First round of All-Star voting reminder of how much has changed for Giants


First round of All-Star voting reminder of how much has changed for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants organization got another reminder Tuesday of just how far it has fallen.

Buster Posey was the only Giant to crack the top 10 in the All-Star voting results that were released in the morning -- a far cry from even previous down years. Posey ranks eighth among catchers with 79,768 votes, nearly 800,000 behind leader Willson Contreras of the Cubs. He is behind some big names but also trails Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes and Colorado's Tony Wolters. 

The Giants did not have any other players listed after the first round of voting, which isn't a shocker given their brutal start that has them 17 1/2 games out in the NL West already. But being this unrepresented in All-Star voting is still something new for an organization that has had plenty of starters over the past decade and pushed voting even during the last two seasons when the big league team lost 187 games. 

In 2017, Posey led the first round of voting with 559,428 votes and ended up being selected as the starter. A year later, he again was in a position to start after the first round of voting. Brandon Crawford's ridiculous hot streak last May had him well ahead of the field in every round and he ended up being the starter at shortstop.

Crawford had 466,000 votes after one round a year ago; this year he did not get the 66,000 required to crack the top 10. 

Brandon Belt was third in the first base voting after one round last year and Joe Panik was fifth at second base. 

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None of the Giants starters are having a season that will put them in the All-Star Game, and the fan base has responded.

The Giants almost certainly will have closer Will Smith as their lone representative. Pitchers are not part of the fan vote. 

Giants' recent run makes Bruce Bochy's final season competitive again


Giants' recent run makes Bruce Bochy's final season competitive again

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bruce Bochy has daily conversations with Farhan Zaidi, but as the schedule turned to July, the manager did his best to insulate the clubhouse from anything the Giants president of baseball operations might have been planning. Bochy is aware of trade discussions, of course, but he didn't feel like his team was distracted and needed any guidance. 

"I never felt like I had to talk to anybody," Bochy said Wednesday. "They know this time of year you're going to hear rumors and speculation, but I never heard anything in there, including from the obvious one, Madison (Bumgarner). Their focus was on the field and that's a good thing."

That focus has helped the Giants get back into the wild-card race. With a sweep of the Rockies, the Giants have passed the Reds, Pirates, Rockies and Padres in the standings. Asked if he looks at the Wild Card standings, Bochy made a face and shook his head. But he admitted he has a general idea of where his team is at. 

No matter how this ends up, this run could end up being huge for Bochy personally. First and foremost, the Giants are suddenly competitive in his final season. That's all he wanted all along, and if he's maneuvering to try and clinch a playoff spot in late September, it'll be a pleasant surprise for a man who had a hard time watching some of his team's play in the first half. 

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There's something else at play here, too. The recent run has gotten Bochy to 1,972 wins in his career. The Giants need to go just 28-38 down the stretch to get Bochy to 2,000 wins before he hangs them up. 

That's not a number Bochy has ever talked about, but it would be a nice milestone. We'll see where the Giants end up in the standings, but at the very least their upward turn has made this final season a much better one for a Hall of Fame manager.

Baseball pioneer Pumpsie Green's accomplishments should not be forgotten


Baseball pioneer Pumpsie Green's accomplishments should not be forgotten

It’s a shame Pumpsie Green won’t get to celebrate the 60th anniversary. Not of his marriage; he and his wife, Marie, reached that milestone two years ago. The other anniversary.

The day he made history.

It was on July 21, 1959 that Green broke baseball’s last clubhouse color line, becoming the first black man to wear the uniform of the Boston Red Sox. That moment was not at all diminished by the fact that it came 12 years, two months and six days after Jackie Robinson’s seminal debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The American League Red Sox, you see, had spent those years assiduously ignoring or rejecting hundreds of black prospects. The National League Boston Braves, with a home ballpark a five-minute drive from famed Fenway, opened their door in 1950, signing Sam Jethroe. One year earlier, in 1949, a naïve young Red Sox scout, George Digby, was rebuffed in his attempts to persuade owner Tom Yawkey to sign a 17-year-old kid named Willie Mays for $4,500.

The honor, as it was, fell to Green. Ten years after the Sox found reason to disqualify Mays.

With a list of valid reasons to be bitter, Pumpsie stayed humble, kept it professional and graciously accepted the support of teammate and Red Sox legend Ted Williams.

As his groundbreaking moment gave way to a shortlist of accomplishments, Green remained true to himself, his family and his task. As the eldest of five athletic brothers – one of whom, Cornell, was a five-time Pro Bowl cornerback with the NFL Dallas Cowboys – growing up in the Richmond-El Cerrito area, Pumpsie understood the concept of responsibility and setting an example.

He was hired to play ball, and he took the job seriously. He was no superstar. Nor was he an All-Star. He was not a token, either, as one week after Green’s first at-bat, Earl Wilson made his pitching debut with the Red Sox.

Green played 344 games over parts of five seasons, a career too short to qualify for a pension. He batted .246, with 13 home runs and 74 RBI in 796 at-bats. He was, to be accurate, an otherwise unremarkable player whose sheer talent fell well short of his character.

That much I’d gleaned from years of talking to people acquainted with him. He was, by all accounts, a gentleman. I reached the same conclusion nearly 15 years ago when he invited me to his El Cerrito home.

I went because I was curious, not so much about Pumpsie himself but about his reaction to an event many believed might never happen. Two weeks earlier, the Red Sox, after 86 years without winning a World Series, ended the drought. The “Curse of the Bambino” had lifted.

Green had watched the World Series, most of it, but he neither led nor followed cheers. It was at his convenience that he would settle into his favorite chair for some Sox-Cardinals baseball.

There was no animosity. Pumpsie Green emotionally was unattached to the Red Sox. He watched, when he chose to, mostly because he likes baseball.

He did express that most of the happiness he felt was for the fans of New England, who had rooted so hard, for so long, only to go sledding, year after year, into winter unfulfilled. The victory was not his but theirs, and for that he was pleased.

Green explained that he recently had strengthened his relationship with the franchise. A group led by commodities trader and hedge fund manager John Henry purchased the Red Sox from the Yawkey family trust in 2002. The new owners cast a net of outreach wide enough to include Pumpsie.

Green was satisfied by that, felt the new group had “remembered” him. They invited him back to Boston several times, including in 2009 when he threw a ceremonial first pitch at Fenway. He was inducted 14 months ago into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

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Elijah “Pumpsie” Green passed away Wednesday, three days before the 60th anniversary of his big-league debut. He was 85.

“Pumpsie Green occupies a special place in our history,” Henry said in a statement released by the Red Sox. “He was, by his own admission, a reluctant pioneer, but we will always remember him for his grace and perseverance in becoming our first African-American player. He paved the way for the many great Sox players of color who followed. For that, we all owe Pumpsie a debt of gratitude.”

In the breathless race to regurgitate what happened five minutes ago -- a treadmill without end -- there often is no time for context or reflection. The value of history can get lost because, well, it happened generations earlier. Men like Pumpsie Green deserve better.