Red Sox

Giants' youth look to do what Hall of Famers never could

Giants' youth look to do what Hall of Famers never could

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In a sense, it hardly seems fair.

From the time they moved from the Polo Grounds to Seal Stadium in 1958, the San Francisco Giants have been a team with enormous star power.

Willie Mays, considered by some the game's most complete player in the post-World War II era, made the cross-country trek with the Giants as they, with the Dodgers, established a major league beachhead on the West Coast.

In time, he was joined by Orlando Cepeda and Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal, Hall of Famers all.

After a relaively fallow period in the late 1970s through the late 1980s, there was Will Clark, and eventually, the notorious Barry Bonds.

All of them have one thing in common: they never won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants. (Mays had the good fortune to be with the Giants in 1954, when the franchise won its last title).

Which isn't to say they didn't come tantalizingly, infuriatingly close. Mays, Marichal, McCovey and Cepeda had the tying run on third in Game 7 of the 1962 World Series when McCovey's smash liner found its way into New York Yankee second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove.

Bonds, having freed himself from the suggestion that he was a post-season flop, was two innings away from winning in Game 6 of the 2002 Series before the (then) Anaheim Angels rallied to win that game, and Game 7, too.

In that way, greats like McCovey, Marichal and the others share a history with great Red Sox stars such as Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski as Hall of Famers who came close, but ultimately retired without winning a championship.

Now, a roster full of rookies, castoffs and journeymen are close to doing what their predecessors couldn't. McCovey, who played 19 of 22 seasons in San Francisco, never won, but Aubrey Huff, signed last winter, just might.

Mays, denied in the Bay Area, played from 1958 through 1972 without earning a ring, but Andres Torres, in his second season, is in position to top him.

Marichal, who won 20 games or more six times in the span of seven series yet never won a World Series or a Cy Young Award, came up empty, but Jonathan Madison Bumgarner, who had started exactly one game before facing the Red Sox in June, might soon be a champion.

Fair? Not hardly. But as Ron Washington, manager of the current-day Giants' opponents, is fond of saying: "That's how baseball go.''

These Giants may lack star power -- nobody hit 30 homers, knocked in 90 runs or won 17 games during the regular season -- but this collection of mostly "misfits and castoffs,'' as manager Bruce Bochy refers to them, is halfway toward winning it all.

This anonymous, no-one-is-bigger-than-the-team approach wears well with the fan base, perhaps because it stands in such stark contrast to the Bonds-led teams of recent history. Those teams had a Bonds-or-bust mentality: if Bonds didn't hit, or, as was often the case, wasn't allowed to hit because opponents worked around him, the Giants had little chance to win.

His ego was every bit as big as his swelled head and his persona so dominated the franchise that the entire organization seemed held captive.

That's hardly the case with this edition of the Giants, which is probably why the team has been so beloved by the fan base.

(Side note: Do not make the mistake of lumping San Francisco fans in with their brethren from southern California. San Francisco fans are every bit as dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable as renowned sports cites such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia).

Team president Larry Baer, in citing the team's democratic approach, told the San Francisco Chronicle recently that the mood around the team this season "is how it is in Little League.''

The team's highest-paid player, pitcher Barry Zito, didn't make the post-season roster. But there was room for Pat Burrell, picked up after being releases by the Tampa Bay Rays, and for Cody Ross, put on waivers by the Florida Marlins.

The left side of the infield, which features warhorses Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, look too slow and immobile. Renteria is with his sixth team; Uribe is with his third, but this post-season, they've both been stars, invigorated by the post-season.

Some have said that this Giants' lineup is the most feeble since the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers, but somehow, San Francisco has averaged 10 runs through the first two games of the Series, yet another manifestation of the team's selflessness and willingness to work together.

This weekend, they may have another thing in common with those Dodgers - a title.

Fair? To the likes of McCovey and Marichal, perhaps not.

But fun? Plenty, and part of what makes baseball so unapologetically unpredictable.

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

Red Sox can be thankful for a successful past and a bright future

For the glass-is-half-full folks, there are those back-to-back Eastern Division titles. For the glass-is-half-empty folks, well, there are those two first-round playoff ousters (though both their conquerers made it to the World Series, and one of them won it). But, here on Thanksgiving night, there's plenty for Red Sox Nation to be thankful for, starting with . . . 


YOUR GOOD HEALTH

We know you don’t need the Red Sox to know you how important the most basic elements of life are. But sometimes, the typical fantasy land of baseball can grab our attention. The death of 17-year-old Sox prospect Daniel Flores (above) this month from complications because of cancer didn’t take away only a potentially great baseball career. It took away a beloved, hard-working young person from the people who loved him. He had just made millions of dollars in July for his talent on the field, but what does such a windfall matter compared to one’s health? His cancer was both rare and fast-moving, per the Boston Globe.

MOOKIE, JACKIE, XANDER, BENINTENDI, DEVERS

The kids deserve some love. They probably won’t be together on the Red Sox forever. Heck, the group could get broken up this winter. But while any of the Killer B’s (plus a D) remain on the Sox, there should be a sense of optimism. Two straight 93-win seasons may have resulted in a first-round exit, and 2017 didn’t meet expectations for some individual performances. But you know what? The youths are still damn good, and there’s time for them to show us they can be even better.

INSANELY GOOD PITCHERS IN CHRIS SALE AND CRAIG KIMBREL

Neither hogs the spotlight once the game ends or says too much. Sale doesn’t even have Twitter. But the righty closer and lefty starter both do two things exceedingly well: make batters swing and miss, and prevent runs. When both pitch, your seat at the park may well be worth the price of admission. (But we won’t ask what you paid for those seats.) Sale didn’t take down Pedro Martinez’s Sox single-season strikeout record this year, finishing with five fewer than Martinez’s 313 in 1999. But he could have done it. And with a little more rest next year, one can envision him plowing his way through playoff opponents too.

ALEX CORA'S NEW DIRECTION

A first-time manager’s not a sure thing, but as Sox owner John Henry noted, there was a feeling it was time for a change. It’s a little early to be thinking ahead to a New Year’s resolution, but a manager who better connects with his players and brings a different vibe to the day-to-day scene is reason to feel the Sox are following the right road map. Plus, if nothing else, Cora took that awesome picture walking toward Fenway.

A CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SPREE MAY BE AROUND THE CORNER

We don’t want to be too materialistic. But Uncle Dave Dombrowski couldn’t let you buy everything you wanted last year. The credit card companies needed him to step back for a year. Now he’s ready to spend. He might not close down Bloomingdale’s for the day for you to do your private shopping, but if you need a couple great jackets to complete your look, it sounds like he’s ready to get you some designer threads. He probably feels there won’t be too many chances to have a moment like this with you, at this stage of your life, and he wants to make the most of it.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

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Why the Red Sox should sign not one but two relievers

BOSTON — There is a world outside of Giancarlo Stanton. 

Stanton, at this point, simply doesn’t appear likely to end up in Boston. That should feel obvious to those following along, and so should this: it can change. 

But there are other pursuits. Besides their search for a bat or two, the Red Sox have been actively pursuing left-handed relief options. Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is a fast mover, but this year’s market has not been.

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Robbie Ross Jr. and Fernando Abad are both free agents, leaving Robby Scott as the lone incumbent southpaw from last season's primary group. Brian Johnson is bound for the pen, with Roenis Elias as a depth option too.  Still, even if Johnson’s transition pans out, the Sox still have an opening for a late-inning reliever with the departure of free agent Addison Reed. 

Reed is a righty, but between Matt Barnes, Joe Kelly, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, and Craig Kimbrel, the Sox have more right-handed choices than left. Coming back from surgery, Tyler Thornburg, should be in the mix eventually too, but it's difficult to expect too much from him.

What the Red Sox should do: sign one of each for the bullpen, one righty, and one lefty. And then trade a righty or two. Turn some of that mishmash into an addition elsewhere. Be creative. 

Because inevitably, come midseason, the Sox will want to add another bullpen arm if they sign just one now. Why wait until you have to give up prospect capital when you can just add the piece you want now?

Go get a near-sure thing such as Pat Neshek, a veteran who walks no one and still strikeouts a bunch. At 37 with an outgoing personality, Neshek also brings leadership to a team that is looking for some. He walked just six guys in 62 innings last season. Entering his 12th season in the majors, he’s looking for his first ring.

All these top of the market relievers may be handsomely paid. But relievers are still something of a bargain compared to position players and starting pitchers. One of the key words for this winter should be creativity. If there’s value to be had in the reliever market, capitalize on it. 

Comeback kid Mike Minor, Jake McGee and Tony Watson headline the crop of free agent lefties available. Brad Hand of the Padres could also be had by trade but his market isn’t moving too quickly (and he won’t come cheaply).

Minor, 29, who posted a 2.55 ERA in 2017 after health issues kept him out of the majors in 2015-16, is expected to be paid handsomely. He is also open to the idea of potentially starting if a team is interested in him doing so. The Royals reportedly could give him that shot.

McGee’s American League East experience could be appealing.

He's 31 and had a 3.61 ERA with the Rockies in 2017 and has a 3.15 ERA lifetime. He’s not quite the strikeout pitcher he was earlier in his career — he had an 11.6 K/9 in 2015 — but a 9.1 K/9 is still very strong, particularly when coupled with just 0.6 homers allowed per nine.

For what it’s worth: McGee has also dominated the Red Sox, who have a .125 average, .190 on-base percentage and .192 slugging against him in 117 regular-season plate appearances. 

McGee throws a mid-90s fastball with a low-80s slider. He can operate up in the zone, and he actually has been even more effective against righties than lefties in his career, including in 2017. McGee’s been a closer, too, with 44 career saves.

The Sox had the second-best bullpen in the majors by ERA in 2017, at 3.07. Yet, come the postseason, there wasn’t a sense of great confidence or even a clear shape to the pecking order behind one of the absolute best relievers in the game, Kimbrel.