Forecast for the rest of the Season: Snow and lots

The dog days of August are perennially arduous on players as the season heads towards the most decisive weeks of contention. Coupled with the summer heat, these last few weeks should be decelerating the bat speed of some hitters. Just don't tell J.T. Snow that.

The only thing dogging or slowing down the red-hot Snow these days is an inflamed left elbow. Otherwise, he would have had a chance to continue his 13-game hitting streak against the New York Mets over this past weekend.

"We have no idea what caused [the infection of the bursa sac]," Snow said. "We don't think it was an insect bite. I'm going to ice it and stay on antibiotics. There's still a little bit of fluid in there, so I'm day-to-day."

The Giants believe they have taken control of the situation, which Head Trainer Stan Conte says could potentially be a three-to-five week situation if not handled properly. San Francisco hopes Conte is correct as they would like to see Snow return to the lineup and continue his torrid pace in the month of August, in which he holds a Bondsian OPS of 1.487.

Since his return from the disabled list on June 25, 2004, Snow has gone on a tear by hitting .393. He has increased his batting average by 83 points from .238 to an astounding .321. More importantly, Snow now has an OBP of .427, which is a true testament of his uncanny plate discipline.

What could the sudden resurgence be attributed to?

"He looks healthy and stronger, stronger legs," Manager Felipe Alou said. "Some of the high fastballs that used to pop him up last year, he's hitting them."

That serves as a respectable scouting report from the skipper. However, Snow himself is not convinced, especially at his home ballpark on 3rd and King, where he surprisingly has an OPS of 1.058, as opposed to .836 on the road.

"I'm still wearing sleeves at night. It's still cold. Nothing's changed," Snow said. "I wish I had something magical to say, but it is what it is. Over time, it's still the hardest place to hit and yields among the fewest home runs for left-handed batters."

Batting Coach Joe Lefebvre disagrees a bit when he said: "He's tightened up his swing, and he's not fighting the park anymore."

The jewel at 24 Willie Mays Plaza is indeed a tough place to hit for left-handers, but Snow has learned to drive the ball all over the field, resulting in more base hits. He also has rediscovered the power (.527 slugging percentage) that has been lacking the past few seasons.

Over the last three seasons, Snow has hit eight, six, and eight home runs, respectively, in 2001, 2002, and 2003. In just 78 games this season, he already has nine homers, three of which came in one game at Philadelphia's new Citizen's Bank Park.

"It might be a better place to hit than Coors Field," he said of Philly's new stadium. "We deserve it. We play in the toughest park to hit."

Can all this bashing of the hometown ballpark serve as a precursor to his departure this off-season?

Snow's contract includes a vesting option of $2 million if he were to reach 450 plate appearances in 2004. With all the time he has missed on the DL, Snow seems likely to fall short of that, in which case the Giants could exercise a $250,000 buyout to cut their ties with him.

According to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this past July, Snow was nearly headed to the Mariners in a trade that would have sent John Olerud, now with the Yankees, to San Francisco. A Giants' source naturally denied the rumor.

"The longer you play, the more you see the business side of it. With the game's economics, you realize you can't keep teams together, even the good teammates or good clubhouse guys, so I don't worry about that stuff."

Another thing Snow doesn't concern himself with is hitting streaks. He's walking proof of how superstitious baseball players can be at times.

When asked if it were frustrating to miss time due to a freak injury in the midst of his 13-game hitting streak, Snow said: "Sure it is. That's why guys don't like talking about things sometimes. Just leave it alone and keep going."

Hopefully for Snow and the Giants, he can keep it going against the Marlins in Miami, Florida, where San Francisco returns to the place that buried their World Series dreams last season.

In Game 4 of the 2003 National League Divisional series between the Giants and Marlins, it was the depressing conclusion at home plate where Snow was tagged out by Pudge Rodriguez that still haunts Giants fans in their nightmares.

"I don't lose any sleep over it," said Snow. "It's not going to define anyone's career, make or break you. I really don't think much about it.

"There's nothing you can do. Why worry about things you can't change?"

Exactly. The only thing J.T. Snow has changed is his approach at the plate, which has resulted in a renaissance in a career year at the age of 36.

Just don't ask him about the hitting streak anymore.

Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.

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