Podcast: Marty Lurie Discusses how the San Francisco Giants Have Navigated a Tough April

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: Mac Williamson #51 of the San Francisco Giants hits a fielders choice to third base that scored Evan Longoria #10 in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park on April 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 23: Mac Williamson #51 of the San Francisco Giants hits a fielders choice to third base that scored Evan Longoria #10 in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park on April 23, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

On Saturday, Around the Foghorn’s Vince Cestone had a chance to sit down with Marty to share his thoughts on the San Francisco Giants’ 2018 season.

Marty Lurie is the weekend pregame and postgame host for the San Francisco Giants on KNBR Radio. Marty is also a noted baseball historian, who has a collection of interviews with legends of the game. Our interview is transcribed into Q&A format. You can listen to the interview with the link on the bottom of the page.

Q: Marty, how are you doing today?

A: Beautiful. Nice day for baseball.

Q:  So, we’re going to talk a little about the Giants and how they’re doing so far.  Just got some news that just broke. Joe Panik on the disabled list with a hand injury. How do you think the Giants are going to manage with Panik out?

A: Well, this is a continuation of really the story of 2018, coming out of spring training.  Cueto was OK, and then he turned an ankle. Bumgarner, of course, got hurt in spring training. Samardzija got hurt in spring training. Melancon was hurt in spring training. So, this is just an extension of all the injuries they’ve had. Panik–second baseman. I think his biggest asset is just turning double plays with Crawford.

And for a pitching staff that needs every out they can get, it’s a loss for them. Tomlinson plays second base, Alen Hanson, who’s brought up from Sacramento can play second base, but Panik is a really good defender. And also, he was hitting at the top of the order.

So, you need guys at the top of the order to get on for Posey and Belt and Longoria. So, I think the injury affects two ways: one, they are weakened defensively in terms of turning double plays and two, he helped at the top of the order. Now, with his sprained thumb, it’s a bad injury for a hitter in baseball. You need your thumb to hold the bat. So, we’ll see how it turns out.

Q: Overall impressions of the team so far? They’re in their tough part of the schedule early, playing the Dodgers 10 times in the first month. Hey, they’re one game below .500 [coming into Saturday], holding their own. How do you think they’re doing so far record-wise?

A: Yeah, I think they’re doing great. You know, when I looked at the April schedule of 31 games, I figured if they can go 15-16, 14-17, just get out of April, they’ll be doing great. Then, all of a sudden, you have three starting pitchers out, you have your closer out, and now you lose an infielder here, you have Pence who’s out, who wasn’t doing much. The guys they picked up over the winter–Jackson and McCutchen are hitting .200 together. And then you have Longoria who’s starting to hit the ball pretty well now. So, with all that in mind, and 10 games against the Dodgers, they’ve won four of the seven games against the Dodgers right now. I think they’ve done great. I really do. I think just getting out of April, close to .500, which should happen for the Giants. I think they’ve had a great month. They’ve shown a lot of their depth to see what they can do there. So, I think it’s a good month. Now they go on the road–Philly, and Atlanta, and Pittsburgh–smaller ballparks. And maybe the hitting will pick up a little bit more.

Q: The team had 98 losses last year. We all know it was a bad season for the Giants. What do you see differently this year from this team so far?

A: Well, the pitching is better. You know it’s been more–believe it or not–without Bumgarner and Samardzija, they actually pitched pretty well with Blach and Holland filling in right there. So, I think that helped a lot. I think the infield defense is pretty good. I think Belt is having a good season.

They’re not hitting with runners in scoring position, but they’re winning close games. Bullpen has really been good. Bochy has done a nice job of working Watson in. Strickland is turning into a closer, so they’re getting the close games done. The outfield defense is a little bit better, and look, Washington is not better. San Diego took three of four, but the Giants should hold their own against them. They [the Giants] took two of three from the Angels, a team that is scoring some runs, but they hit a drought when the Giants got there.

And then the Dodgers–they’re struggling. So, with all the problems of the Giants, they’ve gotten some teams at the right time. And now, it’s a question of getting players back and getting their rotation healthy.

And get the bullpen positions strengthened so everyone knows where they belong, they’re still having trouble. Will Smith will be back next week. So once that happens, I think the bullpen will be good, so overall, I think they’re a better bullpen.

They’re catching the ball better, and they’re hitting home runs. I mean…they’re on a pace to hit over 100 home runs at home., which is unbelievable. And I think the big thing for them is their hitting home runs because if you look at how they score runs now, they’re scoring it with the home run. They did not do that last year. So, still not hitting when they need to hit. But they’re hitting home runs when they need to. And I think that’s been a big deal.

Q: Speaking of the home runs and the offense…Mac Williamson has come on and really given the Giants power. I mean, he had some Giancarlo Stanton home runs. What do you think is going to happen once Pence comes back?

A: Well, I like to say in baseball, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Look at today–all the injuries, all of a sudden pop up today to Panik. Who knew there was anything wrong with him? So, I think Williamson has got to play. He’s a young Jay Buhner. Take a look at Jay Buhner what he looked like and his swing. And then look at Williamson. They’re almost identical. So, he’s got some serious power. He’s got to play left or right. McCutchen can go into center if you brought Pence back next week, but I think Pence has got to show something in Sacramento before they bring him back.

You can always put McCutchen in center field because he’s going to Philly, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta–places he’s played center field before, you can do that. So, I think Williamson is in the lineup to stay as soon as he’s healthy. McCutchen is in the lineup to stay and in positions, we’ll see what happens with Jackson and Blanco. Slater is here, and who knows when Pence will come back. So, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Q: What is your biggest surprise with the team this year? 

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A: Well, I think Gorkys in a way. And the fact they’re hitting home runs. Gorkys has had a lot of big hits. He’s shown speed. He’s a smart ballplayer, laying down some big bunts. I think the Giants are being opportunistic this year, getting hits through bunting and things like that. But I think the biggest surprise is the power that Belt is showing, serious power.

He needs just one more home run this month to tie his all-time record for homers in a month, and he looks healthy–his on-base, his OPS, his hitting. He can carry you. You take Williamson and Belt together, with Longoria, they can carry a team. So I think the biggest surprise is the fact we have some people who can carry the team, and we’re not talking Posey yet. Or Crawford yet. Or the left field yet–Pence, so I think it’s been a big surprise.

And Jackson has done nothing. So, the big surprise is the acquisitions have done nothing, but Belt, Longoria, and Williamson have hit the long ball, and that’s really helped the Giants.

Q: Marty, thank you so much. So we know we can listen to you pre and postgame on the weekends, but I know you have a website as well where you channel the history of the game. Where can they find it online?

A: Absolutely. AmericanInnings.org. And we look at U.S. history through the eyes of baseball, and it’s something that people can contribute to. We’ve made 11 vignettes of audio/visual, situations of, stories of baseball with interviews I’ve done. I think it’s terrific. People are loving it. It’s all for free. Once we put it together and get about 40 or 50 of these vignettes, we’re going to have high schools use them for their history curriculum. And the world we have today, the attention span of people not great, so these are 3-4 minute vignettes of history through the eyes of baseball. I’m really proud of it, so donate. Donate, please. AmericanInnings.org.

Next: 60 Seasons from worst to greatest, 1984

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