Urban: Giants' Sandoval stepping up huge


Urban: Giants' Sandoval stepping up huge

August 22, 2011


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Mychael Urban

Just in case you forgot to do so in the giddy aftermath of Sunday's game-winning homer, now would be a really good time to step back from the ledge and appreciate everything that Pablo Sandoval means to your 2011 Giants.As desperately as it was needed, the home run was almost beside the point. The point is that he was standing in the batter's box at all.In the 11th inning. Having previously been in the same box, batting left-handed against left-handed pitching -- more or less an out waiting to happen.Why would he put himself in such a position? Because he senses the desperation of the situation, and because he desperately wants to be part of the solution.RECAP: Sandoval to the rescue, Giants avoid sweep
It's called leadership, and it's a part of Sandoval's game that we've never really seen before. Now we're not only seeing it, but we're seeing it in its most pure form.We know all about Sandoval's personality and how it filters through the clubhouse. He's a big kid. He's almost always "up." His enthusiasm, energy and joy are infectious. You take one look at the guy and feel better about your place in the world. He'll smile at you. He'll tease you. He'll make up a handshake for you. That kind of thing matters in baseball. It might not sound like much, but it is. Baseball is an absolute grind, and anything that lightens the mood and reminds its professional practitioners -- especially at this time of year -- that it is a child's game and extremely fun and lucrative to play at this level is a highly welcome respite.But having a sunny disposition only goes so far. Attitude probably ranks third on the list of sports needs. At the root, any athletic endeavor is about performance first and foremost, with guts a close second. Fortunately for the Giants, Sandoval is killing it on all three fronts.RELATED: Pablo Sandoval stats
Sunday's homer served as a nice little bow to the package, but the bow was just a bow -- an impressive visual. The package has been there all along, and it's loomed larger than ever in the past week.The foot injury he suffered last Monday night alone could have shelved him for the rest of the week. Nuh, uh. Too many people on that shelf already, he decided. His team needed him. He played -- demanded to play -- the next day.
Then the shoulder started barking, limiting him to one-side swinging. Missed one game. (You reading this, Mr. Beltran?)
Two games later, Sandoval wins one with an extra-innings homer, records the final out of the game on defense and makes a bee-line for the trainers' room so he can strap it on and try to do it all over again Tuesday, Wednesday and for the rest of what remains of his scuffling team's season-gone-wrong.That's performance. That's guts. And that's why when the Giants gather 'round to vote on the Willie Mac Award next month, they'd better vote for Pablo.

Durant injury leaves Warriors just like everybody else

Durant injury leaves Warriors just like everybody else

And with that, the Golden State Warriors are now just like everybody else.
Let that rattle around your head for awhile. Just. Like. Everybody. Else.
The Warriors haven’t been like everybody else for three years now, but with Kevin Durant’s knee going from worrisome to catastrophic in a matter of hours, they are exactly like everybody else now. They don’t get to walk on a floor and make people look forward to the next game any more.
They are now one of a select number of very good teams, with San Antonio and Houston and Cleveland and Boston and Washington and maybe one or two others. That will last apparently for six to eight weeks, give or take a week for reckless diagnosis or medical setbacks, while Durant heals from his collision with Zaza Pachulia in the second minute of the team’s loss at Washington, and that could mean anything from the end of the regular season to the first and second round of the playoffs.
In other words, it could mean an amazing triumph or a crash-and-burn, or anything inbetween. This is the unknown, right upside the head.
And since it is unlikely that the Warriors will go full fetal, we are about to see the level of their competitive character – in success or failure, in June or May.
We have seen it before, mind you. In 2013, when they broke through the zinc ceiling, we saw how they could play defense after decades of claiming it was against California law. In 2014, when they learned how hard it is to be a good team. In 2015, when they applied it to become one of the best teams in NBA history (because 83 wins in 103 games and a parade don’t lie). In 2016, when they won more regular season games than anyone else and came within five horrific minutes at the end of Game 7 of the Finals to repeating.
All these were lessons learned, good and bad. They deserved what they got, whether it was glory or gall, and they went to school on it all.
So now, without Durant for an undetermined yet worrisome amount of time, they will demonstrate how they apply all this knowledge, and how they learn to do without Durant what they did with him.
Only now they lose the margin of error that Durant gave them. While most of the other contenders shopped earnestly for four months looking to strengthen here and tweak there, the Warriors had a full pantry and didn’t shop at all. Their big acquisition is Matt Barnes, who they frantically signed Tuesday night to replace Durant.
In short, they have a four-game lead on San Antonio for the top seed in the West, but they spotted the field four months of roster improvements.
Now they can ill afford the stretches of shooting misery like the one Stephen Curry is currently enduring. Now they can ill afford Draymond Green speaking his mind so freely to people who take away games. They need health and purpose and an understanding that the turning-it-on-and-off thing they can do is no longer applicable to their situation.
They are not doomed, not by any means. Only a fool would claim otherwise, and fools come shrink-wrapped by the gross at Costco.
But they are now as San Antonio would be without Kawhi Leonard, or Houston without James Harden, or Cleveland without (and we’ll give you your choice here) LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, or Boston without Isaiah Thomas, or Washington without Bradley Beal AND John Wall, though not worse off than Toronto without DeMar DeRozan, since Kyle Lowry is already gone until the playoffs after wrist surgery.
They are Just Like Everybody Else. Well, Everybody Else Who Matters This Time Of Year. There is a parade up for grabs again, and lots of hands are reaching for it – rather than just the two hands we know best.

Melvin ponders where Semien fits best in A's batting order

Melvin ponders where Semien fits best in A's batting order

MESA, Ariz. — Marcus Semien provides the A’s a luxury as a shortstop with great home run power.

With that, an annual question surfaces:

Where is the best spot to hit him in the batting order?

Semien led American League shortstops, and finished second on the A’s, with 27 homers last season, yet he spent the majority of his time hitting seventh or ninth. Given Oakland finished last in the American League in runs last season, would it make sense to move him up higher?

The early indications are that manager Bob Melvin will keep Semien hitting in the bottom third of the order, even though Semien has bounced around in exhibitions so far.

“He and I were talking about that yesterday,” Melvin said Wednesday morning. “I hit him third yesterday. I’ll have him hit second, I think, tomorrow. But boy, it’s a nice little security blanket (hitting him down in the order). And it seems to be that the ‘7’ spot is where (he hits with) some guys on base. It’s nice to have a guy down in the lineup that is that productive.”

Expect Melvin to continue experimenting with different batting-order combos throughout spring training before honing in on a more steady look as late March rolls around. And where he bats Semien will be based, partly, on how Semien’s teammates are performing offensively.

The A’s signed Rajai Davis to be a speedy table-setter from the leadoff spot. They added Matt Joyce and Trevor Plouffe to add some punch through the middle of the lineup. If those three, plus cleanup man Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt, Jed Lowrie and Ryon Healy are producing, it makes more sense to save Semien as a lower-lineup headache for opposing pitchers to deal with. The shortstop’s nine home runs from the No. 9 spot tied for the major league lead in 2016.

And keep in mind, Semien is likely to bat higher against left-handers. He’s a .288 career hitter with a .493 slugging percentage against lefties, compared to .229 and .380 against right-handers. Last season, he made 24 starts in the No. 2 spot.

But where he hits has no bearing on his approach, Semien said.

“I don’t want to try and change what I do based on where I am in the lineup necessarily. I want to become a better hitter no matter what spot I’m in. There was power production from the ‘9’ hole (last season). I hit second a lot against lefties. Either way, whatever is the best chance to win with that lineup that day is what we’ve gotta do.”