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Best possible tribute for the return of Barry Bonds to AT&T: A Splash Hit

MVPBonds

Barry Bonds is returning to AT&T Park in uniform for the first time since playing the final game of his major league career on Sept. 26, 1997.

By the way, he went 0 for 3 in a loss to the Padres that day.

But Friday he returns in a different uniform, that of the Miami Marlins. He took a job as one of the Marlins’ hitting coaches, and the Marlins come to town with the Giants riding a five-game losing streak.

And what would be a better tribute to the all-time home run leader — yeah, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, one thing is unequivocal: Barry Bonds hit more home runs than any other player in Major League history — than for a member of the San Francisco Giants to hit a ball into McCovey Cove.

There have been 68 Splash Hits since the Giants opened their bayside ballpark in 2000 — 35 of those were supplied by Barry Bonds.

But it has been 92 games since the last Splash Hit.

The 2015 season was the first season in which the Giants went Splash Hit-less.

The 92-game Splashless streak is the longest in stadium history for the Giants.

But the current streak is just the fourth-longest streak between two Splash Hits not hit by Barry Bonds.

Here’s the list

  • 146 — between Felipe Crespo’s Splash Hit on May 28, 2001 and J.T. Snow’s Splash Hit on June 5, 2003.
  • 109 — between Randy Winn’s Splash Hit on Sept. 14, 2005 and Ryan Klesko’s Splash Hit on May 21, 2007
  • 105 — between the opening of the stadium on April 11, 2000 and Felipe Crespo’s Splash Hit on May 28, 2001.
  • 92 — between Brandon Belt’s Splash Hit on Sept. 25, 2014 and now.

Barry Bonds’ final Splash Hits came on Aug. 8, 2007. That was career home run No. 757, and it came one day after he hit his record-breaking 756th home run.

There have been 23 Splash Hits since then, six by current Giants — four from Belt and two from Brandon Crawford.

There could be no better tribute for Barry’s return to AT&T than to end the drought and have someone, anyone, deliver Splash Hit No. 69.

For Barry.

An open letter of thanks from a Giants fan to the Boston Red Sox for signing Pablo Sandoval

Boston Red Sox' Pablo Sandoval, left, and David Ortiz talk before the Red Sox plays the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Boston Red Sox’ Pablo Sandoval, left, and David Ortiz talk before the Red Sox plays the Cleveland Indians in a baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Dear Boston Red Sox,

 

I know times might be a little bit tough right now in Beantown, so I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that you are appreciated.

So, from a four-decade-long San Francisco Giants fan, I would just like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to you, on behalf of all Giants fans, for signing Pablo Sandoval away from the Giants in November 2015.

Sandoval, aka Kung Fu Panda, was a fan favorite in San Francisco for seven seasons. Panda Hats were everywhere. He was a two-time all-star, the 2012 World Series MVP, he joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three homers in a World Series game, he was one of only two position players to play on all three of the Giants world championship teams and he caught the final out of the 2014 World Series.

But through all those good times, there were issues with Sandoval. The Giants were well aware about how Sandoval’s weight would fluctuate more than Kirstie Alley. Truly, Sandoval could have landed a spokesman gig for Jenny Craig, if anyone could understand what the fudge he was saying (OK, given the context of this letter, we understand that the use of the word “fudge” was probably insensitive. I apologize.)

Sandoval’s weight struggle would often correlate to becoming a defensive liability and prolonged slumps at the plate. It was evident during the 2010 World Series run when Sandoval was relegated to the bench.

So Sandoval spent that offseason on an exercise regimen that produced a sleeker and more slender Panda for the 2011 season.

But by the end of that season, the plumper Panda began to return. While his agents and the Giants were working on a new contract that would cover his arbitration years, Sandoval saw his weight jump 21 pounds in 21 days during the holidays in his native Venezuela.

Knowing that the Giants would have eyes on him, Sandoval went back to his trainer in Arizona to embark on a crash course in fitness, working out seven days a week, often three times a day.

The result of that offseason was a three-year, $17 million contract. Sandoval was an All-Star in 2012 and World Series MVP.

But video emerged in the offseason after the 2012 season showing Sandoval in the Venezuela World Series, as big as ever. After manager Bruce Bochy threatened to sit him the following spring training until he got in shape, Sandoval said he needed to get his weight under control.

By August 2013, Sandoval revealded that he had lost 22 points in six weeks after hiring his brother to be his personal chef. “Everything healthy,” Sandoval said at the time. His brother “goes everywhere with me.”

Fast-forward to spring training 2014 when the Giants and Sandoval were working on a contract extension that would keep him in a Giants uniform for years to come. Sandoval’s agent wanted a deal similar to the one the Giants gave Hunter Pence the previous fall.The Giants were so sure.

Then Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, said:

“The weight issues he had before, you’ll never see that again. He will have his trainer with him until he retires.”

That’s like an addict, while leaving rehab, saying that his dependency issues are a thing of the past. In fact, that’s exactly what Sandoval’s former trainer, Eric Banning, told the Boston Herald earlier this week.

On Sandoval’s eating issues, Banning said: “He needs to be smart enough to say there’s a problem. It’s like the alcoholic that won’t admit he’s an alcoholic. Well, you can’t address that you’re an alcoholic if you don’t ever admit there’s a problem.”

Banning went even further, adding: ““He’s proven to me and shown consistently that he’s got to have somebody like me holding his hand doing that (monitoring his eating). And it’s not an exercise thing, it’s an eating thing.”

Banning worked with Sandoval during the winters of 2011 and 2012. But Banning hasn’t been in contact with the Panda since he got that three-year deal from the Giants prior to the 2012 season.

That should have been a red flag on a major concern the Giants had: What would Sandoval do about his weight after being given a long-term deal?

Despite that, the Giants were in the mix to re-sign Sandoval after the 2014 season, along with the Red Sox and Padres. They matched the Red Sox offer of six years, $95 million and reportedly showed a willingness to go to $100 million.

But Sandoval turned them down and took the Red Sox offer, saying he wanted a “new challenge.”

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Red Sox.

The Giants left Sandoval go. That opened the door for Matt Duffy, who was the runner-up for the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year award.

With the draft pick they got from Sandoval signing with the Red Sox, the Giants took Chris Shaw, a left-handed hitting first baseman from Boston College. Shaw hit .287 with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in 46 games with short-season Class A Salem-Keizer last summer. He’s hitting .292 early this season with High-A San Jose.

Meanwhile, in Boston, Sandoval – after saying that he didn’t miss anyone back in San Francisco except Bruce Bochy and maybe Hunter Pence — labored through the 2015 season, hitting .245 with 10 home runs and 47 RBI – all career lows for Sandoval since becoming a full-time player in 2009, despite playing in the far more hitter friendly confines of Fenway Park. And Sandoval had become a defensive liability at third base.

Sandoval’s struggles continued into this spring, leading the Red Sox to have the Panda start the 2016 season as a bench player.

That led Sandoval’s new agent, Rick Thurman, to declare:  “That’s like leaving a Ferrari in a garage.”

Wait, Rick. Is Sandoval the Ferrari or the garage in that analogy?

Then last week there was the video of Sandoval swinging at a pitch and popping his belt.

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A couple of days later Sandoval developed a mysterious shoulder injury, and the Red Sox putting him on the DL without him even having an MRI. It’s almost like if Sandoval had complained of the sniffles, the Red Sox would have claimed he had pneumonia without taking his temperature.

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Herald wrote: “Certainly, this new, mysterious shoulder ailment has set the team back as far as trying to deal him. It also raised a few eyebrows from Sox rivals, even in the procedural manner in which they placed him on the disabled list, and the league is reviewing that process.”

The Red Sox will send Sandoval to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on Monday. We have no doubt that Andrews will recommend Sandoval lose some weight.

The DL move has allowed the Red Sox to kick the Panda issue down the road, as the option of trading doesn’t seem in play, even as rumors involving the Padres continue to circulate. Cafardo said on AL executive doesn’t think Sandoval has any value.

The Red Sox still owe Sandoval $77 million. And while we know the Sox have deep pockets, deep enough to eat the rest of Sandoval’s contract (again, we’re sorry if the use of the word “eat” given the context of this letter is insensitive), we Giants fans are left with the relief that it’s issue the Giants don’t have to deal with.

And that’s all because of you, dear Red Sox, for stepping in during November of 2014 and saving us.

So, once again, thank you.

Sincerely

A San Francisco Giants fan since 1973

 

 

 

MLB Network’s Billy Ripken is 100 percent, absolutely spot-on with analysis of slide rule

Daniel Murphy, Nick Markakis

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There has been a lot of chatter by baseball analysts on the new slide rule at second base after the first week. A lot of noise from former players.

Harold Reynolds, Mark DeRosa, Preston Wilson, Eric Byrnes, Eric Karros, Frank Thomas, et al. And almost uniformly, former players don’t like the new slide rule, basically because it is not the style of baseball they were used to playing.

Well, no duh. It isn’t. There has been a rule change.

Finally, we got some analysis that is absolutely, 100 percent, complete accurate, spot-on from a very unexpected source … MLB Network’s Billy Ripken.

Ripken broke down the new slide rule with examples of its enforcement in the opening week of the season, and every point he makes is excellent.

Here’s is his breakdown:

In his breakdown, Ripken said:

MLB is being consistent with its interpretation of this rule, calling to the letter of the law.

YES! MLB learned this two years ago with the home plate collision rule. MLB tried to give players some latitude in the enforcement of the rule. The result was sometimes it was ruled one way, then the next day it would be called the other way. This caused a lot of confusion. By enforcing the rule as it is written causes no confusion, and players and teams will learn it faster.

Ripken says he was not on board with the rule at home plate a couple of seasons back. Then he says “But last year, I didn’t miss any blow-ups. No catcher go steam-rolled, and I didn’t miss it.”

YES! We’ve been saying this for years. In fact, we even blogged about it TWO YEARS AGO. Read it yourself.

On the Colby Rasmus play, which was not going to be a double play, Ripken says MLB needs to put the onus on the baserunner and the team. “Have some court awareness. If it’s not going to be a double play, slide into the second base.”

YES! That’s the one thing people upset about this call that people weren’t saying. They didn’t like it was a tough way to end the game. They didn’t like that the Brewers weren’t going to turn a double play. But no one was saying that then made Rasmus’ slide a dumb slide. The fault there was on Rasmus. And that’s what MLB is trying to teach players: There is no advantage in breaking this rule, so you’re better off following it. Rasmus would have been better off following the rule here.

He showed an example of Jose Bautista adjusting his slide from last week, when he was called for interference, to this week, when he successfully broke up a double play with a legal slide, by the new rule. Ripken said he liked how Bautista learned from one situation to another “whether he likes it or not, it is the rule.”

YES! We’ve said this, too. Players and teams must learn the rule and abide by it. Here’s another blog post.

If MLB keeps calling it the same way, within two weeks, we won’t be seeing this controversial plays because players will begin to adhere to the rule.

YES! Completely agree. Once players learn there is no advantage in breaking the rule, they won’t break the rule. And, guess what? You won’t miss it. The only time you will notice it is when players break the rule.

Ripken said he was never a supporter of the neighborhood play. “The base is there for a reason.”

YES! I have never been a fan of the neighborhood play. That’s because the neighborhood plays doesn’t — and more importantly HAS NEVER — resided in the rulebook. Neither has the idea of the a “legal slide” is one in which the runner can reach out and touch the base. Look it up. They aren’t there. In fact, the opposite is there. Here is the rulebook.

Rule 5.09 (a) Retiring a batter

The batter is out when:

(13) A preceding runner shall, in the umpire’s judgment, intentionally interferes with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play.

Well, that seems pretty clear. Why are we even having this discussion? Oh, there is a comment after the rule, which reads:

Comment: The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously, this is an umpire’s judgement play.

See, that’s where we get into trouble. The play has to not only be “deliberate” but also “unwarranted” and “unsportsmanlike.”

So the interpretation of this rule is born about of the rough and tumble days of the early 20th century when Ty Cobb would sharpen his spikes and gash at infielders. So baseball rules that Cobb’s actions are now unwarranted and unsportsmanlike. And now the interpretation is broadened to allow take-out slides as long as runner can slide and reach out and touch the base. This falls under the “umpire’s judgment” and a very loose interpretation of the three-foot wide baseline rule. But then you also need to protect the infielders, so the umpire’s judgment also included the neighborhood play. This wasn’t written into the rule, but adopted as practice by umpires under the “umpire’s judgment.” But what it actually did was move baseball further away from the original letter of the rule to protect players, when all you needed to do was enforce the rule as written.

And you do that by sticking with “deliberate” and removing “unwarranted” and “unsportsmanlike.”

The advent of replay allows us also to remove the umpire’s judgment. In an age when baserunners can be called off from coming off the bag for a fraction of a second, we can also take a look a plays at second base.

While safety is a big part of this new rule, you can’t underplay the impact that replay has made and a return to the true, original intent of the rulebook.

Last week, Giants fans were upset when second baseman Joe Panik was ruled to have come off the bag early. I responded that if first baseman Brandon Belt’s foot had come off first base before receiving the throw from Panik — and replays confirmed that — no one would have been upset. The same idea is at play at second base.

I also heard Eric Karros, sighting a comment by Mets manager Terry Collins, that he felt this new rule would result in infielders being hurt by “being comfortable around the bag.”

Having covering amateur baseball for 25 years, where the take-out slide is not legal — I can tell you this is utter hogwash. Like the home plate rule, in time, you won’t miss take-out slides, and this is just an attempt by a player lost in the past grasping at straws to try to make an argument against a change.

We will see far fewer injuries around second base under this year’s rule than we would under previous years’ rules.

And that’s the point.

So well done Billy Ripken. You are my new favorite baseball analyst.

Until you say something stupid.

We told you so: Giants rally to beat Dodgers

Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt, right, celebrates with Hunter Pence (8) after hitting a two-run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers’ Scott Kazmir in the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, April 10, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The San Francisco Giants beat the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday as the Giants took three of four from their rivals from the south.

But, of course, you knew that was going to happen because we told you.

So let’s take a look at our projections about Sunday’s game.

  • We said the Giants would beat the Dodgers. CHECK!
  • We said for the Giants to win, the Dodgers would have to score first. Well, all we really needed was a 1-0 lead so 5-0 — all in the first inning — was a little excessive, Johnny Cueto, but … CHECK!
  • And we said the Giants would score 12 runs. I guess we’ll just have to settle for nine runs.

So two out of three ain’t bad.

But there was another projection that our team of analysts should have seen coming.

The Giants would go yard on Sunday.

The Giants brought out the thump, getting home runs from Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan in a 9-6 win over the Dodgers.

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=583222183&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=583231383&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

The Giants set a franchise mark by homering in their first seven games of the season. In fact, they’ve belted 14 total. Here they are.

Monday: Giants 12, Brewers 3

HRs: Matt Duffy, Denard Span, Joe Panik, Buster Posey.

Tuesday: Giants 2, Brewers 1

HR: Brandon Crawford

Wednesday: Brewers 4, Giants 3

HR: Duffy

Thursday: Giants 12, Dodgers 6

HR: Hunter Pence

Friday: Giants 3, Dodgers 2 (10)

HRs: Trevor Brown, Crawford

Saturday: Dodgers 3, Giants 2 (10)

HR: Madison Bumgarner, Ehire Adrianza

Sunday: Giants 9, Dodgers 6

HRs: Posey, Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan

That’s 14 home runs by 11 different players. Every starter has at least one, plus Adrianza, Brown and Bumgarner.

Last season, it took the Giants 22 games to hit 14 home runs. They have hit eight at home, which didn’t happen until May 3 last season.

However, none of those home runs went into the bay. Oh well, that will have to wait until next homestand.

After tough loss, here are projections sure to cheer up San Francisco Giants fans

Bruce Bochy

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy during a baseball game between the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco, Saturday, April 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Any loss is tough.

Any loss to the Dodgers is especially hard.

A loss to the Dodgers when it looked like the Giants had it won, well that’s almost unbearable.

But that’s what San Francisco Giants were faced with Saturday afternoon when the Dodgers rallied to beat the Giants 3-2 in 10 innings.

Things looked sticky when Santiago Casilla loaded the bases with one out and Adrian Gonzalez coming to bat while protecting a 2-1 lead in the ninth.

Casilla was looking for a strikeout or a pop-up. But what he really wanted was a double-play ball. And that’s exactly what he got when Gonzalez hit a grounder to second. But on a slick and rainy infield, second baseman Kelby Tomlinson mishandled the grounder, leading to only one out instead of two, and allowing the Dodgers to tie the game.

Rough.

Luckily, MoreSplashHits’ team of analysts have come up with some projections based on trends so far this young 2016 season that may brighten the hearts of any Giants faithful.

Our analysts are projecting:

  • The Giants will win on Sunday.
  • The Giants will score 12 runs on Sunday.
  • The first two things will happen provided the Giants don’t score first on Sunday.

Let’s take a closer look at these projections.

GIANTS WILL WIN ON SUNDAY: The trend so far this season has gone like this: The Giants won on Monday, they won on Tuesday, but they lost on Wednesday. The Giants won on Thursday and won on Friday, but lost on Saturday. So the trends say the Giants will win on Sunday … on their way to 108-54 season.

GIANTS WILL SCORE 12 RUNS: The Giants scored 12 runs on Monday, then played a one-run game on Tuesday and played another one-run game on Wednesday. The Giants scored 12 runs again on Thursday, then played a one-run game on Friday and another one-run game on Saturday. So trends indicate the Giants will score 12 runs on Sunday, with a five-run eighth inning.

GIANTS SHOULDN’T SCORE FIRST: Scoring first in a game is generally regarded as a good thing. It’s no fun trying to play from behind. In fact last season, the Giants were 57-32 when scoring first, and 27-46 when the opponent scored first. But this season, it’s the exact opposite. The Giants are 0-2 this season when they score first, but 4-0 when the opponent scores first. So our analysts project that the Dodgers will score first on Sunday, but will still lose. And that makes perfect sense, considering that they will be giving up 12 runs to the Giants.

So rest well, Giants fans, tomorrow will be a brighter day.

Brandon Belt’s contract extension offers insight into Giants’ future

NLCS Giants Cardinals Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Do you like the look of the 2016 San Francisco Giants? Hopefully you do because they are going to be together for a while.

The San Francisco Giants and first baseman Brandon Belt have come to terms on a contract extension for six years, $79 million.

The deal locks in seven of their eight starting position players through the 2018 season. Consider:

  • 1B Brandon Belt (signed through 2021)
  • 2B Joe Panik (team control through 2020)
  • SS Brandon Crawford (signed through 2021)
  • 3B Matt Duffy (team control though 2020)
  • C Buster Posey (signed through 2021)
  • LF Angel Pagan (signed through 2016)
  • CF Denard Span (signed through 2018; team option 2019)
  • RF Hunter Pence (signed through 2018)

On the good side, it means consistency over the next couple of years. The down side is, there’s a logjam for players coming up through the system.

Here are positions players listed among the Giants’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, and where they are opening the 2016 season.

  • SS Christian Arroyo (AA)
  • SS Lucius Fox (low-A)
  • 1B Chris Shaw (high-A)
  • OF Mac Williamson (AAA)
  • C Aramis Garcia (high-A)
  • SS Jalen Miller (low-A)
  • OF Jarrett Parker (AAA)
  • OF/IF Hunter Cole (AA)
  • 2B Austin Slater (AA)
  • OF Ronnie Jebavy (high-A)
  • OF Dylan Davis (low-A)

And this list doesn’t include players no longer considered prospects like IF Kelby Tomlinson and C Andrew Susac.

It’s great to have depth in the system, and it also allows that none of the Giants’ current prospects will be rushed to the majors.

It also means you likely won’t be seeing many of the above listed players in San Francisco black and orange any time soon, except for perhaps the outfielders like Williamson or Parker.

The Giants made a major offseason commitment with free agents. They are committing a fair amount to their own products.

Belt’s signing means the Giants aren’t likely to make a big splash in free agency in the near future.

Pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Cain are under contract through 2017 (Cueto has an opt-out; Cain has a team option the team is likely not to exercise). Jake Peavy will be a free agent, and the Giants are hopeful that some within the system can fill that void like Chris Heston, Clayton Blackburn or Chris Stratton.

In the bullpen, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are potential free agents after 2016. But the rest of the bullpen is under team control through 2019, and the Giants have a ton potential bullpen candidates in the system.

Great home opener for Giants capped by epic call from Jon Miller

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Jon Miller is a Hall of Fame announcer, and he proved it Thursday during the Giants’ home opener against the Dodgers with a Hall of Fame save.

The Giants were leading 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded. Hunter Pence came to the plate against the Dodgers’ Pedro Baez.

On a 1-0 pitcher, Pence sent the ball sailing over the left-center field fence for a grand slam and a 12-6 lead.

This is Jon Miller’s epic call.

If you didn’t want to listen, it went something like this:

“Swing and there’s a high drive, deep left-center field.

It’s on its way.

Adios Pelota!

A grand slam for Buster Posey …. ‘s good friend, Hunter Pence.”

Whoops. Posey had just struck out ahead of Pence.

Anyway, the blast capped a five-run eighth inning – the second five-run eighth inning for the Giants in this new season – as the Giants rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers 12-6.

If you want to watch, Pence’s blast with Duane Kuiper’s call, it’s here.

Notes

BUNTING ON OPENING DAY: The Giants used three of their four bench players as pinch-hitters Thursday. And the first two bunted. Kelby Tomlinson bunted for a single in the fifth inning, and Ehire Adrianza sacrificed two runners over in the sixth, setting up Angel Pagan’s go-ahead two-run single.

THIN BENCH: The use of Adrianza in the sixth was interesting because if left manager Bruce Bochy with no available reserve infielders. Had Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford or Matt Duffy been hurt or ejected in the last three innings, Gregor Blanco would have had to play the infield. Or, I suppose, they could have moved Buster Posey around the infield. He did play all eight positions in a college game at Florida State.

OUT HELPS GIANTS: While there were a lot of key at-bats that produced hits, one overlooked at-bat the produced an out for the Giants also proved pivotal. In the fifth after the Giants had scored three runs off Dodgers’ starter Alex Wood and had runners on first and third, Brandon Belt grounded to second to end the inning. That allowed Wood to stay in the game. He likely would have come out if Belt had reached. Wood then batted in the top of the sixth, a 1-2-3 inning by Chris Heston. He came out to pitch the sixth, gave up singles to Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford before getting the hook. Those hits sparked a four-run inning that gave the Giants a 7-3 lead.

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The death of the neighborhood play proved costly for the Giants in the second inning. An apparent inning-ending double play was wiped out when a replay review confirmed that Joe Panik’s foot came off the bag before receiving the throw from Crawford, resulting in a run scored by the Dodgers. While many Giants fans voiced their frustration, that is the rule now. But here’s another way of looking at it. If Brandon Belt’s foot came off the bag while receiving a throw, and replay confirmed that, no one would have made a peep. This play at second is exactly the same thing.

FRIDAY: Matt Cain makes his first start of the season when he faces Dodgers rookie Ross Stripling, who will be making his big-league debut. Stripling has never pitched above Double-A, going 3-6 with 3.88 ERA for Double-A Tulsa in 2015. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

Dear John Gibbons: Shut up and learn the rule

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista (19) interferes with Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe as he looks to turn a double play on a ball hit by Edwin Encarnacion, that ended the baseball game after review, in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. The Rays won 3-2. (Will Vragovic/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista (19) interferes with Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe as he looks to turn a double play on a ball hit by Edwin Encarnacion, that ended the baseball game after review, in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. The Rays won 3-2. (Will Vragovic/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Did you see the ending of Tuesday’s Blue Jays-Rays game?

Have you read the rule about runners impeding fielders on plays at second?

Anyone who thinks the Blue Jays got hosed on the final call that cost the Jays the go-ahead run when Jose Bautista was called for interference hasn’t done both.

And that must include Toronto manager John Gibbons.

“Maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow,” Gibbons said. “Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”

Gibbons then backpedalled from those remarks Wednesday, saying he was just trying to inject some levity into a tense situation.

“I cannot understand how it would offend anybody, to be honest with you,” Gibbons said before the game with the Rays. “It doesn’t offend my mother, my daughter, my wife, who have a great understanding of life. I do think the world needs to lighten up a little bit.”

The implication of the remark is that women wear dresses so therefore women can’t play the game the way it’s played in MLB. Anyone woman or girl who has played the game would – and should – take offense with that remark.

If Gibbons wanted to make his point, he could have said something like “maybe we should put players in bubble wrap.”

Let us please get the dresses remarks or powerpuff remarks out this. It is 2016, and they are outdated, like John Gibbons.

Oh, and one more thing John Gibbons: Instead of bellyaching and coming up with outdated lines of levity, how about LEARNING THE RULE.

The rule is in place. You may not agree with it. But it’s there. It is not going to change anytime soon. So learn the rule. Teach the rule.

That’s what Ned Yost has done in Kansas City.

“From Day One of spring training, we have been talking to our team about that very situation, how it can cost you a game,” Yost said on MLB Network’s High Heat. “And how important it is with this new rule to slide directly into second base, and don’t try to go to the left, don’t try to go to the right.”

Huh. Maybe that’s why Ned Yost has a World Series ring, and John Gibbons has dress jokes.

Major League Baseball is going to enforce the rule to the letter of the law in the opening weeks of the season. Why? So they can teach the players the rule.

That’s how it worked with the home plate collision rule a couple of years back. Early in the season, there were runners who were ruled to be safe, even though they probably should have been out, because the catcher was ruled to be blocking the plate. Later in the season, the interpretation of the rule was loosened up, as players on both sides of the play adjusted to the new rule.

The same thing will happen here.

The Jays learned the lesson the hard way. It would have been much easier if Gibbons spent time teaching that lesson during six weeks of spring training instead of being a 1970s stand-up comedian.

Welcome to the San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto

San Fransisco Giants’ Johnny Cueto pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Johnny Cueto, who signed a six-year, $130 million contract in the offseason, made a solid debut for the Giants, holding the Brewers to one run on six hits, no walks — we’ll say that again NO WALKS — and four strikeouts over seven innings as the Giants beat the Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday.

Cueto said he felt no pressure going into his Giants debut.

“No, no, why should I feel any type of pressure? That’s just another game,” he said.

Cueto got into a bit of trouble in the second inning after the Brewers puts runners on the corners with no outs. Cueto got Ramon Flores to hit into a double play, allowing Jonathan Lucroy to score. But that was it as Cueto kept the Brewers hitters off-balance.

“He just has great savvy, stuff, everything,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s enjoyable to watch.”

Cueto said it was a great start to his Giants career.

“I felt very comfortable since Day 1. I’m going to be here for a long time based on the contract that I signed,” Cueto said. “It’s good that I had a good outing, especially the first one.”

Wait?!? A long time?? Doesn’t Cueto’s contract have an opt-out clause after 2017??

Hmmmmm.

Cueto’s win was the first by a Dominican Giants pitcher since Sergio Valdez did it 21 years ago.

It was also a far better debut than the Giants’ last big free-agent pitcher they signed: Barry Zito.

After signing a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2007, Zito gave up two runs in five innings in a 7-0 loss to the Padres. It didn’t get much better after that.

Cueto also had a fun exchange with the Brewers’ Ryan Braun.

In the third inning, Cueto struck out Braun on a 3-2 changeup. Afterwards, Braun smiled at Cueto and said “Good pitch.”

When Cueto started Braun out with the same changeup in the sixth, Braun smacked it into left-center for a double. Cueto smiled back at Braun.

Watch the exchange here:

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=574650783&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

THE OFFENSE: The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson did well to keep Giants hitters off-balance. After scoring 12 on Opening Day, the Giants managed just two on Tuesday. Brandon Crawford belted a solo home run in the second, and Matt Duffy added an RBI groundout in the third.

THE BULLPEN: After Cueto left after the seventh inning, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla went six up and six down in the eighth and ninth innings.

THE DEFENSE: Right fielder Hunter Pence couldn’t catch a liner by Chris Carter in the second. But by keeping the ball for going to the wall, he was able to hold Carter to a single. That proved to be a key play when Carter was a erased on a double play that scored Lucroy.

The Brewers got Jonathan Villar to third in the bottom of the third. But Villar was erased at home trying to score on a grounder by Domingo Santana. Crawford, playing in, fielded the grounder but threw home on the wrong side of the plate. Buster Posey caught the ball and placed a perfect sweep tag on Villar for the out.

“It was a great, great tag there by Buster,” Crawford said. “Obviously if that doesn’t happen, it’s the tying run and who knows, we might still be playing right now. So, that was definitely a little thing early in the game that ended up mattering in the outcome.”

WEDNESDAY: Jeff Samardzija makes his Giants debut. Instead of facing Matt Garza, who was placed on the DL with shoulder troubles, he will face Taylor Jungmann. Samardzija may have some different faces playing behind him as Bochy said he planned to rest some starters after the flu bug swept through the clubhouse and the Giants return to San Francisco for their home opener on Thursday. Wednesday’s first pitch at 10:40 a.m.

Chase Utley’s slide against Padres was not a dirty slide, but it was an illegal slide

utleyslide

Even though he’s supposed to be serving a two-game suspension, Chase Utley’s name popped up a couple of times on Opening Day.

The first occurrence came in the initial application of the “Chase Utley Rule.” In the Braves-Nationals game, the Braves’ Nick Markakis ran himself into a double play when he was ruled to have illegally contacted Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy with a take-out slide.

Markakis was on first when Hector Olivera hit a ground to third. Markakis was forced out at second, but his slide went wide of the bag at second base, taking out the legs of Murphy. A double play was ruled as Markakis was ruled for interference because, even though we was able to contact second base, he slid past the bag, making the slide illegal according to the new rule.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez stepped out of the dugout for a moment, but that was only to allow the Braves to take a look at the play. Once the Braves saw that Murphy was on the bag when he received the throw, Gonzalez returned to the dugout. No argument.

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves' Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In the Dodgers-Padres game, Utley was trying to score from first on a double into the left-field corner. As Utley ran down the third-base line to home plate, he ran inside the baseline, then slide into home with his legs out wide toward Padres catcher Derek Norris as he reached back to the plate. Norris was able to catch the throw and tag Utley out.

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The reaction to the play ranged from “Utley with another dirty slide” or “Utley is human garbage” to “Oh, get over yourself. This was a good heads-up baseball play. Stop coddling baseball players.”

As is usually the case, these stances on both sides of the issue are wrong.

First, was this a dirty slide? No.

Utley was not trying to injure Norris or was the slide reckless enough to potentially injure Norris, like Utley’s slide in the playoffs last fall against the Mets’ Ruben Tejada.

Secondly, was this a good heads-up baseball play? No.

It was an illegal slide.

It’s an illegal slide in 2016. An illegal slide in 2014. An illegal slide 30 years ago … if you actually take time to read the rule book.

According to rule 7.08 (b), any runner is out when he intentionally interferes with a thrown ball or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball.

On this play, Utley tried to do both.

The problem with this rule comes with the interpretation. Umpires will say they can’t read minds and determine a player’s true intent. Because of that, players have been allowed a huge amount of latitude on plays like these, causing only the most egregious violations of the rule to be called. And that has led to the current quandary.

On this play, Utley’s intent is obvious. No runner coming home after rounding third base ever runs inside the baseline unless he is trying to avoid a tag at home.

But Utley wasn’t trying to avoid a tag as he ran directly toward Norris and his tag.

What Utley’s intent here was – and even those folks on Utley’s side of this argument agree with this – was to A) potentially block Norris’ line of sight to the ball coming in; B) hope to get into the ball’s flight path to Norris and possibly be hit by the thrown ball; C) if all that fails, try to disrupt Norris’ attempt to catch the ball and make the tag.

In these three scenarios, A is still OK. But B and C are illegal, and Utley’s attempt to cause these things to happen is obvious.

Fortunately for the Padres, Utley’s attempts went for naught and Norris caught the ball and applied the tag.

The ironic part of this play is that if Utley went directly into home plate, or even tried a sweep slide on the OTHER SIDE of the baseline, he may have stood a much better chance of being safe.

But this rule is not complicated. And umpires need to stop giving the runners the latitude, and start giving the benefit of the doubt to the fielder.

The job of the runner is to do one of two things: attempt to get the base as quickly as possible in order to beat the throw, OR attempt to avoid the tag. If runners are determined to do anything other than that, they are out.