Results tagged ‘ Dave Roberts ’

Upon further review, maybe Ford makes sense

Think about it: The Giants probably are going to struggle to score runs against the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. Derek Lowe has been outstanding lately and always pitches well against the Giants. Tommy Hanson doesn’t scare me much, but Tim Hudson looked like Orel Hershiser circa 1988 the last time he faced San Francisco.

Ideally, the Giants won’t give up many runs, either. Which (duh) means a lot of low-scoring ballgames. To cope in this environment, the Giants just might need to keep the ultra-speedy Darren Ford on the postseason roster.

Lately, the Giants have relied far too much on homers while struggling to manufacture runs. It’s easy to envision scenarios in which they find themselves tied or trailing by one run late in a game. Then they get a runner on first base with nobody out or one out, putting them in a position where they absolutely have to try to generate a run.

They’ll need to advance that runner into scoring position without giving up an out. They’ll need a stolen base.

They’ll need Ford.

Ford conceivably can do what Dave Roberts did for the Red Sox in 2004 or what Chone Figgins accomplished for the Angels in 2002. It’s easy to regard Ford as a luxury, but under the circumstances, he might actually be a necessity.

Of course, keeping Ford means that a veteran position player such as Edgar Renteria or Aaron Rowand won’t make the Division Series roster. It would be a shame to see either player sidelined. Renteria and Rowand both happen to own World Series rings. Moreover, they’re solid professionals who won’t back down from tough, critical situations. They’d be ideal to have available.

But addressing what probably will be a desperate need for offense of any sort requires some extreme measures. For this reason, don’t be at all surprised if Ford joins San Francisco’s 25-man contingent for the Division Series.

– Chris Haft

Best wishes for Dave Roberts

Monday, May 3

This will be one of the briefest blog entries ever entered in this space. It’s also the most fervent.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, please pray for Dave Roberts. who is being treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He says his prognosis is good, but we all know how insidious these diseases are. You can’t wish anybody stricken in this way enough good luck.

Anybody who has had the privilege of meeting Dave knows what a prince of a man he is. I won’t belabor the point. If anybody’s interested, here’s the link to a blog I wrote in 2009 about him.

All the best, Dave! God bless you and get well!

– Chris Haft

Randy Winn: An appreciation

Randy Winn wouldn’t care if he ever spoke to the media. That doesn’t mean he dislikes reporters. It’s just that he doesn’t crave attention.

But when anybody with a camera, microphone or notebook approached Winn during his four-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, he was cordial at the very least, thoughtful and engaging at his best and always — ALWAYS — accommodating. The phrase “no comment” didn’t exist in his vocabulary.

That’s part of the beauty of Randy Winn. While he surely appreciates the glory of being a Major Leaguer, he doesn’t coat himself in it. Beating his chest and declaring, “Look at me!” isn’t part of the job description for him. Rather, beating the other team is what it’s all about.

Unlike Bengie Molina, Winn wasn’t bound for a surprise return to San Francisco. Winn’s two home runs in 597 plate appearances during 2009 doomed him with the Giants, who were bent on upgrading their offense. His departure essentially became official Wednesday with the all-but-finalized news of his agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Yet Winn merits a final salute as he leaves San Francisco. The man was, and is, a complete professional. Winn delivered a consistent effort whether he was thriving or slumping, healthy or in pain. By driving himself to excel in all facets of the game — he’s an excellent baserunner and a polished, underrated outfielder — Winn separated himself from the sorry plethora of ballplayers who almost seem to refuse to improve themselves.

Body language says a lot about an athlete. That’s by definition, since they make their living with their bodies. Winn always carried himself like a U.S. Marine — focused, proud, intent on his impending tasks. It follows that a Marine veteran who’s one of my regular e-mail pen pals named Winn as his favorite all-time Giant. The earnest diligence Winn exuded impressed this man to no end.

Winn maintained that attitude behind closed doors. Some guys slouch or shuffle through the clubhouse; Winn held his head high, leveled his gaze, maintained an even stride and almost never limped, despite sustaining painful leg ailments (which was the only subject he refused to discuss). One exception occurred when Winn noticed a group of reporters and began hobbling, trying to trick us into seizing upon fake news.

Indeed, Winn had a healthy sense of humor. It showed in his feigned disdain for the “Good Guy Award,” given annually by reporters covering the team to the player whose cooperation is especially valued. This two-, three-year running gag between us and Winn ended last September when we voted him Good Guy for 2009. He clearly deserved it, and he seemed genuinely pleased.

Remember the familiar yet too-seldom-heard saying, “As good a ballplayer as he is, he’s an even better person”? Winn could be president of that club — along with Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, two other veterans who recently became ex-Giants. How fitting that they became known among the Giants as the “Rat Pack,” a nod to the famed entertainment troika of Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. How sobering, though San Francisco’s clubhouse remains filled with truly decent men, that they’re all gone.

One of Winn’s classiest acts occurred early this offseason. During a November conditioning camp held for Minor Leaguers at AT&T Park, the Giants supplemented the physical regimen by bringing in speakers to motivate and educate the prospects. Guests included J.T. Snow, general manager Brian Sabean and even Willie Mays.

Another speaker was Winn, who was about to plunge into free agency and thus wasn’t technically a Giant. Yet he felt compelled to share some of the wisdom he had accumulated through 12 big league seasons. His message focused on the importance of being a good teammate.

That’s the essence of Randy Winn.

The Yankees will quickly learn how lucky they are to have Winn in their midst. His professionalism will enhance the Yankees’ aura as reigning World Champions. They’ll cherish his ability to play all three outfield positions and his other diverse skills. On that club, any offense he provides will be a bonus.

Winn will be free to go about his business while the ravenous New York media descends on Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees stars.

But when reporters need to speak to Winn, he’ll answer any question they have.

An ode to Dave Roberts

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Dave Roberts’ value cannot be measured by statistics.

Roberts is that rarest of ballplayers: Somebody who’s good for the team even when he’s not playing. Unfortunately for the Giants, that was all too often over the last couple of years, partly explaining why they released Roberts on Thursday.

Sentiment is a luxury the Giants can’t afford. Eugenio Velez is proving capable of handling the backup outfielder’s role Roberts would have occupied. Velez also switch hits, plays second base and is faster than Roberts. As Giants general manager Brian Sabean said, “I told him [Roberts] we’re on a path to get younger and healthier. Right now that’s not on his resume.”

Still, as Roberts prepares to clean out his Scottsdale Stadium locker — his gear remained in it after he departed Thursday; he had mentioned dropping by one more time to bid goodbye to players he had missed — it’s only right to salute a truly fine individual.

Aaron Boone, another player I’ve known whose character eclipses his statistics, said upon being traded from the Reds to the Yankees that in the end, the relationships a ballplayer forges within the game are the richest assets he derives from it. Certainly a guy can feel fulfilled by making a lot of money or winning a World Series ring. But baseball, which throws disparate men together for 200 or more days a year, forces you to bond. Pity those who are incapable of forming or unwilling to relish those bonds. The best things in life, after all, are free.

Roberts knows this. So he savored the people who surrounded him. He offered a hello and a big smile to anybody who crossed his path, whether it was a clubhouse attendant, a reporter or a teammate.

On the Giants, he was closest to fellow veterans Randy Winn and Rich Aurilia. They were dubbed the “Rat Pack,” owing to the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. triumvirate of the 1960s (no, we’re not forgetting Joey Bishop or Peter Lawford, but let’s face it, the others were the Big Three). But Roberts didn’t confine himself to any clique. When Emmanuel Burriss, Rajai Davis or Velez showed their inexperience on the field, Roberts counseled them afterward, doling out fatherly advice on how to avoid repeating such transgressions. When Matt Cain had endured one luckless defeat too many, Roberts was there to remind him that there was nothing wrong with him and assure him that he’ll ultimately be rewarded. This might sound like self-evident stuff, but it’s easy to lose perspective under the pressure big leaguers face. Roberts was always willing to offer that perspective in a patient, understanding, caring package.

During Barry Bonds’ final ascent to the home run record in 2007, Roberts tirelessly answered reporters’ incessant questions about the slugger. Roberts didn’t do this to win points with the media or seem better than the other players. He did this because he knew the media’s demands wouldn’t subside, and by answering a question here or a question there he could spare teammates some of the hassle. In short, he took one (in this case, hundreds) for the team.

I’ve been blessed to cover baseball for most of my career since 1991, and when I grope through my memory for other players who possessed the same intangible worth that Roberts brought the Giants, I find few parallels.

There was Casey Candaele, who everybody thought was too small, too slow and just not physically gifted enough to play Major League baseball. His mere presence (never mind his outrageous sense of humor) inspired teammates to give their best.

There was Pete Harnisch, who pitched only every five days but provided influence constantly. Like Candaele, Harnisch had a stiletto-sharp wit that he could use to motivate, ridicule, or lead his teammates. I also remember how he literally gave up a start toward the end of the 2000 season with Cincinnati so Ron Villone could get a shot at his 10th win. Not only did Villone reach double figures, he also struck out 16 in a 150-pitch complete game that remains one of the most stunning efforts I’ve seen.

Roberts has been the same way, always there for others. It’s no surprise that he was a championship-winning quarterback in high school — playing the most important position in the ultimate team sport. He’s no longer a Giant, and he might have trouble finding a Major League job. But any team that picks him up ought to hold onto him. He’s a winner in a profound sense of the word.

– Chris Haft  

Thoughts from Giants 10, Dodgers 8

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Barry Zito owns a 5.79 ERA after two Cactus League starts, but so far this spring he has looked more assertive on the mound than he sometimes has during his two seasons with San Francisco. That’s no accident, Zito said after he lasted 2 2/3 innings in the Giants’ 10-8 exhibition victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Glendale.

“Personally, I’m on a mission to trust myself and let it fly,” Zito said. “I’ve done that for two games.”

Other highlights from the Giants’ third Cactus League victory in four games:

Catching prospect Buster Posey not only collected his first two hits of the spring but also collected his first RBI with an eighth-inning infield single.

Dave Roberts collected his first hit of the spring with an excellent at-bat in the eighth inning. A left-handed batter facing left-hander Brent Leach, Roberts worked the count to 3-2 before stroking a bases-loaded single that extended the Giants’ lead from 7-6 to 9-6.

Left-hander Alex Hinshaw took his first step toward salvaging what has been a rough spring by pitching 1 1/3 innings for the save. After stranding a runner on first base while recording the eighth’s inning final out, Hinshaw survived shortstop Juan Uribe’s dropped pop-up to strike out Chin-lung Hu and leave runners at the corners.

Has anybody noticed that the Giants have 14 home runs in eight games?

– Chris Haft

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