F.P. Santangelo, a former big leaguer and current part-time Giants analyst, said that Barry Zito's hitting Fielder with a pitch in Thursday's spring training game was a weak, inappropriate response to the controversial home plate celebration Fielder and his Milwaukee teammates acted out following his game-winning home run late last year.
"Some of us have been joking that we hoped Zito wasn't on the mound the first time the Giants faced Fielder after that celebration," Santangelo said during the second hour of his Thursday evening broadcast. "Zito did his job. He hit Fielder to send a message, but he didn't really do anything."
Santangelo explained that his experience indicated that most big league players would want to save the retaliatory effort for the regular season and a pitcher with a little more zip on his fastball than Zito had in the first inning of his first spring training outing.
"It's the first home spring training game. That's not the time to do it," Santangelo told KNBR listeners. "You do it in the regular season when there's some intensity...when it's about winning and losing...and when people are actually paying attention. And, maybe you wait for Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain to be on the mound so they can really send a message with a fastball in (Fielder's) rib cage."
Santangelo wasn't specifically critical of Zito or any other Giants player. He acknowledged that the retaliation in spring training did serve the purpose of reminding Fielder that the Giants remember the celebration. The former big league journeyman just added that he felt that the celebration required a different type of retaliation.
"Hey, that's what happens in the big leagues," he said. "It's part of the game. And, now, it's all settled. Zito hit him. Fielder picked the ball up and tossed it back to Barry and went to first base. That's the end of it."
Santangelo said that when he saw Fielder's celebration last summer, "I felt like I was watching a bad baseball movie. You just don't see choreographed celebrations. Where do you even practice that?"
In his fourth broadcast as host of KNBR's Sports Phone 680, Santangelo provided the type of frank assessment of the Giants that some fans felt they would not hear from a former player and current analyst. He replaces popular host Damon Bruce who built a large audience with his pointed criticism of the Giants and other Bay Area teams.
A caller asked how Santangelo knew the Giants didn't just "plan to hit Fielder every time he comes to bat against them."
"You can't just keep drilling the guy," Santangelo said. "When this type of thing happens, there are always guys who say, 'I wanna drill that guy every single time we face him.' I've been the guy saying that. You can't do it. If they hit Fielder again, then the Brewers hit Pablo Sandoval. Then, they hit somebody else and, pretty soon, you wind up losing a key player to injury. It's over. The Giants retaliated today. They just wasted a bullet."
Flemming Says Lewis Has Peaked
With listeners skeptical about the level of honest evaluation of the Giants that KNBR will provide this season, play-by-play announcer Dave Flemming said on air Thursday that outfielder Fred Lewis won't suddenly blossom into a strong defensive outfielder and base-stealer.
A caller asked Flemming what the Giants would do with Lewis since he's out of minor league options.
"Fred's 28-years-old," Flemming said. "At 28, you are the player you are. There's no more saying that Fred came to baseball later in life or anything. If he doesn't earn a spot on the big league club, they'll designate him for assignment and hope they can work out a trade for him. At some point, you have to acknowledge the situation."