An Awkward Interview with Aubrey Huff

I just finished interviewing Aubrey Huff, which was an extraordinarily awkward experience. When I approached him, he was talking to somebody, presumably with KNBR or CSN-Bay Area, about a promo he had to film. He didn’t seem enthused (“Do I really have to do that?“). The guy said “well, you could interview with this guy,” to which he responded “Okay, I’ll film the promo.”

Later, Huff was finishing up an interview with another person, and he didn’t seem very happy (to say the least). “Okay…What do you want me to say to that? That’s not a question.”

Eventually, the guy left, and Huff stood up.

“Do you mind if I film you?” I asked.

“Sure, go ahead.”

What follows is video of said awkward interview:

Larry Baer on Chronicle Live: “Keep the Pitching Intact”

Giants president Larry Baer just appeared on Chronicle Live (on CSN Bay Area), discussing the offseason to come. A lot of it was old stuff — stuff we’ve been hearing again and again. The organization has made it quite clear that their philosophy is “pitching, pitching, pitching.” That’s their priority this offseason, and it seems that pursuing a top free agent hitter (someone like Jose Reyes) is not a reality.

The organization will try to sign Tim Lincecum to a long-term deal, and if it doesn’t happen, they’ll try again next offseason. If again he doesn’t sign a long-term deal, the Giants will make a third attempt (as Lincecum becomes a free agent) to sign him to a long-term deal. As Baer puts it, the Giants have three tries with him.

Similarly, signing Cain long-term is a priority for the organization, but a more pressing need — as he hits free agency sooner. Baer said something to the effect of — “it’s equally important to sign Cain and Lincecum” long-term.

When asked if the Giants could afford to sign them both, Baer said they could. What he doesn’t know is if they can afford to sign a top free agent hitter (a $20-30MM per year guy, as he puts it) in addition to Cain/Lincecum.

Lastly, he said that successful teams, of late, have been winning by virtue of deep bullpens, strong pitching, and “the ability to adjust as you go along.” My takeaway from this is that Baer is emphasizing a pitching and only pitching philosophy with the team. It sounds almost as though he doesn’t care at all about the offense, and is completely oblivious to the fact that their issues extend far beyond the injuries to Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez. Additionally, the “adjustment” line implies that the Giants will continue to be active before the trade deadline.

Anyway, please do note that this is all paraphrased, and simply what I’ve inferred from it. I’m sure the video of the interview will be posted eventually, at which point you can go check it out. In any event, I’m a bit concerned about the organizational view on the importance of offense.

Update: here’s the video of Baer’s interview.

Giants GM Brian Sabean on Crawford, Panik, Brown

Mychael Urban of CSN Bay Area interviewed Giants GM Brian Sabean today…a few notes –

  • In regards to payroll, Sabean says the Giants will go up incrementally in spending, but not dramatically.
  • He says Brandon Crawford‘s done a really good job making mechanical adjustments in the Arizona Fall League, and has “earned” his high batting average there.
  • Joe Panik, for a first-year player, has played second base really well; Gary Brown‘s showing signs of fatigue but he’s had some nice at-bats.
  • Freddy Sanchez is back into rehab, and will probably start throwing around December 1st (seemingly on schedule).
  • Buster Posey has hit on the field three days a week, and has continued to catch on the pitching machine; he’s going through an intensive running program as well.

An interview with Joe Ritzo, San Jose Giants Director of Broadcasting

Joe Ritzo, San Jose Giants Director of BroadcastingI just recently had the chance to interview Joe Ritzo by phone. Joe is the San Jose Giants director of broadcasting, and he shared some insight on his job, as well as various San Francisco Giants prospects (past and present).

First of all, could you briefly describe what you do as Director of Broadcasting for the San Jose Giants? How long have you been working for the SJ Giants?

I broadcast all 140 of our games, the majority of which are broadcast on our site. We have a TV deal with Comcast Network which reaches out to two million people, so 20 of our games are broadcasted on television. I’ll slide over and handle the TV games, and I also do behind-the-scenes stuff, handling baseball-related content on the site, press releases. I also write and edit the annual programs, and maintain the site.

You mentioned you work 14-hour days…what does that entail?

Certainly during the season. I’ll go the park at 12, leave after the game, and then work from home for a few hours afterwards. Game recaps need to be written, game notes need to be written before the next game; there’s a lot of writing that takes up time. During the offseason, it’s a much more normal work schedule, but during the season, it’s a marathon.

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Mike Murray Q&A

Mike Murray is a Giants catching prospect currently with the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. He signed a contract with the San Francisco Giants in 2010, and has gone on to hit .385/.422/.548 in two professional seasons with the AZL Giants and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. You can find him on Twitter @MJMurray15, and he writes a blog — BigLeagueThoughts.com….Mike was kind enough to answer a few questions:

A couple major-leaguers, Dave Bush and Mike MacDougal, have come out of Wake Forest University, as well as guys like Matt Antonelli and Allan Dykstra. Have you had any kind of contact with these guys?

I have had the chance to meet Dave Bush at an alumni event and haven’t had the chance to meet Mike MacDougal. Allan Dykstra was a teammate of mine for two seasons at Wake. My sophomore year I hit right behind Allan in the lineup and we would do a lot of talking about adjustments that needed to be made to hit in the middle of the order. Looking off-speed in fastball counts and understanding when guys would try to pitch backwards or come in. He helped me a lot acclimating to ACC pitching. I am happy that he is putting together a great year in the Eastern League for the Mets, and hopefully will see him in the big leagues soon. Antonelli signed the year before I got to Wake, but I had a chance to be around him a bit when he would return to Wake. He is a tireless worker and unbelievable athlete, I would expect good things from him with the Nationals.


I hate to ask this, but I’m curious to hear your take. As a catcher in the Giants’ organization, what were your thoughts on the Buster Posey collision?


I don’t know if its fair to get into the intent of Scott Cousins or what could have or should have happened differently on the play, but it was just a devastating unfortunate play. I got to play against Buster a good bit while he was at Florida State, and he is as good a guy as player. The only thing that I saw that hasn’t already been exhausted in commentary was what happened after Buster knew that the ball had skipped past his glove and he didn’t have possession. In that situation as soon as the catcher receives the ball he is able to be aggressive in going after the runner. The natural reaction when you don’t have the ball is to relax a bit and I thought once Buster realized he didn’t have the ball that that may have happened and made him a bit more vulnerable.


What are your thoughts on the Giants’ first-round pick, Joe Panik? Seems like he was eager to sign quickly and start playing right away.


Joe has impressed all of us in the first half of the season. It’s rare that a short season team gets a first rounder for opening night and we have certainly enjoyed the benefits of having him here. I think one of the tougher things in sports is having plenty of expectations coming in and living up to them when everyone expects you to. Joe has done that and more. He goes about his business professionally, works hard, and is reliable every night he plays. We talk a good bit throughout the game on pitch patterns and what pitchers are trying to do with us. I also won’t complain about having more guys from the Northeast around.


Are you focused on anything currently, in terms of what you want to improve?


As most people who follow the Giants minor league system know, the organization has plenty of young, talented catchers. I have been doing a lot of early work at first base and trying to become a bit more versatile defensively. My goal for the end of the season and off-season will be to build upon that and be more versatile and athletic defensively coming into next spring training. Whatever I can do to make it easier on myself getting at bats through the system is what I will be working toward.


What’s the hardest part about catching? Calling a game, holding baserunners, or just the wear and tear it takes on a body?


The hardest part of catching in the minor leagues is managing the pitching staffs. With guys fluctuating from club to club throughout the organization, you may have guys out on the mound you haven’t seen before and you have to learn on the fly what they like to throw, how their off-speed pitches move, when they are comfortable throwing certain pitches, and do this all very quickly. As grueling as catching bullpens can be, it is vital to get to know the guys on your staff and have a good plan with each guy when they get onto the mound. I also think calling the game can get a bit tricky, especially in the low minor leagues. There are certain situations where development can trump the right pitch call. There may be a hitter you can get out by just flipping in slider after slider, but there may be a pitcher that needs to work on fastball command to advance. There is definitely a balance there.


Who has been the greatest influence on your playing career?


My dad has been the biggest influence on my career. My dad played minor league ball with the White Sox organization in the mid-80′s and taught me how to play based on challenges he faced in professional baseball. He taught me how to hit left-handed from the time I started swinging a bat to give me an advantage on right-handed sliders. He taught me to catch when I started playing little league because he played OF,IF, and C in college and was converted to a catcher in pro ball and found himself at a disadvantage because of the experience of guys who had been catching their whole lives. I have also benefitted greatly from some really great coaches in HS, college, and in summer ball.


Toughest pitcher you’ve ever faced?


I think I would have to say Deck McGuire. Deck was a 1st rounder last spring and I would expect he’ll be making some noise in the big leagues before long. The challenge in hitting Deck was that he never gave in on any pitch. His fastball was around 92 and he has a plus change up and good slider. He would use all of those pitches in any count and never seemed to miss above the knees. I had some good, long at bats against him and never felt super comfortable in the box against him.


On a similar note – and this is probably a harder question to answer – who do you think is the best pitcher you’ve ever caught, in terms of raw talent?


I caught Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello in AAU ball when we were in high school in New Jersey. He was the most advanced and talented high school pitcher I’ve seen. I had an opportunity to catch White Sox pitcher Chris Sale in the Cape Cod league All-Star game in 2009, and his stuff was as good as I have caught. He was 95 from a tough left-handed arm slot and two plus off-speed pitches. Throw Wheeler and Hembree in from Spring Training and those would be the guys I think I have caught with the best stuff.


Favorite player growing up?


I grew up a Yankees fan, and I have always had a loyalty to the guys from the core Yankees dynasty of the late 90′s-early 2000′s. Jeter, Rivera, Martinez, O’Neill, Brosius, Posada. I had the opportunity last summer to catch a first pitch from Scott Brosius, which was a pretty cool experience. Aside from the core Yankees, I always loved the way Jim Edmonds played.


You had a blog up at BigLeagueThoughts.com, but haven’t updated it recently. Any plans to start it up again?


I really enjoyed doing stuff on the blog as Spring Training approached, but just got a bit difficult to keep up during the long Spring Training days and having to get myself down to the Starbucks in Scottsdale to get consistent internet to put them up. I didn’t want to keep it up sporadically, so I decided to take a break and hope to get it back up and going at some point. I keep a notebook of experiences and stories from the season, and I will eventually be able to get them up and share them.


Thanks again to Mike, and good luck to him on the rest of the season!

Mike Kickham Q&A – Ten Questions

San Francisco Giants prospect Mike Kickham is a left-handed pitcher currently with the San Jose Giants. He was drafted out of Missouri State in the sixth round of the 2010 draft. He’s on Twitter, so go ahead and follow him.

Mike was nice enough to answer several questions:

1) Your twin brother, Dan, was drafted by the Colorado Rockies. Is there a big sibling rivalry there, especially with him being in the farm system of a rival team?

My brother did not sign and is playing at Missouri State this year. He’s having a very good year so far and I hope to help him along as his baseball career progresses. We are very close and have always been very competitive growing up.

2) Are you focusing on anything specific at the moment (i.e. fastball velocity, developing a new pitch, etc.)?

During spring training I was really focusing on polishing my change and throwing it more consistently.

3) Missouri State has produced several major-league arms (Shaun Marcum, Brad Ziegler, etc.). Have you had any kind of contact with these guys?

Ziegler’s around in the offseason quite a bit, however I haven’t really chatted with him at length. However, I did get to pick Cole Hamels‘ mind this past offseason which I felt was very beneficial speaking to another lefty.

4) What would you say is your best secondary pitch? Curve? Slider? Change?

I’d have to say my go to secondary would be my slider, I feel that I can get most anyone out with that pitch, especially lefties.

5) The Giants’ farm system has had a lot of success in developing pitchers in recent years. Was that something that you thought about when you came to the Giants?

Most definitely, this organization does an excellent job drafting and developing arms and now they have a ring to prove that. I was very excited to work with the same guys that developed Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner. Those are guys you want to emulate.

6) You haven’t pitched yet for the SJ Giants because of a blister, right? Is the Giants’ farm system cursed? So many injuries…

Haha I hope not…it’s frustrating that such a minuscule thing has cost me time with the team but I understand that it needs to fully heal so that it won’t become a recurring issue throughout my career.

7) Do you envision yourself as a starter in the majors? Or might you go the path of a reliever?

I think of myself as a starter, I’ve always been one and like going 6-7 innings; but whatever role the organization wants to put me in and feels I’ll be the most successful I will gladly do. I just enjoy competing and giving my team a chance to win.

8) What’s it like playing with so many talented prospects in San Jose? Fun group of guys?

Great group in San Jose, with so much talent around I can learn from everyone, not just the pitchers. I can talk to the hitters about their at bats and get valuable information I can take with me out on the mound.

9) Scouting reports say your velocity tops out in the mid-90s. What’s the hardest you’ve ever thrown?

Hardest I’ve ever thrown was 95

10) You played one year of D-1 college baseball, and you’re now starting in high-A. Is this all happening too fast?

It has happened fast, but this is something I’ve always worked toward. I wouldn’t have left school early unless I felt I was ready for the next step and I felt I was ready. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this organization and excited to keep working hard and keep working my way up to reach the ultimate goal.


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Ten Questions with Thomas Neal of the San Francisco Giants

First, a little background information. Thomas Neal is widely considered to be one of the Giants’ best prospects. In 136 games at AA Richmond last year, he posted a .291/.359/.440 slash line. He also hit 12 home runs, even though his ballpark is not exactly homer-friendly. Recently, Neal has become active on Twitter, under the username @TdaddyNeal (you should follow him if you aren’t already doing so).

He was generous enough to participate in Ten Questions, and I hope you enjoy it. (Also, I recommend you watch Thomas Neal’s interview with Mychael Urban before reading this.)

1. Do you have any specific goals set out for 2011?

I think my main goal this season is to put together consistent at bats when hitting with runners in scoring position, and Have Fun.

2. Who has been the greatest influence on your playing career?

My mom for sure. She has always been there for me and supported me my whole life. She did whatever she could possibly do to help me chase my dream. She drove me around to every city in california for baseball games. She went to every game, She did it all. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now.

3. How difficult was the transition from the California League to the Eastern League?

I think the biggest Transition for me was mentally. The guys were a lot smarter and they didn’t make the same mistakes that often. You really have to have a consistent game plan and understand what your trying to do at the plate. Early on I didn’t do a good job of that.

4. What are your thoughts on Brandon Belt and all of the hype surrounding him?

I think Belt is a great player. He can hit, plays good defensive, runs the bases well, He is a Good Baseball Player. The hype is well deserved, he dominated every level that he got a chance to play at.

5. So far, who’s the toughest pitcher you’ve faced in your career?

Stuff wise I would have to go with Craig Italiano he played for the A’s but he’s with SD now.

6. In your interview with Mychael Urban, you said that your biggest focus is your mental game — that you’re physically ready to play in the majors, but you want to adjust your mental game. This is a more general question, but can you comment on the importance of mentality in baseball?

I think thats the difference between a Big Leaguer and Minor leaguer. Physically the ability for everyone is there. Its tough to stay mentally focus every day for 162 games but Big Leaguers are able to get lock in mentally every single day. While minor leaguers are trying to learn how to do that every single day and it can be tough.

7. Just out of curiosity, do you pay any attention to prospect rankings and write-ups, or do you just try to ignore those and focus on playing?

Its something I don’t really pay attention to because I have no control over what people think or say. My main focus is to get better each day and be ready to step in with the Big League team when every my name is called upon.

8. Going into Spring Training, is it any different for you because you’re now with the defending world champions?

Not really, because Im not going to spring training to try and win a job. I just want to learn as much as I can, and just show that I can compete at the Big League level.

9. You’ve played with many of the young Giants prospects and players — like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. As a whole, how talented is this group of up-and-coming players in the Giants organization?

Very talented. I honestly can’t put my finger on it but I really believe there is something special with this group. There are all different type of personality and everyone gets along. But when we are between the lines its tough to explain, but the best way I could put it is everyone on the field is on the same page and we expect to win.

10. Do you plan on maintaining an active Twitter account throughout the baseball season?

Well, I’m thinking about carrying my phone in my pocket instead of my batting gloves. So I could tweet during pitching changes instead of running all the way to CF to talk to Ford Lol. probably a bad idea tho. But I will be tweeting during the season maybe not as much but I will be active.

I’d like to once again thank Thomas Neal for taking the time to participate in this. He’s an awesome guy, and I wish him the best of luck this season — and hope to see him in the majors some time soon!