EXTRA BAGGS: Crawford limps into spotlight, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Crawford limps into spotlight, etc.

Programming Note: Giants and Braves coverage begins this morning at 8:30 a.m. with Giants Pregame Live and baseball follows from Atlanta at 9 a.m., only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

ATLANTA The night began with lightning streaking acrossthe sky. It ended with plenty of thunder in the 11th inning.

And since the Giants and Braves are planning to reconvene ina few hours, it seems only sane for me to go directly into lightning-round modewith some notes and quotes from one of the best back-and-forth regular-seasongames Ive covered.

Do us both a favor first and read the Instant Replay storyif you didnt watch the game. (Or even if you did. There was a lot toremember.)

What was Brandon Crawford thinking after he fouled that ChadDurbin cutter off his knee in the 11th inning? Did he realize theGiants were out of position players?

I was thinking about it a little bit when I was on theground, Crawford said, soberly. I knew Cain had been warming up, but

Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, asked if he had to explain the situation to Crawford: Well, I was close totelling him that. We were going to have to get creative. Hes a tough guy andhe recovered and recovered well.

Indeed. Crawford hit the next pitch for a tiebreaking, three-runhome run.

It seems a pitcher always tries to come inside after ahitter fouls a ball off his shin or foot. I asked Crawford if that thought was goingthrough his mind once he willed himself back into the box.

Well, Ive done it before and they come back with the samepitch, Crawford said. I didnt hit the home run the previous times, though. I guess you could say I wasnt cheating to get there, but the thought wentthrough my mind.

It was quite a gimpy trot, but Crawford said his knee was OKafter the momentary shock. It was his first homer since April 11, or 249at-bats ago.

I wasnt trying to pull it, he said. My hands just gotout there, finally, and I got my barrel to it.

The Giants used 20 of 24 players at Bochys disposal,and the pair of three-run homers in the 11th came from Crawford andGregor Blanco two players who were used off the bench. Blanco pinch-ran forBuster Posey after his leadoff single in the ninth, and Crawford entered as theshortstop on a double-switch in the 10th.

Why 24? Madison Bumgarner was sent home to get some shuteye.

Bumgarner will try to replicate a feat last accomplished by CavemanDon Robinson in June, 1988 pitching the Giants to a three-game sweep inFulton County.

What if Crawford hadnt been able to go? Well, you wouldveseen Justin Christian move to the infield and Matt Cain, right fielder.

He was a second baseman in his high school days, Bochysaid, not so soberly.

Tim Lincecum joked that he couldve played catcher. Hesbeen involved in enough plays at the plate this season, that's for sure.

Just put a chest protector on me and Id stick my gloveout, he said, smiling.

Put aside how the Giants won for a moment, and consider allthe times they came within an inch of losing.

Most of those are detailed in the Instant Replay story. Butthere was one small moment that bears attention:

Paul Janish looked like he was swinging a broomstick atthree sliders from Sergio Romo while striking out in the ninth (with one outand the winning run on third base). It was a huge recovery for Romo, who was asall over the board as Ive ever seen him against Chipper and old nemesis DanUggla.

But that third pitch to Janish was in the dirt. And EliWhiteside, catching his first major league inning of the season, blocked it tosave the game.

Whiteside then had to orchestrate a bases-loaded,nine-pitch, four-fouls-with-two-strikes confrontation between Javier Lopez andMichael Bourn.

Im basically throwing everything, all over the zone,Lopez said. Hes blessed with tremendous eyehand coordination, so it was a challenge, for sure. It seems weget walked off here all the time. So thats a big spot to come in and face oneof the best hitters in the game.

And thats whats great about having Whitey back. We wereback on the same page really quick. He knows all of us and what we throw insituations. I wanted to get him to strike out or hit a ground ball. I threw asinker away and he swung over the top.

So yes, it took a huge contribution from their belovedformer backup catcher, in his first major league inning of the season, for theGiants to win this ballgame.

Being with these guys the last two or three years helps outa lot, Whiteside said. All these guys have great stuff. I'd imagine it would be tough tostep into a situation like (Wednesday night) if you hadnt caught them before.

Its great to see all these guys again. I hadnt been ableto watch many games, but I followed as best I could. Its nice to be back.

What about the decision to pinch-run for Posey in the ninth?It wasnt the wrong call, per se. When you're the road team, you always try to pull out all the stops to win. The longer the game goes, the worse your chances get.

But I heard quite a bit of criticism from fans over themove, and it went something like this: if youre going to pinch run Blanco, don't you have to try to steal?

Well, its a valid point. But I think players have toreact to what the game gives them. And Blanco was nearly picked off twice byCraig Kimbrel. Obviously, he wasnt comfortable getting agood jump. So he didnt go, and Pablo Sandoval hit into a double play.

Why not bunt with Sandoval? Well, thats another debate. Isuppose aside from the argument that Sandoval is paid to drive in runs, itsnot automatic for a guy like him to get a bunt down against Kimbrel, whosthrowing 96 mph.

You could go down the rabbit hole on five dozen things outof a game like this. But its baseball, and the games keep on coming. The nextones coming perhaps a bit too soon for this ball scribe.

Giants hire David Bell to fill key front office role


Giants hire David Bell to fill key front office role

SAN FRANCISCO -- A familiar face is returning to the Giants organization to serve a key front office role.

The Giants announced Friday that David Bell, their former third baseman, has been hired as Vice President of Player Development. General manager Bobby Evans said Bell will oversee all aspects of player development, including hitting, pitching, strength and conditioning and the operations of the minor league affiliates. 

"He was the perfect fit," Evans said. "His experience is so strong and encompasses so many aspects of the game. He’s got a really strong base of experience and background and understanding of the game, and he has a passion for the game and working with young players. He really showed a desire to pursue this opportunity." 

Bell, 45, played 12 major league seasons and spent 2002 with the Giants. He hit 20 homers that year as the starting third baseman and scored the winning run in the final game of the NLCS. Since retiring, Bell has served as a minor league manager for the Reds and a big league coach for the Cubs and Cardinals. He spent last season as the bench coach in St. Louis. 

Shane Turner had previously served as farm director, but at the end of the minor league season he was asked to take a role as a special assistant in baseball operations. While Evans did not announce any other changes Friday, there are expected to be other moves within the organization's depth chart. At least one member of the coaching staff is still in the running for a managerial opening. 

Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered


Dusty Baker won't be remembered the way he should be remembered

Firing a manager is easy, and there are lots of ways to do it.

Dusty Baker, for example. He worked this year on the last year of a contract, which usually means there won’t be another one, and he relied on his players to deliver the goods.

Which, as we remember from our reading, they didn’t do. Again.

But Baker was marked for the chop unless those players did deliver, and when they didn’t, general manager Mike Rizzo did the expedient thing.

He fired one person rather than several. And changed exactly nothing.

Baker’s managerial career is probably over now, as most teams don’t look at 68-year-olds to fix their teams. He will never manage a  World Series champion, something he ached for, and he was always be caricatured in part as the guy who didn’t speak metric, and who believed in players as men whenever in doubt.

And the Nats didn’t betray him, either. They were always not as good in the big moments because someone else was, and they became part of Washington’s new fetish – Why Can’t We Win One? It’s as if having a cringeworthy President isn’t good enough for them.

So the time came, and he will be replaced by someone who will either win and get credit for work that was largely his, or he won’t win and the town can continue to wallow in its tedious We’re-The-New-Cubs pity. It is the circle of life.

At least it is for groups of people. For individuals, the circle of life is actually nothing more than a straight line that ends abruptly. For Dusty Baker, as it did for Tony La Russa in Phoenix two days earlier, that day came today. He deserves to be remembered as a very good manager who won a lot more than he lost, made more friends than enemies, and was honest from Day One until the end.

Which, as we also know, doesn’t matter a whole lot on days like this.