Ninth Inning: Baseball and the Meaning of Life
At the beginning of his tenure with the then-hapless Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi announced, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” — ostensibly to shake the team out of the doldrums. Since then it has become the mantra of sports, radiating down to all levels, so that even children are advised to put on their “game face.” Obviously there can be no winning without losing, no home-run hitting hero without a baseball-pitching goat who stands utterly alone in the shadow of 40,000 screaming people. So feel good about yourself, San Francisco. Without the Giants, the Dodgers would not have won a thing.
As it is, the Dodgers swept a three-game series from the Giants. At home.
Losing promotes philosophy, especially if the loss comes early on a glittering afternoon by Mission Creek. And if the baseball gods are going to deny you the pleasure of watching the Giants beat the crap out of the Dodgers, why not talk about what’s gone wrong and what’s going to fix it? Should we continue to emphasize low-intensity offense while utilizing our celebrity pitchmen to keep the other side from scoring with the locals? Or should we change strategies, stop leaving our boys stranded on faraway bases, bring in a big bomber and begin creating some real damage?
Seventh Inning: McChrystal to Relieve Bochy?
Losing promotes conspiracy theories. Did I tell you I thought I saw John Yoo here wearing a “Giants Torture” T-shirt? I’m not sure it was him, but what other explanation could there be for GiantsInc. to suddenly command ticket-holders to sing “God Bless America” on Monday night?
Sixth Inning: A Heartwarming Headbanging Tale
On opening day in Los Angeles, Vicente Padilla, today’s starter for the Dodgers, beaned Aaron Rowand, smashing his cheek and breaking his face in three places. Although he hasn’t been the same since, Rowand says he’s forgotten about it. Padilla says he’s forgotten about it, and Santiago Casilla, who throws a 96-mph fastball just behind Padilla’s ear, says he never knew about it. Of the three hits scraped off Padilla today, Aaron Rowand got two of them: a lead-off single in the first, and in the sixth, a solo shot to center for the Giants’ first run of the afternoon. If there was a bright spot, other than the field itself bathed in brilliant sunlight, it was Aaron Rowand’s return to hitting baseballs.
Padilla was far and away the most impressive Dodger pitcher this series, although his brilliance may have been illegally enhanced by the Giants’ ineptitude in all things related to hitting. In addition to a fastball that he maintained at 93 mph or thereabouts, he also threw a number of eephus pitches, painfully slow rainbow pitches. The ball leaves Padilla’s hand, climbing up to the View Deck before beginning its decent; an inning passes, two, the game fades, then all games and seasons go by, years fold into one another, the universe expands, the sun cools, the earth turns into a snowball (the war in Afghanistan ends!); then universe implodes, all is silent again, until a big bang and everything starts over and eons later the ball crosses the plate. The pitch turns Aubrey Huff into a marble statue. “STRIKE two.” Huff can’t go through it again. Mercifully, he strikes out.
Fifth Inning: Mission Creek Death March
When Jonathan Sanchez walks off after the fifth inning, he walks off slowly, like he did after an excellent first inning. But in the first he floated; now gravity is pulling him into the turf; now his body looks as old and tired as mine. He steps off the mound and lets the weight of the game, the crowd, the team, the media, the bad food on the plane tonight, all of it, drop him into the ground, lets the earth swallow him up; he accepts it — it’s part of the game. The two home runs he just gave up? Those too, part of the game. Jonathan’s name has figured prominently in trade speculation among bloggers and fans. His performance this afternoon could help their case. Or not.
First Inning: Deja Vu All Over Again
Aaron Rowand singles to left. Freddy Sanchez strikes out. Aubrey Huff grounds into — wait for it — a double play, the one facet of the game in which the Giants have been maddeningly consistent. Fans of Pablo Sandoval let out a collective sigh of relief. At least it wasn’t the Panda.
Third Inning: Beautiful Outs
With a runner at first, Padilla pops a bunt way off the first-base line. Buster Posey leaves his feet and lays perpendicular to the ground to make the catch, the kind of super-hustle play he made when he first came up from Fresno.
In the bottom of the inning, Juan Uribe lines an RPG to right. It’s either going to be a single or a double. Dodger right fielder Reed Johnson dives and the ball just finds the top of his glove. Another brilliant play in the Dodger outfield, and there have been more than a few. Less than a millimeter higher and Uribe is standing on second.
Postgame: Press Conference
No surprise, neither the media nor Giants manager Bruce Bochy care to discuss the systemic inconsistency that appears to be plaguing the Giants so far this season. Over the past six games, flaws have popped up in all areas, including fundamentals. A single trade, even for a legitimate slugger like Prince Fielder, would do about as much good as BP’s latest scheme to stop the gusher in the Gulf. Stay tuned.
Los Mets de Nueva York open the second act of the season on the banks of Mission Creek beginning July 15.