July 2008

Looking forward to the second half

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I know I’ve been away from these pages for a while, and I apologize. The blog kind of fell through the cracks at the end of the first half of the season. But I’ve had a few days off during the All-Star break, and I feel like I have a second wind and can’t wait to get back on the field.

My girls flew out from Yuma to spend the week with my girlfriend Jamie and me. They’ve been out many times since I joined the Giants last year, but we never did all the tourist things. So we went ice skating at Yerba Buena, flew kites on the Marina Green, rented those little Go-Cars on Hyde Street and drove them — Jamie and Kyshly (who’s 13) in one car, Kelssy (who’s 9) and me in the other — through the Marina, down to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge (where we saw a dolphin in the bay), through the Presidio to Baker Beach and Sea Cliff. We had clam chowder in bread bowls at the Wharf. We went to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, bought souvenirs like Kelssy’s “Alcatraz Psyche Ward Outpatient” jacket.

Most nights we spent at our home in the Marina playing Scrabble and Boggle and Rummy and taking our 10-month-old Samoyed dog, Chico, for walks.

Now it’s back to business.

I look back at the first half of the season feeling really lucky that we’re in the division we’re in. We’re still only seven games out of first place, despite the number of games we lost. It’s a great opportunity for us to come back. We have a great shot at winning this thing. I really believe that. And here’s why.

First, we didn’t play horribly in the first half. We were in a lot of those games we lost. There were games that could have gone either way. We have a lot of young players in the big leagues for the first time. They’ve gained a lot of experience these past few months and should have their feet wet now. They made some mistakes that young players are always going to make. But in truth, we all made mistakes. It wasn’t just one guy or another. So I think we’ll make few mistakes overall, and in part that’s because we have had the first half to come together as a team.

So that’s the second thing: We are a tight team. We’ve developed trust in each other. That’s how you become a team. You trust each other. If one guy is down, he taps the guy next to him to pick him up. Then it’s OK, let’s go. Not one guy has to be the hero. If one person tries to do it all himself, you’re not going to win.

As for our pitching, I think the main thing is we have to improve location on the fastball. But we have a great staff — an All-Star in Timmy, All-Star skills in Zito and Cain, and developing All-Stars in Sanchez and Correia. And in the bullpen, same thing: We need to locate the fastball.

I know some of you have lost confidence in Zito, but I have to tell you that what I’ve been seeing the last few weeks has been great. Don’t look at the numbers. Just look at how he’s pitching. He’s been giving us a chance to win every time. He’s a true professional and he’s going to be fine.

One tough thing in the last few weeks was watching Holmy get sent down to Fresno. He earned a spot in Spring Training and he earned it how he played this season. He played really great, but things don’t always work out the way you expect. Alfonzo’s a great guy, too — this is no rap on him. But you get accustomed to one guy’s style and personality and you develop a relationship and then he’s just gone. It’s one of the things about pro baseball that maybe you never get used to.

People ask if I set goals for myself for the second half of the season. I never set personal goals. I think they can do more harm than good. For one thing, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself when you fall behind your goals. Let’s say you set a goal at the beginning of the season to have 100 RBIs and you only have 50 with a month to go. The last two years in a row I had 19 home runs with a week and a half to go. I tried to hit that last one but having that kind of focus on a single thing takes away from the game as a whole.

It’s a team game. You have to play every day to win, not to add to your own numbers. I know the reality is that people — and management — look at the numbers. That’s how you’re measured. But hopefully they’ll also look at how you play with all your heart every single day. Hopefully, they recognize all the things that don’t show up in your individual numbers — all the little things you do to help the team’s chances of winning.

Thanks for continuing to leave your kind comments even while I wasn’t writing. OK, if I have one goal for the second half — breaking my own rule of no personal goals — it’s to be better about updating my blog…

Here are some more family photos:
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