Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My worst Media Day ever

I’m in the dark.

I’m sitting in front of my lap top computer on Media Day at AT&T Park and I’m completely in the dark. Seriously.

I’m in the Media Work Room, across the hallway from the Giants clubhouse, and there are no lights on above me in my compartment. I knew the Media Work Room would be in the bowels of the ballpark but I never imagined it would feel like a dungeon. It’s cold and quiet and a bit spooky but, thankfully, I don’t hear anyone screaming and that creepy-looking Brian Wilson hasn’t walked in.

Yet I feel that, like Giants baseball, this is torture.

I have been a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America since 1986 and I’m a past president of the BBWAA’s Bay Area Chapter and I once stood between home plate and the mound on Opening Day and handed Barry Bonds a trophy.

But right now I feel so much like an outsider. I’m no longer a member of the working media because I was laid off from my old job – not my fault -- and my new job is in public relations so I supposed to now have a different opinion of working media.

I used to live in this ballpark and live for its big moments but tomorrow, for Game 1 of the World Series, I will be sitting in front of my TV set in my living room.

Darn. How I miss this game and the excitement it generates. Which is why I came here today. My BBWAA pass allowed me access and I wanted to see and sense what I’m going to miss tomorrow.

Wait! The lights just came on! There’s Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury sitting five seats away! My hero! I’m saved!

There are fewer people in here in the Media Work Room and less insanity than in the main press box. People like KNBR’s Marty Lurie, who lives and breathes baseball and may know more about the sport than anyone I’ve ever known, has been moved from the main press box to the auxiliary press box in the upper deck in leftfield, which is further from home plate than The Glove.

I’m now feeling like I will have a better seat than him to watch Game One and that’s not right.

I’ve seen a lot today. Workers spray painting through stencils the World Series logo on the grass between the dugouts and the first and third-base lines. Tim Kurkjian of ESPN talking on his cell phone in a seat near the Giants bullpen. The MLB set being built for its broadcasts.

I almost got run over by Michael Young and Jeff Francoeur riding on the back of a golf cart speeding down the hallway as I entered the Media Work Room. I once did a story for ESPN.com about Young recalling his most memorable home run in Little League and we had a great conversation. I once voted for Francouer to be the National League Rookie of the Year the year Ryan Howard won it.

Now they are moving fast into the greatest spotlight in sports.

I’m in the dark.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hail screen pass?

There were three seconds left on the clock and the 49ers had only one option left on Sunday to pull out a victory against a winless Carolina Panthers team.

Hail Mary.

Instead, with the Panthers backed into a prevent defense, the play called into the 49ers was a screen pass to end the game.

Poor play-calling and time management have become a disturbing pattern in the Mike Singletary Era.

Add stupidity.

The only good thing about the San Francisco 49ers right now is the San Francisco Giants are diverting attention.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Where are Yankees fans going?

Hey, Yankee fan. Where are you? Where is your head? Where are you when your team is in need?

I watched Games 3 and 4 of the American League Championship Series this week and in the late innings -- when you are generally at your best -- you were nowhere to be seen. I’ve seen fewer empty seats at an A’s midweek night game against the Royals in Oakland .

I never thought I’d ever see Yankees fans abandon their team in such droves. If I were you, I’d be embarrassed. I guess with 27 world championships you act like spoiled children when things don’t go your way. You go home. Early. Often.

Even when you had the lead in Game 5, you looked disinterested. I kept looking at the crowds at Yankee Stadium behind home plate and between the dugouts during television close-ups of hitters in the batter’s box and I couldn’t believe how many of you had your eyes down – looking at your iPhones and text messages – and not paying attention at all to the playoff game in front of you.

Of course, those people are not true Yankees fans. They’re big event fans, people who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars a game for those seats or get them handed to them by their corporation. Those people who would rather be seen than heard. They come with their crisp new Yankees caps and jerseys and root for the winners.

Those fans are losers. A true Yankees fan would know the last Yankees player, other than A-Rod, to be named the Most Valuable Player in the American League. You mean you don’t know?! Stumped?

It’s Don Mattingly or, as true Yankees fans know him, Donnie Baseball.

Oh, there are still a lot of those. True Yankees fans that stay to the end of the game because they want to be there to help the Yankees rally because they think they can make a difference in that rally standing and cheering for them. That’s the Yankees fans I’ve come to respect. The ones who stick with their team through thick and thin and multi-million dollar free agents. The ones who lean over the fence and turn a fly ball out into a home run and react like, `Whadda ya goin’ to do about it?”. The ones I hate so much.

I don’t hate you so much right now. I’m ashamed of you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

49ers finally win but still have failure to communicate

The 49ers finally won a game.


They still have a big problem. They still have a failure to communicate.

First of all with his team 0-5 last week, 49ers president and CEO Jed York reportedly sent a text message to an ESPN reporter predicting (boasting?) that the 49ers would win their division.

The Seahawks and Rams apparently got that message, too, because they both posted upsets win on Sunday. If it was York’s intent to light a fire under the 49ers, he also succeeded in firing up the rest of the NFC West.

Good luck with that. The 49ers were never that stupid/arrogant when Jed’s Uncle Eddie was running the team and they were routinely winning 10 games a year.

In addition, the text message last week may have distracted the 49ers. They sure had a difficult time focusing on Sunday.

They had nine men on the field for a field goal attempt. They were forced to call timeout and punted.

They had 10 men on the field for a punt return.

Yet their special teams coach is still employed by the team.

Furthermore, quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Josh Morgan weren’t on the same page. They had a breakdown in communication so bad that the 49ers were penalized for intentional grounding.

“That’s not worth discussing,” 49ers coach Mike Singletary said.

OK, how ‘bout this?

The worst example of miscommunication, however, came in the fourth quarter after the 49ers had taken their first lead of the game. They had momentum and it carried Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell into his own end zone that looked like a two-point safety from my living room and, I’m guessing, from the press box.

It was a golden opportunity for Singletary to throw a challenge flag. But he kept it in his pocket. Apparently either no coach in the press box saw a replay and relayed it to Singletary or Singletary didn’t want to risk wasting timeout if his challenge failed. Given that the 49ers have a penchant for wasting timeouts to prevent five-yard penalties, what’s the risk in wasting one that might result in a two points and a six-point lead?

The 49ers have a win under their belt and the softest part of their schedule coming up but one victory must not overshadow the myriad of mistakes and miscommunication that have dogged this Singletary-coached team.

The 49ers can never win the West if they can’t clean up their own mess.

Maybe Jed York ought to send a text for that.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Zito blows big chance for redemption

The catchy advertising slogan for the San Francisco Giants this season is “There’s Magic Inside.”

Who knew they would save their greatest disappearing act for last? A chance for Barry Zito to change from goat to hero.

A year ago, Zito was the lightning rod for all frustrations about being a Giants fan. He was the bad four-lettered word. He was being roundly and regularly criticized for never living up to the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed before the 2007 season – at the time the richest contract ever given to a pitcher in the history of baseball or George Steinbrenner.

With that albatross around his neck, Zito finally managed to pitch with some reasonable success as he quietly slid behind the spotlight focused on Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Zito found his grove and his comfort zone.

Still, Zito was only bad outing, one bad inning, from being seeing pitch forks and torches marching back in his direction. The contract – the money he earned that never met the expectations that came with it – was something he will never be able to escape.

Well, on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at AT&T Park pitching in a nationally-televised game that separated the Giants from a NL West division championship, the team’s first playoff spot in seven years and a shower of champagne, Zito had at long last the opportunity to shed the chains of bitter disappointment and emerge from the depths of despair to emerge as the big-game pitcher the Giants paid for.

So much for abracadabra.

Zito, who was bouncing pitches up to the plate in the bullpen warming up before the game, surrendered singles to the first two San Diego Padres batters in the game and both of them ended up scoring on back-to-back bases-loaded walks by Zito. Before the inning was over, Giants manager Bruce Bochy had relief pitcher Chris (Don’t Call Me) Ray warming up in the bullpen, pitching coach Dave Righetti had made a trip to the mound and all the excitement and anticipation of a Giants’ day of clinching had been sucked out of the ballpark.

Ray made one more trip to the bullpen and Righetti visited the mound one more time and Zito gave up one more run but the damage was done. Zito was almost removed for a pinch-hitter in the third inning, trailing 3-0 in a game that felt like 13-0. With two outs and nobody on, Bochy let Zito hit and be subject to boos. He swung and hit the ball – about 25 feet in front of the plate.

Zito stayed in the game … until he walked the first batter of the fourth inning -- opposing starting pitcher Tim Stauffer. By that time, Giants fans were ready to see Zito disappear at AT&T Park next to another unpopular figure from the past – Rusty the Mechanical Man.

Thus, Zito, if a moment of need, passed the job of clinching the NL West onto Jonathan Sanchez, another enigmatic lefthander who makes about an eighth of what Zito makes in a year to pitch once every five days.

All will be forgiven if the Giants clinch the NL West on Sunday, but Zito’s performance can’t be dismissed. If you’re a Giants’ fan, do you really want Zito in your playoff rotation? He has been credited with just one win in his last 14 starts. Is that the pitcher you want to pitch in a must-win playoff situation?

It seems Zito may have indeed performed a magic trick on Saturday after all. He may well have disappeared from the starting rotation to the playoff bullpen.