EXTRA BAGGS: Thoughts from flyover country as Giants head home


EXTRA BAGGS: Thoughts from flyover country as Giants head home

CHICAGO -- You might have noticed the Chicago dateline at the beginning of the two previous stories I filed today. More likely, you skipped right past it.

Yep, I'm here and currently looking out my hotel window at a gorgeous nighttime view of the skyline behind the Chicago River.

Like the Giants, I didn't know whether to go home or fly to Washington. So I decided to take my original flight out of Dayton this morning, and then just skip my connecting flight from O'Hare to SFO. I knew I'd have to book something on short notice, and you'll have a lot more flight options out of Chicago. Besides, my flight this morning was already paid for.

And plus, Lou Malnati's >>>>> Skyline Chili.

So I traveled at 22,000 feet over most of Indiana, and something occurred to me as I stared out my ice-glazed window. Over all that farmland, whenever a little town would pop into view and slowly roll past, I would notice at least one baseball diamond. Every school, every park had that friendly, soothingly familiar bit of green geometry -- and if it were Iowa down there instead of Indiana, maybe I'd have spotted one embedded in a cornfield, too.

It reminded me that baseball is everywhere. It's a shared experience. It brings us back to our childhood. Even though we seem more fragmented than ever, it's something that ties us together. And when it's played by the best in the world ... man oh man, the drama! It's hard to believe all four division series went the distance, and every one was a thrill ride crammed with compelling storylines.

This was supposed to be the year we had the guaranteed tension of two knockout games, with the addition of a second wild card. Well, we got those. Then we got four more knockout games. And there are still four teams standing.

RELATED: MLB playoff index

What a great, great game.

Now if the good folks at United can just manage an on-time arrival tomorrow...

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

Hunter Pence changing positions to accommodate Andrew McCutchen

SAN FRANCISCO -- Andrew McCutchen has spent his entire career as a center fielder. With a new team comes a new position. 

Manager Bruce Bochy confirmed on Tuesday that McCutchen will move to right field for the Giants, with Hunter Pence sliding over from right to left. Bochy said he talked to McCutchen about the plan -- one the Giants had throughout the McCutchen chase -- after Monday's trade. 

"I'm looking forward to right field," McCutchen said. "That's one place people can't pick on me saying that my defensive metrics are so bad. I'm looking forward to playing right. I know there's a lot of room out there to run, so it's definitely going to be almost like playing center."

McCutchen said he's looking forward to picking Pence's brain about patrolling right field at AT&T Park. Bochy has already spoken to Pence and said his longtime right fielder is on board with the plan. 

"He's just so excited about getting Cutch on this club that he's good with anything or whatever is best for this club," Bochy said. "So that's the plan right now."

McCutchen has played 11,621 defensive innings in his career and all but 115 1/3 of them have been in center field. He briefly moved to right field last season but shifted back to center when Starling Marte was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance. McCutchen was a Gold Glove Award winner in 2012 but his defensive metrics tailed off in recent seasons. He was worth negative 28 Defensive Runs Saved in 2016 and was at negative 16 DRS last season. 

McCutchen had wanted to stay in center in Pittsburgh, but said it's a new case with a new team.

"I wasn’t too keen on (moving at first) because I felt that I had more there, that I could do something there (in center)," he said. "I honored (the Pirates) once they wanted me to play a little shallower and that backfired on me. I was basically asking for another shot but I didn’t get that chance or opportunity. But now that I’m going into the Giants organization and this is something they want me to do, I’m all for it.

"San Francisco has a huge field. It’s bigger than PNC Park. They’ve got Triples Alley and it’s called Triples Alley for a reason. For me, it’s another center field. I’m moving over a little and if it’s saving my legs and I can get more stolen bases, I’m all game and I’m all for it.”

Pirates front office raves about McCutchen after trading him to Giants


Pirates front office raves about McCutchen after trading him to Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — There was a sense of celebration within the Giants organization on Monday after the addition of Andrew McCutchen. He is easily their best outfielder, a potential solution atop the order, and a player who is known for being a tremendous presence in the clubhouse. 

If the Giants had any doubts, though, they surely felt better after seeing the quotes that came out of Pittsburgh. In a series of statements, Pirates officials made it clear this was a difficult trade to make, with chairman Bob Nutting calling it “one of the most emotionally agonizing decisions that we have had to make in my tenure.”

Nutting, in a statement, said that McCutchen’s smile and energy were infectious even as a teenager. Later, McCutchen got the Pirates to three straight postseason appearances. 

“He did so while always carrying himself with humility, dignity and grace,” Nutting said. 

Team president Frank Coonelly described the trade as painful. 

“(No) individual was more responsible for the success that we had from 2013 to 2015 than Cutch,” Coonelly said in a statement,” And no player was more disappointed than Andrew that we did not break through and win a World Series Championship for the City of Pittsburgh.”

McCutchen was Pittsburgh’s first-round selection in the 2005 draft and made his debut in 2009. In nine seasons with the Pirates, he was a five-time All-Star and a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award in 2013 and finished in the top five of voting for four consecutive seasons. 

General manager Neal Huntington said the decision to actually part with the franchise player was “incredibly difficult.”

“Watching Andrew patrol center field with grace, fly around the bases, drive the ball all around the ballpark, celebrate with his teammates or interact with his family, friends or fans has created lifelong memories for me and many, many others around the game of baseball,” he said.