Giants 2010: Boy, Did Roy Sap Our Joy
(originally written 10/19/10)
It’s my fault.
I’m the one who, in print, no less, wished Jimmy Rollins’ success. In the grand scheme of things, the fact that I innocently attached the qualifier “in 2011” matters as much as a trombone would to a pike.
As a fan of a team with the goal of severing a 56-year titleless streak, it is my duty to never, ever wish anything positive for the teams who pose obstacles to that goal. That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for fans to get on their knees and ask God to send a friend of Mrs. Aubrey Huff to club Ryan Howard’s knee (even if we did, the club would probably get the worst of it.)
But it DOES mean at no time are we to wish a Phillie well at any period until they’re nice and eliminated and safely aboard the team charter home—if then. I, Giants fan I claim to be, violated that sanction. And for that, I accept full blame for Rollins’ three-run double that punctuated the Phillies’ series-evening win Sunday night.
Nobody on either roster needed a hit, a big hit, more than J-Roll, except maybe our own Andres Torres. Andres The Giant is sitting on five consecutive strikeouts, having been presented with the golden sombrero by Roy Oswalt Sunday—each one easier than the last. Oswalt got Torres on high fastballs the first three times before breaking him down with a curve in AB #4. If it were acceptable for hitting coaches to visit their their pupils mid-AB the way pitching coaches do theirs, ol’ Bam Bam would have been justified to counsel Torres about three different times in that game.
I refuse to write anything critical about Torres. He was not even guaranteed a job in camp this year and certainly wasn’t supposed to be a starting outfielder. Without him, the Giants would have been fortunate to finish in 2nd place. However, at this stage, there’s only so long that your capability can’t match your output before a change has to be considered. I was thinking it could be time to dust off Aaron Rowand after Torres’ 2nd K at Oswalt’s hand; he is inexperienced and clearly pressing. Turns out Bruce Bochy agreed...
Jon Sanchez is due so many props, Gallagher himself couldn’t fulfill the order. This guy went out and threw six of the gutsiest innings not only of 2010, but in the entire San Francisco ERA. I’m not exaggerating here—Sanchez was squeezed by the ump (especially on what should have been a backwards “K” for Oswalt in the 5th) and betrayed by his defense—and I don’t just mean Mike Fontenot. The announcers said nothing, but I surely saw Huff fall asleep after fumbling the wild Fontenot throw that allowed Placido Polanco first base. Polanco took a huge turn and had Huff been awake, Freddy Sanchez had Polanco picked off EASILY.
And as for the Rollins’ 4th-inning popup that fell untouched as neither Jon Sanchez, Fontenot, Huff or Posey took charge—that was Sanchie’s ball all the way. But he isn’t to blame for not catching it, necessarily. He was merely the latest victim of possibly the lamest “unwritten rule” in baseball: pitchers always defer to position players on popups, even those right to them. This is the unwritten rule I have most difficulty justifying to baseball novices, and the one I like the least. Pitchers are baseball players, too. They have gloves on. LET THEM FIELD THEIR POSITION! Have you ever heard of a team offering a free agent infielder $100 million based on his total of putouts recorded? Of course not.
And if a hurler is genuinely capable of injuring himself catching a popup, then he shouldn’t be dressing or feeding himself, either.
All that said, the Giants did not lose this game because of Rollins or Torres or Fontenot or Huff...or my words. They lost because of Oswalt, who is quietly putting together a very impressive career postseason resume. Oswalt, the longtime Astros ace, grew weary of two or less runs of support in practically every game he pitched. His won-loss totals of his final two Astro years are nowhere near reflective of his performance, and the abundance of undeserved losses/no-decisions had to be taking their toll. He was basically Matt Cain in pinstripes pitching for the rebuilding Astros, and as a guy with an outside shot at Cooperstown should he post big numbers for another few years, his legacy had to be weighing on his mind. He asked for and received a trade—to the league’s best team, who gave him more support than Frank Costanza’s “BRO”.
The Giants handled Oswalt in the season opener at Houston, but this edition—like the current Giants’ lineup—didn’t resemble the Opening Day version at all. In addition to Torres, Oswalt got Pat Burrell to foul out TWICE, then embarrassed him with his patented 60 MPH curve for a wicked K. He handled Huff and Buster Posey. He had the stones to knock down Cody Ross, even though Ross would homer in his next AB. And on top of that, he helped himself with a hit late in the game and blew through a stop sign to score Philly’s third run! (Huff again made a mistake here, cutting off the throw from CF which may have retired Oswalt had it gone through.)
It was just Philly’s day. In no way would the Giants sweep the Phillies in a best-of-seven unless the entire Phillie lineup found themselves trapped in a Chilean mine. They earned a respectable split—enough to get the Phillies’ attention, but not enough to become overconfident because this series is far from over. AT&T, here we come—to quote Barry Bonds, “I HOPE WE WHUP THEY ASS!!!”