Giants

This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever

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AP

This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever

The Major League Pinball Championships resumes Tuesday in Los Angeles, with its slick baseballs and plutonium bats and shape-shifting strike zones and death of the slider and bullpen rubble and look-the-other-way racism.

You know. The baseball of the future.

Except that it probably isn’t. This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever, and while people are riveted by every bizarre whack-a-mole moment, it doesn’t actually translate to the baseball that leads to this kind of baseball.

In other words, the Giants can’t do this. The A’s probably can’t. Most teams can’t. And even allowing for the fact that this is the most homer-happy time in the history of the game, Sunday's game, which Houston won 13-12 over Los Angeles, was a Planet 9-level outlier. And if you fell in love with the game based on Sunday night, your disappointment will be palpable.

In fact, that disappointment may be felt as quickly as Tuesday, when Justin Verlander gets the start for Houston.

But the notion that the World Series should be this different than the rest of the season is a fascinating one. Not necessarily a bad one – this is not the Old Fud Hour, and change is irresistible – but a fascinating one.

If Houston and Los Angeles are really that different than everyone else, then good on them for building their teams to reflect that fact. But if the game itself is this much of a car crash throughout an entire season, is it actually sustainable by the sport’s current standards, and if not, can the sport change quickly enough to reflect it?

Yes, this is small-sample-size stuff, but a big rating World Series is going to help arrest what is perceived to be baseball’s demographic rot, and imitation is the sincerest form of cashing in. And unlike Bud Selig, who changed much about the game without either intending to or always enjoying it, Rob Manfred is more comfortable with life outside the box. If the slider dies on his watch, and the response is more home runs and eyeballs (on all your available devices, of course), he’ll take that in a heartbeat.

And not just him, but the entire hierarchy of the sport. It’s too easy to say, “Manfred this,” and “Manfred that,” just as it is cheap shorthand to substitute the names Goodell, Silver, Bettman and Garber. No, this is baseball at a new crossroads, the extreme of a clear shift toward a strikeout-or-homer sport whose nuances are under subtle but noticeable attack.

And the questions to be asked are “Can this be replicated across the sport?” “Should this be replicated across the sport?” and finally, “If it can’t be, what happens to the longterm artistic and financial vitality of the sport?”

Put another way, if Justin Verlander is truly Verlander-esque Tuesday and the final score is 3-1, how many people will be bummed out that it wasn’t enough like Sunday? I shudder to think.

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

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AP

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

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USATSI

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”