Giants' reunion weekend forcing focus on future

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Giants' reunion weekend forcing focus on future

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Heres how much history matters to Dusty Baker: When asked after Saturdays 2-1 Cincinnati victory over the Giants whether he would be participating in Sundays 10-year fete for the 02 World Series team, he said, and you should clip and save this for future notation:

I guess Im supposed to. The sent me a notice. But right now, Im going fishing out in the Bay.

And heres how much history matters to Mat Latos: When asked how to explain his success in San Francisco, which by the way there hasnt been of since his 2010 grumble about Brian Sabeans roster restock, he said, Its just a team. A team is a team. It doesnt matter who Im facing.

In other words, history is for the customers, to amuse themselves while they wait in a concessions line. The participants dont look backward a lot.

Latos can look backward at one of his best starts ever, though. In holding the Giants to a third-inning single by Brandon Crawford and a ninth-inning triple by Brandon Belt, he consolidated the mastery he showed five days earlier in a complete game win against Milwaukee, and gave the Reds not only a leg up on the Giants in the National League race, but gave Baker another alternative to ace Johnny Cueto.

At least on days when the Reds pitch in the airport that is American Telephone and Telegraph Southwestern Bell Corporation Pacific Bell Park -- that is, as opposed to the Peet's Coffee kiosk that is Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park.

More than that, he sent a brief but pointed message to the Giants that they have more than just the Los Angeles Dodgers to worry about.

That last part is not something that should come as news to the Giants. Like Washington and Cincinnati and Los Angeles and Pittsburgh and St. Louis and Atlanta and New York and Arizona, San Franciscos position is fluid, and even stretches like their four consecutive shutouts this dont figure to be prolonged things.

Put another way, theres more error than margin here for everyone.

And put still another way, the nostalgia fest Sunday, in which all the ups, downs and all-arounds of the 2002 season are a lot like the history of World War I. The immediacy of a long and likely confusing playoff race is already beginning to take shape, with two natural standings breaks beginning to take form after the nine-hole (Arizona) and then after the 14-hole (Colorado).

It is not hard to imagine that those will hold and even widen as Colorado, Houston and Milwaukee drop out of contention, perhaps close enough to the trade deadline to make them sellers in an eager market. But it is equally fathomable that Miami and Philadelphia might get their acts and health together and join the top nine in a real contender pigpile, the kind that induces Bud Selig to broaden the playoffs every few years whether they need them or not.

So 2002 can hang. And while youre at it, fretting about Barry Zitos departure from the strike zone in the fourth and fifth innings is also yesterdays news, even though it is still today. Zito walked six of eight hitters in those two innings but was saved a righteous beating because of a strikeout of Latos to end the fourth and a line drive by Jay Bruce with the bases loaded right into Crawfords glove.

In other words, though you might not know it looking at his pitches out of context, Zito did meet his burden by giving the Giants a chance to win, just as Latos was insuring that they actually had no chance at all.

Not complaints about Sabean stacking the deck two years ago from Latos. No grumblings about the way 2002 ended from Baker. Latos had a win to enjoy, and Baker had some fish to subdue. In baseball, now and forever, nothing is as important as the here and now.

President Obama pardons Giants legend Willie McCovey

President Obama pardons Giants legend Willie McCovey

Giants Hall of Famer Willie McCovey was pardoned by President Barack Obama on Tuesday. 

McCovey, along with Dodgers Hall of Fame outfielder Duke Snider, pleaded guilty to tax fraud in July of 1995. The crime came from not reporting income McCovey earned from signing autographs and appearing at sports memorabilia shows. 

McCovey previously pleaded guilty to not listing $70,000 he made from 1988-90, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The 79-year-old McCovey was one of 64 people who received pardons from President Obama Tuesday as his final days in office wind down.

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

Hall of Fame voters' biggest issue: Do they work for the job or the sport?

With Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, and maybe even Trevor Hoffman about to be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, we have re-entered the hellish debates about who should vote, and why they should vote, and whether needles are good or bad and whether both are trumped by cashing the checks those needles made possible and why being transparent about their votes is good and why being transparent about their votes is actually bad.
 
In other words, the Hall of Fame isn’t actually about players any more. It’s about the voters.
 
The Danes call this “rampant narcissism.”
 
We have danced around this central fact for years now, hiding behind debates about performance enhancing drugs and the profiting thereof, voting limits and their degree of strangling artificiality, and the new writers vs. the old veterans, and who should be vilified, justifiably or otherwise, by whom.
 
Yay hatred by proxy!
 
But the process arguments ultimately aren’t the central point here. The argument is really about something more basic.
 
Are voter/journalists supposed to help enhance the mythology of the sport, or dispassionately tell its story? Who are they working for when they vote?

To that end, every vote tells a story well beyond the names checked off or the blank ballots submitted. One man, Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs, to you), has been invaluable in delving into the voting minutiae from the growing number of voters who release their opinions early. But, and he’ll admit this if you strike him often enough, that’s still a process discussion, and the core of the debate is found elsewhere.
 
Baseball writers are like football writers and basketball writers and hockey writers and curling writers and blah-blah-blah-de-blah-blah, in that they are prone to love the sports they cover beyond their journalistic mandate. That’s probably true of most journalists in most fields, but baseball has the Hall of Fame outlet to allow this internal debate to play itself out before our faces.
 
So the question becomes whether their votes are the representation of dispassionate analysis, or a defense of the mythos of the sport and the concept of the Hall itself. Boiled down to its essence, who are the voters defending here, the sanctity of the myth, or the ugliness of the reality?
 
The answer, as it usually is, is, “Depends on who you talk to.”
 
Hall of Fame debates usually lump all voters into one amorphous blob, a level of lazy and stupid thinking that should in a more perfect world be punishable by death. Okay, we kid. Life on a Louisiana prison farm, with parole after 25 years.
 
In fact, voters cover a fairly wide swath of opinion, and for whatever perceived shortcomings they might have, there are enough of them (about 450) to be a fairly accurate measure of the diaspora of baseball opinion across social, cultural, sporting and chronological lines.
 
But the argument about whether an individual voter feels more responsible to the job he or she is paid to do or to the game he or she covers as part of that job remains largely unconsidered, or at the very least masked by other considerations.
 
This manifests itself all the way down to the hot-pocket word “cheating.” Baseball is about cheating, and about honor. It’s about racism, and trying to overcome it. It’s about greed, and selflessness. It’s a sport, and it’s a business. It’s America, in all its glorious and hideous manifestations. To employ “cheating” as a word is in itself dishonest, and given that everyone got rich off the PED era and kept all the money they made makes PED use a de facto workplace condition approved by management and labor.
 
That may be unsavory, and it certainly is illegal without a proper doctor’s prescription, but because by their inaction the owners decided not to punish it (and in fact chose to reward it with contracts and extensions for users even after testing was instituted), it isn’t “cheating.”
 
And even if that argument doesn’t heat your rec room, it isn’t the role of the writer to punish it. It is the role of the writer to reveal it by journalism means, but that’s where the journalist’s role ends. The people who ran baseball took the journalism, acknowledged it, and did nothing until it ramped up detection and did little other than blame the union for a failing that both sides share equally.
 
So in the end, Raines’ votes or Barry Bonds’ votes or Curt Schilling’s votes or Edgar Martinez’ votes are fun to debate, but they aren’t the issue. It’s whether the voters think when they sit down and confront their ballot every year who exactly they’re working for – the job, or the sport.
 
And yes, I vote. Voted for the maximum 10. You’ll find out tomorrow the contents of my ballot. Then you can make that a process story, too.