Giants

The latest round of Name That Unwritten Rule in baseball

The latest round of Name That Unwritten Rule in baseball

Yasiel Puig got two games for punching Nick Hundley in the mask. Jose Ureña got six games for throwing at Ronald Acuña’. Nobody is happy on any side.
 
And that, ladies and jellyspoons, is baseball justice, now and forever.
 
But it is also sports justice, which is typically very flexible when it comes to precedent anyway, save for drug suspensions, which are covered under the collective bargaining agreement.
 
Puig got his two as part of his ongoing feud with the San Francisco Giants, and theirs with him. Hundley chastised Puig for being unhappy with a pitch he missed, and Puig, remembering all the cheery times he has had against the Giants, responded in more than kind. As a result of the brawl he helped inflame, he will have to go to the trouble of losing his appeal of a two-game suspension while Hundley was merely fined for acting like everyone’s dean of students. And you know the dean of students at your school was so beloved.
 
By now, though, it is clear that Puig and the Giants have issues, and there seems no impetus on any side to make them go away. In other words, the punishments may or may not have fit the crime, but it is clearly not meant as a deterrent. It certainly won’t be one for Hundley or the Giants, who have made Puig a long-running personal cause.

Me, I'd give Hundley two games along with Puig, and fine both teams $10 million and tell them, "Make this nonsense stop." Then again, commissioners don't get to take big money to teams without paying a price down the road, which is why I would have to be named imperial emperor to have that kind of pull.

In other words, this will happen again.
 
As for Ureña, his six games (or one start) will be regarded as a gift from MLB for what looked to all the world like a purposeful beanball attempt. The length of the suspension is probably mitigated further by the fact that Acuña played Thursday against Colorado.
 
But the more interesting notion is that MLB decided not to guess on Ureña’s intent, because intent can’t be proven, and if baseball wanted to go down that particular rabbit hole, it would be in court in no time having to defend breaking precedent so violently for something that must be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players.
 
That is not yet a fight the owners seem to want to have – not when there are so many others to employ between now and the time negotiations begin before the 2021 deadline.
 
In addition, baseball does not throw large suspensions around as a general rule. If you take out the drug-related suspensions (either recreational or performance-based), the longest suspensions on record for a player are Roberto Osuna’s 75 games for domestic violence (which he has denied while accepting the suspension for the thing he said he didn’t do, if that makes sense to you), and Lenny Randle’s 30 days for punching out Texas manager Pat Corrales in 1977, when Randle was a Ranger himself.
 
But the Ureña/Acuña case is about player safety (as opposed to the usually tedious old school/new school arguments that remind us that we make generations hate each other as part of the gross national product), which one would think the union would be interested in enhancing and defending.
 
Player safety should matter, of course, but the distrust between the sides runs so deep that any introduction of language that allows the MLB mall cops to judge someone’s intent as binding evidence would become a war in its own right. The sides would rather play negotiation chicken and hope no players get maimed or worse playing “Name That Unwritten Rule.”
 
Which is why Ureña only misses one start, even though it seems about three starts too light. As for Puig and the Giants, well, September 28 in San Francisco, no later than the fifth inning. If baseball can’t get into the world of intent, it has no chance with a hatred that never seems to die.

Giants' Ron Wotus to honor high school coach at 'Coaching Corps' Awards

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Giants' Ron Wotus to honor high school coach at 'Coaching Corps' Awards

When the Giants take the field next month at Scottsdale Stadium, Ron Wotus will begin his 23rd consecutive season on the big league coaching staff, a feat that is impressive for much more than simple longevity. 

Wotus was the only member of Bruce Bochy's staff to be brought back by Gabe Kapler. Before that he jumped from Felipe Alou to Bochy, and Dusty Baker to Alou. He is working with his fourth Giants manager because of a commitment to hard work, preparation, communication and competitiveness, traits that Wotus first started to hone as a star at Bacon Academy in Colchester, Conn.

Wotus has spent most of his life in professional baseball, but the skillset that he still leans on today first became a part of his life on a different patch of grass. He carries with him the lessons taught by John McKiernan, his high school soccer coach. 

"I have such great memories of playing soccer. It was by far my favorite sport, and it's because of John," Wotus said. "If he wasn't my coach, there's no way it would have been my favorite sport. He's special. He knows how to connect, he knows how to relate, he's got a great sense of humor, he's super-competitive, but he's got that great balance that all the good ones have. And he cares."

Wotus has spent his professional life helping to develop players like Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt, and on Thursday night he'll get a chance to honor the man who taught him so much of what he still passes on. Wotus will honor McKiernan at the sixth annual Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards, which will air Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area. 

When Wotus was called and asked to honor an instrumental coach in his life, he immediately turned to his wife, Laurie. He knew what he wanted to do.

"I got emotional and she immediately said, 'You have to honor John,'" Wotus said. "This is over 45 years ago that we met. All these years that have passed, you really realize how important he was to your life."

Wotus met McKiernan in middle school, and the latter immediately knew that there was something different about the young boy who would go on to play four years of varsity baseball, soccer and basketball at Bacon Academy, a small school with a graduating class of about 100 students. 

"You could see (in fifth grade) that he was very gifted," McKiernan said. "He lit up the room when he was in it ... He was always so happy to be on the field or the court or the diamond. He just loved athletics and he loved competing and he was always prepared and ready to go. Whatever we were doing he seemed to enjoy, except maybe he didn't like all the running we did in soccer. I think he could have done without that."

All that running still sticks with Wotus four-plus decades later. He remembers McKiernan's soccer team doing heavy conditioning work. It was necessary for the small-school team. 

"What he said to us was that we may not have the most skill on the field, but we'll be the best conditioned and we'll make up for any lack of skill that we have," Wotus said. "That stuck with me. Don't be out-conditioned, don't be outworked, don't be out-prepared. I think that's the foundation of my approach as a coach. You have to give it your all and you're going to prepare. It's the preparation that's important, and then you go out and compete."

The competing part was easy for Wotus, a three-sport star. McKiernan coached the junior varsity basketball team but never had Wotus there because he was put on varsity right away, eventually earning all-state honors. The Pirates selected Wotus in the 16th round of the 1979 draft and he ended up playing 32 games in the big leagues. It was on the soccer field, however, that Wotus made his biggest prep impact. He was an All-New England center forward for Bacon, scoring 89 career goals, which stood as a state record for more than two decades. 

McKiernan remembers Wotus for much more than the prolific numbers. He said Wotus constantly pushed to make sure his teammates were recognized and brought intensity no matter the score.

"He never thought that we were out of a game," McKiernan said.

Wotus matched his production with dependability. 

In four years, he never missed a practice in any of his three sports, and he sat out just one game in his high school career, the result of a sprained ankle. With a tournament coming up, McKiernan held his star out of the final game of the season so he could get back to 100 percent. 

"He tried to sneak into the game a few times," McKiernan said. "I had to pull him back."

The relationship that was built during soccer practices and hundreds of games of horse on the basketball court has lasted to this day. McKiernan has been out to San Francisco a couple of times to visit Wotus, who was the bench coach for all three title teams. Occasionally he'll plan a cross-country road trip that allows him to visit Wotus in a visiting city. 

Wotus is getting ready for his 33rd year in the Giants organization. Before he gets back to baseball, he'll take a moment to honor the man who made such an impact during his soccer career. It was an easy choice to give the award to McKiernan.

"John, he was the guy. The way I coach now, I think of him often," Wotus said. "I try to emulate him in a lot of ways."

You can donate to the "Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards," here

“Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards” presented by Levi’s airs Tuesday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive in promoting top prospects

Farhan Zaidi expects Giants to be aggressive in promoting top prospects

When Baseball America released its latest list of top 100 prospects, the Giants saw three of their young players mentioned within the first 63 names. 

Leading the Giants at No. 19 overall, though, is shortstop Marco Luciano. The young infielder full of power is only 18 years old, but he likely won't make his MLB debut until at least 2020 when he would be 20. 

Behind Luciano is 23-year-old catcher Joey Bart and 20-year-old outfielder Heliot Ramos. Both players are expected to begin the 2020 season in Triple-A Sacramento. It's also reasonable to expect Bart and Ramos to make their way to San Francisco this year. 

"I don't think it's out of the question, and that's one thing that we tried to do this past year," Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi recently said on KNBR. "We had a lot of guys make their debut. We moved guys aggressively through the system.

"I think that not only creates excitement through the fans and people at the major league level, but for the players themselves."

Zaidi also included 6-foot-11 pitcher Sean Hjelle in the conversation with Bart and Ramos. The Giants promoted all three prospects from San Jose to Double-A Richmond last season.

Bart and Hjelle both are non-roster invitees for Giants' big league camp in spring training. 

Zaidi wasn't just referring to top prospects, though. Reliever Tyler Rogers finally was given a chance in the bigs at 28 years old last season and posted a 1.02 ERA in 17 games for the Giants. 

[RELATED: Marco Luciano gives Giants a bright future at shortstop]

"Promoting guys aggressively and rewarding performance, rewarding guys addressing areas of weakness that have been pointed out to them as things that they need to address, that's a real positive," Zaidi said. "I expect us to continue on that path in 2020." 

The Giants are going through a rebuild with hopes of competing as contenders again in the near future. Zaidi is ready for a youth movement in San Francisco, and you should be, too.