Author: Craig Calcaterra

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Brian Sabean pushed all of the right buttons this year


KANSAS CITY — On July 25, this man played second base for the San Francisco Giants:

source: Getty Images

Yes, that’s Dan Uggla. He of the complete and utter nosedive in production and the albatross contract in Atlanta. The Giants picked him up when the Braves released him because, really, they had no other options. Marco Scutaro suffered a gnarly back injury which basically put him on the shelf for the year and none of his replacements were really getting the job done. They had almost completely frittered away their lead in the NL West which, at one point, had been as big as ten games and the Giants were desperate.

Uggla failed of course. I guess he still gets a World Series ring because the Giants give them to everyone, but he failed and he was sent packing just a few days later. At that point Sabean decided to let Joe Panik, one of those replacements for Scutaro, have the job. Panik improved all season long. Tonight he made the key defensive play of the game, turning a sweet double play that halted a would-be Royals rally. Sabean’s decision paid off.

As did many others. Trading for Jake Peavy who, while he laid an egg in the World Series, certainly helped the Giants stay afloat when they were sinking. Taking a chance on Michael Morse when a lot of teams passed. The Tim Hudson deal. Not that this is new for Sabean and the Giants. In the past he picked up Burrell, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross. Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. Way back in the day he got Jeff Kent when everyone thought he should keep Matt Williams.

Obviously there are a couple of great players here, both drafted by Sabean, in Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. But the Giants have not, at really any time in Sabean’s tenure, been a dominant team. A team everyone looked at in March and said “yep, they’re gonna win the World Series.” But here they are tonight, hoisting their third trophy in five seasons. And one of the biggest reasons for that is the guy in the front office, always doing little things to make the Giants better.

Madison Bumgarner pitches the Giants to their third World Series win in five seasons

Madison Bumgarner

KANSAS CITY — It’s a cliche that someone in some P.R. office came up with, but in Madison Bumgarner’s case it’s true: October is when legends are born.

The Giants ace came out of the bullpen after four innings and, on two days rest, absolutely dazzled. He pitched five innings, allowed only two hits didn’t walk anyone and struck out four while shutting down and shutting out the Royals. The Royals who never looked like they had a chance against him.

Even in the ninth, when Alex Gordon wound up on third base following a misplay of his single by Gregor Blanco in center, you didn’t get the sense that Bumgarner would break. Not with a hobbled Salvador Perez at the plate, still obviously feeling the effects of being hit by a pitch earlier in the game. Not even if Perez was healthy, actually. Bumgarner was nothing if not cool this entire month. And while 40,000-plus Royals fans in attendance may have had faith, those with less defined rooting interests didn’t think it was possible. And in the end, it wasn’t.

This postseason has been defined by armchair managers second-guessing everything the real skippers have done. But Game 7 of the World Series didn’t allow for too much of that. One could question Ned Yost allowing Jeremy Guthrie to start the fourth inning rather than going with Kelvin Herrera. One could certainly ask why Yost never pinch hit for one of his lefties once Bumgarner was in the game — I think I just saw Josh Willingham’s face on a milk carton — but it was only with two outs in the ninth that the Royals even threatened. And then it wasn’t much of a threat.

For the most part, the managers handled things like a Game 7 should be handled. Bruce Bochy using his best pitcher for the duration (though I imagine Bumgarner would snap Bochy’s neck before surrendering the ball). Yost’s only relievers were Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. All of whom, with the exception of Herrera’s first few pitches — did their jobs. There was no tomorrow for either team, and each manager, more or less, managed like there was no tomorrow.

No, this game was decided by the players. By some key singles and a few sac flies. By some excellent defense by the Giants – they turned two double plays, one of them spectacular and rally-squelching — and by great pitchers throwing great stuff.

But one was greater than the others. One, the obvious choice for World Series MVP, won two games in this Fall Classic and saved Game 7, turning in an instant classic tonight. Madison Bumgarner, a legend is born.

Game 7 live blog: The Giants are World Series Champions!

Madison Bumgarner

A strikeout of Eric Hosmer. A foul out by Billy Butler. Then Alex Gordon reached third on a single that Brandon Crawford misplayed and allowed to roll to the wall. But then Bumgarner bore down got Sal Perez to foul out to Pablo Sandoval. So . . .


Keep it locked on HBT, as we’ll be recapping Game 7 and the end of the 2014 baseball season as the night and early morning wears on.

11:09 PM: Greg Holland pitches the ninth. He retired Brandon Belt, Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford in order.

And now we go to the bottom of the ninth. And out comes Madison Bumgarner for three more outs. A legend is about to be unequivocally born.

11:01 PM: Another 1-2-3 inning for Bumgarner. Another inning in which Ned Yost let a lefty bat against him. I don’t think that’s the difference between trailing and a lead here — Bumgarner is straight dealing — but it is curious. The Giants are three Royals outs away from their third World Series win in five season.

10:51 PM: Wade Davis gets through the eighth after working around a Pablo Sandoval double. And now Greg Holland is warming, likely to take over in the ninth. Tip your hat to Ned. If he’s goin’ down tonight, he’s goin’ down with his best guys on the hill. He didn’t always have his best guys in the batter’s box — why he hasn’t pinch hit for his lefties against Madison Bumgarner I have no idea — but the big guns are pitching tonight.

10:43 PM: Madison Bumgarner on for his third inning of work. He threw 27 pitches through his first two. Before the game Bruce Bochy said he could go 50 or 60. You feel like, once this ball got rolling, though, that Bumgarner would pitch until he just couldn’t anymore.

He opened the seventh by getting Sal Perez to fly out to right. Then Mike Moustakas grounded to third. Then Omar Infante struck out. He needed only nine pitches. He may close this damn thing out at this point.

10:33 PM: Wade Davis came on in the seventh to relieve Herrera. You have to figure it’s him and Greg Holland the rest of the way. Davis struck out Brandon Crawford and Juan Perez and then got Gregor Blanco to ground out to short. Good things happen when you use your best pitchers. It’s something a lot of managers who are home watching this game on TV might’ve done well to remember this postseason.

10:26 PM: All Madison Bumgarner does is pitch like a man possessed in the World Series. Coming in to tonight, he had a career line of 4-0, a shutout, 27 strikeouts and a batting average against of .120. He just finished his second inning tonight — the sixth — and is cruising again. He got Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon all to fly or pop out. When Butler did he offered up a quite audible “God dammit!” The entire city of Kansas City is learning to do the same when Bumgarner is on the mound. The Giants lead 3-2 after six.

10:17 PM: Kelvin Herrera just pitched in his third inning — two and two-thirds, actually — and escaped trouble. He allowed a leadoff single to Pablo Sandoval but then induced Hunter Pence to hit into a double play. Brandon Belt singled but then Herrera reached back and struck out Michael Morse.

It was scarcely a month ago that Ned Yost outraged everyone by insisting that the seventh inning and the seventh inning only belonged to Kelvin Herrera. Tonight he brought him in in the fourth and let him finish out the sixth. Say whatever the hell you want about the managers here, but they are managing, appropriately enough, as if there is no tomorrow. Good for them. Good for us. And a great effort by Herrera after settling down.

10:06PM: Bringing in Bumgarner was not a matter of it, it was a matter of when. And when was the fifth inning. The first batter he faced, Omar Infante, reached on a single. Then Ned Yost — despite only having 15 outs to play with for the rest of the whole damn year, gave one up by having Alcides Escobar bunt Infante to second. The second out came on a Nori Aoki fly out to left. Then Bumgarner struck out Lorenzo Cain. So far, so good for the man who stands to be the World Series MVP if the Giants hold on.

Oh, and then there’s this:

9:54 PM: Herrera deals in the fifth. He got Gregor Blanco to line out on his second pitch and then struck out both Joe Panik and Buster Posey.

And now Madison Bumgarner is coming in to pitch the fifth inning. He was met with a chorus of boos by the Royals fans when he made his appearance. This should be fun.

9:48 PM: Jeremy Affeldt hit leadoff batter Alex Gordon with a breaking ball that didn’t break, but Sal Perez followed that up by hitting into a double play, the second one turned by San Francisco tonight. Mike Moustakas grounded out third to make it three up, three down. We head into the fifth with the Giants up 3-2.

9:38 PM: Maybe it was too late. Michael Morse came up and laced a single to right, scoring Sandoval. Herrera then struck out Brandon Crawford and got Juan Perez to ground out to short. Giants lead 3-2 in the fourth.

9:29 PM: Brandon Belt flew out to deep left, allowing Sandoval to tag and make it to third. A pretty ballsy send by the third base coach, really, but it worked. With that runners are on the corners, one out and Jeremy Guthrie is officially out of the game. Kelvin Herrera is in. Royals fans had best hope this isn’t too late.

9:26 PM: The fourth inning for the Giants started with Pablo Sandoval reaching first when Alcides Escobar slipped trying to field his grounder to short. That was followed by a single by Hunter Pence. Two on, no one out. Ned Yost just got Kelvin Herrera up and warming. He probably should’ve had him warm to start the inning.

9:17 PM: Our first replay challenge of the night comes in the bottom of the third. With a runner on, Eric Hosmer grounded to second. Joe Panik made a slick-as-hell play to rob Hosmer of a hit that would’ve caused this crowd to explode and shoveled the ball to Brandon Crawford who relayed it to first. Hosmer slid head first into first base and was called safe. Bruce Bochy came out to challenge it, however, and the call was overturned after a 2:57 review.

Don’t slide head first into first base unless you’re avoiding a tag, kids. Just don’t ever do it. That may have been the difference between an out and a man safe on first.

We’re through three here in Kansas City and it remains tied at 2.

9:04 PM: Jeremy Guthrie settled down in the third. It was what some of the TBS broadcasters liked to call a “shutdown inning” way back in early October. It’s a b.s. stat, but an OK concept, as Guthrie setting the Giants down in order — a comebacker and two straight strikeouts — electrified the crowd and allowed the Royals to catch their breath.

8:53 PM: And now it’s tied. Gordon tagged from second on a Mike Moustakas fly ball to left and then came home on an Omar Infante sac fly. 2-2 in the second. We’re probably gonna get that bullpen game after all. Tim Hudson is out, Jeremy Affeldt is coming on for the Giants. Whoa, nelly.

8:48 PM: The Royals have struck back quickly. Billy Butler led off Kansas City’s half of the second with a single and Alex Gordon followed it with a double to the deepest part of the park, scoring Butler all the way from first. Oh my God, did Butler run. I’ve never seen Country Breakfast book it so fast.]

That run scored on three total pitches. On the fourth pitch of the inning Tim Hudson hit Sal Perez, and Perez went down hard. It took several minutes for him to make it to first base, checked out by trainers for a long, long time. He’s staying in the game for now, but he may not last long. The Royals continue to bat in the second.

8:44 PM: The first runs of Game 7 was scored by the Giants here in the second inning. Jeremy Guthrie loaded the bases with no one out via a pitch that grazed Pablo Sandoval, a Hunter Pence single and a Brandon Belt single. Two sacrifice flies later — one by Michael Morse, one by Brandon Crawford — and the score was 2-0 Giants. Guthrie avoided further damage by striking out Juan Perez, but a 2-0 hole already feels deep.

Only after the runs scored did Ned Yost get anyone warming in the Royals pen, with Brandon Finnegan getting loose. One wonders, however, if that was already too late.

More fun signs at Kauffman Stadium


From people promising to buy their girlfriends dogs to people agreeing to have babies if the Royals win, the signs at Royals games this postseason have been an odd mix of interesting stories and inappropriately personal insights into strangers’ lives. Game 7 is no exception:

I guess that’s pretty neat. And, given that makes the woman on the right 28-years-old, I suppose it’s not inappropriate or scandalous or anything. I mean, thank goodness we didn’t see this sign at Riverfront in the 1990 Series between the A’s and Reds. THAT would’ve be awkward.

There’s nothing better than a Game 7? Well, maybe there is.

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source: Getty Images

KANSAS CITY — Game 7 starts in less than an hour. Game 7 means everything in baseball. It’s the promise of a championship and a triumphant conclusion and 25 players going crazy as they spray champagne all over the place and celebrate the crowning achievement in the sport to which they’ve dedicated their lives.

But it’s also sad.

Maybe I just woke up on the emo side of the bed this morning, but all day I’ve been sad that the baseball season is ending tonight, no matter what. The anticipation of Game 7 has been crowded out by feeling bummed that the posting of the lineups this afternoon was the last posting of the lineups until next year. That the batting practice I just watched was the last batting practice of the year. That, after tonight, I won’t have that running, almost unconscious monologue in my head between pitches in which I think about whether a fastball or an offspeed pitch is coming next. At least not until next spring.

Ultimately this probably comes down to my long-standing preference for the regular season to the postseason. The postseason is fantastic, of course. It’s what everything leads to. Baseball is a sport, sports are about winners and losers and the playoffs are the arbiter of that, obviously.

But, as I’ve noted in the past, baseball is The National Pastime, not The National Competition or The Main Event. It is a game which can and often does fade into the background over the course of months as opposed to demanding that we drop what we are doing and Take Notice. It is the soundtrack or score to the summer. The accompaniment which complements our days and nights, not something which demands that we block out those days and nights and refrain from other obligations. It is always there, not as a loud roar, but as a steady, comforting hum that maintains no matter what else is going on in our lives.

My love of baseball was sparked by baseball being played every day. Baseball kept me company when I was a kid in a strange new town with few friends. Baseball has been there for me for most of the bad things that have happened in my life and, for a few hours in the evening, allowed me to take my mind off them or to give me some time to chew on them while ostensibly doing something else. And when the game was over I had the next day to think about it and, the next evening, watch or listen to another game. A pleasant, everyday habit more than an obsession as such.

Baseball is a long, slow, steady build. It builds up to tonight, of course, But tomorrow it won’t be there. And for as exciting as tonight’s Game 7 may be — for as dramatic and history-making the events of the next few hours — it’ll over for months when the final out is made. And it’s hard not to have some seriously mixed feelings about that.