Results tagged ‘ Padres ’
SAN DIEGO — Some may disagree, but in my humble opinion Steve Garvey’s walk-off homer — before anyone even called it a walk-off homer — to win Game 4 of the 1984 National League Championship Series for the Padres over the Cubs is the top sports moment in San Diego history.
It put the then 15-year-old Padres on the map and did the same for a city that still hasn’t produced a Major League sports champion.
“It was my greatest game and a great game all the way around,” Garvey said on Friday night as the Padres celebrated the 30th anniversary of that NL championship at Petco Park, only miles from where it actually happened at what is now called Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.
The greatest game of his career, really?
“Probably, because it affected people the most,” said Garvey, who because of that night alone had his No. 6 rightfully retired by the club.
No doubt. With apologies to those who also remember the 1998 playoffs and World Series here, that week of baseball in 1984 beginning with the final three games against the Cubs in the NLCS and culminating with the first two games against the Tigers in the World Series brought San Diego to a level of euphoria never experienced again.
Nothing is like the first time and it was the maiden voyage into such unknown territory for San Diego fans. What made it special was how unexpectedly it happened. The Padres were spanked at Wrigley Field by the combined score of 17-2 in the first two games of the last of the best-of-five League Championship Series.
They flew home dejected and downtrodden, landing at the airport without much of a peep. In those days the players parked their cars at the stadium and when they approached the old ballpark by bus the players realized that thousands of fans had gathered there to herald their very much unheralded return. It turned into a huge pep rally with various players grabbing a bull horn to tell the crowd that it wasn’t over until they said it was over.
In the year when the first Ghost Busters film had invaded the lexicon, this cry came forward: “Who you going to call? Cub Busters.” Overnight, ingenious fans printed up buttons, posters and bumper stickers that flooded the market place saying just that.
For some reason, the crowd noise in Mission Valley surprised the Cubs, who were set back on their heels and didn’t bother to show up for Game 3, losing 7-1.
Garvey then crawled out of a sick bed to explode in Game 4, a rare postseason Saturday night game in that era.
“The night before I came down with a stomach virus and nobody knew,” Garvey recalled. “I was up all night. I was weak. I tried to hit and take infield before the game and couldn’t do it. I laid down on the training table. Dick Dent, our trainer came in and said, ‘Why don’t you sit out? You could use the day.’ I said, “Are you kidding me? I played in 1,207 straight games. I’m going to play tonight.’”
And that’s how a game for the ages was fashioned. Garvey came off that table to go 4-for-5 with five RBIs, converting every big at bat of the night. In the ninth, with hard-throwing Cubs reliever Lee Smith on the mound, Alan Wiggins opened the inning by striking out swinging. Tony Gwynn followed with a base hit, setting the stage for the Garv.
“It seemed like every time I faced Smith it was in the shadows of Wrigley,” Garvey said, referring to the now 100-year-old ballpark that at that time still had no lights. “I didn’t have a hit off him, but I knew he wasn’t going to fool around in that situation. He wasn’t going to try to get me out on a breaking ball. He threw a 95-mph fastball up and then he checked Tony. So I figured, here it comes again.
“This one was a little bit down and I got a good piece of it. Most of my big hits were right of center. I hit it high and it started to take off. I thought I hit it well enough. It’s almost like everything came to a stop. It was like The Natural when the ball was going up. I get to first base and I look up and I see [center fielder] Henry Cotto leap and I thought, ‘My god, this is going to be the greatest catch in postseason history.’”
Cotto didn’t catch it, of course. The ball kept rising and banged the wall behind the cyclone fence. As Garvey rounded the bases he pumped his right fist repeatedly in the air and the crowd went bonkers. It was his ninth and final home run of the season. In 1983, his NL record 1,207 consecutive-game playing streak came to an end when he dislocated his right thumb sliding into home plate. He never did have power again in that hand.
The next day, the Padres won their first pennant when pinch-hitter Tim Flannery’s grounder shot through the legs of first baseman Leon Durham for an error that still stains Cubs lore. There was a story behind that one, too. Second baseman Ryne Sandberg had inadvertently dumped Gatorade on Durham’s glove. Durham had to take the wet and stiff glove out in the
field with him and missed the ball. Gwynn then smacked a shot that took a wicked hop over Sandberg’s shoulder.
The Padres were on their way. The fact that they lost to the Tigers in the World Series was an afterthought. The Cubs missed a shot to go to the World Series for the first time since 1945. They’re still waiting.
But it all was set up by Garvey, the shot heard ‘round San Diego, the greatest moment in this town’s sports history.
“It’s like Kirk Gibson’s homer in 1988. Everybody remembers it as having won the World Series,” said Garvey, who was there on Friday night with shortstop Gary Templeton, utility man Kurt Bevacqua, catchers Terry Kennedy and Doug Gwosdz and pitching coach Norm Sherry. “But it didn’t. That was Game 1. And this was Game 4, but it got us to Game 5. And then the momentum changed dramatically.”
Addendum: This piece honors the memory of all those from that epic 1984 Padres season who are no longer with us: Owner Joan Kroc. Among the players, Wiggins, pitcher Eric Show, shortstop Mario Ramirez and outfielder Champ Summers. On the staff, manager Dick Williams and coach Jack Krol. Journalists Barry Lorge, Bob Wright and Wayne Lockwood of the San Diego Union. Announcer Jerry Coleman. And all the best to Gwynn, who is stricken with cancer and was unable to attend the ceremony. Our thoughts and prayers are all with you, Tony.
SAN DIEGO — Tony Gwynn Sr. won’t be at Petco Park on Thursday when his Padres open the season against the Dodgers. But his son, Tony Jr., will be at the ballpark nestled on San Diego Harbor, wearing a Los Angeles uniform.
“Typical Aztec and Padre luck,” the elder Gwynn said on Wednesday.
Still, it was wonderful to see the eight-time National League batting champ, Hall of Famer and man called “Mr. Padre” board a bus outside the yard bearing his name Wednesday on the campus of San Diego State. Gwynn coaches the Aztecs, who were about to embark on a six-hour drive to Las Vegas where they are scheduled to play University Nevada-Las Vegas during the next three days while the Padres are battling the arch-rival Dodgers. That’s the way the baseball bounces.
It was little more than six weeks ago that Gwynn had a malignant tumor removed from inside his right cheek. The tumor was wrapped around a nerve that controls movement on that side of his face. Doctors transplanted a nerve from Gwynn’s right shoulder, hoping to limit the damage. Gwynn’s cheek is still swollen and that side of his face is lopsided. He also says his ear is numb. But he’s talking clearly and is slowly working his way back. He knows it could have been much worse.
“I could be dead,” Gwynn said bluntly.
Gwynn has had two serious surgeries on that cheek in the past 19 months. Doctors discovered cancer of the parotid or salivary gland when they removed a tumor in 2010. Because that tumor was wrapped around the nerve, doctors hesitated to remove it at the time, fearing permanent paralysis if they did. Instead, they opted for months of aggressive radiation therapy. That tact worked for awhile.
Gwynn went for monthly blood checkups and this past January doctors suspected that the tumor had recurred. That diagnosis was confirmed by a biopsy.
“I was stunned,” Gwynn said when he learned that the tumor was back. “I figured, ‘That’s it.’ Then you get over it, rebound and try to figure out what to do next.”
The procedure took 14 hours and began in the morning hours of Feb. 14. Gwynn, obviously, wasn’t aware of the length of the surgery until he finally awoke in recovery at 4:30 a.m. the next day.
“I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Great, I’m still here. I’m alive,'” Gwynn recalled.
He then reached for his right shoulder and couldn’t extend his left arm. He had been positioned on that arm all day. Now he’s in rehab to rebuild strength in his right shoulder. He’s hoping that the transplanted nerve will regenerate, giving him full function on that side of his face. That could take as long as a year. He suspects the cancer sprung from a lifetime of chewing tobacco and has quit the terrible habit, replacing it with a non-toxic herbal blend.
Asked last summer if he still thinks about chewing tobacco, he responded: “Every minute of every day.”
Still, life is good. He’s back teaching kids, which is what he loves to do best. And though he won’t be in San Diego on Opening Day, he hopes to be there on Easter Sunday so he can possibly see his son play in at least the finale of the four-game series.
He said his energy level isn’t nearly what it should be yet, but that hardly matters. “You just don’t know how good it feels to be back to work,” he said. “I’m busy and it keeps my mind off all these other things.”
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Mat Latos said on Tuesday morning that the Padres did him a favor this past offseason by trading him to the Reds. The right-hander is ticketed for the top of the Cincinnati rotation, much like he was in San Diego.
The trade surprised and shocked Latos, he said before practice on Tuesday morning at the Reds’ Spring Training complex.
“All of the above,” Latos told MLB.com. “I think they did me a favor. It’s the best move the Padres could have made. The four guys they got, they felt, offered more value to them than I did. In the end, it turned out to be for the best.”
The Reds traded four players for Latos: right-handers Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger, first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal. Latos and Volquez are expected to swap spots in the starting rotations of their respective new clubs. Alonso is hoping to win a spot at first base in San Diego, which later traded highly touted Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs.
Grandal was a top Reds prospect. Boxberger is a reliever who was working his way up the Reds system and had a 2.93 ERA at Triple-A last year. Both are probably ticketed for the Padres’ Minor League system this season.
San Diego GM Josh Byrnes, reached at the Padres camp by phone on Tuesday, said Latos was a victim of his talent level as the new general manager tried to recast a team that finished at the bottom of the National League West this past season.
“Any player that you can trade and get four back is obviously pretty good,” he said. We valued Mat a lot. If we didn’t get that back, we wouldn’t have traded him.”
As the Padres went from contender to pretender from 2010 to ’11, Latos’ stats also flipped. He was 14-10 with a 2.92 ERA in ’10 and lost the final game of that season to the Giants in San Francisco when the Padres were eliminated from the playoffs. The Giants went on to win the World Series.
Last year, he was 9-14 with a 3.47 ERA as the Padres lost 91 games. He started 31 times in each of his first two full seasons. He is just 24 and had long been a prized player grown from Day 1 in the Padres system.
Still, despite the loss of his 2010 dominance, Latos said he was assured by members of the Padres’ hierarchy that he wouldn’t be traded. Byrnes replaced Jed Hoyer as GM after Hoyer’s departure to the Cubs, and things changed.
“From the talks I had with certain people, it didn’t seem like I was going to be traded,” Latos said. “Then again, I was. So it goes. Did it have anything to do with the change in GMs? I don’t know. It’s irrelevant to me now if it had anything to do with that.”
Byrnes agreed that the transition to him from Hoyer might have had an impact on a prime young player being traded.
“We certainly took a fresh look at any way we could improve,” Byrnes said. “Being honest, I’m not aware of any assurances that he wouldn’t be traded. The only reason we were willing to do that trade is that we got four players back. Anything short of that and it wouldn’t have happened and we would’ve kept Mat.”
Latos said on Tuesday that his shoulder feels healthy and the move into a different organization hasn’t been that difficult.
“It’s great. I’m having fun,” he said.
Dusty Baker, the Reds’ veteran manager, added that he’s watching and learning as he views Latos’ habits both on and off the field.
“He has a lot of upside potential. That’s what we’re banking on,” Baker said. “Not just for the short term, but for the long term. Like I tell everybody — especially the new guys — just be yourself. It’s like being the new guy in the office. It’s always going to take an adjustment. Everybody comes with a reputation and a jacket. Bad, good, true or false. This is a new start. You have a chance to change that jacket.”
PHOENIX — When Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar was recently struck in the face by a line drive and lost his left eye, it was another strange hit to the 1984 Padres, the first team in club history to win the National League pennant and ascend to the World Series. They lost in five games to the Tigers.
Salazar was a back up infielder, displaced at third base by an aging Craig Nettles, who was obtained in a trade with the Yankees just prior to the start of that regular season. This year, Salazar was standing in the dugout during a Spring Training game in Florida and didn’t know what hit him.
There is a dark cloud hovering over the ’84 Padres team and this was just the latest incident.
Starting pitcher Eric Show and second baseman Alan Wiggins died young, Show, at 37 of a drug overdose, Wiggins at 32, from AIDs linked to the injection of drugs.
Then there is the cancer cluster. Dave Dravecky lost his left (throwing) arm to cancer. Coach Jack Krol died of cancer related to his constant use of chewing tobacco. And Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion that season and an eight-time winner in his 20-year career, is battling cancer for the same reason.
Phil Collier, the beat writer for the San Diego Union who covered that team, was diagnosed that year with prostate cancer and eventually died from it. Wayne Lockwood and Barry Lorge, both columnists for the Union back then, are also gone. Wayne had Parkinson’s and Barry died of cancer. Bob Chandler, a now retired Padres play-by-play announcer, is a prostate cancer survivor. I was the beat writer for the San Diego Tribune that season and I’ve survived colon cancer — not once, but twice. In another ironic twist, I’ve been blind in my left eye since a childhood accident.
Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s founder and club owner who saved the team for San Diego, had a major stroke and died before the start of that season. The Padres wore an “RAK” patch on their shoulders all that year to honor him. His wife and successor, Joan, died in 2003 because of a brain tumor.
With apologies to the 1998 Padres team that also went to World Series where they were swept by the Yankees, the postseason in ’84 is still the most exciting week of Major League Baseball ever played in San Diego. It was staged at the old ballpark in Mission Valley before it was expanded and enclosed for football in front of raucous crowds of almost 60,000 for every game.
It included the Padres’ come-from-behind victory over the Cubs in what was the final best-of-five NL Championship Series.
Steve Garvey won Game 4 in Mission Valley with a two-run walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5 there was Tim Flannery’s grounder that skidded through the legs of Leon Durham, the first baseman whose glove had been accidentally doused in Gatorade by Ryne Sandberg, the NL’s MVP that season. The Padres even split the first two World Series games, winning Game 2 at home over a Tigers team that won 111 games — including the postseason — and was clearly one for the ages. Unfortunately they lost the next three at old Tiger Stadium.
To those among the survivors — Dick Williams and Jack McKeon, Tim Lollar and Andy Hawkins, Steve Garvey and Puff Nettles, Goose Gossage and Garry Templeton, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez, Craig Lefferts and the first Greg Harris, Ballard Smith and Dick Freeman, and of course, Bruce Bochy, Terry Kennedy and Tim Flannery — stay well and healthy.
And to Louie a speedy recovery. May the wind always be at your backs.
Cancer, a horrible disease, took two more sportswriter friends during a horrible week — Phil Jasner and Jim Kelley. Phil died after an extended battle with colon cancer and Jim after a 14-month war against cancer of the pancreas.
These were both giants of the business. Phil covered the NBA out of Philadelphia and Jim the NHL out of Buffalo.
I met Phil when both of us were budding NBA beat writers in the early 1980s. Phil had just been put on the 76ers beat at the Daily News and I the Clippers for the old San Diego Tribune. We had a common thread in Tom Cushman, who had been a columnist at the Daily News and moved on to be Sports Editor of the Tribune. Tom hired me nearly 30 years ago. It was with him over drinks one night after a basketball game that I became friendly with Phil.
The Clippers were short-lived in San Diego and I was short-lived on the basketball beat. Tom put me on the Padres in 1984 and my career veered inexorably into baseball. Phil remained on the Sixers until his death. We covered Philadelphia’s sweep of the Lakers in the 1983 NBA Finals, to this day the 76ers only NBA championship.
I continued to attend the NBA All-Star Game and Phil and I remained friends. He was one of those guys who’d I’d see every once in awhile and pick up right where we left off. There was a bond among people who had been on the NBA beat back then tied together by the coaches we covered. Don Casey was one of them. He coached in Philly’s competitive Big Five and moved on to the Clippers as both an assistant and the head coach. When I heard rumors of Phil’s death on Friday night, it was Casey I immediately called. He still lives in San Diego. We had two conversations that were long and philosophical.
Through Casey I’d heard of Phil’s battle with colon cancer coming at the same time I was going through a similar tussle with the same disease. I’ve been cancer-free for 18 months, having gone through four surgeries. They caught mine early. Twice. I spent a very uneasy night pondering the question of why I’ve been spared (so far) and Phil wasn’t. There’s no answer. It’s the luck of the draw — perhaps it’s no more complicated than that.
I met Jim when I spent four years at Bloomberg News from 1998-2002 as their national hockey writer, among other duties. My relationship with Jim was much more casual than it was with Phil. He was a hockey writer and columnist for the Buffalo News back then and eventually made his way into the Internet. Like Phil, he was a dogged reporter with a myriad of sources, easy going and wonderful to talk to. We were among the group that covered the Sabres loss to Dallas in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.
Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence. As one survivor recently told me, 80 percent of those diagnosed with it die within the first year. Like Phil, Jim fought it to the end. By one wonderfully written account, Jim filed his last column early in the morning before he died.
Even in illness, going to the rink, the ballpark, the gym, getting support from the people you know, putting your words in a laptop every day, creates a sort of normalcy to an abnormal situation. It’ll be soon enough before we all go home. That’s what I found. I’m sure Phil and Jim also took solace in doing what they loved best.
They are both gone now and sadly the list of sportswriters dying of cancer continues to know no bounds.
I don’t vote for the 12 people who are on the latest Veterans edition of the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. That will have to wait until early next month when the annual list is sent out to eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
But if I was on the 16-member Expansion era committee, which is charged with voting by the Dec. 6 Winters Meetings in Orlando, Fla., the choices would be easy: I’d go with the Garv and the Boss.
Why Steve Garvey never made it during his 15 years on the Writer’s ballot has always been a mystery to me. I voted for him every time, although he always finished somewhere in the middle of the pack. Despite his obvious impact on Major League Baseball, this is George Steinbrenner’s first time on a ballot considered by any configuration of the Vets committee with the express purpose of voting for owners.
The Garv: National League MVP in 1974, All-Star MVP in 1974 when he won his spot as a write in, NL Championship Series MVP twice — once in 1978 for the Dodgers and again in ’84 with the Padres when he had the single best offensive NLCS game I’ve ever seen: 4-for-5, 5 RBIs, and a walk-off, two-run homer to win Game 4 in San Diego against the Cubs. Still an NL record 1,207 consecutive games played. Need I go on?
The Boss: Made free agency what it is today with his signings of Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage from 1976-78. Under his sometimes chaotic guidance the Yankees won seven World Series and 11 American League pennants after he bought the club in 1973. The rest of what today constitutes the American League East has won the Fall Classic a TOTAL of five times during that same period — Toronto and Boston twice each, Baltimore once. If the Hall is about numbers, those are incredible numbers.
This is not to say there aren’t plenty of other worthy people on the new Vet ballot. Marvin Miller and Pat Gillick should also be elected. I’ve also always thought that Ron Guidry and Ted Simmons have been seriously overlooked.
But if I were among the august Gang of 16 my first choices would be the Garv and the Boss. To garner the necessary 75 percent they each need 12 of the 16 votes. I’ll be waiting.
SAN DIEGO — The resurgence of the Padres shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Jed Hoyer and company took the best of what Kevin Towers left behind in the switch of general managers and made it better.
Hoyer added Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba and Jerry Hairston Jr. as free agents. He sat down with manager Bud Black and instituted a running game. And then he didn’t tamper with what Towers put together. While most “experts” were picking the Padres to go nowhere again, an astute view of their 2010 edition during Spring Training offered a much different perspective.
Here they are in first place in the National League West post Memorial Day, which is beyond anyone’s expectation, although I certainly thought the Padres would be competitive.
With Towers still in the last year of his Padres contract (value, $1.3 million) and working as a scout for the Yankees, there’s still time to congratulate him for a job well done, perhaps the best job he ever did in his 14-years as Pads GM in putting together this year’s team.
Adrian Gonzalez? Adam Eaton trade. David Eckstein? Free-agent signing. Everth Cabrera? Rule V Draft selection. Chase Headley, Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc? All came up through the Minor League system. Tony Gwynn Jr.? Jody Gerut trade. Kevin Correia? Free-agent signing. Clayton Richard? Jake Peavy trade. Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, Heath Bell, Edward Mujica? All acquired in trades by Towers.
Well, you get the picture. It’s been a heck of a composite effort.
I first met Roberto Alomar on a visit to the family household in Salinas, Puerto Rico, in 1987. He was 19 years old. He and his older brother Sandy Jr., then 21, were out in the street in front of the house playing with remote control cars. They were still in the Padres’ Minor League system and as big kids had their lives in front of them.
Sandy Jr., was always more verbose than Robbie. He was a take control kind of kid and took my wife and I on a tour of the southern coast of the island not far from Ponce, where Benito Santiago grew up. My wife, Alicia, loves to sip the milk of coconuts and Sandy took us to a road-side hut along the Atlantic Ocean shore where the owner sliced open a coconut with a machete for her. A fine catcher in his own right, he’s always been that type of guy.
Robbie was playing second base that winter for his dad, who managed Santorce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. That’s the first time I ever saw him on the field. Even at that age, playing in a dusty old stadium, it was easy to see that the kid could play. He was more than a prospect. He was the real thing.
It’s now 23 years later and Roberto has had what I call a Hall of Fame career, coming up with the Padres in 1988, winning two World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992-93, batting .300 with 2,724 hits and .984 fielding percentage. I’ve known Roberto and his family for so long that I discount the spitting incident as an aberration in a great career. After all, he spit in the face of an umpire, John Hirschbeck, who Robbie said called him a derogatory name that takes on even more significance in the Latin culture. Hirschbeck, who had lost his son at the time, wasn’t in the greatest state of mind. The two made peace. Let’s move on.
This year I filled out my ballot, using all 10 slots. Of the newcomers I voted for Robbie, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. Of the returnees, I checked off Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith and Mark McGwire. I added Robin Ventura to the bunch just because he was a personal favorite. I doubt Ventura will even get the 5 percent requisite vote to carry him over. If he doesn’t at least he knows he got one vote. Mine.
Usually, I vote for three or four guys, but this year I decided to spread it out. I’ve never voted for Blyleven, Morris or Dawson, but under closer scrutiny all deserve a place in Cooperstown. Morris was the best pitcher in the American League for a decade and turned teams into World Champions, winning in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. Blyleven is fifth all-time in strikeouts (3,701). Of his 287 wins, 60 were shutouts. Dawson played on bad knees and with sheer guts. His numbers certainly stand up to Jim Rice, who was elected last year.
I’ve voted for McGwire every year he’s been on the ballot and will continue to do so. I’m not sure what to do with players whose careers spanned the steroid era, particularly when the use of those drugs are implied. Next year we’ll have Rafael Palmeiro on the ballot. He’s only one of four players to amass 500 homers and 3,000 hits — Eddie Murray, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are the others. He also failed a drug test at the end of his career. What will I do about Rafi? It will all go into the mix. I have no hard and fast rules.
I vote for Smith and Trammell every year. It baffles me why Smith (478 saves for third on the all-time list) and the great shortstop Trammell are not in the Hall. I couldn’t vote for Barry Larkin this year because Trammell is not a member. Larkin: a .295 lifetime average, 2,340 hits, 198 homers and 960 RBIs in 2,180 games, all with the Reds. Trammell: .285 with 2,365 hits, 185 homers and 1,003 RBIs in 2,293 games, all with the Tigers. What am I missing here?
McGriff and Martinez are also worthy. Fred was a great guy and a great player who’s career arch ended with him seven short of 500 homers. He was such an impact player everywhere he went, I’m not going to hold that against him. Neither should Edgar’s accomplishments be shrouded by the fact that he was a true designated hitter throughout most of his career. He played in Seattle and the American League utilizes that rule. That’s the way his managers chose to use him. He’s a .312 lifetime hitter with 2,247 hits, 309 homers, 1,261 RBIs, a .418 on-base percentage and a.515 slugging percentage. Let’s look at the numbers, not his position. That’s what I went by.
So that’s the way I did it this year, the 17th time I’ve voted for the Hall of Fame dating back to 1993. I’ll be looking forward to the announcement on Wednesday to see how my writing colleagues judged it as well.
PHOENIX — No matter what happens to the Giants in the National League’s Wild Card race, they’ve had a wildly successful season.
Coming off 90 losses in 2008, the Giants at least secured a .500 record with their 5-2 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field on Wednesday night. At 82 wins with 10 games to play, that’s already 10 victories better than ’08. Coupled with a Rockies loss to the Padres in Denver, the Giants are four games behind in the Wild Card race, tied with the suddenly surging Braves.
“We’re still breathing, we got help,” manager Bruce Bochy said after the game. “We’re running out of games. We know that, but there’s still hope.”
The Giants head home to play the Cubs this weekend, while the Rox get the NL Central-leading Cardinals at Coors Field. The Cards need a win or a Cubs loss to capture another division title. The Braves, meanwhile, get three vs. the 99-loss Nationals in Washington.
What the Giants have done should be enough to secure the jobs of Bochy and long-time general manager Brian Sabean, whose contracts both expire at the end of the season. Bill Neukom, the team’s new managing general partner, has told both men they’ll be evaluated with everyone else in the organization this offseason. Here’s hoping that the process doesn’t take long and neither of them are left dangling. They are both consummate professionals. Thus far, Neukom has kept his word and there has been silence on the subject internally and externally.
The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2003, but that’s not for lack of effort. In the post-Barry Bonds era, Sabean deserves credit for resisting the trade of his young pitchers — Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson — for more grizzled veterans. With his future and job on the line, it would’ve been easy to take the “win it at all costs now” route. But Sabean didn’t. He stayed the course and the Giants should reward Sabean by staying with him.
Bochy has done one of his best managerial jobs this year, keeping a team with a thread-bare offense — the Giants’ 112 homers are next to last in the 16-team NL — in contention for a playoff spot. But that’s not surprising. In his 12 years managing the Padres and now three with the Giants, Boch has always gotten the most out of every club. He won four division titles and the 1998 NL pennant in San Diego and was on a two-year playoff streak when he up and left the Padres for the Giants with one year left on his contract. The Giants owe him a debt of gratitude for coming and an extension for a job well done.
It’s tempting in this era of instant Twitters and instant success to look elsewhere. But is anyone better out there? Ask Astros owner Drayton McLane, who fired GM Tim Pupura and manager Phil Garner only two years after a World Series loss to the White Sox. McLane brought in Ed Wade and Cecil Cooper. Since then the Astros have continued to falter and Cooper has been dismissed. Sometimes it’s better to stay the course.
The Giants still have an outside chance of making the postseason. If they tie the Rockies after 162 games, they’ll host a one-game Wild Card playoff at AT&T Park by virtue of a 10-8 head-to-head record with Colorado. If they don’t, there’s nothing to hang their heads about.
“Our goal this year was to go to the postseason,” Bochy said. “We all thought we had the team here to do it. But no question, as an organization we wanted to make an improvement. That’s something we wanted to accomplish. We wanted to play winning baseball and now we’ve done that.”
And so, the architect and the manager should be rewarded accordingly.