Like many baseball fans without a natural rooting interest in the coming World Series, I find myself torn over who to cheer for: the claw and moose of the Rangers or The Machine and pandas of the Giants.
So, I did what any self-respecting baseball fan in the 21st Century would do: I trolled the best team blogs I could find to steal the opinions of those in the know.
I discovered some wonderful writing in support of both Texas and San Francisco, so wonderful in fact, that I asked Peter Allen from the indispensable Giants blog Under The Arcade to write a guest post on Getting Blanked to try to convince us to cheer on San Francisco.
Here’s what Mr. Allen responded with:
Now we’ve done it. The national sports media was salivating over a Yankees-Phillies World Series rematch. It had everything they could ask for: star power, major television markets, games played at a decent hour on the East Coast. But something happened on the way to the Fall Classic: a little something called baseball. It’s unpredictable and even torturous at times, but that’s what we love about it. Right?
The Rangers and Giants might not seem like the sexiest matchup to untrained observers. Indeed, TV coverage of this series could quickly devolve into the Cliff Lee Show, as Buck, McCarver, and the rest of the Fox crew struggle to pick up the storylines. For many fans outside the western markets, this year’s championship will be decided between the Cowboys and the Hippies. I’m here to sell you on the Hippies.
The 2010 Giants are like a riddle wrapped inside an enigma. A team that ranked 9th in the National League in runs, yet won 92 games. A team whose highest paid player was left off the playoff roster. A team with five regular starters who weren’t in the Opening Day lineup. But they’re a team, in the truest sense of the word. And they needed to play that way to get to where they are today — four wins from their first World Series championship in 56 years, and their first since moving to San Francisco.
It starts with pitching. The Giants’ staff led the N.L. in ERA and strikeouts and finished in the top 3 of nearly every other statistical category. This team won 20 of their last 30 games to overcome a 6.5-game deficit in the N.L. West, and most of their success had nothing to do with Aubrey Huff’s rally thong. They rode their pitchers, who tied an all-time major league record by allowing 3 runs or less for 18 consecutive games in September.
That dominance begins — as it should — with the starters. If there’s anything that every title contender has in common, it’s that front line “Ace”, the guy who takes the ball in Game 1, no questions asked, and sets the tone for the entire series. The Giants have three guys who fit that bill. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim “Big Time Timmy Jim” Lincecum is the obvious and unquestioned choice of Manager Bruce Bochy, but there would have been few complaints if Matt Cain walked out there instead. And while I might get lambasted in some circles for saying it, I’d have little problem with Jonathan ”Dirty” Sanchez pitching a Game 1 — provided he wore ear plugs.
The Phillies tried their best to crack this staff, and outside of a few crooked numbers in a few shaky innings, their bats fell silent. Meanwhile, the Giants’ plucky offense managed to scrape out a run here and there off equally stingy Philly starters. But the real breakthroughs came against the Philadelphia bullpen, and that’s where the Giants have another edge. San Francisco’s relief corps has been on shutdown mode virtually the entire postseason. They’ve proven why they’re among the best in the league, and Bochy has proven he knows how to manage a bullpen better than anyone in the game.
Like any good bullpen, the Giants’ edition is built from the back end. Brian “Weezy” Wilson will very soon become one of the legendary characters of the game once the bright lights of the national media descend upon him. His Just For Men, jet black beard is the purest statement on what this team is all about: fun. But when he gets between the lines, he’s like a caged beast ready to rip you to shreds. And don’t forget “The Other” Javier Lopez, a lefty specialist acquired midseason who made Chase Utley and Ryan Howard into mincemeat for six games in a row. Then there’s Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt, and Guillermo Mota… I could go on, but you’ll hear about them all soon.
Looking at the other side of the ball, an appropriate yet clichéd tagline would be “A New Hero Every Night”. When your NLCS MVP was acquired on waivers only two months ago, you have to learn to be ready for anything. It could be Aubrey Huff lacing a one-out single. Or Gerald “Buster” Posey taking Roy Oswalt the opposite way to set up a game-winning rally. Or Juan “Jazz Hands” U-RI-BE! pulling a low and away changeup for a winning sacrifice fly. Or it could be all of the above. In truth, it has to be. It’s the only way this team knows how to win: together.
Down by the shores of McCovey Cove, we like to call this brand of baseball “torture”, but any fan will tell you that all of baseball is torture. It lifts up our hopes, only to crush them just when we think they might come true. In San Francisco, we know this all too well…
The 1962 Giants lost the World Series to the Yankees when Bobby Richardson snared a Willie McCovey line drive that could have tied or won the deciding seventh game…
The 1987 Giants went back to St. Louis leading the NLCS 3-2, only to squander away the final two games…
“Torture” could also describe losing a Wild Card playoff game to the Cubs in 1998… or Jose Cruz Jr. dropping a can of corn fly ball in the 2003 NLDS… or Scott Spezio fighting off just enough Felix Rodriguez fastballs in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series…
The 2010 World Series may not hold the interest of casual fans who wanted to see the Yanks win their 28 gadzillionth title or the Fightin’ Phils stake a dynastic claim to this moment in baseball history. But to those of us who’ve spent our lives watching their team push boulders up hills only to have them roll back down again before reaching the summit, the next ten days will be a living dream.
And I don’t want to wake up until the Hippies win.