May 2010

ESPNs cheap shot

 When I was growing up, respect was the most important thing to my father. That’s what he talked about every day to me, Jose and Yadier. You play the game with respect, yes — but it’s not only about the game. You respect your parents and your teachers and your fellow human beings. 
That’s why ESPN’s sarcastic depiction of me running in slow motion down third base and getting thrown out at home in the Marlins’ game was hard to take. I appreciated Henry Schulman’s blog entry about it.
Until recently, I had thought of ESPN as a network run by professionals who know sports. I thought the people at ESPN, because they focus only on sports, actually understood the game and what pro athletes do to reach the highest level of their sport.
In that Marlins game, which we won, Nate Schierholtz went three-for-three with his first home run of the season. Matt Cain pitched six innings of no-hit ball. And the one highlight ESPN shows of that game is me getting thrown out at home? And they’re doing it just for laughs?
Look, you can say I’m the slowest guy in baseball or in  all of sports or in the entire world. I don’t take issue with that because I AM the slowest guy. I have always been the slowest guy. I can’t challenge that criticism. But ESPN’s intention was not to criticize but to humiliate.
I take what I do very seriously, which is why – despite my obvious lack of speed – I have managed to play in the major leagues for 11 seasons. I play hard. I play hurt. I respect the game, my teammates, the press, the fans. That’s how I was raised. It was the No. 1 thing. 
I know I’m a public figure and I just have to take my lumps. But I would like those people at ESPN who, from a safe distance, make fun of players for a cheap laugh, to remember that players are actual people. With wives and mothers and fathers and children and brothers and sisters. My mother saw the clip. She doesn’t speak English so she asked Yadier’s wife what the announcer was saying. Yadier’s wife didn’t want to tell her. My mom was pretty upset. She didn’t understand why they were making fun of my running when there are so many other things I do every day to help the team win. I told her I didn’t understand it, either.
All I can do is play the way I always have – with respect and professionalism. It’s shame that ESPN, a once great network, won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. 

Appreciating It All

Great to have an off day today before starting a road trip against the Marlins tomorrow. I didn’t fly on the team plane last night because I wanted to go with Jamie to the pediatrician this morning for Jayda’s vaccination shot. Even though you know the shot is for something good, it’s hard to watch your baby in pain for any reason. So I wanted to be there for Jamie. 
The three of us flew out this morning to Florida to meet up with the team. I like Jamie and Jayda to be with me as much as they can, so they go on a lot of the road trips. We go from Florida to New York, where I have a lot of relatives. It will be great to introduce them to Jayda.
I was looking at my numbers the other day. Last year at around this time I was batting .304 and hadn’t had a walk. Right now I’m batting .343 overall (second highest among all NL catchers) and .439 at home (second highest among all NL players). And I already have six walks.
So what’s different? 
I’m way more relaxed this season. I’m not putting so much pressure on myself. This is probably my last year in baseball. I am not expecting any clubs to sign me in the off-season – if only the Mets and Giants were interested last year, when I was coming off five straight good years, I can’t expect I’ll have any interest after this season, no matter how well I do.
So that takes the pressure off to produce big numbers because, as I have found out, numbers don’t seem to make a difference in the marketplace. The Giants signed other guys to beef up the offense, which means the responsibility isn’t squarely on my shoulders anymore. Therefore I’m not pressing as much. 
This has translated into being more patient at the plate. I’m swinging at first pitches only 11.8% of time this season, compared to 39.4% in 2009 and 31.1% over my career. 
It’s funny because I thought I’d feel more pressure in thinking that this is probably my last year. But I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do in baseball, except be an All-Star. So I’m appreciating everything around me and having more fun. I’m just thinking about today and the guys who are around me in the clubhouse today. I am enjoying, as I always have, teaching the young guys about the game. I’m enjoying getting the most out of each pitcher’s outing. I am enjoying it all – maybe because I don’t have anything left to prove. 
The only thing that matters is winning. And that’s something that happens as a team, all of us contributing everything we can. 
I am so happy that, if this is my last season, I’m spending it in San Francisco with the Giants. I said this before and it becomes clearer to me every day: There is something special about this group this season. I feel it in the same way I felt it in 2002 with the Angels. 
Thanks for reading and thanks for being there for me and the Giants through all the ups and downs.