July 2012

Hey, Sandy Alderson, stuff this: San Francisco Giants dominate All-Star Game

National League’s Melky Cabrera, of the San Francisco Giants, shows off his MVP trophy after the MLB All-Star baseball game against the American League, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Kansas City, Mo. The National League won 8-0. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

BOX SCORE

For all the belly-aching by fans across the country and the rabid tweets from Mets president Sandy Alderson, the fans and Tony LaRussa got it right in putting four San Francisco Giants into the starting lineup of the NL All-Star team.

The Giants’ stat lines were pretty good

  • CF Melky Cabrera: 2 for 3, home run, two runs, two RBI.
  • C Buster Posey: 0 for 2, walk, run, five scoreless innings caught
  • 3B Pablo Sandoval: 1 for 2, triple, run, 3 RBI
  • P Matt Cain: 2 IP, 1 hit, 0 runs, 0 BB, 1 strikeout, win.

If you missed the start of the game, you missed a thrilling first inning.

After Carlos Gonzalez struck out to open the game, Cabrera singled to left and scored on Ryan Braun’s double.

After Joey Votto struck out, Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey drew walks.

Braun, Beltran and Posey all scored when Sandoval dug out a Verlander curveball and hit it off the wall just inside the right-field foul pole for a triple.

I don’t get many triples,” the Panda said. “We had some fun with that in the dugout.”

Just like that, it was 5-0 National League.

Cabrera grounded out to second in the second. Posey popped out to catcher Mike Napoli in the third and Pablo Sandoval flied to center in the fourth.

But Cabrera capped the exciting night for the Giants by hammering a two-run homer to left off the Rangers’ Matt Harrison, making it 8-0.

That home run made Cabrera the first Giant to be selected All-Star Game MVP since Bobby Bonds in 1973 in a game also played in Kansas City.

“I didn’t come to win an MVP. That’s just a surprise,” he said. “The same opportunity that Kansas City gave me last year is the same opportunity that San Francisco is giving me every day to showcase my talent. Again, I’m just very thankful for the fans that voted for me to come here.”

He can also thank Jose Bautista for the MVP trophy and the Camaro that came with it.

Bautista made a nifty sliding catch on a looper off the bat of Braun in the second inning. If Bautista doesn’t make that play, Braun finishes the night 3 for 3 with a single, double and triple … and likely with an MVP honor.

After all the Giants left the game, the All-Star Game went quiet.

Cain earned the victory, becoming the first Giants pitcher to earn an All-Star win since Vida Blue in 1981.

“For those guys to go out and score five runs in the first inning was definitely a little more relaxing for me,” he said. “But I still tried to stay focused.”

Giants All-Star MVPs

  • Willie Mays, 1963 (Cleveland)
  • Juan Marichal, 1965 (Minnesota)
  • Willie Mays, 1968 (Houston)
  • Willie McCovey, 1969 (Washington)
  • Bobby Bonds, 1973 (Kansas City)
  • Melky Cabrera, 2012 (Kansas City)

Giants All-Star winning pitchers

  • Sal Maglie, 1951 (Detroit)
  • Johnny Antonelli, 1959 (Pittsburgh)
  • Stu Miller, 1961 (San Francisco)
  • Juan Marichal, 1962 (Washington)
  • Juan Marichal, 1964 (New York-Shea)
  • Gaylord Perry, 1966 (St. Louis)
  • Vida Blue, 1981 (Cleveland)

 

Seven reasons why San Francisco Giants fans can be optimistic in second half of season

It was a rough road trip for manager Bruce Bochy and the Giants. But brighter days could be in the future (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

SUNDAY: Pirates 13, Giants 2: BOX SCORE

Well, the first half of the season couldn’t have ended with a bigger thud.

Tim Lincecum got rocked … AGAIN.

The bullpen didn’t do much better.

The offense could muster much until Pablo Sandoval smacked a home run in the sixth.

And the Giants were humbled by the Pirates 13-2.

The loss ended a 1-5 road trip, and the Giants entered the All-Star break having dropped seven of their past nine games.

It was enough to send many Giants fans into panic or despair on Twitter.

But rather than add to the misery, MoreSplashHits would rather offer hope.

So here are seven reasons why Giants fans should have a more positive outlook entering the second half the season.

1. The Giants didn’t get shutout – We’ve used this one before, but it’s a positive note. Sandoval’s two-run shot avoided another shutout. The Giants have been shut out three times this season, but none by another National League team. The Giants are the only NL team not to be shut out by another NL this season.

2. The Giants can’t lose a game for four consecutive days – The All-Star break really couldn’t have come at a better time for the Giants. They looked worn out on the East Coast road trip in sweltering temperatures. The Giants’ shallow bench has put a lot of strain on the starters. They could use the rest. And this year, the All-Star break is a full four days. The Giants are meeting in San Francisco for a workout Thursday, but manager Bruce Bochy would be wise to let All-Stars Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera have the day off (Pablo Sandoval doesn’t need another day off)

3. The Giants are only a half-game out in the NL West – When the Giants started this most-recent slump, they led the NL West by one game. Despite losing 7 of 9, they still find themselves only a half-game back of the Dodgers.

4. The Giants play in the NL West – Some people were trying to say how the Giants fared on this recent road trip would determine how they would fare in the playoff hunt. Not true. What’s important is how they fare against the NL West. They are 15-11 against the West this season, and every game from Labor Day on will be against NL West foes. The division is the most winnable in the NL. The Dodgers will be getting Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier back, but there are still weaknesses (especially with starting pitching after Kershaw and Capuano). And the same can be said for the Diamondbacks. They are both dangerous and vulnerable.

5. Home sweet home –The Giants come out of the break with 13 of their first 19 games being played at AT&T, where Giants pitchers have an ERA of 2.42. The road ERA is 4.85. With the Giants’ offense, keeping the opponents’ scoring down helps the team win. The Dodgers open the second half with six at home before going out on a 10-game road trip. Arizona opens the second half with a seven-game road trip.

6. Schedule a bit softer – The current winning percentage of teams on the Giants’ schedule in the second half of the season is .462. Of the Giants’ remaining 76 games, 34 (almost 45 percent) are against teams that currently have a winning percentage below .400. Among the best NL teams, they don’t see the Pirates or Reds anymore. They only have three games vs. the Nationals (all at home) and four vs. the Mets (all at home). The toughest road games are seven games against the Braves (3) and Cardinals (4). By comparison, the Dodgers, who got fat off a soft early schedule, still have 20 road games against the Mets, Pirates, Cardinals, Braves, Nationals and Reds. Arizona has 11 road games against the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals.

7. Cooler games ahead – After watching the Giants wilt in the heat of the East Coast last week, it’s refreshing to note that the Giants only have six more games to be played in the Eastern Time Zone (July 15-22 at Atlanta and Philadelphia) this season, and only 10 games in hot and humid towns (Atlanta, Philadelphia and St. Louis). Their trip to Chicago comes over Labor Day weekend, when average daytime highs are about 80 degrees. The rest of their games are in the Pacific or Mountain time zones or at indoor stadiums.

Matt Cain named NL All-Star starter, giving San Francisco Giants 4 starters

For the second time this season, Matt Cain has helped establish a Giants franchise first.

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain, right, tips his cap to the crowd after throwing a complete game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in their Opening Day baseball game in San Francisco, Friday, April 13, 2012. Giants catcher Buster Posey. left, looks on. San Francisco won the game 5-0. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Last month, Cain became the first pitcher in Giants history to throw a perfect game.

On Tuesday in Kansas City, he will become seventh Giants pitcher to start the All-Star Game for the National League.

Cain’s selection as the NL starter by manager Tony LaRussa gives the Giants four All-Star starters for the first time in franchise history.

In short, if you’re a Giants fan, be sure to tune into the All-Star Game early.

Cain is joined on the starting lineup by catcher Buster Posey, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielder Melky Cabrera, all voted starters in fan voting.

This is Cain’s third All-Star selection, but it will be the first time he’ll actually get to pitch in the game. Cain was not used in 2009 by manager Charlie Manuel, and last season he pitched the Sunday before the All-Star Game, making him ineligible to pitch in the midsummer’s classic.

Let’s hope Cain has better success than other recent Giants pitchers have fared as All-Star Game starters. In their first three All-Star starts, Giants pitchers (Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal twice) did not allow a run, giving up a combined four hits in nine innings. Marichal was the All-Star MVP in 1965.

But since then, three of the last four Giants All-Star starters were tagged for at least two runs, although none of them ending up as the losing pitcher.

Here’s a look at how Giants have fare as the NL starting pitcher:

  • 1934, Carl Hubbell 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K
  • 1965, Juan Marichal, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R
  • 1967, Juan Marichal, 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K
  • 1978, Vida Blue, 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • 1989, Rick Reuschel, 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER
  • 2003, Jason Schmidt, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 K
  • 2009, Tim Lincecum, 2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 K

So long Freddy Sanchez; San Francisco Giants fans thank you for the ring

SATURDAY: Pirates 3, Giants 1 – BOX SCORE

Not much to say about Saturday’s loss in Pittsburgh, other than it’s another quality start for Ryan Vogelsong.

So, with the Giants in Pittsburgh this weekend, it’s seems like the right time to send a big thank you to Freddy Sanchez.

Thanks, Freddy, for the 2010 season and the World Series championship. That’s about all the Giants got for the more than $18 million they spent on Sanchez since aquiring him during the 2009 season. For most of us, that was enough.

In a way, it was like the money we spent on Edgar Renteria, the money we’re still spending on Aubrey Huff. Really expensive lightning in a bottle.

Freddy Sanchez

Sanchez’s bid to return to the Giants this season ended Thursday when the team announced the second baseman would require back surgery.

So thus ends the Freddy Sanchez era, in all probability, in San Francisco. He won’t be back this season. Maybe he won’t be back at all, for the Giants or anyone else.

On July 29, 2009, the Giants acquired Sanchez in a trade with the Pirates for pitching prospect Tim Alderson. A couple weeks earlier, Sanchez had been the Pirates’ All-Star representative.

A couple of days after the trade, a friend came up to me and said, with a smile, “we got Freddy Sanchez!”

I responded with a little wince. “He’s a good player, when he can stay healthy. I’m just not sure he can stay healthy, and I’m not sure he’s worth giving up Alderson.”

Well, as it turns out, I was right about the first two points, wrong on the final one. Sanchez was worth giving up Alderson, who has barely made it above Double-A since joining the Pirates organization.

In what basically amounted to a little less than two seasons of playing time with the Giants, Sanchez hit .290 with 11 HRs, 78 RBI in 196 games.

Sanchez only played 25 games for the Giants in 2009, spending a stint on the DL with a strained left shoulder.

That offseason, facing a decision on whether or not to pick up Sanchez’s team option in 2010, the Giants signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract.

Later that offseason, Sanchez had surgery on that left shoulder, but hopes were that he’d be ready for the 2010 opener. He did not return until May 19.

But after that, he played in 111 games, hitting .292 with 7 HRs and 47 RBI. After slumping in the NL Division series against the Braves, he hit .320 in the NLCS vs. the Phillies and .273 in the World Series vs. the Rangers. He became the first player to double in his first three World Series at-bats.

Sanchez strained his left shoulder again late in the 2010 season, but played through it. He had another procedure on the shoulder after the 2010 season, but started the 2011 season on time.

During the season-opening series in Los Angeles in 2011, the Giants announced they were extending Sanchez’s contract by one more year for $6 million. It was a puzzling move because it came so early in the season, especially given Sanchez’s history with injuries.

He hit .289 with 3 HRs and 24 RBI in 60 games in 2011 before dislocating his right shoulder while attempting to make a diving stop at second base against the Reds on June 10. He had season-ending surgery two months later.

Sanchez came to spring training this year hoping to be ready to play by the time games started. But a back issue delayed his recovery. After returning to the field, Sanchez was not able to develop the arm strength to start the season with the Giants, and he remained in Arizona for extended spring training.

He began a minor-league rehab stint with the San Jose Giants on April 23, going 4 for 10 in three games. But that ended when his shoulder stiffened up. He returned to Arizona to work on his shoulder strength when his back flared up in mid-May.

Now, the Giants are left to decide what their future is at second base.

Ryan Theriot (.280) has done a solid job after spening 15 days on the DL in late May. Joaquin Arias (.244) and Emmanel Burriss (.210) are the other options.

If there’s a silver lining, Sanchez’s surgery does open up a spot on the Giants’ 40-man roster if they want to see if anyone down on the farm could give the Giants boost at second base.

In the minors, they have:

  • Brock Bond (age 26) — 1 HR, 19 RBI, .332 AVG, .406 OBP in 56 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats right.
  • Nick Noonan (age 23) — 3 HR, 38 RBI, .297 AVG, .357 OBP in 78 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats left. Playing SS for Grizzlies.
  • Charlie Culberson (age 23) — 7 HR, 46 RBI, .251 AVG, .292 OBP in 74 games with Triple-A Fresno. Bats right. Had a brief stint with Giants earlier this year, going 3 for 22 (.136) in six games. On 40-man roster.
  • Ryan Cavan (age 25) — 8 HR, 28 RBI, .234 AVG, .305 OBP in 81 games with Double-A Richmond. Bats right
  • Bobby Haney (age 23) — 0 HR, 10 RBI, .322 AVG, .359 OBP in 35 games with Class-A San Jose. Bats left.
  • Joe Panik (age 21) — 4 HR, 44 RBI, .263 AVG, .339 OBP in 82 games with Class-A San Jose. Bats left. First-round pick in 2011. Playing SS in San Jose.

Among potential free-agent second baseman this offseason includes Orlando Hudson (White Sox), Maicer Izturis (Angels), Jeff Keppinger (Rays), Marco Scutaro (Rockies), Placido Polanco (Phillies), Kelly Johnson (Blue Jays) and Skip Schumaker (Cardinals).

It’s time for San Francisco Giants to give Sergio Romo a shot at closing

THURSDAY: NATIONALS 6, GIANTS 5 – BOX SCORE

FRIDAY: GIANTS 6, PIRATES 5 – BOX SCORE

When Brian Wilson went down for the season, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he would go with a closer-by-committee.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo (54) against the Houston Astros in a baseball game in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

That committee quickly became Santiago Casilla.

Through June 18, Casilla had allowed four earned runs in his first 30 appearances, never allowing more than one run in any appearance. Only twice did he allow two hits or more in any of those appearances. He had 19 saves in 19 appearances with a 1.32 ERA.

But since then, Casilla has given up six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He’s allowed at least two hits in four of his last five outings. He’s blown three of his last four save opportunities.

Is this a funk? Or is something wrong with Casilla?

The Giants said Casilla would not be avaiable Saturday because of a blister on his middle finger.

But if the Giants don’t make a move to Sergio Romo as their new closer, Giants fans may want to show Bochy THEIR middle finger.

Romo has been lights-out nasty this season. He’s 2-1 with a 0.72 ERA. He’s 5-for-5 in save opportunities.

In those save opportunties (all occurring since June 2), Romo has not allowed a hit or a walk in 4 1/3 innings. He has four strikeouts in those outings.

Romo locked down the save Friday in Pittsburgh.

Afterward, Romo said he doesn’t want or need the closer title, throwing his support behind Casilla.

“Casilla’s done a great job for us this year … Who doesn’t have a rough patch during the season?” Romo said.

Who doesn’t? Um, Sergio, you don’t. Or at least you haven’t the past two seasons.

“We have all the confidence in the world in him,” Romo continued. “He’s our closer. He IS our closer. I’m just another guy in the pen that’s trying to contribute.”

It’s a nice sentiment, Sergio. But it’s not your call. It’s Bochy’s. It’s his job to put the right people in the game that give the team the best chance to win.

And right now, it’s Romo.

Casilla may just need a breather. He’s pitched more innings up to this point in the season than he’s ever done in the past.

His season-high for innings was 55.1 in 2010. He’s pitched between 48.1 and 55.1 each of the past five seasons.

He’s pitched 31.2 innings this season. He had a 1.95 ERA in 2010, 1.74 ERA in 2011 in setup roles. He’s at 2.84 this season with his recent “rough patch.”

So we say move Casilla back into the set-up spot for now. Let him catch his breath and regain his confidence.

And let’s get Romolicious in the ninth

San Francisco Giants call on Matt Cain to stop the bleeding

WASHINGTON NATIONALS 9, GIANTS 4: BOX SCORE

Last week, Matt Cain wasn’t able to keep a good pitching streak going for the Giants.

Now, the Giants need Cain to stop the bleeding in Washington, D.C.

Cain takes the mound Thursday in the season finale against the Nationals after Washington beat the Giants 9-3 and 9-4.

It’s the first time since 2006 that two Giants starters gave up seven earned runs in consecutive starts.

On Sept. 21, 2006, Matt Morris gave up nine earned runs on nine hits in 4.1 innings during a 9-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in Wisconsin.

The next day, Jonathan Sanchez was tagged for eight runs on eight hits in two-plus innings against the Brewers. The Giants lost that day 13-12, but Sanchez did not suffer the defeat, amazingly enough.

Last week, Cain followed no-run efforts from Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner by giving up a run on the first pitch against the Reds.

Now Cainer needs to follow seven earned-run efforts by shutting down the Nats.

Cain faces Ross Detwiler at 4 p.m. The game will be carried on MLB Network.

MoreSplashHits rises to No. 35 on MLBlogs fan blogs for June

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Question: What do Chris Speier, Rich Aurilia and Brandon Crawford have in common?

They’re all All-Star shortstops for the San Francisco Giants?

No, not quite. Crawford fell a few votes short of that.

But they are all Giants shortstops who wore the No. 35.

This month, to celebrate MoreSplashHits reaching No. 35 among MLB.com Fan Blogs for the month of June, we celebrate No. 35s in Giants history.

The two big bumps in page views were sparked by Matt Cain’s perfect game and late-month posts on the All-Star voting (we all know Giants fans like to get on the computer). So we thank everyone for the traffic.

No. 35 is the highest MoreSplashHits has reached in the fan blogs Top 50. It is the third consecutive month this season we’ve hit the Top 50 (No. 46 in April and May).

Keeping the string going in July will be tough (vacation). Guess we’ll have to pack the computer and find WIFI hotspots.

Now back to Giants’ No. 35s.

Speier played 10 seasons for the Giants in two stints (1971-1977 and 1987-89). He was an All-Star in 1972-74.

Aurilia also played in two stints with the Giants, playing 12 seasons with the club from 1995-2003 and 2007-09, earning an All-Star start in 2001.

Other notable San Francisco Giants wearing No. 35 include:

  • 3B Chris Brown (1984-87): The Tinman, because he was more well-known for collecting odd injuries than hits, was instrumental in the 1987 NL Western Division title. That’s because he was part of the trade that helped the Giants acquire Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchell from the Padres.
  • C Steve Decker (1991-92): Decker’s claim to fame include being part of the Black-and-Decker battery (with pitcher Bud Black), serving as manager of the Fresno Grizzlies, currently serving as the Giants coordinator for minor-league hitting instruction, and being a resident of Salem, Ore., at the same time as MoreSplashHits.
  • P Salomon Torres (1993-95): Torres was once a promising young pitcher for the Giants. But unfortunately his claim to fame is getting lit up by the Dodgers in the regular-season finale when the Giants missed the postseason by one game despite winning 103 games in 1993.
  • P Brett Tomko (2005): Who can forget Tomko as a Giant? A lot of folks I would suspect. The only game MoreSplashHits saw the Giants lose at AT&T Park was one when Tomko gave up five runs in the first inning to the Rockies.

Washington Nationals 9, San Francisco Giants 3: What to do about Tim Lincecum?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum watches from the bench after he was pulled in the fourth inning of a baseball game with the Washington National, Tuesday, July 3, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

BOX SCORE

Just when we thought Tim Lincecum had turned the corner on his ugly 2012 season, the Freak went and made a U-turn in our nation’s capital.

Lincecum was tagged for a career-high eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings in a hot, humid night in Washington. Lincecum threw 87 pitches, 48 for strikes.

By comparison, the four pitchers who relieved Lincecum gave up one run on four hits in 4 2/3 innings. George Kontos, Clay Hensley, Brad Penny and Javier Lopez threw a combined 71 pitches, 51 for strikes.

Now, Lincecum is 3-9 with a 6.08 ERA.

Lincecum and Bruce Bochy tried to blame Washington’s hot humid weather in the mid-90s for sapping Lincecum of his strength combined with a rapidly climbing pitch count and advantageous Nationals hitters.

It left many Giants fans wondering if Lincecum has returned to square run after encouraging outings against the A’s and Dodgers in his last two starts.

They are also wondering what are the Giants to do with their former two-time Cy Young winner.

The answer is simple: Nothing.

Bochy said Lincecum will make his next scheduled start Sunday in Pittsburgh before the All-Star break. It’s the right move because there aren’t a lot of better options right now than to hope Lincecum finds his groove again.

The good news for the Giants and Lincecum is the Pirates are 15th in the National League in hitting. The forecast for this weekend in Pittsburgh calls for a high of 100 on Friday, but then cooling to 87 by Sunday.

Then comes the All-Star break, which will allow the Giants to reset their rotation. If they do it right, they could help out Lincecum.

The best spot to start him is in the No. 3 spot in the rotation, which will give him a home start against the Astros on July 15, a game at the Phillies on July 21, then home games on July 27 vs. the Dodgers and Aug. 1 vs. the Mets.

Another option is the No. 5 spot. That would result in a start at the Braves (July 18) then home vs. the Padres (July 23) and Dodgers (July 29). But that would also align him for a start at Colorado on Aug. 3.

The No. 4 spot is the worst, starting with back-to-back hot-weather starts in Atlanta and Philadelphia.

But if by the end of July, there is not marked improvement, the Giants could consider Brad Penny as a rotation replacement. He’s looked solid so far in two relief outings.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that.

Where NL players, Tony LaRussa went wrong with All-Star picks

Ryan Vogelsong said he doesn’t get respect for what he does on the pitching mound. And that’s why he wasn’t selected for the All-Star Game (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

After looking at the All-Star voting, I feel a little sheepish about complaining about the selections of the players and manager Tony LaRussa.

But in the end, the Giants ended up with four All-Stars, three of which deserved to be there — Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey and Matt Cain.

You could make the argument that there were more deserving players than Pablo Sandoval. But you could also say the Giants had two All-Star snubs — Ryan Vogelsong and Sergio Romo. You could even make a case for Madison Bumgarner or Santiago Casilla.

Some have argued that Sandoval’s election to start the All-Star game cost Vogelsong a spot. It’s possible that it’s true and it’s not true.

To explain that, we need to take a harder look at the selection process.

The All-Star team, as it stands now, is compiled in three parts: Fan voting for starters (8), players’ vote for eight pitchers and eight reserves (basically the backup at every position, and nine players added by LaRussa to fill out the roster and make sure each team is represented.

After the fans voted in the starters, the players voted in these eight position players:

1B Bryan Lahair, Cubs; 2B Jose Altuve, Astros; SS Starlin Castro, Cubs; 3B David Wright, Mets; C Yadier Molina, Cardinals; OF Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies; OF Ryan Braun, Brewers; OF Andrew McCutchen.

And the following pitchers (5 starters and 3 relievers) …

Craig Kimbrel, Braves; Aroldis Chapman, Reds; Gio Gonzalez, Nationals; Stephen Strasburg, Nationals; R.A. Dickey, Mets; Matt Cain, Giants; Lance Lynn, Cardinals; Joel Hanrahan, Pirates.

MoreSplashHits takes no offense to most of the players’ selections. But two picks actually caused some issues.

1B Bryan LaHair, Cubs: This selection wasn’t too bad, almost a month ago. On June 7, LaHair had 12 home runs and was hitting .311. Now, he’s hitting .284 and he’s only hit one more homer. With the callup of Anthony Rizzo, LaHair isn’t even starting every day … for a last-place club. The best selection would have been Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks. Goldschmidt has 11 HR, 35 RBI and is hitting .292. His slash line of .292/.367/.540 is better than LaHair’s of .284/.364/.526, and it would have given Arizona it’s lone representative that instead went to Wade Miley, costing another pitcher a spot.

SP Lance Lynn, Cardinals: Lynn was 10-2 with 2.42 ERA on June 13, shortly before player voting starting. But since he’s given up 17 runs in 15.1 innings. He’s 10-4 with a 3.62. But two of those starts may have occurred after player voting ending.

We do take greater issue with some of Tony LaRussa’s selections.

LaRussa picked Carlos Ruiz, c, Phillies; Ian Desmond, ss, Nationals; Jay Bruce, of, Reds; Giancarlo Stanton, of, Marlins; Cole Hamels, sp, Phillies; Jonathan Papelbon, rp, Phillies; Clayton Kershaw, sp, Dodgers; Wade Miley, sp, Diamondbacks; and Huston Street, rp, Padres.

We have no problem with the selections of Ruiz, Kershaw and Stanton. Frankly, we’re stunned the players didn’t vote for Ruiz and let LaRussa pick Molina.

When the players picked LaHair over Goldschmidt, it forced LaRussa’s hand to pick Miley as the Diamondbacks’ lone representative. And we also aren’t too bent out of shape over the Bruce pick. We probably would have gone with Michael Bourn of the Braves, but it’s a close call. Plus, Bourn likely will make the team as an injury replacement for Matt Kemp if Bourn doesn’t win the fan voting for the final spot on the NL roster.

There are picks we have big beefs with:

Huston Street: Yes, we know Street is the Padres’ lone representative. But we feel Chase Headley would have been the better choice. Street has been great this season, but in limited action as he missed a month of the season on the DL. Headley would have been a more meaningful pick for Padres’ fans. He’s a product of San Diego’s system and figures to be with the Padres longer than Street. Street was acquired in the offseason, missed a month on the DL and likely won’t be with the team come August. If Headley is on the team, Ian Desmond likely is not, but it would have opened a slot for another, more deserving reliever … i.e. Sergio Romo (2-1, 0.79 ERA). But set-up guys don’t get the love, even though Romo has been lights-out this season, and lights-out last season, too.

Cole Hamels: Hamels was great in April and May, not so great in June (especially early June). He was 8-1 with 2.43 ERA on May 28, but 2-3 since then. His ERA sits at 3.08. Not bad. But it cannot compare to Johnny Cueto’s 9-4 and 2.26 ERA. LaRussa said he passed on Cueto because he was set to pitch the Sunday before the All-Star Game. Completely stupid. You pick the most deserving player, then let the schedule play itself out. If Cueto was declared unavailable for the ASG, pick a replacement.

Jonathan Papelbon: Four relievers is plenty for an All-Star Game. Once LaRussa opted to make Street the Padres’ rep, he should have looked to another starter, of which there are plenty of good candidates. As for Papelbon, again he started very hot, saving his first 9 chances with a 0.82 ERA. One bad outing in early May led his ERA to blow up to 3.00. He worked it back down to 2.02. But his last three outings haven’t gone so well. He twice allowed the opposing team to take the lead, only to get the win when the Phillies rallied to win in the bottom of the inning. His ERA is now at 3.03 and his last outing was June 26, plenty of time for LaRussa to notice there are better candidates like Ryan Vogelsong (7-3, 2.26), James McDonald (8-3, 2.45) or Chris Capuano (9-3, 2.69).

Now, it’s possible that Sandoval’s election kept Vogelsong off the team. LaRussa may not have wanted to give the Giants five spots on the team and end up with more than his own World Series champion Cardinals, who also had four (Molina, Furcal, Beltran and Lynn).

There could have been backlash with Sandoval’s election because it kept David Wright from winning the start, then the players would have voted for the backup, which may have cost another Cardinal a spot (David Freese). As it is, Freese is one of the five finalists for the Final Spot vote.

Again, it’s hard to complain too much when the Giants landed five on the All-Star Game last year: One who was voted on by the players (Brian Wilson) and three who were picked by manager Bruce Bochy (Cain, Tim Lincecum and Vogelsong). Sandoval was later added as an injury replacement.

The chances of Giants being added as late replacements this year aren’t good. There are two All-Stars battling injuries right now: Matt Kemp (who is unlikely to play) and Joey Votto (who is iffy). But there is little chance of Brandon Belt or Angel Pagan being added.

As for the pitchers, LaRussa specifically avoided pitchers who may pitch on Sunday, so that won’t be a factor.

Cain, Dickey, Hamels, Miley and Lynn pitch Thursday, Strasburg and Kershaw pitch Friday, and Gonzalez pitches Saturday.

San Francisco Giants sign outfielder Cabrera to contract

OK, we admit it. That was a cheap, deceiving headline.

No, no. The Giants did not sign All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera to a contract (although they should).

Instead, the Giants signed 16-year-old Dominican center fielder Gustavo Cabrera for $1.3 million, Baseball America reported.

Cabrera is the No. 1 rated international prospect according to MLB.com and the No. 5 prospect according to Baseball America.

Ben Badler of Baseball America said the 6-foot, 190-pound Cabrera has the best tools in Latin America, according to several scouts. Other scouts have some doubts about his right-handed bat becoming MLB.ready.

The Giants also signed Natanael Javier, a 16-year-old third baseman, for $475,000. Javier rates No. 11 by MLB.com.

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