all the notes of congratulations. And the advice. I know I’m gonna need it.
The thumb is getting better but not fast enough for me. The cast is off and I have a protective splint but I pretty much wear it only when I work out and when I sleep (in case I roll over on my thumb). The swelling’s down quite a bit, though it’s probably going to be at least a little swollen for a couple months. But it won’t affect my throwing or hitting. I’m able to tie shoes again though very slowly, so now Haylee doesn’t have to do it. (In case you’re wondering, the Brandons won’t help me with anything. Hicks once helped me take my watch off, but that was it.)
I’m taking grounders every day and flipping the ball over to Shawon Dunston at first. It’s more about getting my legs back in shape — moving side to side again, stopping and cutting. Agility exercises are good but nothing’s better than taking ground balls.
I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed being on the field. You’re used to being out there for seven months straight. You take it for granted. Then you suddenly don’t have it. You’re stuck on the stationary bike in the weight room. So it’s been nice to feel grass under my feet.
Once I get more flexibility and strength back, I’ll probably go to Fresno for a rehab assignment. The last time I was there was 2011. I’m looking forward to seeing guys I haven’t seen since spring training and the folks who work at the park there. And the best part: If I’m in Fresno, it means I’m playing baseball again.
In the meantime, I’m in the dugout talking to whoever’s next to me. Usually it’s about genius stuff. But if you talk enough, there’s going to one thing that comes out kind of stupid. Ninety-nine percent of my conversations I’m a genius, 1 percent I’m an idiot. But everybody likes to change it around to make me out to be 99 percent idiot. I’m a little goofy. I’ll admit it. I’ll say goofy stuff. But if you say one wrong thing in a baseball clubhouse, you get called an idiot for the rest of your life.
Without playing, other things in my life tend to gain more importance than they usually would. Our dog Lilly’s diarrhea, for instance. We’ve taken her to the vet, and they say everything’s normal so it’s probably stress. We were talking to a dog trainer who was telling us we have to change our lifestyle. Lilly wants to be an alpha with Haylee, as if Haylee’s her pup. She growls at people and dogs who get close to Haylee. That’s why she’s stressed out. Now we’re giving her anti-anxiety medicine. Don’t ask me if it’s working on her diarrhea. I haven’t seen her take a dump lately. Haylee’s the one who sees her all the time.
To answer a question one of you had about naming our baby: No, we will not be naming him Brandon after Crawford.
Now for the movie reviews. I’m changing my grading scale. Now it’s going to be letters — A, B, C, D — so I can get pluses and minuses in there. And I’ll have a second rating: Haylee awake (HA), Haylee sleeping (HS) or Haylee not available (HN/A).
Edge of Tomorrow: Some alien life form has landed on earth and they’re starting to pretty much take over the world. They can’t be defeated. They constantly evolve. Tom Cruise is a marketing guy who somehow gets thrown into the mix. He kills an alien and its blood gets in his body. So now he has the ability to start the day over. Every time he dies he starts the day over. Kind of a Groundhog Day thing. He’s trying to figure out how to defeat this alien race. Emily Blunt is the best solider in the world basically. She has had this power before so that’s why Tom Cruise is going to her. He has to repeat everything he’s said to her every single day, but she says, “Hey, when you die come back and find me again. We got to keep on doing this until we figure it out.’’ It’s more realistic than most sci-fi movies. I’ve seen those movies before, but this is by far the best one I’ve seen. It’s my favorite movie of the year so far. I highly recommend it.
Rating: A and HA.
A Million Ways to Die in the West: I can’t tell you what it’s about because it only kind of has a plot. It’s basically a movie to see how many random funny scenes they could put into one movie, and a lot of the scenes aren’t funny. In fact they were pretty stupid. Usually I like movies like that, but this one was boring. It’s no MacGruber. Save your money.
Rating: D. HN/A. (I saw it on our road trip to Cincinnati with Cain, Affeldt and Buster after we ate at Five Guys Burgers. They all thought it was terrible. They’d probably give it an F. I’m not giving it an F because at least it got me out of the hotel room.)
Maleficent: Angelina Jolie was in it, and Elle Fanning. It’s a fairy tale movie. You know how they did that backstory to the Wizard of Oz, Wicked? This was basically the same thing — a different side to Sleeping Beauty. They did it through the eyes of the fairy that put Sleeping Beauty to sleep. It was OK. If it was on TV, I’d probably watch it again. But I wouldn’t go buy it or anything like that.
Rating: C. HN/A (I saw in Cincinnati by myself.)
Blended: It stars Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. I saw this awhile ago. I liked it a lot even though it got only 14 percent approval from critics. It has its cheesy parts, but every time I watch Adam Sandler, he makes me laugh. I’m a huge Adam Sandler fan. There are a bunch of funny parts to the movie that keep you entertained.
Rating: B to B-. HA.
I really want to see 22 Jump Street. My friends are in town from Lufkin so not sure they’ll want to do that. I’ll post my review when I see it.
Thanks for reading, and thanks again for all the nice comments.
I think Belt will be blogging tomorrow — he’s been talking about movies, so you can expect some reviews. His cast his off, so we’ve had to stop calling him Chubbs. (If you haven’t seen Happy Gilmore, ask someone who has.)
Since I last pinch-blogged, I moved from the Courtyard Marriott into an apartment in San Bruno. How’s this for generosity? Marco Scutaro told me to stay in his apartment while he’s still in Arizona on the DL. I met Marco for the first time last winter in Florida through my former Braves teammate Martin Prado, who was my workout buddy this off-season in Orlando. Martin knows Marco from Venezuela. We all went hunting together on Scott Proctor’s ranch in South Florida.
Then we saw each other a lot during spring training not only because I was with the Giants but because I stayed with Martin at his house in Arizona during spring camp. Marco took me out one day to a dairy farm near Scottsdale to hunt pigeons and doves with air rifles.
He won’t take any rent for the apartment, which is not OK with me. So I have to figure out how to thank him. Maybe some hunting gear.
When the Mets were just in town, I couldn’t help thinking about how much my baseball life has changed in a year. Last season, I was with the Mets’ Triple A team in Las Vegas, the 51’s. I never got a call-up. You always believe you’ll land back in the Major Leagues but you don’t know where or when. It’s humbling to think I’m now not only in the big leagues, I’m on a great team and playing almost every day. It’s a great opportunity that I’ve been blessed with and I just want to make the most of it.
Any player who’s being honest will tell you he gets a little extra satisfaction when he does well against his former team. I was happy to have a good night Friday — double, triple walk, two runs. I wasn’t so happy Sunday when I struck out three times in a row. But that fourth at-bat, I still believed I’d get a hit, and I singled home Crawford. You just got to keep grinding.
That’s kind of the motto of this team as a whole. Keep grinding. You never know who’s going to step up. It’s a different guy every night. We have so many good players on this team. Our pitching’s awesome, our defense has been good and you never know who’s going to get that big hit. That’s what’s helped me so much — the atmosphere in the clubhouse. Everybody knows what they need to do to be prepared every day. And when things don’t go our way, there’s no panic. We proved ourselves early on with comebacks. We feel like we’re never out of it. You get a couple guys on and you’re one swing away from getting right back in the game.
That’s it for me. Check out the latest Giants Magazine with the all-Brandon cover. Our mothers tell why they named each of us Brandon, plus other Brandon trivia.
Thanks for reading.