Friday, August 13, 2010

Padres, Venable focused on big picture, not Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez threw the first pitch of the game to the San Diego Padres on Friday night at AT&T Park and a funny thing happened.

Absolutely nothing.

Padres’ lead-off batter Jerry Hairston, Jr. did not charge the pitcher’s mound and the Padres’ bench did not empty and make a beeline for Sanchez. The Padres apparently did not put a bounty on Sanchez’s head.

Last Sunday, after his last start, Sanchez proclaimed that the second-place Giants would sweep the first-place Padres this weekend and not look back. In a way, the Giants left-hander called out the Padres and his words were passed the through the World Wide Leader in Sports (ESPN) and The Sports Leader (KNBR) all week. Fighting words, they reported and raged.

The Padres didn’t think so.

“The reason we are where we are right now is we’ve disregarded things like that,” Padres outfielder Will Venable of San Rafael told me in the Padres’ dugout before Friday night’s game.
Venable and his teammates understood that Sanchez said what he said in the heat of the moment minutes after an 8-7 loss to the Braves in Atlanta where Sanchez was rocked for four runs and five hits in just four innings and let his team down. Sanchez tried to pick them up.

Unfortunately, he didn’t have command of his pitches during the game or his common sense after it and he picked on the Padres.

The Padres didn’t mind. They never expected to be in first place at this time when the season started. How could they be mad?

It’s not like Sanchez went Brandon Phillips on them and called them all a bunch of over active vaginas.

The Padres seem like a bunch of nice guys, led by Venable. Let me tell you a story about him.

When I was laid off at the Marin Independent Journal last year after 22 years as its sports columnist, I sent Will an email. We had lunch a few weeks before the news so I wrote him to tell him I wouldn’t see him at AT&T Park when the Padres came in during the 2009 season as I had hoped.

Venable, who was back east visiting his girlfriend at the time, replied to my email with a long heartfelt note. He expressed his sorrow about the news about being laid off and recalled all the years he had enjoyed reading me in the IJ. It was genuine and sincere and I will never forget his note. He didn’t have to do that. He was becoming a big leaguer and he had plenty of other priorities in his life than to sit down and compose a long email reflecting on his appreciation of my career.

Simply a class act. It meant the world to me.

Thus, I have followed Venable’s career and he’s had a lot of highs and lows. He’s hit 10 home runs and leads the Padres with 20 stolen bases but he’s been inconsistent and injured and that’s kept him from being an everyday player. But he’s got a great dad – former major leaguer Max Venable – to advise him and keep things in perspective.

Will Venable has a good head on his shoulders. And so do his teammates.

Otherwise, Jonathan Sanchez would have been laid out Friday night.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Magical time for Giants in dog-eat-dog world

These are the dog days of August?

Game time temperature at AT&T Park on Wednesday night was 59 degrees?

Tim Lincecum is having a bad year and the Giants are in second place?

The only team above them in the standings are the San Diego Padres?!

Lucky dogs, these Giants.

In a summer void of hot summer nights and Tiger Woods’ under-par rounds, the Giants are still surviving and in fact thriving. The ballpark was nearly filled to capacity during a week night game against a fifth-place team. The Chicago Cubs are suddenly the most uninteresting team in the world yet Giants fans are packing them in.

What gives? Things with the Giants are weirder than the Giants fan standing in front of me in the AT&T Park press box with a beard and pony tail beneath an orange-and-black wig that makes him look like a skunk on Halloween.

Lincecum is not pitching up to the standards yet the Giants starting pitching is so solid that Little Timmy may be the third best guy in the rotation right now.

The Giants have the worst batting average in the National League with runners in a scoring position and yet they are ninth in the league in runs scored and RBIs.

And now trading for Mike Fortenot ranks as big news. Brian Sabean is not idiot. He picked up Pat Burrell as a .202 hitter in June and he’s hitting over .350 in August and playing hero. Sabean signed Aubrey Huff as a free agent in the offseason and he’s leading the Giants in home runs and RBIs. And Sabean played his cards right with the maturation and promotion of Buster Posey.

The Giants are winning with pitching and defense and just enough offense.

Lucky dogs.