Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bullpen woes and beyond

Giants throw one away in Cincinnati to end the first inning (18/162 = 1/9) of the season. The team stands at .500 despite a good start by an apparently rejuvenated Barry Zito. Relievers Clay Hensley and Jeremy Affeldt couldn't hold a 2-1 lead as both threw a lot of ugly looking shit at the Reds and they capitalized. The Giants should have had a bigger lead as they managed 10 baserunners (9 hits and a walk) against Bronson Arroyo but could not get the big hit. Of course, that's the usual lament with this club regarding run scoring. Damn, it was an ugly effort in the 7th! You could argue with Bochy's decision to let Zito start the inning. I was surprised, but as I've said before, I like the attitude. BZ was dealing and had as good a chance as the overworked and struggling 'pen did to get some outs. Immediately, though, he fell behind Scott Rolen and grooved a 3-2 pitch for a huge bomb to break the shutout. Then the defensive lapses, a bad call, some crappy pitching and it was all over. The Giants did manage to put a brief scare into Aroldis Chapman but Joaquin Arias' smoking hot liner was snagged by the big flamethrower and it was done.

Speaking of Arias, he was called up to take Aubrey Huff's spot on the roster. Huff was DL'd for "anxiety issues" and is expected to rejoin the team at some point. When I posted my thoughts on Huff after that weird game in New York, I had no idea there were deeper, personal things involved. (The story broke the next day.) It is easy to forget that ballplayers (entertainers, really) are human beings with real lives and real problems. Any job, no matter how lucrative, with the kind of intense public scrutiny that these guys face daily, has a dark side. (I'm a public schoolteacher in a small town, rather bucolic compared to most, but I'm here to tell you it takes a psychic toll. And nobody writes blog posts or newspaper articles about me.) It has to be difficult to balance fame with family, and glory with ignominy. My observations about Aubrey Huff were entirely baseball related, viewing him only as another player on the team and not as a whole person. I certainly hope he gets things figured out. I remember when Mike Ivie (who else remembers Mr. Pinch-hit Grand Slam?) had a similar problem back in the late 70's in the Joe Altobelli/Dave Bristol Era. (Ivie was the #1 pick in 1970.) I was a college kid at the time. Bruce Bochy is five years older than me and here's what he had to say:
I'm sure it was there when I played, but you probably weren't as likely to talk about it openly . . .
No doubt. I like to think that we are a little more enlightened about things like anxiety, depression, and other mental struggles. These are just as real as torn ligaments, only harder to pin down and come up with treatments. My dad was a Korean War vet--he fought at Chosin with the 5th Marines when he was 19 years old. He suffered horribly from post-traumatic stress, yet was from a generation of men unable or unwilling to accept mental illness as a legitimate problem. Fortunately even Major League Baseball can manage to limp into the 21st century now and then.

The Giants have limped along like the .500 team they are. They show flashes of brilliance and then put on some rather wretched displays. The parts are there but they are not all clicking together. It's April, and despite the Dodgers fast start they are still close enough. But .500 innings are not what champs are made of, and it is time for this team to quit screwing around. I expect to see a steady improvement and better well be reporting on a 10-8 or 11-7 second inning 18 games from now.


p.s. I can't get the goddamn B-R Linker tool to work!! Normally I'd make all the player names hyperlinks, but the "bookmarklet" (java script app) that B-R supplies isn't functioning. Even RMC isn't firing on all cylinders this early in the season!


Brother Bob said...

My dad was in the Coast Guard in WWII (the big one) and spent most of his time in the West Indies (Lesser Antilles)hauling buoys out of the water so the barnacles could be scraped off them.
I don't think he ever fully recovered from that.
Meanwhile, back at the ballpark- Zito continues his current streak of adequacy, Sandoval still has at least one hit in every game, and the Giants haven't been shut out once. Not bad, as far as I'm concerned. As for the W-L thing, it's sort of like Matt Cain's career line. It has to get better.

Zo said...

Before I left work, Zito was mowing them down. His innings were 10 minutes or less. Then a solo HR and he was pulled. Nate got charged with an error, but it seemed as though he made an accurate throw, and it died on the wet infield grass so Sanchez couldn't make a tag. Walk, a fielding error by Hensley, a Wild Pitch by Affeldt, and a waste of an evening.

But here's something. Last night's lineup featured 5 consecutive batters with .300 averages. When was the last time that happened? I can't remember. I don't think we could field that even during 2002.

And Pablito #18.

Shankbone said...

Well now, Angel Pagan busts us out of the House of Horrors and its time to come on home. Spot start tomorrow wearing some Orange. That bothers some traditionalists which I usually count myself part of but something about it I like.

Whoever does the 18 game at a time summaries on RMC is slacking, or did I miss it? Come on, we're 1/9th through the season!

nomisnala said...

How can you be 5 years younger than Bochy, and have been in college in 1970. At least and not be the head of a corporation like microsoft(R). I agree that it was a rough error to go against Schierholtz. The throw and the runner arrived at the same time and it was difficult to catch the ball and make the tag. There should be no error on Schierholtz, and the RBI should not have been taken away from Crawford. Nate sure found a slump right after an acute hot streak. Finally, with Huff gone, Belt has to play everyday. We have to see him get comfortable and break out as a major league player.

M.C. O'Connor said...

@ nom: Late 70s, like I said. I was a freshman at Cal in Sept of 1977.

@shank: you missed it--re-read post.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Joe Altobelli was the Giants manager in 77, 78, and most of 79 when Dave Bristol took over. He lasted through 1980 and Frank Robinson took over in 1981.