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The Anti-Blue

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The hot topic [Sep. 21st, 2009|08:23 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Well, it seems that Lincecum's inability to pitch in hot weather -- once a subject of speculation and mock concern -- is a legitimate problem. At least, that's what my gut tells me. As I watched him labor through fewer than five innings in the Los Angeles heat, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was the effect of witnessing a superhero's rumored weakness be proven all too real; Achilles' heel not only found but pounded again and again by demons dressed in blue and white. It sucks, the whole mortality deal. I don't like to see Tim vulnerable. I'd rather continue to hold him to impossibly high standards as he carries the team on his (spasm-y) back.

On the bright side, I think it's safe to assume that Tim will never go to the Dodgers. Unless it's resolved, this climatic challenge may well limit his geographical options when deciding where to settle down long term. In fact, I'd venture that only San Francisco and Seattle offer ideal conditions, and of those two, which organization already passed him over in fear of his fragility, and which snatched him up and has prized him as he deserves? My preciousss...

Quick hits:

1. The Angel Villalona nightmare is just getting started. At first a person of interest, then a suspect, and now formally charged with murder, the Giants top prospect is in a world of trouble regardless of whether he's found guilty or not. I've done enough digging around to know that the situation Villalona is embroiled in is all too common in the Dominican Republic, and it's a tragedy any way you look at it.

2. I attended a new worst game ever on 9/11. For the very first time, we left before the final out. Some could decry that as a lack of true fanaticism. I say it was an expression of fanaticism, because I could barely hold myself together as the park was overridden with Dodger lovers and would surely have lost it had I been forced to exit en masse with them and their joy. Is there anything worse than happy Dodger fans? In your own home? We had to get the hell out of there.

3. Go Bears!
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FML [Aug. 24th, 2009|11:03 pm]
The Anti-Blue
Sorry, I misspoke. That was definitely the worst loss/series of the season; probably the worst loss/series in years. My heart grew three sizes in the top of the 14th, with visions of victory floating like a mirage before my outstretched hands. I chided Velez for celebrating too soon, but my affectionate tones betrayed the hope that I felt. Subsequently, my soul was ripped out of my chest and torn in two like a phone book, with one half put through a ricer, breaded and dropped in a vat of boiling oil, and the other half butterflied, filled with salt and lemon juice and folded back together.

Both halves were then fed to Tommy Lasorda.

It's just as well. Cal football starts up soon; so does the new TV season. Time to walk away from this season with quiet grace and dignity. I hope Justin Miller falls out of the plane and gets DFA'd on the way down.
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That was so bad I think it gave me cancer. [Aug. 7th, 2009|11:38 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |enragedenraged]

New Worst Game of the Year! Count it!

This game -- nay, this series -- was supposed to be cake. Lincecum, at home, against an even worse offensive team than the Giants (ponder that a second). What a gimme! But as they load the bases and fail to score, so too do they fritter away all these advantages. I wonder at what point I would have left had I actually attended the game. I stopped listening to the radio at 7-5, but if I'd dropped money to see it? Umm... yeah, I'd probably get up around the same time. Beat the traffic.

I'm tempted to start a pool on the number of combined starts Cain and Lincecum will have before either one earns his 13th win. Bloody hell. 'Least the Dodgers lost.
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A Real American Hero [Aug. 5th, 2009|10:22 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |enthralledenthralled]

A young pitcher makes his successful debut as a major league starter? A relatively tame chapter in the Giants' thrilling 2009 saga... Unless you've been subject to multiple, stomach-turning slow-mo viewings of that Mike Cameron line drive careening off Joe Martinez's skull. (Giants fans are sick of this, but for those not in the know -- it's not for the faint of heart.)

Oh, that Joe Martinez. The one who crumpled to the ground with a bloody temple as we held our collective breath and prayed that we hadn't just witnessed someone's last pitch. We waited intensely for confirmation that no major damage was sustained -- that his career might be in jeopardy was secondary -- and once the good word came through days later, we fans set our sights on the team at hand and the misery they were enduring at that time.

Then the Giants gained momentum, and we started to believe. Lincecum somehow improved on his Cy Young-winning form, Cain piled on some long overdue wins and recognition, Sandoval learned to take more pitches and watched his average rise, Wilson continued closing games with his usual flair for the dramatic. But quietly, in the background, Joe Martinez was recovering. Playing catch. Throwing off a mound. Making rehab starts in Fresno. Working his way back toward the opportunity that had been robbed of him so violently. We wanted him to be healthy; he wanted to be back in San Francisco.

And so this start, this 5-inning, 3-run effort, unremarkable by most any other measure, becomes a story unto itself. In a season whose theme is the defiance of expectations, this is the ultimate twist. Good enough that a virtually unknown minor leaguer, who just this past off-season was substitute teaching in New Jersey and who by all accounts is a perfect gentleman (and a scholar!), should make the roster out of spring training as a reliever. Nicer still that he should overcome such a harrowing moment with determination, fearlessness and grace. Sweetest of all that he would taste victory in his comeback as a starter and carve out his own starring role in what is proving to be a Giants season that couldn't be written any better.
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Makin' runs... out of nothing at all [Jul. 31st, 2009|07:10 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |okayokay]

The actual All-Star Game took the wind out of my sails pretty fast. Tim wasn't quite himself, and if I stood back and squinted real hard, I could kind of look at him objectively and see where fans of other elite pitchers might wonder why their guy didn't get picked to start instead. Someone like Dan Haren maybe, whose ERA and strikeout totals are quite comparable to Tim's and whose WHIP is straight insane. Haren deserved the honor just as much, based on stats alone. But as we know, the All-Star Game isn't exactly a meritocracy. (One look at Shane Victorino's shiny assface will tell you that.) It's a huge marketing tool for the MLB, and when you try to drum up interest in your product, you gotta show the people the best you've got. And herein I took my silver lining from the ASG. Tim has all the star power and intrigue that Haren just doesn't generate. It's in no way a slam on Haren, who I'd put on my staff in half a heartbeat, but further proof of what I've believed since Tim made his major league debut: He stands for everything that is good in the game of baseball. Not just talent and athleticism, which plenty of players have in spades, but charisma, character, charm, and a bunch of other words that start with "ch-," not to mention strong competitiveness, a sense of humor, and always the understanding that this is a game to be played and enjoyed. I'll stop just short of praising his hair (but what volume!).

As for the pitching performance, it was not what we've come to expect, and Tim himself admitted he was nervous. It reminded me of his Opening Day start, which -- I hate to say it -- leads me to question his ability to pitch in big games. But that's a tiny niggling doubt that belongs nowhere near a gushy fangirl post.

So, following a disheartening road trip that featured an extra-innings loss, the implosion of Sadowski and and a pitifully weak offense, we are back at home and winning. Matt and Tim continue to pitch brilliantly; Pablo is hitting again. The additions of Garko and Sanchez are interesting, votes of confidence in a team that wasn't expected to be in the position to trade into playoff contention. I don't think Garko can do worse than Bowker, Aurilia and Ishikawa have, although I did have hopes for Ishi to eventually become the everyday first baseman. Bonus: I have a penchant for players who actually finished their college degrees, even if they did graduate from Stanfurd. (Joey Martinez, heal up!) Sanchez, despite being more of a marquee player, is a bigger question mark. The knee, the prospect we gave up, and his production of late are all factoring into my ambivalence, but I will say: second base has been upgraded, no two ways about it. In all, the Giants are simply a better team now (though, depending on what Alderson does, at the expense of the future?). We're still lacking that big bat that will erase our underdog status -- with all due respect to Bengie, the cleanup situation is embarrassing -- but I kinda like the underdog status. That's where so much of the magic comes from, those little moments that defy the odds and inspire us to believe.

Now let's use that magic to fucking demolish the Phillies.
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I hope Barry Zito's Twitter isn't gone because of Sunday's game. [Jul. 13th, 2009|10:37 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |satisfiedsatisfied]

Well, I finally found out firsthand that there are indeed bad seats at AT&T Park.  We sat up in Section 333, a little pie-shaped slice of bad-sightline hell where we had to wait for the crowd's reaction to see if a ball was hit out.  Happily, the view of the diamond was clear, albeit a little obstructed by the foul pole.  But every shot that made its way near the left or centerfield wall disappeared, and only a corresponding cheer let us know if the outcome was favorable.  It was also a fiercely sunny day, and sitting out there getting broiled alive was a lot for an albino like me to take.  I took all the necessary precautions, wore sunblock, sunglasses, a cap, and a hoodie, but I could feel the sun searing straight through my clothes and flash-frying my arms.  That, I won't blame on the seats.  It just added to my discomfort.

And so did Barry Zito.  In a season where our $126 million dollar man seemed to have turned a corner, I was lucky enough to witness his most horrid start in 2.5 years.  I had actually been looking forward to watching him -- an odd sensation -- but three batters in and it was clear he didn't have his stuff.  The guy got roped and left us heading into the All Star break with the taste of disappointment in our mouths.  Or was that the smack of reality?  I agree with him, the key is consistency.  But our pleasant surprise and words of encouragement for Zito's improvement this season just barely conceal the derision for a very expensive player who is only now beginning to touch the kind of results we expected in the first place.

As Zito left the field, the boo birds came out in full force...  fans who, I assume, wanted the same things as me: a sweep of the Pads, a reassurance that Zito is truly coming around, a four-game win streak into the break, the exclamation point on this epiphany of a first half.  I wasn't enjoying getting our asses handed to us any more than they were.  But I didn't have the heart to join them.  I can't boo anybody right now.  The Giants aren't even supposed to be here; they're supposed to be an afterthought in baseball, maybe a few games under .500 with glimpses of greatness from young players who hold the promise of blossoming in a couple years.  To have them be 10 games over .500, leading the (very prematurely calculated) wild card race, holding the third best winning percentage in the NL with two All-Stars and a no-hitter pitcher on our staff?  It's beyond anything we would have hoped, especially after that disheartening 2-7 start.  You don't look a gift horse in the mouth, and Zito is a part of that horse.  Maybe not the important part, like the pretty mane or the muscular hindquarters, or the shiny chestnut coat... maybe not even the flowing tail or that patch of white between its eyes.. but he's part of it.  Like a hoof.  Don't boo the hoof, guys.

On a side note, the Giants are overall 31-15 at home.  I've been to five games so far and only seen one win.  It's not the first time probability has screwed me over. 

And here's to Timmy starting the All-Star Game tomorrow!  He is brilliant, he is fascinating, and he is ours.  He'll represent us and the game well, have an awesome couple innings, and then go get wasted while the rest of us turn off our televisions and wait for him to come home (or, in the case of non-Giants fans, wish desperately that he was theirs.  Suckers.).

P.S.  Pablo not making the All-Star team is a bigger crock of shit than Charlie Manuel's skull.
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Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter on July 10, 2009 [Jul. 11th, 2009|11:20 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |indescribableindescribable]

Perhaps someday, hopefully soon, I will find the words to express how wonderful it was to watch Jonathan Sanchez pitch that no-hitter.  Until then, I can only continue to get goosebumps every time I watch that last called strike, and hear Kuip's or Miller's call, and look at the footage of Jonathan embracing his father in tears.  Wow.
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Lucky 13 [Jul. 4th, 2009|01:07 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |contentcontent]

I had a dream about Matt Cain last night. 

I guess that's what happens when my mind wanders during a 13-0 rout.  After the first 9 runs I was watching but not really, half paying attention, just eager for Sadowski to get his second major league win, hoping the Dodgers would lose in some super tragic manner, and wondering whether Panda would hit for the other two legs of the cycle.  Well, a third of my wishes came true.  Such games lack tension, suspense, and the white-knuckle rush of a Brian Wilson save situation.  Home runs and triples are momentarily exhilarating indeed, but there does come a point where one could stop watching because the outcome is just as sure as if the Giants were on the losing end of that score. 

Chicks do dig the long ball, but a pitching duel is even more titillating.  And Lincecum brings a gun to the knife fight every time.  I got a three-day weekend, steaks on the grill, a gorgeous California afternoon, and Lincecum on the mound against our old friend Russ Ortiz.  Now if only the goddamn game were on television, my Fourth of July would be complete.
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The Big Sadowski [Jun. 29th, 2009|09:27 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |quixoticquixotic]

I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of yesterday's game.  Having never heard of Sadowski (like everyone else) I kind of expected to get swept, but he served nicely as a stop-gap.  Since he's been confirmed for his next turn on Friday, I'm hoping he can replicate his success, although that's asking a lot from a career minor leaguer who's pitched a grand total of six innings in the majors.  Ultimately, I would like to know whether management has plans for Sanchez to take up the number five spot again.  I'm always of two minds when it comes to that guy.  If he could master a breaking pitch and learn some control, he'd be fabulous.  Until that happens, though, I don't want to run him out there and stack the odds against us every fifth day.  Should he consistently pitch well from the bullpen, which he did on Sunday (Fielder HBP aside), will that be "proof" that he ought to stay there?  Or does that suddenly become a sign that he's earned his way back into the rotation?  Argh.  Well, best of luck to Sadowski on Friday.  It'd be just like a Giant rookie to shut down a club in playoff contention and then get shelled by a sub-.500 team, but... fingers crossed.

Timmy is really building up steam as we head toward the middle of the season.  I personally never bought into the theory that bronchitis in the spring had weakened him that much, to the point where we were mildly worried about him in April, but it appears I was wrong.  One of my favorite things about him is that he only seems to get stronger as a game goes on.  He blows through the rotation a couple times but by the third at-bat it's like he's really figured the batter out, not the other way around.  As much as I love Cainer, Tim really does deserve to start the ASG at this point (Matt definitely deserves an invite, though).  Every single day he pitches is a holiday, and I watch with awe and admiration and bask in how ridiculously lucky we Giants fans are to call him ours.  I should write an ode to him about once a week... in a non-creepy way.

I'm trying to figure out what goals are reasonable for the Giants now.  Division lead, or WC?  I even, for a fleeting moment, wanted to the Dodgers to beat the Rockies tonight, because the Rockies are breathing down our necks and I'd like as little WC competition as possible.  Then I had to remind myself that the season's 162 games and we're not even halfway done, god, get ahold of yourself.  The Giants could catch the Dodgers yet, and even if they never do, in what fucked up universe am I living that I would wish happiness upon the Dodgers or their fans?  Gross.

Go Rox.  We'll just all gun for that #1 spot.
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The good, the bad, the dirty [Jun. 19th, 2009|11:53 pm]
The Anti-Blue
[Current Mood |curiouscurious]

Yay for more updates!  I think the team gives us plenty to talk about this year.  Last year I basically checked out after the first couple months when it became apparent that we'd never see the light of .500.

Colorado scares me.  Ever since they got rid of Clint Hurdle, they're a completely different team.  I thought our biggest worry this year (besides the Dodgers, who were a given to lead the league) would be the Padres.  Instead, here come the Rockies stringing together a crazy win streak out of nowhere.  The Giants are a better team than they have been in awhile, but they're just not consistent enough to streak like that.  Win series, yes.  But the offense is too spotty and the starting pitching, by which I mean the four and five spots, is too unpredictable, to be able to win 10 in a row.  But prove me wrong, Giants!

The other night, CSNBA had a poll question asking who has been the biggest surprise of the season: A) Matt Cain, B) Barry Zito, C) Randy Johnson, or D) Jeremy Affeldt.  The answer, of course, is B for Barry.  Cainer, we always knew, has the stuff to be a number two starter at least, or very easily an ace on staffs not featuring Tim Lincecum.  The biggest surprise there is the run support he's been -- to use Ishikawa's favorite word -- blessed with.  Jeremy Affeldt has been pitching like gangbusters but I admit I wasn't very familiar with his record and didn't know what to expect.  Ecstatic to have him, though.  He and Romo are two of my faves.  And RJ is pretty much what I thought he'd be, going between six and seven innings each start, giving up a few runs and ringing up a few K's.  The HRs have been a little whoa but the dude is 87 and I actually find it pretty cool that he's a Giant right now. 

But Barry Zito turned into, like, a pitcher during the offseason.  Bunking with Brian Wilson must have done a number on him.  He's gained a couple mph on the fastball and his ERA is respectable, and his lopsided record is actually deceiving.  The last couple starts have not been such a treat, but on the whole I've actually looked forward to watching him.  So weird.  Cats and dogs, living together!

I always come back to Sanchez, though.  A stint in the bullpen could do him some good.  Honestly, that might be where he belongs, permanently.  He clearly has talent, but to borrow a phrase from Krukow, I don't feel the Giants have "a chance to win" behind him.   He doesn't instill any confidence in me even when things are going well, because they're always in danger of going south very quickly.  Bluntly put, I don't think he's mentally tough enough to be a starter.  He's too easily rattled when something goes awry.  His control will go missing for what seems like an eternity in an inning where the bleeding just will not stop.  All of our other starters have the focus and maturity to settle down after an error or bloop but Sanchez doesn't demonstrate those traits at all.  The worst of it is, he lets his teammates and his opponents know when he's lost it, and then it all goes to hell.  If Sanchez becomes part of the 'pen, the shorter outings will take the pressure off.  By having him face fewer batters we're more apt to capitalize on the Good Sanchez who usually shows up in the early innings to strike guys out.  He can be pulled more easily if the wheels come off. And, uh, maybe he'll have more time to develop a personality too.  I'm waiting for Joe Martinez to heal up as I'd love for him to get a shot at that fifth spot.  Watching Sanchez these days is tiresome.
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