September 2009

The Best Time of Year

You should see what it’s like right now in this clubhouse. There is unbelievable energy. Everyone’s up. We have all the young guys who were called up. We have Randy Johnson back. And we took two games from the Rockies and are ready, believe me, for the third. And then the Dodgers.

Here’s an example of the mood this team is in – at least this is how it was a few hours before Wednesday’s game.

While we were stretching before BP, and Bochy was walking out of the dugout after his daily meeting with the reporters, the music that’s always blaring through the loudspeakers suddenly went silent. We knew what was coming, but Bochy didn’t. Up on the big screen in center field. There was a video montage of Bochy’s career, at least as it was through his time at the Padres. It showed him as a player then as a young manager. The showing was arranged by a player who shall remain nameless.

“Somebody turn that off,” Bochy said, turning his back to the screen. “Who did this?”

All of us, of course, watched every moment then clapped when it was over.

I guess you could say we were pretty loose.

Every race to the postseason has its own rhythm. You can’t really compare my time with the Angels to the Giants now. You have different players, different personalities. We have been so up and down. I’m sure there are people who wrote us off last week and jumped back on the bandwagon after beating the Rockies in the first two games of this series. We knew we had games left – crucial games left – that could turn this around.

More tomorrow.

Teammates

I ended yesterday’s post saying it’s impossible not to be excited and ready to play with this team.

Juan Uribe is one of those guys who seems to carry a current of electricity inside him. He makes things happen whether he’s in the clubhouse or on the field. Before games, he’s at the center of the fierce Domino games at the table near my locker. He, Renteria, Brian Wilson and a few others are there slamming the tiles down and hooting at each other. On the field, well, you’ve seen what he can do. Two home runs and a triple yesterday. He always finds a way to get us going and keep us fired up.

Then there’s Pablo, who continues to amaze all of us. That play yesterday at first? He was like Superman flying to right to stop that ball. He might not look like your typical star athlete, but he’s such a natural. He has all the tools. He’s fast. He’s strong. Look at his forearms. They’re huge. He’s incredibly agile – you have to be agile to play third base, first base and catcher. Plus he can hit. He’s the whole package.

And having Freddie Sanchez back in the lineup really makes a difference. He’s a proven Number 2 hitter. He can go the other way. He’s not afraid of a sacrifice bunt. He knows how to move the runners over. He makes the whole line-up stronger.

It’s always a shot in the arm when we get the September call-ups and the young guys join the team for the last month of the season. Much was made last week about the Giants management “trying to light my fire” by adding Buster Posey to the roster. When reporters asked if I thought the Giants were “sending me a message,” I answered honestly. I didn’t think that’s what was happening. But I said IF the Giants were trying to send me a message to heal faster from my muscle strain, it’s kind of an odd thing to do. I have never given less than 100 percent, and the Giants know that, so what would be the point of “sending a message”? I think it was reporters looking for an angle.

So before the game the other day, I was standing near Posey in front of some reporters and joked, “Hey, you better not light that fire too much. I don’t want you to burn my ***!” Buster kind of looked at me funny. I guess he hadn’t read the paper. Later I explained it to him. He laughed. That kid is amazing. He’s so humble. Such a nice guy. I think he’s going to be a superstar.

I saw him sitting one day by himself in the dugout, so I called him over, (I wasn’t playing, either.) We started talking about catching and strategy and how to last a long time in the big leagues. If he’s going to take my job someday, I want him to be the best. I want him to take care of these pitchers. I want him to help these guys and be a winner. I’d love to stay here and work with Posey when the time comes. I don’t want to go anywhere else. But it’s the Giants’ decision to make. It’s out of my control.

The truth is I don’t spend much time thinking about what’s going to happen next season. I’m thinking about right now, today. Who are we facing? How do we pitch them? How to win this game and then the next game? Nothing’s better than playing games that matter in September.

Thanks for reading. See you at the park!

I slept at the Donatello in San Francisco the last to nights while the Bay Bridge was closed. Stayed there Sunday night when we flew in from Milwaukee after that long, tough loss. Then stayed there again last night. Jamie and baby Jayda are up in Seattle visiting Jamie’s grandparents, so I didn’t mind staying in a hotel. The house doesn’t feel like home without them, or my two older daughters, there. Jayda, who turns two months old on Friday, is doing great. She has a great toothless smile and lots of black hair. Can’t wait to see her today when Jamie comes with her to the ballpark.

What a great game yesterday. Brad Penny was awesome. With a 6-0 lead, you start calling the game a little different. I try to call as many fastballs as I can to save his arm and try to get him into the 8th inning instead of six or seven.

Penny’s got that fire you love to see in a pitcher. When he got angry at Gonzales for admiring his home run a bit too long, I went out to the mound along with a couple other guys and Bochy. Penny immediately calmed down. “My bad, my bad,” he said. He wasn’t rattled. It’s just part of the game to get emotional and angry sometimes. A gesture that seems disrespectful to one guy might be perfectly acceptable to another.

Like the Brewers with Prince Fielder’s walk-off home run on Sunday. I didn’t like. I don’t think many players would be happy about it. On the other hand, Fielder hit the home run to win the game. They won and we didn’t.

To me, the whole thing comes down to one simple word: Respect. You respect the game and play it the way it’s supposed to be played. You don’t show up the pitcher by showboating when you hit a home run. Same way with a pitcher who gets a big strikeout. You don’t go pumping your fist and talking to the batter.

But this time of year emotions might be a little closer to the surface than they were in April or May. Everybody’s banged up from playing for five months (plus six weeks of spring training). You wear down. You’re tired. I’ve got bumps and bruises on every inch my body. Got another one yesterday when a ball jammed my finger. If it were a close game, I wouldn’t have come out. I’ve played in worse pain. But we had a comfortable lead, so I left the game and got treatment. It’s fine now.

This time of year, you cut back on your training. Instead of doing 20 minutes on the bike, you might do 10. Instead of doing three sets of weight training, you do two or even one. You’re trying to conserve your energy, especially with quick turnarounds like coming off this road trip. We flew in from Milwaukee Sunday night then played a day game here on Monday. My body just didn’t want to wake up. But as soon as I pass through the clubhouse doors – and even more so when I take the field – I’m fine again. I’m excited and ready to go.

How can you not be excited and ready to go with this team?

More on that tomorrow.

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