How Austin Slater became Giants' players association representative

How Austin Slater became Giants' players association representative

Whenever quarantine fully ends, Austin Slater will be significantly more prepared to save par. Slater and his roommates set up a couple of golf holes in their backyard in Arizona and have been practicing their chipping to help pass the time. 

"My golf game was almost nonexistent before the quarantine, and now I have a somewhat OK -- I wouldn't even call it decent -- short game," Slater said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. 

Throw in video games and dips in the backyard pool and Slater is making the most of his free time. But it's not all fun and games as he waits for the season to return.

Like the rest of the Giants, Slater is working out, throwing where he can, and taking swings to try and stay in game shape. He also happens to be somewhat involved in the ongoing process to return to the field. Before the Giants unexpectedly broke camp, Slater was selected as the unofficial MLB Players Association representative for the clubhouse.

"Technically ... officially ... I'm not the players rep. The elections aren't until June. The players union holds elections every two years in June," Slater said, smiling. "However, I went to the meetings this winter as our representative and obviously there's been -- not only the coronavirus -- but a lot of issues coming up, and I've been lucky enough to be included in a lot of those text conversations and phone calls."

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Matt Cain was the longtime Giants player rep and Cory Gearrin, who has shown a strong interest in politics even while playing, took over after that. When Gearrin was traded in 2018 the Giants temporarily held the position vacant, with Brandon Crawford taking over on an interim basis last year. Each team meets with Tony Clark and the MLBPA every spring and that's when Slater found out he had been elevated. 

"When the players union guys came in for spring training, they asked who's our players rep, and (Buster Posey) said, 'Austin Slater,' " Slater said. "It was a semi-official election, I guess, if Buster deemed me to be the players rep. Crawford did as well.

"Obviously I feel blessed and lucky to be supported by those guys. Obviously our locker room has a lot of veterans, and that they trust me like that, it means a lot to me for sure."

The rep serves on the MLBPA executive board and is responsible for meeting with players on his team and representing them in the resolution of any issues at the club level. It generally is not a very dramatic role, but Slater has found himself on lengthy calls at a time when players are not only dealing with the coronavirus, but also have been expressing concerns about the way free agency has gone the last couple offseasons. The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021 season. 

Slater said there have been some long calls with other reps, but it's something he enjoys. It's also something he is well-suited for, and perhaps that's why he was such an easy choice. In addition to being a Stanford alum, Slater is the grandson of former Jacksonville mayor Ed Austin. 

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"That's something that I'm willing to do and it's something that interests me," Slater said of the additional work. "I love baseball, I love the finer details of the sport that maybe a lot of guys either don't pay attention to or don't know about, and I think it has a huge impact on our future careers and the future of baseball.

"It's something that I've taken a personal interest in."

On the podcast, Slater also discussed how long it would take him to get ready for a season, originally getting drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking grounders at second and short and much more. You can download it here.

How Logan Webb is handling delay as he tries to win Giants starting job

How Logan Webb is handling delay as he tries to win Giants starting job

The first spring training game that got canceled because of the coronavirus was going to be a big one for Logan Webb. The young right-hander was supposed to throw five innings, continuing his push for the final rotation spot.

Instead, Webb, who moved to Arizona in the offseason to prepare for a spring competition, is back home in the Sacramento area, sheltering in place with his family and trying to find ways to pass the time. Recently, that included growing his first mustache, much to the disappointment of his fianceé.

"She hates it," he said on this week's Giants Insider Podcast. "It's not a very good look, but you know, I thought I would give it a try."

The 23-year-old has an unexpected delay for what should have been his breakthrough season, and he'll be in an interesting spot when the game resumes. Webb's biggest hurdle in his push for a rotation spot was the fact that he was going to be under an innings limit, but a shortened season takes that out of play. 

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If the Giants are able to resume this summer, there's no reason not to throw Webb out there with the four veteran starters, and he's preparing for any possibility. He logs his daily workouts on an app recommended by the coaches and is in regular contact with a staff that was overhauling his arsenal a bit. Pitching coach Brian Bannister introduced a new cutter that would fit Webb's arm path, and he was starting to feel comfortable with it as camp ended.

Webb continues to work on new grips and pitches while playing catch with Nick Mears, a Pirates minor leaguer who also went to Rocklin High School. He is staying in shape for what he hopes is his first Opening Day on a big-league field. 

"We'd rather be playing, wherever that may be, but I do think the safety is the most important thing and staying home, because this thing is scary," Webb said. "Obviously it sucks, but I'm trying to stay positive. Being with family helps a lot."

That family is full of Raiders fans, and Webb lit up as he talked of an event on the calendar that will help him get through another week without baseball. He said he'll stick with the Raiders even after they land in Las Vegas, and he's anxious to see what they do with two first-round picks next week. 

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"I'm just more excited to have something live. I'm always pretty excited to watch the draft and see what the Raiders do," he said. "Sometimes it breaks your heart and sometimes it's happy. I'm not an expert or anything. I definitely do think they're going to go for a wide receiver. I don't know who or when, but wide receiver and then a lot of defense."

On the podcast, Webb discussed his favorite moments from his rookie year, the debut he can barely remember, what he learned from Stephen Vogt, how he thought he was faring in the camp competition, and much more. 

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

Former Giant Randy Winn describes feeling of month-long hot streak

A starting pitcher can take control of a game and singlehandedly lead his team to a win, but in general, it's hard for baseball players to will their team to victory day after day.

Starters pitch once every five days and position players know that even on a five-hit night, you're dependent on your own pitchers standing tall, and every time you reach base, you have to wait a couple innings for another chance to impact the game.

But every once in a while, a hitter gets so hot that it seems he's carrying his team for weeks at a time. The Giants last truly experienced this in 2018, when Brandon Crawford briefly thrust himself into the MVP race and earned an All-Star selection with an absurd stretch in May and June.

Buster Posey won the MVP award with his second half of 2012, and Melky Cabrera dragged the Giants to plenty of wins earlier that year before failing a PED test. In the first half of this century, Barry Bonds could carry the lineup for weeks, even seasons, at a time. 

Randy Winn experienced that after being traded to the Giants from the Mariners in 2005, and that year he had his own hot streak that to this day is one of the most impressive in franchise history. Over the final 30 games of that season, Winn had 54 hits in 123 at-bats, good for a .439 batting average. He hit 11 homers, 13 doubles and three triples, with a slugging percentage of .862 and OPS of 1.331. 

On this week's Giants Insider Podcast, Winn recalled what it felt like to get that hot for such a long period of time. 

"Nothing felt different -- everything just felt really, really easy and really slow," Winn said. "Whenever I felt like I wanted to take a pitch, the pitcher would throw a ball. If in my mind I was thinking, you know what, he might throw me a changeup, and he would throw me a changeup and it was very hittable. When anybody describes 'the zone' or being on fire, what they say is always the same: Everything was really slow, I was really relaxed, and my mind was really clear.

"When I think back on that time or other times when I was hitting really well, those are always the things that I remember. I didn't feel different, I wasn't really doing anything different. It just feels like you're in control of everything."

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Winn was having a solid season to that point, with a .273 average and .742 OPS. He opened September with eight hits in a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks and never looked back, finishing the year with a .306 average. Winn had 17 multi-hit games in September, including three four-hit games. His 51 hits that month set a San Francisco Giants record that Cabrera tied in May of 2012. 

"It was a great situation for me," Winn said of the midseason trade that brought him to San Francisco. "Coming home, still live in the Bay Area, grew up in the Bay Area, my wife is from the Bay Area, our parents at that time lived in the Bay Area, so for us it was a homecoming and it was just great to be back home."

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On the podcast, Winn also talks about how he would handle this layoff, what it was like playing college basketball with Steve Nash, what made Bonds and Albert Pujols so great, and much more.