OnBase: Low-Stress Giants’ Playoff Guide

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Who are “your” 2010 San Francisco Giants?

A troupe of ball players currently camped out on the banks of Mission Creek. Unable to find employment in this wretched economy, they travel from city to city playing baseball, getting paid by a big (not giant) corporation that profits big-time from their games.

What’s all the noise about?

The Giants won the right to advance to the baseball championship playoffs.

Woo hoo. Who are the Giants’ first opponents?

Another troupe of young ball players based in Atlanta, Georgia, who are known as “Braves” and are ruthlessly exploited by another big corporation.

Who’s going to win?

The two corporations and MLB, Inc.

As for the teams, it’s tough to predict. Both are a notch or two above mediocre, meaning they’ve been up and down a lot this year. However, the bigger picture shows the Braves falling since mid-August and the Giants rising.

Both teams have excellent pitching staffs, with the nod to the Giants for their bullpen and the shutdown potential of their starting pitchers. Atlanta also has excellent starting pitchers, who throw a variety of off-speed pitches (“junkballers”), including sinkers — fastballs that have late downward motion. Giant hitters have not had a great deal of success with Atlanta pitchers, or with sinkers in general. The Braves’ leading hitters will be out of the series due to injury. Expect tense, taught, low-scoring games that can go either way.

Doesn’t the unpredictability and uncertainty mean more drama?

Yes; thus the slogan “Giants Baseball: Torture.”

Is the media allowed use the word “torture”?  Shouldn’t you say “enhanced dramatic techniques?”

A law professor at Cal informed me that it is constitutionally permissible to use the word “torture” when referring to baseball, as long as no war crimes or state secrets are compromised.

Are there any good soap operas to watch during the game?

Yes, the Giants’ 2010 edition puts on stage an array of characters, subplots and personal tales of tragedy and redemption, all designed to keep you awake during the slow innings and pitching changes.

The main narratives deal with rising and falling stars, the corruption of money and the betrayal of age. For example, pitching ace Tim Lincecum’s travails with leaving his Freaky youth behind for the mature pleasures of wealth and celebrity have kept Giant fandom entertained the entire summer (be careful what you wish for, Tim). If he’s squinting and looking erudite, he’s good. If you see him looking like “little boy lost,” be prepared for a long night.

Any weird characters with the Giants?

The really weird characters of Baseball Past are too weird for today’s corporate image. At least the relief pitchers in the bullpen (where the series may be won) don’t try to hide their emotions.

The Dark Prince of Giant histrionics would be closer Brian Wilson. This year, Wilson’s performances have received rave reviews comparing him favorably to Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” And that was before he grew a beard and dyed it black. When he finishes a game on a winning note, he makes he sign of the cross –- but what cross?

How about inspiring stories? What about Giant heroes?

Though postmodern heroes are notoriously unreliable, the Giants do have their share of inspirational and potentially heroic stories. Andres Torres was an unknown player traveling from country to country, team to team, until one day he arrived in SF and suddenly, at 32, became one of the best center-fielders in the league, an electric leadoff batter, and the guy who catalyzed his team and helped revive this city’s dormant love affair with baseball.

Feel-good stories also abound, with veterans Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff, cast off and forgotten by everyone but the Giants, who have performed well beyond expectations. And finally, rookie catcher Buster Posey, who has quickly and quietly taken over team leadership responsibilities while displaying an astonishing blend of grace, timing and unassuming poise beyond his years.

Anyone else to keep an eye on?

Yes, Giant third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the Venezuelan “Kung Fu Panda” to whom ballpark panda hats pay tribute (they are also warm hats to wear on cold San Francisco nights). After a marvelous rookie year, Sandoval has stumbled badly this season, showing only rare flashes of his extraordinary talent. He is the most dangerous, and most charming, of Giant hitters. Should he get hot, and avoid errors in the field like the one that cost a run on Saturday, he can make a huge impact in the series.

What about the beard thing?

A superstitious excuse not to shave. Note that the Giants don’t have a corner on lucky beards; the Atlantans could have the same thing going. If they do, here’s hoping the baseball game doesn’t get confused with a fundamentalist revival meeting.

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One Comment

  1. And, puleeeze, don’t forget need for magic, rituals, superstitions, fetishes, etc. If I hadn’t touched the Berlin Wall yesterday, Giants would have lost.

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