Giants

Morse calls his shot before first spring training homer back with Giants

Morse calls his shot before first spring training homer back with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After pulling up film of his previous at-bats, Michael Morse sunk into a clubhouse chair to watch the top of the seventh inning of a game against Puerto Rico. As he looked up at the TV, Morse smiled and shook his head.

“You know what’s ironic?” he said. “I always have great springs. I think I have like 100 career RBI in spring training.”

It was actually 103 at the time, with 32 homers and a .326 average. But Morse entered Wednesday’s exhibition game with .214 average, and no home runs or extra-base hits in his bid to go from non-roster invitee to the Opening Day roster. It was pointed out to him that this is the one spring where he actually needs to put up huge numbers, and he nodded as he got up for the bottom of the inning.

“Let me go hit a homer,” he said, laughing.

Five minutes later, Morse finally got on the board. He went deep to left-center, bringing his good friend Hunter Pence trotting in from third. When Morse walked back into the clubhouse, he raised his arms.

“I didn’t miss!” he yelled. “It was like, ‘Yes, he’s going to score. Oh, I am, too!’”

Nobody is having more fun than Morse this spring, even with the slow start. He came to camp wearing cheap cleats he had ordered because his equipment deal ran out when he stopped playing last season. He wore high socks with four stripes on them Wednesday, a nod to Pence. He said they made him feel faster.

For days before Wednesday’s game, Morse insisted his swing felt locked-in. He just wasn’t seeing results.

“I feel great and I wouldn’t be here trying to make the team if I didn’t,” he said. “That’s how much respect I have here for these guys.”

Morse is part of a crowded pack of non-roster invitees trying to make an impact. Chris Marrero has four homers, but for the most part, it’s been a quiet spring for Giants bats. Morse said that’s led to an interesting dynamic for the veterans. He found himself in the video room with Aaron Hill before that homer, and they marveled at the fact that they are treating every at-bat like it’s the middle of the season. There’s a lot at stake. 

“A lot of us are in the same situation,” he said. “It’s a new situation for pretty much all of us. We’re fighting every day for a chance to break camp with these guys. I have a new appreciation for the guys who come in this way every year. At the same time, you try to have fun. It’s baseball. Anything can happen.”

Morse showed that in 2014 when he returned from a significant oblique injury to help the Giants win the World Series. Giants officials hope he can have a similar impact off the bench this season, and they've given no hint one direction or the other on where Morse stands. All involved said not to read too much into the fact that Morse hasn't played left field in a game yet. 

"It's challenging because we've got two guys out there battling for a spot with (Mac) Williamson and (Jarrett) Parker, but it'd be nice to get him out there," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

Morse takes fly balls in the outfield every morning and he said the Giants should know what he can do out there. He is realistic, pointing out that "I'm not a burner, I'm not super-fast out there." He is still powerful, and he hopes to keep showing it. Bochy said Morse's batting practice session Wednesday morning was his best of the spring, but if that doesn't keep translating into games, Morse won't feel a burden. He is playing pressure-free no matter what. 

"I wish I could have played my whole career like this," he said. "At the end of the day, it's a win-win. They could come up to me at the end of this and say there's no room, and you know what, I'd say 'I'm happy for you guys.'

"For me, there's no pressure. I'm having fun."

Baseball Hall of Fame: Dusty Baker supports Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent

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AP

Baseball Hall of Fame: Dusty Baker supports Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent

The 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees will be announced Tuesday afternoon.

And while Mariano Rivera is a shoo-in to be honored in Cooperstown in July, the big question remains: Are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens worthy of the prestigious honors?

Well, this will always be a controversial subject, but what about from someone who watched Bonds' career first-hand? Say, his manager?

Dusty Baker witnessed the greatness of Bonds as his manager for a decade, and the two were both inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

But the big kahuna of Hall of Fames weighs over Bonds like a dark cloud. That dark cloud, of course, is Bonds' link to steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

"Well you know something, everyone talks about the PED use," Baker told Christopher Russo on MLB Network's High Heat on Tuesday. "I was there and I don't know, and I don't think other people know either because when I was a kid I used to say you were innocent until proven guilty. Has Barry ever been proved guilty like any of these guys? Did some of the guys get through the cracks that were guilty? I'm sure, but I mean, you look at these numbers and Barry Bonds is one of the greatest players of all time."

We can have the "did he, didn't he," debate until Bonds and Clemens fall off the ballot of eligibility or for years to come. It won't solve anything, but there is promise for the future for fans who hope to see Bonds get in.

There are glimmers of light shining through the "cracks" of the era that, like it or not, made people talk about baseball again. Voters are supporting Bonds and Clemens more than ever before, and the two may slowly be inching their way toward a plaque. 

Will it happen? At this moment, it appears unlikely. But there's always next year, and the year after that -- and the year after that. 

Our fingers remained crossed.

For five and a half years of Bonds' prestigious career, he shared a dugout with Jeff Kent, who also holds a place on the current ballot. But most of his supporters aren't as loud since, let's be honest, we as humans get too excited when a ball goes over the fence. But Kent's steady numbers at second base, traditionally a position bereft of offense, are still worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. 

Baker was asked about the five-time All-Star and he was very pro-Kent.

"Jeff's a good guy, Jeff didn't talk, but if you could get him to talk, he would burn your ear off," Baker said. "I'm hoping he and Barry get closer if not into the Hall of Fame."

Kent is a career .290 hitter, with 2,461 hits and 377 home runs across 17 seasons. In addition to those All-Star selections, Kent earned MVP honors in 2000 and four Silver Slugger Awards.

Whether those numbers are Hall of Fame-esque is not the issue at hand. It's whether the Hall recognizes Kent's all-around abilities as a player, and it's not looking that way.

Currently, as this blog is being written, Kent holds just 17.1 percent on the ballots that have been submitted with 75 percent needed to get inducted. And he has just a few chances left as well.

But the Bonds/Clemens numbers show it's possible.

"Everyone has something in their game -- Barry didn't have the strongest throwing arm, but he got rid of the ball quickly -- there are very few players, even in the Hall of Fame that are five-tool players."

Baker said he had just finished having a conversation with Hank Aaron earlier that morning, saying all anyone is talking about with Hall discussions is centered around guys with power.

"They don't talk about the intelligence of the game, [Kent's] baseball IQ, they don't talk about what a great defensive player he was, his throwing hand," Baker said.

But those talks need to happen.

[RELATED: Voters are supporting Bonds/Clemens]

"At some point in time, these guys got to get in the Hall of Fame or it's not the complete Hall of Fame."

Giants: What to watch for when Baseball Hall of Fame results announced

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USATSI

Giants: What to watch for when Baseball Hall of Fame results announced

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s no question about the end result for Barry Bonds when the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame class is announced Tuesday afternoon.

The seven-time MVP has not gotten particularly close to induction in his previous six years on the ballot, and he won’t get in this year. 

Once again, the only thing that matters for the most prolific slugger in Major League history is a percentage. How much progress has Bonds made since 2018, when he inched forward to 56.4 percent? We’ll find out in a few hours. 

Bonds, according to a Hall of Fame tracker run by Ryan Thibodaux should see a bit more progress when results are announced on MLB Network at 3:15.

Thibodaux’s spectacularly detailed tracker has Bonds listed on 71.2 percent of the ballots that have been released to the public, but that accounts for just a little more than half of the overall vote, and Bonds traditionally has seen a dip on the final day. Voters who prefer to remain anonymous have always judged him more harshly than those who release their ballots through their employers or on Twitter. 

Bonds was first listed on the ballot in 2013, receiving 36.2 percent of the vote from an electorate that has judged Bonds and Roger Clemens harshly because of PED connections. He got into the forties in 2016 and made a big jump to 53.8 percent a year later when Bud Selig, who oversaw the steroid era, was inducted and many voters changed their minds. 

Bonds has also seen gains as younger writers have reached voting eligibility -- he is listed on seven of eight ballots already released by first-time voters -- but he’s running out of time. He gained just 2.6 percent last year and remains well short of the 75 percent needed for enshrinement.

Barring a huge jump today, Bonds should remain in a precarious position with just three years remaining on the ballot. 

This year’s class will be led by Mariano Rivera, who is listed on 100 percent of the ballots thus far and could become the first unanimous inductee. Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, and Mike Mussina are also trending towards induction, with Mussina the only real question mark. 

[RELATED: Voters are standing in support of Bonds]

Former Giant Jeff Kent, in his sixth year on the ballot, stands at just 16.8 percent at the moment, per Thibodaux. Omar Vizquel, another who wore orange and black, is currently at 37.6 percent.