Athletics

Urban: Blogging From AT&T

163502.jpg

Urban: Blogging From AT&T

Sept. 29, 2010
GIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com
Burrell With Another Magical Memory (7th Inning Update)

Are you kidding?Its enough to be blessed with big-league talent.Being blessed with movie-star looks -- tall, dark and handsome -- is almost overkill. Yet the powers that be decided that wasnt enough for Pat Burrell. Lets make him a sympathetic figure, a prodigal son, and a cornerstone of a pennant race. And lets let him hit a bunch of homers, including one really late in the season in front of a full house of fawning fans.Seriously. Whomever is responsible for doling out goodness needs to relax. Pat Burrell has gotten way more than his share.Lincecum Finding His Groove (5th Inning Update)

As my Twitter followers often so eloquently note, Haters gonna hate. So its little wonder that Chris Lincecum, the father of Giants wunderkind Tim Lincecum, gets accused of being everything from a Svengali to an attention-seeker to a thorn in the side of the Giants coaching staff.None of these things are true. Not even close. Hes a father who loves and defends his son, just like every other father on earth should aspire to be.He has the utmost respect for the Giants coaches, and its not his fault that the media often seeks his opinion when Tim isnt pitching particularly well. Heck, I did it 20 minutes ago.And because Chris Lincecum is as straight-up honest a man as youll ever meet, the man for whom the description salt of the earth seems created, he gives me time when I ask for it.All I asked of Mr. Lincecum, whom I texted after the second inning, was what he thought of Tims early struggles.I think hes got it now, Chris responded. Its his legs.Sure enough, Tims thrown up nothing but zeroes since his father told me hes got it.Father knows best.Giants Fans Already Counting Chickens (3rd Inning Update)

Based on the general vibe emanating from AT&T Park before Wednesdays game against the Diamondbacks, the Giants are already in the playoffs.Theyre not, of course, but that hasnt stopped anyone from grabbing my right arm, spinning me around and saying (oddly enough, with fairly slurred speech), Shanchys pishing Game 3, right?Uh, yeah. Sure. Whatever, bro. Can I have my bicep muscle back while its only half-torn?Anyway, not to bring Bill Polian into this, and not to be a buzzkill for Giants fans on this lovely evening by the Bay, but the whole playoffs thing is far from fait accompli.And to echo my good friendcolleaguereverse-moral compass Raymond Lucious Ratto, do you really want this thing to be decided before the Padres get to town?I dont. As a childhood Giants fan and as a journalist, I want this bad boy to go down to the wire. The childhood fan in me wants the Padres to wear it, to watch as the Giants get down in celebration on the field in front of them. As a journalist, duh; the longer it plays out, the more drama I have to try to capture and convey.The Giants are down 1-0 in the top of the third. The Padres are up 1-0. Not saying I want the Giants to lose and the Padres to win, but I do want to be able to comb my hair tomorrow. Lishen, you bashtard! Leave my bysheps alone!
What's on your mind? Email Mychael and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

olson-power-trot.jpg
USATSI

A's rookie Olson stays humble during record-breaking power surge

OAKLAND — Matt Olson is aware of the company he’s keeping in the A’s record books.

His reaction is a mix of reverence and a shrug-of-the-shoulders type humbleness.

That’s the personality of the A’s rookie first baseman. Even as the conversation about him and his awe-inspiring home run pace grows louder, he remains the same steady, grounded presence.

“I’m happy for him,” A’s hitting coach Darren Bush said. “The guy’s worked his butt off. He’s the same today as was when he first got called up.”

Olson cleared the fences once again Friday night, his two-run homer off Nick Martinez in the second inning helping the A’s to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers. At this point, it’s much more newsworthy when Olson doesn’t homer than when he does.

He’s crammed 24 homers into just 57 games this season. Taking into account his first call-up last September, and Olson’s 24 homers over the first 68 games of his career are the second-most in the history of major league baseball over that span to open a career. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger also hit 24 and only the White Sox’s Jose Abreu, with 25, hit more over his first 68.

Olson’s 13 homers in September are the most by any rookie in major league history for the month, and there’s still eight games left in it. But Olson’s hot streak dates back to Aug. 27. He’s hit a major league-best 16 homers in 23 games since then.

Among rookies in A’s history, only Mark McGwire (49) in 1987 and Jose Canseco (33) in 1986 have hit more than Olson’s 24. But neither Bash Brother, nor any other player in Oakland history, ever hit 15 homers in a 21-game span as Olson recently did.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Olson said before Friday’s game. “I grew up with a Mark McGwire poster on my wall. It’s a little surreal.”

Who saw this coming?

Olson went 2-for-21 without a single RBI in his first taste of the bigs last September. Then he shuttled five times between Triple-A and the majors this season before getting called up once again Aug. 8 and being told he’d get a shot as the A’s regular first baseman with Yonder Alonso having been traded. The constant shuttling took its toll, though Olson never let on about that publicly to reporters.

“You could see (the frustration),” said Ryan Christenson, his manager at Triple-A. “When he walks in and you tell him ‘You’re getting sent up,’ and he’s like, ‘Well, how many days is it for this time?’ He wouldn’t voice it necessarily, but you could sense it.”

Olson, with help from Bush and others, made an adjustment coming into this season. He began holding his hands out farther away from his body to begin his swing. With his 6-foot-5 frame, Olson had found himself getting jammed inside. Then in trying to adjust to that, he couldn’t square up pitches on the outer half.

“Now, his hands are firing from where he wants them to,” Bush said. “He doesn’t have to fight. You want your hands to have a clean path. Now he can stay in there, stay behind the ball, let his hands work for him.”

Olson, a 23-year-old from Lilburn, Ga., takes this sudden burst of success — and attention — in stride.

“I’ve been hit with so many stats here in the past week, I can’t even keep track of who’s done what, and honestly what I’ve done,” he said. “I kind of try to ignore all that.”

That’s OK. Others are taking plenty of notice.

 

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

dodgers_clinch.jpg
USATSI

As Dodgers celebrate, Bochy turns eyes to franchise-altering talent

LOS ANGELES — The Giants left their dugout quickly after Friday’s loss, escaping a celebration on the mound and a fireworks show in the sky. As Dodger Stadium shook with cheers, Bruce Bochy sat in the visiting clubhouse and smiled. He nodded at his laptop, which earlier had been used to pull up highlights of Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani. 

“He’s good,” Bochy said, laughing. “I absolutely would play him every day.”

Earlier in the week, when it became known that Bobby Evans and Jeremy Shelley were headed to Japan to scout Otani, Bochy said he couldn’t imagine a player pitching and then moving to the outfield between starts. What changed? 

Perhaps it was the tape Bochy saw. Otani throws 100 mph and hits homers with ease. Or perhaps it was the game he watched Friday. The Giants lost for the 94th time, with the big blow coming from a 22-year-old Dodgers star. Cody Bellinger’s blast was the difference in a 4-2 win, and the Giants don’t have a Bellinger, or anything close. Otani, 23, is a long shot for a team that very well could finish with the worst record in baseball. Still, he’s the kind of talent that could help pull the Giants closer in a hurry. He’s the  kind of talent they haven’t developed in years, and Bochy certainly sounded a bit wistful as he talked of the power Bellinger has put on display. 

“You call up a guy and he does that — that just doesn’t happen,” he said. “It’s a rare deal.”

The ninth inning of the Dodgers’ clincher reinforced that point for the Giants. They got a homer from Pablo Sandoval, but he’s playing only because Christian Arroyo — the Giants’ best prospect bet this year — is hurt. Ryder Jones, their 23-year-old prospect, struck out to end the night, dropping his average to .180. 

That set off a celebration for Bellinger and the Dodgers. They have won five straight NL West titles, with three of the last four clinched against the Giants. 

“Congrats to them,” Bochy said. “They’ve had a tremendous year across the board, and they’ve played great baseball. They brought some guys up that really did a great job for them. It’s well deserved.”

Bochy said it was not difficult to watch this one. The division has been wrapped up for months, with only a September slide keeping the Dodgers from clinching earlier. 

“We knew what we were facing here,” Bochy said. 

The Giants have two more against the Dodgers and then six more before a long winter. The Dodgers, on the other hand, will host an NLDS series here at Dodger Stadium. Both Bochy and starter Jeff Samardzija made the same observation, that the Dodgers will have a hard time cutting their deep roster down to 25 postseason players. 

That’s a nice problem to have. It’s a foreign one right now for the Giants, who have a serious talent gap and no clear solutions internally. It’s no wonder, then, that Bochy has all of a sudden become so intrigued by a wondrous talent overseas.