Greg Papa, Pablo Sandoval, Dave Grosechner
It is the nature of diehard fans to be impatient. This is a good thing. They push a team’s management. Where’s the long-ball hitter we need? Where’s the rocket-armed reliever? Let’s make a deal, and let’s do it now.
But in the labyrinth of offices inside any major-league baseball organization, alongside the up-to-the-minute-what-can-we-do-now executives and analysts, are the futurists. They’re the ones constructing the team we’ll see next year and five years from now.
No team in recent years has planned for the future better than the Giants.
That’s what Baseball America concluded in its just-published analysis of the last four draft classes.
Here’s what Baseball America’s Jim Callis reported yesterday:
“We grade every draft from 2005-08 in the new Prospect Handbook, and no team outdid San Francisco’s 3.50 GPA. Vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow ran those first three efforts, with scouting director John Barr coming aboard in 2008.
“The Giants’ signature pick was stealing two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum after nine teams passed on him in 2006. San Francisco gets an A for Lincecum alone in 2006, though they also found fringe big league infielders Emmanuel Burriss (sandwich round), Ryan Rohlinger (sixth), Brian Bocock (ninth) and Matt Downs (36th).
“San Francisco was the only club to earn three As, also getting top grades in 2007 for Madison Bumgarner (first), with some help from righthander Tim Alderson (first), second baseman Nick Noonan (sandwich) and big league surprise Dan Runzler (fifth), and in 2008. That last group could be San Francisco’s best hitting crop in years, led by Buster Posey (first), third baseman Conor Gillaspie (sandwich), outfielder Roger Kieschnick (third) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (fourth).”
As fans, we don’t have to be patient. That’s not our jobs. But it’s good know it’s somebody’s job, and that the Giants happen to have some of the best people doing it.
I phoned Giants player personnel
director Bobby Evans this week – he’s back east with his family
for the holidays — to talk about the fall league and winter ball. I
wanted to know what he learns about his players when he looks at
their stats from these brief seasons in far-flung places.
“For most of the players, it’s a
development opportunity,” Evans said. “These are not rec
leagues. They’re competitive, spirited, driven programs. You
succeed or you come home. The pressure is high and the stakes are
“As hard as it is for young Latin
players to come to the U.S. and succeed, that’s what it’s like
for American players to go into competitive winter ball leagues.”
Nate Schierholtz, for example, hit .324
in Puerto Rico after a frustrating regular season that saw him
sidelined for a stretch with a strained hip. Winter ball “was a
strong development opportunity for Nate and shows how tough he is,”
Kevin Frandsen also did well in the
Puerto Rican league, hitting .337. “He’ll compete to be one of
the utility guys on the big league club,” Evans said. “He was
healthy all year and showed what kind of player he’s capable of
being. Just like Nate, by doing well in Puerto Rico, it turns heads.
Helps people see, ‘Hey, I’m not slowing down. I’m going to do
everything I can to compete.’ ”
For Brett Pill, the young first-baseman
who had a breakout 2009 season in the minors, the winter league in
Venezuela was a confidence boost. He batted .329 with a .411 on-base
“When you’re playing alongside
major-league players you’ve only seen on SportsCenter, and you’re
doing well, it’s an eye-opener. You’re thinking, ‘I can compete
with these guys.’ It’s going to help him approach the next level
– his first major-league spring training — with a lot more
Evans puts less stock in the
performances in the Arizona fall league, where Brandon Crawford and
Buster Posey played.
“You can’t read too much into
whether you were successful or unsuccessful because you get such
limited at-bats,” Evans said.
Crawford hit .312 and Posey .225.
“As much as he might have struggled
offensively,” Evans said of Posey, “he showed a respectable
on-base percentage (.324). It was a long year for him between
big-league camp, five months in the minor leagues in two different
places followed by a September call-up and fall league. Not question
there was strain on him.’
Evans said Crawford, whose impressive
performance in Single A early on in 2009 seemed almost effortless, is
expected to start the season in Double A “and see where the season
takes him. What we’ve seen in him is a sense of passion. He’s
No word yet on whether Pablo Sandoval
has been successful in maintaining his weight-loss from his Operation
Panda conditioning camp. He hit .395 in Venezuela, his home country.
The Giants expect to see Sandoval back in San Francisco in a couple
John Bowker’s winter-league season
was cut short by a quadriceps strain. (He played in just three
games.) He’s been receiving treatment in San Francisco and is
expected to be ready for spring training.
Have a great New Year. See you in 2010.
It sure looks weird to see the clubhouse in the off-season. Even filled as it was last night with fans in folding chairs, it was like walking into an abandoned building. There’s a kind of ghostly loneliness about it without players slapping domino tiles on table tops and answering fan mail in front of their lockers and yanking down the bills of their caps as they rush out to take early BP. Is April really still three-and-a-half months away?
The next best thing to the actual baseball season, though, is talking about it.
Up on a temporary stage, erected on the far right of the room near the starting pitchers’ lockers, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was sitting next to general manager Brian Sabean and taking questions from moderator Greg Papa.
“He’s the best all-around player that I’ve ever seen because he can play everywhere,” Bochy was saying. “He has a very similar body type to Tony Gwynn.”
He was talking about Pablo Sandoval, who embarked on a rigorous conditioning and weight-loss program during the off-season, a one-man camp the Giants dubbed “Operation Panda.”
“Obviously,” Sabean cracked, nodding at Bochy and himself, “we haven’t been in the same camp.”
Packed into the room, in rows of chairs bordered by four walls of lockers, were season-ticket holders who had been invited to talk baseball with Bochy, Sabean, managing general partner Bill Neukom and relief pitcher Sergio Romo.
Asked by Papa if two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum’s stuff matches up with the all-time greats, Bochy didn’t hesitate.
“Sure it does. He’s by far the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. When you have four pitches, especially the best or close to the best changeup in baseball right now, he’s up there among the greats. He’s a thinker out there and knows what the opposing team is doing and that’s why he’s won two Cy Young Awards.”
“What’s interesting about him,” Sabean said, “is in college he would throw 140 pitches on a Friday night and then be the closer for his team on Sunday. He’s proved to have a rubber arm and has an inner strength that other people don’t have. He’s fearless and he thinks that on any given day that he’s better than anyone else.”
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was Sergio Romo. He’s a player that fans don’t know very well yet, and last night they got a glimpse of his sense of humor and his boyish excitement for the game – starting with the fact he was texting his mother as he climbed onto the stage to tell he was going to be on television.
“You’re from Brawley, California, near Los Angeles,” Papa said, “so who was your favorite team growing up?”
“No comment,” Romo said, smiling. “Let’s just say I started hating the Dodgers the second I put on a Giants uniform.”
After struggling with injuries last season, he said he’s “very excited for the season to start . . . I miss my number 54 on my back.”
When Papa opened the discussion to questions, one of the first was an update on the Giants’ up and coming players.
“Peguero is a young outfielder that we just placed on our 40-man roster,” Sabean said. “He’s a lot like Sandoval in that he has a lot of energy. Thomas Neal came into his own last year and developed an all-around game. Brandon Crawford is going to be our shortstop of the future. We have a flow of talent that people will be proud of.”
As for the readiness of pitcher Madison Bumgarner and catcher Buster Posey, Bochy said, “I really think that they can start for us next year. Posey is gonna be a front line catcher and he’s on the fast track. Bumgarner did a heck of a job last year when Timmy went down. Here are two tremendous kids that stood out and both held their own. I’m curious to see how Buster looks this spring.”
One fan wanted to know about keeping Lincecum and fellow pitcher Matt Cain as Giants for the long haul.
“Cain has two more years before free agency,” Sabean said, “and Lincecum has four more and is going through arbitration right now. We are in a good situation because they both want to be Giants for a long time.”
Sabean also addressed the decision not to resign veteran pitcher Brad Penny.
“We had a short window and in our estimation we thought we had home court in our situation. We couldn’t bring ourselves to overpay when we have Madison Bumgarner in the wings.”
Still want more? Tune in to a full broadcast of the event on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area on January 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Some shots from the taping:
Giants general manager Brian Sabean is honing a skill not innate to a baseball man who cut his teeth at the New York Yankees.
“The market right now is as slow or slower than last year in developing,” he said during a break today from internal strategy meetings in preparation for next week’s winter meetings in Indianapolis.
“Whether teams are still getting their budgets together or what, the free agent market has yet to develop. Players and agents are slow to do anything. It’s a sign of the times.”
Sabean said the Giants last week offered a one-year deal to pitcher Brad Penny, and yesterday offered one year and an option to infielder Juan Uribe. Both offers were declined. “At this time I’m not sure there will be further discussion,” Sabean said. (He said veteran catcher Bengie Molina probably has been offered a multi-year deal by another team, essentially guaranteeing he would not return to the Giants.)
Sabean’s strategy in building the 2010 team boils down to three basic – but difficult — questions:
· How can the Giants maximize the talent they already have?
· What can be accomplished on the free-agent market?
· Are there smart trades to be made – and what homegrown talent is the team willing to give up in order to secure valuable immediate help (such as a bigger bat in the lineup)?
“What we’re doing right now – to get a bat, to figure out the catching situation, everything – is due diligence,” Sabean said.
In other words, there is no magic formula. No shortcuts. No blockbuster, bold-headline quick fixes. Just hours and days and weeks of poring over scouting reports and statistics, working the phones and updating the huge erasable boards with lists of free agents and players likely the trading block, plus evaluating in every possible way the Giants’ own prospects. (Who among them will blossom into big-impact major-leaguers, and when?)
“In a perfect world, you’d love to have (Madison) Bumgarner and (Buster) Posey burst on the scene,” Sabean said. “But you don’t want to rush them. So you keep at it, at the grindstone, and be ready when the best opportunities pop.”
There might be interesting “secondary free agents,” Sabean said, “but maybe that doesn’t make as much sense as giving our own kids a chance. We have to continue to identify what we really have internally and not count on the outside world.”
Sabean mentioned two “burning questions” for the Giants:
· If the Giants don’t get Penny and instead bring up Bumgarner, their top pitching prospect, they will have a particularly young starting rotation. So what do you do about the bullpen? Do you counterbalance that with a more veteran bullpen and, say, bring Bob Howry back?
· What position does Pablo Sandoval play? If he stays at third, what options are available to upgrade the situation at first base outside the organization?
“In the past, we’ve been more aggressive,” Sabean said. “But we’re willing to go at the pace of the marketplace and show more patience. Trades don’t have to be made at the winter meetings. So people shouldn’t read anything into it if nothing happens in Indianapolis. It’s just not a very sexy market at this time.
“But we’ll come home with more information. It’s a fact-finding mission to figure out who matches up with us in terms of free-agent interest. We’ll have a clearer picture of trade scenarios. We’ll find who our partners might be and how we can do business.”
Chat with Giants’ GM Sabean:
Brian Sabean will participate in a live Web chat from the Major League Baseball winter meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday, December 9 at 1 p.m. PT. Fans are invited to chat with the GM about his goals for the club during the week’s Winter Meetings. To participate in the chat, please register at:
Woolf is the nutritionist from Arizona State University who is
guiding the food and drink component of Operation Panda, Pablo
Sandoval’s off-season conditioning regimen.
recently sent me an email with nutrition tips for athletes – and
the rest us — so none of us blow up like Macy’s balloons during
the next month.
is her advice:
the season to……eat? Beginning at Thanksgiving and continuing
through Super Bowl Sunday, celebrations and family gatherings are
more abundant than at any other time of the year. Foods and
beverages, rich in fats and sugars, are the center of many of these
occasions. Also, many athletes do not maintain their usual training
routines during the holidays. Follow these tips to help you navigate
through the holiday season, without compromising your health or
BEGIN EVERY DAY WITH BREAKFAST!
if you are still full from the night before, start each day with
breakfast. A healthy breakfast should include whole grains, fruit,
dairy and protein. Try having oatmeal, a banana, and low fat milk. If
you include a small amount of protein (yogurt, egg whites, or peanut
butter), you may stay full until lunch.
AVOID TOO MANY SWEETS!
desserts and treats are full of sugars and fats. To avoid over-
indulging, eat a healthy snack before heading out to a party. Choose
whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats,
and nuts as they supply the body with proteins, vitamins and
minerals. Your intake of holiday sweets will be less and you can
spend your time socializing rather than over indulging.
STAY PROPERLY HYDRATED!
eggnog and alcoholic beverages are plentiful at this time of the
year. However, focus instead on drinking water and eating five or
more servings of fruits and vegetables per day to keep your body well
hydrated. To monitor your hydration status, check your urine color
first thing in the morning. When well hydrated, urine is pale yellow
without a strong odor. Dark yellow, infrequent urine suggests
the holiday season, many meals will be eaten in restaurants. Make
good choices to keep your health in check. When ordering, ask your
server how foods are prepared. Choose steamed, baked, boiled,
grilled or broiled selections. Be sure to order mayonnaise, butter,
cream-based sauces, and salad dressings on the side. You can then
monitor the amount that gets added to your food.
is heading back home to Venezuela, where he will play winter ball.
His brother, Michael, will help keep him on track by advising their
mother on what to cook and by making sure Pablo brings his own food
to the ballpark every day.
will still perform cardio and weight lifting,” Giants strength
and conditioning coach Ben Potenziano said. “The shift has gone
(from working out several hours a day) to playing baseball every day
for 9 innings. I added cardio earlier in the day so he can recover
and provide his body with food it needs to function prior to the
lifting has shifted to a full body workout 3 to 4 times
week. He will continue to maintain strength that will carry him
winter ball and then back to me in Arizona. I will turn up the
when he gets back and become more sports specific.
will be fielding, throwing and hitting more at that point as well.
His diet will not change. He will consult with Kathleen and me and we
can make adjustments to his workload. He did well with his exact
consultation and Pablo should be proud of himself.”
try to contact Pablo in Venezuela to get an update on how he’s
By popular demand, I asked Ben Pontenziano, the Giants’ fitness strength and conditioning coach — and mastermind behind Operation Panda — for fitness tips for those of us who can’t work out for five hours a day like Pablo.
Here’s some basic advice as we head into the holidays:
1. Go for a walk at the beginning of the day and then after dinner. Walk with family members and spend time together getting outside. Throwing a football around with family is always fun and you burn calories running around.
2. Try to continue with your regular workout routine during the holidays. Time can be an issue, but make time for yourself and stick to it. The key to a successful diet/workout is a routine. You have your plan and then carry it out. Go to the gym at your normal time. If it’s not open for Thanksgiving, take your routine outside or in your home. Your cardio can be running, biking or running on the treadmill if you have one. Walking is a great low impact exercise, which you can do for 45 minutes to an hour. If you have any exercise equipment in your house you can perform a full body workout with what little you may have or just your body weight. There is no excuse for not doing a core workout. That can also be done with med balls or cable machines. Use your imagination and challenge yourself.
Next post: How to eat at parties and holiday dinners without gaining weight.
The greatest Giant of all time, and the greatest Giant of this time, held court in separate rooms in the bowels of AT&T Park this afternoon.
Willie Mays, in his ever-present Giants’ cap and jacket, fielded questions from wide-eyed Giants’ rookies about the toughest pitchers he ever faced (Koufax, Gibson, Drysdale and Rush) and his greatest influence (his father) during his reign as the best player in baseball.
Down the hall, in the Giants press conference room, newly crowned two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum fielded questions from reporters about his hopes for the future (World Series ring) and his greatest influence (yes, his father) during his two-year reign as the best pitcher in baseball.
The concrete corridor connecting the two rooms felt like a wormhole in an orange-and-black universe, a shortcut through time and space.
“I couldn’t have ever seen this happening growing up,” Lincecum was saying.
He was flanked by Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti and Brian Sabean, who struggled to put into words just how remarkable Lincecum’s performance has been, winning back-to-back Cy Youngs in his first two full seasons in the majors.
“It’s almost overwhelming,” Righetti said. “Where do you go from here?”
You go where Mays went.
Into the history books.
Because you can read and hear everything from Lincecum’s press conference elsewhere, I’ll bring you the highlights of Mays’ lively chat with the Giants’ draftees on the second-to-last day of their winter conditioning camp.
(I’ll try to bring you a postmortem from Lincecum sometime in the next week.)
The 25 or so young players sat in chairs encircling Mays, who sat behind a small table.
“All right, guys, c’mon, what else?” Mays said, prompting the next question.
Ever get timed in the 60?
“No, no! I didn’t run! I told them, ‘I can’t run the ball over the fence.’ When they were out running, I was asleep in the clubhouse. They got you just running here? You doing some hitting?”
No, the players said. Just conditioning work.
“That’s not fun! Maybe I should say something. You want to hit a little bit and then go run. You got to enjoy yourself.”
He told them about his struggles against Drysdale, Gibson, Koufax and Bob Rush then added: “I made up for it on all the other guys, the scrubs. I destroyed them.”
Best players you ever saw?
Robert Clemente, Mays said. Barry Bonds – “If I don’t say Barry, he’ll start a fight.” Bobby Bonds (Now, he could run!” ) , Maury Wills (“Played a good shortstop.”) and Frank Robinson (“Triple Crown winner”).
What did you do in the off-season?
“Work, man, work! That’s a very good question. I played basketball, football – touch football – they didn’t know I played football! I had a 32 waistline. I worked out and played all the time. No time to lay around. Had to keep myself in shape. Played winter ball two times.”
We’ve heard from other major-league players about what makes a good teammate. What’s your definition?
“In 1962, they made me captain. I positioned the outfielders, the infielders, I’d call pitches from centerfield – he didn’t have to take them but I wanted him throw a pitch I thought I could catch. You had to get 25 guys playing together even though nine or ten don’t play much at all and it feels bad. I’d go to the manager and say, ‘I want this guy to play because he needs to feel part of the team.’ The guy would go 9 for 10 and he’d go sit down and feel like a part of the team. When guys had problems at home, they’d come to me and I’d call their wives. I knew the wives better than I knew the players!”
Your greatest baseball achievement?
“Man, I had so many! I think my greatest achievement was when I signed my major-league contract.”
“Hitting four home runs in Milwaukee [with 8 RBI] was the greatest thing I ever did.”
Best park to hit in?
“Wrigley. To me the ball went out of there pretty good.”
Worst park to hit in?
“Candlestick. The wind’s always blowing in. We put a glove to a fence to see if it would fall and it didn’t fall. We could even hit it out in batting practice.
“I know you guys are saying, ‘Oh, hell, he didn’t do all this stuff. Oh yes I did.”
What was your farthest home run?
“I never worried about that! You just get it over the fence! You don’t care how far it went.”
What effect did race have back when you played?
“We went to some towns and I couldn’t stay in the same hotel. I remember once in Hagerstown, they dropped me off on the other side of the tracks. You guys from the South, you know what the other side of the track is. So they drop me off and I’m in a hotel, and at 2 o’clock in the morning two or three guys come through the window and sleep the rest of the night on my floor, and then at 6 a.m. they get up and go back out the window. They did the same thing the next night, watching out for me. Nothing was ever said.
“My father told me no matter what anybody said, never to fight. Turn the other cheek. I’d call him up and he’d ask, “Did you fight today?’ Back then, you had to make sure you were bigger than those people who called you names. They called you all kinds of names. But I knew for me to get ahead, I had to take all that kind of stuff. Every time somebody called me a name, I hit the ball.”
What did you do in a slump?
“A slump is going to happen to everybody in some way. For me, a slump was 0-for-10. Everyone has a different way of getting out of a slump. I’d get out by swinging inside-out and getting a hit that way.”
Throughout Mays’ talk, the young guys snapped photos with their cell phone, leaning close, recording forever their moment with the greatest player who ever stepped on a baseball field.
When Mays left, he rode a golf cart down the concrete corridor to Mike Murphy’s office inside the clubhouse. Then Lincecum, finally finished with his round of interviews, stopped by. Mays rose from his chair.
“Don’t get up!” Lincecum said. “You’re getting up for me?”
“Congratulations!” Mays said. He shook Lincecum’s hand.
They exchanged pleasantries as cameras snapped.
“Enjoy this,” Mays told him.
Lincecum said he would, thanked him and left, smiling and shaking his head at the whirlwind day. He still had more interviews to do – still more questions about how he does what he does. But Lincecum doesn’t have a clear answer to the question any more than Mays ever did.
Sometimes there are none.
In case you missed it, here’s an article from yesterday about Pablo’s strength and conditioning camp feature on SF Gate.
Perseverance at Camp Panda by Henry Schulman, Chronicle Staff writer
Fan favorite Sandoval goes extra mile to shape up, slim down
“After 10 days of workouts that would make a Marine drill instructor weep with sadistic joy, the Giants’ cuddly Kung Fu Panda finally bared his fangs.
With a host of others, including Giants head trainer Dave Groeschner and strength and conditioning coordinator Ben Potenziano, infielder Pablo Sandoval climbed Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain on Thursday, 54 minutes up, 38 minutes down, and thought he was done for the day.
Then, Potenziano gave him the bad news: another weightlifting circuit and 30 more minutes of cardio.
‘He was a little poopy-pants the rest of the afternoon,’ Potenziano said. ‘He wasn’t his happy self.’
This is Camp Panda, an extraordinary, 3 1/2-week training and nutritional program devised by the Giants and conducted at a time when most players are home reacquainting themselves with their 6-irons. The object of Camp Panda is solving the biggest problem for the team’s best and most exciting young player – his weight.”