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

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.