Urban: Zito shows Giants his hammer is strong


Urban: Zito shows Giants his hammer is strong

June 28, 2011


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Mychael Urban

All the talk about reconnecting with the game as it used to be, of re-learning to love it, of absorbing a familiar sense of kinship with the hard-working kids in the minors leagues, of focusing on the process and not results?Meaningless. Empty talk -- especially to fans who are very much into those pesky results. It's pretty simple: Throw a hammer like Thor and you're good.That's what Barry Zito did Tuesday at Wrigley Field, and that's why he looked like the Zito that the Giants were hoping they'd get when they paid him more money than mighty Thor himself made even in his best seasons with the Thunder.
RECAP: Zito returns triumphant; Giants extend win streak
Prior to that, of course, Zito did what Zito often does. Depending on how you feel about the man in general, you can characterize what he did as philosophizing, rhapsodizing, rationalizing or, let's face it, eulogizing.
In short, lots of talk about baseball being fun again, only in deeper-sounding sentences.But you know what's really fun? Locking up a big-league hitter with a curveball that starts somewhere in the upper deck and ends up nestled softly in the catcher's glove, then watching the guy's face contort in a non-verbal expression of "What in the name of all things flecked with gold and accompanied by a smoking-hot harp soloist was that?"Zito did plenty of that Tuesday, and when he's doing that, he's making his 85- to 88-mph fastball look, as Jason Giambi once said, "more like 99 or 100."The bender Zito was featuring while holding the Cubs to four hits and two walks over seven innings was the best he's thrown in the bigs in years.GIANTS INSIDER GALLERY: Zito helps Giants sweep DH
So what happened? What brought back Zito's curveball from the land in which hitters spit on it to the land in which they respect, fear and flail at it?Well, improved fastball command helps prevent the former. Pop a heater into the strike zone early, at any speed, and you're in control of the at-bat; the secondary pitches become a factor. Fall behind with the fastball, especially if it's not above-average, and the hitter can wait out those secondary pitches in search of something straight and somewhat slow. That's a recipe for disaster, and Zito has cooked up plenty of those as a Giant. But thanks to some minor mechanical tweaks, his fastball command improved considerably during his time in the minors. The major change in Zito, however, has been the ditching of his slider. He added the pitch after he won the American League Cy Young in 2002, and that speaks to his personality. He's of the mind that if you aren't trying to get better -- and that's what adding the slider was to him -- you're getting worse.An argument could be made that there isn't much to improve after going 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA, but hey, that's how the guy thinks. Can't fault a guy's brain for working a certain way.He's no dummy, though, and he's never duplicated the Cy Young success since adding the slider. It's nearly impossible to throw a slider from a tradition over-the-top arm slot; by nature the pitch has to be released from something of an angle to, well, slide.Yet Zito's curveball, to achieve maximum effectiveness, has to be delivered from a traditional over-the-top arm slot. At it's best, it's a classic noon-to-six bender, and he spent his life perfecting it -- while throwing the other two pitches that helped him win the Cy, a fastball and changeup, from the exact same arm slot.So he canned the slider. Arm slot locked. And though it's taken a while to get the feel for that hammer of Thor, it's there now -- and you saw it Tuesday.

Report: Former 49ers WR works out for Jets

Report: Former 49ers WR works out for Jets

The competition between the Jets and Patriots extended into free-agent workouts this week. 

New England on Wednesday reportedly tried out Dres Anderson, a wide receiver recently released by the 49ers.

New York a day later brought Anderson in for a workout, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. 

Anderson, 24, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the 49ers in 2015. 

He has yet to appear in a regular-season game.

Anderson was released from the 49ers practice squad on Tuesday, Oct. 18 to clear room for another wide receiver, DeAndre Smelter.  

NFL disregards domestic violence, as Giants extend its tolerance scale


NFL disregards domestic violence, as Giants extend its tolerance scale

The National Football League has been reminded yet again that it neither understands nor cares to understand about domestic violence.

But it will do better, you may rest assured. They’ll have a week where all the on-field personnel wear purple to commemorate the bruises.

That’s what the NFL does when it can no longer ignore its own tone-deafness – they turn their stupidity into a marketing opportunity. After all, every social problem can be solved in the league’s eyes by figuring out a way for the league to monetize it.

The latest example of the NFL’s slack-jawed world view comes from New York, where the Giants could not and still cannot figure out what to do about kicker/serial domestic abuser Josh Brown except not let him go to London for the weekend.

This means the league has learned nothing from the Ray Rice incident, even as Rice of all people is showing on a regular basis how to learn from it. More than that, it means it has no interest in learning anything about it, and will never prioritize it beyond crisis-management level – “Uh-oh, something bad just happened. Quick, put it behind us.”

Then again, the league has been so relentlessly ham-handed on so many things that, as convenient as this may be for it, we should stop expecting it to do so, to the point that when someone from the league wants to explain some social issue to us we should simply say with one voice, “Oh, shut up, you yammering frauds.”

It is difficult to prioritize the number of ways the Giants failed to comprehend the problem currently smacking them between the numbers, although owner John Mara’s “He admitted to us he'd abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that” may summarize it nicely.

Put another way, one could make a case that the Giants extended the universal talent-tolerance scale (if you have the talent, anything can be tolerated until it can’t) to include placekickers.

That seems less likely, though, than the more obvious point that the league doesn’t regard domestic violence as something worth concerning itself with, while bloviating all the time about all the things with which it is concerned. The league is the beat cop who never gets out of his car to see what is happening on his beat, and is shocked when something does.

And while it will be handy to pile this atop the list of reasons why Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t get it, the truth is he is merely the painful rash that reveals the league’s case of shingles. The league’s 32 constituent elements are culpable here because ignorance in the face of so much evidence becomes willful, and Goodell’s skill is not in guiding the league but in figuring out where his 32 bosses want him to go, and avoiding all the places they don’t.

Hence, domestic violence. This is not an easy problem to solve, as any expert will say, but Mara trying to decide how many punches are enough isn’t it. The league’s six-game suspension guideline that is now four years old has never been imposed on any player. It wants the power to use the talent-tolerance scale at whim to do what it wishes when it wishes to do it.

Or in this case, not do anything at all until it has to, and then in as minimal a fashion as it can manage.

So, Josh Brown loses a week in a foreign country on the company dime as a trade-off for continually terrorizing his wife. The league says it punished him for a game but was powerless to do anything else while knowing all along how severe the problem had become.

In short, it did the minimum. Now that everyone knows the fullest extent of Brown’s abuse, and how much the league knew without doing anything, it will now extend the minimum out to what it thinks is a new minimum.

So we now know that the NFL is looking for some metric that will determine the transactional “extent of that,” as John Mara so eloquently put it for us. When it comes up with that formula, it will surely ignore that standard, because the real standard is still “talent-tolerance,” and the world is made up of concentric circles surrounding the people who make the league and its members a dollar more tomorrow than it made today.

And spouses are a long way from the center.