EXTRA BAGGS: Sandoval, Crawford describe juggling act, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Sandoval, Crawford describe juggling act, etc.

HOUSTON Pablo Sandoval sat hunched over at his locker, atowel draped over his neck, laughing giddily as he stared at his phone.

Have you seen the replay? a reporter asked BrandonCrawford.

...And Pablo Sandoval bats it like a volleyball player!... camethe muffled sounds of announcer Dave Flemmings voice, from the Pandas phone.

Crawford glanced over, then back at the reporters.

Yeah, he said, smiling. I saw it.

Everyone did. The only question was how many times theyreplayed it. (On a loop, in Sandoval's case.) In one of the zaniest, funniest, jaw-droppingest defensive plays of the season, theGiants spliced together a blooper reel with an amazing feat of athleticism inthe first inning Tuesday night.

First, Sandoval overran a foul pop off the bat of JasonCastro. He said he lost it in the lights.

I just guessed, he said. When I turned around, I was pastthe ball. I just tried to hit it high.

It clanked off his glove. He was able to rescue it an inchoff the ground, and flip it in the air.

To Crawford?

No, I just hit it high, he said. Not to him. I cantbelieve he was there and he made it.

Crawford had ventured into foul ground, too. He had cededspace to Sandoval and had slowed his momentum to a stop, appearing flat-footedas Sandoval juggled it and then flipped it. But the moment the ball was in theair for a second time, Crawford reacted like a cat thrown into an ice bath.

Just a pure reaction?

I guess thats the best way to put it, he said. I saw theball in the air and went after it.

Im supposed to be there. If its more over his head, Imcalling him off.

For Crawford, the strangest thing about watching the replay is thateverything seemed slower in real life. Thats how much Crawford has grown intohis shortstops skin this season. Its when the game sped up beyond his controlthat he made a dozen errors barely 40 games into the year.

Hes made one error in his last 54 games.

It looked better on the replay, he said. It just lookslike Im standing there and then just laying out. When it was happening, I dontknow I felt it looked harder than it was.

Leave it to his teammates to talk it up, then.

It might be the best play Ive ever seen, right-handerSergio Romo said. Smack it in the air two times and then homeboy comes sliding Baseball is amazing. You never know what youll see next.

What about Sandoval, the beach volleyball player? He andOlympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings share the same agent. Perhaps anexhibition is in order.

Hmmm, said Matt Cain. Probably not too much beachvolleyball in Pablos future.

Crawford had an eventful day afield in the Giants 3-2victory at Minute Maid Park. In addition to his circus catch, he also made abasket grab look as cool and nonchalant as anyone in a Giants uniform sinceOmar Vizquel. And he collided with left fielder Gregor Blanco while trying tocut off Angel Pagans throw from the hill in the deepest reaches of centerfield.

I felt like a receiver today, and I even got hit up themiddle, said Crawford, who played a little wideout in high school. I got hitby a linebacker.

If Blanco is a linebacker, it was pointed out, your defenseis giving up some size.

OK, Crawford said. A safety, maybe.

Sandoval and Crawfords play brought to mind an old gamethat players, especially relievers, used to play in their downtime during aseason. Theyd stand in a circle and play flip, which involved hitting theball with their gloves until someone dropped it. That person exited the circleand the game continued until one person remained.

I havent seen big leaguers do it regularly since the Angelsin 2001, when Troy Percival fancied himself as the greatest flip player of alltime. Then of course there is Giants vice president Dick Tidrow, who got hisnickname, Dirt, from old Yankees clubhouse man Pete Sheehy, because he dustedup his uniform so many times from diving after balls before the game evenstarted.

Youll still see it sometimes, said Crawford, who recalledplaying it during instructional league or when hed show up early to the parkin the minors.

But its not like they practice plays like that.

One of the keys to the Giants two-run comeback in the ninthwas Brandon Belt collecting a leadoff single after left-hander Wesley Wrightwas brought in to face him.

Belt was tearing up lefties earlier in the year, but hesbeen doing most of his damage against right-handers over the past month. Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy didnt mind seeing the lefty enter the game, though.

I agree, Bochy said. I dont, and hes not a guy I hitfor when they bring in a lefty. He hangs in there. He gives you good at-bats.Really, he can look more comfortable. I really have no problem leaving him inthere.

Even when youre playing a team on pace to lose 112 games, thelittle things can make a big difference. So Bochy made sure to credit SantiagoCasilla for doing a great job executing a pickoff play that resulted in an importantout in the eighth inning.

It was the fake-to-third, throw-to-first move. And yes, theAstros fell for it.

Casilla on the pickoff, he sold it well, Bochy said. We thoughthed be running and he did a good job with that move to third. That was a hugeout.

The Giants made two errors and Matt Cain committed one ofthem, but otherwise they played one of their finer defensive games of theseason. Cains perfect game underscores it, but the Giants really have seemedto play their best defense of the season with their right-hander on the mound.

These guys have done a great job all year for me, he said.As a pitcher, that motivates you to pitch better. It really drives you becauseyou see them driving each other.

Maybe that's why Cain was willing to put himself in harm's way on that play atthe plate when the Astros snapped a tie on the wild pitch in the eighth. Itsnot what the Giants want to see out of someone who just signed a guaranteeddeal worth more than 112 million.

Those kinds of plays usually dont end well for a pitcher,he said.

Buster Poseys right knee went numb for a moment after hetook a foul ball off the shinguard. Posey was checked by trainers but stayed inthe game. Bochy said Posey was OK after the sensation returned.

Happy birthday, Kolt Kristopher Affeldt. He was born Tuesdayand weighed in at 8 pounds, 5 ounces. Momma doing fine. Poppa too. All exceptolder brother Walker, maybe, who now has to share his birthday parties fromthis day forward.

With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani


With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants continue to wait for a resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton chase, they may soon find themselves bidding on another superstar talent they have long coveted. 

According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreed to a new posting system that should allow Shohei Ohtani to be made available in about 10 days. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that MLB owners must ratify the agreement next Friday and Ohtani would then be posted that day or the following day. 

The Giants have made no secret of their desire to jump feet-first into that process, and general manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley visited Japan in September to scout Ohtani, a potential two-way star. Ohtani wants to be a starter and a hitter in the big leagues, as he was in Japan, and after watching tape of the 23-year-old, Bruce Bochy said he would be on board. 

"He's good," Bochy said after a game at Dodger Stadium late in the season. "I absolutely would play him every day."

There has been little clarity over the past two months as MLB teams have waited for the negotiations to play out. Per Sherman, there will be new posting rules in future years but Ohtani will operate under the old system. That limits the Giants to a $300,000 bonus because they went over their spending limit in 2015, but club officials don't believe that will disqualify them. Very little is known about Ohtani's preferences, but by coming to the United States in 2017, he is potentially forfeiting a $200 million deal as a free agent. That alone is enough to validate the fact that the Giants can safely chase Ohtani, knowing that the signing bonus won't be a deal breaker.

MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions


MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions

ATLANTA -- The Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball on Tuesday for circumventing international signing rules from 2015-17.

Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Sanctions imposed by Manfred will leave the Braves unable to bargain at full strength for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.

Manfred said MLB's investigation determined the Braves moved international signing bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.

Other "high-value" players the Braves will lose include Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.

Three more international signees - Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre - were declared free agents. The team's contract with prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, which was not yet final, was disapproved. Finally, the Braves were banned from signing prospect Robert Puason in the 2019-20 signing period.

The 13 players will be free to negotiate as free agents with other teams.

Also, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 draft as punishment for offering "impermissible benefits" to an unnamed draft pick in an effort to convince him to sign for a lower bonus.

The investigation showed the players signed by the Braves in 2016-17 would have been unavailable if the team had not circumvented the rules by moving bonus pool money.

Manfred said stripping the Braves of the 13 players was not sufficient punishment. He said "additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the club for the violations committed by its employees."

Therefore, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period. Also, the team's international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

The Braves already cannot give an international signing bonus of more than $300,000 for 2017-18 and 2018-19 as penalties for exceeding their signing bonus pools under baseball's previous labor contract.

And there is still more discipline to be handed down.

Manfred said he intends "to discipline other Braves international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct."

Coppolella was forced to resign after the season. Former team president John Hart was moved to a senior adviser role when a new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, was hired on Nov. 13. Hart left the team on Friday.

"The senior baseball operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves," Manfred said. He also said the Braves "cooperated throughout the investigation."

Coppolella did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The Braves braced fans for the sanctions when team chairman Terry McGuirk apologized to fans "on behalf of the entire Braves family" for the rules violations at the news conference to introduce Anthopoulos.

The Braves said in a statement released Tuesday they "understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.

"As we expressed last week, our organization has not lived up to the standard our fans expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. For that, we apologize. We are instituting the changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again and remain excited about the future of Braves baseball."

Manfred said he is confident the Braves management team led by McGuirk, Anthopoulos and vice chairman John Schuerholz "have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been."

The Braves are not the first team to be found guilty of violating rules in signing international players.

In 2016, the Boston Red Sox lost five players and were banned from signing international amateur free agents for one year as punishment for rules violations on signing bonuses.