Fernandez, Palmer remind us 24 hours is not enough & too much


Fernandez, Palmer remind us 24 hours is not enough & too much

Sunday dawned with miserable news – an exemplary young pitcher named Jose Fernandez crashed his boat and died. That should have been enough. More than enough, to be honest.

And it ended with slightly dissimilar yet equally horrible news – Arnold Palmer, one of the pre-eminent American golfers and sportsmen ever, died after a prolonged illness at age 87.

But the circus never closes, the merry-go-round whirls faster, the calliope only gets louder, and the only constant is the postgame seagull force. Fernandez’ death was a stark reminder that even the ideal life is too short and usually ends too cruelly for us to properly absorb. It was also an excellent signal to give the entire day a pass, just to acknowledge and comprehend the loss.

But it also happened on a football weekend, which meant that Fernandez’ death and Palmer’s passing could so swiftly be pushed aside for other, far less important news, because the beast must be fed, and the beast is always hungry. Their lives deserved lengthening, and if not that, at least a much quieter news day so that we could be less distracted and more inclined to remember and honor them both.

Two college football coaches were fired, Les Miles at LSU and Ron Turner at Florida International, and Notre Dame, which always alleges that it stands for loftier things than mere football, whacked defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder after Saturday’s 38-35 loss to Duke. None of those teams had played more than four games all year, but that was sufficient evidence to send them on their way with malice aforethought.

Fourteen NFL teams won their games, including the Oakland Raiders, who had no defense until they got one, thus saving their still larval seasons. Fourteen lost their games, including the San Francisco 49ers, who are now beneath contempt while being beyond redemption. Much angsting and gnashage of teeth resulted, thus fueling everyone’s fantasies and portents of doom until Week 4 – because the circus never closes.

Oh, and the Rams-Buccaneers game was delayed in the fourth quarter because the earth decided to remind everyone that it is still actually in charge, and makes its wishes known with weather that can kill people and destroy their belongings. A healthy reminder for everyone, I think.

Nine baseball teams ended their regular seasons at home, including the Oakland Athletics, who beat Texas mostly for the greater glory of pitcher Jharel Cotton, the New York Mets, who beat Philadelphia by a smooth 17 runs, and the Minnesota Twins, who lost their 100th game.

Oh, and the Giants lost in San Diego again, falling a game behind the Mets, because that’s what THEY do.

Oh, and might I add oh, the Los Angeles Dodgers played an extra inning in Vin Scully’s last home game ever, which I can assure you was not met with his approval, walk-off homer or no walk-off homer. You might have thought this was some gift from the celestial production booth, but in his head, Scully was more than prepared to just go home as quietly as possible. He just chose the wrong profession to be quiet.

Oakland’s Michael Crabtree chose not to gesture before or speak later on the Great Anthem Debate, which caused many people to savage him as their political foes savaged Colin Kaepernick for starting the whole miss-the-point-he’s-trying-to-make discussion. It is good to know that our version of open discourse still requires an absolute and categorical refusal to consider the opinions of others, and that the First Amendment actually means “freedom to agree, and only to agree.”

And Kaepernick thanked his coach, Chip Kelly, for standing by him at the very same time that everyone else still paying attention to the 49ers was excoriating Kelly for not making the 49ers offense a perfectly polished diamond out of a heap of gravel.

Oh, and Mylan Hicks, a former 49er on the Calgary Stampeders’ practice squad, was shot and killed outside a Calgary nightclub after his team beat Winnipeg only a few hours earlier.

And that brings us back to Fernandez and Palmer, and a day that began and ended horribly. Sometimes 24 hours is simply not enough, and too much, all at the same time, and then you’re left to remember that the days for all of us are too few.

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”