Tag Archives: baseball

Baseball’s poetics: Down the stretch with the “2-1″ Giants, and then Velez scores

I have refrained from commenting too much on the Giants this year. I’ve watched or listened to every game, and lived and died with every one run victory.

Last night may have been the last straw for this SF native.  

Maybe the difference was that it was the Dodgers and Lincecum was on the mound for us. These are always meaningful games beyond the standings. Once again, Timmy was brilliant. But for a Giants pitcher to win a game by himself, he has to be brilliant plus.

The Giants staked him a 1 run lead.

A one-run-lead should be like giving salad to meat-eaters. It’s just the appetizer, right?

For the Giants, it’s the whole meal.

It takes four runs for the Giants to be bullet-proof. Unfortunately, this season it takes them four games to score that many.

Last night the Giants barely got three hits.

For this reason, I dub the 2011 team  “2-1” Giants.  No typo, it’s “Two to one.”  It’s emblematic of the ideal score and the most vigorous display of team offense this year. When we win, that is. Otherwise, it’s 2-1, Giants lose. Like last night.

We have been talking about this lack of offense for the last 5 years at least.  

“Get a slugger” has long been a refrain since the lament, “When Benjie Molina bats cleanup you’re in trouble.” But the Giants have always managed to be entertaining.  Hapless, nerf-bat swinging, not so-giant Giants.  I watched, I rooted, I cried. Losing was the norm. Close, but not close enough. Whatcha going to do? Root for the A’s?

Then 2010 came and the timely hitting and the luck played out. I went to every post-season game, to the parade, bought every T-shirt, the works.

Our reward in 2011 has been  a return to pre-2010. No laughers here. It’s baseball by the pitch. When you have a pitching team, that’s the way it is. You score one run, and your pitchers have to hold.  Makes for a tense,  frustrating game, because arms can’t score.

Love the K’s. But you can’t throw the ball over the fence and call it a home run for our side.

And when the defense fails and a cheap run for the other team scores, a pinprick turns into a dagger.

That happened last night with the Dodgers and their pinch-runner, Eugenio Velez.

Velez was part of those pre-2010 Giants teams,  the ones that made us sift and sort the Giants of the future. Would it be Bowker? Would it be pre-panda Panda?  Freddy Lewis?  Velez? Who would be Giant enough?

Velez had his shot. He did things with his bat and his speed, then he  undid most of it with his glove.  He had his time as a stick-figure lovable hero.  Amy G had him on. I was always bothered by how they pronounced his name. “Ay-you-henio? ” “You-henio” seems more like it. “Gene”?  “Gino”? The guy didn’t get to nickname status. No panda, no baby giraffe. No gazelle (for his speed).

When he was out of a job and found guys like Burriss and Ford back, it must have been tough for him. How oddly satisfying it must have been for him to put his spikes on home plate and score the run that would put the Giants eight-and-a-half games back.

That’s baseball’s poetics, folks. The tragedy has a beginning, middle and end.

The Giants were like a mythic tale last year. This year, they’re still an entertaining  page turner, but just a summer read, and now not likely at all to go deep into October.

Giants lose, but I still don’t want to talk about anything else (Juan Williams? Did he play right field for NPR? Or left field for Fox?)

When I played baseball (semi-pee wee), I thanked God every time the ball was hit to someone else. Like my buddy Arnold Shaver.

So I know how difficult it is to spear a line drive and to pick up a short hop grounder.

At the professional level you just expect things to happen.  But last night they didn’t.

Balls took funny hops and caromed off bodies like Aubrey Huff’s.

Bases suddenly disappeared as when Pablo Sandoval turned to tag the bag and stepped on …dirt.

Bunts that are foul played fair.  (So much for the much ballyhooed Philly offense).

It was just a disastrous third inning for the Giants.  Tim Lincecum had just pitched to six batters in the first two innings and had struck out 2.  I admit to getting ahead of myself. I was beginning to think of a night of wild revelry.

And then things fell apart.

Despite that  one ining, it was just a one-run deficit for much of the game and the Giants had their chances to score.  But this is championship baseball. You’ve got to be picture perfect. And on this night, not even  photoshop could help.

The same things on defense happened on offense.

Hard hit balls that had found grass in previous games, were gloved. .

Runners who beat out throws, got tagged.

Batters that got wood when we needed,  didn’t.

That’s baseball. 

Next stop Philly. Avoid the overrated, hyper-fatty Cheesesteaks.  (It’s healthier just to get a box of crackers and a can of CheezWhiz . Your very own can).  The game is on Saturday.  Two shots to win it, two arms (Sanchez and Cain) to do it.

Do you still believe?

As far as Juan Williams, Fox and NPR, I don’t believe.

Best game ever at AT&T Park? It could be tonight with SF Giants’ Tim Lincecum vs. Phillies’ Roy Halladay

I was envious watching last night’s game on TV. It’s already being called a classic, with good pitching, clutch hitting, and Buster Posey.

It was an important game.

But it didn’t win anything. 

That’s why tonight’s game will have it all. Dueling aces, a Doc, a Freak, sudden elimination, imminent joy. The last out could crown a pennant chamipion.

Now the players have to perform up to expectations. Are the Phils so determined to fight to the death? Or did they get sapped after last night? Is the momentum so heavily weighted for the Giants that a comeback is impossible? 

Tonight’s game should be the classic.  But now they have to play it.

I’ve said Giants in 6. But I now feel Giants in 5 is more than possible.  

That said, who’s winning the midterms?  Are the witches winning? How about that illegal immigrant employer? What’s happening in Afghanistan? Is someone going to call for a moratorium on foreclosures? 

Is  there really anything going on outside the foul lines? Let it wait.

This is why baseball is so important to have.

The game is a safe haven from life. 

You go to the game and see 50,000 members of a real diverse community,a mirror of the Bay Area.  Some will be in various states of consciousness. But what would you expect  from such a sample size.

And if  the Giants win at home tonight, the place will explode with good will and joy,  the likes of which you just don’t see if the talk was about anything that really mattered. 

So we go to the game mostly because that kind of euphoria can and does happen. Live and in person. The great escape.  It’s a good obsession. I have to go.

It’s baseball as drug and I’ve got to have that feeling. I didn’t feel it it 2002. Or even 1989. 1962–that was it for me.

So I’m going tonight. I’ll  stand for every pitch in the cold and hope to feel that explosion to come when the last out is recorded, and everyone as brothers and sisters go crazy over this improbable bunch of underdogs, the Giants.

Emil Guillermo on Armando Galarraga’s “Perfect” game: In face of the facts, why insist on Jim Joyce’s imperfection? Bring on “Truth in Baseball”

In real life, fighting for justice is hard. You don’t get to be the Brown as in Board of Education on a lark. Or Plessy. Or Wong Kim Ark.

That’s why too often we give up the fight. Life’s too short. 

What’s baseball’s excuse?

Baseball is a game. Just a game.  Umpire Jim Joyce’s admission is one thing. But the video is the truth. The Tigers’ Armando Galarraga beat the runner to the bag.  In view of the facts, why do the purists insist on “tradition” and the “way things always have been done”?  The human way, the wrong way.

Slavery was hard for some folks to give up too. But we got over that.  Innocents have died before DNA was used.

There is life, death, and then there’s baseball.

Bud Selig, go with the truth. Change the call. This isn’t like a steroids policy call. This is just what it is, an easily corrected error.

At least asterisk it as a blown call.  But it will designate the turning point when truth really mattered in baseball.

No-hitter by Sanchez “unlikely”? Not when you’re given a chance to shine

Here’s a lesson we can all take away from the magnificent no-hitter thrown last night by the Giant’s Jonathan Sanchez.

The baseball was great last night. Near perfect. But the non-baseball lesson was even better.

Give people  with  talent a real opportunity, don’t give up on them, and eventually they will rise to their talent level.

In social terms, some people would call that a form of  “affirmative action. ”  It’s just about giving people who would ordinarily be ignored  a chance to fulfill their maximum potential.

Before last night, the Giants almost gave up on Sanchez. Fans were calling for his head.  The club needed a hitter and had a surplus of young arms. But apparently no GM was willing to trade for  Sanchez or give him a chance.

The lefty was unceremoniously sent to baseball’s woodshed and demoted to the bullpen.

By every statistical standard, the Giants should have dumped Sanchez, a massive underachiever.  If there was a less anal, bean-crunching GM in the league, Sanchez surely  would have been dealt off before Friday night.

But circumstances like Randy Johnson going to the disabled list, left Sanchez as the Giants’ only option for a Friday start. They had to believe.

It was the opportunity a real gamer relishes. Sanchez, who has shown real glimpses of greatness inthe past, perhaps every third inning he pitched, was set up to prove himself.

It was the opportunity everyone with a strong belief in their talent relishes.

All you need is the chance. Or someone to give you one.  After the game, Sanchez mentioned how he put some extra time in with  Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti.  Rags certainly didn’t give up on Sanchez.

Last night, Sanchez emerged as a different pitcher. The hook and sink on all his pitches seemed to be guided to their spots perfectly. And the Padre hitters seemed totally mystified.

The game had its dramatic moments and disappointments. The Uribe error, the Rowand catch.  All that and the Giants were hitting!   The baseball part was great last night.

But the non-baseball parts were even better.  Sanchez’ father was in the stands watching for the first time. And for the first time, it all came together for Sanchez.

When people with promise are given a chance to shine, they can and will.

The Giants extended Sanchez another chance, and he affirmed their belief and his own talent by throwing a gem, the first no-hitter in the majors this year.

It was nine innings for all of the Jonathan Sanchez’s in life, the ones often described as “unlikely.”

Imagine the  amount of potential unfulfilled because people have been deemed “unlikely” all their lives.

You are only “unlikely” if you’re never given an opportunity.

But with a chance, you can surprise and amaze.

Surprising. Amazing.

That’s exactly what the Giants’  Jonathan Sanchez was at AT&T Park.