Dusty isn't San Franciscos story any more

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Dusty isn't San Franciscos story any more

Its been almost two decades since Dusty Baker was first hired as a manager in this very town, and one full decade since he left in a shower of backbiting, anger and recrimination.But 20 years is a long time, and so is 10, and life has a way of shaving the pointed edges off the best and worst times. Hes gotten married and had children. Hes lost a parent. He quit one job and been fired from another, and has found his bliss in a town you would not think would be either his, or its, cup of tea.Plus he just had a health scare on top of another health scare. Most folks can hold grudges a long time, but a heart attack-ministroke double play usually brings perspective in a large travel trunk right to ones feet, and the glories and slights of the bygone era tend to fade in significance.RELATED: Dusty Baker returns from mini-stroke
Thus Saturdays National League Division Series isnt as much about Bakers triumphant return to San Francisco as you might think. Hes returned plenty of times, with good teams and bad ones, in happy surroundings and lousy ones.His time in San Francisco should not have ended as they did, in a protracted feud when then-owner Peter Magowan, and he should not have left so underappreciated given the job he did managing a clubhouse that included Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds. This statue-happy franchise should have one of him in a very prominent place given what he was asked to do, and given how well he did it.But that statue wont ever happen, because memories are long and turf is defended long after the war is over. And if the Cincinnati Reds beat the Giants in this five-game series, you may rest assured that the subject of a statue will never be brought up again.So, fine. No statue for Baker. But as we said, the future is now, and the past a million years ago. Hes moved on, because hes had to move on. He missed almost two weeks of the tail end of this season because of a mild heart attack that morphed into a mini-stroke while he was in the hospital, and while he is not likely to dwell too long on the topic over the next week or so, his grudges have been reduced to Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval.He is a baseball manager again, and he is a Cincinnati Red.Its a lie that you cant go home again. We all products of our homes, and they live in us forever. But Dusty Baker has had many homes, and for the moment, Cincinnati is as good as any of them. The town has learned what Chicago never did and what San Francisco sometimes forgot that good managers matter because they are so hard to find and match to their surroundings.Baker has been a manager for 19 years, which ties him for 23rd on the all-time longevity list, and he is one of 19 men to have managed 3,000 games, and the only one above him on that list who is not likely to go to the Hall of Fame is Ralph Houk. On the down side, he has been accused, more wrongly than rightly, of being a bane to pitchers health, and of having too a thin skin for managerial work.RELATED: Giants-Reds NLDS broadcast scheduleThat, too has changed. Most of the pitchers who got hurt on his watch had already come to him either damaged or with a delivery that suggested injury was on the way. And while he did not suffer slightly willingly or silently, he spoke up when he saw a wrong, and that cannot be a bad thing ever.So he comes to San Francisco now a far different man than the one who came here as a coach, or a manager, and different still than the one who left, a victim of front office meddling and turf-protecting. There will be some Baker nostalgia, and perhaps he will get a long and loud ovation when he is introduced before Saturdays game in thanks for services rendered.But he isnt really San Franciscos story any more. Hes not playing for his legacy in a city two jobs ago. Hes playing for the team he has today, and a city that has come to see him as a success. He has taken the Reds to two division titles in three seasons after 14 years of doing without, and this team is primed for a deep October run.Most importantly, though, Baker is alive to see it. And old enough to know that bygones, bad and good, really are bygones. Only the moment matters, he looks as good in red as in orange and black.Just ask him.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have put a focus this spring on getting Brandon Crawford ready for the World Baseball Classic, which meant a slight surprise for the first lineup of the new year. Crawford is hitting leadoff in Friday's exhibition opener so he can potentially get extra at-bats. Crawford and Buster Posey will leave camp in early March to represent the United States in the WBC. 

Manager Bruce Bochy went heavy on the regulars in the exhibition opener. Crawford is one of six likely opening day starters to play right away:

Crawford SS
Panik 2B
Belt 1B
Pence RF
Morse DH
Parker LF
Gillaspie 3B
Hundley C
Hernandez CF

Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch an inning Friday against the visiting Reds, followed by Clayton Blackburn, Steven Okert, Derek Law, Cory Gearrin and others. The opener is meaningful to a couple of players fighting for spots. Michael Morse, the DH, is trying to make the team as a left fielder/first baseman. Jarrett Parker is trying to beat out Morse, Mac Williamson and others for the starting spot in left. 

The Giants are facing a Reds team full of prospects, including the starter, right-hander Rookie Davis, who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Former Giant Adam Duvall is hitting fourth for Cincinnati. 

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said.