Slumping Giants can get younger, better

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Indications are that the Giants, losers of five in a row, are thinking about having Eric Hacker replace Todd Wellemeyer at the back of the rotation. It’d be another stopgap for a team that has generally given more weight to short-term solutions over long-term considerations during GM Brian Sabean’s time at the help.
Fortunately, the time is approaching at which those short-term needs and long-term goals will meet. Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are looking ready for the majors, and it’s going to make sense to bring both to San Francisco next month.
Bumgarner, who essentially had a rotation spot to lose this spring, has regained his velocity over the last month and gone 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in five May starts for Triple-A Fresno.
Posey has been hitting all season long, but only recently did the power start to come. He has four homers and seven doubles for Fresno this month, and he’s hitting .327/.422/.506 in 156 at-bats for the year.
There is one complication with both players. Since they were up last September, they already have a few weeks of service time. The Marlins can call up Mike Stanton on June 1 without any worries that he’ll be a super-two arbitration case after 2012. The Giants, though, would have to wait until around July 1 to be guaranteed that same protection with their two elite talents.
That might be too long, and the Giants probably won’t wait once they’re convinced the youngsters can help them win ballgames. Bumgarner, in particular, could make a big impact right away, given that the alternatives for the fifth spot in the rotation are less than stellar. The 27-year-old Hacker is 7-1 with a 2.20 ERA as Bumgarner’s rotationmate, but his fastball is below average and he major leaguers won’t be particularly vulnerable to his curve.
Inserting Posey into the mix would be more complicated. Bengie Molina got off to a great start, only to fall into an awful slump of late. He hasn’t had an extra-base hit since May 6 or an RBI since May 5.
The Giants, though, are happy with how Molina handles the pitching staff. And backup Eli Whiteside has done fine work in limited action, hitting .298/.340/.532 in 47 at-bats. The other position Posey can play, first base, is home to Aubrey Huff. Huff’s 800 OPS in unspectacular, but only part-timers Whiteside and Andres Torres have higher marks on the Giants.
Whether Posey gets the call in the next couple of weeks will probably be determined by how Molina bounces back. If Molina starts producing runs again, the Giants would rather have his experience behind the plate. Posey, though, is likely the second-best hitter in the organization at the moment, behind only Pablo Sandoval. He’d likely be an asset while catching two or three times a week and playing first base against lefties. The Giants have made the right move for his future in letting him catch regularly in Triple-A for two months, but it’s about time for a change.

CC Sabathia won’t visit the White House if the Yankees win the World Series

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Over the past couple of days the subject of athlete activism, always present to some degree in American sports, but recently revived by Colin Kaepernick and a few other football players in the form of silent protests during the National Anthem, exploded into a headline dominating news story. Lighting the fuse: President Trump directly inserting himself into the controversy.

He did so during a speech on Friday night and during a series of tweets Saturday and continuing into this morning in which he urged NFL owners to “fire” or suspend players who do not stand for the national anthem. He also attempted to disinvite the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from their traditional White House visit because of their star player Stephen Curry’s public opposition to him, though Curry had already said he wouldn’t go.

As Ashley wrote last night, the silent anthem protests have now come to baseball, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell becoming the fist player to kneel during the National Anthem. Before that, at least one baseball executive, Orioles Vice President John P. Angelos, came out strongly on the side of players and against Trump. Joe Maddon said some less-than-enlightened words on the matter. Major League Baseball issued a statement on the matter. It was, not surprisingly, somewhat empty, taking something of a both-sides-have-good-points tack. It’s understandable, I suppose. I suspect Major League Baseball and its owners would prefer to not have to comment on this at all. The league does not do this sort of controversy well.

Ballplayers, however, will likely continue to speak up. The latest: Yankees starter CC Sabathia, who was asked yesterday whether he would visit the White House if the playoff-bound Yankees won the World Series. From the Daily News:

“Never. I just don’t believe in anything that is Trump. So there wouldn’t be any reason for me to go at all. I just think it’s stupid. I just think it’s dumb that he’s addressing players and stuff that he shouldn’t be. But it is what it is, and that’s the country we live in these days . . . I’m proud of the way that everybody has Steph’s back and just athletes in general these days, the way everybody has been stepping up has been great.”

Baseball players, as we’ve noted many times over the years, tend to be a more conservative bunch than football or basketball players. There are a lot more white players and a lot more players from southern, suburban and exurban areas. A significant number of racial-ethnic minority players were not born in the United States, so U.S. politics may not necessarily preoccupy them the way it may players from the United States. As such, political protest like we’ve seen in the NFL and NBA was never going to start in baseball in 2017.

But that does not mean that it was not going to come to baseball. Contrary to what so many fans seem to think, sports do not exist inside some bubble into which the real world does not intrude. Athletes are citizens just like you and me with social, political and personal concerns just like you and me. And, at the moment, a government official is demanding that they lose their jobs because he does not agree with their political views and the manner in which they are expressed. I suspect most of us would get upset by that if it happened to us. Certainly a lot of people I know on the conservative side of the political expression worried about government overreach and freedom of speech. At least before January of this year.

So I am not at all surprised that baseball players like Sabathia are beginning to speak out. He will not be the last. Others will join him. Others, as is their right, will push back and say they disagree with him. If and when people feel inspired to tell them to “stick to sports,” or “stay in their lane,” perhaps they should ask why the President of the United States decided not to do so himself. And ask why he thinks it’s appropriate for athletes to lose their jobs for their political views and why private entities like the NFL should be patriotic institutions rather than businesses which put on sporting events.

 

Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.