April 2012

Baseball 101: Questions Nos. 31-45 answered; Larsen or Haddix, Rose vs. Fosse, greatest collapse

Our series of the 101 thought-provoking baseball questions, supplied by Mark Hermann of Newsday, continues:

31. Which is the better performance: Don Larsen’s perfect game in the 1956 World Series or Harvey Haddix’s 12 innings of perfection in 1959?

Hmmm. I debated this one for a while. Originally, I thought Haddix, because 36 up and 36 down seemed more impressive than 27. But I’m going to have to say Larsen’s perfecto. Why? It was in the World Series. It’s the only perfect game in World Series history. It’s the only no-hitter in the series history. Up until 2010, it was the only postseason no-hitter. The last time there was even a one-hitter in the Series was in 1967. The last time someone took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a Series game was 1969.

32. Pete Rose taking out Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game, and ruining Fosse’s career: Good hustle or unnecessary excess?

Neither. I’ve watched a replay of this play many times. And it appears to me that Rose is running hard to score. As he approached the plate, it looks like he was thinking about going into a head-first slide then changes his mind. You knows, maybe the third-base coach is telling him he doesn’t have to slide. Anyway, that indecision led Rose to stumble a bit into the plate. The throw from center was to Fosse’s left, which drew him right into the base path, and a collision ensued. I don’t think it was intentional. You have to remember that a home-plate collision also puts the runner at risk, and the only time to wants to collide with the catcher is if he feels as if the throw will beat him to the plate. In this case, Rose had the throw beaten. An unintended collision with an unfortunate result for Fosse. Take a look for yourself.

33. Should a pitcher be eligible to win the Most Valuable Player award or should that be reserved for an everyday player because pitchers have the Cy Young Award?

Sure a pitcher should be eligible. But I would not vote for one for MVP. I think the impact an everyday player has on the season is greater than for a player who appears in maybe 34 of 162 games.

34. Who was the best hitter: Felipe, Matty or Jesus Alou?

Felipe Alou. He hit 206 HRs, more than three times the number of his brothers combined. And he played longer, too.

35. Who is the best catcher: Bengie, Jose or Yadier Molina?

Yadier Molina. Better catcher, thrower, hitter and DEFINITELY, runner

36. Should baseball expand the use of instant replay to review close plays on the bases?

Only on plays at the plate … and maybe at first base when a pitcher is going for a perfect game in the ninth inning with Jim Joyce working the bag.

37. The knuckleball has historically proven to be an effective pitch. So why is R.A. Dickey of the Mets the only starter in the major leagues now using it?

Because it’s so darn hard to control effectively.

38. Why does spring training have so much more allure than training camp in the other sports?

Three reasons. 1) When it falls in the calendar. Spring training signals the hope of sunnier, warmer days of spring and summer after a long cold winter; 2) Because of the minor league system, spring training offers fans the chance to get a look at younger players who may be the stars of the future; 3) because of the 162-game schedule, everyone on the 25-man MLB roster has value, so battles for the last roster spots are intriguing. Who cares who is the 12th-man on an NBA roster or who is the third-string pulling guard on an NFL team?

39. Which was the greatest collapse, the 1964 Phillies, 2007 and/or 2008 Mets, 2011 Braves or 2011 Red Sox?

Gotta go with The Phold. Six-and-a-half games up with 12 to play, then go out and lose 10 straight including seven in a row at home? Doesn’t get much worse than that.

40. Where is the best place for youngsters to get autographs?

Between the dugout and foul pole during batting practice.

41. Will baseball ever go the way of the NBA and allow loud music during the actual playing of the game, rather than just during breaks?

No. A battle charge or the playing La Cucaracha will suffice, thank you very much. Also baseball will not institute laser-light shows during announcement of starting lineups, confetti showers after wins or allowing teams to advance a runner to third base automatically after calling timeouts late in the game.

42. Which is the better fantasy baseball format: Head-to-head or roto?

Well, if you want the owners with the best player to win, roto is best. But for entertainment and engagement between owners, head-to-head is better. The best option is for a league that uses both formats.

43. With the hundreds of Tommy John surgeries having been performed since the first one in 1974, why has no pitcher, according to ESPN The Magazine, won more games after the operation than Tommy John himself (164)?

Because then they would have to rename the surgery.

44. What is the best baseball novel ever written?

I’m a baseball blogger. I don’t read books!?!? Well, um, I’ll say “Bang the Drum Slowly” because it’s got a good plot and I can dance to it.

45. What is the best baseball biography ever written?

“Cobb” by Al Stump, because I’ve actually read it. Besides, maybe one of the most interesting characters of the game.

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 1-15

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 16-30

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 46-60

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 61-75 COMING SOON

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 76-90 COMING SOON

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 91-101 COMING SOON

Diamondbacks 7, Giants 6: Giants appear snake-bit

BOX SCORE

Family obligations kept me from watching the Giants on Sunday. And apparently, that was a good thing.

When I checked the score and saw the Giants ahead 6-0, I thought all was well with Matt Cain on the mound.

But things went downhill from there, and now the Giants are 0-3 for the first time in more than 25 years.

And we get to look forward to Barry Zito pitching on Monday in Colorado.

That’s because the Giants have no better option. Eric Surkamp received clearance to throw on Sunday, but he won’t be ready to pitch in game situations until early May.

If you want to read all the gory details of Sunday’s loss, check out Andrew Baggarly’s report.

Pitching and fielding has been a bigger issue than hitting so far this season, as the Giants are averaging almost 5 runs a game. However, there is a definite split in production in the lineup.

Hitters Nos. 1-5 in the starting lineup are 17 for 63 (.270).

Hitters Nos. 6-8 are 3-31 (.098). That includes Brandon Belt, who 1 for 10 with five strikeouts.

All right time to break some silver linings somewhere:

  • Buster Posey hit his first home run Sunday since April 24 of last year. Good to see.
  • The Giants are one of five 0-3 teams in the majors, joining the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins and Braves. So at least misery has good company.
  • Freddy Sanchez took infield practice, and by all accounts, looked significantly better than before he was shut down in spring training. Sanchez should start at rehab assignment some time this week with Fresno, then he needs to be activated with 20 starts of starting the assignment. So he could be back anytime between 1-3 weeks.

UP NEXT

The Giants open a three-game series at Colorado. Barry Zito faces Jhoulys Chacin at 1 p.m. Monday. And we’ll be watching … and hoping.

Baseball 101: More answers to questions baseball fans are pondering, Nos. 16-30

Part II of MoreSplashHits answering thought-provoking questions about baseball provided by Mark Hermann of Newsday.

16. Does team chemistry promote success, or does success translate into team chemistry?

Success translates into team chemistry. Baseball history is littered with teams comprised of players who couldn’t stand each other. But winning cures all ills.

17. Did Babe Ruth really “call his shot” in the 1932 World Series against the Cubs?

Yes and no. Ruth was trash-talking with the Cubs, and I’m sure he said something like “throw it over the plate and I’ll hit it out.” And then he did. But did he take his bat and point to where he was going to hit it out. No.

18. What would baseball look like today if the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York City agreed on either the Dodgers’ plan to build a stadium at Atlantic Yards (site of the new Barclays Center) or Robert Moses’ plan to build the team a home in Flushing (site of Shea Stadium/Citi Field)?

If the Dodgers had remained in Brooklyn/New York, the Giants would have left for Minneapolis, which was the plan before the Dodgers’ move to LA made San Francisco a more attractive destination. The Washington Senators would have then moved to San Francisco to join the expansion LA Angels in 1961. Then instead of being a lifelong Giants fan, MoreSplashHits might have been a San Francisco Ex-Senators fan (Seals, maybe?). Instead of admiring the likes of Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, I might have admired Harmon Killebrew and Tony Olivo. And because I attended my first MLB game in San Francisco in 1973, soon after the adoption of the designated hitter rule, I might have thought that’s the way the game is supposed to be played and had my baseball perspective corrupted at a very young age. Oh, the horror! So, thanks Dodgers for moving to LA.

19. What is the best way to break in a new glove?

Play catch with it over and over and over again.

20. Why didn’t the Giants ever win when they played at Candlestick Park, and was it smart for them to have moved there from New York?

They did win, posting winning seasons in their first 14 years in San Francisco. They just didn’t win it all. But the Stick was hardly to blame for that. They only captured one world title in their last 24 seasons in New York. Was it smart to move from New York? Absolutely. After failing to draw 1 million fans in five of their last six seasons in the Polo Grounds, the Giants drew at least 1.2 million in each of their first 10 season in San Francisco including eight at the Stick.

21. Which is the better way to determine home-field advantage in the World Series: by whichever league wins the All-Star Game, or by the previous method of having the National League host in even-numbered years and the American League host in odd-numbered years?

The previous method. The current method is beyond moronic.

22. What is the best baseball town in America?

St. Louis.

23. Have the Cubs been held back and worn out all these years by playing so many day games at home?

Well, that … and all those years of sucking.

24. Will there always be a designated hitter rule and will it ever be universal, throughout both leagues?

Yes, unfortunately, to the first part. After 40 years in existence it is too entrenched in the AL to go anywhere. Will it be universal? No. Because it’s just as entrenched against in the NL, where they still play the pure game.

25. Which is better, Stickball or Wiffle ball?

Wiffle ball. You can play it anywhere.

26. As much as Citi Field is an upgrade, in what ways was Shea Stadium better?

The Beatles played at Shea.

27. Same thing with the new Yankee Stadium: As nice and spacious as it is, what do you miss about the old place?

Affordable ticket prices.

28. Babe Ruth shaped modern baseball, so should his No. 3 be retired by all teams?

No. Ruth shaped baseball. But he didn’t help shape society.

29. What was the most important postseason hit of all time? (Remember, Bobby Thomson’s Shot Heard ‘Round the World was technically a regular season home run).

Bill Mazeroski’s game-winning home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series.

30. “Moneyball” was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, so is it the best baseball movie ever? And if not, what was?

Well, as I have not seen Moneyball I can’t say it’s the best baseball movie. But I have a hard time seeing it surpass “Bull Durham.”

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 1-15

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 31-45

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 46-60

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 61-75 COMING SOON

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 76-90 COMING SOON

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 91-101 COMING SOON

Diamondbacks 5, Giants 4: Step back from the ledge, Giants fans

BOX SCORE

There was one person on Twitter — I wish I remembered who it was — who probably summed up the Giants 0-2 start to the 2012 season the best.

That person said, and I paraphrase, that it’s better that the Giants are 0-2 with two sub-par pitching performances and good hitting than with stellar pitching and no offense.

The theory there being that the pitching will come around. We’ll take the good hitting as a positive sign.

For the second time in as many days, a Giants pitcher failed to get out of the first inning unscathed and put the Giants in a hole that they were not quite able to climb out of.

On Friday, it was Tim Lincecum. On Saturday, Madison Bumgarner, who got tagged for two runs in the opening frame. Then he gave up two more in the second, putting San Francisco in an early 4-0 hole.

Though two games, the Giants have outscored Arizona 8-3 in innings 3-9. But the D-backs have a 7-0 edge in innings 1-2.

If Matt Cain can put up a zero in the first inning Sunday against Arizona, all will be right in the world.

Well, more or less. The Giants have scored eight runs in two games. Last year, they went 55-9 when score four runs or more. This year, they are already 0-2.

And of those eight runs, six were scored via the home run — two-run homers by Melky Cabrera (Friday), Pablo Sandoval (Saturday) and Brett Pill (Saturday).

The bullpen agains was solid, giving up one run on three hits in four innings. Santiago Casilla and Javier Lopez threw hitless innings.

So for Giants fans looking for a happy thought amid the sadness of an 0-2 start, we offer you this:

Last season, the Giants opened 0-2 with a pair of one-run losses to the Dodgers. In Game 3, the Giants won 10-0 with Matt Cain on the mound.

Now that would be a Happy Easter.

OTHER GAME NOTES

  • Brandon Belt is 1 for 7 with a team-high four strikeouts. It’s early, but that’s a huge cause for concern. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Belt sit Sunday for Brett Pill, even with the righty Josh Collmenter on the mound.
  • Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan is 1 for 9 with no walks. Manager Bruce Bochy already announced that Gregor Blanco will get the start Sunday.
  • Buster Posey went 0 for 4, ending his 14-game hitting streak that dated back to last year when he was injured.
  • Bumgarner threw 80 pitches in his four-inning start. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks, while fanning three. Bochy insisted nothing was wrong with his lefty. He just wanted to get him out after 80 pitches. MadBum wanted to continue.

UP NEXT

It’s Cain vs. Collmenter as the Giants and Diamondbacks conclude their opening series in Arizona at 1 p.m. as the Giants try to snap a six-game road skid against the Snakes.

Baseball 101: MoreSplashHits answers thought-provoking questions Nos. 1-15

Mark Hermann of Newsday wrote a piece entitled “Baseball 101″ which features 101 unanswered questions that are offered to “provoke thought, debate, understanding and amusement.”

Well, MoreSplashHits can’t leave questions unanswered. So over the next week, we’ll be providing answers these unanswered questions.

So here we go.

1. Will Barry Bonds ever get into the Hall of Fame?

Yes. It may take a while, but the writers will eventually come around. We would project that next year, Bonds’ first on the ballot, he’ll pull in around 30-40 percent. That number will increase as the years go by and writers figure out that they can’t solve the sins of the past through their vote. You can’t pin the steroid era on one, two or a small handful of players. It was a far-reaching issue, the scope of which we may never fully understand. All you can do is treat it as an era, like the Dead Ball era, the era of offensive explosion of the late 1920s and early 1930s, the pitching dominated 1960s. Adjust the numbers for the era, then decide if the resume matches up. In Bonds’ case, it clearly does.

2. The same for Roger Clemens: Will he get in someday? And for both of them, should they get in?

Clemens’ path figures to follow a similar path as Bonds. He’ll eventually get in. And should they. Absolutely. They aren’t being canonized for sainthood. They are being judged as one of the greatest players of all time. And they are.

3. How about Pete Rose? Does he remain barred from the Hall because he bet on baseball?

Put him in. I think as one of his last acts as commissioner, Bud Selig will be to drop the ban on Rose. Once that’s done, Rose get voted in rather quickly, having served more than 20 years in limbo. His crime, at the time of his ban, was serious one. But with the explosion of salaries and millions upon millions of dollars players are making, do we really think gamblers are going to overtake the game?

4. Will the expanded playoff format mean we never again will see an immensely exciting final day, as we had at the end of the 2011 season, or will it finally restore a true pennant race feeling?

Sure we will. By opening up more chances for teams to make playoffs you open up the possibility of more races for those playoff spots. And the single-game playoffs themselves will create more excitement. This expanded format will create more excitement than it will prevent. Just watch.

5. Mariano Rivera is generally considered the best relief pitcher of all time. So who is second?

Dennis Eckersley.

6. Considering that players are bigger, stronger and faster than ever, and that equipment has grown much more advanced, why is it that 90 feet is still just the right distance from home to first to ensure lots of close plays?

Because everyone has developed. Hitters have developed, pitchers have developed, fielders have developed. The game has evolved proportionally, just as it should.

7. Which is harder to do: win 20 games or hit 50 home runs?

50 home runs. Since 2008, only one player has hit 50 home runs in a season — Toronto’s Jose Bautista who hit 54 in 2010. Since 2008, there have been 10 20-game winners.

8. When is it safe to allow a young person to start throwing a curveball?

15 years old.

9. What is the precise difference between “command” and “control?”

“Control” is the ability to throw strikes. “Command” is the ability to throw strikes, and not throw strikes, exactly where and when you want.

10. Who is the best all-around player (non-pitcher) in the history of the game?

Willie Mays. Next question.

11. And the best pitcher ever?

For peak value, Sandy Koufax.

12. Is the sacrifice fly really a legitimate statistic? (The batter wasn’t intentionally trying to give himself up.)

Absolutely. All you have to do is watch how many times the Giants strike out with a runner on third base and fewer than two outs to know that.

13. How should Jose Reyes have handled the final game of the 2011 regular season when he was trying to win the National League batting title?

He should have played the final game, weenie.

14. How many games will Andy Pettitte start for the Yankees this season?

15 … 20 if he takes a little HGH

15. Which is better, Baseball Tonight on ESPN or MLB Tonight Live on the MLB Network?

MLB Tonight. It’s on longer. Baseball Tonight goes for 30 minutes. MLB Tonight goes on for hours, and you get those live look-ins.

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 16-30

Baseball 101 answers to questions No. 31-45

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 46-60

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 61-75 — COMING SOON

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 76-90 — COMING SOON

Baseball 101 answers to questions Nos. 91-101 — COMING SOON

Diamondbacks 5, Giants 4: Giants literally drop the opener

BOX SCORE

The worst thing about Opening Day is that everything is exaggerated.

San Francisco Giants' Melky Cabrera celebrates his two-run home run with Angel Pagan (16) during the fifth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Friday, April 6, 2012, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A good game makes people think that the entire season is going to be wonderful. And bad game makes people fear the worst.

Friday’s season opener in Arizona was a mixed bag for the Giants, and in particular, Tim Lincecum.

The Diamondbacks jumped on Lincecum for two homers and three runs in the first inning. But then the Freak settled in to strike out five over the next four scoreless innings.

But a leadoff double by Justin Upton set the stage for the decisive sixth inning, which turned on an error by Buster Posey.

After Miguel Montero’s loud fly out to right sent Upton to third and Paul Goldschmidt walked, Jason Kubel had a swinging bunt in front of the plate. Posey went to pounce the bouncer but failed to field it cleanly, and Kubel was able to beat the throw to first.

Ryan Roberts followed a two-run double into the left-field corner that proved to be the game-winner.

If Posey fields Kubel’s nubber, it could have changed how Lincecum approaches Roberts with two outs and first base open.

Instead, the Giants were two down heading into the ninth and could only manage one run off closer JJ Putz on Pablo Sandoval’s two-out double.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

  • Trying to put a good spin on a loss, the Giants did manage 11 hits and 4 runs. In the game, they hit .297 as a team. But a few hits were good-luck knocks. Aubrey Huff was off-balance when he reached across the plate and pulled a soft looper into right field for a single. Pablo Sandoval turned an emergency hack into an infield single to third. And Ryan Theriot got an infield single off the glove of pitcher Ian Kennedy.
  • Still there were good efforts. Melky Cabrera was 2 for 5 with a two-run laser home run in the sixth. Buster Posey was 2 for 4 with a walk.
  • Ah yes, the walk. The Giants only managed two in the game. Posey’s first-inning walk when Kennedy clearly decided to go after Huff with Cabrera on second and two out. Huff acquiesced by flying out to center. The other walk was to Lincecum in the second, and Angel Pagan responded by swinging at THE FIRST PITCH from Kennedy and popping to short.
  • The bullpen was solid. Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affledt and Clay Hensley gave up just one hit and one walk in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

UP NEXT

Madison Bumgarner takes the mound against Daniel Hudson in a 1 p.m. game Saturday that will be televised live on Fox.

MoreSplashHits offers 2012 prediction for the Giants

It’s prediction time for MoreSplashHits. But first, a history lesson.

MoreSplashHits has predicted the Giants’ final record each of the past four seasons. And here they are, with the results.

2008: Prediction, 70-92; Result, 72-90

2009: Prediction, 83-79; Result, 88-74

2010: Prediction, 90-72; Result, 92-70

2011: Prediction, 94-68; Result, 86-76

The Giants exceeded our predictions in every year but 2011, when coming off a World Series victory filled us with a bit of optimism.

And the Giants could have reached 94 wins in 2011, if Buster Posey didn’t miss four months, if Freddy Sanchez didn’t miss almost four months, if Pablo Sandoval didn’t miss six weeks; if Brandon Belt, Miguel Tejada, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff weren’t so gawd-awful.

So when you compare the 2011 opening lineup and the 2012 opening lineup, there aren’t many changes.

Here they are: 2011 starter/2012 starter

1B Brandon Belt / 1B Brandon Belt

2B Freddy Sanchez / 2B Emmanuel Burriss

SS Miguel Tejada / SS Brandon Crawford

3B Pablo Sandoval / 3B Pablo Sandoval

C Buster Posey / C Buster Posey

OF Pat Burrell / OF Melky Cabrera

OF Andres Torres / OF Angel Pagan

OF Aubrey Huff / OF Aubrey Huff

That would not give you reason for optimism. But MoreSplashHits is going off the premise that the 2012 offense CAN’T be as bad as in 2011. It CAN’T.

Belt HAS to be better. Huff HAS to be better. Crawford, Cabrera and Pagan HAVE to produce more than Tejada, Burrell and Torres. Posey and Sandoval HAVE to be healthier.

These aren’t lofty goals. The bar was set so low in 2011 that exceeding those expectations should not be difficult.

Plus, the Giants’ 2012 bench is deeper.

Nate Schierholtz was slated as a starting in RF in the offseason. Now, he provides solid depth. Gregor Blanco brings speed and defense that was sorely missing from the 2011 lineup. We like what Brett Pill could bring to the plate, and Hector Sanchez brings a ton of promise.

We’re not all that excited with Ryan Theriot, so we’ll set the bar low there.

But you add it all up, along with stellar pitching that returns, and THAT does give us optimism for 2012.

And are prediction is?

91-71

Friday Farm Report: Vogelsong shines in Grizzlies opener

While San Francisco Giants had to wait for opening day, the Fresno Grizzlies opened the Triple-A season with a 3-0 win at Tucson.

The spotlight was on Fresno starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who was making the first of two rehab starts as he opens the season on the DL.

Vogelsong threw four shutout innings, giving up three hits, three walks and striking out six. He threw 83 pitches, 49 for strikes.

Vogelsong will make his second Triple-A start on Tuesday at Las Vegas before making his Giants debut on April 15.

Heath Hembree, the Giants’ closer-of-the-future, earned his first save with Fresno, giving up two hits and striking out two in a scoreless ninth.

Here’s the rest of the Grizzlies’ opener roster

Pitchers: Travis Blackley, Brian Burres, Hector Correa, Steve Edlefsen, Eric Hacker, Heath Hembree, George Kontos, Andrew Kown, Mitch Lively, Shane Loux, Jean Machi, Yusmeiro Petit, Wilmin Rodriguez, Ryan Vogelsong (DL rehab), Craig Whitaker, Matt Yourkin

Catchers: Tyler LaTorre, Jackson Williams, Eli Whitside

Infielders: Joaquin Arias, Brock Bond, Charlie Culberson, Conor Gillaspie, Nick Noonan, Skyler Stromsmoe

Outfielders: Justin Christian, Tyler Graham, Roger Kieschnick, Todd Linden, Francisco Peguero

Predicted finish of 2012 Giants, according to media outlets

The Giants don’t play on opening day. But everyone’s got a prediction.

So here’s a sampling of what some major newspapers are saying about the Giants’ chances this season in the NL West.

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

The Inquirer didn’t have a predicted order of finish in its season preview, but did say this about the Giants:

“Toss a coin on this club. They could win their second World Series in three years or wind up in the cellar. A good start is mandatory.”

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Here’s what the Trib says how the NL West will finish with records

  1. Diamondbacks, 90-72
  2. Giants, 86-76
  3. Dodgers, 84-78
  4. Rockies, 76-86
  5. Padres, 72-90

LOS ANGELES TIMES

The Times are picking the Giants to win the NL West, followed by the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies and Padres, saying:

“Catcher Buster Posey is back after last year’s leg injury, and new arrivals Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan provide added support for the division’s best pitching staff. Carlos Beltran, Andres Torres, Cody Ross and Pat Burrell are gone. If first baseman Aubrey Huff slumps, Brandon Belt waits in the wings.”

DALLAS MORNING NEWS

The Morning News also is picking the Giants to win the West, followed by the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers and Padres.

“RHPs Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong and LHP Madison Bumgarner all finished among the NL’s top 10 in ERA but were a combined 51-45 because of poor run support. The return of C Buster Posey from a broken left leg should improve the offense and help the staff.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The AP didn’t have a predicted order of finish, but said this about the G-men:

“The Giants’ quest for a repeat came crashing to a halt when star catcher (Buster) Posey tore three ligaments in his left ankle and fractured a bone in his lower leg in a frightening home plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins on May 25. The Giants are counting on a healthy Posey and (Freddy) Sanchez, whose season was cut short by shoulder surgery, to spark the offense and give enough support to one of the game’s best pitching staffs.”

WASHINGTON POST

Likewise the Post didn’t have a predicted order of finish, but said this:

“What was the difference between the world champion Giants of 2010 and the ragtag bunch that was outscored by opponents and limped home with 86 wins in 2011? The long answer: a less productive offense, a lack of decent fifth-starter options and Brian Wilson’s season-long struggles with health and consistency. The short answer: Buster Posey. But Posey, the talented, 24-year-old catcher, is back from a devastating broken leg, and once again that should make all the difference.”

Remember when Opening Day was great … before MLB screwed it up

Several years ago, some friends and I discussed what were some of the greatest days in the sports calendar.

There were a lot of options, many were based on personal preference (as many things are in sports).

New Year’s Day, the first Sunday of the NFL season, the Sunday before Memorial Day (for auto racing), NFL conference championship Sunday, the first day of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

Topping the list for me was Opening Day. And it wasn’t just for all the baseball. It used to fall on the same Monday as the championship game of the NCAA basketball tournament.

You’d have baseball all day long, and One Shining Moment in the evening. An awesome sports day.

But then Opening Day was pushed back to later in the week, in an effort to start the postseason. OK, fine. Opening Day just of baseball is totally fine with us.

But then, as we’ve seen in other sports, TV has gutted some of the great day in sports.

New Year’s Day is not New Year’s Day anymore, with many of the prime college football bowls games now spread out over the week after New Year’s Day.

The first Sunday of the NFL season is thinned out by the Thursday night opener and the two Monday night games in Week 1.

And now it’s taken it’s toll of Opening Day.

The Mariners and A’s played two games last week in Japan, while most of America was sleeping. I’m sure there are many fans even in Seattle and Oakland who have to be reminded that their teams have already played two regular-season games.

Then there was the Wednesday night opener, which is fine. But then there are only seven games on “Opening Day.” Most teams play either Thursday OR Friday.

I don’t get it. The beauty of baseball is that it’s played every day from April to September. Baseball needs to celebrate that, instead of having an Opening Day schedule that looks like the slate for a get-away day in June.

So if MoreSplashHits were running things, we’d do two things.

Everyone plays on Opening Day, except for the two teams that play on Opening Night.

If you win the World Series, you open the next season AT HOME. MLB will say that the schedule is set long before the World Series champion is decided. But we say you could easily juggle the schedule to make this work.

Take a look at Wednesday’s opener. ESPN has the World Series champion Cardinals playing at the Marlins to showcase the Fish’s new stadium.

Was it the first game of an opening series between the Cards and Marlins? No.

The Marlins played Wednesday night at home, then play an afternoon game on Thursday IN CINCINNATI!?!? The Cardinals have Thursday off, then travel to Milwaukee on Friday.

The next time the Marlins and Cardinals play each other in Miami? June 25.

Last season the Giants asked if their season opener in Los Angeles could be moved to San Francisco. The Dodgers say no.

But if you make it an MLB policy that the World Series champion opens at home, the opponent would have no choice.

Champions earned the right to celebrate at home.

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