Of Damon, Davis and Winn

Of Damon, Davis and Winn

Jan. 28, 2010

Randy Winn probably woke up this morning and wondered if he was dreaming. As a nearly direct result, Rajai Davis own dream could soon turn into a nightmare.And theyll both have Johnny Damon to thank.Dumped by a team that failed to make the 2009 playoffs after one of the worst years of his largely productive 10-year career, Winn signed Wednesday with the 2009 world champions for 2 million dollars.The Yankees are favored to win it all again in 2010, you know, so far as landings go, thats about as soft as they come. And good for Winn. He wasnt a very good player for the Giants last season, but he was a good Giant in general. He should be remembered fondly as a class act who played hard and treated fans well.That brings us to the man Winn is replacing in Gotham: Damon. Damon, too, is a class act who plays hard and treats fans well. Hes a better player than Winn, but his agent, Scott Boras, priced himself out of the Yankees range.I cant believe I just wrote those words, but its true. Damon was too expensive for the Yankees.Now Damons asking price is dropping considerably, and it could end up affecting yet another class act who plays hard and treats fans well.Rajai Davis.Davis, remember, was a revelation during the second half of last season. He almost single-handedly made the As watchable with his speed, hustle and omnipresent smile, and it was a heck of a story because hed been cut by -- full circle alert! -- the Giants in early 2008.So heading into the offseason, he seemed a safe bet to start in center field for the As in 2010. He was a safe bet to start even after the Coco Crisp signing.Rajai Davis, Opening Day starter in the big leagues. He liked the sound of that.Oh yeah, man, he told me last month, the enthusiasm, pride and joy pouring from the phone. I like the sound of that a lot!Suddenly, its starting to look like he might not get to hear it. The As have been interested enough in Damon to have some substantial conversations, and for the right price theyll pull the trigger and make him their starting left fielder, moving Davis to the bench.Damon doesnt seem like a great fit in Oakland, where he struggled in 2001. He hits a lot of foul balls, and a lot of foul balls are outs in Oakland. He has a terrible arm, and a DamonCrisp combo would make the Coliseum's left-center gap every bit as inviting to triples as right-center is at AT&T.But Damon is a better all-around player than Davis, who still has to prove that the final three months of last season werent a fluke. Damon doesnt have to prove anything. His rings and numbers speak for themselves.Sadly, in this strange three-headed saga, there cant be a win-win-win. Theres just a Winn, a proven winner (Damon), and Davis, whos but a signature away from taking a very tough loss.-- Mychael Urban

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Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' skid-snapping win over Rockies


SAN FRANCISCO — On a day that started with controversy, Giants players called a meeting following batting practice. Perhaps they were talking about when and where to stretch. Perhaps a reminder was given to keep clubhouse complaints in the actual clubhouse. 

Or, perhaps, the players just decided that enough was enough. 

In a rare display, the Giants put a clean and complete game together. They beat the Rockies 9-2 at AT&T Park, getting just their second win since June 11 and snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Rockies. 

Jeff Samardzija continued his hot streak, the lineup was opportunistic and flashed some power, and the defense sparkled at times. Here are five things to know from the throwback night … 

—- Samardzija walked off to a standing ovation after throwing 112 pitches. He was charged with two earned in 6 1/3 innings. Ignore the record and ERA for a second — his FIP is 3.37 and his xFIP is 2.95. He really is having a very good and underrated season. 

—- Here’s another one for your Samardzija file: Over the past two months, he has 82 strikeouts and three walks. 

—- It was a good day in the race for another Brandon Crawford Gold Glove. Adeiny Hechavarria, one of the few in the National League who even approaches Crawford, was traded to the Rays. Crawford added to the reel by gunning a runner down on third and making a nifty spin-and-throw in the fourth to rob Ian Desmond of a hit. 

—- There are nights where Denard Span looks like a game-changer, and this was one of them. He had a single, walk and triple in his first three plate appearances, scoring twice as the Giants built a 5-0 lead. He was spry in center, too 

—- Nolan Arenado was 0 for 4. Apparently that’s legal now. (It was actually his ninth 0 for 4 or worse against the Giants, in 81 games.)

—- Bonus sixth fact since the Giants won a game: Sam Dyson, acquired basically for free, is the new setup man. That didn’t take long, and it probably won’t be changing anytime soon. Dyson gave up a single but struck out the other three batters he faced.