Tag Archives: San Francisco Giants

Retiring Schneider Brings to Mind a Small Slice of Baseball Mayhem

Brian SchneiderBrian Schneider retired yesterday. A backup for most of his 13-year career, he was never a star, but saw enough action to make an impression.

The following excerpt from The Baseball Codes was reported primarily because I watched it unfold from the press box at AT&T Park, and was duly amazed. The moment involved Schneider, in the on-deck circle, being drilled by a foul ball and knocked out of the game.

That, in itself, is unusual, but the story surrounding it—including the aftermath—brought increasing levels of intrigue. Schneider was only a bit player, but it bears retelling:

In 2006, the Washington Nationals limped into San Francisco with a MASH unit where their catching corps should have been. Starting catcher Brian Schneider suffered a debilitating lower-back strain in Los Angeles a day earlier, and backup Matt LeCroy had been released eleven days previous. That left only one player on the roster with catching experience—Robert Fick, primarily a first baseman who had caught in 132 games over eight previous big-league seasons.

In the fourth inning, however, it all came apart. Fick, on first after sin­gling, tore rib cartilage diving back to the bag on a pickoff throw. Had there been another catching option for Nationals manager Frank Robin­son, Fick would have come out of the game immediately. As it was, Fick’s injury prevented him from swinging a bat, but he was still able to squat and catch, so he stayed in.

The single had been part of a five-run rally that gave Washington a 6–1 lead. But after catching the bottom of the fourth, Fick was in such serious pain that Schneider volunteered to come off the bench, bad back and all, to take over. He made it as far as the on-deck circle, where he was prepar­ing to bat in Fick’s spot with two outs in the fifth. Within moments, how­ever, Nationals hitter Damian Jackson lined a foul ball directly into Schneider’s right wrist, giving him injuries in two places and sending him back to the dugout. There was no other option—Fick had to bat for him­self. Which leads to a question: What does a hitter do when he can’t swing a bat?

The answer: He bunts. It was Fick’s only alternative, short of watching every pitch he saw. There were two problems, however. One was that Fick pushed his first bunt attempt foul, leaving him standing at the plate and awaiting the next pitch from San Francisco starter Noah Lowry. The other was that neither Fick nor anyone else in the Nationals dugout told the Giants what was going on. All Lowry saw was a player bunting after a five-run rally that broke the game open. He drilled Fick with his next pitch.

“I thought it was unbelievable, ridiculous,” said Lowry. “Sometimes during a game, emotions take over. The emotions were already there, and to add that icing on the cake. . . . There comes a point where you have to draw the line and say, ‘Hey, have respect for me, have respect for the game.’ ”

It wasn’t until afterward that the left-hander found out about Fick’s ribs (the injury was enough to send the would-be catcher to the disabled list the next day) and the various maladies of Washington’s other catchers, and he felt terrible. Had there been some communication—Fick telling Giants catcher Todd Greene about his predicament, and Greene relaying that information to Lowry, perhaps—might it have made a difference?

“Yeah, of course,” said the pitcher. “Knowing he was hurt would have been a completely different story. . . . When I heard about why he was doing it I felt like a jerk. But, not knowing, you just play the game the way you know how to play it.”

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Holliday’s Had It: Calls out Cain for ‘Less Than Tough’ Retaliation

For those who think that Matt Cain waited to long to retaliate against Matt Holliday—the outfielder’s questionable slide into Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro occurred in Game 2 of the NLCS, and he was drilled a week later, in Game 7, once the series was salted away—Holliday put that timetable to shame.

Precisely one month after his slide, and three weeks after Cain drilled him, Holliday addressed the topic in an Insidestl.com report, calling it, among other things, “less than tough”:

[The pitch] seems on purpose. I wish that if he wanted to hit me, he would’ve just done it on the first pitch in the next game he had pitched. You know, if you’re going to do it, do it, get it out of the way. But to do it, I don’t remember what the score was but it was out of hand, that’s about it. I thought the timing of it was….I don’t want to get into it. I wasn’t thrilled about it. . . .

If you’re going to do it, I think that is when you do it. I wouldn’t be happy about it anytime. I just thought that in the situation that it actually did happen it was less than tough.

It might seem odd for Holliday to express displeasure with Cain’s delay weeks after the fact, when he could have done it immediately following the game in which it happened. To be fair, he was answering a question, not promoting an agenda, and it’s not like Cardinals players had much media time once they’d packed their bags for the winter upon returning to St. Louis.

It’s unlikely that this will further ill feelings come 2013, but also serves to remind us that another incident—one of Cain’s pitches slips, perhaps, or Holliday again takes out a middle infielder—will not be easily digested by the other side.

(Via HardballTalk.)

 

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Filed under Matt Cain, Matt Holliday, Matt Holliday, Retaliation, Slide properly

Holliday on Ice: Giants Finally Exact Revenge

Good things come to those who wait.

Determined to avoid compromising NLCS victory by retaliating for Matt Holliday’s Game 2 slide into Marco Scutaro—which was called everything from illegal (by Bruce Bochy) to dirty (by all manner of Giants fans)—Matt Cain waited until it would hurt the Cardinals most, and the Giants least, to respond.

St. Louis, trailing 7-0 in the sixth inning of Monday’s deciding Game 7 on an electric San Francisco night, appeared too stunned by the score to be able even to fully absorb the intent behind the pitch. Before the ball connected with Holliday’s left tricep, it had long since been assumed that the Giants would let his slide go unanswered.

Cain, we now know, has a longer memory than the Cardinals anticipated. (Watch it here.)

St. Louis players were already wearing long faces as they counted down outs toward what already appeared to be an inevitable, inexorable slide from the postseason. Before the drilling—as sure an intentional pitch as has been thrown all season—it seemed impossible that the Giants or their home crowd could be any more pumped up than they already were.

As soon as ball bounced off batter, however, it was clear that such a notion was folly. AT&T Park, we found out, does indeed go to 11—especially when the frontier justice runs in their favor.

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Filed under Matt Cain, Matt Holliday, Retaliation

Slide, Baby, Slide: Holliday Hammers Home Controversy in Game 2

The Giants said all the right things Monday about Matt Holliday’s slide. Although they universally questioned its timing, placement and function, to a man they denied feeling like Holliday intended to injure Marco Scutaro.

Unfortunately, he did injure Scutaro. After Holliday took San Francisco’s second baseman out, breaking up a double-play with a chop block to the knees, Scutaro responded with two hits in three at-bats before being removed from the game and taken to the hospital for tests. (Watch it here, or a gif of the play here.)

The Giants, hewing to propriety, said all the right things. Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, however, summed up the parameters fairly neatly in an interview for The Baseball Codes.

“The only time I have a problem with any opponent is if you slide on the back side of the base—if you jump over the base and then slide,” he said. “If you slide in front of the base, even you end up against the wall in left field, I could care less—as long as you start in front of that base. But if you jump slide on the back side of that base, that shows intent to separate somebody’s knees or legs, and that’s dirty play.”

Holliday’s slide met that description perfectly: He left the ground in front of the base and landed on the back side of the bag—directly into Scutaro’s legs. Bruce Bochy called the slide “illegal.”

A counter opinion comes from Mike Krukow, the ex-Giants pitcher who called Holliday’s slide as a member of the team’s broadcast crew. From The Baseball Codes:

Low barrel rolls [are] acceptable. When A-Rod took out Jeff Kent and sprained Kent’s right knee in 1998, he [low] barrel-rolled him. On TV that night, Kuip [Krukow’s broadcast partner, Duane Kuiper, a twelve-year major-league second baseman] and I said, That’s a legit play. After the game, Kent was pissed about it. He said that was a horseshit slide. No, it’s not. Basically, a low barrel roll— anything within arm’s distance of the bag—is acceptable. (Acceptable or not, the following night, Giants pitcher Orel Hershiser drilled Rodriguez in the shoulder.)

The Giants did not respond on Monday—Holliday went 0-for-3 against Ryan Vogelsong and Jeremy Affeldt the rest of the way—even with first base open in the third, and a four-run lead in the fifth and eighth. Bochy said that Scutaro is probable for tonight’s Game 3, and downplayed any talk of retaliation, but if it’s determined that Scutaro will miss time, it wouldn’t be shocking to see some fireworks. (“If one gets away,” Matt Cain told Andrew Baggarly, “one gets away.”)

Even Cardinals manager Mike Matheny seems to understand this. “We do play hard and we understand that they play hard,” he said in a San Jose Mercury News report. “That’s the way the game goes.”

For his part, Holliday responded appropriately after the fact, checking with catcher Buster Posey about Scutaro’s well being prior to his next at-bat (asked if he scolded Holliday during the exchange, Posey laughed and said no), and calling the clubhouse after the game. (Scutaro had already left to have tests done.)

Holliday has a reputation for going in hard to bases, so Monday’s slide was not out of character in that regard. Hal McRae had a similar reputation, but he took things to such an extent that legislation was enacted to counter his tactics. McRae’s takeout slide of New York’s Willie Randolph in the 1978 playoffs helped lead to the “Hal McRae rule,” stipulating that a runner must have at least a pretense of reaching the base while taking out an opposing fielder.

At least Holliday touched the bag.

Until Game 3 tonight, settle for the below clip of Joe Morgan taking out Dick Green in the 1972 World Series (It’s the second play in the clip.), which has been making the rounds. It’s primarily valuable to help illustrate the fact that baseball has toned down its act, and that—partly thanks to things like the Hal McRae rule—significant amounts of basepath violence have been removed from the action.

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Filed under Matt Holliday, Slide properly

Those Pitching Changes. Oh, Those Pitching Changes

Perhaps the most obvious piece of the Code is the mandate to shut down aggressive play on offense while holding a big lead late in the game. But what about pitching?

On Wednesday, Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen three times—going righty-lefty-righty with Guillermo Mota, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo—to face four batters in the ninth inning against the Rockies. The Giants led 8-3.

“I’ve been here a few times and I’ve seen some comebacks that are hard to stop,” Bochy said in the San Jose Mercury News. “You don’t want to get a rally started here because momentum gets going.”

There’s no indication that the Rockies were annoyed by such tactics, and perhaps they shouldn’t have been. However, were manager Jim Tracy the type to get rankled over a stolen base by a team holding a five-run, ninth inning lead, it only stands to follow that this might get under his skin, as well.

 

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Filed under Don't Play Aggressively with a Big Lead

The Subtlest Retaliation is Sometimes the Best

Sometimes even an inconsequential on-field action can merit retaliation—which will ideally be delivered in measures commensurate with the initial transgression. Which is to say, if a team must respond to a minor Code violation, here’s hoping they do it appropriately.

On Thursday, the Diamondbacks did.

With runners at first and second and nobody out in the eighth inning of their game in San Francisco, Adam Eaton (this one, not this one) grounded a ball to first base, where Brandon Belt made a quick relay to third. The play caught Pablo Sandoval off guard; instead of backing up a step to touch the base for a force play, he turned to make a sweep tag. So too did the play surprise baserunner John McDonald, who, instead of sliding—which he almost certainly would have done had he expected it—staggered toward the base and into Sandoval.

Surprised by the contact, the husky third baseman followed McDonald into foul territory after tagging him, and was quickly restrained by umpire Greg Gibson and Arizona third base coach Matt Williams before dugouts emptied. No punches were thrown, Sandoval quickly calmed down, and everybody went back about their business. (Watch it here.)

Such a situation hardly merits a drilling (especially because umpires warned both benches immediately following the incident). More appropriate is what Arizona ended up doing: In the ninth inning, while holding a 6-2 lead, Paul Goldschmidt led off with a single and promptly stole second.

Sure, four runs in the ninth is hardly a basis for rubbing anything in, but it was clear by that point that the Giants would not be coming back: They had been no-hit into the seventh by Trevor Cahill, and Arizona had one of the league’s top closers in J.J. Putz available if needed, with only three outs to go.

The Diamondbacks made their point, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

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Filed under Don't Steal with a Big Lead, Retaliation

How You Know You’re No Longer Slumping, Lesson 129: The Other Team Wants to Drill You

Brandon Belt: Tickled to be so esteemed.

Sometimes it’s okay to be drilled.

When you’re a hitter who as recently as July 24 was batting just .229 and slugging well south of .400, it can feel good to hold target-worthy status, justification be damned.

At least it did for Brandon Belt, who was by every indication hit intentionally by Padres lefty Clayton Richard on Sunday, in response for a Ryan Vogelsong pitch that ran into Carlos Quentin two innings earlier.

After the game, Belt was sporting a sizable welt above his hip, but he didn’t mind. “It’s kind of a compliment, I guess,” Belt, by that point having raised his average to .267, told the San Jose Mercury News. “It’s okay, it’s part of baseball sometimes.”

His picher didn’t agree.

“Go look at the video,” Vogelsong said in a San Francisco Chronicle report. “It was a two-seamer that ran off the plate. That guy hammers balls over the plate, then gets pissed when you throw the ball inside. It doesn’t make sense. Every time you hit a guy in this game, they think you did it on purpose. It’s tired.”

It’s worth noting that Quentin is tied for the league lead with 14 HBPs this year, led the American League last season with 23 for Chicago, and has collected 20 in two other seasons, so it shouldn’t have come as much of a shock.

Still, for some pitchers a hit teammate is a hit teammate, intention aside. The Giants and Padres next meet on September 20, in San Francisco.

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Filed under Brandon Belt, Retaliation