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Written by Andy | 21 January 2011

First a quick note: interviewing Giants players and staff will not be a major feature of this blog.  If you want to hear sound bites from major leaguers, you can read the Chronicle or watch Comcast Sportsnet or, if you like the Red Sox or Yankees, you can watch ESPN.  I liked interviewing Eric Surkamp, though, and I like the idea of our blog supporting a player with potential who is still working his way through the system.   The end result is that Eric gets a base of support at a time when most Giants fans are focused on the big league players.  Meanwhile, when Eric makes the majors and strikes out Albert Pujols and walks off the mound and yells “that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout, Fat Albert!” all the readers of this blog will feel part of that success.  And then Eric will sign lots of autographs for us and maybe let us borrow his Ferrari when he’s not using it.  So it’s win-win.

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I sat down with Giants pitching prospect Eric Surkamp over a plate of three-way chili at the local Skyline off route 50 in Milford, a small town just outside the city locals call: “The Nati.”  Ok, that’s not true.  We talked on the phone.  I just wanted to show off my southern-Ohio knowledge to any of Eric’s friends and family who might be reading this back in Deer Park or Indian Hill.

Moving on...

Eric Surkamp was the Giants’ 6th round pick out of North Carolina State in the 2008 draft.  Last year he pitched in San Jose and posted very good numbers, including an impressive K/BB rate and an ERA just over 3.  He was injured in mid-July and missed the rest of the season but is projected to pitch in AA this year.  He also has been mentioned as a possible spot-starter should one of the Giants’ starters go down to injury or, in Matt Cain’s case, just decide they’re tired of not having anybody score runs for them.

Eric was extremely generous with his time and we can’t thank him enough.  The Eric Surkamp Fan Club will be launching soon and our goal is to get 100 members by opening day. 
(photo courtesy of mediascout.com)

24D: Thanks again for doing this.

ES: No problem

24D: You grew up in Ohio?

ES: Yeah, Cincy,OH, Archbishop Moeller high school, pretty well known high school in terms of sports.  Barry Larkin went there, Ken Griffey Jr. went there.  We’ve had quite a run of players.

24D: Are some of those former major leaguers still involved?

ES: They don’t come back that often; I think most of them have left the area and they don’t want to come back to Cincy in the cold weather.  All those guys make their homes in Florida, Arizona, so...kinda don’t blame them not wanting to come back in the snow.

24D: Were you a Reds fan growing up?

ES: I was…I was a Reds fan growing up.  They were good when I was younger, but from what I remember, I don’t remember very many winning teams.  Cincinnati’s kinda been dying for a winner, watching the Reds and the Bengals growing up.

24D: Compared to the Bengals, the Reds are doing ok…

ES: Yeah…

24D: What would you have done if the Reds had played the Giants in the playoffs?

ES: Actually I was down here rehabbing in Arizona for my hip, I was gonna try my hardest to get back home and go to the games.  I would have definitely been rooting for the Giants, though.  Being around here, great organization, meeting the guys who are on the big league team, having a couple of buddies who are up there, Dan Runzler, those kind of guys, who kinda put you under their wing a little bit.  You always talk to them; they tell you what it’s like…you’re always a fan of the team you get drafted by.  I think I’ll always be a Giant no matter where I end up in my career.

24D: That’s interesting because I was going to ask you if you feel like a Giant or if that kind of affiliation doesn’t take hold until you reach AAA or the Majors itself, but I guess you’re saying you already feel strongly connected to the organization.

ES: Yeah, I mean I obviously haven’t made it to the big leagues yet, but I was actually thinking about it today while I was in the facility working out, just how all the people, all the staff who they have in there, ready to do anything for you at the drop of the hat.  They have a great organization, from the top down, if you ever need anything, they’re easy to get a hold of and everything like that.   So it’s really helpful.

24D: So then you went to NC State?

ES: Yeah, went to NC State and stayed in college for three years.

24D: You left a year early to go pro?

ES: Yeah.  After my junior year I got drafted, I felt it was the best opportunity for me as far as having a little leverage.  

24D: So going into that draft, sitting there on draft day, what was that experience like?  Did you have a round you were hoping to be taken in?

ES: It was pretty nerve-wracking.  In High school you get recruited, but you don’t have to really wait around for anything or for somebody to pick you up, you just have a choice of where you want to go.  Going into my junior year I think I was a little more highly touted than when I got drafted which is completely understandable since I had a down junior year.  Didn’t pitch that well and kinda fell off a little bit.  To be honest, people tell you so many things leading up to the draft.  Everything I heard was somebody could take you as early as the 2nd round or as late as the 7th or 8th and I ended up getting picked in the 6th.  Actually me and my roommate were at the (NCAA) super regional down in Athens, Georgia playing against the University of Georgia in the NCAA tournament the day of the draft.  We were just hanging out in the hotel and he ended up getting picked in the 5th round, and not too longer after that I got picked.

24D: And I’m sure he didn’t remind you of that or anything…

ES: (Laughs).  No, he actually got picked by the Reds, so that was cool.

24D: Speaking of that, did you have a team in mind, or teams, where you say “I hope they draft me, or I hope they don’t draft me?”

ES: No, it was pretty much I just want to get drafted.  You don’t really know anything about the teams, I mean, I think most baseball players will say it, you just want to play in the big leagues, it doesn’t matter where you’re at.  That’s the dream for all of us.  And you put so much time and effort into the game, it’s the biggest focus to play, no matter where.

24D: Sure, but I think our readers were hoping you’d say you were glad you didn’t get drafted by the Dodgers.

(Laughs, but won’t admit it’s true.  Sorry…I tried.)

24D: In terms of the minors, what is it like?  Is the stereotype of the long bus rides and everyone kind of chasing the dream…is that accurate?  Do you like the lifestyle?

ES: Yeah, I’ve actually loved it; I’ve had a blast with it.  The thing is, the Giants farm teams are in good towns.  There are definitely some towns that we travel to that aren’t as populated or in the middle of nowhere or that might not be as fun in the middle of summer to play there, but it’s been a blast.  I don’t have a girlfriend, I don’t have a wife or anything like that, where that’s holding me down or I’m in a certain town maybe missing my family too much.  My parents are able to travel and see me.  I just try to take advantage of it because you can’t play the game forever so I want to live it up while I can.

24D: Do you have a favorite minor league road trip?

ES: San Jose is actually the best road trip in the Cal League and that was our home city, but I'll say Charleston, SC.  Lexington, Kentucky was great for me because it's very close to my home and my family was able to come out and see me pitch.

24D: How closely did you follow the Giants playoff run?

ES: Very closely, I watched every game.  I was very into it.

24D: Did you get a sense for the whole "torture" thing?

ES: I did.  Although I think that's just the nature of a team with strong pitching that plays a lot of close games...you get those kind of games.  But yeah I saw the signs and all that and definitely felt the ups and downs of those games.

24D: What Giant would you want to room with on the road?

ES: I've talked a lot to my friends on the team, guys like Dan Runzler, and you hear them talking about how much support they get from veterans like Pat Burrell and Huff.  I think it'd be cool to room with one of them and get their perspective.

24D: How do you feel about the jump from A to AA?

ES: I'm excited.  They say the jump from High A to AA is the biggest jump in baseball, so I'm definitely viewing it as a challenge, but one I'm excited for.  It's an adjustment to go from just worrying about making your pitches to also adjusting to what the hitters are doing and adapting based on their tendencies.

24D: Do you have a goal for this season?

ES: I don't really set a goal usually in terms of things like ERA.  I'd like to stay healthy for the whole year, and show the organization that I can stay on the mound the whole year.  That would be a goal for sure.

24D: There was a report (the day of the interview) that if a Giants starter went on, say, the 15 day DL, you might be one of the names considered for a spot start or two.  How do you feel about that?

ES: That would obviously be amazing...I mean, that'd be a dream.  I'm definitely honored to have my name come up like that.  If it happens, I'll definitely be ready.

24D: So let's say you get called up and you're pitching against the Cardinals and Albert Pujols comes up.  What would you throw him?

ES: (laughs) I think I'd throw him whatever Buster Posey tells me to throw him.

(Eric should have said “curveball away, curveball away, changeup in.” and then actually thrown him curveball away, curveball away, fastball up because then Pujols would be completely fooled.  Because, you know, Albert Pujols reads my blog.)

24D: For those who don't know you that well, could you name some big league pitchers similar to what you throw to give us a sense of your style?

ES: I don't want to put my name in the same sentence as him, obviously, but I think there's a similarity with Andy Pettite.  You hear a lot of stuff.  I've heard Joe Saunders.  Everyone knows I don't have the most velocity but I'm not up there throwing slop.  My fastball is high 80's, low 90's, and I feel comfortable throwing it.

24D: How is the recovery from hip surgery?

ES: I feel great, I feel ready.  I'm doing everything, strength wise and my arm and hip feel fine.  I haven't started throwing off the mound yet but I'll do that on the 24th. 

24D: Are there some nerves involved in that?  You know, until you actually throw again there's a fear of what will happen?

ES: Yeah, but I try to look at it differently, as a blessing.  I've had over 5 months now to rest my arm, and maybe that'll help keep me healthy in the future, having that time off.

24D: Thanks so much for your time, I really appreciate it.  We are going to start an Eric Surkamp fan club as our way of saying thank you.  In the meantime, if I could ask one more favor, would you be willing to say "Beat LA"?

ES: Beat LA.

(Amen)

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Written by Andy | 20 January 2011

Welcome to 24 Days of Magic!

We are very excited to join the Bloguin network, and not just because of our campaign to make "Poppy Penguin" the official Giants mascot.

Our blog was created in the fires of early September when the Giants were driving us crazy by winning and/or losing every game 1-0.  There were 24 days left in the season and lots of magic inside, and by "magic," of course, we mean "torture."

What makes our site different and/or cool?

1) We are the only Giants blog to employ a personal assistant (Igor) who speaks English badly and wakes up every morning trying to figure out how to get Brian Wilson to call him back.

2) We are the exclusive soon-to-be-home of the Eric Surkamp Fan Club (our interview with Eric will be posted soon).

3) We will run a monthly mailbag in which we answer actual questions asked by readers and/or make up questions and answer them ourselves.  You can see our January mailbag here.

4) We will run weekly divisional previews between now and the start of the season in which teams are awarded "Spiffy Busters" or "Angry Brians" depending on our prediction of improvement or regression.

5)  We are obsessed with Carlos Marmol.  That's gotta intrigue you a little, yes?  No?  Forget we mentioned it.

6) We are challenging Bill Simmons to a twitter-follower competition.  We're currently trailing by about 1.3 million followers, but we're feeling silly confident.

So welcome to our site.  Come on in.  Look around.  Note that there's nothing here yet.  It's like touring a new house before the new owners have unpacked.  Why are you even here?  We're stressed and trying to unpack and you just show up?  Did you at least bring pizza?

Or garlic fries?

Go Giants,

Andy

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Written by Andy | 20 January 2011

Rather than be the last person to cover the potential Jeff Suppan signing, I think I'll reach into the mailbag and see what I find. Oh wow! Actual mail from other people! And some that I made up. A hybrid, if you will. But not an actual hybrid. My mailbag is not big enough for that.

Is it true the Giants signed Jeff Suppan?
-General Public

Apparently it's close to a done deal. We need a 6th starter and Jeff Suppan needs to leave the NL Central because he's already dated all the teams in that division and they're catching on to him and his lifetime 4.69 ERA. They all talk to each other and say things like: "oh God, I dated this guy who was just so mediocre and then he left me for like the Pirates." And then there's an awkward silence when the Cardinals and Brewers realize the Pirates were standing alone over there by the punch bowl, looking forlorn and hearing every word they've said.

So why are we signing him?

As insurance in case Matt Cain decides he's tired of being second fiddle to Tim Lincecum and goes all Tonya Harding on him. Or Bumgarner really gets into a rodeo move during an off-day and fractures his mabibula. Or Zito is traded to the Yankees for Brian Cashman's elf suit. You never know what could happen.

Is he going to sit in AAA waiting for one of these things to happen?

Yes, unless he makes the big league team as a long reliever, in which case he won't get a lot of work because our starters are so good. That would likely mean Dan Runzler is sent to AAA, which would be a surprise move given that Runzler is highly regarded and is a better pitcher than Suppan. And, c'mon, when has Brian Sabean ever acquired an overpaid mediocre veteran player rather than give a young guy a chance?

Can we have a moratorium on all persons who purport to be a fan of a football team whose name rhymes with "Mets" but have never actually been to the city where they play their games from trying to steal the goodwill, underdog, band of misfits mojo that the Giants used in winning the World Series and applying it to their foot-fetish head coach, smack-talking players, and obnoxious know-it-all fans?
-Michael in SF

Yeah, I don't buy the Jets as the heir to the Giants' mojo. The Giants never talked smack about anybody unless you count that one time when Jonathan Sanchez promised a sweep of the Padres, everybody else told him to shut up, we lost 2 out of 3, and then he never talked smack again. Being a band of misfits because you defy the archaic stereotypes of your century-old sport is very different from everybody hating you because you're annoying. And I mean, the Jets did a reality show. There's NO WAY the Giants would ever do that. Right? Right?

How similar do you see the Jets' postseason run to the Giants'? A clubhouse of nutty characters with amazing chemistry who are written off every step of the way.
-Seth in Montana

Seth. You're a Giants fan. So I won't throw you under the bus by reprinting Michael's response to your email that included a valid point about Bochy's wife not making any "ginormous-head fetish" videos. Let's just say....no similarity. But best of luck to your team.

Why haven't you made a cool video like that Sully guy? Are you awkward in front of a camera like Jonathan Sanchez or something?
-Seth in Montana

Oh, c'mon! I just tried to be nice to you! Yeah, I actually am. I'm so awkward in front of a camera that when we watched the film of my wedding after it had been edited professionally, the only shots left were of the cake. Ok, that's not true. The truth is I haven't made a cool video because the video I want to make involves Brian Wilson thumb wrestling a gorilla and the gorilla won't return my calls.

What am I going to do without being able to yell "Jazz Hands!" (after an Uribe homerun) now? Can we ask Miggy to give each homer a little Dave Henderson hop and turn?
-David in SF

Sure. So that will be, what, two hops and two turns for the season?

You haven't made any nerdy Harry Potter references recently. I'm proud of you.
-Anonymous

Thanks, I'm trying hard.

What Hogwarts house do you think all the Giants' starters would be in, though? Just curious.

Oh, no, I couldn't. I really don't think I want to do that.

Of course you do.

Fine.

Gryffindor
Buster Posey
Andres Torres
Tim Lincecum
Pablo Sandoval
Jonathan Sanchez
Aubrey Huff
(Brandon Belt)

Hufflepuff
Freddy Sanchez
Cody Ross
Matt Cain

Ravenclaw
Brian Wilson
Barry Zito

Slytherin
Pat Burrell
Madison Bumgarner

Not At Hogwarts
Miguel Tejada
(he's a squib)


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Written by Andy | 19 January 2011

Note: I had this post in my head since about 2am last night when I was putting my baby to sleep. But of course by the time I sit down to write it, McCovey Chronicles has already done the same basic idea. Now I look like a big copycat. Next thing you know, I'll be calling my blog "The Posey Papers" or "The Aardsma Articles." Damn you, Grant.

When I heard the figures for Andres Torres' arbitration "battle," I was relieved. Arbitration can actually be very nasty and knowing that the two sides aren't far off and under no scenario will the Giants be overpaying for Torres instantly calmed me down. I put my tranquilizer gun away immediately...I haven't needed that thing since November 1st.

Torres is asking for $2.6m, and the Giants are offering $1.8m. As McCovey Chronicles puts it, you gotta be crazy if you're rooting against Andres. The guy needs the money more than Bill Neukom. If he loses, Barry Zito should buy him dinner every night at any restaurant he chooses and he should get a doggy bag every time he goes out so he can save the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I'm thinking the following would be a worst case scenario for how the hearing goes:

Torres: I came from humble roots and have fought every step of the way to provide for my family. Last year I did very well and I apologize for saying that because it is arrogant of me. When I was younger, I used to pull yams out of the ground to help...

Sabean: Sweet potatoes.

Torres: They were yams. My sister and I...

Sabean: They were sweet potatoes. And then they sauteed them.

Torres: That is not true. We boiled them with dirt.

Sabean: With arugula. And fennel. And fed them to their pet peacock.

Torres: Trade me to the Padres.

Other than that, I'm thinking we're ok. Andres should win, the Giants shouldn't risk pissing him off to save $800k, and we should get our leadoff hitter and center fielder back, minus an appendix which he wasn't really using anyway.

Beautiful.

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Written by Andy | 19 January 2011

If the Giants would just stop doing things, I could go back to writing fake conversations between my fake personal assistant Igor and myself. But no.

Here's the arbitration update.

Four Giants avoided arbitration:
Ross: 1 year, $6.3m
J. Sanchez: 1 year, $4.8m
Ramon Ramirez: 1 year, $1.65m
Casilla: 1 year, $1.3m
(multiple sources including Splashing Pumpkins)

Two Giants are headed for the conference room:
Andres Torres asked for $2.6m and the Giants countered with $1.8m.
Javier Lopez asked for $2.875 and the Giants countered with $2m.

Some other contract features you may not have heard, perhaps because I may have made them up:
-Ross gets a bonus of $3 for every good-natured interview he does after a loss, thus sparing the clubhouse from watching Pat Burrell trying to whip reporters with a wet towel.
-Jonathan Sanchez gets a bonus of $675 for every series he goes without publicly predicting a Giants sweep
-Ramon Ramirez gets 40% off the sale of any "Tai Kwon Do Ram" merchandise. In case, you know, it takes off.
-Santiago Casilla gets whatever he wants as long as he promises never to throw that breaking ball he threw to Polanco in Game 4 of the NLCS ever again. Ever. Pinky swear.

Igor informs me that the correct title of this post, strictly speaking, is:

"We" are "breaking" so much news, our head hurts.

Fair enough.

But that's still better than when we did that post on the Jose Reyes-to-the-Giants trade and the title would have been:

We are "breaking" so much "news," our head hurts.

Now your head hurts.
Sorry.

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Written by Andy | 18 January 2011

The AP is reporting that Ramon Ramirez is back for 1-year, $1.65 million.

Despite his playoff struggles, I like RamRam. He's got nasty stuff and he had a sub-1.00 ERA during the regular season with the Giants, a much bigger sample size than one bad pitch to Rick Ankiel.

I mean, what is Rick Ankiel doing hitting anyway? He should be pitching in AAA and shooting up roids and getting ejected for trying to shove the rosin bag up the home plate umpire's nose. I still get mad thinking about Game 2 of the NLDS even though we, you know, won the World Series and all that.

I have scars, people. Scars.

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Written by Andy | 18 January 2011

Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Giants have signed Cody Ross to a $6.3 million contract, avoiding arbitration.

This isn't anywhere else on the internet that I can find, so I don't have any more details.

Is the Cody Ross of the playoffs worth $6.3m? Definitely.
Is the Cody Ross of late August who misplayed flyballs and had a low-.300's obp worth $6.3m?
No.

But this is about what we expected, money-wise. I'm banking on August being the fluke and October being Ross approaching his potential. Maybe we'll get lucky and Roy Halladay will pitch against us 49 times, which would mean Cody would hit 98 homeruns. That would be a record or something.

The best news is that we avoided an arbitration hearing. Cody would have sat there and watched that late August fly ball over and over again as Brian Sabean used a power-point presentation to explain just how completely un-freaking-believable it was that a professional baseball player could choke away a win during a pennant race with such brazen stupidity. Sabean would have sat there with a dumb grin on his face and then Ross would have said: "Roy Oswalt. Derek Lowe. Roy Halladay. Twice." And the arbitration mediator would have awarded him $57.9 million.

Good work, Sabes.

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Written by Andy | 18 January 2011

So says Paul Sullivan, who emailed me the following video last night. Definitely worth checking out.

http://sullybaseball.com/

Also, Splashing Pumpkins linked to this very cool bar graph depicting the 2010 NL West race in real time:
http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/517973/NLwest.swf

In the same post, Splashing Pumpkins asked when our Eric Surkamp interview will be out?

Well, I'm trying to wait until our new site is up...kind of a grand opening thing.

Hopefully that will mean a couple days. If it looks like it will be longer than that, I'll just go ahead and post it.

Stay tuned for January mailbag later today.

Flomax, by the way, is a registered trademark of the Boehringer Ingelheim company, all brand names copyrighted. Igor, my personal assistant, told me to say that. "You will be suited if you are not careful," he told me. "Already you talk about Kung Fu Panda but not movie studio that made him in cartoon lab and you broke into his house! You are bad blogger. Very bad."

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