Results tagged ‘ Buster Posey ’
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:
Giants batting coach Hensley “Bam-Bam” Meulens is wasting no time diving into his new job. He has gathered John Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Nate Schierholtz and minor-league first baseman Brett Pill for a six-day hitting clinic at AT&T starting on Monday. Then he’ll fly down to Venezuela with Bowker, who will play winter ball in that country’s extremely competitive league. Schierholtz is going to Puerto Rico. (I’m not sure yet what the other two are doing.)
I’ll try to grab some time with Meulens during a break in the action on Monday and share what I learn.
I’m going down to Arizona on Tuesday with some of the video guys from the Giants. We’ll be checking in with Pablo Sandoval, who is in the midst of his own personal conditioning camp with team trainers.
Pablo ended his spectacular season with the second-best batting average in the National League (.330), 3rd in doubles (44), 4th in hits (189), 6th in total bases (318) and slugging percentage (.556), 7th in extra base hits (74). But he wants to get better, so he has committed himself not only to developing a new regimen of physical exercise but also to learning how to eat healthy. He also wants to work on improving his English pronunciations and educate himself about Facebook and blogging – all for the purpose of communicating and connecting more with the fans.
Got a text-message from Tim Lincecum earlier this week. He’s in Seattle right now visiting family but will be back in SF next week and will stay through the winter. He, too, is developing a workout regimen to get even stronger. He seems to be all-muscle already – his percentage of body fat has got to be almost zero. So I’m not sure what exactly he wants to improve. I hope to chat with him when he’s back in town and will let you know.
The Giants held a three-hour meeting Wednesday of the entire staff. They went over highlights of the 2009 season and laid out plans and goals for 2010. (Orange Fridays are coming back!) There was particular focus, as you might imagine, on improving offensive production, including a better on-base percentage and a more consistent one-through-five batting lineup. Brian Sabean’s staff talked of identifying possible trades or free-agent signings. Any trade, managing general partner Bill Neukom explained, would have to meeting the following criteria:
Â· Does this player significantly improve the team’s win-loss record?
Â· How much money will he cost?
Â· How much talent do the Giants give up for him?
Â· Does this player’s arrival thwart the progress of a top homegrown prospect?
Â· Does this player fit in with the team chemistry?
What struck me most, though, in the meeting was how much was accomplished in 2009 – and what a great foundation it provides for next season and beyond.
Some 2009 facts that stand out:
Â· Best home record in the NL and improved overall record by 16 wins over 2008.
Â· Best starting rotation in baseball (fewest runs allowed, most shutouts and most strikeouts). Lincecum led the league in strikeouts for the second consecutive year, was the 2009 All-Star Game starting pitcher and again was named NL Sporting News Pitcher of the Year.
Â· Bullpen strength: Jeremy Affeldt led the NL in holds (33) and Brian Wilson tied for third in the NL in saves (38).
Â· Great team chemistry: This team – in particular, the relatively unknown group of young players — won the hearts of the fans. And they did so by working hard day in and day out and playing with excitement and energy. As a result, Giants’ attendance stayed nearly the same this year from last year – even in a down economy — and the team set record television ratings (up 37 percent on Comcast over 2008). The veterans were fantastic with the young guys – everyone from Randy Johnson to Edgar Renteria to Juan Uribe stepped up as unofficial mentors and teachers.
Â· The deepening pool of emergent talent: Five of the Giants’ seven minor-league teams reached the championship game in their respective leagues (three teams won championships). The Giants’ affiliates combined for the best record among all major-league organizations. Catcher Buster Posey was named Topps/Minor League Player of the Year. Others, such as Madison Bumgarner, Roger Kieschnick and Brandon Crawford, established themselves as exceptional prospects. This is a great sign that the Giants’ investment in the farm system is paying off.
Â· Valuable late-season experience: Playing meaningful baseball in September gave younger players a foundation on which they can build in the seasons to come.
Here’s something else from the meeting that I loved, though it has nothing to do with baseball. The Giants made a real commitment to making AT&T the greenest ballpark in the country. In 2008, it managed to recycle 40 percent of all the garbage and other waste. In 2009, it recycled 67 percent. Pretty amazing.
More next week.
The Giants were off on Monday, so Alex Hinshaw decided to head down to San Jose and take in a Giants game. His roommate, Joe Martinez, thought that sounded like a good idea, so he went, too.
When they arrived, who do they see but Pablo Sandoval, who took in the game with a cousin and a friend from Venezuela.
“Pablo is loved down there,” Hinshaw said in the clubhouse before today’s game against the Padres. “You should have seen it. He’s walking down the aisle and everybody’s cheering for me.
“And everybody was asking how Joe was doing. I thought I flew completely under the radar when I was playing there, so I didn’t think I had made much of an impression, but the fans who did remember me were nice enough to say how much they had enjoyed watching me play.
“The fans down there just treat you like gold, whether you’re the best guy or the worst guy on the team.”
They saw Buster Posey hit two balls that almost cleared the right-centerfield wall – an impressive showing. Conor Gillaspie hit his first home run of the season and Clayton Tanner pitched 5 2/3 innings to lead the Giants to a 6-3 victory over the Lake Elsinore Storm. Every Giants starter had at least one hit in their 13-hit game. San Jose has won five out of their last six games with a 9-3 overall record.
After the game, Sandoval bought dinner for whole clubhouse, arranging for a local Italian restaurant to have the food delivered. Omar Vizquel had done the same thing when he was down in San Jose rehabbing an injury, and Sandoval, a player on the San Jose Giants at the time, never forgot it. Emmanuel Burriss did it once last season, too.
“Classy thing to do, for those guys to go down there,” Giants exec Bobby Evans said when I ran into him yesterday. “It says something about the San Jose Giants that these guys will go down there on their day off to watch them.”
Sandoval, actually, hadn’t planned on attending the game. He drove down to San Jose to visit with the family who had hosted him during his playing days there. “Seeing them made me want to go to the stadium and watch the game,” Sandoval said.
Hinshaw and Martinez also visited with their host families. Hinshaw lived with a family named the Hoos, and when Tim Lincecum was drafted in 2006 and sent to San Jose, he ended up also living with the Hoos.
“We’ve kept in touch and it was great to be down there and see everybody again,” Hinshaw said.
As an added bonus, Hinshaw and Martinez got to see Sandoval play Smash for Cash, a contest in which fans throw baseballs and try to smash the headlights on a truck that has been driven onto the field.
“He went down there with his man-purse – we give him a hard time about his man-purse,” Hinshaw said. “He hit the lights but didn’t break anything.”
Joe Martinez, Pablo Sandoval, and Alex Hinshaw at the San Jose Giants game, Monday, April 20, 2009:
You can’t go to a minor-league park, even in the off-season, and not be reminded why you love baseball.
I drove down to San Jose Municipal yesterday morning to listen to the SF Giants and San Jose Giants announce a new partnership. (The major-league team has bought 25 percent of the minor-league team.) I figured I was in for a bunch-of-suits press conference, and certainly there was some of that.
But there’s something about a small park with outfield signs for Rotten Robbie and Sheet Metal Workers International Association that puts you in mind of hot dogs dripping with pickle relish and the smell of Sea & Ski on already-burnt shoulders and third outs coming too quickly.
“When you walk in here as a 5-year-old,” Giants pitching coach and San Jose native Dave Righetti told the audience of San Jose Giants season-ticket holders, sponsors and media, “and watch your dad play ball, and then to be back here . . .”
He choked up like every boy trying to talk about his dad and baseball.
The men on the dais yesterday were a snapshot of the game itself. On one end of the row of chairs sat the great Jim Davenport, man as Southern as pecan pie who, from seven decades in the game, has palms as rough as his old third-baseman’s glove. On the other end sat Pablo Sandoval, a Venezuelan kid with braces just starting in the majors.
There was Giants managing general partner Bill Neukom in his now-trademark black-and-orange striped bowtie, making such a forceful and eloquent case for his “Giants Way” that Sandoval and Buster Posey – the only players in attendance – lifted their eyes from the floor and watched their boss like jurors.
There was general manager Brian Sabean, in Darth Vader black, whose New York growl and knit brow have yet to be softened by 16 years in San Francisco.
And there was Posey, the poster boy, in his crew cut and crisp white button-down shirt tucked neatly into khaki pants. Later, signing autographs in the park’s “Beer Batter” patio with Sandoval, Posey smiled politely and chatted with fans like an usher at a wedding, slightly formal, regally reserved. Sandoval, on the other, seemed like the guy who, with some prodding, might take the mike from the wedding singer. He laughed and joked, easily draping his arm around fans for photos. He wore a black, long-sleeve T-shirt with metallic writing, his sparkly Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses clipped to his collar.
From outside the patio, Linda Pereira watched the two young men like a doting aunt. She has known Sandoval for several years, from his days with the San Jose team, and met Posey when he was with the team for a week last summer. She’s been working for the San Jose Giants for 43 years, starting when she was in sixth grade. Now she’s director of player relations and has been placing players with local families for 29 years.
“One lady had six players in a five-bedroom house,” she said, recalling some of her best host families. Shawn Estes lived with an older woman who, over 12 years, fed and housed 54 players. Estes, the former Giants pitcher, called her every Sunday until the day she died at the age of 88.
Pereira and the San Jose Giants will have Posey again, at least for a while. Then he’ll, too, leave Rotten Robbie and the Beer Batter patio and head out to Connecticut or Fresno or San Francisco and one day, if he’s extremely lucky, be the guy at the other end of the dais with palms as rough as his catcher’s mitt.
I talked to Buster Posey’s college coach, Florida State’s Mike Martin, last week. I wanted to know about Posey’s transition to catcher two years ago when he was a sophomore. He had earned All-American honors as a shortstop his freshman year and also pitched. But Martin needed a catcher – someone who could be the leader on the field.
“I thought when he put the gear on for the first time, he’d walk like a duck,” Martin says. He didn’t.
“After three pitches, I said, ‘You got to be kidding me.’ He looked as if he had been catching all his life – the way he could frame a pitch, the way his mitt looked like a pillow, the fact he didn’t snatch at the ball. He looked very polished.”
Not that Martin was surprised.
Posey is one of those kids who seems to have stepped out of the pages of a Hardy Boys novel. Square-jawed, clean-cut, straight A’s, polite, hard working. A finance major, Posey made the President’s List in spring 2007 for his 4.0 GPA, and the Dean’s List in the fall of 2005 and 2007.
When Posey took over as catcher, everything changed, Martin said.
“Best leader I ever had,” he said. “He treated everyone with respect, but if someone needed to be dealt with, Buster dealt with him. We would have never gone to the World Series without him.”
In the NCAA regionals last year, FSU lost its first game and was facing elimination. Over the next four games, Posey batted .500 (8-for-16) with five home runs and 13 RBIs. FSU outscored Florida, Bucknell and Tulane 74-35 to reach the College World Series.
In his final at-bat as a college player, Posey came to bat in the top of the ninth with bases loaded and two outs and FSU behind by three runs. Martin says that one at-bat encapsulates Posey’s disciplined approach to the game.
“He doesn’t chase a single pitch,” Martin said. “He draws a walk – playing the game exactly how it’s supposed to be played. That (at-bat) shows what he is all about – some guys would want to be the hero, but Buster put together a great at-bat and turned it over to the next guy.”
Unfortunately, the next guy grounded out, eliminating FSU from the series.
Posey was such a force at FSU that fans created a song called “Hail to the Buster” and sang it whenever he came to bat. Martin said in 29 years of coaching, he has never seen a player have the impact Posey had.
“There ain’t nobody like Buster Posey,” Martin said. “One of a kind. I’ll never coach another Buster Posey.”
Posey married his high school sweetheart, Kristin, in their hometown of Leesburg, Georgia, in January.
In case you wondered, Posey’s full name is Gerald Dempsey Posey III. His father, known as Demp, was nicknamed Buster as a kid and passed it on to the oldest of his four children.
Pictures from the wedding courtesy of Buster’s aunt, Missy.
Some of the groomsmen (left to right): Jess Posey (brother of the groom), Demp Posey (father of the groom), Buster Posey (groom) and Jack Posey (brother of the groom).
The bride, Mrs. Kristen Posey: