Saturday, July 29, 2023

Remember The Original Swifties?

Attention: Swifties. I’m going to shake it off and piss you off.

With all the hype and hoopla and TV news reporter gushing hilarity surrounding the sold out concerts at Levi’s Stadium this weekend featuring your gal pal Taylor Swift, the Goddess of Popness, lest we not forget that another group of so-called Swifties took over this town in 1993 when the Giants won 103 games before losing the National League pennant of the final day of the season to the Atlanta Braves. 

I’m talking Billy Swift. B-Swift. He pitched beyond wildest dreams for the Giants after being traded from the Settle Mariners in 1992 two days before T-Swift was two years old. Swifty, as Dusty Baker started calling him, led the National League with a 2.08 earned run average in 1992, won 21 games and finished runner-up to Greg Maddux for the NL Cy Young Award in 1993, and ended his Giants pitching career in 1994 with a gorgeous three-year record of 39-19 and 2.70 ERA before telling the Giants we are never ever getting back together and signing as a free agent with the Colorado Rockies.

The righthanded pitcher born in Portland, Maine, a product of the University of Maine, captivated fans at Candlestick Park, especially in stretch run in September in 1993 when he went 4-1 with a 2.03 ERA. He was the man. Swift’s final game at Candlestick that year was a masterpiece before a crowd of 46,348 to beat the Padres, allowing one run in eight innings as the Giants extended their lead over the Braves to 1 ½ games. His final start was on September 30, when he beat the Dodgers in L.A. for the Giants’ 101st win of the season to remain in a tie with the Braves. Three days later, the Giants lost on the final day of the season when Baker started 21-year-old rookie pitcher Salomon Torres and the Giants knew they were in trouble when he couldn’t finish the fourth inning in 12-1 loss that created more bad blood with the rival Dodgers who poured it on and rubbed it that day . Despite a franchise record of 103 wins that season, the Giants failed to make the playoffs, a position Giants fans know all too well over the years.

Swift would have been the one and started the playoff game against the Braves if there had been one. The Giants would have been safe and sound with Swifty on the mound. Imagine if he had the chance. What a love story that would have been.

B-Swift came to the Giants as a relief pitcher in 1992 but Giants manager Roger Craig took him out of the bullpen and turned him into a starter. The change was good.  It took Giants fans a while to warm to that. Only 12,157 fans were on hand to see Swifty beat the Phillies on May 2 at Candlestick Park in a game chilly enough for fans to wear cardigan sweaters. Swifty fans back then didn’t come to the ballpark with friendship bracelets, but they did leave with Croix de Candlestick buttons if the game went into extra innings at night.

Swift’s annual salary in 1992 was $2.3 million which Taylor Swift probably earned for one song in Levi’s Stadium. The Giants gave him a $1 million raise the next year, but his salary dropped back down to $2.3 million in 1994 which must have had him seeing red. However, going from the Giants to the Rockies, left a blank space in his career, which drooped like a willow tree. Compared to San Francisco, B-Swift was the anti hero in Colorado. You could call his time there the Errors Tour because Swifty came to San Francisco on a white horse and left a better man.

Finally, with his off-season heading back to December, Swifty realized everything has changed. He retired from baseball during spring training in 1999, about the time 10-year-old Taylor Swift was thinking about moving to Nashville to pursue a country music career.  Injuries to his shoulder and back ultimately left B-Swift feeling like he had no body but that’s no crime.

In time, T-Swift emerged as a pop cultural superstar and the Giants got their Swifty back. In 2006, when the Giants drafted Tim Lincecum, Tay Tay released her self-titled album. She released new albums in the even-numbered years 2010, 2012, and 2014 which happened to the years that the Giants won the World Series. However, the coincidence became a curse. Instead of releasing her next new album in 2016, T-Swift waited until 2017, an odd-numbered year, which threw the Giants off their game. They haven’t won a World Series since. It’s a losing streak that has lasted longer than the rest of the field vs. Joey Chestnut in the Nathan’s Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.

But you need to calm down, Giants fans. It’s not about you. It’s about ME! ME as in the abbreviation for Maine. Those original Swifties at Candlestick in the 90s didn’t have to pay $400 to park or $1,000 a ticket to attend a Bill Swift performance. Those Swifties came without any fanfare wearing Giants sweatshirts and not sequins.   

If you’re a Bill Swift fan, you should be a Swifty forever. 

If you’re a Taylor Swift fan, look at what you made me do. Count the number of her song titles in this column of mine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Two Words: Yankees Suck

I resist the temptation to declare this “National Yankees Suck Week” and I don’t know why.

As a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, this feels like an extended holiday. Seeing the hated New York Yankees in last place in the standings in July is cause for fireworks and jubilation. Something you lean back, look up, smile and appreciate. Something wonderfully and completely unexpected to celebrate like a kid rejoicing a rare snow day that cancels school in Maine.

I'm so giddy, what do I do with myself?

The last time the Yankees were alone in last place with their worst record after 95 games  Carl Harrison “Stump” Merrill -- once a star catcher for the University of Maine from Brunswick, Maine -- had replaced Russell Earl “Bucky” Dent – always a weak-hitting shortstop in New York/the anti-Christ in New England – as the manager of the Yankees after Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had the audacity to fire him  over the telephone at Fenway Park, the very site of his most famous hit ever. I still cringe when I see Yaz’s knees buckle as Bucky’s game-changing home run barely creeped into the net at the top of the Green Monster in the infamous 1978 playoff game.

I’ve seen that replay show up on TV more than Jake from State Farm.

It was the 1990 season when the Yankees finished in last place for the first time in 24 years with 95 losses, their most since 1912 B.B. Before Babe. That year Billy Martin was killed in a car crash, MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent banned Steinbrenner from baseball for life after he paid a gambler for “dirt” on Dave Winfield who had sued the Yankees owner, and the Yankees drafted Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and my Facebook friend Jalal Leach and released the .158 hitting Deion Sanders. Don Mattingly was the Yankees’ first baseman and Dave Righetti was their ace reliever but their starting second baseman was Steve Sax, their right fielder was Jesse Barfield, their DH was Steve Balboni, and their catcher was Bob Geren, now a bench coach for the L.A. Dodgers after being fired as manager of the Oakland A’s.

More a Mundane Row than Murderer’s Row.

This Yankees team has a $295 million payroll and normally the Yankees could buy their way out of this funk. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who the Yankees resigned in the offseason for two years and $40 million, is batting .190 with no home runs since May 20 and was benched Wednesday. Giancarlo Stanton, who has four years remaining on a 13-year $325 million contract, is currently hitting .196 on the season. Two-time batting champion D.J. Lemahieu is batting .231.

Yankees fans are so frustrated that some are pointing to a stuffed cat toy prank before their last series against the Anaheim Angels by Gleyber Torres on his notoriously cat-fearing Venezuelan teammate Eduardo Escobar as if it’s cursed the team.  Yankees fans are finding more negative than positive in the team right now with Aaron Judge still recovering from ligament tears in his right big toe. Since Judge, the American League’s MVP last season, has been on the IL since June 6 and the Yankees’ record is 14-21.

The rumor mill has the Yankees being desperate enough to put together a package to go after Shohei Ohtani before the August 1 trade deadline. But six years ago Ohtani declined to even speak with the Yankees when he was a free agent. The Yankees, the second oldest team in major league baseball behind the Mets, would need to surrender a ton of players/prospects to get him then invest upwards of $500 million after giving Judge $360 million in the offseason to keep him. That's a steep price for protecting the Yankees from their enemies. Maybe they can get Mexico to pay for it.

So it’s easy to pick on the Yankees right now and normally I would be first on the dog pile. Especially after Yankees manager Aaron Boone said "we stink" on Wednesday night, which I think is as close as you can come to "we suck." I own a gray T-shirt and a red hoodie both inscribed with “Jesus Hates The Yankees” and I have religiously worn my white “Yankees Suck” T-shirt for years. My loathing for the Yankees is so well known that when Derek Jeter missed by one vote of being voted unanimously into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010, more than one person contacted me and asked if that was my vote. No, my voting for the Baseball of Fame expired in 2019. For the record, I would have voted for Jeter to be voted into Cooperstown on the first ballot, though I despised all the times he fist-pumped celebrating big moments against the Red Sox. That image is forever etched in my mind no matter how many commercials he does these days.

I do not feel sorry for the Yankees and never will, but I am going to resist the temptation for “National Yankees Suck Week.” And now I know why.

No. 1 the Yankees still have a winning record despite all their injuries and Judge is taking batting practice and running the bases and about a week away from returning to the lineup.

No. 2 the Red Sox record isn’t much better than the Yankees’ record despite fewer injuries and, after losing two consecutive games and giving up five home runs in less than 24 hours to the worst team in baseball – the Oakland A’s -- they are a day away from falling back into last place.

No. 3 the Yankees are the Yankees and they always find a way to right their ship better than the Red Sox though the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009.

Had to get that dig in. I wouldn’t be a Red Sox fan if I didn’t.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

A's Are More Grooted In Oakland Than Rooted


It was once again “Bark In The Park Night” in the Oakland Coliseum on Tuesday night.


Given the current status of the home team, one wonders when the A’s are going to have Lame Duck Night.


As you know the Nevada state legislature and Nevada’s governor approved a bill to provide $380 million in public funding for a proposed $1.5 billion, 30,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof on the site of the Tropicana Las Vegas at the intersection of Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue.  The Tropicana, which will be demolished, opened in 1957 and its earliest performers included Eddie Fisher, the real father of Princess Leia. So you could say the Force is with them in addition to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred.


The A’s and beleaguered owner John Fisher have applied for relocation, which makes sense. The Las Vegas Strip would be a perfect destination for the most stripped-down major league team since Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn and Jake Taylor were the starting battery for the Cleveland Indians.


The biggest protest of the move has come from the 27,759 A’s fans who showed up two weeks ago for a” Reverse Boycott.” In the fifth inning, they stood in unison to give the silent treatment to their cause then started yelling “Sell The Team! Sell The Team!”  It was a poetic message aimed at Fisher that supported their objection to the A’s moving except for the fact that some A’s fans littered the field with cans and bottles after the game. Who knew the Reverse Boycott would end with trash talk.


At least A’s fans are invested.  The only thing leadership from the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda is willing to pay the team is lip service. They have had 30 years to build a new baseball stadium. Enough said.


Pending a miracle, the A’s will leave after the team’s lease with Oakland and Alameda expires following the 2024 season. Insert sad emoji and poop emoji here.


 “It’s killing me,” said a ballpark usher and longtime A’s fan. “It’s a dagger in my heart.”


There is hope for Oakland and it comes from San Francisco. Lest we forget that in 1992 Giants owner Bob Lurie had reached an agreement with a bunch of investors in Florida to move the Giants, who were playing in Candlestick Park, to St. Petersburg where a new domed stadium had been built. However, MLB owners blocked that move and an investment group led by Peter Magowan swooped in and bought the team then went out and signed Barry Bonds. A brand-new ballpark, three World Series titles, and countless memorable moments followed.


Perhaps A’s Fischer, the Gap Inc. billionaire, is hoping for the same thing but, unlike San Francisco in 1992, the city of Oakland, the County of Alameda, and potential buyers of the team locally have not stepped up to the plate. They haven’t even grabbed a bat. Besides, Manfred owns the bat rack. This Las Vegas/Nevada/MLB/Fisher collaboration sure smells like collusion, which MLB in the past has treated like the anti-Christ.


Of course, no one has heard much of anything from Fisher outside of Las Vegas. Fisher isn’t talking -- at least publicly – and he is rarely seen. An owner of a professional sports team hasn’t been this invisible since Anita Cambridge was discovered by Reggie Dunlop when Reg was trying to get him, the Hanson Brothers, and Charlestown Chiefs to Florida and as far away as they could from Ogie Ogilthorpe.


Chances are Fisher was not among the crowd on Tuesday night on Jewish Heritage Night when, even with the mighty third-place New York Yankees in town, only 13,050 fans and their dogs showed up at the Oakland Coliseum where the A’s are last in MLB in home attendance entering the game with an average of 9,688. The Yankees, though playing most of the season without injured superstar Aaron Judge, still lead MLB in road attendance with an average of 33,269.  It was the smallest crowd to see a Yankees’ game since 10,876 saw the Pinstripers play the A’s in Oakland last Aug. 26. A year before that only 8,147 fans were on hand to see a Yankees-A’s game in Oakland and that’s when the A’s had Matt Olson and Matt Chapman in their lineup.


A’s fans – except for the “Reverse Boycott” on June 13 -- haven’t been motivated to come to the Oakland Coliseum to watch a team with a roster right out of the Benchwarmers. Honestly, these young A’s play hard and compete and deserve much more credit for their professionalism in the face of adversity and uncertainty. They’ve only won 21 games after beating the run-starved Bronx Embalmers Tuesday. The A’s ain’t that bad.


You can’t blame the A’s players for trying and you can’t blame the A’s fans for crying. Even Oakland sports fan Forrest Gump is upset. Actor Tom Hanks told city and county leaders to take a hike, too.


We've lost the Raiders. The Warriors moved to San Francisco. And now they're going to take the A's out of Oakland? Damn them all to hell,” tweeted Hanks, who was a hot dog vendor in his youth at the Oakland Coliseum.


Look around. There are no discernable signs of encouragement for the A’s in the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s team president Dave Kaval has been spotted flanked by security guards. The giant green tarps still cover 20,000 empty seats in the upper deck of so-called Mt. Davis, the stadium’s extended section built in 1995 to expand stadium capacity and add luxury suites to appease Raiders owner Al Davis when he brought his team back to Oakland from L.A. A lot of good that did, huh? And the A’s Community Corner in Section 218 looks like a fire sale, filled with leftover items from previous promotional giveaway days including a Marvel Groot bobblehead.


“If it’s not nailed to the fucking floor, they’re selling it,” the A’s usher/fan said.


Whatever is not sold, the A’s may need to put it in storage. The new ballpark in Las Vegas may not be ready until 2028 – according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal-- meaning the A’s might spend the 2025, 2026, and 2027 seasons as nomads, playing in minor league stadiums until their new major league home is finished in Vegas. Unless the A’s and the City of Oakland and County of Alameda extend the lease, which seems unlikely as Fisher and Manfred are burning bridges faster than Lord Voldemort.


Hence, the A’s, a charter member of the American League who have had homes in Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland, could be renting from Sacramento, Reno, or Las Vegas. And, really, who goes to Vegas to watch anything other than the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and the Fountains of Bellagio? Mark Davis is already complaining about lack of fan support for his Raiders in a new stadium built for them. Another professional sports team in Las Vegas? Whoop-de-doo. The Vegas Golden Knights won their first ever Stanley Cup championship in front of their fans in Las Vegas in June and the world yawned. The television ratings for the Cup clinching game were the lowest in 30 years.


So be careful what you wish for before unrooting the A’s in Oakland.  They were a dynasty in the 70s in spite of owner Charlie Finley. They should have been a dynasty in the late 80s/early 90s because of owner Walter Haas, Sandy Alderson and Tony La Russa. And they continued to be a playoff team and competitive into this decade because of the brilliance and innovation of Billy Beane and the Moneyball days.


Now the “Money” is gone and all that remains is “ball.” The A’s just play ball in Oakland. Nothing else.


What a damn shame. Real lame.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Hall Of Fame Worthy Despite Baseball Blunder

Duane “Dewey” Warren could have been a three-sport star at Foxcroft Academy in my hometown of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, but he chose not to play baseball.

I think I know why. I blame myself.

Duane, who was inducted into the Foxcroft Academy Athletics Hall of Fame on October 7, was the star player in our last year of Little League baseball in Dover-Foxcroft’s version of the movie “The Sandlot.” We were 11-year-old teammates – naturally he batted clean-up and I was lucky enough to bat third ahead of him – and we were in the championship game at the baseball diamond at Morton Elementary School, our field of dreams. It had a dirt infield, a wired backstop as tall as the Green Monster in Fenway Park, and the only place to sit and watch a game was either on the merry go-round behind the backstop or the swing set or slide near the third base line.

Of course, we played all our Little League games in the afternoon heat in the summertime so there were no spectators, no ball-eating dogs, and no James Earl Jones.

In the summer of ’65 we were in the midst of a classic dramatic game-winning two-out rally and Duane was at the plate with the bases loaded. I was on first base.

It was a big moment, one made for Duane. And he delivered. He belted a long home run deep to left field, the ball almost rolling all the way down into a swamp that dramatically dropped off beyond the field and out of sight into a scary area where only the Goonies might visit. The field occasionally had a home run fence erected out of wooden snow fence used to contain snow drifts in the winter, but there was nothing preventing Duane’s blast from rolling far and it stopped short of the swamp.

It was easily a grand slam and likely the big hit to lead us toward the championship.

Except I messed up big time and, I now believe, I ruined Duane’s destiny to become a three-sport star at FA.

As I rounded third base to run home, I cut and simply missed the third base bag. For whatever reason three strives past it, I stopped and retreated to third to step on the base but, as I did, Duane, who was simply admiring his home run and following its path, passed me. We were essentially doing the tango at third base and it was illegal.

In other words, I turned a grand slam home run into a grand larceny. I stole Duane’s greatest moment in his baseball history away from him.

Mike Libby, another Little League player, volunteered to be the third base umpire that day and I swear to this day that he probably never saw me miss the third base bag. He, too, was probably distracted following the flight of Duane’s gigantic hit and was not even looking at my feet. Thus, all I needed to do was continue on my merry way to home plate to greet Duane with a hero’s welcome. No harm. No foul. No one would have even noticed my misstep. We win!!!

Yet, by stupidly retracing my steps and going back to third base, I created confusion from an honest mistake. It was a minor traffic jam, but it might as well have been a jackknifed big rig for cause and effect. Seconds later someone then called my gaffe to the attention of Walt Beaulieu, Foxcroft’s legendary football coach who then served as the Little League supervisor in the summer. Coach Beaulieu, who is also in FA’s Sports HOF, came onto the field, surveyed the situation and conferred with Mike Libby and ruled that since I missed third base then retreated to tag it as Duane passed me, Duane, by rule as the trail runner, should be called out. No runs. No rally. No f’in way. We lose!!!

And I’m the goat (lower case) and I don’t mean that GOAT.

Our Little League championship was gone and that was the last time I ever remember seeing Duane playing in a big-time baseball game. Duane, Little League hero, was overshadowed by Wrong Way Albee.

I blew it. 

The only saving grace to this day is that Duane, our Bo Jackson, later on proved he was just as good in football and basketball as he might have been in baseball. 

As a senior at Foxcroft, Duane was captain of the football team as our middle linebacker and fullback, who with his 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame, would drag would-be tacklers across the Piscataquis County line if it meant getting an extra yard. Duane was named team MVP and first team All Little Ten Conference.

In basketball, Duane developed his craft in the “Warren Fieldhouse,” which was actually inside the dusty, grungy barn/garage at his family’s house on Pleasant Street where we watched him from the wooden beams above develop his all-around game below. As a senior, he was also captain and MVP of our basketball team, scoring 40 points in one game, a 111-53 win over Lincoln. Had the advent of the shot clock and three-point line been in play that night he might have scored 60.

Then again Duane would not have boasted about it. He was a quiet superstar for the Ponies. He never called attention to himself and simply went about his business playing both ways in football and the only way he knew on the basketball court. With class and humility.

In addition, Duane was our senior class president, a natural leader. He was a student of the game, whatever one he chose to play. His inspiration for greatness in sports came from the star athletes who played before him at Foxcroft Academy.

“They were like gods to us,” he once said.

Well, Duane is now among those gods. Thanks to a nomination by my classmates Rick Pembroke and Paul McKusick, Duane was inducted into the FA Athletics Hall of Fame along with Joe Cox '84, Laurie Lavoie Merrill '98, Coach Luis Ayala, and Bobby Annis ’66 – one of those “god-like” football players Duane looked up to as a kid at Oakes Field.

Duane became the second member of the FA Class of 1972 to be enshrined in the school’s HOF. Jere White was inducted in 2017.

Jere was a three-sport star at FA. Duane should have been, if not for me.

So, with an apology attached, I would like to congratulate Duane on behalf of the FA Class of 1972 for his induction into the Foxcroft Academy Athletics Hall Of Fame and for once again making us proud and avenging my boneheaded mistake some 57 years ago.

 This time it’s a grand slam occasion for all of us!

Friday, June 3, 2022

Will Someone Please Save The Oakland A's?


Growing up in San Rafael as the son of major league baseball player Will Venable can’t remember ever attending an Oakland Athletics’ game at the Oakland Coliseum just 30 miles away.

However, as the Boston Red Sox bench coach stood by himself in centerfield during the team’s batting practice on Friday, he probably got a sense of what it would be like to be a fan at A’s game. You are pretty much alone with your thoughts.

Given Venable was considered a candidate last year to become the A’s new manager he probably is having second thoughts now. Why would a Princeton educated man like Venable ever want a job working for an organization that has gutted the team of its superstars and let its ballpark rot at the core, along with its loyal fan base? Barring a miracle, the A’s, who have a slightly higher inventory now than the Dollar Store, will eventually move to Las Vegas to a shining new ballpark that offers a spectacular view of The Strip from home plate as compared to their current view from home plate, Mt. Davis, the Berlin Wall of Baseball that separates fact from fiction.

The fact is Oakland and Alameda County have become baseball’s purgatory where the A’s have the worst home record and worst home attendance this season in the major leagues averaging 7,547 fans per game through their first 27 games, slightly more than the Las Vegas Aviators, their Triple A team, which is averaging about 6,800 per game. The A’s are just trying to remain formidable on the field with a rebuilt roster that hands out “Hello, My Name Is -------” tags at the clubhouse door.

“It’s a place that is tough to come and play because of who you face and who you are playing,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before his team opened a three-game weekend series in Oakland. “But as a team you have to block that stuff out and show up and play. Regardless, if it’s 50,000 people here or 4,000 people here, you have a job to do.”

Friday night’s crowd was a respectable 17,852, drawn in great part to the ballpark for the free post-game fireworks show. Of course, the patrons had to pay $30 to park in the half empty parking lot to see them on top of a 40 percent increase in ticket prices this season. It was the A’s largest crowd of the season, but the first time in the last 10 home games that attendance has been more than 10, 000. On Wednesday, the announced crowd at the A’s-Astros game was 5,189, but, to the naked eye, there must have been 4,000 fans hiding in the bathrooms when they counted.

In past years a Red Sox-A’s game in Oakland would draw upwards of 40,000 when both teams were loaded with talent and promise and competing for pennants. Were that still the case if would have created a utopia of excitement this Sunday with the Golden State Warriors hosting the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals across the plaza from the Oakland A’s-Boston Red Sox game. But the Warriors no longer play in Oracle Arena, having moved to San Francisco, and the A’s are bound for Las Vegas, which is willing and able to invest more in a ballpark and a team than Oakland is.

Instead, the A’s and their fans on Sunday will likely be subjected to another embarrassing event when the visiting team’s fans outnumber the home team’s fans. This adds to a dirty laundry list of complaints coming out of the Coliseum ranging from cat feces, moth infestation, cobwebs, broken seats, and plumbing and water leaks. A possum snuck into the press box this season through a ceiling panel. The Coliseum feels more like a wildlife refuge than a real major league ballpark these days. A proposed $12 billion waterfront ballpark project at the Howard Terminal is meeting public opposition.

What are the A’s to do? Their players are paid to show up and be professionals, but most of their fans are unwilling to pay to show up to see them and have become prognosticators and the future is bleak. Pyrotechnics are more of an attraction than their pitchers to come to the ballpark and A’s hitters have the lowest home batting average in the big leagues.

There is not a lot to like about the Oakland A’s. And that’s a shame.

As one A's employee told me, "It's way more than a fire sale. It's complete dismantling of a franchise."

Monday, January 17, 2022

Please Give 49ers Some Credit For Beating Cowboys


Excuse me? Didn’t the San Francisco 49ers upset the almighty Dallas Cowboys in Jerry Jones’ Big Ass House yesterday?

Is anyone in the national media going to give the 49ers any well-deserved credit for that?

It’s Overreaction Monday in America today before Putdown Tuesday and judging by the volume of the cable TV talking heads blasting away at Dallas, America’s Team has morphed into America’s Scream. Though the 49ers lost their two best defensive players in the game to injury, the Cowboys –  mind you the No. 1 offense and most overhyped team in the NFL this year – had scored only seven points in the first three quarters. The sixth-seeded 49ers had meticulously built a 23-7 lead and if not for a stupid interception by Jimmy Garoppolo in the fourth quarter (yes, 49ers fans, I feel you angst when Jimmy G becomes Jimmy ... Jesus Christ!!!???), there would be absolutely no complaining or whining or crying (momma, don’t let your girls grow up to be Cowboys fans) about a badly-timed spike in the final seconds of the game.

The narrative coming out of Dallas—the league’s most penalized team this year -- is we were robbed by the refs and the national media have chosen to the dissect the game’s final play – a Hail Quarterback Sneak – that, though risky and bold, would have set up a Hail Mary pass that we can only imagine would have ended a game that Dallas did not deserve to win.

So now to hear and see the Well-Coiffed Yelling Heads and Monday Morning Quarterbacks on Twitter around the World – the same people who two weeks ago were promoting Dallas as Super Bowl bound --  the onus is on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to fire Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, whom Jones hired two years ago to replace Jason Garrett. Jerry Jones also gave Dak Prescott $40 million contract to be a Super Bowl quarterback who yesterday was outplayed by Garoppolo and his injured thumb who still hasn’t lived down one overthrown pass to Emmanuel Sanders two years ago in the Super Bowl.

Yet instead of Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan earning some sliver of redemption and praise for execution of a great game plan to build a better than two touchdown lead over the supposed better team, the focus is on a spike. A spike???!!! The Cowboys had sufficient field position and enough time to throw TWO Hail Mary passes into the end zone so why is everyone debating and talking about a pass intentionally directed at the ground???!!!

Let’s just make this simple: The 49ers played with more confidence, better execution, and more poise than the Cowboys and deserved to win.

Let’s move on to Green Bay. Please.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Is Kris Bryant "The Wizard of Oracle"?

If the acquisition of Kris Bryant on Major League Baseball Trade Deadline Day were a movie for San Francisco Giants fans, it would sort of be like “The Wizard Of Oz.”

Stay with me on this. 

As a wild tornado of trade winds flattens the core of the Chicago Cubs 2016 World Series roster, scattering superstars in all directions, Kris Bryant and his trusty glove finally land on top on the Wicked Witch of the NL West – the Dodgers – momentarily pinning them in second place and immediately eliciting cheers from throngs of hopeful Giants fans who see Bryant’s arrival as the team’s ticket to the Yellow Brick Hall and Emerald City of baseball’s coveted championship prize. On the road to the playoffs, Bryant joins a team of lovable, albeit flawed, characters who are trying to stave off their rivals in the standings. Along the path they encounter obstacles -- including scary and annoying Flying Dodgers fans --  in their quest to deliver the big bat the Giants need to stay on top and bring it home. The story ends with Bryant, a free agent at the end of this season, tapping his spikes and repeating “There’s no place like San Francisco … There’s no place like San Francisco …”

Pure fantasy? Not necessarily. Kris Bryant could become the Wizard of Oracle Park and stick around for a long time.

“It’s definitely enticing,” Bryant said behind his hazel green eyes in a pre-game press conference in the Giants’ dugout on Sunday. “I was talking with my wife when the trade happened and we both thought I’d end up here somehow someway. So far. So good. Everything has been super professional in such a classy organization. Anybody who has reached out to me so far I’ve been absolutely blown away. I feel unbelievably wanted. It’s such an amazing feeling.”

Perhaps Bryant, per orders from his agent Scott Boras, is saying all the right things and leaving all his future options open, but Bryant’s words before his debut with the Giants on Sunday sounded convincing that he is more than a three-month rental for the team who acquired him three minutes before the trade deadline on Friday. Bryant grew up in Las Vegas where, in elementary school, he became a Barry Bonds fan. He said growing up he had a mesh Giants cap with the Giants’ `G’ and a Bonds replica jersey and wore Bonds’ No. 25 on his uniform to pay homage to his idol. In fact, while on a family vacation to San Diego, Bryant almost came face-to-face with Bonds and got his autograph at a Giants’ game against the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium and was so disappointed that he didn’t that his mother went to a mall and bought young Kris an autographed Barry Bonds baseball.

That story is so cute that it could persuade Giants fans to invest $150 to go out and buy a cream-colored Giants jersey with “Bryant” and “23” (taken from third base coach Ron Wotus) on the back when they become available at the Giants Dugout Store. Afterall, Bryant in the Giants’ lineup feels more tactical than temporarily. His lifetime statistics at Oracle Park are a career OPS of 1.004 in 17 games with a .324 batting average, three doubles, one triple, five home runs, and 15 RBIs.

“I feel like I fit right in,” he says.

With free agent-to-be first baseman Brandon Belt coming off the books this offseason, the Giants will have money to spend to keep Bryant who, at the age of 29, is a valuable commodity in today’s game who can hit for average and power and capably play multiple positions. He said he prefers to play centerfield, but can play both corner outfield positions plus first and third base.

Bryant batted second and started at third on Sunday as the Giants remain uncertain when the injured Evan Longoria, who hasn’t played since June 5 because of a shoulder sprain, will return. Longoria, who turns 36 in October, is signed by the Giants through the 2023 season.

So can the Giants sign Bryant as a free agent? Boras is always looking for the best contract for his clients. Bryant was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and they have a young, upcoming team and money to spend. Bryant’s father played in the Boston Red Sox organization and they will have needs to fill at first base and a corner outfielder in the offseason. The New York Mets are another team with money and desire to sign Bryant and he has not ruled out a return to the Cubs, saying weeks ago that he could “absolutely” re-sign in Chicago.

The Giants at least have a three-month head start to make their case to Bryant and his wife, who also is from Las Vegas where they met as high school sweethearts. If it is their desire to stay in California close to home and their families, the Giants have as much to offer as the Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers and San Diego Padres whose third baseman, Manny Machado, signed a 10-year, $300 million free agent contract two years ago at the age of 26.

Giants certainly made Bryant feel welcomed on Sunday after he arrived at Oracle Park shortly before 9:30 a.m. with cameras ready to follow his every move. Fans gravitated toward the third base line when the ballpark opened and cheered Bryant when he came out to start warming up. They cheered when his introductory taped pre-game interview with Amy G was played on the giant video board before first pitch. And they gave Bryant a standing ovation when he came to bat for the first time and stayed on their feet in the third inning when, in his second at bat, he homered off a 94 mph fastball by Astros’ pitcher Luis Garcia to ignite a three-run rally.

Bryant thus matched the feats of his former Cubs teammates, Anthony Rizzo, now of the New York Yankees and Javier Baez, now of the New York Mets, who both homered in their first game with their new teams after being traded by the Cubs.

“I’m just hoping to be that consistent bat, that consistent player that shows up ready to play every day and play anywhere every day,” Bryant said before Sunday’s game. “It’s been cool to see what they have done in their debuts. Maybe there’s some magic here.”