Monthly Archives: November 2019

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SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants churned through a franchise-record 64 players in 2019, and the roster turnover figures to continue this offseason as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi looks to improve the club ahead of the ’20 season.

Zaidi will have one extra spot to work with next year, as rosters are set to expand from 25 to 26 players. It’s probably a fruitless exercise to attempt to predict who will be with the Giants when they face the Dodgers in their regular-season opener on March 26, but we’ll give it a try anyway.

Here’s a way-too-early look at who might be on the Giants’ Opening Day roster next season:

Catcher
Locks: Buster Posey
Possibilities: Aramis Garcia, free agent or trade

Posey endured the worst offensive season of his career and found himself in a timeshare with backup Stephen Vogt in 2019, but he remains under contract for two more seasons and should be back behind the plate on Opening Day. Posey and Garcia are the only catchers on the Giants’ current 40-man roster, so they’ll likely look to make a couple of external additions before Spring Training. Vogt seemed like a perfect fit for San Francisco, but he is a free agent and will likely draw interest from several other teams this offseason. With top prospect Joey Bart on the way, the Giants could be content to search for more of a stopgap backup option.

First base
Locks: Brandon Belt
Possibilities: Austin Slater, Zach Green, free agent or trade

Belt is coming off a down year, but he was still one of the most productive members of the Giants’ veteran core, and he is projected to remain the starting first baseman in 2020. San Francisco will need another backup corner infielder if Pablo Sandoval departs via free agency, though they have some internal options in Slater and Green.

Second base
Locks: Mauricio Dubón
Possibilities: Donovan Solano, Cristhian Adames, free agent or trade

Dubón, the Giants’ prized Trade Deadline acquisition from the Brewers, showed enough promise in his first look with the club that he will likely enter Spring Training as the favorite to win a starting job at second base. Solano did a nice job as the Giants’ backup middle infielder in 2019, but he lost playing time to Dubón over the final month of the season and could be in line for another reserve role next year.

Dubon’s stellar diving play
Sep 29th, 2019 · 0:13
Dubon’s stellar diving play
Shortstop
Locks: Brandon Crawford
Possibilities: Dubón, Solano, Abiatal Avelino, free agent or trade

Like many of the Giants’ legacy players, Crawford regressed offensively in 2019, creating questions about his viability as a starting option as he heads into the final two seasons of his contract. If he continues to struggle, Crawford could find himself losing at-bats to the likes of Dubón and Solano next season.

Third base
Locks: Evan Longoria
Possibilities: Green, Adames, free agent or trade

After a lackluster first season with the Giants, Longoria proved to be solidly above-average in 2019, delivering big hits, power and steady defense at third base. He’ll likely remain the incumbent for the near future, as he is signed through ’22.

Outfield
Locks: Kevin Pillar, Mike Yastrzemski, Steven Duggar
Possibilities: Alex Dickerson, Jaylin Davis, Chris Shaw, Slater, free agent or trade

If Dickerson stays healthy, he should join Pillar, Yastrzemski and Duggar in the locks category, but he has a lengthy injury history, so it remains to be seen how his body will hold up next year. There are some questions regarding Yastrzemski’s ability to sustain the success he enjoyed in 2019 and Duggar’s durability, so the Giants could also look to fortify this group this offseason.

Starting pitchers
Locks: Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija
Possibilities: Logan Webb, Tyler Beede, Dereck Rodríguez, Shaun Anderson, free agent or trade

Cueto and Samardzija will be back, but Madison Bumgarner is a free agent and will leave a sizable hole at the top of the rotation if he signs elsewhere this offseason. Starting pitching will be a priority for the Giants this offseason, so if they miss out on Bumgarner, they will likely target a couple of other free agents and try to round out their rotation with some of their younger internal options.

Locks: Tony Watson, Trevor Gott, Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers, Jandel Gustave
Possibilities: Anderson, Andrew Suárez, Wandy Peralta, Conner Menez, Melvin Adon, free agent or trade

Closer Will Smith was the only member of the Giants’ 2019 Opening Day bullpen still to be on the active roster at the end of the season, a sign of the tremendous turnover the relief corps endured as a result of trades and injuries. Smith is a free agent, so San Francisco will likely feature a markedly different bullpen next year. Several promising arms emerged in September, but Zaidi is likely to continue to scour the relief market for more depth pieces this offseason. Good news, though: Watson exercised his player option for ’20, so he’ll be back in the orange and black.

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18.

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S.F. Giants managers

Gabe Kapler becomes the 17th manager of the Giants’ San Francisco era, dating to 1958. Here’s a look at those who preceded him.

Photo NF33HQR5 giants_timelinexxxx

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Bruce Bochy (2007-19): Bochy presided over the even-year dynasty that brought San Francisco its first World Series championship in 2010 and followed with titles in ’12 and ’14. He finished his Giants career two games from breaking even: 1,052 wins to 1,054 losses. Overall, he won 2,003 games, including his 12 season with the Padres. The 10 men to reach 2,000 wins before him are all in the Hall of Fame.

San Francisco Giants manager Felipe Alou watches the Giants play the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sept. 30, 2006.
Photo: ERIC RISBERG / AP
Felipe Alou (2003-06): In Alou’s best season, the Giants amassed 100 wins in 2003, but lost in four games in the Division Series to the Marlins. He debuted with the Giants as a player June 8, 1958, becoming the second Dominican to reach the majors. With the Expos, Alou was named Manager of the Year in 1994, the first Latino to win the award.

San Francisco Giants manager Dusty Baker carries his son Darren as he celebrates winning the National League pennant in San Francisco October 14, 2002. The Giants defeated the St Louis Cardinals 2-1 to advance to the World Series.
Photo: MIKE SEGAR / REUTERS
Dusty Baker (1993-2002): In his final season, Baker led the Giants to the pennant, only for the bullpen to spell their downfall in a World Series against the Angels that went seven games. He rode the success of Barry Bonds before the steroid scandal broke, winning three Manager of the Year awards and finishing with an 840-715 record that included two other playoff appearances, in 1997 and 2000, both ending in the Division Series.

Giants manager Roger Craig leans back in his office while being interviewed by the media before Game 4 of the 1989 World Series against the Oakland A’s.
Photo: Deanne Fitzmaurice / The Chronicle
Roger Craig (1985-92): Craig took over for the final 18 games of the team’s only 100-loss season — then Humm Baby went to work on a dramatic turnaround. He led the Giants to five consecutive winning seasons, highlighted by a pennant in 1989 before getting swept in the World Series by the A’s.

Former San Francisco Giants manager and player Jim Davenport in the dugout prior to the Giants legends game at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., Saturday, June 11, 2011.
Photo: Stephen Lam / Special to The Chronicle
Jim Davenport (1985): Davenport was fired 144 games into the season with the team at 56-88. He left his mark in San Francisco over a 13-year playing career. The third baseman shared a lineup card with the likes of Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey and Willie Mays.

Phillies manager Danny Ozark poses during a game at Wrigley Field in Chicago in 1979.
Photo: Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Danny Ozark (1984): Fired by the Phillies in 1979 after a seven-year stint, including 101-win seasons in 1976 and ’77, Ozark got another shot at managing with the Giants five years later when Frank Robinson was fired midseason. Ozark’s San Francisco tenure would last only 56 games, including 32 losses.

Giants manager Frank Robinson looks on during batting practice before a Major League Baseball game circa 1983.
Photo: Focus On Sport / Getty Images
Frank Robinson (1981-84): Robinson, a Hall of Fame outfielder, broke baseball’s color barrier for a manager with the 1975 Cleveland Indians, and became the first African American to manage in the National League with the 1981 Giants. He led them to playoff contention in 1982, but finished two games behind the Braves and one behind the Dodgers.

Willie McCovey hits his 513th career home run on June 16, 1979, passing Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews on all-time list. Coach Dave Bristol also pictured.
Photo: AP / Chronicle File
Dave Bristol (1979-80): Bristol had a brief but tumultuous tenure as Giants manager, including the time he infuriated pitcher John Montefusco by pulling him late in two consecutive starts. The animosity devolved into a brawl in the manager’s office. Montefusco described to the Chicago Tribune how he put Bristol in a headlock and slammed his head on a desk until players separated them. Montefusco had a black eye the next day and later spoke of his regret for the incident. He was traded after the season, and Bristol was fired after the Giants finished 75-86.

Manager Joe Altobelli sits between coaches Bobby Winkles and Herm Starrette at the 1977 San Francisco Giants opening day, at Candlestick Park.
Photo: Dave Randolph / The Chronicle
Joe Altobelli (1977-79): Altobelli’s highlight came in 1978 when the club went 89-73, led by starters Vida Blue and Bob Knepper with sub-3.00 ERAs. But the Giants finished third in the NL West. He was fired the next season with a 61-79 record and 22 games remaining.

Willie Mays gets his hat fitted by Giants manager Bill Rigney, during the center fielder’s first visit to Seals Stadium in 1957.
Photo: Joe Rosenthal / The Chronicle
Bill Rigney (1956-60, 1976): The first manager of the Giants’ San Francisco era was a Bay Area native. Rigney, born in Alameda, managed two losing seasons with the New York Giants before turning the team’s fortunes in California. The Giants finished 80-74 and 83-71 in their first two seasons in San Francisco, but Rigney would be replaced midway through the third season. He returned to manage in 1976, Bob Lurie’s first year as owner, but didn’t fare well.

Wes Westrum is shown in a July 1974 file photo during his tenure as manager of the San Francisco Giants.
Photo: / AP
Wes Westrum (1974-75): Westrum, a catcher on the New York Giants’ teams that won pennants in 1951 and ’54, finished a game below .500 in his only full season as manager in San Francisco.

Charlie Fox, who spent most of his baseball career with the Giants, pictured on April 4, 1972.
Photo: / AP
Charlie Fox (1970-74): In 1971, Fox became the first Giants manager to win a division title; McCovey, Mays, Bobby Bonds, Marichal, Perry and company lost in the NLCS to the Pirates in four games. Fox had a .516 winning percentage over five seasons.

A group of the San Francisco Giants sluggers with manager Clyde King, left. Willie McCovey and Willie Mays watch JimRay Hart swing on March 5, 1969.
Photo: / UPI
Clyde King (1969-70): King led the Giants to their fifth consecutive second-place finish in 1969, going 90-72, but was let go after starting the next season 19-23.

The 1964 San Francisco Giants manager Herman Franks (l) and coaches Charles Fox, Larry Jansen and Cookie Lavagetto at Spring Training camp on March 15, 1966.
Photo: / AP
Herman Franks (1965-68): Franks compiled the second-best winning percentage of all Giants managers at .567 but couldn’t break through to the World Series, with four runner-up finishes for the pennant, including tight races with the Dodgers in 1965 and ’66.

Former Giants player and manager Alvin Dark with some of his collected memorabilia at his home in Easley, South Carolina on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012.
Photo: Erik S. Lesser / SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Alvin Dark (1961-64): Dark led San Francisco to its first World Series in 1962 and could have won it all, but McCovey’s Game 7 line drive was caught by Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson in the bottom of the ninth inning. Dark holds the Giants’ best winning percentage at .569.

June 18, 1960: Tom Sheehan visits the San Francisco Giants clubhouse after being appointed interim manager in the place of Bill Rigney. Sheehan had been the head of the Giants scouting department.
Photo: Associated Press photo / Associated Press
Tom Sheehan (1960): Sheehan replaced Rigney and didn’t return after his interim season, going 46-50.

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Wednesday night, the Washington Nationals defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

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Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg won the World Series’ Most Valuable Player Award after a tremendous performance in the Fall Classic. He was 2-0 including a gem in Game 6, going 8 ⅓ innings pitched, allowing just two earned runs while striking out seven batters to keep the series alive for the Nationals.

The MVP award is named after MLB legend Willie Mays, who spent 22 seasons with the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets, which evoked a passionate rant from WFAN’s Mike Francesa.

Thomas B. Shea/ USA Today Sports
According to Francesa, although Mays is an all-time great player, the best moments of his legendary career didn’t come in the Fall Classic. Hence, the award should be saved for a player who dominated in the World Series.

“Why would you name the World Series MVP the Willie Mays award,” Francesa said. “Without question, we could argue one of the five to ten of all-time greatest players ever hands down. Not even worth an argument but the one blemish on his career is he didn’t have great World Series. He made an iconic catch in 1954 but he didn’t hit .300 in that series. Never hit 300 in the World Series. His teams went 1-3. He never hit a World Series home run in 73 at-bats and hit .230 in the World Series…. He won one World Series his entire career that was over 20 years.”

Here are some of the names that came to mind to potentially replace Mays.

“His [Mays> best moments were never played in the World Series, it’s the one blemish on his career. You could’ve named it the Bob Gibson award. One of the greatest World Series performances of all-time….. the Reggie Jackson award, he won two World Series MVPs….the Mickey Mantle award. He hit 18 home runs, holds almost every World Series record, played in 12 World Series and won seven of them!”

“If you were going to sit in the room, how would you come out with Willie Mays as the award. I don’t get it.”

Click on the audio player above to listen to Mike Francesa’s full rant about the Willie Mays award.

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The Oakland Athletics recently called up second baseman Corban Joseph. But what does it mean for the defensive liability, Jurickson Profar, and the struggling former top-100 prospect, Franklin Barreto?
Yesterday, San Francisco Chronicle columnist and resident insider Susan Slusser broke the news that the Oakland Athletics would be selecting the contract of Corban Joseph, a hot-hitting infielder who has quietly been auditioning for the role of “second baseman to replace Jurickson Profar.”

Joseph joins the team in San Francisco today for his first major league stint since September of last season with the Baltimore Orioles. And he will be thrown right into the fire starting at second base and batting seventh.

For many avid Aviators fans, the call-up has been long overdue. He’s put together a .371 batting average this season to go along with 35 doubles, which is the second-most in the Pacific Coast League.

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The A’s acquired Corban Joseph as a result of the Triple-A phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft, selecting him 22nd overall from the Orioles system.

Before his stint with Baltimore, he was regarded as a respectable prospect contained within a stacked Yankees system that has fielded some of the most electric players in recent years.

According to initial scouting reports, Joseph was listed as having a “60-plus” hit grade, meaning the expectation from the get-go was that he could put the ball in play as a top-of-the-order bat. He quickly displayed solid fundamentals and an above-average throwing arm to go along with a good eye at the plate.

But time was working against him.

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A near-.300 batting average and high on-base percentage were nice to look at, but the reality was that, by the time he was being considered for a call-up with Baltimore, he was already approaching 30. He has only accumulated 24 major league at-bats in the past decade.

So, in response, he casually bumped up his average by over sixty points from one season to the next.

In 97 games this season, he has littered his name across the PCL leaderboard — third in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage (.421), ninth in slugging (.585). These are all, predictably, career-best numbers at any level in his eleven-year career.

Joseph takes a slightly open stance from the left side of the plate, beating the ball into the ground and slapping hits down the line as a result of a short, quick swing that allows him to catch up to pitches dug in on him.

He has shown slightly more pop this season, but largely seems like the kind of player to employ the classic Wee Willie Keeler “hit ‘em where they ain’t” strategy— certainly something that more traditional fans will appreciate about him.

There is no doubt that the Oakland A’s are continuing to search for answers to their production — both offensively and defensively — at second base.

Profar continues to loiter just above the ‘Mendoza line’ while giving manager Bob Melvin grey hairs with his overhand shovel-throws to first. Franklin Barreto, the last hope to salvage anything from the historically-bad Josh Donaldson trade, has somehow made Profar look playable.

Making the call to Corban Joseph addresses several of those issues.

On defense, Joseph has a sparkling .987 fielding percentage — compared to Profar’s .969 and Barreto’s .932 — which, if placed within MLB rankings, would be in the top-five best percentages for second basemen.

He has decent range and shows translatable athleticism in his ability to get to balls in the hole and steal seeing-eye singles. In 480 innings at second base this season, he only has three errors.

While there would likely be some sort of drop-off when it comes to his production on offense, his game should, at the very least, translate as a much-needed left-handed bat on a 25-man roster with virtually no lefty bench options. Against righties this season, Joseph is showcasing an impressive .386/.435/.639 slash-line.

And as the prototypical Oakland A’s player, Joseph has preserved his plate discipline — striking out only thirteen more times this season than he’s walked.

These numbers should be especially threatening to Barreto who —while only 23 years old — has struck out 40.2% of the time in the majors while only walking in 3.5% of his at-bats.

This roster move has done more to signal the Oakland Athletics’ intentions with Franklin Barreto than it does to signal how much longer the A’s are willing to put up with Profar’s fluctuating ability.

Profar will likely be given a shot at least until the end of the season, but opting to roll with Corban Joseph over Barreto might indicate a shifted perspective on the former top-100 prospect.

Moving Joseph to the major-league roster allows the Aviators to give Sheldon Neuse — who is putting up similarly eye-popping numbers, hitting .322 with 23 home runs and 91 RBI — an opportunity to get more playing time at second base as opposed to fitting into the lineup as a third baseman.

It’d be reasonable to harbor a guess that Neuse — who is only 24 — fits on the A’s roster sometime in the next few years — but it won’t be as a third baseman.

Barreto’s goal with extended time in the minors will likely be to salvage his ability before heading into an offseason where the A’s will have to make some tough roster decisions to protect against this year’s Rule 5 draft. He’ll plausibly be seeing time around the diamond in hopes of becoming a utility bat.

Despite Corban Joseph’s stellar performance so far this year, there are still concerns that the numbers are drastically inflated as a result of playing in the Pacific Coast League.

To put everything in perspective, fellow Aviator Paul Blackburn has the fourth-best ERA in the PCL this season — at 4.28.

Additionally, as corresponding moves, the Oakland A’s will be optioning Nick Martini to Las Vegas and designating Beau Taylor for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Taylor has established a positive rapport with the pitching staff in limited big-league games this season.

Corban Joseph may not necessarily live up to the hype that his lofty batting numbers in the minors elicit, but the A’s are playing with house money at this point. They could catch lightning in a bottle with a quality lefty bat off the bench or another option at second base.

Or they could decide that the Corban Joseph of today is the same as the one that’s floundered in the minors for the last decade.

NEXT: Oakland Athletics: Mike Fiers has become the team’s undisputed ace
In either case, it’s worth a shot.

Worst case scenario, he does have a clean inning of relief on his Triple-A resume this season.

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You probably don’t remember the 1932 World Series — and if you do, thank you for reading this column. If you know anything about that World Series between the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, you probably know it as the year Babe Ruth called — or didn’t call — his home run off Cubs pitcher Charlie Root.

What you might not know is that 13 future Hall of Famers played in that World Series — the all-time record. It’s not surprising that the record would come from 1932; the 1920s and 1930s are the most overrepresented decades in the Hall of Fame, with more marginal candidates than any other era. The 1932 Yankees had nine Hall of Famers of varying stature (Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Red Ruffing, Lefty Gomez, Tony Lazzeri, Joe Sewell, Earle Combs and Herb Pennock) and the Cubs had four (Gabby Hartnett, Billy Herman, Kiki Cuyler and Burleigh Grimes).

Since the introduction of league championship series play in 1969, the record (so far) for a World Series is seven Hall of Famers:

1983 Orioles-Phillies — Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez

1996 Yankees-Braves — Wade Boggs, Mariano Rivera, Tim Raines, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones

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Pete Rose also played in the 1983 World Series, so that one could conceivably get bumped up to eight. But 1996 will reach eight next year when Derek Jeter gets in, and Andy Pettitte could make it nine down the road. (David Cone, Bernie Williams and Andruw Jones are lesser candidates.)

The 1995 World Series between the Braves and Cleveland Indians has six Hall of Famers already in Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Murray, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. In addition, Omar Vizquel and Manny Ramirez are still on the ballot, and Fred McGriff, Kenny Lofton and even Orel Hershiser are potential Veterans Committee candidates.

What about 2019? Given the star-laden nature of the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals, there could be as many 10 future Hall of Famers. Let’s take a look.

LOCK

Justin Verlander (71.4 WAR)

Signed, sealed and delivered. He has had a huge peak with a Cy Young/MVP season and four other top-three Cy finishes (and he’ll finish first or second this year). He now has added longevity, with 225 career wins. He could get to 300. “I think I can get pretty darn close,” Verlander said the other day. “We’ll see. I feel good. … I think the changes I’ve made the last few years to my body and how I pay attention to things is going to allow me to pitch deeper than I would have otherwise. It’s definitely a goal of mine.”

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ALMOST LOCKS

Max Scherzer (58.7 WAR)

Scherzer has 170 wins, three Cy Young Awards and a lot of black ink on his Baseball-Reference.com page as a dominant starter over the past seven seasons. He didn’t fully blossom until his breakout season with the Detroit Tigers in 2013 at age 28, however, so he might need a couple of good seasons more to lock things up. Remember, Hall of Fame voters still traditionally favor longevity over peak value. Put it this way: Roy Halladay just made it with 203 career wins and 65.4 WAR with a run of peak seasons similar to Scherzer’s. Halladay’s 203 wins is the fewest for a starting pitcher to get elected since Sandy Koufax made it with 165. (Dennis Eckersley had 197 but also made it on the strength of his career as a closer.) If Scherzer gets to 200 wins, he’s in.

Zack Greinke (66.7 WAR)

Greinke is at 205 wins with a WAR higher than Scherzer’s, and a lot of people already refer to him as a future Hall of Famer. And Greinke is still going strong, with 18 wins in 2019, so that win total should continue to climb. I’m not sure he is quite a lock just yet, though. He is a little different from Scherzer and Halladay, as he had two absolute monster seasons — 10.4 WAR in 2009 and 9.1 in 2015 — but not quite the run of seven or eight huge seasons like those two. Like Scherzer, however, Greinke has been injury-free and has the pitching moxie to last a long time and keep racking up wins.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
ON THE PATH

Jose Altuve (38.5 WAR)

So, second base is an interesting position for Hall of Fame voters. Only four second basemen who made their mark since 1970 have been elected:

Joe Morgan: 100.6 WAR
Ryne Sandberg: 68.0 WAR
Roberto Alomar: 67.1 WAR
Craig Biggio: 65.5 WAR

Meanwhile, Lou Whitaker (75.1), Bobby Grich (71.1), Willie Randolph (65.9) and Jeff Kent (55.4) have been rejected. We’ll also have Robinson Cano (69.6) and Chase Utley (65.4) to discuss down the road. Where will Altuve eventually fit on the list?

The point here is that based on WAR — and WAR is not the only barometer, of course, just a starting point — Altuve has a long way to go to get to the Biggio/Alomar/Sandberg level. But he has time. He’ll be entering his age-30 season next year. Altuve already is at 1,568 career hits. He has an MVP and three batting titles. He carries a stature of fame and reputation — like Sandberg and Alomar — that Whitaker, Grich, Randolph and even Kent lacked during their playing days (although Kent did win an MVP and holds the record for most home runs by a second baseman).

In one sense, I’d compare Altuve to a guy like Yadier Molina. Even if some of the numbers eventually fall a little short when compared with those of other Hall of Famers at their positions, they come with a lot of bonus karma.

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Alex Bregman (20.8 WAR)

Bregman had two great seasons of 6.9 and 8.4 WAR at ages 24 and 25 — enough to establish himself as a strong Hall of Fame candidate. Here’s a little study. I looked up how many position players had at least two 6.5-WAR seasons through age 25 since 1947. There have been 36, including Bregman. Fourteen of them already are Hall of Famers. Three others will be: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Jeter. Two others are Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Two others still are active with unknown futures: Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez. Take out Bregman, Betts and Ramirez and we essentially have 19 of 33 either in the Hall of Fame or having Hall of Fame numbers. That gives Bregman about a 60% chance — by this very crude method — of becoming a Hall of Famer.

Stephen Strasburg (32.6)

One thing fans often forget: Strasburg absolutely was worth the hype as the greatest pitching prospect many scouts said they had ever seen. In his first major league start, he struck out 14 batters in seven innings. He allowed one run in each of his next three starts. Through his first nine starts, he was 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 54⅓ innings. He was the next evolution in pitching. Then he got hurt. Then he came back, and then came the controversial decision to shut him down before the 2012 playoffs.

In this lens, some have viewed his career as a disappointment. He has made 30 starts in just two seasons. He has never won a Cy Young. But quietly, Strasburg always has pitched well when he does pitch, and his record through his age-30 season compares favorably with those of some of the guys above and some recent Hall of Fame picks:

Strasburg: 112-58, 3.17 ERA, 130 ERA+, 32.6 WAR

Verlander: 137-77, 3.41 ERA, 127 ERA+, 40.7 WAR

Scherzer: 105-62, 3.46 ERA, 120 ERA+, 30.6 WAR

Greinke: 123-90, 3.55 ERA, 117 ERA+, 39.9 WAR

Halladay: 111-55, 3.63 ERA, 128 ERA+, 35.2 WAR

Smoltz: 129-102, 3.40 ERA, 118 ERA+, 35.5 WAR

Mike Mussina: 136-66, 3.50 ERA, 130 ERA+, 42.0 WAR

Despite the various injuries, 200 wins isn’t out of the question. Scherzer has been great in his 30s. Halladay did a lot after turning 30. Don’t discount Strasburg’s ability to do the same and become an interesting Hall of Fame candidate.

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BEHIND THE CURVE, BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE

Anthony Rendon (27.3 WAR)

Before Game 1 of the World Series, Gerrit Cole described Rendon this way: “If it goes as expected, he’ll probably end up in the Hall of Fame. He’s so cool and calm and collected. And I think a lot of his players feed off that. And he takes care of the baseball on both sides of the ball, both defensively and offensively.”

Rendon has had some big years, and 2019 has been the biggest of all, but he is heading into his age-30 season, so that is an obstacle. He also doesn’t seem like the type who is going to play deep into his 30s. His comment during the National League Championship Series when asked what he’ll be at 36, like teammate Howie Kendrick: “Hopefully not playing baseball.”

Gerrit Cole (23.4 WAR)

Cole is a year younger than Rendon but has hit his stride over the past two seasons, maturing into a dominant ace — and the potential Cy Young winner. Heck, Cole is two years younger than Strasburg, so if he gets 12.0 WAR over the next two seasons (he was at 6.9 in 2019), then he will be up to 35.4 through age 30. Given his stuff, Cole certainly has the chance to excel well into his 30s, if he can stay healthy.

NO, THIS ISN’T A SILLY IDEA

Juan Soto (7.6 WAR)

Do we need to explain why this is possible? He turned 21 on Friday. He just hit .282/.401/.548 with 34 home runs — his second .400 OBP season. He compares to all-time greats such as Mel Ott and Ted Williams with such precocious plate discipline. It’s pretty clear that there is a strong possibility he’ll become an inner-circle type of hitter.

NOT REALLY A SILLY IDEA, EITHER

Yordan Alvarez (3.7 WAR)

All his value will be in his bat, but what if he hits like David Ortiz for the next 15 years?

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In the spring of 1945, a crane operator for U. S. Steel went shopping. Frank “Red” Haller had worked in the steel mills in Joliet, Illinois, as did his father before him, but he wanted a better life for his sons. List in hand, he elected to purchase baseball equipment at Barrett’s Hardware Store, so his sons could learn the game. The bill came to $68, and it took him a year to pay off his debt.1 When his wife Julia learned of the purchase, she was quite angry, as the Haller household had little to spare, financially. As Red told it, “Tom’s mother wanted to murder me. Here you haven’t got 25 cents to buy a loaf of bread, but you spent $68 on this.”2 Red’s older son Bill would become a major league umpire. His younger son Tom went on to excel at all sports and emerged as the starting catcher for the San Francisco Giants teams of the 1960s.

Thomas Frank Haller was born on June 23, 1937, in Lockport, Illinois. He was the youngest of three children, preceded by sister Joyce and brother Bill.

At Rockport High School, Haller starred in football and basketball as well as baseball. His football prowess won him a scholarship to the University of Illinois where he played quarterback. During his junior year at Illinois, in 1957 he was third amongst the Big Ten Conference quarterbacks in passing. Against Ohio State, in the Big Ten opener, he went 10-for-13 with 183 yards passing, but the Illini lost to Ohio State, 21-7. The following week, he led his team to a 34-13 upset over Minnesota. Later in the season, in a nationally televised game, they toppled Michigan 20-19. They ended the season rolling over Northwestern 27-0.

During the summer of 1957, Haller honed his baseball skills playing with the Moose Jaw Mallards in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. His 18 homers opened the eyes of the professional scouts.

Haller was signed by the San Francisco Giants scout Gene Thompson on February 25, 1958, for $54,000. Part of that money, $2,500, was sent directly to the University of Illinois. Haller, the star quarterback, had left school with one year of eligibility remaining. His feeling was that, “It was only fair to repay the money since I cannot continue to compete for the university.”3 His father also stipulated that he would return to school and get his degree, and that he did. He spent the next three off-seasons at Illinois, completing his degree in Physical Education, graduating in 1961.

Haller’s first stop in the minor leagues was Phoenix in the Pacific Coast League, where he played for John “Red” Davis.

Tom married Joan Alexander on April 13, 1958, just before the season began and arrived late for the April 15 season opener against San Diego. They had met while in high school and started dating at the then tender age of 16. Joan was on the cheerleading squad in high school and remembers that the loudest cheerleader of all was Tom’s mom, who by then had gotten over her anger at Red’s buying all that athletic equipment. Tom and Joan were together until Tom’s untimely death in 2004. They had two sons, Tom Jr. and Tim. Tom and Joan became grandparents when Tim’s daughter Ellen was born in 1986.

Haller started the 1958 season well, and, after 22 games, was leading the league with six home runs. He broke out on April 19 against San Diego with a pair of homers. The first came off Julio Guerra in the fourth inning, and the second, in the ninth inning, broke a 4-4 tie and sent everyone home. Three days later, he hit another pair of homers against Sacramento.

Haller suffered a split finger when he was hit by a foul tip on May 9, and missed nine games. During his time out of the lineup, he lost his league lead in homers, as teammate Felipe Alou and Salt Lake’s Dick Stuart caught fire. He got back into the lineup in time to have his third two-homer game of the season on May 27 against Seattle in a 5-3 win. On June 14 against Salt Lake City, he had a grand slam in the third inning, and tied the game with a single in the eighth as Phoenix went on to an 8-7 win in ten innings.

The team was the class of the league and they won the pennant by 4½ games. Phoenix Municipal Stadium was a veritable launching pad with the foul poles only 320 feet from home plate, and the Giants went on to set a PCL homer record with 205, including 16 by Haller. His 16th homer, a pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth inning, provided the margin of victory in an 8-7 win over San Diego on September 2. They clinched the pennant three days later.

Despite his home run productivity, his batting average was only .228 and he led the league in passed balls.

Haller was reassigned to Double-A, the Class A Eastern League for the 1959 season. At Springfield (Massachusetts), he batted .276. He also caught a pitching staff that included a 21-year-old Juan Marichal. Marichal and Haller advanced to Tacoma in 1960 and would eventually become battery mates in San Francisco.

Haller showed his trademark durability in June. On June 7, he was beaned in the ninth inning of the first game of a doubleheader against Reading at Springfield. He was taken for x-rays that proved negative and accompanied the team to York, PA where he went 2-for-5 with an RBI the next day. He went on to hit in six consecutive games, going 11-for-24 and raising his batting average 40 points.

On June 26, he had his first professional four hit game, hitting four singles in an 8-2 win over Binghamton. Haller was named to the All-Star team and saw action in the July 20, 1959 game in Williamsport, going 1-for-3 in the contest.

In August, the team went on a 22-10 tear and moved into first place on August 26. The Giants won their final eight games and clinched the pennant on September 6, as Haller went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. They continued their success in the post-season playoffs, defeating Binghamton in three straight and taking three of four from Williamsport to win the 1959 Eastern League championship.

The next season, Haller was back in Triple A at Tacoma. Once again, he was on a team contending for the pennant. Haller’s bat came alive with a grand slam in a 6-1 win over Portland on June 4. On June 16, he met with Hank Sauer, the former Giant outfielder who was serving as the team’s roving hitting instructor. After the lesson, Haller hit three consecutive home runs in a 9-1 win over Spokane.4 In June, Haller had eight homers, 23 RBIs, and batted .296. Haller’s June surge did not go unnoticed, as he was selected to the All-Star team for the second consecutive season. He went 1-for-2 with a double in a losing cause.

Tom Haller was not the only member of his family moving up the ladder to the major leagues. His brother Bill, an umpire, began the 1960 season in the Northwest League. On August 4, he was promoted to the Pacific Coast League and, as luck would have it, was told to report to Tacoma for a series between Spokane and Tacoma.5 On August 5, in the seventh inning of first game of the series, Tom stepped up to the plate as a pinch-hitter, and the Haller brothers were in the same game for the first time.

For the 1960 season, Haller finished with a .251 batting average, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 42 for the second place Tacoma Giants. More important, with the aid of coach Roy Partee, he honed his skills behind the plate.6

Alvin Dark was appointed Giant manager in 1961, and one of his first decisions was to install Tom Haller as his everyday catcher.

Haller’s first major league game was with the Giants on April 11, 1961. He started each of the team’s first eight games that season. His first hit, a home run came against Vernon Law of the Pirates in his second game on April 12 to tie the score at 1-1. The Giants went on to win by a 2-1 margin.

His glove play was exceptional and when tested on the evening of April 25, he came through. The Giants were leading the Dodgers 3-0 in a game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. In the bottom of the seventh, the Dodgers mounted a rally. With two runners on base, Wally Moon lined a ball towards centerfield. Willie Mays charged the ball, caught it an inch off the ground for the out and rifled a throw home. Haller had totally blocked the plate and Maury Wills, trying to score from third, was out easily.7

Haller’s defensive skills couldn’t hide his batting average. The Giants obtained catcher Ed Bailey from Cincinnati, and Bailey took over the chores behind the plate. Haller got into only 30 games with San Francisco and was hitting a lowly .145 when he was sent to Tacoma on July 6.

The 1961 Tacoma team was the class of the PCL and they won the Pennant by 10 games. Haller got into 56 games with Tacoma. Haller came through with two hits, including a homer, in a doubleheader sweep of Hawaii on July 17 that put Tacoma in the league lead by two games. In August, they went on a tear, winning 16 games in a row, and it was all but over.

Despite the occasional clutch hit, Tom only hit .205 at Tacoma, but his glove and acumen were such that the Giants elected split time between him with Bailey in 1962.

Carl Hubbell was the Giants farm director at the time, and he saw in the young Haller the qualities that would bring him to the forefront in any discussion of the great defensive catchers of the decade. “Haller brings a quarterback’s mind to catching. He’s an intellectual behind the plate.”8

Haller hit .261 with 18 homers 55 RBIs for the Giants in 1962. Haller and Bailey combined to give the Giants 35 home runs and 100 runs batted in as the club they battled the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League Pennant.

As the season wore on, Haller’s name appeared increasingly in the starting lineup. His clutch hitting, game calling, and gun for an arm could not be kept on the bench. As Harry Jupiter of the San Francisco Examiner reported, “Watching Haller is a joy. Runners are cautious, knowing Tom has an excellent arm, and nobody is better at catching foul pops behind the plate.”9

Haller’s throwing arm was the key. The Dodgers that year were built around speed with Maury Wills leading the charge. Haller’s arm was needed against the Dodgers and he started 13 of 18 games played between the two teams. Over the course of the regular season, Haller gunned down 36% of those trying to steal against him. He only made four errors that year and his fielding percentage of .992 was second in the league.

He was a great signal caller for a staff that was led by Jack Sanford and Juan Marichal. Haller caught Sanford regularly. Sanford had his best year in 1962, and Haller worked with Sanford to keep his pitch count down enroute to a 24-win season, including a streak of 16 straight victories. 10

As the Dodgers and Giants battled down the stretch, Haller played a pivotal role with his bat. On September 29, against Houston, Haller singled and clobbered a three run homer as the Giants earned their 100th win of the season 11-5 and pulled to within one game of the league lead.

The Giants and Dodgers ended the season deadlocked and went on to play a best-of-three series for the National League pennant. Haller caught Game Two in Los Angeles with Sanford on the mound. The Giants took a 5-0 lead but the Dodgers came back against the Giants’ bullpen, scoring seven runs in the sixth inning, and going on to win the game 8-7. The Dodgers’ seventh run scored when Lee Walls ran over Haller at home plate, forcing Haller out of the game. He needed six stitches to close the gash in his right forearm11 and missed the decisive third game, won by the Giants 6-4.

The Giants faced the New York Yankees in the World Series. After winning the second game by a margin of 2-0, the Giants were even in the series at 1-1. Sanford, who pitched the complete game, was quick to acknowledge Haller’s role in his great season. He exclaimed “Hey didn’t that Tom Haller catch a good game? There’s the guy who will be the take-charge guy of this club within the next couple of years.”12

The Giants lost the Series in seven games. Haller went four for 14, highlighted by his performance in Game Four. Wife Joan, who was then expecting the couple’s second child, was on hand with Tom’s parents to witness the game at Yankee Stadium. Not long after the family was settled in their seats, Haller gunned down Yankees leadoff hitter Tony Kubek trying to steal second. Haller’s throw was so quick that Kubek reversed himself and was tagged out when he fell trying to get back to first. In the second inning, on a 3-2 pitch, Haller slammed a Whitey Ford slider into the seats and put the Giants into a 2-0 lead. They won the game 7-3, and knotted the series at two games apiece.

The Yankees won two of the next three games to take the Series. On the last play of that final game, with two runners on base, Willie McCovey lashed a hard line drive to the right side of the infield. Bobby Richardson grabbed the liner, and the Giants were frustrated.

On May 22, 1963, Haller hit his first major league grand slam to propel the Giants to a 10-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Candlestick Park, giving Sanford his seventh win. After the game, Sanford was particularly appreciative of his battery mate. “Haller and me. You don’t think I could do it all by myself, do you? Tom may call some pitches you wonder about, but they work.” 13

In June, he homered in three consecutive games played. Once again the Giants and Dodgers fought it out for the pennant, but in 1963 the Dodgers prevailed as the Giants slumped badly in July, losing 13 of 20 in one stretch. San Francisco faded to third place in the late going. For the season, Haller hit .255 with 14 homers and 44 RBIs.

In December 1963, the Giants traded Bailey to the Milwaukee Braves for veteran catcher Del Crandall, and Haller’s playing time increased substantially. He had started 79 games in 1963. He started 105 games in 1964, and that number increased to 125 in 1965.

On May 31, 1964, Haller caught all 23 innings of the second game of a doubleheader with the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. In that game, Gaylord Perry entered in the bottom half of the thirteenth inning. Perry was struggling when Haller went to the mound and instructed him to try out that “new pitch” (aka the spitball) that he had been working on. Perry had been working on a spitter for some time, but had yet to use it in a pressure situation. If there was ever a time to use it, this was it. Haller said, “It’s time to break the maiden, kid. I think you can do it.” Before resuming his position behind the plate, Haller told Perry, “Throw it when you can get it on the ball. Don’t worry about me. You throw it. I’ll catch it. Let’s go.”14 Gaylord, who had been struggling, pitched ten innings of shutout ball, before leaving the game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 23rd inning. The pinch-hitter was Crandall, who delivered the game winning hit.

Haller by this point was well-established as the Giants’ first-string catcher. He put together another good season at the plate, batting .253 with 16 homers and 48 RBIs.

The end of the 1964 season was nerve-wracking. The Giants were in fourth place, eight games off the lead on September 18. The Phillies were in command with a six-game lead. Then the Cardinals, Reds, and Giants gave chase, as the Phillies couldn’t win. With Tom Haller going 6-for-13, and homering in each game, the Giants won four in a row and were within two games of the league lead with two games left in the season. When the dust settled, the Giants finished in fourth place, 2 games behind the pennant winning Cardinals.

Haller batted .329 with eight homers in the September drive. He attributed his great finish in 1964 to crouching at the plate and becoming a more aggressive hitter.15

In 1965, Herman Franks replaced Dark as Giant Manager, and the Giants and Dodgers contended for the pennant in a season marked by highlights, streaks, and controversy. Haller got into 134 games, his highest to date, and produced 16 homers and 49 RBIs.

In midseason, in a move that would have an impact on the rest of Haller’s life, the Giants acquired Len Gabrielson from the Cubs. Gabrielson was installed as the everyday left fielder and became Haller’s roommate. The two became lifelong friends.

The Giant-Dodger rivalry was intense. On Thursday, August 19, the Dodgers came into San Francisco for a four-game series. At the time, the Braves led the Dodgers by ½ game and the Giants were in third, one game behind. Everyone was looking for an edge. In the second game of the series, Maury Wills set up to bunt and Haller moved up. Wills pulled back, hitting Haller on the glove. Wills got first base. Later in the game there were harsh words between the Giants bench, especially Marichal, and Dodger catcher John Roseboro. This escalated, two days later, to Roseboro sending a return throw to the pitcher just past Marichal’s ear, and Marichal swinging his bat at Roseboro’s head.

From September 4 through September 16, the Giants won 14 consecutive games, taking the league lead by 4½ games. However, they lost eight of their next 14 games. During that stretch, Haller hit two home runs and drove in five runs on September 2716, but the Dodgers won 15 of their last 16 games including 13 in a row, and went on to defeat the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.

In 1966, Haller earned his first All-Star berth when he was named as a reserve player for the National League team. He finished the season with career-highs of 27 home runs and 67 RBIs, as the Giants again finished second to Los Angeles, this time by 1½ games, despite winning eight of their last nine games. Haller batted .292 in September.

His durability was put to the test that season. Haller was behind the plate for all 15 innings on May 10 in a 2-1 win at Pittsburgh and played 17 innings (7 at catcher and 10 at first) on May 13 against the Mets. In the May 13 game, the Mets jumped to a 4-0 lead, and Haller’s two-run-homer in the seventh inning started the Giants scoring, as they went on to win 5-4. Over the course of the season, he went the distance in 12 extra-inning games as a catcher.

His home runs were not only numerous, they were timely. He had seven game winning hits that season, five of which were home runs. On seven occasions, a Haller home run produced the first run of the game.17

Haller was again named to the National League All-Star team in 1967. The Giants finished in second place for a third consecutive season, as the Cardinals ran away with the pennant, finishing 10½ games in front. For the season, Haller batted .251 with 14 homers and 49 RBI.

Over six years, the Giants had had six consecutive winning seasons, but only one pennant to show for their labors.

In February 1968, the Giants traded Haller to the Dodgers for Ron Hunt. It marked the first deal between the teams since they had moved to the West Coast. When owner Horace Stoneham told Haller that the Giants were looking to trade him, Tom asked to be traded to a West Coast team. However, he was surprised when he was traded to the hated Dodgers. The Giants need at second base was such that they felt the need to trade Haller. Hunt was installed at second base, allowing Hal Lanier, with a rifle arm, a great glove and range, to stay at shortstop.

The move to Los Angeles was a move away from the cold of San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. Players’ wives rarely could remain in the stands on those very cold nights, and Joan Haller remembers heading towards the parking lot in the late innings and listening to the game on the radio in her heated car waiting for the game to end and Tom to emerge from the clubhouse.

In Los Angeles, Haller was reunited with Len Gabrielson, but, for the first and only time in his professional career, played for a team with a losing record. Playing in spacious Dodger Stadium, he saw the need to refine his swing. He became less of a pull hitter and went to all fields. As he stated, “I decided to begin hitting to the opposite field, sacrificing homers for singles, doubles, and – if I could get them, triples.”18

Yes, his home run productivity dropped from 14 in 1967 to four in 1968. However, he had a career-high 27 doubles, batted a team-leading .285, led the Dodgers with 53 RBI, and earned his third consecutive All-Star nomination. He also played well defensively with career highs in assists (81) and in double plays (23). He led the league in gunning down runners with 48, which represented a career high of 49% of runners trying to steal. He guided the Dodgers’ pitching staff to the second-best team earned run average in the league, although the team finished the season in seventh place.

His time in Los Angeles was well spent and he was well-respected by everyone with the team. Fresco Thompson noted that “Pitchers shake off Haller less than any catcher in the league” and Walt Alston stated “Perhaps what I like about him most of all is his spirit and attitude.”19

Over the next three years with the Dodgers, he batted .272, but after 1971, it was time for a changing of the guard. In 1971, Haller shared catching duties with Duke Sims, who had been acquired from the Cleveland Indians. By this time, Tom’s throwing arm was showing the signs of age. He only threw out 31% of runners trying to steal, and Sims completed 12 games that Haller had started during the season.

Haller was traded to the Detroit Tigers in December 1971, and served as a backup to longtime Detroit All-Star and Gold Glover Bill Freehan, as well as Sims, who the Tigers acquired in August. Haller got into only 59 games and batted .207 with two home runs and 12 RBI.

The year was nevertheless memorable. On July 14, when the Tigers played the Kansas City Royals, the plate umpire was Tom’s brother Bill. It marked the first time that brothers had appeared in the same game as catcher and plate umpire. The Tigers won the American League’s Eastern Division Championship, and Haller went to the post-season for the first time since 1962. He only appeared once in the League Championship Series, grounding out as a pinch-hitter in the second game. It was his last major league appearance.

Toward the end of his playing career, Haller spent his off-seasons selling insurance for the John Merrick Agency, and after his disappointing 1972 season, he decided to work full time as an insurance salesman. Tom retired as an active player at the age of 35.

During his 12-year major league career, Haller batted .257 with 134 homers and 504 RBI. Behind the plate, he was the picture of consistency, adept at handling pitchers, blocking the plate with his formidable 6’ 4” body and gunning down runners with his strong arm. He gunned down 261 runners during his career. Simply stated, the pitchers knew they were being guided by someone who understood every facet of the game.20

He was unhappy in the insurance business, and he was lured back into baseball in 1977 when Giant manager Joe Altobelli hired him on as bullpen coach. He was a Giant coach for three years before assuming the role of director of farm operations in 1980. In 1981, he became vice president of baseball operations and served in that role until late in the 1985 season. The team was 56-88 at the time of his dismissal en route to a last place finish in their division. He was named to the San Francisco Giants’ 25th anniversary team in 1982. In 1986 his former manager Al Dark, then the farm director for the White Sox, hired him as manager of the Double A Southern League Birmingham Barons.

In June of that year, Haller was named general manager of the White Sox, but he was frustrated in that position as the real power rested with Ken Harrelson who was the director of baseball operations.

Haller left baseball at the end of the 1986 season and relocated to Palm Springs, California. He worked as an agent for a mortgage company before taking over a building services maintenance company in 1991. He was not above getting himself a bit dirty and was well respected by his staff of 38. He and Joan became friendly with one of their staff, Gilberto De La Torre, and were named godparents to the De La Torre’s newborn child.

In the summer of 2004, shortly after vacationing in Colorado, Tom contracted the West Nile Virus. He fought the disease for three-and-one-half months before passing away in Los Angeles on November 26, 2004 at the age of 67.

Fred Claire, a baseball executive who was with the Dodgers during Haller’s time with the team, said it best:

“Tom Haller was one of those people who made you feel good about life by simply being in his company.”21

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SAN FRANCISCO — Stu Miller, who will be remembered more for committing history’s most famous balk than for his formidable pitching, died Sunday at his home in Cameron Park, Calif. He was 87.

The Giants and Orioles, the teams with whom Miller distinguished himself the most during his 16-year Major League career, announced his death Monday.

Baseball’s spotlight glared upon Miller during the 1961 All-Star Game, which cemented Candlestick Park’s reputation as an oversized air conditioner. This, according to legend, was the Midsummer Classic in which Miller was blown off the mound. That wasn’t exactly what happened.

A game recap in the 1963 book “The Giants of San Francisco” cited unusually withering temperatures that forced 95 fans to receive treatment for heat prostration during the early innings. But Candlestick’s infamous breezes took over by mid-afternoon. Recalled Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills, who played the entire game for the National League, “I saw the same hot-dog wrapper hover over the infield for three or four innings with the wind taking it in different directions, about 100 feet off the ground.”

Miller, the Giants right-hander making his first and only All-Star appearance, relieved Sandy Koufax in the ninth inning with one out, Roger Maris on first base, Al Kaline on second and the NL clinging to a 3-2 lead.

In the 1979 book “SF Giants: An Oral History”, Miller said the flags in center field were “almost torn off the flagpole by the time I got in. It was actually the windiest day I had ever seen there, and I was certainly used to it by then. So I came in and anchored myself into the wind, as usual.”

As the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Miller went into the stretch position to pitch to Rocky Colavito, a sudden gust upset his balance. Miller threw the pitch anyway, but was called for a balk after doing so, due to his erratic movement. Kaline scored the tying run as third baseman Ken Boyer misplayed Colavito’s subsequent grounder.

Ultimately, Miller persevered and received the decision in the NL’s 5-4, 10-inning victory.

Miller, who ranked among the top 20 finishers in Most Valuable Player Award voting four times, broke into the Majors with the Cardinals in 1952. He performed for four other teams, including the Giants (1957-62) and Orioles (1963-67), and compiled a 105-103 record with a 3.24 ERA and 154 saves in 704 career appearances. He was among 43 former Giants to merit a plaque on AT&T Park’s Wall of Fame, a distinction reserved for the franchise’s finest San Francisco-era (since 1958) performers. Miller also was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame in 1989.

After alternating between starting and relieving, Miller moved almost exclusively to the latter role in 1959, one year after he recorded an NL-best 2.47 ERA. He topped the NL with 17 saves in 1961 and the AL with 27 in 1963. He won 14 games in relief in 1961 and again in 1965. Though Miller relied primarily on a changeup, he overwhelmed enough hitters to average 8.35 strikeouts per nine innings from 1963-65.

“For what he had, he was amazing,” said left-hander Johnny Antonelli, a Giants teammate of Miller’s from 1957-60. “He made some of those hitters look pretty bad. He had a great idea of how to pitch, changing speeds. It was really funny to watch sometimes. He would throw a pitch that floated up there, someway, somehow, and it looked like it was going to be a fastball. But it came in there slow and they would just swing through it. He would make certain hitters look sick. That was Stu Miller.”

A native of Northampton, Mass., Miller is survived by his wife, Jayne; six children, Scott, Lori, Kim, Marc, Gary and Matthew; five grandchildren and one great-grandson.

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Joe Panik is a former first-round draft pick, an All-Star, a Gold Glove winner, a World Series champion and the author of one of the most memorable plays in San Francisco Giants history.

But in the middle of his sixth season with the Giants, his time with the franchise might be up.

The Giants acquired former All-Star Scooter Gennett and highly-touted prospect Mauricio Dubon before the MLB trade deadline passed on Wednesday, signaling to many that the struggling Panik could be on his way out.

“I think the writing’s on the wall, unfortunately for Joe,” former Giants pitcher and current analyst Shawn Estes told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. “It’s sad because he was a big part of this club, in the World Series run in 2014. He was a Gold Glover, he hit .300. He’s done some really good things in a Giants uniform. It’s sad because he’s a good dude and a guy you really root for and you want him do well because you’ll never forget about the backhand dive up the middle, the starting of the double play in 2014 to help them win their third world championship in five years.”

In the Giants’ 3-2 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, Eric Hosmer ripped a ball up the middle with the score tied 2-2 during the bottom of the third inning. Panik dove to his right to make the stop and flipped the ball with his glove to Brandon Crawford. Then, Crawford stepped on second base and threw to first to turn the double play. Initially, Hosmer was called safe, but after a replay review, Hosmer was ruled out.

Instead of runners on first and third with no outs, Panik erased both runners with his incredible play. The Giants would go on to win their third World Series in dramatic fashion, and Panik’s play was a instrumental in the team winning its third World Series in five seasons.

But five years removed from that iconic play, Panik is a different player. After hitting 10 homers in both 2016 and 2017, Panik has combined for seven homers between 2018 and 2019. This season, he’s slashing just .232/.307/.315 and has fallen into a platoon with 31-year-old Donovan Solano, who didn’t play in the majors in 2017 or 2018.

“I think based on what we’ve seen out of Joe the last few years,” Estes said, “the regression and as far as being a consistent batter at the plate, getting it done from a production standpoint and even defenively. Defensively, he’s struggled a little bit.

“I don’t think we’ll see Joe in a Giants uniform maybe on Thursday or Friday depending on when they activate Gennett. I think he’s going to be the odd man out. I could be wrong. They could keep an extra infielder and Joe could be around.”

[RELATED: What Gennett's arrival means for Panik]

Panik ultimately played in Thursday’s game in Philadelphia and went 1-for-4. But the Giants will need to clear a roster spot for Gennett and a move could come as early as Friday. It doesn’t make sense for the Giants to keep Panik, Solano and Gennett on the roster.

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It’s hard to believe that it has already been 30 years since the San Francisco Giants won 92 games and the NL pennant during the 1989 season. For those of you who don’t remember that year’s team, the following will serve as a quick history lesson. For those that do, a pleasant nostalgia.

The San Francisco Giants were just a few games over .500 during the 1988 season, going 83-79 to finish fourth in the NL West division.

A year later, they were in the World Series.

So while things have not gone all that swimmingly for the 2019 Giants, things can turn around in a flash if everything clicks.

With an offense led by Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell, a pitching staff led by veteran workhorse Rick Reuschel and upstart Scott Garrelts, and a bullpen anchored by several proven late-inning arms, the Giants were the class of the National League during the 1989 season.

What better time than “Throwback Thursday” to remember one of the best Giants teams of the past 50 years?

Ahead we’ve provided a quick review of the offense, the pitching staff, and the team’s postseason performance and accolades, to help honor the 1989 squad.

So come with me on a trip down memory lane.

Roger Bresnahan Jersey

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Catchers gear, such as shin guards, a chest protector and a mask, are an important part of the position, but that was not always the case. In fact, it was not until this day in 1907 that shin protectors would be worn, debuted by New York Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan.
The image of a major league catcher is pretty uniform. They are covered in padding and wearing a mask, resembling a hockey goalie more than any other player on the diamond. Considering the plethora of foul tips, balls in the dirt and other assorted nicks and bruises they acquire over the season, it is difficult to imagine someone playing the position without any protection.

However, during the early days of baseball, that was the case. Catchers would be in that familiar position behind the plate, leaving themselves exposed to the vagrancies of those foul tips and wayward pitches. That is, until New York Giants catcher Roger Bresnahan began to protect himself, using the first shin guards on this day in 1907.

Instead of the fancy shin guards that catchers use in modern times, these were nothing more than some modified cricket gear. As strange as it may have seemed at the time, those shin guards proved their use almost immediately, as Bresnahan was protected from a foul tip in the fifth inning due to the protection he had in place.

Naturally, having seen the success and usefulness of these guards, other catchers began wearing them. Suddenly, those foul tips and balls in the dirt were not quite as hazardous as they had been, allowing catchers to remain healthier and be far more productive.

This was also not the only piece of protective equipment that Bresnahan created. After being hit in the head the following year, he created a leather batting helmet, one of the first of its kind. The first catcher in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Bresnahan was a pioneer in regards to player safety and protection.

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Catchers may resemble armored tanks these days, but that was not always the case. If not for the foresight of Roger Bresnahan, who knows how long it would have taken for someone to create catcher’s gear as we know it.