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Giants Are Halfway There!

(originally written 10/29/10)

Bet the Rangers are thinking, “WHAT HAPPENED TO THE RAINOUT?”

Oh, it rained all right. It rained baseballs. With Giants’ bats serving as the storm clouds, AT&T Park was drenched with a downpour of offensive mayhem in each of the first two games of the 2010 World Series. Practically every Giant who picked up a bat turned into Cody Ross at the plate, even Ross himself.

Stifle that laughter. I’m well aware these Giants, save for their eye-popping August series vs. the Reds, rarely put together consecutive strong offensive showings. I know as much as anybody that games the Giants reached 10 runs usually followed four games in which they totaled seven runs and preceded four games in which they’d score about six runs.

I don’t know precisely what incited the 19-run barrage against the backpedaling, reeling, shell-shocked Texas Rangers, who are NOT as bad as they played in San Francisco.

It could have been the presence of the greatest hitter of all-time, one Barry Bonds, in the seats that only someone with Bonds’ bank account could afford. It could be the red-hot Freddy Sanchez coughing all over his comrades on the team bus. It could be that since there’s NO chance of any testing being done during the game’s prime event, the Giants are shooting themselves up with any and all steroids they can get their hands on (cue Jose Guillen remarks; he's mixed up in an HGH scandal which is entirely different and will be discussed later.)

It could be an obscure alteration or observation by Bam Bam Meulens. It could be tightly-wound balls. It could be the transitional start time thinning the oft-thick AT&T air.

Or it could be the Rangers’ gawful middle relief just isn’t up to snuff. It was as easy as those guys failing to throw strikes, leading to walks and juicy fastball counts. Our guys still had to capitalize, and that they did. And THEN some.

Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee. Cliff Lee. Marcia, Marcia, MARCIA! During the ALCS, the Yankees, most notably Nick Swisher, went on record disparaging the media for shoving Lee in their faces. You see, reporters seemed to believe the Yankees’ knees literally trembled over the prospect of facing Lee—about two games before he was scheduled to pitch—and, suffering a dearth of meaningful questions, bombarded them about it—a rare time you’ll ever see me siding with the Yankees (though I was happy when Lee beat them, naturally.) 

Postseason legends like John Smoltz and Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson have all hung up their spikes, and baseball hasn’t quite filled their void. Josh Beckett sort of filled the role for awhile, but overall, he’s not on the same plane as the aforementioned trio. Building Lee up to be an October legend is great for storylines, perhaps even justified—being 7-0 lifetime before Game 1 against S.F. is nothing to glance at. But even legends are fallible, and I don’t appreciate the Giants being given barely a chance to even score against Lee, let alone win.

I’m from the Gary Radnich (a Bay Area sports-talk legend) mold; though I’ve never explicitly heard him say what I’m about to say about Lee, I’ve heard him say it about others like him.

Lee was drafted by the Expos and acquired by the Indians in 2002; he remained an Indian until mid-2009 when Philly got him—only to swap him again after the World Series to Seattle. A disaster area from Opening Day on, the Mariners moved Lee to the Rangers in mid-2010. In most of those years he was very good to great. In the playoffs, he was even better—undefeated, in fact.

I gotta say though—if Lee were THAT good, if he were good enough to have every pundit, every blogger, every schmoe with an outlet for his opinion giving the Giants no chance to go ahead in Game 1, THREE TEAMS wouldn’t have gotten rid of him in a year’s time. You could argue that three teams COVETED him because he IS that good, but don’t teams covet other players who NEVER get moved? Of course.

I’ll close my Lee thought with this: Eric Byrnes, the now-retired outfielder who began 2010 as a teammate of Lee with Seattle, filled in on KNBR (the Giants’ flagship station) recently. He told of facing Lee in a simulated game and facing Rangers Game 2 starter C.J. Wilson in a real game shortly following that—and while careful not to tarnish the halo over Lee’s head, Byrnes said outright that Wilson had better stuff. That was all I needed to hear.

I was going to ask you to chime in as to who your Series MVP is so far, until I reminded myself this series is NOT over. We Giants have won NOTHING yet. The Rangers can go off at any time; they just ran into a buzzsaw in Matt Cain. I pressed my friends with whom I watched Game 2 to give Matt a real nickname; one suggestion was “Citizen” after Citizen Kane—emphasis on “K”. A stretch, yes, but it’s the best I’ve got so far.

Nate Schierholtz—catch of the postseason so far robbing Matt May-Treanor deep into Triples Alley. I feel bad now for wondering why Ron Washington brought inn a left-hander to pitch to the struggling outfielder in Game 1, comparing it to “killing a bug with a blow torch”. Nate got a hit off that left hander, though, shutting my big mouth.

How about Juan Uribe’s defense at third so far? I regret clamoring for Panda Sandoval to get at least one home start; this is why Bruce Bochy manages the team and I don’t. Panda is a sentimental favorite to succeed but his arm inspires zero confidence these days—after watching him and Fontenot air-mail, short-hop and pull off Aubrey Huff more than once this postseason, Uribe’s five-star play at the hot-corner was DEEPLY appreciated and the difference between winning and losing. (Panda should get some DH time in Texas, and since almost all of Bochy’s moves and non-moves have worked out, expect him to have an impact.)

More Uribe: Ozzie Guillen, Uribe’s manager with the White Sox for five years—including the 2005 Championship team on which Uribe’s spectacular 9th-inning defense sealed the clinching Game 4 win—is doing commentary for FOX this series. Never one to hold his tongue or give undeserved praise, Guillen had nothing but adulation for his ex-troop: “Juan Uribe is not afraid; he wants to be out there when the game is on the line. Batting or defense, he’s the one you want when the game is on the line.” Most definitely.

No relation to Ozzie (though they were once teammates in Tampa Bay), Jose Guillen has been revealed to be involved in a federal investigation into HGH shipments—and not in a good way. I always felt the timing of his postseason roster exclusion was fishy; the guy is a seasoned star hitter who’d played hurt all September and, suddenly, not only was he too hurt to play but he wasn’t even traveling with the team. NOW WE KNOW WHY. Can’t say I blame the guy for using HGH; it isn’t tested for and he’s been injury-riddled most of his career.

I hope, for the sake of his ego, Vlad Guerrero is injured. It’s bad enough the once stellar outfielder played RF worse than some of the girls in my softball league in Game 1. Even worse, Washington replaced him—a Hall-Of-Fame hitter—with a nobody, David Murphy, for Game 2. Hitters of Vlad’s caliber are not benched in World Series for nobodies no matter how lacking their D. Was it not possible to play him six innings, then substitute, as the Giants do with Pat Burrell?

I’d like to clear up a misconception about Vlad and why he was booed in Game 1 by the home crowd: it is NOT (or at least it SHOULDN’T have been) because he helped the Angels beat the Giants in the 2002 World Series. Vlad was still an Expo back then and did not join the Halos until 2004. My guess is because he spurned the interested Giants to sign with the Angels.

You almost MISS the torturous baseball when it’s not there, huh? Well, given my understandable total lack of faith in the umps (Huff was out by about two feet on that Game 1 steal attempt), there’s no such thing as too much cushion. I could never accept a redo of Don Denkinger in the ’85 World Series here in 2010, watching Matt Cain shutting out Texas only to lose 2-1 because of an egregious blown call.

AT&T Park may have hosted its’ final game of the season (if we fans get our way). As sweet as it would be to clinch a championship at home, we’ll be totally okay if the Giants can swipe two of three from Texas IN Texas. 

Giants fans, these first (and maybe only) two home games were unforgettable, and I’m interested in learning what moments in particular will stick out in your mind. Freddy Sanchez’ three straight doubles to open Game 1? Guerrero’s pitiful swipe at a line drive to right? Big Game Cain’s ovation upon leaving Game 2? Uribe’s colossal home run in Game 1? Schierholtz’ RCF catch in Game 2? Lincecum’s brain fart running back Mike Young? Edgar Renteria’s three-RBI game including a formidable bomb to left? The bad throw/pickoff of Kinsler? Two outfielders actually charging Nelson Cruz’ drive into Triples’ Alley? The beards? Other? Fill me and the reading audience in…

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