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Urban: Giants' Panda a true sports hero

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Urban: Giants' Panda a true sports hero

Sept. 15, 2011

URBAN ARCHIVE
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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

There are certain things we want -- check that; things we need -- from our sports heroes.First and foremost, we need them to perform at the highest of levels. They need to be the cream of the crop, and it needs to be obvious. Statistically and aesthetically.We need to know they genuinely appreciate their station in life, too. The slightest trace of entitlement takes them out of the hero realm, no second chances.
Blow off an autograph request? It better be the request from that 46-year-old troll with a color-coded binder of laminated 8-by-10 glossies. That'll play. Disappoint little Kenny or Kendra, though, and you're a straight-up ass.

We also need our true sports heroes to work hard. Granted, the most gifted of athletes often make the sublime look routine; easy, even. Carlos Gonzalez and Ken Griffey Jr. are among the athletes who've been accused of not busting it because they're so fluid and graceful, their movements so seemingly effortless. But watch any athlete more than a couple of times and you can tell if they're giving it their best effort. Eyes don't lie.And, of course, we need to know that our hero is a good teammate. That's fairly easy to discern, too. All you need to do is look for the reactions that follow a hero-candidate's accomplishments.
If he or she is met with the standard fist bump, high five or pat on the posterior, you're safe to assume it's exactly that: standard. If the greeting is an arms-wide hug, an eyes-wide smile or an out-and-out bum rush, rest assured that the recipient is extremely popular.
It's equally instructive to watch the hero-candidate's reaction to the accomplishments of his or her teammates. The more animated it is, the more you get the sense that it's genuine.The biggie, though, is all about joy. We want our sports heroes to exude it. To make us feel it. To share it with anyone who cares to take an interest. And if nobody happens to be watching, hey, the true sports hero couldn't care less. He or she is so enveloped in that joy that it doesn't matter. It's there to share, sure, but the hero's actions seem to suggest that if nobody else cares to partake, no worries. More joy for me.Five requirements. Five reasons to give affix to that label -- HERO -- reserved for a precious few.In other words, five reasons to love Pablo Sandoval.
And yeah, his remarkable night in Colorado on Thursday was the obvious impetus for this assertion, but the case would be made, and won in a landslide, had he gone 0-for-5.That he reached base in all five trips to the plate -- an intentional walk following the cycle he'd put together before the game was a full six innings old -- merely makes it an easier case to make for the night.Performing at the highest level? Sandoval leads Giants regulars in virtually every offensive stat that means a damn, and he's been so good defensively that people are starting to talk about him as a Gold Glove candidate at third base.Appreciative of his station in life? Ever seen the Panda blow anyone off? He doesn't even blow off the eBay trolls. Every day is Christmas for the guy, and under the tree is a bounty of Big Wheels.Hard-working? Hey, this is a different paragraph at this point last year. But when faced with the first dose of adversity of his fairly charmed athletic life, handed an ultimatum from his bosses about losing the many pounds he found on the side of the big-league road over the previous year and a half, Sandoval literally worked his butt off.
Worked his gut off, too. And his thighs, and his second and third and fourth chins. Good teammate? He's got a special handshake for the bullpen catcher, for crying out loud. His successes are unanimously greeted with enthusiasm in the dugout; did you see Andres Torres waving him into third on his triple Thursday? And he reciprocates like a mad man, as if the success of his teammates is his own -- which, if you think about it, is absolutely the case.As for exuding joy, good lord. Is he ever not smiling? Rarely. And when he smiles, how can you not smile with him? You have to smile with him. His joy is so infectious, otherwise sensible human beings pay to put orange faux fur on their heads. Think about that for a second. Folks drop 20 bones to look silly, just to feel a connection, to feel the joy that Pablo feels.If that's not a hero, nothing is. The Giants and their fans are lucky -- blessed, even -- to have such a character.And the best thing about this character? He's 100 percent real.

Report: Giants make trade offer for Giancarlo Stanton

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Report: Giants make trade offer for Giancarlo Stanton

The hot stove is heating up. 

Giancarlo Stanton is the biggest name swirling in trade rumors and the Giants are reportedly pushing forward in their attempt to acquire the slugger. San Francisco's front office has proposed a trade to Miami for Stanton, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic

Details of what the Giants offered have not been reported yet. 

Stanton, who recently turned 28, is guaranteed $295 million over the next 10 seasons. His contract includes a full no-trade clause and an opt-out after 2020. 

On Thursday, Stanton was named the National League MVP after hitting .281 with a league-leading 59 home runs and 132 RBI. The last MVP to be traded in the offseason after winning the award was Alex Rodriguez from the Rangers to the Yankees before the 2004 season. 

How seven Giants prospects performed in the 2017 Arizona Fall League

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How seven Giants prospects performed in the 2017 Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League came to an end for seven Giants prospects on Thursday as the Scottsdale Scorpions (12-17-1) came up short from playing in Saturday's championship game. 

Let's take a look at how these seven names fared against some of the top young talent in all of baseball. 

The Hitters

As the Giants are linked to trade targets in center field like Billy Hamilton and Jackie Bradley Jr., a young in-house option only helped his case in the desert.

Steven Duggar likely would have seen the AT&T outfield this season, but his season was hindered by injuries, keeping him to only 44 games between three levels. With the Scorpions, Duggar took advantage of his opportunity with more at-bats. 

Duggar left Arizona with a .263/.367/.421 slash line over 20 games. The speedy lefty also stole nine bases and hit three home runs. Even if the Giants go for an experienced glove in center field this offseason and keep Duggar, the 24-year-old has also played 135 games in right field during his minor league career. 

For the second straight year, the Giants sent catcher Aramis Garcia to the AFL. And he's sure to be coming home much happier this go around with an up-and-down campaign.

Splitting time behind the plate with three other catchers, Garcia appeared in 13 games and slashed .259/.293/.333 and hit one home run. Garcia struggled to get one base with only one walk to 10 strikeouts, but showed his natural ability to drive runs in with 10 RBI. 

Rounding out the Giants' trio of bats they sent to Arizona is arguably their top prospect, but his time in the AFL was cut short. Chris Shaw only played in five games and hit .158. He dealt with a sore shoulder.

The Pitchers

The Giants sent two starting pitchers (Tyler Beede and Joan Gregorio) and two relievers (Tyler Cyr and D.J. Snelten) to the AFL. 

Pitching for the first time in nearly three months, Beede showed exactly why he's the Giants' top pitching prospect. Beede went 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts, but his final three show the potential he's full of -- 14 innings pitched, three earned runs, a 1.93 ERA, 10 strikeouts and only one walk. 

Gregorio, who was suspended this season for Performance Enhancing Drugs, pitched in eight games (three starts) for Scottsdale. He left with a 1-0 record and 5.87 ERA. In Triple-A, Gregorio went 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA this year over 13 starts. The 25-year-old presents an interesting arm that can help sooner than later in the bullpen. 

Cyr's stats don't look pretty (0-1, 5.63 ERA, 8 IP), but he's catching some attention. The right-hander was named to the Fall Stars Game and is most likely to start 2018 in Triple-A after converting 18 saves at Double-A in 2017. 

Snelten, a 6-foot-7 lefty, impressed in eight appearances out of the bullpen. He didn't allow an earned run until his final outing of the fall, bringing his ERA from a perfect 0.00 to 2.25 in 12 innings pitched.

After combining for a 2.20 ERA to go with an 8-1 record between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017, Snelten is a name to know as the Giants look to find more lefties for their bullpen.