Urban: Giants' five differences from 2010

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Urban: Giants' five differences from 2010

July 25, 2011

URBAN ARCHIVE
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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- The easiest answer to what's different about the Giants in 2011 is a kidney shot at the Phillies: They wear 2010 World Series rings to dinner these days.Eschewing the petty, junior-high route in favor of fairly serious baseball analysis, however, henceforth are presented five ways in which the Giants of 2011 can be easily distinguished from the 2010 version that stunned the baseball world by beating the Phillies in last fall's National League Championship Series on the way to setting off the biggest party that the City by the Bay has ever seen.

1) No Buster Posey: One of the two most pure hitters on the team, even as a rookie last season, is out for the season after suffering horrific injuries in a controversial collision at home plate that still sparks high emotion in San Francisco. Against all odds, the Giants have actually hit better and compiled a better winning percentage without Posey this season than with, but there's no question they miss his steady presence behind the plate and his steady production in the middle of the order.2) No Freddy Sanchez: The Giants' second baseman is as pure -- if not as powerful -- as Posey at the plate, and as he recovered from surgery on his right shoulder with an optimistic eye toward returning for the stretch run, Sanchez, there was a revolving door of far less gifted fielders at his position until the recent arrival of Jeff Keppinger via trade. While the Giants clearly miss his bat control and professional approach at the plate, they miss his rock-steady glove work every bit as much.3) Ryan Vogelsong: Although the Phillies aren't expected to see San Francisco's unexpected breakthrough pitcher, Vogelsong's ascent from non-roster camp invitee to National League All-Star has forced at least a touch of reconsideration among those who, prior to the start of the season, considered the Phillies' rotation the best in the league by a long shot. Vogelsong's emergence has further infused the Giants with the confidence that they'll send out a starter with a tremendous shot at winning every single game.4) An utter lack of fear: Winning the World Series does wonders for any club's confidence, and the Giants are no exception. They're convinced they can beat anyone, any time. But that sense stems not solely from winning their rings. It stems from having proved, time and again, that they are among the best -- if not the best -- in the game at winning tight, pressure-packed games, often overcoming late-game deficits with contributions from up and down the roster. Two down in the eighth? Even on the road, the Giants feel right at home.5) A better bullpen: That might be difficult to fathom for Philly fans who watched the parade of relievers who prevented Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS in Philly from spinning out of control after Jonathan Sanchez's early struggles, leading the a riveting comeback and the series-clinching win, but it's true. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt is back to his 2009 form, lefty Javier Lopez has proven he can get righties out, too, giving manager Bruce Bochy incredible flexibility in terms of matchups, and righty Sergio Romo has ramped up his game. That trio, combined with closer Brian Wilson's standard excellence, is a huge reason why those close games for which the Giants have a penchant for playing have become so winnable.

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

Clippers have more to prove in first clash of 2016-17 with Warriors

LOS ANGELES – On the scale of NBA regular-season epic, Warriors-Clippers on Wednesday night rates a solid 8 for the Warriors. It’s circled on the desk calendars in pencil, a game they want for development and vanity.

For the Clippers, though, it’s a 9.5. Might be a 10. It’s stamped on the calendars embedded in their minds.

They need this game, psychologically, to prove they can stand up to the team that has spent the past two seasons winning a championship and setting a record for regular-season wins, simultaneously suppressing the notion of the Clippers being legitimately elite.

Los Angeles also needs to win the clash at Staples Center if these Western Conference titans are to reignite what once was the hottest rivalry in the NBA.

“We get to see what they do; they get to see what we do,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr says.

“It’s a new four-game journey against this team,” guard Stephen Curry says. “We have history that, when you play in the division, year after year, we’re fighting for the same goal of not only winning the division but playoff seeding and coming out of the west. It’s been a nice little back and forth.”

It has been mostly forward for the Warriors, generally backward for the Clippers.

A rivalry is defined somewhat by geography but mostly by hostilities over both the regular season and the postseason. In the very best rivalries, the teams are hunting the same bounty and end up exchanging feelings of ecstasy and heartbreak.

That has been missing the past two seasons, with the Warriors winning seven of the eight games and the last six in a row. It has been Curry over Chris Paul, Draymond Green over Blake Griffin, Klay Thompson over J.J. Redick and Kerr over Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

The contempt that began percolating back in 2012, reaching its apex in 2014 during a spellbinding seven-game playoff series won by LA, has been submerged by this wave of Warriors success.

The “rivalry” has declined considerably, leaving nothing but memories of the days when the teams were striving to reach the same level.

“We were a team trying to break through and make the playoffs,” Klay Thompson says. “They were trying to do the same thing, as far as trying to make noise in the playoffs. We both had an edge to ourselves and we haven’t lost it. They’re still hungry to get to that championship level. You can see that. And so are we.”

Curry traces the origin of the rivalry to Paul’s arrival in December 2011. The decorated point guard brought instant credibility to a franchise that had been every bit as much of a laughingstock as had the Warriors.

“When CP got there and the organization took a different turn, for the better obviously,” Curry recalls. “It was probably that first year we both made the playoffs (2012-13) because the records were a lot better than they usually were and there was a little more excitement around the new and up-and-coming teams.”

Games have featured ejections, multiple technical fouls – once in a preseason game – with an overdose of grabbing and posturing. One beef went postgame, nearly becoming physical in a hallway near the locker rooms.

There has been verbal warfare, sarcasm and slights and insults, though most of it lately has come from LA.

With the Warriors at 18-3 and the Clippers at 16-6, this may be the last season to reignite the conflict, and the first of four meetings will provide a sense of placement. The Warriors are 18-3, having won 14 of their last 15. The Clippers are 16-6, having lost four of their last six.

“It’ll be fun to see how it plays out,” Kerr says.

The Clippers, however, showed up for this season with a sense of urgency. Paul and Griffin both have opt-out clauses and will be free agents in July. The perennial All-Stars have been teammates for five-plus seasons, but this may be the last.

“Their continuity is really key; it’s one of the things that has helped us the last couple years,” Kerr says. “When you have basically the same team for a while, and you’re already a good team, you tend to get better. You tend to grow more and more comfortable with what you’re already doing and then, maybe even have the ability to add on some things.”

So maybe it’ll be different this season. Maybe we’ll have actual back-and-forth.

“They could be a team down the road that we need to get through to get where we want to go, and they probably see us the same way,” Curry says.

Oh, there is no doubt about that, certainly not among the Clippers.

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

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ATHLETICS/TWITTER

A's reeling after death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — A’s officials at the winter meetings carried heavy hearts Tuesday following the death of minor league video coordinator Mark Smith.

Smith died unexpectedly Monday in Arizona at the age of 41. No cause of death was known, a team spokesperson said, and the A’s traveling contingent at the meetings were still processing the news Tuesday night.

“We’re still sort of absorbing this whole thing. As you can imagine this came as a shock to everybody,” said Billy Beane, the A’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “He had such a commitment to the organization and was such a diligent worker. He’s a tremendous loss. Everybody thought the world of him as an employee, a person. It’s shocking.”

Smith worked for the A’s for eight years and was instrumental in creating the team’s minor league video department in 2009. Manager Bob Melvin, who crossed paths with Smith every spring at the team’s minor league training complex, said Smith went above and beyond the expectations of his job to help everyone in the organization.

“He was the first guy you saw,” Melvin said. “Just a great guy that everybody felt close to. He couldn’t do enough to help wherever he could. … He’d send me video during the year of guys he thought I might see at some point, and I never even asked for them. Just a hard-working guy who was very aware of what each guy he was working with was looking for and needed.”

Funeral services are pending.