Tag Archives: San Francisco Giants

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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Take That, Atlanta: Cabrera Seizes Every Opportunity to Remind Braves That He’s on His Game

Memories can be long when it comes to failures of the past, and old bitterness sometimes dies hard. There’s little question after Wednesday night’s Giants-Braves game that Melky Cabrera harbors some old bitterness.

He never found his groove during his lone season in Atlanta, in 2010, receiving scant affection from fans, media and the organization itself. Of course, much of it was deserved—he showed up out of shape, hit only four home runs, finished eighth among team regulars with a .255 batting average, and dead last in OBP, slugging and OPS. He feuded with manager Bobby Cox, and the team released him after the season.

When Cabrera returned to Atlanta for the first time since then this week, he wasted few opportunities to make his feelings known. On Tuesday, he gestured (some say rudely) toward fans in the left field bleachers after catching a fly ball, and acted as if he would toss balls to the stands before reversing course and holding on to them. He spent some time admiring his home run off of Mike Minor on Wednesday. (Tater Trot Tracker listed it as the day’s fifth slowest circuit, out of 39.) With Jason Heyward at second on Wednesday, Cabrera caught a flyball and waved at him with his glove as if urging him to test the outfielder’s arm. When Brandon Crawford hit what turned out to be the game-winning homer in the 11th inning on Wednesday, Cabrera left the dugout and skipped up the warning track.

Things had built to such a degree that after he and Gregor Blanco scored on Blanco’s 11th-inning home run Wednesday (shortly following Crawford’s), their standard pelvis-thrusting celebration was taken by many to be inflammatory.

The Braves noticed all of it.

In the eighth inning Wednesday, reliever Eric O’Flaherty threw a high, inside fastball to Carbrera, knocking him to the ground. The gesture elicited a smile from the outfielder.

“That’s Melky, and that’s why he’s not here anymore,” Chipper Jones told the Atlanta Journal Contstitution after the game. “He got a little happy when Blanco hit the home run. It won’t be forgotten.”

(Jones got his own measure of revenge when, after homering in the 11th, he took even longer than Cabrera to round the bases.)

Speculation had Tim Hudson, starting Thursday for the Braves, offering further retaliation, but the score was close throughout, and Cabrera ended up going 2-for-3 with a walk without being hit.

For his part, Cabrera claimed to CSN Bay Area (through interpreter Angel Pagan) that it was all in good fun.

“Just trying to play hard baseball,” he said. “Sometimes when the adrenaline is really high, something might happen. It’s not trying to embarrass anybody. It’s just trying to play hard and competitive.”

Difficult as that may be to believe, Giants manager Bruce Bochy defended his player—although some of it was clearly lip service.

“I don’t think Melky means to [taunt],” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “I’m not into trying to show up other clubs and the guys know it. If you know Melky, he’s quiet and goes about his business. It was more about having fun.”

It’s true that Cabrera has been nothing but quiet and professional to this point in his San Francisco tenure, but it’s tough to mistake much of what he did at Turner Field as anything to do with “having fun.”

Atlanta visits the Giants in late August. Mark your calendars.

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Filed under Don't Showboat, Melky Cabrera

Reach Out and Touch Someone … or Not: On Cano’s (Temporary) Lack of Love for Melky

In 1933, National League president John Heydler issued a memo to team presidents recommending against inter-team fraternization. By the end of the decade, Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis had turned it into law. Umpires were tasked with sitting in the stands before games and taking names of those players willing to converse across borders, with fines levied against the guilty.

Because those mores were in line with the unwritten rules, not many fines were needed. Heck, in the 1965 All-Star Game, Bob Gibson wouldn’t talk to his own catcher, Joe Torre, because they played for different teams during every other game of the season.

“When I had the uniform on, somebody with the other uniform, I wanted to choke them,” said 1993 AL Cy Young Award-winner Jack McDowell. “I wanted to kill them. I’m sure as hell not going to go shake their hands and talk to them, even warming up before a game.”

These days, that mindset has faded, for one primary reason. “There’s interaction now,” said Dusty Baker. “High school games, section games, college games, Area Code games, Junior Olympic team, Olympic team, Pan Am Games—most of these guys know each other, and for a long period of time before they even get to the big leagues.”

Even with that in mind, Melky Cabrera tried to push the envelope following his fourth-inning homer in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. As San Francisco’s center fielder rounded first, he spied one of his best friends in the game, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano. The pair had come up together through New York’s minor league system, and remain close.

As Cabrera approached second, he held out his hand to slap five with his pal—who, it should be re-stated, was playing for the other team.

How did it sit? Not well in Cabrera’s own clubhouse, likely. His manager for the day, Tony La Russa, is known to have some feelings on the subject. From Buzz Bissinger’s Three Nights in August: “It drives [La Russa] crazy when a hitter gets a single and starts chatting it up with the first baseman as if they’re distant cousins at a family reunion. He shares the fan’s view that it simply doesn’t look good: Baseball is meant to be a game of competition, not a game of whassup dog?

Whassup dog, however,  seemed to be on Cabrera’s mind. Cano refused to play along. (Watch it here.)

“He tried to give me a high five, and I know this is the All-Star Game, but I don’t want to look bad out there,” Cano said in a CBS Sports report. “It was fun, and if it was a closer game I might be having fun. I didn’t want to upset my teammates. We’re playing to win.”

It’s doubtful that Cabrera would have tried such a thing anyplace but an exhibition, but it was still an odd and awkward sight.

“Take ’em out to dinner,” said pitcher Dick Bosman of such encounters. “Sit in the lobby of the hotel. But whatever you do, you’re not supposed to be doing it out there on the field.”

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Filed under Fraternization, Melky Cabrera

Cain Conquers Code, Overcomes Slew of Jinxes to Reach Perfection

There are some lines Bruce Bochy is willing to cross, and some that he’s not.

Case in point: Matt Cain’s perfect game Wednesday night. Bochy was willing to make some small changes: Emmanuel Burriss replaced Ryan Theriot at second base in the sixth, and in the seventh, Joaquin Arias slid from shortstop to third base, replacing Pablo Sandoval, with Brandon Crawford inserted at shortstop.

The Burriss substitution, said Bochy after the game, was aimed at giving playing time to one player and rest to another during a 10-0 blowout. The seventh-inning switches, however, were made with perfection in mind, Bochy putting the best defense possible behind Cain. Sure enough, the first batter of the eighth, J.D. Martinez, hit a slow roller to third, which Arias charged, gloved cleanly, and threw on a line to nip the runner. And with two outs in the ninth, Arias fielded a sharply hit ball down the line and made the long throw in plenty of time to preserve Cain’s perfection. (Watch it here. Full highlights here.)

“We went against every unwritten rule in the book, I know, but Boch and I just thought we had to have our best defense in there at the end, and it worked out,” said Giants bench coach Ron Wotus. “Panda [Sandoval] would have a tough time making those two plays as easily as Arias made them.”

When it came to warming up a pitcher, however, Bochy was significantly more sly. With a comfortable lead, he wanted a reliever ready should Cain—whose pitch count through seven was 103—give up a hit. The manager was cognizant, however, of the emotional toll the sight of bullpen activity can take on a nerve-wracked starter, so he had reliever Shane Loux warming up “down underneath,” either in the batting cage or in the tunnel below the stands.

“We had somebody ready,” he said. “You couldn’t see him, but he was there.”

Far less tactful was first baseman Brandon Belt, who looked up from his seat in the dugout in the seventh inning, and was startled to see Cain in front of him.

“I sat down and Cainer just stopped and stared at me,” Belt told CSN Bay Area‘s Andrew Baggarly, referencing the superstition that nothing in the dugout order can change under such circumstances. “Yeah, I guess everything was OK until I sat in his seat.”

As if to follow suit, not only was the Giants television broadcast crew more than happy to reference the no-hitter, but prior to the ninth inning showed a “Giants No-Hit History” graphic, featuring each of San Francisco’s five previous no-hitters.

Just goes to show that dominant pitching trumps jinxes every time.

Update (6-15-12): Cain’s family is full of Code adherents.

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Filed under Matt Cain, No-Hitter Etiquette