Catching Up

Since June 3rd:

The Giants have gone 10-9, and remain 3 GB of the Dodgers in the NL West. Note that Arizona has come on strong recently and is only 2.5 games behind the Giants!

Summary:

After a week off and another week away from the blog, we return to summarizing the action. No awards this week, just some thoughts…

So, Matt Cain is pretty good. I got back from vacation in time to turn on the game and see innings 3-9 of the perfect game. I kept saying: I’ll just watch one more and go to bed. But the perfection continued, and I stayed up, and it was totally worth it.

I have to admit this: I love Matt Cain, but I never thought he would get this good. He always seemed like the perfect #2 starter: innings, consistency, etc. But never the ridiculous, video game, fantasy stud kind of numbers that you expect from a Justin Verlander, or a Roy Halladay, or (dare I say) Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain was always good, but I didn’t think he’d jump to great, and this year he has been GREAT.

The other major development of the last couple of weeks: Brandon Belt. Looks like he’s got some freedom to just “be” now over there at first base and it seems to be paying off. Man was the turn around quick on that one. Now, obviously, he needs to keep this up for an extended period of time, but what an encouragement to see him get it going. The power, the on-base skills, the use of all fields. I’m a huge fan, so I’m probably a bit too giddy but I do wonder what the ceiling is? Votto lite? Carlos Pena with less power and better average? I’m not sure who he comps with, but I guess I don’t really care as long as he hits.

Looking Ahead:

Giants head home for a big time week: 3 with the Dodgers and 4 with the Reds. That’s three games with a chance to close the gap in the division and then 4 against the Central division leaders. Yeah, it’s at home, but that’s still a tough go. I’m not super excited about the Dodgers getting Zito, Vogelsong, and Lincecum again (same 3 as the only other series between these teams this year). Nonetheless, hopefully they can turn it around and take 2 of 3 this time to even out the season series.

(-SB)

Scrap Heap Signings

Let’s reflect. Growing up, I was able to pick any cereal once a year on my birthday. This was a big deal in my 8-year-old world for three reasons:

  1. I never got to eat “sugar” cereal. Lots of bran and strong intestinal tracts in my family.
  2. Cereal was my favorite food.
  3. The potential for not only some good cereal, but a sweet toy that was hidden in the box/bag.

Looking up and down the aisle like a giddy schoolboy, I would pick the cereal with the best potential for tasty cereal and a worthy toy. I would often go for the knock off cereal like “Lieutenant Crunch” due to its larger size and toy potential.

We are in the time of the baseball year where teams are scrambling to patch the remaining holes in their roster with second-rate talent. As exciting as it is to see Craig Counsel sign for his 17th one year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, it is a time when teams are hoping to find decent enough players to simply survive.

But underneath all the mundane signings, there is a tasty morsel of deliciousness that every MLB GM seeks to uncover. No, none of the GM’s will ever admit that any of these players will be “season changers” for their respective squad, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t hold out hope that their signing will be the one that everyone talks about. They will dig deep into that bag (because most generic cereals come in bags) of “Lieutenant Crunch” and try to unearth that toy that will revolutionize their season.

For every Craig Counsel, Fred Lewis, Terry Mulholland (yes, I just went late 80’s) and Garrett Atkins, there is a hidden jewel that is going to perform WAY over expectation and make every GM look like they have the foresight of an Old Testament prophet.

Enter the greatness that is Pat Burrell. He was sent to the scrap heap by Tampa Bay in the middle of 2010 and thought to be done. All the GM’s holding out to uncover the “toy” of greatness were scurrying around trying to find the piece that would send their team towards a second half playoff run. Initially signed to a minor league deal by the SF Giants, he became the power-bat-spark that played a huge role in getting the team to World Series.

I can still remember the scene of his clutch late inning HR against the Dodgers that stuck like an arrow in their heart. I was sitting on the patio of my buddy’s sunny Santa Cruz home drinking an adult beverage when David B. Flemming’s voice echoed through the Redwoods announcing the HR that we would never forget.

So, let’s sit back, nibble on some “Lieutenant Crunch” and watch all the GM’s scramble in the hopes that our team finds the hidden morsel of deliciousness that makes us say, “Brian Sabean is @%$W&* genius.”

(-JH)

Root, Root, Root for the Away Team?

We all know the tune. We’ve all gotten up and stretched during that space between the top and bottom of the 7th inning. But as long as I’ve been attending baseball games, I seem to have gotten the words wrong. You see, I no longer live in the same town as my team. I’m just a visitor. The proverbial “couch-surfer” of the sports fan community. The unfortunate “out of market” fan. I put on my orange and black, and brave the masses of LA blue to see my starting 9 take the diamond. But the more I’ve attended games as a fan of the visiting team, I’ve realized it’s not ALL bad.

The first out of market Giants game I went to was a few years back at Dodger Stadium. Without thinking, I threw on my throwback Will Clark shirt, and started hiking up the hill towards the entrance. On the way up, I was heckled, laughed at, and shouted at by a number of men in blue. Now, I’m all for a little back and forth with opposing fans, but never in my life have I been asked if I had “some kevlar underneath that filthy shirt”, or if I wanted to “have my face introduced to some Chuck Taylors”. I was getting a bit nervous about my choice in attire for the game.

Once I got into my seat, I started to forget about the far from friendly greetings from the local fans. And I started to have a good time. And here’s why. As an out of market fan, you’re the stand out. The misfit. You showed up to the black tie affair in a tuxedo shirt. But the thing about being the sore thumb is you’re never alone. I was spotted by 3 other Giants fans, and I was instantly part of their crew. They waved over to me, and shouted “Go G-Men!”

Having gone to Giants games in the bay area all my life, I had gotten used to seeing orange everywhere. But as a fan of the visiting team, seeing that orange was a whole new feeling.

Now I’m not saying that I would rather go to a game at Chavez Ravine than AT&T Park. But I am encouraging all you displaced fans to brave the hecklers, pull on that jersey, and go support your home team, even if you’re not at home. You’ll be surprised at the number of friends you’ll make. Just don’t forget to change the words to that song we all know and love during the 7th inning stretch.

(-TS)