Don't get ahead of yourself, Giants fans

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Don't get ahead of yourself, Giants fans

DETROIT -- Now that youve all gotten ahead of yourselves -- and to be fair, why wouldnt you after that delicious two-day meal of Sandoval on a bed of Bumgarner -- heres something to remind you that few things are ever as they seem.

The Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals.

I grant you, this is not the way to bet. The Giants have their best pitchers of 2012 R. -- Andrew Vogelsong and M. Thomas Cain -- going in Game 3 and 4, which is one more way that Bruce Bochys way of thinking works in his favor even when it seems like it doesnt.

But as a big believer in the things are awfully quiet around here . . . a little TOO quiet theory of human dynamics, your faithful, charming and even adorable author is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Now maybe it wont; it didnt for Texas two years ago.

But the Rangers also led the World Series 3-2 last year before losing the final two games in St. Louis, which is just one more example of how nothing is over until John Belushi in Animal House says its over. And even the stat that 14 of the last 15 teams to take a 2-0 lead in the Series have gone on to win it doesnt take into account the possibility that this is one of those years when a lead is really a cleverly disguised deficit.

See the Cardinals. See them golfing and hunting and lamenting their 3-1 lead over the Giants.

In other words, there are lots of ways this could get to be interesting -- so interesting that the ratings hammering the first two games took can be arrested and even perhaps reversed.

So, because a dose of reality never hurts anyone living in a state of unbridled euphoria, we present scenarios by which the Tigers could make this an event rather than a coronation. And dont think of this as buzzkill. Think of it as a map of a minefield -- where youd rather know what could go wrong than blithely stroll through and find out the hard way.

And remember, were always thinking of you.

1. Anibal Sanchez, Saturdays Tiger starter, does not treat the Giants well. In his last three years in Florida, he muzzled the Giants as well as nearly anyone, and in his two starts this year he was exemplary once and part of a 14-7 abomination the other time. In other words, he can claim to have their number.
2. The Tigers cant really be smothered thrice in their own park, can they? Comerica Park is a big place, but the Tigers are much better there than in an airport like San Francisco, where power hitters go to die and gap hitters thrive.
3. Delmon Young is better as a designated hitter than as a left fielder. The Tigers will use either Don Kelly or Quentin Berry in left in the three games here, which immediately improves Detroits greatest deficiency -- defense. It also exacerbates one of the Giants deficiencies -- no natural DH.
4. Having been fooled by the low end of Justin Verlanders skill set once this series, we can estimate that he will be better in Game 5. We do not do this with the same surety we had in Game 1 (and yes, we were in a group that comprised all other living humans interested in baseball on that one), but it is hard to fathom he will not learn from his mistakes in Game 1.
5. If you believe in rust (and again, we do not), the Tigers are no longer rusty. They were dusty in Games 1 and 2, but ought to be free of webs and insect nests by now.
6. There is no longer a question of where Jose Valverde fits into the Tigers bullpen. He doesnt. That logically diminishes the Giants chances.
7. The 2010 World Series ended too abruptly. Some drama would be nice.
8. The Giants have a knack for playing their backs against the wall. We are not entirely sure how they will do with the other guys back against the wall.
9. Seriously, another five-game series would be kind of a letdown, except maybe for Fox, which cant seem to get people to watch anything that isnt Yankees-vs.-Red Sox.
10. Smug does not become a Giants fan. Fret, worry lines, agony, and the fetish that watching a good baseball team over and over again is torture is what makes a Giants fan. So a struggle here could be therapeutic for you all, as it is what you seem to prefer.

And all that said, the Giants are still in a dramatically superior position here, and as long as they dont act like it, theyll be fine. Eventually. We think.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK -- There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."