Results tagged ‘ Willie McCovey ’
Sunday, Dec. 22
SAN FRANCISCO — For a lot of people, the fact that a National Football League game will be played Monday night at Candlestick Park is merely incidental.
The featured performer, as many fans believe, is Candlestick itself, that object of derision which has prompted tidal waves of nostalgia with the approach the 49ers-Falcons game — most likely the last major sporting event held at the 53-year-old park.
The tender feelings fans have expressed toward Candlestick on websites, in newspaper forums and on radio talk shows shouldn’t be misinterpreted as wishes for a revival. Everyone knows the 49ers need a new stadium, which awaits them in Santa Clara, and everybody has long embraced AT&T Park as the Giants’ home since they left Candlestick following the 1999 season.
Why have Candlestick’s final days stirred such emotion? Simple: For Bay Area sports fans, the stadium has become something of a patriarch: Aged, gray, incapable of performing tasks its younger counterparts can, yet somehow imposing due to its history and undeniable strength (example: its resolute response to the Loma Prieta earthquake before Game 3 of the 1989 World Series). His time has come and gone, but the old man shall forever remain a member of the family.
Giants fans are especially prone to these feelings. Because the Giants endured so many abysmal seasons at
Candlestick, and because it was such a trying place for baseball spectators (that’s putting it mildly), those who visited the park regularly — whether to watch Gaylord Perry or Allen Ripley, J.T. Snow or J.R. Phillips — mostly were genuine fans who truly loved the sport, the Giants or both.
To these zealots, Candlestick became oddly special. No wonder that this second and final goodbye to Candlestick has been especially intense for many Giants fans. Essentially, nothing in their lives has changed or will change when Candlestick is demolished. But the patriarch — visible from a safe, happy distance on drives along Highway 101 — will disappear, making that inevitable transition from reality to memory.
Revel in those memories, Giants fans. Celebrate what you saw, what you experienced, what Russ or Lon or Hank or Ron or Jon or Kruk & Kuip told you.
Maybe you’ll attend Monday’s game and revisit a particular spot at the stadium that remains significant. Maybe, like me, you’ll stare at the top row of the upper reserved seats in Section 5, remember sitting there for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series and continue to wonder how Dad got tickets.
And you’ll devour a Polish sausage for old times’ sake.
And though it’s a football crowd, you’ll long to hear that passionate, unbridled roar of the fans, real fans, rise from the stands over and over.
Again, I sense that football will be only incidental for a small but meaningful percentage of people watching Monday’s game, whether they do so at Candlestick or on television.
These will be the folks who’ll behold Candlestick one last time and recall rushing to the players’ parking lot to gaze at Willie Mays’ pink Cadillac, or who got golf-ball-sized goosebumps just watching Mays saunter into the on-deck circle, his uniform as elegant as a tuxedo.
Monday’s game is for them.
It’s also for anybody who thinks the city’s finest spans are the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and Willie McCovey stretching at first base for a throw.
It’s for anyone who refused to leave his or her seat whenever Clark — that’s Jack or Will — was due to bat.
It’s for anybody spellbound by the talents of the Bondses, pere et fil.
It’s for anybody who marveled at Juan Marichal kicking his left leg toward those impossibly high light towers in the middle of his marvelous motion.
It’s for anybody who played Little League, high school baseball or anything in between against one of Jim Davenport’s sons.
It’s for anybody who still can summon Jeff Carter’s voice in one’s internal public-address system.
It’s for anybody who paid 90 cents — NINETY CENTS — to sit in the bleachers.
It’s for people who emptied mothballs from their warmest clothes to attend a game in July or August.
It’s for fans who supported John Montefusco with the same ardor they now reserve for Tim Lincecum.
It’s for folks who loved to debate who was the better closer (Rod Beck or Robb Nen) or double-play combination (Chris Speier/Tito Fuentes or Jose Uribe/Robby Thompson).
It’s for people who, however briefly, ignored Candlestick’s flaws and appreciated the game in front of them.
It’s for everybody who’s focused on what’s important — the present — yet will always treasure the gifts of the past.
– Chris Haft
SAN FRANCISCO — Somebody had to do it. George Kontos turned out to be the one.
When Tim Lincecum lasted just 3 2/3 innings Monday, the Giants needed a reliever to consume innings and spare the rest of the bullpen from overwork, particularly with Tuesday’s doubleheader looming. In came Kontos to consume 3 1/3 innings while throwing 63 pitches, both career highs.
Tuesday’s starters for the Giants don’t appear destined to last deep into their respective games. Eric Surkamp was challenged to go five innings in Triple-A, and Barry Zito has pitched six innings or fewer in 11 of his last 12 starts. But manager Bruce Bochy can operate his bullpen freely, thanks to Kontos.
Kontos had never thrown more than 40 pitches in a Major League game. But his background as a starter in the Yankees’ Minor League system helped brace him for Monday’s effort. “My body’s used to the workload,” he said.
A large percentage of my misspent youth, more than I care to admit, came and went watching doubleheaders at Candlestick Park. As Tuesday approached, it occurred to me that some of the more memorable twinbills I witnessed involved the Reds, who consistently fielded excellent teams in the 1970s. With assistance from baseball-reference.com, here are highlights I recall from various Giants-Reds doubleheaders, listed in chronological order:
Sept. 19, 1972: The Giants managed to split the doubleheader as Juan Marichal, finishing his worst season, allowed two runs in seven innings in the nightcap. That “improved” his record to 6-15. I have a vague memory of Marichal lowering his signature leg kick for that game. Whether it was to compensate for an injury or to correct a mechanical flaw (or whether it happened at all) would require more extensive research.
April 15, 1973: Cincinnati won both games. Again, Marichal’s pitching left the deepest impression, largely because he was shockingly ineffective — four earned runs allowed and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings in the opener. Meanwhile, Don Gullett pitched a four-hit shutout.
Sept. 14, 1975: The teams split, but that was hardly relevant. In the sixth inning of the first game, the Reds loaded the bases with Joe Morgan on third base. Suddenly, Morgan broke for home and slid in safely. That’s right; it was a triple steal — something I haven’t witnessed since and might never see again.
July 1, 1979: The Giants swept this one as Willie McCovey homered to help win the first game. It was the 518th of his career and, I’m quite sure, the last homer I saw him hit. I was fortunate enough to see him hit several others.
– Chris Haft
Tuesday, April 24
Pablo Sandoval tied Willie Mays but didn’t necessarily equal him.
Sandoval matched Mays’ San Francisco-era franchise record by lengthening his season-opening hitting streak to 16 games in Monday’s doubleheader sweep at New York. Given the way Sandoval’s swinging, he could erase Mays’ mark Tuesday night when the Giants open a three-game series against Cincinnati at the hitters’ paradise known as Great American Ball Park.
Yet Mays generated numbers during his streak that Sandoval and every other Major League hitter would envy.
Mays hit a ridiculous .452 (28-for-62) before he went hitless in any 1960 game, compared with Sandoval’s current .333 (22-for-66). During their respective 16-game streaks, Sandoval has Mays beat in home runs (3-1) and RBIs (13-9). But while Sandoval has recorded excellent on-base (.389) and slugging percentages (.545) for an OPS of .934, Mays eclipsed that. His corresponding numbers befit the great player he was (.528, .613 and 1.141).
Sandoval deserves his due, however. He has carried the Giants’ offense at times, assuming a heavier burden than Mays did. The 2012 Giants have scored 71 runs; Mays’ Giants amassed 88 during his streak, including 10 and 18 on back-to-back days at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Can you imagine these Giants doing that? Moreover, Mays frequently was followed in the batting order by future Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda and often preceded by Jim Davenport, who hit .333 in San Francisco’s first 16 games that year. Sandoval is sandwiched by Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey, who are more than respectable. But it’s fair to say that Mays had a more potent offensive complement.
It’s intriguing to note that Mays homered only once during his streak. He and the Giants played their first seven games of the season at brand-new Candlestick Park, where the initial outfield dimensions frustrated power hitters. The center field fence stood 420 feet from home plate and the power alleys were 397 feet deep. Sensibly, the barriers were soon moved in. Mays somehow finished that year with 29 homers. He also collected 190 hits, the lone year he topped the National League in that category.
The Giants would be ecstatic if Sandoval finishes this season with similar statistics. There’s no reason he can’t.
– Chris Haft
Tuesday, July 19
SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about Madison Bumgarner and start wondering just how good he is.
Bumgarner’s excellence was somewhat obscured by Brandon Belt’s offensive fireworks Tuesday in the Giants’ 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. In case you missed it, Bumgarner pitched superbly.
He walked none, extending his streak of games in which he walked one or fewer to nine in a row.
He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.
He worked eight innings, ridiculing the skeptics who believed that his huge increase in innings pitched last year would ultimately sap his strength or even endanger his health this season.
More than two months of the regular season must be played. That’s plenty of time for doom and gloom to befall Bumgarner. Right now, though, he looks ready to cruise into October and win another two or three postseason games.
The evening might not have gone so well for the Giants without shortstop Brandon Crawford’s alert defense in the third inning.
The Dodgers had three runs in and appeared destined to score more as Juan Rivera followed Rafael Furcal’s two-run single with another single. As Furcal scooted to third base, Crawford cut off Nate Schierholtz’s strong throw from right field and noticed that Rivera had strayed a little too far from first base on his turn. Crawford threw quickly and accurately to first, retiring Rivera and dampening Los Angeles’ rally.
“That was a big-time play,” an appreciative Bumgarner said.
All anybody heard about Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa before Tuesday was that he threw the heck out of the ball. Indeed, De La Rosa reached 100 mph on the AT&T Park velocity readings.
But if a pitcher’s stuff is predictable or lacks movement, he’s going to get hit. Crawford, for example, whacked a 95 mph heater from De La Rosa for a second-inning single, immediately after Brandon Belt stroked a. 91-mph delivery onto the right-field arcade for his homer. One inning later, Schierholtz singled by catching up with a 97-mph fastball.
I was curious about what happened the last time the Giants built a six-game winning streak against the Dodgers — July 19-Sept. 26, 1969. As usual, baseball-reference.com had all the answers.
The Giants’ future Hall of Famers played key roles in those six games. No surprise there. Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry each won twice. Willie McCovey, in the midst of his Most Valuable Player season, homered twice. Willie Mays batted .389 (7-for-18).
Win No. 5 in that streak might have been the nuttiest game of the bunch. It was sealed in the 10th inning when McCovey drew an intentional walk with two outs and nobody on base. Reliever Pete Mikkelsen proceeded to walk Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson unintentionally, loading thie bases. Jim Davenport then hit a ground ball that scooted between Maury Wills’ legs, giving San Francisco the winning run.
– Chris Haft
Thursday, Aug. 19
PHILADELPHIA — Thursday night brought mixed blessings for Pablo Sandoval.
The struggling switch-hitter finally hit his first home run of the season as a right-handed batter in his 122nd at-bat from that side of the plate. It opened the fourth inning and concluded the Giants’ scoring in their 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
But Sandoval also popped up into a double play in the ninth inning. That’s right, “popped up.” Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco dropped Sandoval’s one-out sky ball. But Sandoval loafed up the baseline, enabling Polanco to throw him out. Nate Schierholtz, pinch-running for Jose Guillen at first, strayed a little too far from the bag and was tagged out to complete the double play.
Manager Bruce Bochy fined Sandoval an undisclosed amount for not reaching first base safely. Sandoval — who was charged with grounding into his 22nd double play of the season — acknowledged the error of his ways.
“That’s my fault,” Sandoval said. “You learn. I made a big mistake. I apologized to [Bochy]. I learned I have to run hard to first base every moment.”
Sandoval homer, his ninth overall, was a more pleasant subject for him. He acknowledged that his timing, particularly as a right-handed batter, was all fouled up. “I’ve been jumping out and my hands don’t ‘load’ at the right time,” he said, admitting that he has been off-balance at the plate.
Another Giants hitter who might have regained some equilibrium was Freddy Sanchez. The second baseman, who has shared playing time recently with Mike Fontenot, might have hit his way back into a regular role by singling solidly and scoring in his first two at-bats.
“Whatever my role is, the number one goal is winning. That’s all I want to do,” Sanchez said. “If that [means] playing against lefties right now, that’s just playing against lefties now. But when my name gets called, I’ll be ready.”
Sanchez pulled both of his hits to left field, contrasting with his usual opposite-field style. He indicated that he might have been concentrating too much on going to right field, particularly with runners (usually leadoff man Andres Torres) on base.
“I was talking to Boch about that,” Sanchez said. “Maybe not try so hard to get the guy over or hit a hole.”
Bochy approved of Sanchez’s handiwork.
“I thought he had some good at-bats tonight,” Bochy said. “I thought he had better balance and pulled some balls with authority. That’s the Freddy we know. It’d be nice to have him back to who he is.”
Jonathan Sanchez’s success at going deep into the game proved to be essential. Bochy said that right-hander Santiago Casilla left Philadelphia before the game to be with his wife, who was in labor. This left San Francisco’s bullpen a man short. An abbreviated outing by Sanchez or an extra-inning affair might have made life tough for the Giants. Bochy sounded uncertain about Casilla’s availability for Friday night’s series opener at St. Louis.
Talking to Gary Matthews, the winner of the 1973 National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Giants who threw his support behind Buster Posey (see Giants Beat), is always a pleasure. Here are some outtakes from the interview.
Matthews said that capturing the award filled him with pride, since his dressing-stall neighbor in the Giants clubhouse, the incomparable Willie McCovey, had received the honor in 1959.
“It was like carrying on tradition,” said Matthews, who relished beating out a pair of Los Angeles Dodgers rivals in the balloting, Ron Cey and Davey Lopes. They finished in a three-way tie for sixth.
The next three Giants teams Matthews played for finished below .500. “We were in a free-fall,” he said.
But, he added, surviving the competition for outfield jobs within the Giants organization made him a better player. At the time, the Giants’ farm system was still generating talented position players. And the outfield spots, thanks to Willie Mays, remained the most glamorous ones on the field.
“You took pride in trying to do the best you possibly could,” said Matthews, who proceeded to play for the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago Cubs in his 16-year career. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way in terms of going through an organization like the San Francisco Giants, where you learned a lot of pride and the main thing — to win.”
Speaking of Posey, he’s starting another streak. He’s batting .440 (11-for-25) while hitting safely in six consecutive games.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, July 21
LOS ANGELES — Next up for Buster Posey: The Hall of Famers.
Posey extended his hitting streak to 15 games Wednesday night with a sixth-inning single as the Giants fell 2-0 to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He tied Chili Davis (1982), Tom O’Malley (1982) and Dan Gladden (1984) for the third-longest hitting streak by a rookie since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958.
The only longer hitting streaks by Giants rookies belong to Orlando Cepeda (1958), who had a 17-gamer, and Willie McCovey (1959), who sustained a 22-game Stretch (pun fully intended).
Predictably, Posey said that he’s not trying to think too much about his streak, but admitted that the notion of catching or passing McCovey intrigued him.
“It’d be cool,” Posey said. He rapped on a wooden portion of his locker stall as he added to a reporter, “Hopefully you didn’t just jinx me, right?”
– Chris Haft
Sunday, July 4
DENVER — The Giants just might send a third representative to the All-Star Game. But don’t count on it.
Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that Aubrey Huff is being considered as a replacement in case an existing National League All-Star is sidelined by injury.
Huff possesses decent statistics, including a .286 batting average to go with a team-high 15 home runs and 47 RBIs.
Huff demonstrated his value Sunday even while going 0-for-3. After drawing a one-out walk in the eighth inning — granted, he should have been out on a foul popup, but Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta and third baseman Melvin Mora let the ball drop – he further prolonged the inning with a takeout slide that prevented second baseman Jonathan Herrera from making a double-play relay to first.
Huff truly enhances his value defensively, however. He can play first base and either of the outfield corners. He would come in handy during the later innings of the All-Star Game after numerous players have been removed.
“That’s what would help,” acknowledged Bochy, whose remarks on the subject indicated that he has discussed it with Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, the NL All-Star manager. It all makes perfect sense, since Bochy is one of Manuel’s All-Star coaches.
Huff, who has never made an All-Star team in nine previous Major League seasons, received a hearty endorsement from teammate Brian Wilson, the closer who was chosen for his second Midsummer Classic along with Tim Lincecum, now a three-time All-Star.
“I think a guy who we all know should be going with us is Aubrey Huff,” Wilson said. “I can’t explain what the guy has done for us in our lineup. … The guy is more deserving than me, I feel.”
But since any of the NL’s five Final Vote candidates (San Diego right-hander Heath Bell, Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Vottto, Atlanta left-hiander Billy Wagner and Washington third baseman Ryan ZimmermanI) is likely to be considered as a late addition before Huff, don’t bet on seeing him in Anaheim on July 13.
Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, received his props during TBS’ MLB All-Star Selection Show.
While commenting on the potential unavailability of Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward due to injury, former pitcher David Wells said, “Let’s just hope he does go. This guy is a stud. He’s done everything. He’s got the arm; he’s got the hits. He’s got that Willie McCovey-type swing.”
Wells respectfully added, for the benefit of younger viewers nationwide, “For those who don’t know Willie McCovey, he was a stud, too.”
– Chris Haft
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Andres Torres owns a creditable .310 batting average. But as a switch-hitter who’s naturally bats right-handed, he’s susceptible to flaws hitting left-handed.
So Torres listened intently the other day when one of the best left-handed hitters in Giants history — heck, in all of history — summoned him for a chat. Hello, Mr. Willie Lee McCovey.
Sitting in front of the Giants dugout at Scottsdale Stadium, McCovey watched Torres take batting practice and noticed that the outfielder was wagging his bat excessively as he waited for the pitch. That might work for Barry Bonds, but not for Torres, who needs to hit line drives and grounders to capitalize on his speed.
“Wrapping” his bat — angling the barrel toward the pitcher — produced too many harmless fly balls.So McCovey advised Torres on Sunday to hold his bat straighter. “He told me to be more ‘quiet,’ because I was doing too much movement,” Torres said Tuesday.
Torres stuck with his old habits in Monday’s exhibition against Texas, but he tried McCovey’s method on Tuesday in batting practice and in the Giants’ 7-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Torres went 1-for-3 in the game and believes that McCovey’s advice will help.
“You have more time to go straight to the ball,” Torres said. “It makes sense.”
Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who remains limited to hitting balls off a tee, sounded doubtful about appearing in an exhibition to test his recovering left shoulder before the Giants leave Arizona on March 31.
“That hasn’t even been discussed,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez added that he has practiced tee hitting seven times so far. Taking “soft-toss” batting practice — hitting balls flipped underhanded — will be the next step in his progression.
Buster Posey started his first game of the spring at first base and played error-free, though he was challenged occasionally by relatively unfamiliar plays — such as when he had to throw to Tim Lincecum covering first base in the third inning.
“He looks more and more comfortable over there,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Posey, who went 1-for-3 and is batting .429.
It’s fairly obvious, isn’t it? The more the Giants utilize with Posey like this, the more evident it is that they’re intensely curious about finding any way they can to get him on the field (and in the batter’s box) on the Major League level.
The Giants announced their first round of roster cuts after Tuesday’s game. First baseman Brett Pill was optioned out while shortstop Ehire Adrianza, second baseman Nick Noonan, outfielders Wendell Fairley and Thomas Neal and catchers Johnny Monell, Hector Sanchez and Jackson Williams were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Also, right-hander Steve Johnson cleared waivers and was offered back to the Baltimore Orioles, his previous organization.
San Francisco selected Johnson, 22, for $50,000 in last December’s Rule 5 draft. Under terms of the draft, if the Giants determined that Johnson wouldn’t make their Opening Day roster, he had to be offered back to Baltimore for half of the $50,000 purchase price. Johnson recorded a 5.79 ERA in three Cactus League appearances.
The moves left the Giants with 56 players in Major League camp.
– Chris Haft
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t a regular-season Giants-Dodgers game, but rookie right fielder Roger Kieschnick sensed that he probably made a lot of fans happy on Monday.
With the score tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, Kieschnick cleanly fielded Angel Berroa’s single and made a strong, one-hop throw home that retired Ronnie Belliard, who was trying to score from second base. In the bottom of the inning, Kieschnick drilled a leadoff single and was replaced by pinch-runner Francisco Peguero, who scored on Ryan Rohlinger’s long single to right field to give the Giants a 3-2 victory.
Kieschnick, who excelled for San Francisco’s Class A San Jose affiliate last year, caught a whiff of hostility when the younger Giants would confront the Dodgers’ California League representatives, the Inland Empire 66ers. “They hated us just as much as anything,” Kieschnick said. “You definitely got a sense of the rivalry.”
Kieschnick, who’ll probably begin the season at Double-A Richmond, said that he was fully prepared mentally to handle Berroa’s single and Belliard’s fruitless dash home. “That play goes over and over in your mind before it happens,” he said.
The Giants went hitless in their first five at-bats with runners on third base and less than two out, which didn’t please manager Bruce Bochy. “Our execution wasn’t very good today,” he said.
Example: Eugenio Velez grounded out to first base on the first pitch with runners on second and third and one out in the second inning. “He was too aggressive,” Bochy said. Noting that Velez hacked at a breaking ball from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, Bochy added, “We have to do a little better job of pitch selection there.”
Velez atoned in the fourth inning by dumping a two-out RBI single to center field following John Bowker’s triple off Clayton Kershaw.
Many “you-had-to-be-there” moments are often not worth retelling. But since this involved two Giants legends, I’ll give it a try.
Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, arrived on the scene Monday for his annual Spring Training visit. McCovey was beginning to leave the training complex, walking slowly on his crutches. Then he suddenly made a U-turn and headed for the Giants’ clubhouse, where Willie Mays — who also needs no introduction — was seated at his usual perch.
McCovey entered the clubhouse and headed directly for Mays. “Hey, Buck!” McCovey called, addressing Mays by the nickname he went by in his playing days. “Where’s my book?” Mays, whose recently released biography is soaring on the best-seller lists, laughed as 1,181 home runs shook hands.
The Giants’ shortage of first basemen worsened as Aubrey Huff remained home with an illness. Kevin Frandsen, who played 17 games at first base last season for Triple-A Fresno, started and played six innings capably. Buster Posey appeared in his second game in a row at first base, though he later switched to catcher.
Travis Ishikawa, recovering from torn ligaments in his left foot, took batting practice on the field for the first time. But Bochy wasn’t certain when Ishikawa, who had been expected to back up Huff, will be ready to play. Meanwhile, Frandsen, Posey, Matt Downs and Brett Pill will play first whenever Huff rests or is unavailable.
Mark DeRosa, who tested his surgically repaired left wrist by swinging off Minor League pitchers Sunday, felt fine and should play his first exhibition game Tuesday or Wednesday.
– Chris Haft
If you’re proud of your association with the Giants — whether you’re a player, club employee or fan — then Friday should be one of the biggest nights of the year.
Friday happens to be when the recipient of the “Willie Mac” Award, given annually to the most inspirational Giant, will be honored in a pregame ceremony. The award is named for Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction. Nor is it necessary to explain why the distinction was named for him. If you saw McCovey play and witnessed his grace, class and professionalism, or if you ever met him and realized that he possesses those same qualities off the field, you know that this isn’t any ordinary award and that Friday’s event isn’t just a routine observance.
The Giants have several worthy Willie Mac candidates this year, which helps explain why they’re destined for their first above-.500 finish since 2004. This is just my opinion, but I’d like to think others would share it. Here are the players who come to mind:
JUAN URIBE. Tales of his positive clubhouse influence followed him from Chicago, where the White Sox adored him. Uribe quickly began spreading that same good cheer among the Giants. Sometimes he has done it with the hearts games he led during Spring Training or his daily sessions of attack dominoes with Edgar Renteria, Brian Wilson and others. Sometimes he has done it with his veteran’s presence, such as when he went to the mound to counsel Jonathan Sanchez during a tight moment Wednesday night. Often he has done it simply through humor and remaining upbeat. Asked by one teammate if he ever felt down, Uribe’s response was, “Uribe’s never down.” And, of course, he has proven invaluable on the field.
BENGIE MOLINA. The Willie Mac winner in 2007-08 has remained a steady, calming influence. Pablo Sandoval admires him. Pitchers relish throwing to him. Every teammate appreciates his earnest, competitive spirit. It’s easy to say that the Giants shouldn’t re-sign Molina, who’s eligible for free agency, but they’ll miss a lot of his intangibles if they don’t. He’d be the award’s only three-time winner if he gets it again.
EDGAR RENTERIA. Since Renteria’s so quiet and unassuming, he tends to exercise his influence subtly or behind the scenes. He hasn’t delivered the offense the Giants sought when they signed him to a two-year, $18.5 million contract, but players, coaches and front-office members rave about his professionalism and impact on the team, particularly among the Giants’ younger Latin American players.
RANDY JOHNSON. Wednesday night’s telecast partially illustrated why Johnson’s on this list. There was, caught by the camera, filling Matt Cain’s ear with something. Whatever it was, it was valuable. The Giants’ pitchers have benefited immeasurably from having a 300-game winner and five-time Cy Young Award recipient in their midst who has been so willing to share his wisdom. “This is a guy we all look up to,” Barry Zito said. “I want to pattern myself after him in many ways.”
PABLO SANDOVAL. Why not? He plays hard, he’s always having fun and he’s the most effervescent Giant since Willie Mays circa 1951. Moreover, he has an appreciation for McCovey, as he revealed when he recorded his first “Splash Hit” home run on the 50th anniversary of Stretch’s Major League debut.
BARRY ZITO. This is Zito’s 10th year in the Majors, so he knows a little something about how to act as a big leaguer. He has disseminated his wisdom among younger players in tactful yet definitive fashion. Moreover, Zito has gained respect by improving his performance while ignoring the fan abuse he has prompted.
– Chris Haft