Results tagged ‘ Jeremy Affeldt ’

One Day Closer to #SFGSpring

With only 4 days until #SFGiants pitchers and catchers report to camp in Scottsdale, the Orange and Black are working hard to get ready for the season. Let’s catch up with our guys to see what they’ve been up to the past few weeks:

Hunter Pence vs Car

Gregor Blanco…Quick Feet

George Kontos: #HotelRoomCatch

Pablo Sandoval proving less is more

Jeremy Affeldt vs Car the sequel

Off-Season – But Not Time Off

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:

· Does this player significantly improve the team’s win-loss record?

· How much money will he cost?

· How much talent do the Giants give up for him?

· Does this player’s arrival thwart the progress of a top homegrown prospect?

· 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:

· Best home record in the NL and improved overall record by 16 wins over 2008.

· 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.

· Bullpen strength: Jeremy Affeldt led the NL in holds (33) and Brian Wilson tied for third in the NL in saves (38).

· 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.

· 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.

· 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 Art of Chemisty

Before the All-Star break, I was talking to Aaron Rowand about Juan Uribe. Uribe is such a popular guy in the clubhouse, and I knew almost nothing about him. Rowand and Uribe had played together in Chicago.

“He’s always laughing,” Rowand said. “He likes messing with everybody.”

Rowand was standing in the dugout before batting practice. Pablo Sandoval bounded up the steps past us and onto the field. Then Jeremy Affeldt. And Tim Lincecum. 

“When you look at this team, we have guys who like to have fun,” Rowand said. “They’re there to play baseball, but they know how to fun, too.”

I asked him how important that is. Some people dismiss chemistry as a factor in a team’s success. If you have talent, you win, no matter how well or poorly the players got along. Did Rowand think chemistry matters?

“Absolutely,” he said.

And on this Giants team, he said, the chemistry has been evolving since the start of spring training.

“When you’re putting a team together, it’s not just about quality players. It’s about quality people, too,” he said. “There’s the personality factor. If you don’t get along, it’s tough to play together on the field. I think unless you’ve played sports at a high level it might be hard to understand how much (good chemistry) means to playing well on the field. If everyone’s going their separate ways, that can’t help you play together as a team on the field.

“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Brian Sabean for putting the rights guys together. We have guys here who are just coming into their own – Matty, Timmy, Brian Wilson. Then you add in guys who bring intensity, like Randy Johnson.

“He’s been wonderful for the guys in here. He’s intense but he’ll laugh, joke around. He’s not what we expected. We’re very pleasantly surprised how personable he is with his teammates. We all feel really lucky to part of one of the biggest games of his career.

“There’s no measurement for chemistry,” Rowand said, “but it’s big. It’s bigger than I think people realize.”

(If you haven’t already seen it, look at the story on the front page of USA Today today (July 16) by Jorge Ortiz. It’s all about chemistry, in particular how much fun the Giants are having this season.)

Making a Difference

No pro athletes play more games in a season than baseball players. They’re on the field almost every day from April through September – plus March and October if you count spring training and the post-season.
So when a ballplayer decides to spend some of his precious free time to participate in a panel discussion in a high school gym – not exactly glamorous work – you have to figure he truly believes he can make a difference.
But not just that: He truly believes he has a responsibility to make a difference.
Jeremy Affeldt believes both.
“You choose the type of role model you will be as an athlete, positive or negative,” Affeldt told the 500 students at Washington High School in San Francisco recently. “As athletes we ARE role models, so embrace the role and do the best at it that you can.”
The Giants relief pitcher recently sat alongside educators and coaches to talk about how sports can mold young men and women into leaders. What kids learn from playing sports – discipline, goal setting, teamwork, perseverance – fosters success long after they leaving the fields and gyms.
“We all have dreams and lay in bed at night dreaming of what we are going to do with our lives,” Affeldt told the students.  “Have dreams and then make them happen.”
Maybe their dream is to be a pro athlete or a heart surgeon or an architect. “Dream big and surround yourself with people who believe in you.” Affeldt said.
The journey might carry you somewhere you never expected to go, somewhere other than the place you thought you were going. The process of working toward a goal, no matter where you ultimately land, is what shapes you into a successful person.
“Be open to options,” Affeldt said. “Exercise discipline, keep perspective and follow your passion!”
He explained that there were different kinds of power, and the physical power required in sports is only one kind. Knowledge is even more powerful. He encouraged the students to read as much as they can. Read everything, he said. Exercise your brain the way you exercise your body.
“I read so I can be the most powerful person I can be,” Affeldt said.
Affeldt appeared on the panel at the invitation of Washington High math teacher Ed Marquez. Marquez created and implemented an innovative program called Athletes in Math Succeed (AIMS). He takes at-risk male minority student athletes and teaches them math during the school year. Along the way they learn a lot more than math. They come to see that, just as they pull together on a playing field to win a game, they can use many of those same skills and motivators to pull together in the classroom and push one another to excel in their studies
 In 2007, the junior class of AIMS took Advanced Algebra, marking the highest number of African Americans, Latinos and Pacific Islanders ever to take the course in the 82 years of George Washington’s existence.
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Perspective

Jeremy Affeldt was walking to the ballpark this afternoon when I caught up with him on his cell. During the winter, and on some off days during the season, Affeldt goes into high schools to talk with kids about what it means to be a leader, how to articulate a vision for their lives, how to make choices that lead to success.

So he seemed like the perfect guy to put the Giants’ winless road trip in perspective. In a text after the game last night, he had joked he would talk to me tomorrow “if we don’t hang ourselves first.”

He sounded more upbeat this afternoon.

“Last night it was like, ‘How fast can we get on this plane and get home?’ ” Affeldt said. “You try to figure out what’s going on – what are the things you can control? What can you fix? You have to focus on what you have to do to get better.

“I faced four lefties and gave up three hits. I’ve got to get lefties out. And I’ve got to get the first guy out I face. I’ll talk to Rags and Gardy (Righetti and Gardner) to figure out why I’m not getting my two-seamer in on lefties. Something’s wrong with my mechanics.

“Each of us has to be honest with ourselves. You can’t lie to yourself. You’ve got to work hard and get better at whatever’s not working for you.

“At the same time, you have to see the big picture and not panic. You’ve got to know that every team goes through tough times, and hopefully for us, we’re just facing it in the beginning of the season. Boston and Cleveland are starting slow, too.

“Baseball’s weird, man. Look at the Marlins. They were 20 games out at the half and won the World Series. The vets need to make the rounds and remind the young guys to keep their heads up, to keep pumped up because it’s a long season and we’ve got a long way to go.

“Fans need to know that we need them to get behind us, man. Really behind us. This is when we need a ton of support. It puts pressure on the opposing team when the home fans are cheering, and it makes it a lot easier for the opposing team when our own fans are booing us.

“This has not been fun. It’s been really frustrating. But we’re not panicking. There’s nobody on this team that’s just out there collecting a paycheck. We’re out there trying to pitch. We’re trying to hit. We’re working hard. It’s going to happen.”

He arrived at the park and headed into the clubhouse and we said good-bye. Maybe Affeldt will get a chance tonight to face a lefty, and he will have figured out whatever wasn’t working for him.

And maybe that will be a start. There are, after all, 153 games left to play . . .

Emptying the notebook

Miscellaneous notes collected during the home stand:

?    From the PlayBall Luncheon April 3 at the Hilton: During the autograph signing period before lunch, reliever Jeremy Affeldt was stationed at a table next to Tim Lincecum. The line for Tim snaked through the ballroom. Affeldt attracted the occasional straggler. “See? I’m able to drink my entire Diet Coke,” Affeldt joked. “He hasn’t even taken a sip of his Sprite. No one even knows I’m a player.”
?    Lincecum, notoriously introverted in public, has blossomed this season. At the Hilton, one man thrust his three-year-old son onto Lincecum’s lap for a picture. Then the man’s wife stepped up and handed Lincecum their four-month-old. With the deft of a politician, Lincecum shifted the three-year-old to his right arm and held the baby with his left. Cracked Affeldt, laughing at the spectacle, “He is sweating profusely right now.” Before the mother retrieved her baby, she had Lincecum sign the baby’s tiny T-shirt. “OK,” Lincecum said, “that’s a first.”
?    I spent some time with Fred Lewis recently for a Giants Magazine story (for Issue No. 3). He’s still working on advice he received from Willie Mays during spring training. Mays told him that to get most of his arm he needed to grip the ball across the seams. Mays showed him how in the blink of an eye he could grab the ball from his glove and manipulate it in his hand so his fingers were across the seam by the time he cocked his hand back to throw. “His hands are like twice the size of mine,” Lewis said, suggesting that perhaps this is the reason he can’t master the move yet. “It’s hard!” he said. He keeps practicing, though, because Mays told him, “If you grip the ball right, you don’t have to worry about how strong your arm is.”
?    Lewis also related the story of his first encounter with Mays last season. “Lewis? That you?” Mays asked when he came across him in the clubhouse. “What’re you doing diving for the ball?” Mays apparently had gone apoplectic when he saw Lewis make a diving catch. Lewis respectfully reminded Mays that he had, after all, made the catch and wasn’t that all that mattered? “You’re gonna get hurt! ” Mays said. “When I was playing I ain’t never had to dive! You’re fast – get to the ball. Stay on your feet. You never need to dive – you’re gonna miss games.”
?    Great news about Joey Martinez. Small hairline fractures and a concussion. Head injuries have a way of sneaking up on you, though. He’ll have to take it really easy, I would think, to make sure there’s no swelling.
?    Interesting story in the New York Times science section on Tuesday. It looked at a computer program that can simulate baseball games using different criteria. It simulates not just one season’s worth of games, but 100 seasons’ worth to eliminate random fluctuations. One finding: Aggressiveness on the base paths is generally counterproductive. A researcher looked at a recent team that stole a lot of bases, the 2008 Rays, and another, the 2005 A’s, that barely stole at all. He switched their strategies to see what happened. The A’s scored 20 fewer runs per season by running more. And the Rays, by running less, scored 47 more runs per season.
?    On my schedule are several trips down to San Jose to watch the Single A Giants. I’m hoping to get down there this Sunday. They play at Municipal Stadium at 2 p.m. against Stockton.

A Set-Up Guy Who Does Stand-up

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Look for new Giants LH reliever Jeremy Affeldt to become “The Player Most Likely to Deliver the Most Quotable Quote on Any Topic at Any Moment.”

At the final “Inside the Clubhouse” chalk talk for season-ticket holders last night, Affeldt bantered with host Jon Miller and bullpen mates Bob Howry and Brian Wilson as if he were Denis Leary on Letterman.

If you haven’t seen him, he’s a good-looking, 6-foot-5-inch 29-year-old with a perpetual half-smile that brings to mind those boyish soldiers in old war movies who were always ready with a wisecrack. It turns out Affeldt’s father was, in fact, a bombardier in the Air Force in the final years of the Cold War, who, Affeldt says, would fly off suddenly in a B-52 from the base in Guam and then just as suddenly reappear, never saying where he had been.

When asked during the Q&A about the toughest hitter he faced, he said Garret Anderson of the Angels (though at the moment unsigned).

“He’s like 12 for 10 against me,” Affeldt joked. “He hit a ball so hard off me they gave him two hits.”

He said he has been known to be a little wild. He told of firing two fastballs against the backstop – and not with any intention of intimidating the hitter. “They were accidents. But it made the curve ball way more effective.”

Howry, who is 35, is quieter and more introverted than Affeldt and Wilson, but his two teammates and Jon Miller had him laughing so hard that he began telling tales on himself, too. During a high school game, after he had hit his fourth batter, the opposing coach stomped out to the umpire and demanded to know why he hadn’t tossed Howry out of the game.

“He’s having a good game,” Howry said the umpire replied. “I’ve seen him hit a lot more than that.”

When someone asked under what circumstances he shook off a catcher’s signs, Howry laughed. “Sometimes the catcher will signal for me to shake him off,” Howry said, “to make the batter think I have more than one pitch.”

While he was in town for the day, Howry checked out a condo across the street from the ballpark as a possible residence during the season. His wife and two children – ages 9 and 6 – will stay in Glendale, Arizona, and visit during long weekends and the summer.

Affeldt had a tougher time finding a place for his wife and 17-month-old son to live in the city. The challenge: their three-year-old, 90-pound mastiff, Kylie. They finally found a three-bedroom loft on Beale Street.

Affeldt is no stranger to SF. After living in Guam, the family moved to Merced, where Affeldt spent fifth through eighth grades. The family occasionally drove up to San Francisco to watch a Giants or A’s game or visit Fisherman’s Wharf. Affeldt spent his high school years in Spokane, where he married his high school sweetheart, Larisa, and recently built a home.

In other news:

Tim Lincecum was out at the ballpark on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, he spent about two hours in an interview with writer Tim Keown for an upcoming story in ESPN Magazine. Tuesday he was photographed on the field by 2K Sports. He flew out to New York on Thursday for Sunday’s Cy Young dinner.

Before last night’s taping of Inside the Clubhouse-

Jeremy Affeldt:

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Bob Howry:

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Brian Wilson:

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Screenshots from MLB 2K9 courtesy of 2K Sports:

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