Results tagged ‘ Bruce Bochy ’
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:
I attended Wednesday night’s “Chalk Talk” for season-ticket holders in the Giants clubhouse, where the featured guests were Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen and Bruce Bochy with their genial host Jon Miller. I’ll get to the odds and ends in a second, but this was the headline for me:
Fred Lewis has blossomed. I have never seen this kind of dramatic transformation in such a short time.
Those of you followed Lewis last season know he was just about the quietest guy on the team. He rarely made eye contact with reporters or staff, though he had begun to loosen up with his teammates by season’s end. He spoke in a low monotone and kept his answer short.
Wednesday night, he walked into the pressroom like a movie star — in a cream-colored suede sport coat, a Burberry scarf, jeans and Gucci athletic shoes. He talked with three beat writers before the Chalk Talk, and instead of appearing as if enduring an inquisition, he joked and laughed and spoke with a confidence and ease that had me exchanging glances with Kevin Frandsen as we both listened with surprise bordering on astonishment.
In answering a question about the possibility of Ramirez coming to the Giants (and taking his LF position), Lewis said, “I just have to worry about Fred.” Chron writer Henry Schulman teased him about sounding like Rickey Henderson, famous for talking about himself in the third person.
Lewis lowered his head and laughed, saying he had hoped nobody noticed, that he knew as soon as the words left his mouth, that he sounded like Rickey. (“Can you even imagine that Hall of Fame speech?” Frandsen said. Surely Vegas odds-makers will post an over-under on the number of times Rickey says Rickey.)
When a season-ticket holder asked him the same question during the Q&A, Lewis said, “Whatever it takes to help the team, I’m down for it,” prompting a round of applause.
Pretty polished. Could be a future for him in politics back home in Mississippi.
I chatted with Lewis in a small office after he spoke with the beat writers.
“Do you mind me telling you that you’re like a different guy?” I said. “What happened?”
Lewis said this version of himself is the real Fred Lewis. This is who he has always been around his family – easy to laugh, engaging, confident — and now, he said, the Giants are family.
He said he spoke recently with both Jonathan Sanchez and Alex Hinshaw in Arizona, where they were working out together, saying that he and the team needed them to have big years, that he expected them to have big years because the team couldn’t win if they didn’t. I have no idea how Sanchez and Hinshaw reacted to the comments – was Lewis overstepping his bounds? – but I can tell you that the Giants’ leftfielder is feeling a sense of ownership and responsibility for the team’s success. It will be interesting to see how his newfound confidence and leadership play out this season.
As for his rehab from foot surgery, he’s back almost to full speed. You can get the relevant details from Henry at sfgate.com, Chris Haft at mlb.com or Laurence Miedema at the Merc.
Kevin Frandsen, as you know, had a great few weeks in the Arizona League and is ready to challenge Velez and Burriss for the second-base job after missing last season with an Achilles injury. Asked if he felt extra pressure this spring to prove himself, Frandsen said he felt pressure every season to prove himself. Athletes in any sport at the professional level know that what matters is today, today, today, what can you do for us today?
“I spent all last season watching major-league players,” Frandsen said. “I took that into the fall league. It was like a master’s program and I was working on my thesis. I had gathered all the information I could and I was finally able to put it into practice (in the fall league).”
Other notes from Wednesday night:
∑ Bochy said the order of his starting rotation right now is Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and either Sanchez or Lowry.
∑ Bochy recently returned from a cruise that included stops in Mexico and Belize. “The plan was to go into the ship’s casino and pay for it all,” he said of the trip. “It didn’t work out so well.”
∑ Jon Miller just got back from a 16-day cruise that started in England and ended in Dubai, with stops in Nice, Gibraltar, Rome, Malta and a trip through the Suez Canal.
∑ Bochy said he expects the “break-out” minor-leaguers to be Baumgartner, Alderson, Noonan and Posey. “They’re all on the fast track,” he said. “Brian (Sabean) isn’t afraid to bring young guys up quickly.”
∑ Lewis said he doesn’t believe in slumps. “I believe in bad games,” he said. When Miller asked Bochy if he ever had slump as a player, the manager smiled. “Oh, yeah. Ever see my baseball card?”
∑ Bochy said he and batting coach Carney Lansford would be focusing on improving the team’s abysmal on-base percentage. “It’s an area we’re going to stress this spring, to be a little more patient at the plate. If you have a good on-base percentage, you’re going to create more opportunities.” But he also cautioned one questioner about criticizing strikeouts too harshly. “Strikeouts are not as bad as you think,” Bochy said. “It gets the pitcher’s pitch count up. You’re working the pitcher.”
∑ Lewis said that among his 2009 season goals, which he writes down and keeps with him, are a .315 average, 20 homers and 20 triples.
I end this post with a happy reminder: One month until pitchers and catchers report!
The young men sit behind tables in three neat rows, black three-ring binders open, pens in hand. The room is in the bowels of AT&T Park, down the hall from the Giants clubhouse. It is usually used for press conferences. But during this week in November, it has been transformed into one of the most exclusive schools in the world.
“There’s going to be somebody in this room who’s going to play for us next year in the big leagues,” Giants general manager Brian Sabean tells them. He sits on a raised dais next to Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
Several students shift in their chairs. Some nod. Most try hard to show no reaction, assuming as best they can the unflappable posture of a star. But you can see it in their eyes: The anticipation of what might come. Some might someday land on the cover of Sports Illustrated someday. Some might become so famous they have streets named after them.
But for now, at this moment, they are just guys with great curve balls, guys with wicked swings, with other guys with great curve balls and wicked swings, in a room full of hope.
These 20 young men are among the Giants’ top prospects, handpicked from the farm system to come to San Francisco for five days of Here’s What It’s Going to Take. One player graduated from high school just four months earlier. The others attended at least some college. Most have spent a little time in the minor-leagues, living four to an apartment, riding buses, budgeting their few-hundred-dollars-a-week salaries – all to earn their own three-foot-wide locker at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.
The curriculum for the week was The Giants’ Way – how to get in top shape, how to play with integrity and enthusiasm, how to behave professionally, how to engage with the media and fans. The young players spent their mornings with the Giants conditioning staff, pushing themselves through tough workouts. They spent their afternoons in this makeshift classroom with Giants front-office staff, learning that making it to the major leagues takes more than talent.
“Attitude is so big in this game,” Bochy tells them. “You have to be full of optimism. You have to have a gut-level belief that you will play at this level. We all know you have the ability. That’s not the question. The question you have to ask every day is: Do I have the attitude to leverage my capabilities to be a major-league player?”
Sabean leans toward the microphone to deliver the hard facts, the ones these players won’t hear on SportsCenter. They have to be willing to put baseball before everything in their lives, Sabean says, which means making sure their loved ones are willing to make the commitment with them. They have to play on rock-hard fields in Arizona’s midday sun in front of near-empty bleachers. They have to play in the Dominican and in Puerto Rico. They have to play and play and play and play. They have to figure out how to keep their sanity in the face of repeated, sometimes unrelenting, failure.
“I’m not sure what the wash-out rate is today, but it used to be that just 5 to 8 percent of players signed made it to the major-leagues,” Sabean says. “You have to be one tough SOB to play this game.”
He offers an example.
“Barry Bonds never put himself in a position to let his guard down,” Sabean says. “He never showed his frustration — threw a bat, kicked the dirt. If he hit a ball well and it was caught, he tipped his hat to the other guy knowing he did the best he could. He rarely showed any emotion to an umpire. He acted as if it never happened because he never wanted the pitcher to think he wasn’t in control.
“His complete control made his talent that much more to deal with.”
Earlier in the week, new managing general partner Bill Neukom told the 20 hopefuls that the Giants’ Way meant fundamentals, attention to detail, preparation. The Giants, he said, have made sure there are great teachers at every level of the organization.
“As Giants players, you will be better conditioned and better informed than your opponents,” Neukom said. “You will be more focused. You will have an approach to every at-bat, to every pitch at that at-bat. As good as you are, you will get better.
“We wouldn’t swap this group of young players for any other group,” Neukom says. “You not only are the best in the Giants organization, you are the best in baseball. You’re here because we think you’re warriors, because you love to compete. We want to help you express that. But you will be the ones to decide if you’re going to get here.”
In the makeshift classroom at AT&T, Sabean and Bochy are wrapping up. Sabean throws in another piece of advice: “Sign autographs. Connect with fans. It’s a relationship you need to have.”
The players close their binders and head down the hall to the clubhouse, where, for one more day, the lockers of Lincecum and Molina and Zito are theirs. They don’t know that Willie Mays is waiting there for them. It’s a surprise. A gift. Another lesson in what it means to be a Giant.
Soon the 20 young men will return to Michigan and Florida and New Jersey, wherever they call home, until another conditioning camp in Arizona in December and spring training in February. In the meantime, the Giants pass around a sign-up sheet for an optional tour of the ballpark on their final day. Nothing special. The same thing any fan or tourist gets.
Seventeen of the 20 sign up – a sweet reminder that even future baseball stars are, at heart, romantics like the rest of us. They know, or at least seem to know, that baseball is more than the dugout and the diamond, more than the players. The real classroom of baseball is the park itself, housing as it does our memories of past summer days and delivering each spring another dose of hope.