San Francisco Giants’ Gregor Blanco ready for action-ready for danger
By Mark ONeill
Gregor Blanco’s name does not strike fear in the hearts of his opponents, nor does the San Francisco Giants’ speedy center fielder, who sported a season batting average of .260, and hit all of five home runs in 146 games, necessarily inspire the confidence of his fans. Blanco has amassed two singles so far in the 2014 postseason, in five games, for an .090 average, and his one RBI came on a walk.
And this guy is supposed to replace Angel Pagan in center field to play against the explosive St. Louis Cardinals?
What is it about Gregor Blanco and his set of unimpressive offensive statistics, that makes Bruce Bochy feel that he is the best candidate to fill in for the energizing Pagan, one player on the Giants who has been consistently providing the spark that ignites the San Francisco offense since his arrival in 2012?
Bochy places confidence in Blanco because, whereas the fleet-footed defensive specialist may wield a lighter bat than a manager might like, he also brings a plethora of personal attributes to the table that puts a more balanced spin on Bochy’s logic.
Of paramount importance in stopping the Cards, is having someone in center field who at least has a prayer of a chance of spearing some of those St. Louis line drives. Of course, Pagan is an excellent center field, but Blanco is elite. His defense in the playoffs, both currently and back in 2012, has been flawless and electrifying.
With one out in the bottom of the eleventh inning, of Saturday night’s marathon in Washington, Blanco tracked down a drive off the bat of Jayson Werth and made a dazzling catch to keep the bases empty with Adam LaRoche coming to the plate. If Blanco does not catch up to this ball, it puts Werth on either second or third base, with one out, and LaRoche at the plate, with a rabid crowd goading him on.
LaRoche grounded out to end the frame and seven innings later, Belt finally administered the ice water challenge simultaneously to more than 40,000 fans with his upper deck laser shot, and they all went home to warm up.
In the fourth inning of Tuesday’s 4-1 loss at AT&T Park, Blanco again performed his magic on a liner by Ian Desmond, with Bryce Harper on deck. At that point in the game, Madison Bumgarner was cruising along in dominating fashion and there was no score in the game.
Oct 6, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) celebrates with catcher Wilson Ramos (40) after his home run during the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants in game three of the 2014 NLDS baseball playoff game at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Blanco consistently rises to the task, and the more pressure, the better. No one who is a Giants fan will ever forget the stunning eighth-inning catch he made to preserve Matt Cain’s no-hitter in June of 2012, a performance that inspired the team and played a huge role in the successful push for a second world championship in three years.
As for his season batting average of .260, the picture brightens considerably when Blanco’s post-All-Star numbers are examined. He hit .296 with a .365 on-base percentage, and 58 of his 102 hits, (33 of his 51 RBI’s) came in the final 64 games of the season, which followed the mid-season classic. His season on-base percentage was .333 because he walked 41 times; his one RBI in the playoffs, so far, came via a walk and was the difference in the final game of the series.
Blanco was a significant factor in the 2012 World Series. He played a huge role in game three, by tripling in the first run and scoring the second, in a 2-0 victory. Additionally, he made a great catch in the ninth inning of that same game.
Gregor Blanco plays electrifying defense and has never made an error in postseason play.
He made two great catches in game 1, after providing sterling defense in both the NLDS and NLCS. He started the six-run, fifth inning rally in the NLDS against Cincinnati, and robbedZack Cozart
of a hit in the same game. Blanco has yet to make an error in postseason play.
Bochy also knows what any fan who reads Blanco’s blog, “White Shark,” knows, that when Blanco was sixteen-years-old, shortly after signing a contract with the Giants and having received a sizable bonus, he was kidnapped and held at gunpoint for four hours until a ransom could be delivered. When he visited his native Venezuela last winter, he personally witnessed three robberies.
No, Gregor Blanco is not intimidated by the St. Louis Cardinals, and though his stats are not anything to write home about, his heart and his desire are. The Cards may be dynamic and dangerous, but the last time I checked, they do not carry guns.
That puts Blanco ahead of the game in most fans’ eyes.