Thursday, October 30, 2014

The season in selfies

April 2014 (actually, it starts March 31!).
The San Francisco Giants' season promises so much:
Michael Morse, a new left fielder I'd never heard of …
acquisition of a veteran pitcher, Tim Hudson, who always seemed
to give the Giants fits. Lovable third baseman Pablo Sandoval shows up
thinner and more nimble. Pitchers are healthy, center fielder Angel Pagan
returns uninjured and in shape. Let's play ball!
Giants go 17-11 through April.
You can hate the San Francisco Giants. I don't blame you.

They've now become one of those teams that show up often enough in the playoffs to make people say, "Not the Giants again! I hate the Giants! I'm not watching!"

I hated the Atlanta Braves for the same reason, back when they were good. Even if they cast off many years of mediocrity and made the playoffs again, I'd still say, "Not the Braves again! Let somebody else in!"

I hate the New York Yankees no matter what. I hate the Los Angeles Dodgers because it's part of the Giants fan by-laws. I hate the A's because they aren't the Giants.

"Hate" in the sports sense. Good healthy fun hate.

Now the Giants have won their third World Series in the last five years. It never should have happened, had no good reason to. But it did.

The good news: This will be my last Giants post until baseball resumes in March. Probably.
The bad news: This will be my last Giants post until March.

Until then, watch my mug reveal the ups and horrible downs and improbable end to the season:

Holy Cow! ("Holy Cow!™® is a registered trademark expression of
the Chicago Cubs®™ and late broadcaster Harry Caray. Void in Inyo and Kern counties.)
The Giants are rolling! New left fielder Morse is slugging! He's the resident fist-pumping surfer dude,
getting the team to wear weird warrior helmets in the locker room.
Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval is catching everything hit.
The team is scoring its runs with two outs —
in fact, seems to be waiting until it gets two outs before engineering
strings of runs. The Giants are unstoppable!
May 2014. Even national broadcasters are saying things like "The Giants are on a pace to win
100 games," or "(right fielder) Hunter Pence is on a pace to drive in more than 100 rbi," or
"The Giants have already put this season out of reach." Yeah, they're that good.
Oof, first baseman Brandon Belt breaks his thumb when hit by a pitch. Not gonna worry.

Giants go 20-9 in May.
June 2014. Early runs, two-out hitting binges, comeback wins,
an ever-lengthening lead over the Dodgers. Dare I say
the Giants were almost becoming … boring?
10-game lead over the Dodgers. All right with the world. Center fielder
Pagan goes out with a bad back. Giants pull a rookie, Joe Panik,
up from the minor leagues to stop the revolving door of weak hitting second basemen.
Beloved center fielder Angel Pagan, the engine of the team, out more than
half of last season to a hamstring injury, goes down this time with a back injury.
OK, minor adjustments. Nobody panic. Even though the Giants
go a miserable 10 and 16 in June, including losing six in a row.
July 2014. OK, maybe start panicking. Lovable starting pitcher Tim Lincecum
may have pitched a no-hitter in June against the Padres, but
he wasn't fooling hitters before that or since, and suddenly all the
Giants' hitters have stopped hitting. The far-gone Dodgers are closing in.
All that early season karma fails to produce many All-Stars:
Only Pence and pitchers Hudson and Madison Bumgarner make it.

Giants go 12-14 in July including losing another six straight.
The Giants collapse. It's so bad, I wish the team would forfeit take a day off,
reset, regroup, rethink. No sooner does Brandon Belt return than he
gets hit in the face with a ball, and disappears with a concussion.
The Dodgers creep closer …
… and closer. Hitters aren't hitting, pitchers aren't pitching,
Giants aren't winning … and closer …

… until the Dodgers overtake the Giants.
The Giants appear dead …
The team trades for Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who used to pitch
as a youngster with the Padres under Giants Manager Bruce Bochy.
Maybe the Giants figure they're not out of this yet.
August 2014: I can't tell: Are the Giants planning to make a run?
Ooof, starting pitcher Matt Cain goes out for the season, needing
elbow surgery. Second baseman Marco Scutaro, hero of the 2012
World Series and missing most of 2013 with a bad back, shows up,
bats a few times, disappears. Second base goes to the rookie Panik.
Infielder Matt Duffy from Double-A ball, and Andrew Susac from
Triple-A get called up, and like to hit. Pagan shows up, goes down again,
finally calling off the rest of the season so he can get back surgery.
I dunno — am I allowed to hope?

Giants go 16-13 in August.
I mean, they seem like they're still in it, playing brilliant baseball
between bouts of embarrassing baseball comedy. Relief pitcher
Yusmeiro Petit, who the season before came within an out of
throwing a perfect game, sets a Major League record for retiring
46 consecutive batters.

September 2014: Giants officially concede first place in the National
League West to the Dodgers. The best they can hope for is a
wild-card chance at the playoffs. They finish 14-12 in September.

They make a wild-card berth. Without ace Matt Cain, without Pagan, now without newcomer Morse, injured.
The Giants sweep Lincecum to the bullpen, and take away the closer role from Sergio Romo.
Belt is just coming back from his concussion. Somehow, they have to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates
in one do-or-die game to get into the playoffs.
The Giants should not be there, but trounce the Bucs 8-0,
with a grand slam by shortstop Brandon Crawford and a complete-game shutout by Bumgarner.
The Giants face the Washington Nationals, the best
team in the National League for the Division championship.
The Giants are not supposed to be there, but beat the Nats
three games to one, including an amazing 18-inning, six-hour marathon, the longest
game in playoff history. San Francisco moves onto the National League Championship against
the playoff perennials, the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Dodgers.
The Giants aren't supposed to be there, but beat the Cards four games to one, topped off with a
walk-off home run by retread Giant Travis Ishikawa, to go to the World Series.

The Giants should not be there. But neither should the
the Kansas City Royals, upstarts who knocked off better teams to
the top. Two teams so like the other, slugging each other to lopsided
whallopings, all the way to Game 7. All the way to the last out of the
last inning, a runner threatening at third, and 25-year-old Madison
Bumgarner on the mound, already established as one of the best pitchers
in history. Three days before, Bumgarner pitched another complete-game shutout.
He has pitched more innings than any other in a single postseason.
The Giants should not have won, but they did.

Somehow, they did.
Now it's a long cold lonely winter. No more baseball 'til March.
I'll subsist on video replays. Go ahead, hate the Giants all
you want. It's your prerogative. I'm smiling on the inside.

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