I remember watching some Reds-Pirates and Braves-Pirates games on TV in the mid-80s and seeing a guy named Sam Khalifa play shortstop for Pittsburgh. I don’t recall anything notable. I just remember the name and some announcer noting that the American-born Khalifa was (my memory had it) of Libyan or Egyptian or Tunisian extraction. Or something like that. I had completely forgotten about him until this morning.
Why this morning? Because this morning I read Paul Brownfield’s engrossing story about Khalifa in the New York Times, and I now know everything I’d want to know. And so much of it is sad: in 1989 Khalifa had reached a crossroads in his baseball career and left his minor league team. Five months later his father — an idiosyncratic and divisive Muslim leader in Tucson — was brutally murdered. Khalifa never played ball again. He now drives a taxi in Tucson. The story is about Khalifa, his father and the trial of the man accused of his murder.
It’s a slow news day. Take some time to read this fascinating story.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.