Author Archives: Ben Lee

Paper Trails: San Francisco at Los Angeles

What an end to the road trip!  It took me an extra day just to watch the last game of this series and yet another day to get this written up — I think no one (by which I mean everyone) remembered to warn me that having to take up to three hours out of the day to watch and score a baseball game kind of eats up what little free time is left in your day.  But watch I did, and I was rewarded with more than a few interesting things – let’s dig into a few!

  • Go For The Throat: Starting with a painful one, in Sunday’s contest the Dodgers left only one man on base the entire game, and that was Zack Greinke, stranded by a Carl Crawford groundout after a booming ground rule double.  Now, if they had barely hit, that would be one concern; however, they scored six on seven hits, and left only one man on base.  All game.
  • Late Night Web Gems: Does anybody get to watch these? Is there any way that Angel Pagan isn’t on there regularly?  When he’s healthy — and hopefully, staying that way — he is the combination of spark plug and leather-flasher that we desperately need at the top of the lineup and the center of the outfield.  Other than Shulman and Kruk — more on that later — saying it was good to have a ‘real center fielder’ again (I’m sorry, have you not SEEN Gregor Blanco play? Oh, right, you haven’t!) it’s easy to see that Pagan not only upholds stringent standards of center field defense for the Giants, but has been incredibly valuable in that leadoff spot as well, going 5-for-12 this series with two walks.  Besides that, Pence is no slouch, showing off a massive outfield assist on Saturday, and Pablo Sandoval has reminded a few people why we don’t usually worry too much about him out there at third base with some diving stops and leaps to knock down grounders.
  • In The Air Like You Just Don’t Care: Three games at Dodger Stadium.  Of seventeen runs scored by the Giants, seven came on home runs.  Of twelve runs scored by the Bums, seven came on home runs.  Was the ball jumping? A bit — it has been this whole trip — but this is a kind of Giants baseball we’ve only just started to get familiar with after years of low-power baseball and elite pitching, we find ourselves with inconsistently brilliant pitching but power developing to complement it.
  • Nattering Nabobs: I’ll say this about John Kruk: He’s honest.  I don’t think he tells it like it is; I think he tells it like he sees it from the mysterious Kruk-land that his brain lives in.  He has some solid stories, as any good national-level color analyst should, but he is not a good national-level color analyst.  When the best methods of dialogue you have are to shut down your partner (“Nope, I don’t think so”) and to provide commentary that just feels completely out of sync with what you see on the broadcast…but, hey, when you’ve got a color analyst like Mike Krukow around, I guess you get a little spoiled.
  • Gold Glove Offense: We frequently talk about the joke that you have to “hit well enough for a Gold Glove”, a joking reference to the idea that without offense, the coaches and others that vote on the Gold Glove awards won’t notice you for your defense.  Things like Web Gems, the Top 10, and increased access and attention to clips online have increased teams’ ability to be aware of these things, and some change is happening — but it doesn’t change the fact that this year, Crawford and Belt are starting to do it. Crawford, especially, is a wizard at shortstop and will likely be trading with Andrelton Simmons for the Gold Glove at the position, but in this series Crawford posted an 0-for-6 with two walks, all four outs on Sunday being strikeouts.  Belt, on the other hand, went 4-for-13 with three singles and a home run.  If the defense is there, and Belt is at least an above-average defender, some strong play, athletic ability, and difficult picks at first could well put Belt into the discussion.
  • The Only Good Bum is a Mad Bum: Madison Bumgarner cemented his role as the team’s ace with a sterling performance on Saturday against a strong, if inconsistent, Dodgers lineup.  In 6.1 innings, Bumgarner put together ten strikeouts, five of them coming against the heart of the order (Ramirez, Gonzalez, and Kemp) and only allowed two earned runs.  It seems like a safe bet that we still haven’t quite seen everything Madison Bumgarner has in the tank, and that he’s still getting warmed up; other than a clean fifth inning, Bumgarner allowed at least one hit every other inning.  He only issued one walk, and the limited number of runners and nature of spreading out the hits helped keep Bumgarner in control of the game — but the pitch count ran up, and once again, Bumgarner was gone by the middle of the 7th inning.  I’d like to see that dominant attitude translate into a complete game sometime soon, but you know what?  It’s damned fun to watch in the meantime.
  • Close to the Chest: Matt Kemp got in on a pitch on Sunday (one of many, it seemed like) that was in on his hands, and watching the slow-mo replay really can teach you a lot about how his swing can tighten in and shorten up without losing any momentum or power.  Hitters have wheelhouses, sure, but the kind of inside coverage that swing will get you is what keeps the “strictly a power hitter” label away for a long time.  Kemp’s a Dodger, but I respect what he can do (and, let’s face it, I like him better than Puig.)

Plenty of fantastic baseball this weekend, and if you’re going to end a road trip with a pretty crushing loss to your most bitter rivals…it doesn’t hurt to do it with a 5-2 record, plenty of home runs, and your first baseman right in the middle of a hot streak, does it?

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Paper Trails: San Francisco at Arizona


I’ve mentioned it on the podcast before, but I’m pretty sure I’m certifiably nuts.  While I’ve mentioned it in general, in this case I’m specifically talking about my goal to try and score every single game the Giants play this year.  Am I going to succeed? Who knows — I may give up and decide I prefer sleeping at some point (I closed at work today, and it’s nearly 3 AM now that I’m finishing this), but in the meantime, I’m learning a lot about the sweet art that is scoring and how being engaged in a game changes the way that I consume and follow it.  And along the way, you always come up with a few interesting tidbits, so at the conclusion of the series, in parallel to our new series reviews, here’s a few things that I couldn’t help noticing over the course of our opening series at Chase Field!

Disclaimer: All observations are based on my own scorecards and note-taking. There will be errors. Feel free to point them out in the comments and I’ll swing back around to correct stats and things in the future if I can.

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Remembering Alexis

I’ve put off writing this post — my first on the TortureCast blog — for about five days now.

Five days is a long time to try and sort out thoughts about something like this, and I’m not sure I’m any closer now than when I started.  But it wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I didn’t try, so, let me start at the beginning:

Last Saturday, the San Francisco Yacht Club tragically lost five sailors to an accident, the worst accident in the history of a club that has existed since 1896.  One freak wave, then another, hit the “Low Speed Chase”, sweeping nearly all of the crew overboard near the Farallon Islands, and while some survived and were recovered, others were not so lucky.

One of those unlucky ones was Alexis Busch, a former Giants bat girl from the days of Candlestick Park — the first bat girl in all of Major League Baseball.  Daughter of former Giants executive VP Corey Busch, Alexis grew up around the game as a part of the Giants organization, or as Larry Baer put it, the Giants family.

I had already had tickets to the game on Monday, and didn’t learn they would have a memorial — or who it would be for — until that afternoon.  Once I found out, I left work early, and what had originally been a resignation to missing the first inning or two became a desperate race to get to the stadium on time.  I couldn’t miss it, no matter what, and suddenly, that game — that instant — had taken on a new meaning to me that transcended far past baseball.

You see, in perhaps a very roundabout way, the TortureCast might not be here if it wasn’t for Alex.

I first met Alex in 2006, working in the theater at San Francisco State University.  Alex was the ultimate irrepressible spirit, a tomboy with energy to spare and a humongous smile when she really got going.  Find a topic she was interested in and she’d hit the ground running, and being in a theater department, it’s safe to say we spent a lot of time on interesting topics.

It was a semester later that we took a lighting design class together, neither of us really being solidly lighting-inclined — lighting design was my emphasis, but I’d never worked with it on a professional level before, and Alex was more into stage management.  Somehow, though, we’d always end up next to each other in class, and every other day it seemed I was nudging her to calm down and pay attention and she was kicking me to make sure I didn’t pass out on my drafting table after another long night in the theater.  I never quite got where all of her energy came from, but you can bet I appreciated every bit of it.

See, it was right around 2006 that I got back into baseball.  I don’t remember how it started — after years of loosely following a game I vaguely understood when my mother would happen to have the radio on — but sometime around late ’06, I started in again.  Maybe it was Bonds’ home run chase.  Maybe it was the timing, having met other fans working with SFSU’s Orientation team over the summer.  Maybe it was just something inevitable, as a love for baseball that had percolated in my head for years finally re-emerged right when I had never expected it, but when baseball and I fell back in love, we fell hard, and Alex played a huge part in that.

Alex and I would talk baseball whenever we weren’t talking theater, and that was whenever we weren’t working in class.  That’s a gross oversimplification, but I remember that out of all of my friends at the time, Alex had the clearest grasp on baseball, a game I was still sometimes struggling to figure out.  Whether it was talking about playing, or about her experiences as a bat girl — something I still wish I’d asked her more about, now that I really can appreciate it — or working on an increasingly ambitious low-budget, high-talent musical called Floyd Collins, for which Alex was the hard-working and hard-pressed stage manager, it was impossible not to be astounded and inspired by Alex’s energy and sheer perseverance through the most stressful situations.

It seemed like the most natural thing when she went to umpire camp, something else I wish I’d quizzed her more on.  I’d been back into baseball for a year or two by now, paying attention when I could, listening to more games than I missed, when I learned Alex had spent time training to be an umpire.  For some reason I’d never considered the possibility before; maybe I thought umpires magically grew out of former players and tree leaves, I don’t know.  But Alex really made me think about what it meant to “have a career in baseball”.  I knew that was what she wanted to do, and I knew she spent some time working with and for the Giants when she wasn’t stage managing around the end of her college career.  But it had never occurred to me to be more than just a consumer of baseball, but to really learn it, become involved, learn to talk about it — if not as an umpire, then at least in an educated manner.

I would have to guess that, even subconsciously, the TortureCast came out of some of that desire to make something more out of my relationship with baseball, and while Alex and I looked at the game in slightly different ways, if it wasn’t for her example maybe the podcast never would have happened, or become what it is — two statheads and a charismatic lug trying to provide the most in-depth and entertaining analysis we can on the game and team that we love.

The Daily Mail somehow found a photo of her in a dress, presumably from a wedding.  I’ll be the first to admit Alex and I didn’t stay that close as we got older, but I’ll be darned if a dress is ever the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Alex Busch.

When I got to the park early that Monday, I stood quietly near the arcade, cap removed, as the names of the five sailors lost in the crash of the “Low Speed Chase” were displayed, prominently, simply, and respectfully, on the scoreboard.  All around me, on the walkway, the crowd continued to buzz, buying snacks, chatting with friends, and paying little attention to the memorial as they prepared for what would be an exciting game against the Philadelphia Phillies, and for just an instant, I was annoyed that none of them seemed to understand what it was they as a Giants community, a theater community, a San Francisco community had just lost.

But then I remembered the girl that would sit next to me in lighting design class, in her tie-dyed shirts and backwards Giants caps, the one that could never sit still and found the funny side of the most serious situations, and I remembered how she never liked to get stuck thinking about just one thing for too long.

And I think, somehow, that she understands.

(EDIT 4/22: We took design in 2006, not ’07.)

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Episode 22: “The One-Game Postseason”

A little late posting due to technical difficulties, so it’ll be a double TortureCast weekend.  More torture for everyone!

This week (or rather last week) Chad and Ben get together and discuss the hurriedly revamped MLB Wild Card structure and its implications for teams that make it as the Wild Card.  They also discuss alcohol in the Red Sox clubhouse, Sergio Romo (because he’s Sergio Romo), the first week of Spring Training games, astronomy, and Pilates.

SFG article on Bryan Stow’s moving to new rehab facility

San Jose Inside article on Giants-A’s territorial rights battle

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Pitchers, Catchers, and Podcasters!

It’s confirmed — The TortureCast will be making the journey out to Spring Training! We’re aiming for the middle of March but there’s a lot of details that have to be sorted out…like the exact dates…and which of us will be going…and which games we’ll be seeing…and, you know, what to have for lunch, and that sort of thing.

If you’re going to be in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area during mid-March for Spring Training, leave a comment, catch us on Twitter, or send us an email at! As a podcast by fans for fans we’d be remiss if we didn’t try to meet some of you while we’re out there. We promise to get you more details as March gets closer!


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