Cardinals consider Holliday's slide hard, not dirty


Cardinals consider Holliday's slide hard, not dirty


SAN FRANCISCO Its not the Giants vs. the Dodgers, butthis National League Championship matchup includes a history of bad bloodbetween the two teams.Just ask Will Clark, Jose Oquendo and Ozzie Smith. The youngsters can Googlethat threesome for an important history lesson.In Game 2 between the Giants and Cardinals Monday at AT&T Park, MattHolliday took a figurative baton from the recently vanquished Mat Latos tobecome Public Enemy No. 1 in San Francisco. After singling with a man on and one out in the first inning, Holliday hustledfrom first to second to break up a potential double play. Instead of slidingwell in advance of the bag, Holliday hit the ground late and collided withGiants second baseman Marco Scutaro as he tried to complete the relay throw tofirst.In hindsight I wish I had started my slide a step earlier,but you know its happening fast, Holliday said after the Giants beat hisCardinals 7-1 to even up the best-of-seven series.Scutaro was wincing as he detangled himself from Hollidayand immediately received attention from his teammates, head trainer DaveGroeschner and manager Bruce Bochy. After taking some time to walk around theedge of the outfield grass, Scutaro stayed in the game and exacted some revengewith a single in the bottom half of the first. But that was nothing compared to the bullet he sent inHollidays direction that broke the game wide open.After the Giants took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, they loaded the baseswith two outs and Scutaro at the dish. The 36-year-old midseason acquisitionthat compiled a whopping 88 hits in 61 games as a Giant drove ChrisCarpenters 1-1 sinker into left-centerfield. A clean single that shouldve ledto just two runs ended up clearing the bases when Holliday couldnt comeup with the ball cleanly. Scutaro made matters worse for Holliday when he movedup to second base on the error.Holiday was curt in his explanation of the mistake: Yeah, Ijust missed it.He also acted like he expected Scutaro to come through in the clutch.It doesnt surprise me at all. Hes a great player. Heshad an unbelievable second half and has come up with huge hits for them.Scutaro was replaced by Ryan Theriot to open the sixthinning with what the Giants announced as a left hip injury and was sent for X-rays,leaving Holliday to answer more questions about the play in question.I hope hes OK, Holliday said. I know him. Hes a goodguy and I wasnt obviously trying to do anything other than keep us out of adouble play Every run in the postseason is huge. The only regret I have is Ishould have started my slide a step earlier so that I wouldnt have ended up ontop of him.A remorseful Holliday said he asked Scutaro if he was OK in the immediateaftermath of the collision. He also said he spoke with Giants catcher BusterPosey at home plate before his next at-bat.I just told him to tell Marco that I wish I had started myslide a step earlier and that I wish he was OK, Holliday said. I just wantedhim to know that I wasnt trying to hurt him He told me hed tell him.Hollidays questionable slide was a major talking point inthe Giants clubhouse, but his Cardinals teammates were quick to defend theirstar outfielder.You have to give Matt the benefit of the doubt because hesnot a dirty player, said Lance Berkman, who also acknowledged that his locker neighbor in the visitor's clubhouse was late to slide. He plays hard, but I think hes well respected in the game and Ithink the other side knows that. Said third baseman David Freese: I did not see it and I have yet to see it.Holliday plays hard and thats all I can say.St. Louis second baseman Daniel Descalso offered his perspective as a fellowmiddle-infielder that has been involved in similar situations:As a second baseman, Ive been hit hard many times and itjust comes with the territory. You dont like getting hit. Its not fun to gethit. But if you hang in there on double plays, sometimes youre going to getwhacked. Its just part of the game.Descalso added that he was impressed with Scutaros ability to complete therelay throw, even if it didnt get to Brandon Belt at first in time.A good second baseman is going to hang in there, likeScutaro did. And he did a great job of hanging onto the ball and making a goodthrow to first base. A lot of guys would throw the ball in the dirt and maybe arun scores, which is why you go in hard at second base, especially with a guyon second. If he throws it away, thats a run for us.The idea that a run may have scored if Holliday forced Scutaro to make anerrant throw is what the Cardinals are leaning on to consider the slide a hardbaseball play, not a dirty one.Im not a dirty player, Holliday said. I wish I had startedmy slide a hair earlier, a step earlier, but when youre out there in the heatof the moment, youre trying to make sure he doesnt complete the double play.I play hard and was trying to take a double play. Thats really all it comesdown to. People can say what they want. I hope hes OK.Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stuck to the hard not dirty script.As I watched it live it looked like it was a hard slide. Itdidnt go out of the baseline to get him. We teach our guys to go hard. Playthe game clean, play it hard, not try and hurt anybody. And I hated to see thatit ended up that way. Thats not how we play the game. But we do go hard, butwithin the rules.The unwritten rules of baseball suggest Holliday could be in for a pitch aimed forhis head at some point over the next three games in St. Louis. If they take exception to it we really cant say anything because it was pastthe bag, even though I dont think he had any intention of hurting Scutaro,Berkman said.Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay said the team isntconcerned with potential retaliation.Im not worried about that. Were just worried about going out there andplaying hard.For Holliday and the Cardinals, the bigger concern is a brand new best-of-fiveseries and a date with Matt Cain in Game 3.Hes a great pitcher; I expect a battle, said Holliday,who is 8-for-40 with three home runs in his career against Cain. Were goingto have to work hard to try and get runners in, just like we do with the restof their staff. They have good pitching, thats why theyre here, and that willbe a challenge for us.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."