Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shoutin' out to Buster Posey, who in addition to being a WORLD CHAMPION is also the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers, 3-1, at the Ballpark in Arlington last night, and thereby won the 2010 World Series in five games.

At long last, we can say it: the San Francisco Giants are world champions.

Fifty-two years, six months, and seventeen days after they played their first game in San Francisco, the Giants are world champions.

Forty-five years, six months, and twenty days after we first pledged ourselves to the orange and black no matter what, our beloved Giants are world champions. 

Six months and twenty-seven days after the start of this glorious, improbable 2010 season, the San Francisco Giants are world champions.

The impossible dream came true moments after 9:30 PM local time last night, as Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz to end Game Five and his entire leaping, yelling mob of teammates came together in the center of the infield, celebrating San Francisco's first major-league baseball championship in one of the most unlikely of places, a handsome, old-fashioned ballpark in North Texas. It wouldn't have made any difference had it been on the moon. There's nothing like the first time, and for Giants fans who've waited their whole lives for this moment, it's sweet vindication of what we've known all along. "The only baseball team of which to be a fan," wrote an old friend of ours years ago as the introduction to his Giants webpage, "is the San Francisco Giants. That's a given." 

For the first time we need append no ifs, ands, or buts to that statement. Folks, after five decades of frustration and disappointment, far more than that suffered by any other franchise, Our Boys have brought home the hardware.


Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Ramon Ramirez and Guillermo Mota are world champions. Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe, Edgar Renteria, Travis Ishikawa, Pablo Sandoval, Aaron Rowand, Nate Schierholz, Mike Fontenot, and Eli Whiteside are world champions. Barry Zito and Dan Runzler are world champions, too. So are Emmanuel Burriss, Mark DeRosa, Eugenio Velez and Jose Guillen.

Bruce Bochy is finally a world champion, and how he deserves it. Ditto for Dave Righetti, Hensley Meulens, Robert Kelly, Tim Flannery, and good old Ron Wotus. And Mark Gardner, who never made it this far as a Giants' pitcher-- he's a world champion, too.

And so are Bill Neukom and Larry Baer, and so is Brian Sabean, who most definitely is not an idiot. He's a world champion! So are Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. So is anyone right now who has lived and died with the orange and black, who's stayed up late hoping for good news from the Coast, who's lined up early at AT&T Park hoping to get a glimpse through the right-field gate, who's dialed in a fuzzy radio signal from miles away, hoping for a bit of good news. And all you folks who had your hearts broken in 1962 and 1987 and 2002... lift up your heads and celebrate. We're all world champions now.

Eight innings of brilliant, three-hit pitching by Tim Lincecum brought the Giants to the brink of victory in last night's game. The world at large has learned of this team's stellar pitching through fifteen postseason games, and last night served as valedictory.  All the intelligence, courage, persistence, and God-given ability the Giants' pitchers have demonstrated in October was manifest in Lincecum's every move. Working in harmony with his catcher, Posey, he continually surprised, confused, and frustrated the outstanding Texas hitters. Of the three hits he surrendered, only one-- Cruz' no-doubt-about-it solo homer in the seventh-- was hit hard. And, as if to dispel any lingering concerns after he'd walked Ian Kinsler following the blast, Lincecum struck out David Murphy and our old buddy, Bengie Molina, to end the inning, then came out and scorched the Rangers on nine pitches in the eighth. He finished with ten strikeouts. Seven balls were hit out of the infield. Four of his eight innings were perfect. He's the best pitcher in the game, and he proved it last night.

This was the best of the five Series games, and it was made so not only by Lincecum, but by his opposite number, lefthander Cliff Lee of Texas. For six taut, scoreless innings the two aces engaged in the classic pitchers' duel all the experts had been promising. The record book will show that the Giants and Lincecum beat Lee twice, but there's no comparison between Game One and this contest. Lee had a four-hit shutout going, with no walks, as the Giants came up in the seventh. Cody Ross opened with a ground ball up the middle for the Giants' fifth hit. Juan Uribe, again delivering when it counted most, lined another single to center. Up stepped Aubrey Huff, who had belted one 450 feet the night before. Catching everyone by surprise, Huff quickly squared and laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving  the runners into scoring position.

Now it was Edgar Renteria at the plate. The soft-spoken Cuban, almost invisible in the lineup during the regular season, something of a surprise addition to the postseason roster, had already revived his World Series reputation with four big hits in two previous games. Falling behind 2-0, Lee challenged that reputation with the same cutter he'd been using all night. Renteria turned on it quick, and lifted a high drive to deep left-center; in a manner reminiscent of Buster Posey's homer from the night before, this one kept carrying and carrying until it had carried all the way into the seats.

That was the Giants' offense for the evening, and that was enough. Lincecum, having gotten through the seventh and eighth with a total pitch count of 101, could have come out for the ninth, but as "Boch" is always saying, this season has been a total team effort, and the ninth was Brian Wilson's time, as it has been all year. His 11-pitch stint lacked the drama of Game Six against the Phillies, but after 177 games most of us had had enough drama-- some call it 'torture'-- for awhile. Josh Hamilton was badly fooled on a 0-2 fastball, called strike three. Vlad Guerrero, true to type, hacked at the first pitch and grounded to Sanchez. Cruz, the only Ranger with any credibility left, battled through a six-pitch full count, then came up empty swinging at a slider that trailed just a bit inside.  Out came the Giants from the dugout like a jail break as the Rangers' fans, showing class all the way, stood and applauded their ballclub for its effort. By the time Bochy and a few champagne-soaked Giants returned to the field, however, it was mostly Giants fans remaining. They'd been making as much noise as possible throughout the proceedings, drowned-out but barely-audible on the incessant "Let's go Ran-gers!" chants led by the ballpark organist, but now the grandstand was theirs as they serenaded the Little Team That Could, the "castoffs and misfits" who have, at long last, brought a World Series championship to The City.

Thirteen years ago, Edgar Renteria's 11th-inning single made world champions out of perhaps the unlikeliest team ever, the Florida Marlins. Now, having launched the game-winning homer that made world champions out of another unlikely group, 34-year-old Edgar Renteria earned the World Series Most Valuable Player award, and whether or not he plays another game, for the Giants or anyone else, Renteria's name will go down in history as one of the great 'clutch' players of all time.

Renteria is one of the few Giants, along with Uribe and Rowand, who already have a World Series ring. But speaking in the clubhouse afterward, Brian Wilson brought up the very thought we've been thinking over the past few days. He spoke of all the great Giants who never experienced a moment such as this, the stars and superstars and ordinary players and forgotten men who wore this uniform in good days and bad, and who never knew the feeling of being part of a championship team. You could tell it was important to Wilson that he say this, that he try to articulate the debt of honor and respect he believed was owed, and must be paid, to those who came before.

And so, as we celebrate the San Francisco Giants' first World Championship, let us throw wide the clubhouse door and invite everyone in. This one's for all the Giants.

It's for Willie McCovey, who in 22 Hall-of-Fame seasons (20 with the Giants) never hoisted a trophy, and who at 72 gets around on crutches but never seems to miss a big game.  It's for Juan Marichal, the Dominican Dandy, who deserved better, and for Gaylord Perry. It's for Jack Sanford, and Stu Miller, and it's for Tom Haller and Mike McCormick, for Jim Davenport and Frank Linzy and "Downtown" Ollie Brown.

It's for the late Bobby Bonds, overtalented and underappreciated. It's for Jim Barr and Ron Bryant  and Jim Ray Hart. It's for Dick Dietz, and Chris Speier, and the impeccable Gary Lavelle.

It's for Randy Moffitt, hitting the knob of  Bill Russell's bat and forcing in a run. It's for Jack Clark and Terry Whitfield, for Bob Knepper and two tours of duty, for Terry Mulholland and three. It's for Mike Ivie and Greg Minton. It's for Mark "Million-Dollar Arm, Ten-Cent Head" Grant. It's for Fred Breining, and Roger Metzger, and even for Johnnie LeMaster. It's for Jose Uribe, thrown out trying to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park homer, and in the process inspiring a couple of guys in the stands to make fools of themselves in public.

It's for Will Clark, once and forever "The Thrill." It's for Brad Gulden, the original "Hummm-Baby." It's for Jeffrey Leonard, God bless him, and for Rick Leach and Jeff Brantley. It's for the grit and determination of Robbie Thompson, and the understated brilliance of Bill Swift. It's for William VanLandingham and his southpaw counterpart, Shawn Estes. It's for Atlee Hammaker, grooving one to Jim Lindeman and another one to Jose Oquendo. It's for Randy Kutcher, Mark Leonard, and Craig Lefferts, and it's for the unforgettable courage of Dave Dravecky.
It's for Rich Aurilia, heart and soul, and it's for Marvin Benard. It's for the indefatigable Kirk Rueter, the graceful J.T. Snow, and it's for Rod Beck, who gave all. It's for Jesse Foppert and what might have been, for Benito Santiago and Brett Tomko, for Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Eliezer Alfonzo. And yes, it's for Barry Bonds, too.

It's for everyone who ever wore the orange and black, from Big John Pregenzer to Tony Torcato,  from Masanori Murakami to Jeff Kent. It's for all those guys who froze out there in the Candlestick chill and never complained.

It's for every Giant who ever swung at a pitch in the dirt, or hung a curveball, or struck out the side, or hit a game-winning homer-- but never held the hardware or fingered the ring. Come on in, boys. Come in, out of the cold.

Come on in, all you Giants, at long last, and celebrate with us.

It's about time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers, 4-0, at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, last night, and thereby took a three-games-to-one lead in the 2010 World Series.

The Giants thus find themselves one game away from a World Championship, in a place they've been only twice before. They've never held a three-to-one edge in the Series; in 1962 they were one game away heading into Game Seven, and in 2002 they held a 3-2 edge after five. Tonight, at approximately 8 PM EDT (7 PM local time), the Giants, behind ace Tim Lincecum, will attempt to drive the Golden Spike and bring a World Series title home to San Francisco for the first time.

Last night's Game Four win was all about one of the great rookie performances in Series history, and that performance was by 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner. Not much more than a year ago, we were trying to juggle our busy schedules so we could drive up to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and get a look at the Giants' newest pitching prospect when the Double-A Connecticut Defenders came to town. Now, the long tall lefty with the poker face and the sweeping delivery is known to all, having shut out the Texas Rangers on three meek singles in their home park on a night when the American League champions and their fans fully expected to even this series and grab the momentum away from the Giants.

It didn't happen because Bumgarner, backed by almost airtight defense, made the pitches he expected to make throughout eight innings, and every hard-hit ball off a Texas bat was aimed, more or less, at a Giant defender. Who were those defenders?  Juan Uribe (though he did boot a simple eighth-inning grounder) cut off several hard-hit balls to the left side. Freddy Sanchez was all over the place, starting two critical double plays, making a tumbling sno-cone catch on a rocket off the bat of Jeff Francoeur , and tagging out Josh Hamilton on a steal attempt. Buster Posey, the rookie catcher, fired the throw that nailed Hamilton. Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholz, both making their first (and likely only) World Series starts, against righthander Tommy Hunter, were perfect in the field. "Bum" fanned six in his 106-pitch eight-inning stint, but the key to his unflappable performance was his willingness to let the Rangers hit his pitch, and rely on his defenders to make the play.

Aubrey Huff launched his first World Series homer into the stratosphere off Hunter in the third, moments after Andres (3-for-5) Torres had doubled to open the frame. The  monster shot carried past the right-field stands and might still be going had it not struck the overhang at the back of the facility. That was all Bumgarner needed, but the Giants tacked on two more late. Edgar Renteria, the 14-year veteran who may retire after earning his second ring, was 3-for-4 and scored in the seventh on Torres' second double to make it 3-0. Then in the eighth, Posey launched the first of what we hope will be many World Series home runs, a towering shot to deepest center field that just kept going, going, and going some more, onto the grassy sward beyond the fence. Bruce Bochy, never shy about pulling the managerial levers in a close game, left this one on cruise control. With his "defensive specialists" in the starting lineup, an early lead, and Bumgarner's lights-out pitching, 'Boch' didn't even get anyone up in the bullpen until the seventh, and his only substitution of the game was Brian Wilson's eleven-pitch ninth inning, which didn't even warrant a save. Simple!

The Rangers had every reason to be optimistic entering this game, because they had gotten their game back big-time Saturday night in a smart, well-played 4-2 victory in Game Three. Their lineup shook off Thursday's shutout, powering two home runs off Giants' starter and loser Jonathan Sanchez. They got an outstanding performance from right-hander Colby Lewis, who gave up solo homers to Torres and Cody Ross, but efficiently avoided those 'big innings' the Giants had used to win the first two games. Their shaky bullpen got a huge lift from the rookie closer, Naftali Feliz, who blew away the three Giants batters he faced with 98-MPH heat. While Sanchez did not pitch all that badly in the loss, he did allow nine baserunners in less than  five innings and was helped mightily by three double plays. More troubling, the Giants reverted to their bad old hitting habits, getting impatient with Lewis and struggling with men on base. Their best shot at a big inning came after Torres' homer in the eighth. Lewis hit Huff with a pitch with two out, bringing Posey to the plate as the tying run to face Darren O'Day, summoned from Ron Washington's bullpen to replace Lewis. After a seven-pitch at-bat, Posey grounded out to end the mild threat. (He did presumably, however, learn something about Messr. O'Day, which he put to good use last night.)

Tonight's game is another installment of the Ultimate Showdown between Lincecum and (insert name of fearsome opposition ace pitcher here). It will, of course, be Cliff Lee, whom the Giants handled rather roughly in Game One and who is unlikely to let that bother him at all.  But whether it's Lincecum tonight, or Matt Cain Wednesday, or who-knows-what on Thursday, this is gonna get done this time, some way, some how. The 2010 Giants are going to claim this World Championship, no matter what it takes.