A Cool Moment for a Blogger and Some Notes from Raley Field

It was a scorcher in the valley yesterday (110 in Chico), but that didn’t keep me from having a very cool experience at Raley Field in Sacramento. Mac Williamson has been one of my favorite players in this organization for a few years, so I was nervous as all get-out when I saw him signing autographs by the LF wall (just down from our seats). I walked down and introduced myself, and had the most rewarding moment of my blogging tenure when he recognized Cove Chatter. He thanked me for my positive writing, and I told him I was excited to see him play. That was about 5 minutes after we entered the yard, and my night was officially made.

I’m not someone who started a blog seeking fortune, fame & all that other junk. Not even for one second. This is and always has been a hobby for me (though the future Mrs. Cove Chatter may disagree completely). I love Giants baseball, and following the prospects coming up through the system. I never dreamed of the connections I’d make in two short years while doing this, and getting to meet and be recognized by a pretty dang good player (and even better person) in this organization was a humbling experience for me. That kind of thing makes all of this worth it.

Anyway, I thought I’d mention a few notable performances from the game, which was a good one for the Rivercats.

Clayton Blackburn was the undoubted player of the game. He allowed only 6 baserunners over 7 shoutout innings. Though his fastball was primarily 87-89, that 70 mph curve really is a putaway pitch for him. You could clearly see how much break it had from our seats in LF. Blackburn had 5 K in all. He stole the show in the 3rd though when he put a charge into one that sailed over 400 feet to dead center. I would guess that was his first career HR as a professional, and it was a beauty. A nice night for the young righty, whose ERA dropped to 3.50 in the mighty PCL.

Michael Broadway is going to help the Giants again this season, I’m almost sure of it. He worked a clean (but filthy) 9th inning last night, K’ing the side with a 96-98 FB and a diving slider. I can’t remember now, but threw the slider for strike three to at least two of the batters, and I want to say he did for the final out as well. Just an impressive performance from Broadway.

Raley Field in Sacramento

Raley Field in Sacramento

Adam Duvall turned on a ball in the 2nd and hit an absolute moonshot just inside the LF foul pole. It was one of those homers that stayed in the air so long that people were almost stunned as they watched it fly. Man does that guy have some power. He also made a really nice pick on a throw in the dirt from Frandsen late in the game.

Everth Cabrera didn’t look very comfortable in CF, but his speed sure can impact a game. He misplayed a ball that sailed over his head in the early innings, but made up some major ground while chasing another one down later in the game. He also had two hits from the leadoff spot, stole a base and was called out on another attempted steal (though it looked like he may have been safe). Hopefully he has cleaned up his off-field issues, and I could really see the Giants swapping Adrianza out for him down the road.

Kelby Tomlinson, the player I’d really like to see get a call up, beat out an infield single and later made solid contact on a sac fly in the 7th inning. He also had an error on a dropped catch at 2B (he was the SS), but admittedly I didn’t see the play.

Mac was 1-4 in his return from a short DL stint. He roped a ball nearly to the wall in dead center for an out in his final AB, but I was most impressed with the arm he showed off in RF, forcing a runner who I initially thought would have scored easily back back to 3B. And finally, if you happen to read this Mac, it was really great to meet you!

July 29: Deadline Deal Looming?

Welcome back to Cove Chatter, “The Original.” I’ve found that sometimes the grass really isn’t always greener, and will be working to switch back over to WordPress permanently. Why? To be frank, I really couldn’t stand Weebly. It seems like a great place to market a product or advertise a business, but it’s truly not blogger-friendly. Guess I should have checked into that a little more before I made the change last winter. I really do apologize for the jumping around, and hope that a few folks will follow me back to the original site. I’m thinking I will delete the Weebly Cove Chatter eventually to cut confusion. I really loved the Disqus commenting forums

Bobby Evans, trade deadline texting extraordinaire?  (Jason Grohoske)

Bobby Evans, trade deadline texting extraordinaire? (Jason Grohoske)

on the other site, but in general it just became too much of a hassle to keep everything updated. I’m ready to simplify things & get back to some fun Giants blogging. So, if you’re reading this, welcome back!

Ok, so we’re two days out from the trade deadline. Folks, I think it could be a long, stressful couple of days. Why? Right now, the stars just don’t seem to be aligning for Evans & company to land the big fish they apparently are seeking. To me, the only move that really makes sense for this team at the moment is trading for a starting pitcher… preferably a very good one.

Here’s what I know about this time of year: For starter’s, there’s a lot of big talk. People often forget this, but the landscape is changing for MLB GM’s. In this day of younger, more tech-savvy front office types, I often wonder how many phone conversations actually take place. My guess is there’s a lot more text & email conversations going on, and I think that hurts certain organizations (namely this one). Bobby Evans seems to be a bit more media/PR friendly than Sabean is/was, so maybe he fits in better with the crowd. I don’t know, but I do get the feeling that teams like the Phillies are doing their usual dancing and prancing around, asking for every team’s top 6 prospects. The Giants don’t have a package to entice Philly? Until I hear some actual names and offers, I’m going to believe that’s a load of garbage. The Phillies just want the moon.

The Giants have plenty of trade chips. Susac, Beede, Arroyo, Mella, Williamson, Crick, Mejia, Osich, Okert, Chase Johnson, Coonrod, Blach, Blackburn, Tomlinson, Slater, Cole… There are some future big leaguers, and some solid players on that list. Sure, the front office may not want to give up some of these guys, but they certainly have the pieces to land a player like Hamels… unless, of course, the Phillies keep playing games and upping the offer.

In short, I’m not holding my breath for a Hamels trade unless something drastically changes. And that’s a bummer, because he really is one of the only impact arms that makes sense. David Price? Yes, I’d LOVE to have him, but I’d give him about a 5% chance of re-signing in the offseason. He’s getting huge money on the open market, and there’s no way I’m sending the Tigers a boat of players for that. If I thought he would stay in SF, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But that’s just not the case in my opinion.

So, what else is out there? Are the White Sox trading Samardzija? I’d still take him despite his impending free agency. To me, Shark seems most like a 2012 Hunter Pence – an above average player who’s never signed a big contract, might love playing in SF, and be willing to lock in for the next 5 years. That’s what you’re banking on when you make a deal for a rental player.

Mike Leake? Another rental, but a guy who apparently loves San Francisco (which loves him back, we’ve heard). He gets knocked for being just a “mid-rotation” starter, but the guy just puts up solid performances. If you can’t land a big fish, I don’t see anything wrong with grabbing a guy like Leake. He’s durable & mostly dependable, and he’d sure make for a better option than Tim Hudson down the stretch.

I’ll summarize by saying I do believe the Giants need to bolster their pitching staff in order to keep this run going. They’ve got the pieces, they’ve got financial flexibility (as the media keeps reminding us), and they’ve got a tremendous young lineup. This team, as it stands, is very streaky… I don’t doubt they’ll play themselves right back to .500 in the next month if they don’t find an upgrade. If they do, however, I think the sky is the limit for these 2015 Giants. Thanks for reading, cross your fingers, and stay tuned.

Cove Chatter is Moving!

NEW COVE CHATTER LINK

As my second offseason as a blogger rolls along, I’m finding that my blogging style is changing. Frankly, I just don’t have the time to push out post after post, as I was able to this time last year. For that reason and a few others, I have decided to start up a new blog page with another host site. I really think the new site will allow for much more flexibility and creativity on my part, while also being a bit more user-friendly for you.

I realize that this site is visited frequently by some (myself included!) as a reference page for quite a few different Giants prospects. Don’t worry; I will NOT be terminating this page. I still plan to check in on old articles and use this page as a resource for the foreseeable future, and frankly, I’m not ready to cut ties with the original Cove Chatter. Someday, when I have become completely comfortable with my new site, and I determine that most of the posts on this page are becoming irrelevant, I may link the “Covechatter.com” name to the new page. For now though, I will simply post a link to the “new” Cove Chatter below.

Thank you for all of your support throughout this wild ride. I can’t wait to see how the rest of this offseason unfolds, and I can’t wait to unveil a totally revamped Cove Chatter 100 prospect rankings for the upcoming year. Please, come on over to the new site and leave me some feedback… but also, don’t be afraid to peruse around here from time to time as well. Go Giants!

NEW COVE CHATTER LINK

What’s New in the AFL?

And you thought baseball season was over… For some reason, I actually find it easier to post during the offseason. Maybe it’s because things aren’t as fast paced as they are during the spring and summer.

Anyway, MLB.com’s Jim Callis released a nice article on Clayton Blackburn today, so I figured this would be an appropriate time to make a quick check-in on Giants prospects in the AFL. Fortunately, Callis has done most of the leg-work here. His piece has quotes from Blackburn and a scouting blurb on each of the guys the Giants have out in Arizona right now. There’s even a video with Callis and Mayo chatting about Blackburn and Steven Okert. Pretty nice work from the MLB Pipeline guys here.

Overall, it’s been pretty quiet on the Giants prospect front this fall (most of the big names were helping bring home another ring for the big club). There really isn’t much to speak about at all on the offensive side, which is a bit of a bummer since I had high hopes for Daniel Carbonell. The trio of Carbonell, Blake Miller and Kelby Tomlinson has been pretty quiet in the desert so far.

Most of the noise has been made on the pitching side, as Okert has been dominant out of the pen for Scottsdale. Okert came on huge this year after a so-so campaign in Augusta. According to Callis, he profiles more as a lefty specialist in the majors, but I’d think another big year in 2015 could change some minds. Either way, guys like that don’t get a ton of hype… but the numbers have been impressive for the former 4th rounder this fall.

Blackburn, who should be a member of the inaugural Giants-affililated Sacramento Rivercats squad next April, has had a quiet fall himself. He’s been working out of the bullpen, taking things slow. But Callis reports that he’s trying to refine his arsenal with a slider and splitter (sounds like more of a split-change), which he hopes to partner up with his big hook. That is exciting news to me. Like most Giants prospects, Clayton will never get the big press. But he might just be one of the most polished young righties in all the minors right now, and if he can add a few more tools to his belt, he may well be ready to contribute in SF some time next year.

Folks jumped off the Blackburn bandwagon after two rough months in San Jose last season. Those folks missed out on the great turnaround he had in the second half of that season. This kid has taken a back seat to Kyle Crick in the organization, but all he has done is pitch beyond his years since the day he turned pro.

Here’s the link to the Callis article. I definitely recommend you give it a quick read. I’m attempting to post the video on this page, but this site has been giving me all kinds of problems in regards to video links lately. If it doesn’t work, there are two nice Giants-related AFL videos embedded in the MLB.com article.

Hope you’re all enjoying your start to the offseason. With all the postseason hoopla this month, Giants minor league content has been almost nonexistent. But I promise I’m still on the lookout for any updates, and I will certainly keep you all in the loop when I find them. Thanks for reading.

Three in Five; Giants Win it All!

Video of the final out:

What a night. What a series. What a month. What a year… What an organization!

Maybe they make us pull our hair out from time to time, but they sure have made us the most blessed fan base in American professional sports during the last five years. The leadership has stayed the same during that time, the core players mostly intact. The story lines are always changing, but this team perseveres something fierce regardless of its roster makeup. That comes from the top.

What will you remember this year? For me, it’s Crawford’s granny in Pittsburgh; Belt’s bomb in the 18th in DC; Ishi’s shot; Bumgarner’s poise. Tonight it was Panik’s incredible diving stab and flip; again Bummy’s poise; and finally, Pablo’s Scutaro moment, making the final out and sprawling onto his back. That will be a hard one to forget, regardless of what jersey the Panda buttons up next year!

You knew Bum would pitch tonight. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind we’d see him. But 5 innings? 5 of the most heart-thumping, intense innings of his life? Madison Bumgarner literally put this team on his back, and carried them to victory in the biggest moment of his life. While you and I were yelling at our TV’s, this legend of a southpaw was pitching like he was back in Augusta, GA, circa 2008. 270 IP for the season, and he looked like he could have tossed 300 without flinching. He’s 25. 25! 3 rings and a World Series MVP trophy on his mantle… just like Pablo.

Pablo WS

I had an old college buddy (a fellow teacher and die-hard Giants fan) from Montana send me a congratulatory text tonight. I checked to see when we’d talked last. Turns out I sent a congrats text his way, two years ago to the day. I wonder what the occasion was. Winning does funny things, but it also brings people together. And for that I will be forever thankful.

There’s nothing like being a Giants fan these days. You can’t explain it to fans of other teams. We have literally become the most frustrating organization in baseball. Ask me how much I care. Seriously, ask me. ESPN called this the “Worst World Series Ever,” even before it started. I hope they forgot to tune in… idiots.

2014 World Series Champions. Let that sink in for a minute. Congratulations, Giants Nation! Enjoy your celebration, wherever you may be. It’s been one hell of a ride.

Join the Giants World Series Discussion on Padlet!

Just learned about this site at an educational technology conference this weekend, but my buddy and I thought it would work very well for sports fan forums as well. Padlet is like an online bulletin board. You can browse articles, videos, and pretty much anything else you can link to the board. You can also leave comments and post your own material to the page. Simply just double-click anywhere on the board to get started. I’ll be posting on this page tonight for Game 5, and I hope you’ll join me!

http://padlet.com/wall/y2pit5wwecsu

The Only Game in Town

I’ve found that (for me at least) the biggest moments are often the hardest to write about. The Giants are in Kansas City as we speak, mentally and physically preparing themselves for the final stand… and here I am, stumbling to coherently put my thoughts into words. But my goodness, what a run this has been!

This is the 25th anniversary of the Bay Bridge Series, you know. In mid-May, it seemed like the stars could align to bring the Series back to the Bay Area. On August 1, it was all but determined that Oakland would be carrying the AL flag, while the (excuse my pun) faults were starting to show through at 2nd and King in The City. How many times do we say it? This baseball, she’s a funny game.

On the eve of the Giants 3rd Fall Classic in the last half-decade, I wanted to share some thoughts that I’ve gathered about this organization, from the men who pull the strings down to the guys who put the mitts and cleats on every night. It is truly a difficult task for the rest of the baseball world to understand our situation as fans of this franchise. Between all the successes (and there have been so, so many in its history, both long ago and more recently), they’ve also made us wonder what in the heck was going on? They certainly aren’t world-beaters, and they’re not a star-laden team. Their best players (Posey and Bumgarner) are among the top young talents in the game, yet they aren’t a group that seeks the limelight. Forever the underdogs, you know they prefer it that way… everyone from Brian Sabean to Mike Krukow to the author of this blog hopes like hell that the baseball world continues to sell them short. There is absolutely nothing like a chip on the collective shoulder to push a team to great heights.

So here we are. The Giants, injury-riddled and barely treading water in September, are doing it again. Have they not become the most frustrating team for opposing franchises in baseball? Just when the engine seems ready to stall, they somehow find a gear before continuing the long trek to the summit. 18 inning marathons… walk-off wins on errors… rallies without hits… just HOW do they do it? A little bit of luck here and there, sure. But if these past five years have taught us anything, it’s that clubhouse chemistry goes a long, long way this time of year. From the rookies like Duffy, Panik and Susac to the gritty vets like Vogey, Peavy and Hudson, these guys love playing with each other. They love playing for Bruce Bochy. And they think think the world of those high-energy, quirky sellout crowds at AT&T Park every night. No matter which way you look at it, the Giants have one hell of a great thing going these days. And this franchise has sure figured out how to wreck a party or two this time of year as well. Just ask St. Louis.

When you win two rings like Sabean and Bochy have, especially in such a short amount of time, you get my benefit of the doubt. As far as I’m concerned, there are still way too many Sabean naysayers out there. He’s not a progressive-thinker. He complains too much about the budget. He favors his own guys too often. In my eyes, he’s built the classiest organization in baseball, and he’s done it all after saying goodbye to one of the game’s all-time legends (and lightning rods) in Barry Bonds. Sabean has his quirks, and he has definitely irked some folks in the business. But how many GM’s spend their nights dreaming of the October success he’s had? The attendance records, the oddly successful team PR campaigns… He’s helped build all of it.

The dynamic duo celebrating... another... pennant. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

The dynamic duo celebrating… another… pennant. Photo: Michael Macor / The Chronicle

But I’ll admit I was still incredibly angry at one point this season. I made it pretty clear via Twitter (stupid social media) that I felt there were offensive upgrades available on July 31, and that Sabean was essentially punting the season away by sitting on his hands. Belt and Pagan were injured, and the team was headed south in a hurry. But it was the one and only move that Sabes made the weekend before the deadline, and the players he stayed true to in his own system, that made all the difference. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you this with some confidence: Giants fans likely won’t miss Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree all that much. Hembree had been passed up for promotion too many times to be considered a serious prospect in the organization, and Escobar had been beaten around pretty good in the PCL this season.

Those guys netted Jake Peavy, and Peavy turned out to be one of the major reasons the Giants even found their way into the postseason.

As tempting as a trade for Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy or Ben Zobrist sounded at the time, this fan base would have had some serious moping to do in the next few years if Panik and Susac were shipped to another organization. Those kids, along with Duffy and a few others, returned credibility to a farm system that had been knocked left and right by the national pundits during the offseason. Save for a few loopy Giants bloggers (you can put me in that class), there wasn’t much hope for a system that hadn’t produced much talent since the Posey/Bumgarner/Belt days. I love what these guys are doing. Susac’s pinch-hit… Duffy’s gutsy base running (Matt Duffy!)… Panik’s first AT&T Park home run coming in the frickin’ clinching game of the NLCS. You have got to love these kids. Just ask DrB and Shankbone.Panik HR

It’s not a World Series post if you don’t mention Travis Ishikawa. My goodness, dude. What a story. Baseball, much like life, can bring you to your knees. It can also lift you back up when you least expect it. From an early-season DFA to a non 40-man AAA player, to late-season Belt replacement, to left fielder on the fly in the postseason. Sabean loves to reward guys who’ve contributed in the orange and black. I was laughed off the block in May when I suggested that Ishikawa was a nice pickup to stash away for late in the season just in case. One commenter told me he had bridges he wanted to sell me. Well, you can’t underestimate the power of MLB experience in this game. The guys who have been there before usually get the chances. Ishikawa gets thrust into a messy outfield situation in October, and he runs with it. If the Giants are leading late in Game 5, Bochy puts Perez out there. In a situation where you’re losing late in a huge postseason game, you go with the offense and sacrifice something on defense. And in the bottom of the 9th, when a rusty young (very talented) starting pitcher is hurling fastballs without a clue as to where they’re going, you sit dead-red on a mistake and swing like it’s your last day as a big leaguer. In all the great memories I have as a Giants fan in the last decade and a half, there may not have been one as awesome as Ishi’s walk-off. What a moment for him, and for this franchise. Travis Ishikawa. Postseason hero, and Giant for life.

I wanted to touch on a couple thoughts about the World Series itself. Most are calling “Destiny vs Dynasty,” while an idiot in Bristol, CT billed it as the “Worst World Series Ever.” What a crock. The Royals are young, confident and hungry. Like the Giants, they’ve overcome the odds and beaten some very good opponents this month. Unlike the Giants, they haven’t lost a single game this postseason. They’ll send Big Game James to the bump in front of a raucous crowd in KC, but his performance to this point doesn’t look very Big Game to me. Madison Bumgarner, country strong and 25 years young, has pitched 31 innings in these playoffs. With a  frickin’ 1.42 ERA. I really like the Giants chances in this one, and I’m very intrigued to see what will happen in KC if the Royals drop Game 1. All you have to do is take one game to knock the good vibes down a bit. Somehow or another, the Giants are always the underdog. But I’d be lying through my teeth if I told you i wasn’t confident in their chances. Don’t get me wrong, I expect a great series. The Royals, like the Giants, don’t get to this point without showing the ability to come back late in games and nail down late leads. You have to score early on them, and keep their “rabbits” off the bases. But I’m still expecting a 3rd ring in five years. Nothing less will suffice.

We’re at 1,500 words and I’ve barely mentioned Skipper Bochy, and how he’s out-managed the hell out of every opponent he faced in October (again). While Clint Hurdle was failing to utilize his bullpen matchups in Pittsburgh; while Matt Williams was watching his team play 9 extra innings from the clubhouse after GETTING HIMSELF TOSSED FROM A PLAYOFF GAME; while Mike Matheny was clenching his teeth with a wild starting pitcher on the hill in the bottom of the 9th in an elimination game, Bochy calmly won the battle. Replacing your closer in the 9th inning with a bases loaded, 2-out situation? That was one of the gutsiest, and wisest moves I’ve seen from a manager this time of year. Game plans go awry in October, and you have to be ready to adjust. Bochy does it better than anyone else. He’s not perfect, but he makes the right moves when it counts. We’ve come to expect it from him, and I expect no less this week.

It’s time to wrap this monster up, folks. If you’re still reading, thank you so much. When I started this blog last summer, I wondered if I’d ever get to write about another title. Less than two years later, here we are again. Win or lose this week, I’ll tell you this: I love this damn franchise. Kruk and Kuip have taught me the game of baseball, and I’d give anything to sit down and listen to them tell old stories just once. Madison Bumgarner and his obliteration of the 2008 South Atlantic League are the reason why I am the prospect follower I am today. Buster Posey is a man of high integrity. He’s a family-first, quiet but intimidating leader. If you want to model your life after someone, Posey’s not a bad choice. Future Derek Jeter? You won’t here any arguments from me. Seriously though, this team is full of guys (Pence, Pablo, Crawford, Belt, Morse, Blanco, Affeldt, Romo, Peavy, Huddy, Vogey, Timmy, on and on) you WANT to root for… and I think that in itself has been just as rewarding as the on-field success. What a great time to be a Giants fan.

Huddy loving the October run. C/O SFGiants Photos

Huddy loving the October run. C/O SFGiants Photos

I’ll leave you with these parting words. Mute the tv this week. Crank up KNBR. Tune out the national writer noise, and turn to the beat writer and fan perspective for your coverage. Enjoy the hell out of this run, people. We may never see one like it again. The Giants are the only game in town, the only game left on the docket for the 3rd time in five years.

Dynasty indeed.

Travis Ishikawa, Postseason Hero!

Words can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now. Maybe they will tomorrow!

For the time being, check out this little tidbit I dug up from late May. I knew it was in the archives somewhere!

I wish I could post some of the replies here. Let’s just say, a few folks questioned my intelligence. Five odd months later, he did this…

The 2014 San Francisco Giants. World Series bound.

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