Month: September 2012

Potential 2012 Giants Postseason Roster

Bruce Bochy has been very quiet about what his postseason roster is going to look like. Now that the Giants have formally announced that they won’t bring Melky Cabrera with them to the postseason, the Giants’ coaches and management can bring along the players that truly helped them win the NL West. Bochy says that he is close to finalizing the 25-man roster, and one of the last things he has to consider is whether to have 11 or 12 pitchers. If he only has 11, he has to decide which position player will take that extra spot. When discussing this idea, Bochy brought up the disastrous 2003 playoffs that continue to haunt Giants fans today.

In 2003, the Giants decided to carry 12 pitchers on the roster because Jason Schmidt had a lingering elbow injury. Because of this, they were forced to leave off their fast outfielder, Eric Young. In Game 4 of the Division Series, the Marlins held a 2-1 lead in the series over the Giants and had a one-run lead in the ninth inning. Jeffrey Hammonds hit a single, and J.T. Snow tried to score from second. Snow was never known for his speed and was tagged out at home on a throw from Jeff Conine. Snow tried to hit the catcher, Ivan Rodriguez, hard enough that he might drop the ball, but Rodriguez, a future Hall of Famer, was able to hold on and give the Marlins the series win. If Young had been on the postseason roster, he could’ve pinch run for Snow and easily scored on the play. Therefore, the Giants are being cautious about bringing on too many pitchers, which could cost them speed.

Emmanuel Burriss

So who could the Giants bring on for speed? The two most likely options are Justin Christian or Emmanuel Burriss. Francisco Peguero has been used in several pinch-running situations, but both Christian and Burriss have more experience and could provide some more versatility than Peguero would. Both Christian and Burriss aren’t known for their hitting, but both can play solid defense, and, of course, both are fast enough to steal some bases and give the Giants an advantage in their running game. Christian provides depth in the outfield, and Burriss provides depth in the infield. If Hector Sanchez really is going to catch Lincecum and possibly Zito in the playoffs and Buster Posey plays first base, then Belt would most likely play in left field those games, which would give the Giants some extra outfield depth. Since Blanco, Nady, Pagan, and Pence will also be on the postseason roster as well, it might make more sense for the Giants to bring on Burriss if they want to add some speed, but it’s a very close call. Burriss also has more major-league experience than Christian, which could be imperative in the playoffs.

Bochy also hasn’t fully decided on what the starting rotation will look like either. It’s pretty certain that Matt Cain will start Game 1 of the Division Series and that Madison Bumgarner will start Game 2. Tim Lincecum might be starting Game 3, but his recent performance in San Diego might make the Giants re-think this idea. Bochy has said that Zito and Vogelsong will both make the playoff roster and could potentially start based on matchups. If not, one or both of them will be available as a long reliever, if Lincecum is one of the starters. There are also a lot of questions involving relief pitchers. The five relief pitchers that are pretty much guaranteed a spot are Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Jose Mijares. This leaves one more spot open for a relief pitcher and it will most likely come down to George Kontos and Guillermo Mota. Kontos has been solid all year, but is young, which might give an edge to Mota. The fact that the Giants brought Mota back after his suspension shows that Bochy really believes in Mota and his abilities, which suggests that he will most likely be the 11th pitcher. If the Giants do decide to bring a 12th pitcher, then it seems as if Bochy would choose Kontos in that case.

Aubrey Huff

The Giants have to also consider some players that could come off the bench in pinch-hitting situations. It’s almost entirely certain that the Giants won’t bring on Eli Whiteside, Brett Pill, and Peguero. Some of the backup position players to consider for roster spots are Huff, Theriot, and either Christian or Burriss for speed. This season, Huff hasn’t been a starter, which is what he was used to being throughout his whole career. With Belt’s emergence as a reliable hitter, Huff has had to accept his role as a bench player, and, as of recently, has been pinch hitting pretty well. He can provide a left-handed bat off the bench, which is valuable to have in the playoffs. However, if Huff makes the roster, it makes even more sense to go with 11 pitchers and bring on Burriss, because Huff will need a pinch runner if he can reach base. Theriot is a solid, veteran player with lots of playoff experience and he also provides some infield depth. He could be the primary right-handed batter off the bench too. Then, if the Giants decide to carry only 11 pitchers, either Christian or Burriss could take the 25th roster spot.

Here’s a look at what the 2012 Giants postseason roster would mostly likely look like with 11 pitchers:

1. Bumgarner
2. Lincecum
3. Cain
4. Zito
5. Vogelosong
6. Affeldt
7. Casilla
8. Romo
9. Lopez
10. Mijares
11. Mota
12. Posey
13. Sanchez
14. Arias
15. Belt
16. Crawford
17. Sandoval
18. Scutaro
19. Blanco
20. Nady
21. Pagan
22. Pence
23. Huff
24. Theriot
25. Burriss

Here’s what the 2012 Giants postseason roster would most likely look like with 12 pitchers:

1. Bumgarner
2. Lincecum
3. Cain
4. Zito
5. Vogelosong
6. Affeldt
7. Casilla
8. Romo
9. Lopez
10. Mijares
11. Mota
12. Kontos
13. Posey
14. Sanchez
15. Arias
16. Belt
17. Crawford
18. Sandoval
19. Scutaro
20. Blanco
21. Nady
22. Pagan
23. Pence
24. Huff
25. Theriot

The final decisions on the postseason roster will come down to Kontos and Burriss. Even though the starting rotation isn’t totally set yet, Bochy has already said that all five starters will make the postseason roster. In terms of the final positions available, Bochy has to decide if he wants to add some speed to the roster, which could pay off in close-game situations near the end of the game, or whether he wants to have an extra pitcher available and not have to potentially overwork Romo, Lopez, etc.

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The Worst Call in NFL History

The Seahawks took on the Packers in last night’s Monday Night Football matchup, and many fans expected the Packers to cruise to the victory. Mike Perry of Sportsbook.ag, a large sports betting establishment in Las Vegas, said that up to 85% of the bets for last night’s game were in favor of the Packers winning. According to the footage, the Packers did earn the victory. However, the NFL replacement refs gave the game to the Seahawks on what was arguably the worst call ever made in NFL history. With eight seconds left in the game, Seattle faced a 4th-and-10 from the Packers 24, so the Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was forced to throw a Hail Mary. The refs ruled that Golden Tate caught the game-winning touchdown when video proves that it was, in fact, a game-winning interception by M.D. Jennings. This gave the Seahawks the controversial 14-12 victory.

Watch the play here:

To be fair, the Seahawks were playing excellent defense in the first half of the game and were able to sack Aaron Rodgers eight times. However, in this low-scoring game, there were several calls near the end of the game that really impacted the result negatively. Many of the calls seemed to go the Seahawks’ way and should’ve been called differently, according to the replays. There was also an immense amount of confusion among the refs themselves at the end of the game. One ref called a touchdown and one called a touchback (meaning that the Packers would win), and this uncertainty shows the replacement refs’ complete ignorance and incompetence in situations like this. The calls were so wrong that it almost calls for speculation as to if the Seahawks actually paid off the replacement refs. The replacement refs have already had a history with inappropriate alliances with NFL teams this season. Brian Stropolo, a replacement ref, was assigned to the Saints-Panthers game last Sunday and was pulled from the assignment because of his open allegiance as a Saints fan.

The coaches, players, and fans have all shown disapproval of the newly appointed replacement refs, since the normal refs are currently in a labor dispute with the league. Many of these refs have very little or no officiating experience at even the college level and, honestly, weren’t good or qualified enough to ref at the college level. These refs only have experience at the high school level and maybe at the Division III college level, which is simply just insufficient for NFL games. The replacement refs have been accused of calling too many penalties, calling the wrong penalties, taking longer to “choose” the penalty, and even something as simple as forgetting the announce the number of the player that the penalty is on. Drew Brees, who has always been known for his class and integrity, said about the replacement refs, “You know, I think it’s getting to a point where it’s pretty horrendous and it’s an embarrassment to the league and the way it’s being conducted.”

On the final play of the game, the refs called a touchdown on the field, but reviewed it shortly after. Even after review, the refs said the ruling was correct, even though the video clearly proves that Jennings had and retained possession of the ball and Tate didn’t. Rodgers said in the post-game press conference, “It was awful. Just look at the replay. And then the fact that it was reviewed, it was awful. That’s all I’m going to say about it.” Even Tate was unsure if he caught the ball before Jennings. “I think so. … Oh, well maybe he did. But I took it from him,” Tate said. When Tate and Jennings hit the ground after the catch, the officials ruled that it was a “simultaneous catch,” which is described below:

  • Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5 states:
    Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball.

 
The officials claimed that both Tate and Jennings caught the ball and retained it, and, therefore, the offensive player, Tate, had to be rewarded with the ball, which means it would be a touchdown. The NFL backed up the officials’ decision to call the play a “simultaneous catch.” However, in the replays, it is blatantly obvious that Tate didn’t even catch it. He had an arm on it, but he didn’t have possession of the ball, so the simultaneous catch argument is completely irrelevant. Even if he had gained possession of the ball at some point, Tate said himself that he wasn’t sure when he caught the ball and that he “took the ball from him [Jennings],” meaning the call of “simultaneous catch” is still wrong no matter what.

The NFL released a statement earlier today about how the league will not overturn the ruling by the officials. However, the league points out another call that the replacement refs missed at the end of the game. “While the ball is in the air, Tate can be seen shoving Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields to the ground. This should have been a penalty for offensive pass interference, which would have ended the game. It was not called and is not reviewable in instant replay.” The league admitted to the fact that deciding who caught the ball and who had possession is, in reality, irrelevant, because Tate committed a penalty before the catch even happened. His offensive pass interference, that should have been penalized, would have ended the play and, therefore, the game. The replacement refs messed up on every single aspect of reviewing and calling this play, which is shameful and gives the NFL a bad image.

With all of this evidence going against the replacements refs’ ability to officiate a game properly in the NFL, the league needs to reach an agreement with the normals refs immediately. Based on the severity of these missed calls, money should not even be an issue anymore. Bringing back the normal refs is too important to the image of preservation of the NFL. Rodgers spoke out today about the importance of ending the labor dispute with the normal refs. “NFL obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished a little bit,” Rodgers said. The poor decision-making of the replacement refs decided this game and gave the Seahawks the win. The result of such a mistake not only affects the Seahawks and the Packers, but it also affects all of the NFC North and the NFC West, and, honestly, the entire NFC. The result of this game could have serious playoff implications later on in the season, because it could affect which teams make the playoffs. It also affects how fans view the league and their future viewing of games. Because of this horrible decision, the NFL’s popularity could potentially be severely hurt. We’ll see if the NFL can recover from this mess.

Skip Bayless vs. Kevin Durant

One of the biggest pieces of “breaking news” for the NBA recently is that LeBron James and Kevin Durant were, once again, working out together this offseason. Before this past season, these two worked out together during the lockout, and many people wondered why Durant was working out with “the enemy.” Some say though that if you want to get better, compete against someone who’s better than you are, so maybe this is the approach Durant chose to take last year and this year again. According to Skip Bayless, Durant is making the wrong move here by working out with James. He claims that LeBron finally won an NBA championship because when Durant guarded him, Durant allowed James to attack the basket, play freely, and play how he wanted to. When James and the Heat lost to the Mavericks in the Finals last season, the Mavericks were able to get under his skin and frustrate him defensively. Bayless claims that since Durant and James became “best buddies” during the offseason prior to when James won the Championship, James was able to play more comfortably and dictate more on offense.

Watch more of Bayless’ opinion here.

Some memorable quotes from the video:
1. “Kevin Durant is falling right into LeBron James’ trap.” -Skip Bayless
2. “LeBron is a shrewd operator, and he knows full well that you keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” -Skip Bayless
3. “I say, once again, Kevin Durant, congratulations. You are owned by LeBron James. Have fun in next year’s NBA Finals, finishing second again.” -Skip Bayless
4. “Kevin Durant is not owned by anybody. You have to contend with that brother. He is not a star. He is a superstar.” -Stephen A. Smith

In response to Bayless, Durant tweeted “@RealSkipBayless u brainwashing these people out here, they think since you on espn you know what you talkin bout…please, nobody owns me.” Durant quickly deleted the tweet soon after though. Watch Bayless’ opinion on Durant’s response here.

Some more memorable quotes from the video:
1. “I’ve said many times to you, he [Kevin Durant] is my favorite player in the league. But repeatedly, when I’ve tried to help him or protect him or defend him, he responds by attacking me, saying I have no idea what I’m talking about.” -Skip Bayless to Stephen A. Smith
2. “Psychologically, LeBron now owns Kevin Durant. I love Kevin. I’ll make the case to you that he’s still a better player all-around than LeBron James, but right now, he’s falling right back into the trap of getting too close to his primary threat. This is his primary rival, and LeBron’s biggest threat to winning multiple rings is now Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.” -Skip Bayless to Stephen A. Smith
3. “I’m just trying to help you, and, someday, Kevin Durant, you’ll wake up and say ‘You know what? He was right about this.'” -Skip Bayless
4. “He’s not going to say that because you didn’t sit there and say that he’s losing his competitive edge. You said he’s owned, and I don’t know any man, with any degree of integrity, including you, who would concede ownership of yourself to another human being.” -Stephen A. Smith

So, who is right in this debate? Is Skip Bayless right that Durant is “getting too close to his primary threat” and that this will result in more rings for LeBron and not Durant? Or is Stephen A. Smith right that Durant is allowed to feel disrespected based on what Bayless said? I think that Bayless has some elements to his argument that are true. I do believe that James was able to dominate offensively during the NBA Finals against Durant, but not necessarily because they’re too close of friends. I believe that Durant, despite his long reach and his wingspan, is not that strong defensively and didn’t defend James well enough overall. Against James, defenders need to step up even more than usual, so Durant didn’t respond as he should have defensively. It is true that James might have naturally felt more comfortable playing against Durant because they’ve played each other and worked out together many times, and that was one of the reasons why he was successful against him in the Finals. However, that’s not the only reason why Durant wasn’t successful guarding James, but it is an important factor to consider in this debate. I also agree with Stephen A. Smith that Bayless doesn’t need to be so harsh and thoughtless when saying Durant was now “owned” by James, because that is extremely disrespectful.

In baseball and according to Mike Krukow, the Giants broadcaster, a hitter can have “ownage” over a pitcher if they have an impressive batting average and have had success against a pitcher very often. However, the concept of “ownage” doesn’t mean that this specific hitter owns this pitcher, even if it is psychologically. This particular hitter has had great success against this pitcher, but that doesn’t mean that he owns and takes over the mind of the pitcher in a dominant or superior way. A hitter’s high batting average against a pitcher might give him confidence in the batter’s box, but that doesn’t mean the pitcher can’t come right back and strike him out and humble him a little. The term “owning” in basketball is completely different. There is no statistic that measures someone’s field goal percentage against one specific defender, and that’s why “ownage” never comes up. Basketball is too much of a team sport to consider one player “owning” another player. A player might perform well when playing against another player, but that doesn’t mean he “owns” the other player, because there are so many other factors that go into a player’s success.

LeBron James might have won a title now, but that doesn’t mean he is more superior to Kevin Durant. Plenty of people have won NBA Championships, but that doesn’t mean they are superior to someone who hasn’t won one. For example, Adam Morrison won two NBA titles with the Lakers. Is he more superior to Durant? Does he “own” Durant? Not even close. In fact, that notion would be ridiculously absurd. LeBron James might feel more comfortable around Kevin Durant now that he’s played against him more and that might mean that he’ll play better offensively against him, but in no way does that mean that he “owns” Kevin Durant or that he ever will. Durant isn’t necessarily getting too close to “the enemy” though. If James feels comfortable playing against Durant, then Durant needs to respond by stepping up and playing even better when he goes up against James. There will always be a debate about if Durant or James is better. However, there should never be a debate on if LeBron James “owns” Kevin Durant. Bayless brings up an interesting point, but he hurts his credibility and his argument by using harsh, unnecessary words. He needs to respect the players and respect the game.

Super Sunday for S.F. Sports

Pardon the almost incessant alliteration used in the title, but speaking as a Giants and 49ers fan, yesterday was pretty much the perfect sports day. The Niners kicked off “Super Sunday” with a 30-22 win over last season’s MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Alex Smith completed 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Smith earned a 125.6 quarterback rating, which is quite impressive compared to Rodgers’ 93.3 rating. Also, David Akers converted a 63-yard field goal at the end of the first half, which tied him for the longest made field goal in NFL history. The 49ers went into the fourth quarter with a 23-7 lead, but they knew their lead wasn’t secure while facing one of the best offenses in the league. Thankfully, the 49ers boast one of the best defenses in the league, so the fourth quarter would prove to be quite a battle. “It wasn’t perfect by any means,” Smith said, “but good team football, everybody helping each other.”

The Packers got back into the game off of a 75-yard punt return touchdown by wideout Randall Cobb. The Packers followed with a two-point conversion, and, suddenly, they were back in the game. At this point, the defense stepped up. NaVorro Bowman intercepted a pass thrown by Rodgers, which provided a big change in momentum. “We fought to the end,” Gore said. “Our defense made plays when they had to.” The Niners offense then took over and on the very next play, Frank Gore ran 23 yards to give them another touchdown. The Niners went on to preserve their lead and eventually win a great battle. “Really proud of our guys,” Harbaugh said. “They played with a lot of fight, a lot of heart, and a lot of courage.”

Watch highlights here.

The other half of “Super Sunday,” the Giants vs. Dodgers game at AT&T Park, proved to be just as exciting for the fans. It was supposed to be a Barry Zito and Clayton Kershaw matchup, but Kershaw was scratched right before the game with a minor right hip injury, even though he said he could’ve pitched. Joe Blanton was the replacement starter for the Dodgers, and the Giants have had good luck against him in the past. In his last 11 outings against the Giants, Kershaw has a 7-3 record with a 1.21 ERA. The Giants surely were glad that they didn’t have to face Kershaw, even though, out of respect, none of them fully said that. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Bochy said. “We haven’t done a lot with him.” In fact, Zito ended up being the star of this game. He pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowed four hits, and no runs. Bochy praised Zito’s concentration and Buster Posey credited Zito’s confidence as reasons why he was so effective. Giants fans have started to believe in Zito more, giving yet him another standing ovation when he came out of the game. “The atmosphere tonight was probably more electric than I’ve ever seen,” Zito said.

Hunter Pence drove in the first two runs of the game off a two-out double in the first inning. “It’s about picking each other up,” Bochy said. “Those two-out hits win ball games for you. It helps guys relax.” In the fifth, Angel Pagan had his 11th triple of the year, one shy of the Giants’ season record, and Marco Scutaro drove him in with a perfectly executed sacrifice fly to make the game 3-0. In the sixth inning, Posey led off the inning with a great at-bat against Blanton. In the 12 pitch at-bat, Posey fouled off six pitches then concluded the at-bat with a big home run to center field to make the score 4-0 Giants. Posey really bolstered his MVP campaign this weekend as he displayed immense talent on both offense and defense while on national television. “With what he’s done for us — here you have a guy who is your catcher and is hitting cleanup and he’s carried us at times,” Bochy said. “I can’t think of a guy more valuable for a club than Buster is for us.”

Watch highlights here.

The start of the NFL season is one of the best days of the year for many fans. September baseball always showcases drama and intense competition, especially when watching the Giants. San Francisco sports fans were in for great sports action all around on “Super Sunday.” The Niners proved to all of the NFL that they are once again a contender, and last year’s success wasn’t a fluke. The Giants solidified their lead in the NL West and sent a message to the Dodgers that if they want to get into the playoffs, they’re going to have to go through the wild card. Both teams appeared dominant and more confident than ever, which was great to see as a San Francisco sports fan.

Andy Roddick’s Last Run

On August 30th, Andy Roddick announced that he would retire after the U.S. Open. “I just feel like it’s time. I don’t know that I’m healthy enough or committed enough to go another year,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to, in a perfect world, finish at this event.” Roddick then faced Bernard Tomic in his second round match and won 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. In the third round, Roddick faced Fabio Fognini and won 7-5, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. In his Round of 16 match today, Juan Martin Del Potro beat Roddick in the final match of his career 6-7, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Right before Roddick’s match against Tomic, he said, “I think I wanted an opportunity to say goodbye to people, as well. I don’t know how tomorrow’s going to go, and I hope it goes well, and I’m sticking around.” Roddick has been the best American tennis player in the past decade, so many fans must have appreciated his desire to say goodbye at the U.S. Open. After Roddick’s announcement of his retirement, he claimed that he also received so much support from fans all over the world. This support must have pushed him through the next couple rounds, because for the rest of his matches, Arthur Ashe Stadium was packed with fans wanting to witness Roddick play at this last tournament. With all this support, Roddick hadn’t shown too much emotion in his matches over his decision to retire. He appeared to remain focused, and, frankly, he was playing great tennis so he didn’t have to think about retirement yet.

Once Del Potro started to settle into the match today though, the crowd suddenly started to realize that this might actually be the end. After today’s loss, all the fans in Arthur Ashe Stadium and watching at home were extremely emotional. Roddick could barely even look over at his box, because he didn’t want to see how emotional his trainer, his coach, his parents, and his wife were. Del Potro showed such class after the match and truly let it be Roddick’s moment. Roddick was able to address the crowd after the loss and here is what he said:

Roddick said he’d been contemplating retirement for a while now. He’s faced more injuries in the past couple years than he has ever in his career, and he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to play a whole other year. Roddick knew he wanted to retire at the U.S. Open though because of the immense fan support he always receives, and because this is where he won his only Grand Slam tournament in 2003. “I’ve thought all year that I would know when I got to this tournament,” he said, “and when I played the first round, I knew.” Watch the press conference where he announced his retirement below:

Overall, Andy Roddick had an incredible career. He made U.S. tennis relevant again, he became a leader amongst the American tennis players, he provided humor in his matches and his press conferences, and he consistently displayed exceptional class and respect for the game. He will be missed immensely in the game of tennis for many years to come. Roddick might not have always been the best player in the world, but he was certainly one of the most fun to watch. Congratulations to Andy Roddick on a fantastic career!

Check out some of the top moments of Roddick’s career here.