I had such mixed feelings walking off the field today. I was happy because we played well for the fans and because Timmy got his 15th win of the season.
But it’s sad, too.
It’s the last time this particular group of players will be together on this field. It’s the same at the end of every season. Some guys will retire or move on to other teams. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I don’t know if I should be saying good-bye to the home fans. I want to come back to the Giants. Jamie and I love San Francisco. It’s such a beautiful place with beautiful fans. But it’s out of my control. I have to wait and see.
I know some people are rooting for Buster Posey to take over for me. I know this because I hear the chants in the stands sometimes when I come up to bat. They paid their money and they can do what they want. But sometimes I think, “Really? This is what you give me after three years here?” The truth is I love Buster Posey. He’s a humble kid who’s going to be a superstar. He came up to me after the game he started and was talking about how his hitting was so off.
“Hey, kiddo,” I said to him, “it’s not all about hitting. It’s about how those pitchers are throwing the ball and how you’re helping them.”
I’m happy to help a kid who might take my job. I want him to have a great career. That’s part of what I love about playing baseball – the relationships in the clubhouse, how the veterans can give advice to the young guys, how we help and support each other. That’s always been so important to me. I take my role as a mentor very seriously.
If I don’t come back to the Giants, I know I can walk out of the clubhouse with my chin up. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve done more than they asked me to do. The numbers show what I’ve done. (I appreciated the piece John Shea wrote in the Chronicle the other day. www.sfgate.com/columnists/shea/)
One of those numbers is 20.
In the back of my head, I’ve always wanted to get to 20 home runs, but it was an actual goal. But that night last year, when I sat next to my dad during his wake, I promised him I’d get 20 home runs this season.
“I’m promising you something I’m not sure I can do,” I told him that night.
I promised this because my father was always telling me, “You’re capable of 20.”
One day not long before he died, I had said to him, “I try, but I guess it’s not meant to be for me.”
He put his arm around me. “It’ll happen. You’re a good hitter.”
So when I got to 18 home runs this season then hit one early in the game on Wednesday to make it 19, I was thinking, “OK, this could happen.”
Then I got up and hit the ball off the end of the bat. I didn’t think it was going out but when I reach first, I saw the ball got into the stands. I started getting very emotional as I was rounding the bases. I also felt a relief in my whole body.
“Wow, it’s 20,” I thought.
When I stepped on home plate, I looked up at my father.
“Hey, I did it,” I said to him. “You were right. I did it.”
When I was talking to Amy Gutierrez on CSN after the game, I started to tear up, but I didn’t want to cry on television. But when I came into the clubhouse, I lost it. I stood at my locker, looking at the framed collage of my father. I stood there by myself, leaning into my locker. I didn’t want anybody to see me.
I took a town car home to Lafayette that night. I knew it was after 2 a.m. in Puerto Rico. I knew my mother would be asleep and I didn’t want to wake. But then I thought, to hell with it, and I called her.
“Hey, mijo, what happened?” she said. “Are you OK?”
“Mom, I did it,” I said.
“I got to 20.”
“What? You got another one?” She had seen the first home run then went to sleep.
“I promised dad I was going to do it.”
She stared crying, and I started crying.
“He’s very happy for you right now,” she said.
When I got home, Jamie was waiting for me, and she was crying, too. I hugged my father’s picture. It was a very emotional night.
I wish we could have made the playoffs, of course, but we’ve had a very good season. It has been a privilege to play with these guys and with these coaches. At the end of the game today, when Randy Johnson got the last out, I walked toward the mound and shook his hand. “It’s been a pleasure just to catch you,” I said. Before I leave and he leaves, I wanted him to know what an honor it has been to work with him.
I’m not looking forward to saying good-bye to everyone on Sunday. I’m excited to drive back to Yuma with Jamie and Jayda and plop down on my own couch and watch football. But we get really close as team. We spend more time with each other than we do with our families during the season. This is a tough thing to do every season.
Thank you for all your good wish and support this year and the previous two seasons. I hope I’ll see you again next April.
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.
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.
I’m not in the game again today because of a tight quad, so I have a few minutes to post a blog.
I don’t listen to the talk shows so I personally haven’t heard the comments about our tough loss to the Rockies Monday. But I’m told people were dumping on everyone from the players to the manager. Some apparently were saying our season was over.
Granted, it was a heart breaker. When the home-run ball was sailing over the wall, I just sat in the dugout with my head in my hands. Just minutes earlier, when Eugenio hit the triple, I was thinking, “This is our game.” Then suddenly it was over. We lost. I couldn’t believe it. I was thinking, “Is this really happening?”
But I have to tell you, nobody was thinking, “Oh, this guy lost the game for us, or that guy didn’t do his job.” Merkin Valdez was put in a very, very tough position. When he came in, the damage had been done. The bases were loaded. He went right after the hitter. That’s what he had to do. Go with his best stuff. Go after him and hope for a double play. It was a good pitch. I don’t think he could have done anything different.
The thing about that game – which maybe some fans lost sight of — is that every single guy battled his butt off. Every guy left everything he had on that field. Nobody gave up. They showed so much fight.
In the clubhouse afterward, on the bus to the airport and on the plane ride home, there wasn’t a sound from anybody. We felt crushed and exhausted. When we walked down the steps of the plane onto the tarmac in San Francisco – at around 3 a.m. — Bochy was standing there at the bottom, greeting every guy, telling us we battled our butts off and that there was no batting practice tomorrow and to get some rest.
I’m not sure how Bochy comes across through the media, but I’ve played for a lot of different managers, and I feel so lucky to have a manager of the caliber and strength of Bruce Bochy. People don’t understand what a great job he’s done with this team. Maybe you can’t really appreciate how good he is unless you’re on the inside watching what he does. He’s been awesome. That game on Sunday against Colorado, Bochy and our bench coach, Ron Wotus, did an amazing job. They’re always on the same page, figuring everything out, what moves to make, which arms are fresh. They have to consider so many different things. I really admire how they go about their business.
Same with the pitching coaches, Righetti and Gardner. They’re the ones who scout the hitters and talk to Eli and me. They do a superb job. They get you ready for every game. I have never been so prepared for games on any other team I’ve played on. These two guys are unbelievable.
When I arrived at the park yesterday afternoon, I was wondering how much the loss to the Rockies was going to affect the team. It was such a long, tough road trip. We got in late. Most of us didn’t go to sleep until about 6 in the morning. Then we came back here a few hours later.
When I walked into the clubhouse, everyone was great. They were joking like they always do. There was a lot of energy. That told me a lot. How you bounce back from such a heart-breaking loss reveals what you’re all about. Some teams might have been dragging. But these guys had a great attitude. They’re always ready to go.
And in another tough game last night, we battled and won. We don’t play many easy games, that’s for sure. It makes it exciting, I guess. But I think I’m ready for a few easy ones . . .
See you at the park.
If anyone at the park today was watching their first Giants-Dodgers game, they learned everything they need to know about this rivalry. This was an unbelievable game – like an entire season of highs and lows in one afternoon.
We had the benches clear in the fifth inning when the Dodgers pitcher hit Pablo. I was on deck, and Pablo was definitely hit on the arm. I thought at first they were arguing that Pablo had swung through, which meant even if he was hit, it’s a strike and he doesn’t go to first. But they said the ball hit the bat first then his arm, which wasn’t the case.
Pablo thought McDonald was intentionally trying to hit him, which is a judgment call on his part. Maybe he and McDonald have a history in the minor leagues or something. I don’t know. But you always back up your teammate, no matter what. I grabbed Russell Martin, the catcher, who wasn’t happy that Pablo was accusing his pitcher of intentionally hitting him. I was telling him to take it easy. Basically, your job as a teammate when the benches clear is to keep your teammates safe. You try to grab whoever you can to keep them from getting hurt or getting tossed.
Obviously, we don’t like the Dodgers, and they don’t like us. The only thing you hope is that nobody gets hurt. And nobody did.
Timmy pitched such a great game it’s a shame he didn’t get the win. Late in the game, I was just telling him to keep making his pitches. Don’t try to throw harder or slower. Just make his pitches the way he always does. It was a killer not to get the call at first. We get that call, and maybe the game is over in nine.
We had more than little bad luck as far as the calls during this series. I hated to see Bochy thrown out of the game, but I understand it. It’s frustrating when it seems like all the calls are going against you. It’s hard for everybody when the manager’s tossed. You want him making the decisions. We have great coaches, though. After Wotus got thrown out, Flannery took over. I was wondering who was going to manage if Flannery got tossed. Maybe Murph. He’s certainly seen more baseball in his 50-something years with the team than all of us put together.
But I’m not going to be too harsh on the umps. They’re human. They have bad days like the rest of us.
The best part of the game, of course, was watching Juan Uribe’s monster home run sail over Ramirez’s head. Ramirez didn’t even watch it. He just started walking off the field.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of rushing onto the field when a teammate hits a walk-off home run – much less in a game like this. Against the Dodgers. Ten innings. And it was especially exciting because it was Juan. He had a tough day. Left runners on base. Dropped the pop-up. I haven’t talked to him but I’m guessing the sun was in his eyes.
And then he clobbers the ball.
That’s the great part of this game. With one pitch, one swing, you change your whole day. Maybe you change a whole season.
This is a huge win. That goes without saying. It’s especially big not only because it’s against the Dodgers and the first-place team, but because we’re heading out to New York and the start of a long road trip. This win – and HOW we won – gives us so much positive energy going onto the road.
I’m heading home for a few hours before I have to catch a plane tonight. We have a day off tomorrow in New York. I’ll be resting.
I’ll try to update the blog sometime during the road trip.
Thanks for reading and for supporting us. This is an amazing team. I love coming to the ballpark every day because I get to watch these great guys play.