Giants tuning out reality

This is my Thursday column on the Giants. WARNING: This is a baseball column. 49ers fans — feel free to skip this.

SAN FRANCISCO – Scott Kazmir and Tim Hudson were free agents last offseason. Giants’ general manager Brian Sabean signed Hudson, the 38-year-old right hander, instead of Kazmir, the 30-year-old lefty.

Oops.

The A’s dismissed the Giants 6-1 Thursday afternoon. Kazmir held the Giants to just three hits and no runs in seven innings. He beat Hudson, who gave up six earned runs in five-and-a-third.

Kazmir is an All-Star. Hudson is falling apart. In his past five starts, Hudson is 0-4 with a 6.07 ERA. He turns 39 on Monday. Sabean signed him through next season. Bummer.

The Giants don’t seem bummed about anything, though. They seem remarkably relaxed and confident for a team that has lost 20 of its past 28.

Walking around the Giants’ clubhouse Thursday morning, you’d think they were hot, the best team in baseball. They sang along to pop hits of the ’90s – “You Make Me Wanna” by Usher, “Peaches ’N’ Cream” by 112. The Giants love to sing and they love ’90s pop music. Last Thursday before the Cardinals beat them 7-2, the Giants sang along in the clubhouse to “As Long As You Love Me” by the Backstreet Boys and “Sometimes” by Britney Spears. It was very cute.

Bruce Bochy doesn’t sing, but he is even more relaxed than his players. Bochy sat in his office Thursday morning answering questions from the local media, leaning all the way back in his office chair, running his fingers through his hair, crossing his legs and resting a knee on his table. I expected a waiter to walk in and serve him a margarita.

Compare Bochy to Bob Melvin, the manager of the A’s, a team that has won 18 of its past 28. Melvin has reason to be informal, to relax and recline. But he’s no slouch. His posture is one of the first things you notice about him. He sits on the edge of his seat and leans slightly forward, back straight as a board. Thursday morning he held his pregame interview in the visitor’s dugout and nervously tapped his heels and toes on the bench while sitting above it, hands folded in his lap, looking like a third-grader angling for an A in citizenship.

Melvin’s attitude carries over to his players. The A’s moved around the clubhouse quickly and quietly Thursday morning, attending to business. No music. No singing. Pitching Coach Curt Young sat and discussed the game plan with Kazmir and catcher John Jaso for twenty minutes at a table in the middle of the clubhouse. It looked like a graduate seminar in advanced aerodynamics.

The A’s carry themselves like they still don’t believe they’re that good.

The Giants carry themselves like they know they’re the best. No, it’s more than that. They carry themselves like they’re a dynasty.

It’s not just the singing. It’s the way they act on the field. During this four-game series against the A’s, the Giants repeatedly argued close calls, shouted at umpires, showed them up. Whined. Madison Bumgarner slammed his fists on his thighs after home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez called one of Bumgarner’s pitches a ball in Game 1. And Hunter Pence screamed at home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson after striking out looking in Game 4.

Every time the Giants complained, it felt like they were really saying, “We’re the Giants; we deserve the close calls.” The Giants act like they should get special treatment.

But the Giants do not deserve special treatment from umpires, from anyone. The Giants are not a dynasty. They were good in 2010 and 2012, got hot in the playoffs and won two World Series in three years. Very impressive.

But the Giants were not good in 2011 or 2013. They missed the playoffs those years. And if they keep playing like they’ve played the past month, they will miss the playoffs this year, too.

After the game, I asked Buster Posey if singing in the clubhouse is appropriate during this time of losing. He shrugged and smiled. “I guess you can judge that.”

If you insist, Buster.

The Giants shouldn’t stick their fingers in their ears and sing Britney Spears and try to drown out the brutal facts. They need to turn off the music and look in the mirror.

Britney Spears sing-alongs aren’t cute when you lose most of the time.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

  1. The Giants’ decline is frustrating especially coming on the heels of a great start. The series against Washington and Stephen Strasburg started the downward spiral and then the old familiar June swoon hit like the plague.

    Angel Pagan has been sorely missed and our bats have been virtually silenced. Posey, Morse, and Pablo have been bereft of hitting for power and our pitching doesn’t scare anybody.

    The only player worth his weight imo is Hunter “psycho” Pence. I love Pence’ non-stop motor and passion for the game. Madison is also a keeper.
    If my beloved Giants continue their free-fall heads will need to roll at season’ end.
    But then again, there’s still another half of baseball left :)
    I’m going to ride it out with my team come rain or shine.

  2. Well grant the giants have won the WORLD SERIES 2 out of the last 4 years that’s why there so relaxed in the club house! Enlighten me on what the A’s have done since 1989? I’m waiting…….Giants get healthy and add a bullpen arm and a second baseman they become very dangerous in the playoffs. They know how to win in the playoffs. Can’t say the same thing about the A’s!

    1. First off this A’s team is loaded with starters like they weren’t the past two years. And their hitting fastballs a lot better than the past two years.

      The giants are coming off of a bad season and are starting to show what their talent level is. It was two years ago when they won. So the same question could be asked about the Giants. What have they done lately? Coming off a non playoff season should say it all. They are confident??? From what? The belief they might make it back after another short season? Get real! The A’s are on a different level.

      Bet that they don’t make it to the series this year if they stay healthy. I said it last year, until the A’s get two aces and can hit the fastball as a team they wouldn’t get past the tigers again. Well they worked on those two issues this season. Nobody will stop them this time. Get ready giants fans. Your lame answer of 89 won’t work anymore. You’re still the little brother of Bay Area baseball. And short on those titles. You can talk about recently but then you sound like Seattle fans trying their best to take away titles from the 49ers before. Good luck I’d love to see them repeat the 89 World Series.

      1. Well your judged by World Series wins. The A’s have not accomplished that since 1989.. Ya the giants didnt do anything last year due to injuries, They been hit by the injury bug again this year. I have a lot more confidence in the giants in the post season then I do the A’s.. Those are just facts! Get to the playoffs and anything can happen. Except for the A’s the last what 4-5 years it doesn’t happen. There like the San Jose sharks of baseball. Lol.

        1. Both are the past, and you only have two. Doesn’t matter when doesn’t matter how long ago. They’re both in the past. If the giants were defending champs I couldn’t say anything at this time.
          And the injury excuse?
          Two of our aces have been shelved since the beginning of the season.

          And how about you make the post season before having “faith”. Sorry bro. A’s are for real this year. And the giants just don’t have the pitching to make it to the post season. The dodgers win the west again.

          And you’re right we as Niner fans have nothing to say to Seattle right now, but before last season it was “how long ago did you win those superbowls” from Seattle fans. Like they don’t count after a certain amount of years. Smh

          1. Gee, for every season up to 2010 I seem to remember A’s fans continually taunting Giants fans about “championships” and “1989″. You could literally hear the chants through the TV broadcasts. But now only the defending champ can talk? Funny how that works.

            Also hilarious how Kap and Harbs are failures because they haven’t won championships, the Giants are failures even though they have won titles, and the A’s are great because they were just too young, or cheap, or had too much sewage flowing through their clubhouse, or whatever excuse you want to use. Maybe your A’s weren’t fat enough to hit two homers off Verlander. Maybe your pitchers just weren’t good enough to shut out the Tigers. Oh, I know, all those years Vogelsong spent in Japan must have taught him how to shut out the Tigers. Oh wait, in 2002 Cy Young Zito didn’t have the experience that he needed to succeed in the playoffs. I know, he was throwing his “fastball” too fast in 2002.

      2. Us niner fans by the way shouldn’t talk until we beat the Seahawks. There the champs and we got to live with it until we win. Go niners…

      3. Ninermd,
        Your A’s look like the real deal and the Org has done a great job in finding talented players.

        But can you please tell me why they don’t have fan support?
        They are currently the best team in baseball and only average less than 24,000 in attendance which ranks them 23 in the majors.
        The players deserve better especially if they are the big brother and the Giants are the little brother as you noted.

        My Giants are playing sorry-ball and I’ll be the first to say they suck at the moment, but I believe they can still regroup and make a run at the playoffs.
        I’m sticking by the little brother to the end! lol

        1. Aes… How’s it been brotha? Can’t wait for the season to start.
          Oakland is a dump, the fans are like the marines slogan. The few, the proud….
          It wouldn’t bother me a bit if they left Oakland. It’s a rich storied franchise and deserves better than the city of Oakland. But let’s not forget I remember seeing empty seats at giants games when they were bad also. But anyways… I would love for them to come to Sacramento. It would be a great baseball town, they support the crappy kings so if bet they support the A’s.
          My feeling on the A’s this season is we finally get passed the tigers and head back to the World Series. I didn’t think truly believe that the last two seasons. I think this is the year for my A’s and Niners. (Yes I thought that about the 9ers last season) lol

          1. Wat-up Ninermd,
            Haven’t seen you around here for a minute bud.
            Football offseason seems like an eternity sometimes but the boy’s in red & gold will be back soon.

            I know from some of your previous posts over the years that you’re a big A’s fan and I feel for you and all the A’s fans for the city’ lack of support.

            If the city of Oakland would have showed them the same love they give Al Davis when he brought back the raiders from LA perhaps the A’s would be playing in a new state of the art baseball “only” stadium right now.

            Sacramento would be a nice way to keep the A’s in NorCal and they could possibly garner good fan support in Sac, but where would they play?
            The city of Sac is still putting the final plans together on the Kings new arena so building a new stadium for the A’s could be a very difficult sell.
            The best thing that could happen for the A’s is winning the World Series thereby putting the onus on the city of Oakland to take action.

            1. I think sac would be a lot better than Oakland right now. The stadium isn’t as big as the O… But they built to expand. West Sacramento has a lot of room. And when this new arena is built in downtown sac it will blow up Sacramento’ downtown life. And generate a lot of money for sac. Who knows where they’ll move, as long as it’s still not cal and in good driving distance. If I lived in the bay I’d definitely have season tix.

              And football is almost here. I found out two years ago that if I ignore the slow time of the offseason the regular season comes so much faster. Lol
              Hoping for a monster year for ck, an explosive offensive output, best running game in the league, red zone success, back to a dominating defense, and winning in Seattle. Right around the corner. Can’t wait. Got the tailgate wagon some new apparel. :-)

              1. If you include all of the counties including and around Sacramento you come up with about 2.3 million people. The San Francisco Bay Area is home to over 7 million people. Have you ever been to a week day A’s game? If they can only get that many people to show up with a 7 million base how many are gonna come with less then half that much population.

              2. If they can only get that many people to show up with a 7 million base how many are gonna come with less then half that much population.

                Well, for one thing, the games won’t be in Oakland.

                [rim shot]

  3. Baseball sucks. They play a bunch of games and most teams end up around 0.500. That’s the biggest hoax in the history of sports. Just flip a coin instead. Without the constant radio and TV promotion, this silly game would be dead.

    1. Nick,
      I agree with you about the long baseball season. If your team is 20-30 games out by the all-star break it makes the season excruciatingly longer, but at least by then football TC is about to start up.

      But for some of us baseball fans you need to understand that baseball is part of our history.
      My very first sports hero’s were Willie Mays, Willie “Big Mac” McCovey, Jim Ray Hart, and Juan Marichal.
      Baseball may suck for you, but for me it’s still very much as American as apple pie.
      You do like apple pie don’t you? lol

  4. The A’s and Beane got lucky with Kazmir. He’s been garbage for a long time and will come back down to earth in the second half; the Hammel/Samardzija trade proves they didn’t think their front-line starters could win in the playoffs.

    Hence, I actually believe the Hudson signing – at the time – was better than the Kazmir signing.

    Sadly, the Giants’ demise was inevitable.

    Their torrid start was remarkable, but hitting .300 with RISP never continues, and expecting any consistency from Morse was always a gamble.

    Add into the equation Pagan’s inability to stay healthy, predictable bullpen failures and inconsistent outings from Cain, Lincecum and Vogelson, and understanding that the Giants are only a little better than average is an easy task.

    Great read – I especially enjoyed the comparisons between Boch and Melvin.

    1. Man… Those A’s sure do get lucky a lot with the pitchers they put out there for…. Oh idk years!
      Get real! Two of their aces were shut down before the season started. Beane knows what he’s doing. You don’t get lucky with this many good signings over the last 15 years.

    2. Lucky? How about having a great scouting team. Why would he pay Kazmir 22 million over 2 years if he didn’t think he was good. He’s the highest paid player on the team.
      Luck had nothing to do with it. Give the A’s your stadium from 2001, and the A’s win at least 3 rings

      1. Big Niner,,
        I agree that luck has nothing to do with A’s solid team. Bean has been at the helm of building very good teams with virtual obscure players that are among the lowest paid in the league in one of the lowest baseball markets.

        The fact that the A’s can perform a such a high level in one of if not the worst baseball venues speaks volumes of Bean’ reputation of finding talent and the right chemistry to make it work.
        No, luck has nothing to do with the A’s success. The team is loaded with ball’rs.
        BTW, Go Giants! lol

  5. The problem with the Oakland A’s playoff runs is… They build a good young team get into the playoffs after squeezing the maximum play out of them, have no post season experience at first and by the time they get it. Key players get plucked by the big birds. Ny, Boston, Texas, and other big market teams. It would be foolish to think the early 2000 A’s wouldn’t have won ATLEAST one ws, if they stayed together.

    1. How about 3? That team was deep. Chavez, tejada, Giambi, Damon, dye, Hudson, Mulder, zito, Isringhausen etc…….

    1. Hammer,
      Nice move by LeBron, but he just put himself in a precarious position of needing to win a title.
      If LeBron can deliver a championship for Cleveland he would as revered as the great Jim Brown.

      1. He’ll have a much better roster around him than his last time wearing a Cavaliers jersey, especially if the team can get Kevin Love in a trade.

  6. Does anyone recognize this screen name, or if this is your screen name can you reply please:

    DELM

  7. “Scott Kazmir and Tim Hudson were free agents last offseason. Giants’ general manager Brian Sabean signed Hudson, the 38-year-old right hander, instead of Kazmir, the 30-year-old lefty.

    Oops.”

    Seriously, do you have no shame in writing such absurd inflammatory stuff? Most wonder if you get this attitude from your dad; but is any of this your own bizarre twisted view of reality?

    Kazmir is great. sure. NOBODY else in the league saw what the A’s saw in him. So yeah..it’s not like the Giants missed on a sure fired prospect. They took the guy with a long track record that might still make the All Star Team. Has Hudson been a lights out elite starter? No. But he’s been pretty darn good. So it’s not like the Giants whiffed on him.

    and what’re the Giants supposed to do during their slump? Play dark gothic music and sit around in deep contemplation and express angst filled regret? I’m not sure how much competitive sports you’ve played but whenever you play badly the first thing you’re ever taught is to try to fix what’s wrong but to not dwell on it..it’ll mess with your head.

    there are plenty of things you can point to and question about the Giant’s slump and decline. But none of this poor comparison of free agent pitchers or shameful pop psychological analysis.

    1. Imagine my surprise after watching highlights of the Giants victory tonight, scenes of the supposedly unflappable A’s arguing with umpires. I thought only the “arrogant” Giants did that. Or maybe it’s just what players do when the ump can’t remember what his strike zone is, or can’t tell that the baserunner hit the bag at the same time the throw did. I wonder if 90′s songs were sung prior to June 8, maybe the Giants were singing 80′s pop classics then.

      Or maybe, just maybe, the 2012/2013 A’s were too uptight during the playoffs. It’s not like you can’t win a world series with 25, 26, and 20 year old starting pitchers winning games for you. Or maybe Sonny Gray isn’t just isn’t as clutch as Madison Bumgarner is.

      I love the “Giants just got hot” cop-out. Yeah, they were super hot losing the first two to the Reds and 3 of the first 4 to the Cards. You can’t rip Harbaugh and Kap for not winning titles and then try and rip the Giants when they did win titles. Then again, if you take away Grant’s early June Hudson column, he doesn’t sound stupid. I guess selective memory is useful.

  8. Hey Iggster!
    .
    I like when you do little pieces like this one.
    .
    Your style, while undoubtedly your own, has hints of your Dad’s vibe going on.
    .
    And that’s a good thing.
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

  9. As for the G-men…
    .
    One has to wonder which team wll be on the field in the second half–the Giants of May OR the Giants of June.
    .
    And which Dodgers team?
    .
    Something tells me May was just a fluke.
    .
    So goes the rollercoaster that is the Giants baseball.
    .
    Uuuuuuuup…doooooooown…uuuuuuuup…doooooooown…
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

  10. Ask any successful business person, athlete, gambler, or Wall Street man. Success is about discipline in both the good and the bad times. You can’t change the way you act just because you’re winning, and you can’t change the way you act just because you’re loosing.

    The Giants are a free and fun bunch. They have fun, they like each other, they goof around in the clubhouse. When the losing starts, they need those things more than ever. To change the way you act just because you’re losing is to hit the gigantic red “PANIC” (no, not Panik) button, and it’s all a downhill spiral from there.

    Telling them they should stop singing to music before games is like telling Matt Cain that he should throw left-handed because he’s struggling. It’s dumb, it’s desperate, and it won’t work.

    1. Brady:
      .
      You just compared the choice of whether or not to pitch with the wrong arm with the choice of whether or not to sing.
      .
      If you are indeed a Brady, I’m guessing you’re Jan.
      .
      Sounds like something Jan would say.
      .
      She was always a little cooky.
      .
      .
      .
      *ALOHA*

      1. Kauai Robert – it’s called an analogy; it doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. I’m saying that you can’t change your process just because of a little slump. That’s a way to fail quickly.

  11. I’m not trying to offend you and I get your point.
    .
    That IS an analogy…but it’s a very poor one.
    .
    I wouldn’t consider singing to be a process that relates to winning or losing.
    .
    Throwing with the correct hand however…
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

    1. It’s part of the process, right? It’s part of the routine? You’re right, it’s not mechanical, so the analogy is off a little there. I didn’t mean to imply that they were physically the same, I meant to say that you can’t change the way you naturally do things out of panic, just because the results are on a month long hiatus. Matt Cain made All Star games and threw perfect games pitching right-handed. The Giants won 2 World Series’ by being free-spirited and loose. To change either of those things because of a slump would be idiotic.

      1. Okay.
        .
        But I think Grant’s point was that when you’re in a major slump like this one, and it is a major slump, singing may not be the best way to promote a serious, ‘let’s put our heads down and get to work’ type of environment.
        .
        One thing may not have anything to do with the other.
        .
        But I see his point.
        .
        One might start to think that they take losing a little too lightly.
        .
        .
        .
        *ALOHA*

        1. Right. I understand his point. I’m just disagreeing with it entirely.

          The reality is that the media and fans have absolutely no clue as to how seriously the Giants are or are not taking their slump. It’s childish to assume that they are taking it lightly just because they are doing things like singing.

          If singing is what they do to build camaraderie, enjoy the game, and loosen up, then that’s something they should continue to do; heaven knows it’s worked for them far more often than not.

  12. It’s true that people outside of the organzation don’t know for sure what their motivations are.
    .
    But generally speaking, if you see someone singing, they’re most likely not worrying about much at that particular point in time.
    .
    Grant is probably not alone in thinking they should be at least concerned.
    .
    And maybe they are even though they don’t show it.
    .
    Who knows how important the media and fan’s perception of their behavior is to the team.
    .
    Maybe they don’t give a rip.
    .
    Anyway…here’s to the Gmen righting the ship!
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

    1. Right, but what does the media see . . . 15 minutes of the Giants day? Does 15 minutes at all dictate their mentality? This kind of fictitious justification of taking an inappropriate microscope to players’ lives is the same thing that has people upset at Colin Kaepernick for anything non-football related, as though it’s a felonious offense that he’s not practicing football 24 hours a day.

      my point is twofold: first off, the notion that we can gather any information from how losses are effecting a player based on personal habits and friendships is simply preposterous (and immature, and unprofessional, and inappropriate). And second off, the giants having fun is part of the PROCESS. You can change personnel and tactical things, but changing the process – especially when you’ve had so much success – is a surefire way to mess up.

      I am a day trader. As a day trader, I have always been taught that in order to be successful in the stock market or in poker, you have to remain constant. You can’t let the wins rise you up, and you can’t let the losses shoot you down. If a few loser’s impacts your process, that is what is known as a “loser’s mentality.” It’s self-prophetic: you determine your own fate based on the fact that you’re acting as though that is your predetermined fate. If you let losing dictate your mentality and your process, then losing becomes the primary influence of your actions, and it sets up camp.

      All 25 players on the San Francisco Giants made it to this level because they’re wildly competitive individuals. To question whether or not they’re serious about losing is what we like to call “pulling a Skip Bayless.”

  13. Your points are well taken.
    .
    You can call the questioning of the players’ motivation a ‘Skip Bayless’ or a ‘Colonel Sanders’ or anything else you want to call it, but it doesn’t change the fact that questions and opinions like this are how Grant makes a living.
    .
    You think he’s being inappropriate–maybe the team thinks so too.
    .
    It’s perfectly acceptable to question Grant’s methods just like it’s perfectly acceptable for Grant to question the players’ methods.
    .
    He gets paid to do that.
    .
    I get what you’re saying…you don’t mess with the process just because of a downturn.
    .
    But truthfully, if teams really subscribed to this idea they’d never sign free agents, DFA, or even bench players.
    .
    In theory, I agree with your philosophy.
    .
    But that approach is not always practical.
    .
    If this slump continues too far into August, at some point, Bochy will have to make a change somewhere and in some way to this process.
    .
    I’ve never been in MLB locker room, but I would imagine that step #1 would be to convey to the players that they should take their ‘you-know-what’ out of their ‘you-know-where’.
    .
    Singing may or may not come up, I dunno.
    .
    I do know that coaches and managers at all levels and in all sports ream players when they feel they’re being complacent.
    .
    I’m not suggesting that the team IS being complacent, nor am I suggesting that Bochy THINKS they’re being complacent.
    .
    In fact, according to Grant, Bochy doesn’t appear bothered much at all.
    .
    But they ARE losing and having a good time at the same.
    .
    As a fan, that just feels wrong.
    .
    I guess you can have a sing-along and still be totally focused on next game.
    .
    A few more weeks of losing though and they’ll be singing a different tune altogether.
    .
    (Pun intended)
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

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