Matt Cain

Matt Cain identifies biggest struggle in lackluster year

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SAN FRANCISCO — What could have been a turn-around start in a disappointing season for Matt Cain quickly turned into another bad loss.

After facing the minimun through three innings, Cain stared down Yasmani Grandal with runners at the corners, two outs and a chance to keep the Padres scoreless.

“I didn’t make the pitches that I needed to,” Cain said after allowing six earned runs in 7 1/3 innings in a 6-0 Giants loss, their 10th in the last 13 games. “I had good opportunities to get out of that without any runs and I made two mistakes — two big mistakes.”

[Instant Replay: Despaigne, Padres shut out Giants]

The first was an 86-mph changeup that hovered in the zone. Grandal hit it to a fan on the right-field facade for — after a three-minute replay delay — an RBI double. The second came next on a curveball to Tommy Medica that was turned around for a two-RBI double.

“The one to Grandal was really bad,” Cain said. “The pitch to Medica wasn’t terrible, but I maybe could have thrown it lower and farther away from him.

“I’ve got to make those pitches.”

That, Cain will tell you, has been his biggest problem this year.

“You’ve got to really make sure to bear down when you’ve got a chance to get out of the inning, you’ve got to take advantage of that,” he said.

Even if he escaped the fourth unscathed, though, it would have been tough for Cain to get the win on this night as the Giants were shut out by San Diego for the first time since September of 2010.

It was the ninth time in 12 starts that the Giants have provided two or fewer runs of support for Cain.

“He knows there’s things you can’t control — like getting run support,” Bochy said. “It seems like he’s had to deal with this since he’s come up to the major leagues.”

“I’m not going to complain about it,” Cain said flatly. “It’s not going to happen.”

But even his manager will acknowledge the emotions that a 1-6 start with a 4.82 ERA will elicit from a three-time All-Star.

“He’s human, I’m sure he’s frustrated,” Bochy said. “I could tell you he’s getting a little tired of it. He gives you all he has every game and he did tonight. We couldn’t get any runs for him. But I’m sure it’s wearing on him.”

Still, there is a clear positive to be gleaned from Monday’s loss. Cain recorded an out in the eighth inning for the just the second time this season.

“All you can do is go out there and give us a chance to win,” Bochy said. “You give up three runs going into the eighth inning, you’ve done that. And he did that tonight.”

What the Giants didn’t do on Monday was figure out Odrisamer Despaigne, the 27-year-old Cuban who made history by becoming the seventh pitcher to go seven or more shutout innings without a walk in his major league debut.

“He was just on,” said Hunter Pence, who had one of the Giants’ four hits. “All my at-bats were pretty tough.”

The Giants didn’t have much of an advanced scouting report for the right-hander. They did dredge up some high-angle video from Cuba, but nothing like the typical center field shot that shows pitch movement.

“Film does’t show what goes on in the game,” Pence said, avoiding an excuse.

In fact, you couldn’t find an excuse anywhere in the Giants clubhouse, but the team had better come up with one or two if it isn’t able to string together a few wins during this 10-game homestand.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.

Who wants Ian Desmond? Probably not the “long shot” Rays

Ian+Desmond+Baltimore+Orioles+v+Washington+DNMQvTzHgF2l
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Two weeks ago there were multiple reports linking the Rays to unsigned free agent shortstop Ian Desmond, but now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reports that Tampa Bay signing Desmond “is a long shot” because, like most other teams, they don’t want to forfeit a draft pick to do so.

Desmond significantly dropping his asking price could always change things, but the Nationals are said to be out of the mix to re-sign him after adding plenty of veteran infield depth. And the Padres, who were believed to have some interest last month, instead signed Alexei Ramirez to start at shortstop.

Desmond rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from the Nationals at the beginning of the offseason and previously turned down a $100 million contract extension offer to stay in Washington long term.

Ruben Amaro is workin’ out and gettin’ ready to coach first base

Ruben Amaro Jr.
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One of the weirder stories of the offseason was Ruben Amaro going from the Phillies front office to the Red Sox, where he’ll coach first base. That kind of transition is almost unheard of but it’s happening with old Rube.

Today Pete Abraham of the Globe has a story about how Amaro is preparing for the role. And how, while it may look weird on paper, the move actually makes a lot more sense than you might suspect given the Red Sox’ coaching staff and Amaro’s own background. It’s good stuff. Go check it out.

On a personal note, it serves as a signal to me to keep my eyes peeled for reports about Amaro from Fort Myers once camp gets started:

Amaro has been working out in recent weeks with his nephew Andrew, a Phillies prospect, to get ready for throwing batting practice and hitting fungoes.

Could we be so lucky as to get the first-ever Best Shape of His Life report for a coach? God, I hope so!

It’s pretty stupid that athletes can’t endorse beer

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner celebrates after pitching the Giants to a 8-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League wild card game in Pittsburgh Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) ORG XMIT: PAGP102
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One of the more amusing things to spin out of the Super Bowl were Peyton Manning’s little Budweiser endorsements in his postgame interviews. It was hilarious, really, to see him shoehorn in references to going and cracking a crisp cool Budweiser multiple times. It was more hilarious when a Budweiser representative tweeted that Manning was not paid to do that. Of course, Manning owns an interest in alcohol distributorships so talking about The King of Beers was in his best financial interest all the same.

After that happened people asked whether or not Manning would face discipline about this from the NFL, as players are not allowed to endorse alcoholic beverages. This seemed crazy to me. I had no idea that they were actually banned from doing so. Then I realized that, huh, I can’t for the life of me remember seeing beer commercials with active athletes, so I guess maybe it’s not so crazy. Ken Rosenthal later tweeted that Major League Baseball has a similar ban in place. No alcohol endorsements for ballplayers.

Why?

I mean, I can fully anticipate why the leagues would say athletes can’t do it. Think of the children! Role models! Messages about fitness! All that jazz. I suspect a more significant reason is that the leagues and their partners — mostly Anheuser-Busch/InBev — would prefer not to allow high-profile athletes to shill for a competitor. How bad would it look for Alex Rodriguez to do spots for Arrogant Bastard Ale when there are Budweiser signs hanging in 81% of the league’s ballparks? Actually, such ads would look WONDERFUL, but you know what I mean here.

That aside, it does strike me as crazy hypocritical that the leagues can rake in as much as they do from these companies while prohibiting players from getting in on the action. If it is kids they’re worried about, how can they deny that they endorse beer to children every bit as effectively and possibly more so than any one athlete can by virtue of putting it alongside the brands that are the NFL and MLB? Personally I don’t put much stock in a think-of-the-children argument when it comes to beer — it’s everywhere already and everyone does a good job of pushing the “drink responsibly” message — but if those are the leagues’ terms, they probably need to ask themselves how much of a distinction any one athlete and the entire league endorsing this stuff really is.

That aside, sports and beer — often sponsored by active players — have a long, long history together:

Musial

And the picture at the top of this post certainly shows us that Major League Baseball has no issues whatsoever in having its players endorse Budweiser in a practical sense.

Why can’t they get paid for doing it?