17 November 2010

Aftermath

Turns out I knew it before they left for Texas. It was that 8th inning in Game 2. We lingered outside after the final out, hugging the rail of the Portwalk outside the Lefty O'Doul gate. It was me and Noah and Cash and Manny, and we reminisced about the season we'd all experienced — together — and I told them we'd just seen our last game at the Cove this year. Of course, they gave me hell. I'd have done the same in their position, without the benefit of my prescience. And as we parted ways, we made remarks to the effect of "I'll see you for Game 6." But on the walk back to my car — down 3rd Street past the developing UCSF extension campus, down a side street to an industrial zone that offers free parking — it hit me like a ton of bricks. It started with the kids, the fathers and mothers leading sons and daughters back to minivans and sport utility vehicles. They're so young, I thought. They don't know what it is to wait 33 years for a feeling like this — a feeling I still struggle to define, even weeks later. God, what that must feel like. To be that young. To be that happy. Absolutely. Without prejudice. And my thoughts drifted to my grandfather, a New York Giants fan, who moved West in the 40s and saw his team follow him a decade later. And I thought of my father, who attended the first Giants game at Seals Stadium in 1958 and pulled me out of school to go to the World Series in 1989 — a man who could barely watch any of the postseason run live because it would make his heart give way. And I thought of my mother, indoctrinated to the Giants by the osmosis of her love for my father, a true fan of the game who must have been just a little bit hurt by our defeat of her beloved Phillies. And I thought of my brother, who was at college in Oregon during the 2002 playoffs and saw his first-ever postseason Giants game this year — and who was probably whooping it up at a South Bay bar on this particular evening. And all of this thinking started the water works flowing. It was a happy cry. The one I've been waiting for my whole freaking life. The one that's cracked my cynical façade every day for the past two weeks. The one that followed me home that night and put me to bed... A few days later, when Edgar Renteria connected on a Cliff Lee mistake and sent it over the left center field fence, and my friends erupted around me in the common area of my apartment, I sat on the couch like a rock in the middle of a raging river, my jaw slightly drooping, my eyes wide as saucers, in disbelief that I hadn't jinxed a thing...

30 October 2010

Full Circle

Hang in there. This is gonna be a long one...

If you've been following this blog since I cranked up the squeeze box last season, you understand how I feel about Juan U-RIBE! Most of my love for the man can be traced to a cool evening at Safeco Field in May of 2009. The Giants had lost 8 of 9 to fall below .500 for the first time and managed just five runs while dropping the first four games of a roadie to San Diego and the Great Northwest. I arrived on the shores of Puget Sound late Friday night with tickets for the remaining weekend contests. My girlfriend at the time and I were sitting along the right field line Saturday night, marveling at the Japanese tourists and locals incessantly snapping photos of Ichiro — Ichiro stretching, Ichiro running, Ichiro stretching, Ichiro catching a fly ball... "Shotgun" Matt Cain gave up an early run but otherwise shut down the Mariners offense on a modicum of pitches, but as per usual, he received none run support, and we entered the eighth down 1-Love. In the seventh, los Gigantes had loaded the bases with one out and — surprise — failed to score, so when Bengie Molina singled with two out in the eighth, Randy Winn followed with a single, and Emmanuel Burriss walked to load the bases again, I wasn't exactly perched on the edge of my seat. This is where Juan Uribe comes up and whiffs on three straight sliders in the dirt, I thought to myself. But he got ahead 1-0, and the Seattle reliever threw him something he could elevate. He took it the other way into the right-centerfield gap to clear the bases, and I went absolutely ballistic. I don't often act the fool in another team's park. I like to show some respect. But this was no time for professional courtesy. I was giddy with delight, jumping around like a madman, probably scaring the bejeebus out of my g.f. And when Fred Lewis jacked one to right in the very next AB, I practically had a cow come shooting out of my ass. The Giants had just scored as many runs in one inning as they'd posted in their four previous games. Bolstered by the love from his bats, Matty breezed through the eighth and ninth to finish off a complete game 10-hitter. Seven Ks. No walks. Giants back in gear. Season pulled back from the brink. And even though we fell the next day on some late homers off Barry Zito, 2009 would never be the same. The Giants surged to September and were on the verge of a playoff spot before running out of gas, and I can't help but think the momentum from that night in Seattle is still elevating their game, driving them to greater and greater heights than anyone in their right mind deemed possible. This is a tremendous team, no doubt, with pitching to match any staff in postseason history. But like the cheesy advertising slogan says: There may just be some magic inside this place...

So why do I bother telling you this long-winded story? Well, my friends, baseball is a very cyclical game, down to its very core. And in the eighth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, the Giants led off with a pair of strikeouts, and my season ticket partner leans over and says, "We're gonna see U-RIBE! bat this inning." Never mind that he was five batters away with two outs. Never mind that this could very well be the last at bat the Giants take in this park in this magical season. Never mind that none of us wanted the dream to end. So when Buster Posey squeaked a single and the walk parade began, we just sat back and let it all sink in. Then, sure enough, Juan U-RIBE! was standing at the plate, and who should enter the game but the same reliever who toed the rubber for the Mariners on that cool night in May some 18 months ago. Mark Lowe came over to the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade, and I have to believe it was fate that these teams should meet on this stage, that these two souls should face each other in an identical situation under vastly different circumstances. Did they remember the at bat that tied them together in Giants lore, if only in my mind? Was Lowe thinking about getting ahead, keeping the ball off the plate? Was U-RIBE! thinking of taking one the other way? I'll probably never know, and none of the other beat guys or bloggers seemed to grasp the significance, especially in the context of the insanity that was the bottom of the eighth. But it was a moment I'll never forget, and when U-RIBE! coaxed a rare walk to force in a run, I had to grin and shake my head. Some game. Some game...
 
BTW...

> U-RIBE! was a clutch player before he came to the Giants. He will continue to be clutch after he leaves. But he will never be forgotten in this town. From the sac fly in Game 4 against the Phils to the home run that won the National League pennant to the 3-run bomb to open up Game 1 with the Rangers to the RBI single that gave Matt Cain room to breathe late in Game 2... This guy doesn't get a ton of hits, but he gets them at absolutely the right time. It's something you can't teach, and even though he's a free swinger, you don't want him to change a thing, because when he runs into one, it usually goes a long way...

> Speaking of clutch, there's a reason you don't see me rag on Edgar Renteria very often, and the whole damn country got a fine example of it on Thursday night. Dude is playing with a partially torn bicep, and he still managed to get out in front of a fastball and drive it out to left to break a 0-0 tie, and he did it off a pitcher who'd given up 10 jacks all year. You might remember an even better example from late last season. On a Sunday, with the Giants needing a sweep at home against the Rockies to pull even in the Wild Card race, Edgar crushed a grand slam to left, bringing the Giants back from a late 3-run deficit and seemingly propelling them into the final stretch. Of course, we all know how last season turned out, but I'll remember that AB for quite some time. So when Edgar hit his dong off C.J. Wilson, it seemed to fit right into place...

> Enough has been written about Ian Kinsler's near-home run in the top of that ominous fifth inning, and I don't need to jump on the dog pile. Suffice it to say that the Giants blew a good opportunity to score in the bottom of the fourth, and that's usually when guys like Kinsler hit drives like that just to stick it up your you-know-where. But this one came back. Miraculously so. And you got the feeling that all the tears of the past had led to this moment of joy. We shall see if everything pans out in the end, but for now, the water feels fine...

> Somebody on the Twitter thing said the last 11 teams to win the first two games of a World Series at home have gone on to win the series. I love those kinda stats because they leave out the most important information, such as the average number of games it took for the eventual winners to finish off their opponents. Much as I'd love to see more baseball by the Cove this season, I won't be broken up if the Giants finish this off in short order under the big and bright starry nights of Arlington. In fact, there's part of me that would take a certain pleasure in watching our boys dance in front of both Bush 41 and 43 while Nolan Ryan hangs his head. But if it has to come back to China Basin, I'll be there, and so will 43,000 of my friends, and we will have a parade when it's done. And if our luck runs out between now and then, we'll go back to our lives, no better or worse, just another notch on the bedpost of our discontent...

> There's a reason I don't have much to say about Game 1, and that's because I got me a little bit drunky on Racer 5 and PBR and have very few distinct memories that stand out beyond the game, which you all saw. I can tell you that I crossed the line with the Rangers families pretty early on, and once the boys rebounded from an early deficit and knocked Lee out of the game, I had a damn good time racking up a stack of World Series commemorative cups. The big bummer of the evening came outside on the Portwalk after the game, when I lost my season ticket holder card while chatting up the mother of a Rangers' reliever who hadn't made the World Series roster. Hopefully, it ended up in the Cove where all Giants relics belong... As you can tell from this post, I made it home safely thanks to a animal-style stop at In-N-Out, but I vowed that I'd be a good boy the next night...

> Here's what I will say about Game 1: Before the series started, I'm on record as saying if the Giants beat Cliff Lee, they win the series. I wasn't alone in that prediction, but I was certainly one of the few who thought they could actually do it. Sure enough, dreams can come true. But not without a little luck, and not without a little mojo. Everyone in the park for these two games could feel it. Something in the air, something in the water, something in the garlic fries... Something is percolating by the Bay, and it feels an awful lot like destiny. But we'll see where the gods take things from here...

> When we got inside on Thursday, Bengie Molina's mom was sitting in my seat. It's not uncommon for people with SRO tickets to wind up crashing until we arrive, but this was a VIP, and we couldn't just give her the ol' heave ho, especially since her knees wouldn't allow her to get down to the family seats below us. They offered me her seat in exchange for mine, but as a man of superstition with a strong distaste for sitting amongst the enemy in my own park, I couldn't give up my post. So we compromised. They pulled over a loose chair and plopped her down next to me in the open space reserved for wheelchairs. I was honestly a little hungover from the night before, and as such in less of a mood for obnoxious taunting, so the timing of this encounter actually worked out pretty well. She didn't speak any English, so I got to dust off my Spanish, and did okay, mas o menos. I told her to tell Bengie that he was a great Giant and that we all still love him. I really hope he gets the message. That b.s. Sabean dropped about having plans to trade him all along really rubbed me the wrong way. Not very professional. but whatever, the guy's usually a class act. Anyway, we took a picture with Bengie's mom which I'll post here at some point. Really cool to kick back and enjoy a game with a woman who's got some great baseball genes, though I can't say she cared much for our renditions of "Lights" or "Livin' On A Prayer"...

In response to all of your queries, I have no idea where I'm watching Game 3. I guess it all depends on whether or not I want to be around people when Dirty does his dirty thing. He and I have this kinda love-hate thing goin' on, and it makes me a little weird. Anyway, enjoy the proceedings from wherever your perch might be...

The Last Tweet...

Oct. 28th, 10:20 p.m.
@ArcadeDreams If you didn't know Matt Cain before tonight, now you know. #sfgiants #WorldSeries #YesWeCain

27 October 2010

About Last Saturday Night...

I didn't invite anyone over, didn't Facebook anybody, didn't go to the bar, didn't pull my brothers and parents together — as it probably should be — didn't answer the phone, didn't respond to texts or emails, didn't communicate with the outside world aside from screaming at ballplayers dancing on a field three thousand miles away, their images recreated on my 47" HDTV. To say that I enjoyed Game 6 of the NLCS would be a massive misstatement. It was baseball at its finest, and as such, it churned my stomach, shrank my sphincter, and chapped my throat. That in the end my team emerged victorious served only to allow me to sleep comfortably — that and a six pack of Mendocino Oatmeal Stout. But lord, what a beautiful game. Okay, I'll admit it: I guess I enjoy the torture... By the time Jonathan Sanchez was wetting the bed in the first, I was already 40 ounces to freedom and tweeting up a storm. Y'all probably coulda done without about 2/3rds of those. Sorry. But a man alone needs an outlet... And before you get to cracking wise about that, let's talk about defense. The Giants played fairly mediocre in the field over their six pack with Philly, but Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, and Jimmy Rollins played like their gloves were made of granite. Like Brooks Conrad in the 'DS, the Phillies' infield conspired against their chances to advance, and it came to a head in the third inning of Game 6. The Giants were down 2-1, having already eeked out a run off Roy Oswalt on a single from the Huff Daddy. After Huff took second on the throw, Buster hit one right to Polanco. He throws wide to Howard. Ball gets away. Huff scores. Game tied. Just like that. Such a huge play. Not just because they'd had such a hard time with Baby Roy in Game 2 and not just because it tied the game until Jazz Hands put the good guys up for good in the eighth. It's huge because it encapsulates an entire notion of this Giants postseason shared by many pundits: The Giants are lucky to be here. Well maybe we are. Maybe this game is 70% luck and 30% skill. But that's life. There's so much about this game that reminds us of ourselves, holds up a mirror to our false starts and failures, and makes us keenly aware that one day we will die. And when we die, it's alone, swinging hopelessly at a ball in the dirt as our teammates file up the tunnel to the clubhouse... Okay, no idea where that came from. But I kinda like it, so I'm not gonna delete it. Maybe add a warning... "Where were you when Weezy froze Howard?" I was on my couch, trying very hard not to show any emotion, regardless of the fact that I was alone. In the immediate aftermath, I paraded around the apartment like a screaming banshee, announcing to anyone within earshot that "I am a Giants fan, and my team is going to the World Series!"

BTW...

> F**king Juan U-RIBE! I've written about this more times than I like to think about, but once again, on Saturday night, I was reminded of a cold night in Seattle... Uribe went to right field that night as well. He split the gap to clear the bases, scoring more runs with one seventh-inning swing of the bat than the Giants had scored in a week. It was May 2009... Snap back to reality. It's October 2010, and Mr. Clutch is at it again. He takes the previously unhittable Ryan Madson oppo taco into the first row of the seats along the flat-planed wall in right. I'll betcha none of those obnoxious and noxious Philly phans were very hot on their bandbox of a ballpark right at that moment. Reminded me of the time Mark Sweeney put one into the right field corner outcropping at Petco. "Why'd you put that there?" I asked perplexed San Diegans around me...

> As I mentioned above, Dirty wet the bed. Philadelphia was all over him, chanting his name, standing for every 3-ball count, exploiting his one true weakness: his head. It was a smart move. A valiant move by a fan base on the verge of desperation, pulling for a team on the verge of elimination. And it worked. Dude was totally shell shocked from the minute he got out to the bump, and he never recovered. (I am not counting the bottom of the second as "calming down".) When he finally plunked Utley, I could hear Lou from the Major League Indians in the back of my mind: "I think you can go get him now." The funniest thing about the bench clearing incident was that Dirty and Utley seemed like the two players with the least interest in brawling of anyone on the field... And now, 'Chez is poised to start Game 3, again on the road, albeit in a slightly less hostile environment. But let's not kid ourselves, it's Texas. They go big there. And if the series goes longer than any of us would like, he's lined up for Game 7. Much as I love me some Dirty and will defend him against all comers, I just don't know if he has the brass for that assignment. Maybe we'll find out. Hopefully, we won't...

So where you watchin' the game tonight?

26 October 2010

Sharing in the Groove

Hey everybody! I've been flying high ever since Saturday night, and as such, I'm a little tardy on my NLCS Game 6 recap blog. The good thing about waiting is it allows me to absorb what everyone else is saying, process my own thoughts, and come at you with a unique take. I was about to bang something out last night when my new friend Dustin Parkes, author of the "Getting Blanked" baseball blog at TheScore.com, hit me up to write the Gigantes end of a double-bill blog looking ahead to the — breathe — World Series. Seeing as how I'm still trying to make waves on this wide open sea called the Internet, it's safe to say I seized the opportunity like a jewel-encrusted rally thong. You can read the result of my toils here, and please, spread the word to friends, fans, and colleagues.

BTW...

> If you're new to the blog, be sure to follow me on Twitter @ArcadeDreams, where I espouse most regularly on my San Francisco Giants, baseball, politics, Man United, USC football — Fight On! — and anything else that strikes my fancy, all in 140 characters or less. I try to post in this space at least every other day, but the life of a full-time political consultant tends to put a damper on my best laid blogging plans, so stay tuned to my tweets and, most importantly, stay classy.

23 October 2010

A Week at the Cove

Cody Ross is human. This much we know. We also know the history of the Giants on the road with a chance to close out a seven games series. Hint for the uninitiated: It's not good. In 1987, the Giants left for St. Louis up 3-2 and brimming with confidence. They had One Flap Down. They had Will the Thrill. They had Kevin Mitchell. And then came Jose Oquendo. In 2002, the Giants won Game 5 at Pac Bell 16-4 and went back to Anaheim up 3-2. They had Rich Aurilia. They had Jeff Kent. They had Barry Bonds. The Angels had a Rally Monkey and Scott Spezio. We all know what happened there. So what, if anything, sets Gigantes v.2010 apart from those two tragically flawed teams? Pitching. Lots of it. From the first out to the 27th, this is the best staff in the league. Philly has the horses at the top, but our 'pen and the critical 4th starter set us apart. They can throw Baby Roy and Cole Hamels. We can counter with Dirty Sanchez and Shotgun Cain. Timmy and Big Roy split their starts. MadBum stepped up with the relief corps and Juan U-RIBE! to best Blanton's Boys in Game 4. If the other two parts of the Big Three split again, we win this series, and we'll look back on that triumphant sac fly bat flip from Uribe as the defining moment. We won the game that was set up for us to win. The rest is a crap shoot. Let's hope Dirty's rolling 7's tonight...

Game 3

Tuesday's game is still a blur. I got the day off work but had to bang out a PowerPoint before I left from San Jo in the morning, so brunch with my season ticket partner was out the window. We just started drinking. There was a funky haze lingering over the entire Bay Area that gave me pangs of fear... The daytime start meant the extra tickets we'd purchased and put up on StubHub were virtually worthless. Ducats were going for less than face online, and the lot was no better. We ended up selling low and eating $30. But at least we know some real fans got in. We don't mess with the scalpers. This town is full of vultures, vultures everywhere... We entered just as the jet fighters were buzzing the yard and settled in right along with Matt Cain, who looked his usual stoic self. When Babe Ross broke the ice with an RBI knock in the fourth, a sort of calm settled over the Cove — a thunderous orange calm, to be sure, but a calm nonetheless. Funny, a guy on the mound who'd never beaten Philly facing a lineup stacked with power, and we were one confident bunch with a 1-0 lead. Huff Daddy and Freddy Sanchez upped that to 3-0 — with an assist from Chase Utley, who's become quite the reliable adventure at second base — Javy Lopez shut down the big bats, and Weezy sent the kids home happy. The postgame was marked with two dinners, three bars, old friends, new friends, and an assortment of adult beverages that conspired to send me home with a silly smile stuck on my face...

Game 4 (with a Game 3 flashback)

How classic was that? 21-year old rookie pitches his heart out. Offense scrapes out a lead. Bullpen squanders the lead. The bats come screaming back. The Phils punch in a run to tie it late. Walk off win in the ninth. Too many storylines for a team of reporters to cover... It started for me with the National Anthem. The previous day, I'd regretted for the first time my regular bathroom trip during "God Bless America". I'll be honest, I'm as patriotic as the next guy, but songs where the separation of church and state is so blatantly ignored only serve to aggravate my sensibilities. So I use the opportunity to relieve myself and try to make it back to my seat in time for "Take Me Out To The Ballgame". But on Tuesday, as I was letting it out, I heard a familiar crooning pumped through the PA. When I got back to my seat, my lady friend had a silly grin on her face. I'd missed Zooey Deschanel. Fudgcicle. Oh well, the result of the game made me forget my regret real quick. But later that night over dinner, some newbies to the scene wondered aloud who would do the anthem the next day. I told them I would be shocked not to see Huey Lewis and the News before this playoff run was done. The next day, around 4:50, I sent one of the newbies a tweet: Called it. Long story short, I had a good feeling about this game the whole way... Of course, the wives in the Phillies family section in front of us did everything they could to kill my buzz. As I've mentioned before in this space, our season tickets are perched at the top of Section 104, which just happens to be where the opposing team reserves tickets for their loved ones, friends, and hangers on. My ticket partner and I have been known to do a good amount of what you might call "ragging" on this section. But we always keep it clean, and we try to keep it intelligent. This being the NLCS, we had a lot of immediate family members below us, so tensions were already pretty high before a pitch was even thrown. The team had flown in bodyguards to watch over the section during the series, and San Francisco's Finest were flanking the aisles at all times. For three games, we sat in the safest section in the park. And we didn't get the boot once. A miracle, really. Course, it helps to know your usher and make nice with the bodyguards during the game. But nothing could've prevented one of the wives from losing her shit around the bottom of the fourth and turning to us with her middle finger in the air and the f-bombs flying. After that, it was on. I felt bad about it later, especially since we kinda made her cry, but we kept it clean, we kept it intelligent, and most importantly, we kept it loud. You simply don't make it personal with the fans in a hostile environment. They're lucky we didn't puke on them...

Anyway, some thoughts on the game: Guess Buster Posey didn't get the memo that Cody Ross is supposed to drive in the first run of every game in this series. Okay, seriously, how crucial was it for somebody to step up and have a game whose name does not spell Ssory Doc backwards? Four hits, two doubles, and the play of the game, receiving a short-hop seed from Aaron Rowand to tag out Carlos Ruiz and preserve the Giants' lead — for another moment at least. The kid has been pressing through his first postseason, but he looked like the Buster we know and love on this night, particularly in the ninth, when he stroked a single down the right field line to send Huff Daddy to third and set up the heroics from U-RIBE! Speaking of clutch, how about getting down 0-2 and fighting off a bunch of nasty s*** before reaching out to somehow pull a low-and-away changeup deep enough to left to plate the winner? Uribe's pretty much penthouse or outhouse, all or nothing, titanic whiff or jazz hands. So a sac fly is not the first thing you'd expect in this situation. I, for one, called a home run, but after he got to two strikes, I'd pretty much given up on the AB. Good thing he hadn't. On the way out of the park, I stopped on the Portwalk and lit up an American Spirit. The crowds spilling out of the Lefty O'Doul gate were still caught up in the glow. "UUU!" went the call. "RI-BE!" went the response. And it carried on into the dark of night. No time to party hearty this evening. Save it for tomorrow. Giants on the verge, and it's gotta happen in five, right?

Game 5

We were late getting in. That's where it started. Yes, we scored early and Timmy looked possessed, but something was just not right. Maybe it was the rain, a strange October drizzle that seemed to hang around like an unwelcome house guest planted on your couch and eating all your food. Then came the third inning. Timmy plunked Ruiz with two strikes, and that empty feeling that had been building all day in my stomach bubbled over. I knew we were going to lose. Even as we staged a comeback. Even as we put together chance after chance, I knew it was a futile effort. We were going back to Philly. Even the wives in front of us knew it to be true, and though we chanted for them to "Go back to Philly!" the night previous, now that seemed the embodiment of our worst nightmares. I sunk inside myself and got very quiet, came alive at the appropriate moments, but mostly tried to let the game, the moment, the season sink in. After all, that could be the last time I saw that field in 2010. That could be the last time I saw that team. I wanted to remember the fun times. I didn't want to think about this latest round of torture. As the Philly bullpen cruised through the final innings, I took it all in, and I made a pact with myself: if we screwed the pooch in the City of Brotherly Love, I would not allow it to dictate my mood for the next six months. I would take it like a man and brush it off my shoulder like Jay-Z. We'll see in the next couple days whether or not I have to live up to my end of this bargain with myself, and if I can...

BTW...

>  I'm loathe to pick apart losses, especially when shoddy defense was the key contributor to the defeat, but a lot of people harped on it, so I wanted to point out one thing from Game 5. Cody "Superman" Ross got nailed at third base trying to move up on a Panda flyout in the fourth, after he'd just knocked in the Giants second run with a double. It was the third out of the inning, a fundamental error on the basepaths, and with seemingly little upside should he have succeeded. But at the risk of sounding like a Cody apologist, here was my take on the spot: Uribe's up next. With two outs, Halladay either walks him to get to Lincecum or throws him nothing but 55-foot sliders until he strikes out. I'm thinking Cody Ross bet on the latter and figured he might score from third on a passed ball. So he took a chance, and Jayson Werth uncorked a perfect throw — the only way to ring up a fairly quick runner. Again, I can't excuse, I'm just trying to explain. The double play certainly sucked some momentum away from the home team, but I don't believe it affected the outcome...

>  Fact: The Giants are 0-2 this postseason in games when orange pom poms are the free giveaway.

>  So, how are the Giants doing on fulfilling my series prediction? Well, let's just say that baseball loves to obfuscate, which is precisely why I don't believe in attempting to predict it. I still hold to my call that the best scenario for a San Francisco victory was a five-game series, but I have to admit defeat nearly across the board. I was fairly spot-on in my call for Game 1. The boys "kicked the ball around" — as Marty Lurie would say — and made my Game 2 pick look like wishful thinking... which it was. Matt Cain did not disappoint my prognostication, but the offense did, and Game 3 kept me on course for an all-around win. Game 4 didn't play out quite like I expected, but then again, it didn't turn out like anybody expected. Game 5, well, f**k. So it's back to Philly. And since I didn't make a call for Games 6 or 7 because I didn't want them to happen, Here's my take:

Dirty has to win it tonight. The offense will get him three or four runs off Oswalt, who I don't believe can shut down the Giants three starts in a row (going back to August), but he's got to hold the Phillies in check. If he can keep them off the board through the first turn of the batting order — which is normally not too difficult for him — the bats can put some wind in his lungs and confidence in his heart, and we can run out the clock. If they get on him early and he s***s the bed, the bats are going to have to light up the night. But even J.T. Snow hit three homers in one game at the Bank, so maybe a shootout wouldn't be as lopsided as everybody thinks. If we go down tonight, I'd usually say we didn't have a chance in Game 7, but this Teflon Team has surprised me all year. Why should they stop now? It would be up to Matt Cain to get away from his flyball pitcher M.O. and keep these guys on the ground. If he can do that, we've proven we can get to Hamels. But in the end, I think this will all come down to the bullpens. And if it does, we've got a fighting chance...

>  Watching the game at home today. Probably alone. I don't know what it is, but something about going to a bar and watching with a bunch of rowdy fans has always turned me off. Probably because both times I did that during the '02 series, we lost the freakin' game...

Enjoy the torture, everybody.

The Last Tweet... (A new feature)

Oct. 20th, 2:19 PM
@ArcadeDreams The Sun wasn't going to come out today, but Cody Ross was cold. #sfgiants #NLCS

17 October 2010

October 17th

I think about Loma Prieta every year. I didn't need last year's 20th anniversary hulabaloo to remind me of that night. See, I'm one of the 65,000 or so who can legitimately claim to have had a ticket for Game 3 of the '89 World Series at the 'Stick. I'd have to dig around in a shoebox somewhere to produce the stub, but I was there. Dad and I were perched in the second to last row of the upper deck. If you've ever been to Candlestick and sat in the nosebleeds, you know what I mean when I say it's a steep-ass look down.

When the shaking started, the pregame festivities had barely gotten underway. It felt for one brief moment as though the tens of thousands already in their seats half an hour before game time had begun to stomp their feet in anticipation. A lot of people must've thought the same. Some started cheering along with the early rumbling drone of the earth. Then the shaking started in earnest. And everyone got real quiet real quick. I'd been in many quakes, and I've felt a hundred since, but none of them compare to the prolonged, queasy, rolling sensation of that temblor. When it finally subsided, the emergency lights were on, the scoreboard was out, and the players had stormed the field with their loved ones, leaving us plebians in the stands to fend for ourselves...

I remember watching our VHS tape of the "game" when we finally returned home. The feed cuts out in the middle of highlights from Games 1 & 2 — which, for Giants fans, was not all that unfortunate an occurrence. I can hear Al Michaels forgetting for one moment the geography and geology of North America and blurting out: "I don't know about you, but we're havin' an earthquake..."

It took the powers that were a while to figure out what to do. Suits were scrambling all over the field, but up in the "cheap" seats, we didn't think it was that big of a deal. The quake had appeared mild, apart from the length, and I chalked up most of the rolling to being on the second deck. So we stayed put, fully expecting the game to be played once they calmed everyone's apprehensions. A few moments later, the guy behind us shouted out, "Holy s***!" We turned around as he held up his portable TV — a black-and-white with a 2-inch screen that was the heighth of mobile tech at the time — and saw for the first time the damage Loma Prieta had wrought... A section of the Bay Bridge had given way... The Marina had sunk into itself... The double decks of the Nimitz Freeway had collapsed like gargantuan concrete pancakes, cars and their occupants crushed between.

My heart sank. I was only 11, but I knew death, and suddenly, that night began to smell like death. Shortly after my heart was broken by the indefinite postponement of the game, we sauntered out in orderly fashion — I don't remember a single case of pushing or shoving beyond the norm for a sold-out sporting event. Dad wove us out of the dirt lot across the street from the main lot, up to Third Street, and onto 101 southbound. We hopped over to 280 via 380 and listened to the radio news all the way down the peninsula, as the full scope of the quake was coming into focus. Just before Magdalena, emergency signs told us the road was out ahead. This is where Dad impressed his young son more than he ever had before... He got us home to the Dub-G on surface roads, and we didn't get lost once, nor did he consult a map. Remember, this was before GPS, Google, and smart phones. Total baller, right?

In my later years, driving alone on my way back from games, I've pulled the same moves a few times just for s***'s and giggles. I feel like that night was when I discovered my love for driving. It led me to take a job with a campus taxi service at USC, to become a car messenger while living in Redondo Beach, to prefer to drive to games rather than do what my heart tells me is the right thing by riding CalTrain or BART. So, Dad, rest easy. The apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree...

BTW...

> When they finally did play Game 3, yours truly was there. Not that the result would've been different, but I often wonder how that Series would've played out had Loma Prieta never happened.

4 down. 7 to go.

It's getting lost in all the talk about "Babe" Ross and the whistling for Timmy, but my personal favorite Mr. Clutch had what was probably the hit of the night. The Giants had just gone up 3-1 when Raul Ibañez misplayed Pat the Bat's double to the wall. Bochy predictably inserted "Nasty" Nate Schierholtz to run for Burrell. And Juan U-RIBE! stepped to the plate against a struggling Roy Halladay. He promptly mashed a seed up the middle to drive in Nate and adroitly took second on an ill-advised throw home. A timely hit, and even more timely hustle. If Fontenot finds a way to bleed one into left off the Doc, the game is suddenly approaching out of reach territory, and Charlie Manuel is likely gesticulating toward the bullpen. He's had a rough postseason thus far, but I shouldn't be the only Giants fan hoping that one AB can resurrect U's bat. No doubt he's a streaky hitter, but when he's streaking right, this team streaks right along with him. Don't be surprised if he puts a couple in the bleachers before this series is through, and definitely don't be shocked if they tie the game or put the G's ahead. That seems to be how he rolls. After all, while his RBI in Game 1 only served to pad the lead at the time, it proved to be the winning run...

BTW...

> So, my Game 1 prediction wasn't bang on, though I'll take full credit for nailing the end result: a W for los Gigantes. Neither starter got "lit up", but the G's made me look good by rapping 8 hits off the un-hittable Halladay, including the incessantly replayed identical twin doinks from Cody Ross. Didn't get the boost I was expecting from Aubrey Huff, but it's only a matter of time before that sleeping giant awakes. Big Time Timmy Jim punched the clock and gave us seven solid innings with only two real mistakes. (Honestly, in that park, giving up a couple first-row homers to right is par for the course.) And the combo of Javy Lopez and B-Weezy shut the door over the final six outs...

> I still stand by my call for Game 2. It's time for the Giants to make like Gordon Gekko and get greedy. I'm looking for Dirty Sanchez to come out hard and keep the place quiet long enough for his compadres to make a few dents in Oswalt's armor...

16 October 2010

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Baseball

Yeah, I know. We've been hearing it all week: The Giants have no chance against the two-time defending NL Champion Phillies... Well you know what? I'm not a talking head on the MLB Network. I'm a Giants fan, and I love our little Teflon Team. As such, I know we've got slightly more than a chance in Hades. So here's how I see the NLCS playing out if we're gonna make it to the Classic:

Game 1
One of the Cy Young aces is getting lit up tonight. As a Giants fan, obviously I hope it's Doc Halladay. The pundits and prognosticators are predicting a 1-0 duel in South Philly, but any fan knows baseball exists to thwart expectation. So I'm gonna go out on the limb, leap before I look, and say the bats are gonna come alive and pepper the short porches to support another stout performance from Big Time Timmy Jim. Los Gigantes prevail 7-2. Look for an early wake up call from the Huff Daddy and his Rally Thong.

Game 2
Absolutely crucial. You've got what you wanted, a guaranteed split, but you can't let up now. Dirty Sanchez has to come out and put his foot square in the Adam's Apple of every phan in the Bank. He has to be electric, because they're gonna come out swinging like their postseason life depends on it. Be calm, be focused, be collected, and most importantly, keep the ball down. Dirty will make it through six strong with a high pitch count, and the bullpen will bend but not break. The G's have shown no difficulty in getting to Little Roy, so I'm calling a 5-3 win. Up 2-0 coming home...

Game 3
This being the 2010 Giants, there has to be a little torture involved. I admit, I'm gonna play off the 2002 NLCS a bit and say this is where someone spills the beer bong. Matt Cain is going to come out just as strong as he did against the Braves, pitching through seven, giving up a pair of runs. But the bats will suddenly come up limp in the October heat of China Basin. Shotgun has long been our hardest luck starter — only recently eclipsed by Zito in terms of paltry run support — and he'll watch a familiar scene play out as the bullpen holds but the offense can't produce in clutch situations against lefty Cole Hamels. Phils win 3-1 and take back the Mo.

Game 4
Madison Bumgarner became a man against the Braves. In this game, he becomes a legend. The sidewinding lefty, who at times this season has reminded me of a young Randy Johnson, finally got his first home win against the D'Backs in the final homestand at the Cove. This is a very important note. It got that gorilla off his back, which will give him the confidence he needs to follow Dirty's lead and shut down Philly's lefty boppers. Charlie Manuel will get greedy and throw Halladay out there on short rest after an early exit in Game 1. The Giants will scratch out a few runs, Weezy will load the bases with one out in the 9th and get a double play to end a 3-2 Giants victory.

Game 5
Here's the deal: We can't go back to Philly. We have to close this out at home. Game 6's and 7's just don't agree with us. And in this scenario, we'll get a dream matchup: Timmy vs. Oswalt. Lincecum is undefeated in his career against Little Roy, and I don't forsee that changing with a chance to close out the series in front of the orange-clad faithful. Buster Posey hits the go-ahead homer in the fourth, and Timmy cruises through 8. Weezy comes in and cleans up in the ninth. Giants win 4-1. Game over. Series over. We chill at home for a week and wait for another Game 1.

Optimistic? Most definitely. Ridiculous? Not really. Possible? Por supuesto. After all, this is baseball,  this is the Giants, this is your life. And it's ending one inning at a time...

Enjoy the ballgame.

13 October 2010

Best. Waiver. Claim. Ever.

Cody Ross was an afterthought. Cody Ross was a cast-off. Cody Ross was a Giant killer. Cody Ross has never been tagged on this blog. Cody Ross was the last guy you'd ever expect to be the Giants' NLDS MVP. But he was. And that's kinda how this series went. Brooks Conrad had become a household name in Hot-lanta with an epic debut after a decade in the minors. Dude hit two grand slams in like a week and was on the verge of becoming a local god. Then he made three errors in one game, and his highlight reel got boos from a less-than-full house in his home park. That's kinda how this series went. Matt Cain and Dirty Sanchez pitched absolute gems and came away with workouts, yet Sergio Romo has an unblemished postseason record of 1-0. The Braves were a virtual MASH unit for the better part of the series, yet they fought to make every game a one-run sphincter shrinker. Los Gigantes couldn't score with one out and the bases loaded, yet they could and did score twice with a runner at first, down to their final strike. That's kinda how this series went. And now, it's on to the next one. The next round of torture. The next chance for greater glory...

BTW...

> Can we get a "Hallelujah!" for Madison Bumgarner? Talk about full circle. Remember last year, and even Spring Training, when everyone was wondering, "What happened to MadBum?" What happened to that heat we've all heard about? What happened to that bulldog intensity? I hope y'all got your answer last night. Kid was off the chains good in a pressure situation on the road in front of 45,000 red foam tomahawks and an equal number of motivated hometown fans. If there were any doubts about holding my fellow Trojan Barry Zito off the roster, I think they've been answered. And then some...

> I freaking love Javier Lopez, but I love him for what he is: a LOOGY. For the uninitiated, that's a Lefty One-Out Guy. His two K's of Jason Heyward in Games 3 & 4 were the highlights of my week. Yet a postgame show does not pass my ears without a caller begging for Javy to see extended use against righthanders, even pitching full innings of setup. Of course, none of these yokels comes armed with the facts. And when I say "facts", I mean statistics: In the 2010 regular season, Javy Lopez (the pitcher) posted a .162/.250/.242 against lefties and a — wait for it — .306/.361/.405 against righties. I rest my case...

> Santiago Casilla. What the f***? Where did that come from? And where did Bochy get the brass balls to keep him out there for more than one inning? I think it's safe to say our manager has found himself in the postseason. There have been some serious head scratchers (more in a moment), but for the most part, he's rolling 7's, and he couldn't have expected Romo to wet the bed so brazenly...

> Okay, enough Bochy love. Let's indulge in a little second-guessing. It started with replacing Sandoval with Fontenot in Game 2, only to turn around and pinch hit Renteria for Fontenot an inning later. Didn't come back to haunt him because RIck Ankiel mercifully ended things before either bench was exhausted. But it surfaced again yesterday, when Bochy inexplicably pinch hit an ice cold Aaron Rowand for Fontenot against the Braves flamethrowing bullpen, knowing full well he'd have to burn another player to replace Fontenot on the infield. Enter Edgar Renteria, who made what could have been a game-changing error in the bottom of the 8th, shortly after entering the game. If Lopez hadn't woven his magic on Heyward, we could be talking about Game 5 tomorrow. My point is, it seems like Bochy's managing a 25-man roster like he would a 40-man September squad, burning through position players like Republicans spew fear and lies. So far, it hasn't bit him in the a**, but when you get away from yourself in the heat of the postseason, it's only a matter of time before it does. Just ask Dusty...

> Hats off to Bobby Cox. Dude was, is, and always will be a class act, and I was very proud to see our boys take a step back from their dance on Ted's infield to honor a man who's been managing longer than most of them have been alive. I resented the result of our '93 slugfest, so I was gratified by our LDS victories '02 and again this time around, but I'll never take a swipe at an honorable competitor. Enjoy your retirement, Bobby. Here's hoping you don't go crazy next April...

War Giants. Beat the Phillies. NLCS preview coming soon...

12 October 2010

Magic Sauce

I can pinpoint the moment when I decided to throw a sauce party for Game 3. It was on the way to Game 2. I was cruisin' up 280 past the Flintstone House, and I had a vision of meatballs and sausage bathed in a sea of seasoned tomato goodness. And because Sunday's game was set for a late lunch start, I texted a few friends. Saturday was a mess as far as shopping time. I walked a precinct in the morning, did some bar hopping in the afternoon, and watched old 'SC nearly upset the Smart Kids on the Farm in the evening. Luckily, the Market Safeway across the street is open 'til 11. I grabbed ingredients in a flourish and returned home to vong loads and precious sleep, though this time of year, none of us really sleeps. I woke at 7 Sunday morning and brewed a pot of coffee in my normal routine. The roomie slumbered through his alarm on our couch while I whipped up the base, mixed up some meatballs, primed them in the pan, and dumped them into a hot red bath, with the sausages following shortly thereafter. What? You want specifics? I don't think so. This is the Family Recipe, and the Family keeps it. I stepped across the street for my weekly breakfast with mum and left the pot to simmer. When I returned from a pancake sandwich, the place was filled with the most savory aroma. It had been too long, I thought to myself. I need to do this at least once a month. Before I could truly enjoy my creation, I had to spit out a blog. Then, the game began, and the friends arrived, and unfortunately in that order. Gotta say it's one of my pet peeves for guests to interrupt the flow of a game, particularly when they're coming over to watch said game. Anyway, I don't need to say much about the game, because you've already heard it all. Dirty stepped up something crazy large. He's racking up the bucks on his next contract with every disappearing fastball and every hitless inning. Brooks Conrad has my deepest and sincerest condolences. That's like Crash Davis taking a hat trick with three passed balls to lose a big league playoff game after a lifetime in the minors. Just sad, man. I almost felt bad about losing before I remembered that our offense did not give up. They did not disappear into the night. They raged against the dying of the light. And when the dust settled, Bochy was announcing MadBum would start Game 4...

10 October 2010

A Sober Assessment

We should be up 2-0. That much is a given. But it's pointless to play the blame game. I took a day to absorb the loss and internalize all of my feelings, and of all people, F.P. summed it up on the postgame Sports Phone Friday night: You give me Brian Wilson with the lead and Buster Posey with one out and the bases juiced, and I say, "Thank you very much, may I please have another?" The loss was not unfortunate, nor was it undeserved, nor was it entirely unexpected. What was unfortunate was Matt Cain watching another stout start turned into a workout by accidental bullpen bowel movements. What was undeserved was the heat that Wilson and Posey took despite a season of top flight performance. What was unexpected was that we had this chance at all. We knew it would not be easy. For this team, it seemingly never is. Yes, they've rattled off a few 9-2 and 11-3 victories, but for the most part, they play sphincter-tightening nail-biters. They torture us by snatching defeat from the gaping jaws of victory, and then resurrect themselves like the Phoenix the very next day. They are the Teflon Team. They are our worst nightmare. We root root root for them to the bitter end, though we know the end will always be bitter, never sweet, not so long as this dreaded cloud hangs over our beautiful ballpark like a foggy shroud. What did we do? We tolerated the circus, but we were not alone. The gods must forgive us, or they must be appeased. Shall we sacrifice an order of garlic fries to the demons of McCovey Cove? Maybe a Cha-Cha Bowl would do the trick... It's funny how well 2002 prepared us for moments like this. I was watching Ken Burns' The Tenth Inning the other night while blowing off three days of NO GIANTS BASEBALL! Barry Bonds is obviously the centerpiece, and they focus on the '02 Series. Who wouldn't? If I were an Angels fan, that would be a seminal moment in my life. For us, it's a seminal moment in our downward spiral to collective insanity. But I was kinda surprised by how little it affected me to watch the whole massacre replayed like a WWII news reel. I was just as surprised by my calm and sober demeanor while watching Game 2 of this NLDS play out before my eyes. Have I finally internalized our Left Coast Curse to the point that any loss is insignificant when compared to the crippling horror of Game 6 in '02? If so, I suppose it's just a natural defense mechanism, preventing me from dying of an early heart attack, allowing me a few more years to see if we can outlive the sins that put us in this predicament.

BTW...

> I'm a zero waste kinda guy. That's why it pisses me off to see starts like Cain's thrown to the wolves. It's also why I'm particularly bummed for Pat Burrell. Dude lit the house on fire with his first-inning jack, throwing up a three spot behind Shotgun to get the game started. I think it's safe to say most of the 44K in attendance felt just like I did: It's all good. We got this. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans and all that jazz...

> If you want to b lame someone, why not Sergio Romo, who came in amped up and left without retiring a single batter, setting Weezy up for the eventual fail. I don't often like to single guys out in the 'Pen, but that was not, as they say, getting it done in crunch time...

> Some quick keys to today's game: The bats have to step up early and often. Yes, I know, I say this every game, but that doesn't make it any less true, especially with Dirty Sanchez on the mound. Dude needs the love or he loses focus. We've also gotta play tight D behind him. I don't want to see any "Olé!" out there. Just good, clean baseball. My fearless prediction: Giants 4-3.

Gotta get back to my pasta sauce. Don't want it to stick. Enjoy the ballgame...

08 October 2010

1 down. 10 to go.

Yes, he was out. Everybody in the house knew it without the benefit of the helpful HDTVs replaying Buster's attempted thievery all over the yard. But guess what? Conrad misplayed the throw and tagged high. He got what he deserved, and so did the Braves. And this is all beside the point that the Fightin' Bobby Coxes did absolutely nothing to make an impact on this game with their bats. Big Time Timmy Jim absolutely owned those guys last night, throwing sliders in 3-2 counts, collecting an astounding 31 swings and misses, and giving the 43,965 in attendance a feeling of cool, collected inevitability. As much as any of us would normally have been overcome by sheer nervous tension given the situation, we watched in stunned amazement as our 5-10, 170-pound hero made mincemeat out of Jason Heyward and the rest of "America's Team" in the biggest start of his career and the biggest Giants game since J.T. collided with Pudge. I'd be willing to wager my heart rate reached its peak last night just after Omar Infante led off the game with a double to left center and Timmy started Heyward off with a pair of balls way out of the zone. Then, Buster Posey did what he does best: He picked the perfect time to go out there and remind his ace that this is just another game. And you know what? My heart barely skipped a beat the rest of the night, and Timmy looked like he barely broke a sweat. I can safely say I've never seen pitching dominance like that. Not in person, and definitely not in the postseason. That was picking the team up, putting them on your shoulders, and shouting "Follow me, boys!" without so much as saying a word. When Rags told Romo to take off his jacket and go warm up in the 8th, Serg asked himself, "Why?" When Weezy went out to get loose in the 8th, and again in the 9th, we were all asking ourselves the same thing. Granted, you want to keep Timmy fresh for a possibly critical Game 4 start on short rest, but sometimes we forget this kid has that bulldog nature and a Gumby body. He could throw 150 pitches and come out the next day ready for some long toss. No ice necessary. There's a reason they call him "The Freak", and this is it. He does what he does, day in and day out, and when he's done, you look back and go, "What the f*** just happened?" Only this time, he left us all wondering if we'd just entered the Twilight Zone or if we were about to wake from a very pleasant dream. Smoking a joe with by bro on the portwalk afterwards, I surveyed a surreal scene of smiles and spaced-out expressions, like we'd all just smoked a big doob of Tim's preferred strand. The Lincecum Kush was awful tasty on Thursday night. Let's hope the Cain Krush is just as stony. And stop debating the call at second. He was out. Ump called him safe. Happens all the time. The Braves still had a chance to get out of the inning. But Bobby walked Panda, Ross' grounder ate up Infante's glove, and the rest, as they say, is history.

BTW...

> Can't say I was terribly impressed by Freddy Sanchez's performance in his first playoff game. Four groundouts, two that killed potential rallies. I love the dude, and it's great to have him out there pickin' it at second, but we need him to produce from the two-hole on the other side of the ball, especially with Andres the fireplug hitting in front of him...

> Why Panda? Jeebus Christ, why? We love and we care and we hope and we pray and just when it seems like you're snapping out of it for real, you throw up a turd like that. Did you have any approach at all in your first AB? And what about the first-pitch GIDP? I hope that ball looked like a home run before you swung at it...

> Thankfully, not as many opposition friends and family corrupting Section 104 for this series. I imagine tickets are pretty scarce (even if your name is Jason Heyward, future ROY runner-up). That didn't stop Noah — my season ticket partner — from executing a one-man mock-chop throughout the ninth inning. He asked me to back him up, but there's no way I'm pulling that mess with a one-run lead in the middle of a playoff game. I told him to wait for the final out, but what can I say? The dude is passionate. Even had some Giants fans ragging on him to knock it off, but he just kept going like the Energizer Bunny. God bless the patience of his fiancée...

> As I mentioned on the Twitter thingie, I've decided to forgoe live tweets during playoff home games in order to give my complete attention to the field. Hope this doesn't sadden my 35 loyal followers, but sometimes, you have to do what's best for the team. Don't worry, I'll still be on timesuck.com throughout the day and most likely while watching TV broadcasts of road games. My 140-character diatribes won't be drying up anytime soon...

See you at the Cove. Let's go Giants!

07 October 2010

Announcing the 2010 Butchies

While everybody's talking, bitching, moaning, cheering, jeering, analyzing, prognosticating, writing, blogging, and tweeting surrounding this morning's release of the Giants' 25-man NLDS roster, let's take a minute to look back and recognize the heroes who brought us to this nerve-wracking and yet somewhat satisfying moment...

Most Valuable Offensive Player: Aubrey Huff

Yes, yes, I know. Some guy named Buster. Look, I hate the argument made by ROY voters that Jason Heyward put up strong numbers over a longer period of time — despite the fact that Buster's projected numbers blow Heyward's out of the park — but I have to give this to the guy who's been our most consistent contributor all season long. Dude led the team in ABs, home runs, and rally thongs, and his discerning eye at the plate yielded a higher OBP than our rookie backstop. That's not to mention he carried this offense in April and May. For a cast-off player making $3M on a team that made him their second or third choice, you cant deny the impact Huff Daddy has had on your 2010 Giants.

Most Valuable Defensive Player: Andres Torres

Not much internal debate on this one, though Buster should receive honorable mention for his stellar work behind the plate from July 1st on. Andres the Giant has been the gazelle of the Giants outfield, the perfect counterpoint to water buffaloes in the corners like Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff. Even on an average, can-of-corn fly ball, he sprints to the spot where he thinks the ball will land and calmly puts it away with two hands. No showboating and unnecessary dives, no misjudged routes to balls, just pure, old fashioned, error-free play up the middle. On a team supposedly built around pitching and defense, the 2010 Willie Mac Award winner was the cornerstone of the latter.

Most Valuable Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain

You can't argue with this. Shotgun was quite simply the most consistent — and consistently dominant — of the Giants incomparable starters. He led the staff in IP as well as WHIP (beating out Dirty Sanchez), threw four complete games and two shutouts, and posted a 3.14 ERA doing it. While Big Time Timmy Jim was floundering with his mechanics over the Summer, Cain was the Giants' horse, regularly pitching deep into games, often with very little run support, and holding his own against some of the league's best starters. Yes, when the chips were down in the final series with the Fathers, he wet the bed and Dirty shined. But over 162 games, there's nobody I'd rather have next to me in the fox hole than Matty Cain.

Most Valuable Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson

Weezy's the heart of the 'Pen, and he served as its anchor in a year of turmoil, turnover, and triumph, eventually tying Shooter's club record with his 48th save in an instant-classic Game 162. Whether sporting a faux hawk, a real hawk, or a jet black beard that could never — should never — grow on the face of a blonde surfer dude, Wilson is the epitome of what a closer should be: fearless, fearsome, and — at least from an outside perspective — totally bats**t insane. That's why we love him, and that's why he's the rock of the relief corps. Everyone down there had their doldrums this year, but Weezy held it down from start to finish. He can pitch my ninth inning any day, and I'll buy him a shot and a beer after.

Most Valuable Mid-Season Addition: (tie) Buster Posey & Pat Burrell

Okay, fine, I made this one up. But some credit for the success of the 2010 Giants must go to these two very different individuals. By now, we all know about Buster, and so much will be written about him in the weeks and months and years ahead that it seems redundant for me to write another word. Suffice it to say that this club and our chances this season would be nowhere near what they are were it not for Brian Sabean making a fortuitous call to Fresno on May 29th. As for "The Bat", there are no words to describe the emotions coursing through my veins while I watched Pat nearly choke up during Sunday's postgame locker room insanity. How would it feel to go from sitting on your couch, seemingly unwanted despite the talent you know still lurks in your body and soul, to hitting seven lead-changing home runs for your childhood team in its most successful season in seven years? I don't know about you, but that would make me cry too. The fact that we went to high school together has no bearing on this award. Pat earned this on the strength of his performance, and no matter how far the club goes this October, his heroic deeds will not soon be forgotten. (And he plays a pretty mean left field when the chips are down!)

Enjoy the game tonight everybody, from wherever you may be watching. As always, I'll be that obnoxious guy at the top of Section 104, tooting my kazoo and hoping Derek Lowe's sinker stays flat enough for Aaron Rowand to square it up. I don't plan to "enjoy" much of anything until this is all over, but I'll do my best to keep smilin'... even if I'm faking it.

04 October 2010

162 down: The Lost Weekend

I don't mean for the title of this blog to denote a negative outcome or sour feeling, simply that spending two thirds of one's weekend in a small corner of San Francisco watching baseball that could best be described as suffocating leaves one with the sensation of having been repeatedly thrown to the ground and kicked in the jaw for good measure. And yet, on the brink of epic collapse, your @sfgiants picked themselves off the ground, put us on their backs, and led us to the Promised Land. Seven years of pain receded into the late afternoon fog, Buster Posey leaped into Brian Wilson's arms, and it was done...

I wanted it to end on Friday. We all did. Matt Cain, the Giants most reliable starter in the second half, pitching on his birthday against the reeling Padres who'd just dropped three of four to the Cubs — at home. I could barely focus at work long enough to get enough done. The boss left early, but I stuck it out to make sure I was free and clear until Sunday night. The normal traffic pockets presented themselves, but I got to the lot in time to share a beer (or three) with my season ticket partner. On the way in, I noticed two things that made me think this might not be an easy weekend: the fog was rolling over the hills from Half Moon Bay for the first time all week, and the sidewalk on Third Street that had been barricaded all season was finally open to pedestrians. It must be fascinating for-sports fans to observe the behavior of the truly mad baseball junky! Sure enough, the Cainer gave up three jacks for the first time in his career, and I ended up eating crow from the pack of Padres family faithful in Section 104. (Altogether, there were probably more Fathers Fans in front of us than at their home game at Petco the night before, but I kid...) One gent two rows in front of us flaunted his Mat Latos jersey like a flag of pride. He probably didn't expect to get an earful from Row 39, but he shouldn't have been surprised. Of course, his wife didn't do him any favors by turning around to get in our faces. This pretty much forced him to respond, flashing the "L" for loser and "two outs/sign of the Devil" with his fingers. But hey, this is all in good fun, right? Especially since there wasn't much happening on the field... That is, until Aaron Rowand hit a $12M home run. Always great to see the boys fight back, even when they don't get it done, and they did both royally on Friday night. And seeing so many at'em balls made your humble narrator feel as though a win was coming. Not on this night perhaps, but soon...

Saturday was going to be a long day before it even started, but a fun day nonetheless. I'd picked up tickets to see Arcade Fire at the Greek Theatre that night, right around the time I gave up on the Giants for the second time this season — in other words, the middle of August. At 6.5 back, I figured these games would be meaningless. And if they were meaningful, I didn't think I could take it. Then, alluvasudden, the Padres lost 10 in a row, and I found myself in an indie rock conundrum: In order to go to Saturday night's game, do I trade my Saturday AF tickets for the Sunday show they announced shortly after the first sold out? What do I do if the Giants blow it all on the final day of the year? I'll never make it to the show. I'll drive my car off Pier 32. I'll strap myself in and float to the bottom because I can't take it anymore... So, of course, Fox picked up the Saturday game, moved it to 1:10, and I was safe at home... sort of. Barry Zito, you see, had other plans. My fellow Trojan came with absolutely nothing in the biggest game of his Giants career, and even a stirring rally couldn't dig the team out of his hole. He was out of the postseason rotation long before Bruce Bochy took the game — and the ball — out of his hands. Jose Guillen had one last chance to take Zitti off the hook, but he couldn't wait around long enough to give Darren Ford a chance to stretch his legs. Whatever, right? Get 'em tomorrow. Only now, there's not much choice... Btw, the show was excellent. I've seen them twice at the same venue and both shows were unique and emotionally dynamic. On the suggestion of my show companion, we had dinner at Marlowe prior to hopping the pond. Certainly coming back here to celebrate a win or two — or three...

My friends made breakfast at their place in Mountain View before we carpooled up and spent some quality time on the Public House patio with @MUrbanCSN and his parade of special guests including Rich Aurilia, Bruce Jenkins, and Chris Lincecum. (I'm a name-dropping fiend!) Btw, Richie was on deck when J.T. Snow was thrown out at home by Jeff freaking Conine and Pudge Rodriguez did his dance of joy. Yep, seven years. Still stings... Anyway, the point is, it was a good morning, with a good vibe, and I was honestly amazed by the crowd. They all had that same glow, like they knew something good was coming, and I was struck by how atypical that is for Giants fans. But somewhere around the time Jonathan "Dirty" Sanchez was burning around second on his way to a stand-up triple, I started to get that look myself. How great for that kid to defy his lesser angels and bring a wave of confidence to the mound that fed the rest of the team. How great for Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff to be part of the victory that finally puts them in the postseason? How great for San Francisco? How great for the fans? I haven't seen the video yet, but I was probably a hot mess in the ninth, curled up in the fetal position while Weezy blew through the Dads like a bunch of kids and Pablo Sandoval pumped his fists after every out like a fan who'd snuck onto the field in full uniform. 1-2-3. Game over. Party time. The Victory Lap was quintessential 2010. I don't care who suggested it (Bochy) or who led the charge (Panda). The spontaneity was what made it beautiful. After all, we've been playing with house money all year. If this team suddenly got predictable, I'd be worried.

BTW...

> Look for my blogging to pick up as we approach Thursday's NLDS opener against the hated Braves at the Cove, for the simple reason that I can't keep all of my myriad thoughts locked under my dome piece long enough for them to subside. You can expect quick hits on 2010 Team Awards and full recaps on game days. And, as always, I'll be tweeting up a storm as @ArcadeDreams. Follow me, or don't follow me. Either way, I'll keep doing it to calm my nerves.

Let's go Giants! Stop the Chop!

28 September 2010

156 down. 6 to go.

It comes to this. One week of desperately trying to avoid a heart attack and knowing it's a losing proposition. After all, it's been six years. How exactly is one supposed to react under these circumstances? I find myself pondering what life in September must be like for fans of teams like the Pirates, who haven't won diddly squat (or even bothered to post a winning record) in 18 years. Football season. That's what it feels like. Not here. The Niners are garbage. The Raiders are... the Raiders. The A's are playing out the string. And the W's and Sharks have yet to begin their respective marches toward inevitable heartache, regret, and mediocrity. (Just sayin'.) Yes, your San Francisco Giants have a unique opportunity to usurp the collective sports consciousness of the Bay Area for the next five weeks. The last team from these environs to play in their league's postseason was the Warriors. I know. Scary, right? It's been one sad state of affairs for jock junkies in this neck of the woods, and it's a shame. After all, we have everything else going for us: culture, diversity, climate, politics — why not a successful sports franchise, or hell, just one bloody season in the sun. That's all we ask. For Giants fans, it's the ultimate existential question: If our team can finally find a way to overcome the Ides of October and end up hoisting the cool trophy with all the pennants on it, will we be satisfied? Will we walk away into the sunset, never again to set foot in a major league baseball park, our wildest dreams fulfilled, ready to experience what life has to offer beyond the chalk lines and $8 brats? Will our family get to see us again at birthdays and holidays and graduations? Will our friends be able to discuss subjects with us that don't revolve around the designated hitter or the infield fly rule? Will we stop wearing our beat-down ball caps to weddings and high-fiving fellow fans at political fundraisers? Will we ever, truly, be sane? The answer, of course, is "No." Because we can never get enough, you see? One championship feeds the hunger for another. Take Red Sox fans as an example. Two championships in three years, and they're still the bitterest, saddest, most depressingly paranoid body of people on this planet — and anyone who came to the interleague series at the Cove in June knows exactly what I'm talking about. That's us, people. Two or three years removed from that mythical Giants championship, we'll be just the same: mumbling to ourselves about what could have been, should have been, would have been. If only... if only... But for that one October, it truly would be magic inside. Of course, this year, the World Series is scheduled to stretch into November, unless somebody sweeps. But you get the point. Don't you?

BTW...

> Everybody seems to be talking about the starting rotation. Urbs says "Let's push Tim Lincecum back so he starts the Padres series and Zito goes against the D'backs." Baggs says, "Let's move Timmy up so he's available to pitch Game 163 on regular rest." Chalk me up with the guys on the bench, who don't seem inclined to change a thing. Like Baggs concludes here, why mess with a staff that's held opponents to 3 or fewer runs in 19 of the last 20 games? Of course, Baggs later reported that Brian Sabean was on KNBR yesterday talking about the possibility of migrating Big Time Timmy Jim to have him rested for a one-game playoff. So who the hell knows what's going to happen? I can tell you this much: Whether the Giants are playing baseball or golf next week has more to do with one player than any other: Jonathan "Dirty" Sanchez, who will likely start two of the final six games, regardless of how the rotation shakes out. Would it be any Giants fan's ideal to have Dirty on the mound with the season on the line this Sunday afternoon at the Cove? No, but we may have to endure it anyway. And given his recent success and lifetime numbers against the Padres, we shouldn't be that worried. But we are. After all, this is the Giants we're talking about here...

> How hard is Andres Torres? Dude plays for two weeks with appendicitis, then sits for a grand total of 12 days before returning Friday night — and starting Saturday! He even blasted one into the Rockies bullpen to prove that our own private Roy Hobbs was back in the saddle again. Of course, he tweaked himself pretty good, playing hard like he always does, but I wouldn't expect anything less. Would I have preferred that he check himself into the hospital at the first twinge of pain? Yes. Would I prefer that he not retake the field until he's absolutely 100% without a doubt healthy as the day he was born? Por supuesto. Is there anything me or Bruce Bochy or the entire 40-man roster can do to keep him from playing? Not likely. So let it be, Butch. Let it be...

> How sweet was it to watch Matt Cain drive the final nail into the Rockies' coffin, in their own park, no less? Granted, we took our lumps in Saturday's roller coaster loss. But what would a trip to Denver be without some good ol' fashioned Coors Field anguish? And by the time we left town, the Purple People were a deflated bunch — I even heard Dinger was sobbing his eyes out in the clubhouse. Why does it feel good to beat these guys? I posit that the Rockies are becoming one of the Giants' most heated rivals. They'll never overtake Los Doyers for sheer spite and instinctive hatred, but the more Neifi Perez/Ryan Spilborghs/Troy Tulowitzki backbreakers we endure at the hands of these upstarts, the more I want to pulverize their hopes and dreams with every chance we get...

See you at the Cove. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter for live updates from Section 104...

21 September 2010

150 down. 12 to go. Where have you gone, Butch Husky?

I must've looked like quite the obnoxious American fool: perched at one of four hotel lobby computers, utilizing the gratuit internet that came with 100-plus-Euro-per-night fares, watching the final Giants-Fathers contest at Petco play out on MLB Gameday and the requisite Twitter feeds, following the 0's as Big Time Timmy Jim finally found his mojo and los Gigantes finally found a way to beat the other team from down south. When the final out came through the digital pipeline, I rose half out of my chair and pumped my fist in the air... "Stay classy, San Diego!" Oh, Jesus, did I just say that out loud? Must have, 'cause now the Brazilian, French, and Spanish guests at the other three computers are all looking up from their email checking and Facebook stalking to regard this curious person in a two-tone baseball cap and peace sign Army surplus t-shirt, doing a jig like he just won the lottery or the girl of his dreams said yes to his proposal of marriage. Yes, it's a different world in l'Ile de France, a world I wouldn't at all mind visiting again — during the offseason of course. As my buddy Grant at the McCovey Chronicles noted yesterday, Giants baseball is a lot of things, but it's certainly not fun. Yet when given a chance to escape from the day-to-day torture of our inconsistent but infinitely loveable 2010 team on a vacation halfway around the world, some of us choose to stay up until 3 in the morning watching little blips flash across a computer screen, hoping that the last blip will say: "In play, out(s)." Because of 4 a.m. Paris start times for 7 p.m. West Coast games, doing this on a regular basis was fairly time prohibitive, especially if I wanted to be fresh for daily 3-5 km walks in search of another slice of history. But that one early Monday morning tells you all you need to know about the heart of a baseball fan. No matter the obstacle, I will find a way to follow my team. No matter the success, I will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. No matter the heartache, I will always come back for more. Because in the final analysis, what else am I going to do with my spare time? Play video games? Get blotto at the bar and go home with strangers? Read a book? Yeah right. 12 games, ladies and germs. 12 games to decide the fate of our emotions for the next six months. Win 8, and we go to the promised land. Fall on our faces, and it's a long, long, long winter ahead. And now I'm struck by the notion that these last two weeks will resemble a Giants fan's version of Groundhog Day, an extended holiday of anticipation. Employers: Don't expect much from your troops in the days ahead, particularly the ones who come to work in orange ties and striped socks. Our allegiances are directed elsewhere for the time being, for better or for worse. #WinTheWest

04 September 2010

135 down. 27 to go.

Chad Billingsley is not related to Barbara Billingsley, so far as I know, but Mrs. Cleaver's namesake certainly knows how to make mincemeat out of los Gigantes. Looking at it objectively, our boys got one-hit tonight, and they were lucky the hit came with two runners in scoring position, or they may have been shut out too. Another Friday night, another wasted Padres loss. We simply can't expect the Fathers to continue to deteriorate. We need to win some games in big chunks. Now is the time, if there ever were one. Would've been nice to start the roadie off with a W, but every now and again, each of us runs into our own personal Chad Billingsleys. For some of us, it's the DMV, for others, the IRS, and for some unlucky souls, it's a local parking attendant. For the Giants pitching staff, it's Rod Barajas. But the secret to success does not consist of regret. It requires a short memory, a stout spirit, and a hang loose attitude. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: this team has all of that in spades. And since I know that — win or lose — they have the heart of a champion, I believe the boys will rebound tonight and lay waste to Los Angeles, particularly Casey Blake, who is quite the douche bag. They better, 'cause I'm cutting my band rehearsal short to make it home in time for first pitch.

BTW...

> Andres Torres looked straight up lost out there last night, but he wasn't alone. Didn't seem like anybody had a clue aside from Busta Posey, who added to his ROY resume with a clutch two-run knock, and Pat Burrell, who walked twice. (It would've been thrice were it not for a few questionable strike calls.) Back to the point: A.T. is in a bit of a slump, and the offensive engine don't work without the spark plug...

Jose Guillen. Yikes. Dude got screwed on a called third strike that was, well, not a strike. But he may have been thinking about what could've been a shoestring catch on Billingsley's two-out, two-strike, two-run single in the 4th. Bottom line: even if Zito gets out of that inning — which he probably didn't deserve to do — the offense still had to get another run, and they looked woefully incapable of delivering.

> What's up, Barry? You usually start out like shit and go lights out in the second half. This year seems like you're going in reverse. Not cool, dude. We need you down the stretch. Nice effort from the bullpen. Four shutout innings with very little trouble, ahem, Santiago Casilla, ahem...

Round two. #BeatLA!

02 September 2010

134 down. 28 to go.

Here's the thing about Monday's game...

It's irrelevant. Yeah, I know what I said on the Twitter thingie. I said a lot of things that night on the Twitter thingie. Another one of the things had something to do with not playing the Blame Game. So let's not play the blame game. Let's look objectively at what happened:
  • Carlos Gonzales broke his bat after hitting a ball fairly square on a good part of the wood — he said himself after the game he was surprised the bat broke.
  • Consequently, Cody Ross broke in — justifiably — before adjusting and in the end coming up short. Do I think Nasty Nate would have made the same gut read on the ball? Yes. Do I think he has better closing speed than Cody Ross? Maybe. Do I think he would have caught the ball? No.
  • Of course, Freddy Sanchez compounded the weirdness by triple-hopping a throw that, had it not been right on line to Pablo Sandoval, would not have hit Gonzales in the arm and flown into the stands. But it was on line, just low. Game over.
These things happen. As my buddy Alex opined on his Twitter thingie: "It would be super if Freddy Sanchez could figure out how to hit and field at the same time." I'll take the hits any day, and especially on a day when we only give Dirty one run of support. What a workout.
—— 

On Tuesday's Giants-Rockies tilt:

You know, the local media seems to be picking up this narrative of the Giants as a team that lacks an identity. Personally, I think they're all on crack, and this game is a bright shining example as to why.

The 2010 Gigantes are the Teflon Team. They're as resilient as Silly Putty. If the 2010 Giants were an ice cream flavor, they would most certainly be Rocky Road, but the good kind, with just enough marshmallows to make you crave another bite.
—— 

Three cheers for Darren Ford! 

And cheers to Alex Pavlovic, one of the unsung heroes of the Giants beat, for his work in relief of Señor Extra Baggs. Check out his notes on Darren's debut. Am I trippin', or was that kid playing in San José last year? Wait... oh, right.

Critical win for the team. Existential victory for Big Time Timmy Jim. And a sleepless night's worth of "What if's" for one Ubaldo Jimenez. Seriously, if that kid don't win the Cy this year, there ain't no justice in baseball. Meaning he probably won't.

And me? I had to watch it all transpire on my iPhone. It's a cross I have to bear for being "engaged": MFTs* of events, networking, drinking, more networking, and occasionally getting things done that can, you know, help people. Oh snap, now I'm bitching. Back to the rawhide, shall we?
——

BTW...

> I freaking love Andres Torres, not in a man crush kinduva way, more like I want to buy him a case of whatever liquor he fancies. Dude is ripping it up out of the clear blue sky, both for my real team, and my fantasy team. I'd nominate him for Comeback Player of the Year, but he never really got a shot in the first place. Listen to me now: Take your kid to the park. Point out Andres Torres. Make sure they watch him the whole game. That's how you play this game — like there's a fire in your soul and ice in your veins.

> Speaking of #TeamHopeyChangey, we were well represented by los Gigantes in this series. Both Dirty and Timmy turned in fine performances above and beyond recently-lowered expectations, and A.T. went nuts at the plate and in the field. We're not exactly shaking up the standings, but we're steadily making a push for the money. Fingers crossed.

> Yeah, I know. We could "What if" ourselves to death. I think I said that, or maybe it was some other jackass blogger. Anyway... The Padres have lost seven straight games. Bolly for us. We've managed to claw back within 3 games of the West lead. Again, bolly for us. Could the G's have done a better job of dispatching the Reds last Wednesday and the D-backs over the weekend? Maybe so, maybe not. They're both lighting up all comers right now. All I'm sayin' is if our boys had TCOB, we'd be a lot closer to the promised land, and 3 games is a serious gap with 28 to play.

> Travel day, 3 @LAD, 3 @AZ,  4 @SD, Travel day, 3 vs. LAD, 3 vs. MIL, Travel Day, 3 @CHC, 3 @COL, Travel Day, 3 vs. AZ, 3 vs. SD, and that's your [regular] season, Giants fans. Enjoy! As for the irregular season, we shall see...


* Metric Fuck Tons