24 June 2011

A Tale of Two Bochys

Way back in September of '97, as the Giants were hurtling toward an eventual National League West pennant, two days after Brian Johnson's epic dance around the bases at the 'Stick, smack in the middle of taking three of four from the Fathers at ol' Jack Murphy Stadium — when that was still its name — the Giants played an absolute stinker. It was, for all intents and purposes, an all-too-common brain fart in an otherwise memorable season.

It's safe to say the '97 Giants took their share of beatings. 16 times they gave up 10 runs or more, including four 15-plus spots, two 11-0 losses to the Hated Ones, and a 19-3 shellacking by Felipe Alou's Expos. But the 12-2 drubbing they absorbed at the hands of Bruce Bochy's Padres on September 20th was significant for two reasons: 1. It was my first game in San Diego. 2. My favorite pitcher at the time, the great Shawn Estes... got lit the f*** up.

I'd driven down on my own after failing to convince any friends to join me. I was flying high on the Brian Johnson Kool-Aid, and cocky enough to think I could find a sports stadium without the help of, you know, a map. (Mind you, this was 10 years before the introduction of the Google Maps app.)  Needless to say, when I pulled off I-5 in Downtown San Diego, the game was just getting underway. As I stopped for directions and tuned in to the Padres flagship, Estes was already in trouble, Greg Vaughn was about to have a very good day, and I was about to embark on a journey through the Southern California suburban wilderness...

14 June 2011

Striking a Balance

Over the weekend, when ESPN's Buster Olney reported on high-level talks concerning Major League Baseball realignment scenarios, he touched off a firestorm of debate, discussion, and diatribes that continues to clog up the blogosphere and distract us from the season at hand. I've spent the better part of the past few hours playing catch up on all the assholes — I mean, opinions — out there, swirling around the web like stray pieces of paper in a toilet bowl. Seems like everybody's got one.

In case you've been living under a rock for the past few days — or your cat peed on your cable modem — Buster reported that owners and players are considering a consolidation of MLB into two wide-open 15-team leagues with five playoff spots each. What would that mean, exactly? I'm glad you asked. From my vantage point, we're looking at three major impacts:
  1. Endless Interleague. Balancing the leagues necessitates at least one interleague series to be happening at all times. Good for revenue. Fun for the fans — the ones that still get a kick out of it, anyway. What's the problem? Picture the Giants coming down to the wire for a playoff spot and having to face the Yankees over the final weekend.
  2. Hella Frequent Flyer Miles. Instead of starting from a base of 18 games each against four divisional opponents, I envision a schedule something like this: 10 games each against 14 intraleague opponents and 22 total interleague games (amounting to a home-and-home w/ your "natural" rival and five series against a 4-5 teams additional from the opposite league every year). This means a lot more travel and a lot more sleepless nights for players.
  3. Bonus Baseball. Five playoff teams means an additional round. But you can't squeeze many more games into the postseason without pushing into November every year, and unless you want to see more snow in the World Series, that's not a good idea. So the 4 and 5 seeds in each league duke it out in just the type of winner-take-all match-up Bud Selig alluded to as early as last year. Depending on your opinion of the relative benefits of short series or one-game playoffs, this could be a good or bad thing.
So, what do I think of all this? I'm glad you asked...

07 June 2011

The Un-Naturals

What the hell is lurking in the waters of McCovey Cove? The ghosts of Candlestick Park? Ken Kesey's Kool-Aid? A magical dragon called Huff? Inquiring minds want to know, because this is getting ridiculous. This whole post was going to be about my experiences at the park yesterday and the most inspiring win of the season, but it seems as though every game keeps trumping the last. It's gotten to the point that when birthday boy @JeremyAffeldt drew a walk in the bottom of the 10th, I started laughing uncontrollably. I'd hardly contained myself by the time Freddy "Ballgame" Sanchez ended things with a patented oppo slap job and Chris Stewart had his moment in the afterglow that pervades everything that happens at 3rd and King these days... aside from one quite horrific night.

There is no stat for what the Giants are doing this season. There is no sabermetric that could possibly explain it. How can a team with a run differential of +4 be eight games over .500 and a game ahead of the hottest team in the sport for first place in their division? That's just not natural. And neither is this team. It's like the pennant race and playoff chase of 2010 carried over into spring training and kept right on bucking. If they'd only come all the way back on Opening Day against the #Doyers, you could say it's been a perfect storm that's carried the Giants thus far. No doubt, they've had moments that confound the soul and crush the spirit, this re-united band of fartknockers. But they've had far more that elicit orgasms of joy all across Northern California — and all the way across the country in a Manhattan bar at two in the morning.