November 19, 2010

November 02, 2010

Ending torture

Turns out it was time. Not for the Texas Rangers, but for the San Francisco Giants. Ironically enough, theirs was the longer drought. They've been waiting a long time in the Bay Area. Forever, in fact. And I'm sure they'll tell us Monday night was well worth the wait.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"The Giants serenaded their thirsty fans with the perfect anthem before the first pitch of the 2010 World Series. The song they piped through AT&T Park was U2's 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For.'
"The search lasted more than half a century and seemed so futile at times. Finally, the team and its long-pained fans have found what they were looking for. For the first time since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958, they are the champions of baseball."

Tortured no more. And it only took 19,193 days.

San Francisco won 92 games, and the American League West, this summer. But they weren't supposed to do this. They weren't supposed to win it all. Not this year. Sure, they beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. In a short series, with their pitching staff, they should have. Up next, the mighty Philadelphia Phillies. And what did the Giants do? They out-pitched a rotation that boasted Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. They silenced the powerful Phillies lineup, only Ryan Howard ending the NLCS with a batting average higher than Jimmy Rollins' .261.

Finally, the Texas Rangers. The high-octane Texas Rangers. Claws and antlers. And it was Texas's World Series to lose. Why? Simple: Their bats, vastly superior to the Giants', and the second coming of Sandy Koufax, Cliff Lee.

So much for the script. In games two, four, and five combined, the Rangers scored one run. Five games, that's all it took. Tim Lincecum -- what a performance Monday night -- led the way. And the San Francisco Giants beat Cliff Lee. Twice.

From the incredible Giants blog McCovey Chronicles:

"Every roster move and every transaction was an attempt to lead to this. Every barstool argument about the merits of Mike Aldrete or Eugenio Velez, every guttural cheer in the close wins, and every expletive in the close losses was created with the implicit understanding that the San Francisco Giants could possibly, maybe, if everything broke their way, could conceive of having a chance to potentially one day win the World Series. Maybe. The Giants would win, and they’d hold the trophy up high as idiots ran around and sprayed each other with champagne.
"That’s why we spent so much time trying to figure out if it was a good idea to trade Kirt Manwaring for Rick Wilkins, or hoping that Milt May really was the heir to Willie McCovey’s throne: the stupid, unrealistic promise that the San Francisco Giants could win the World Series.
"Words fail.
"So, so many things had to go right for this. Nine teams had to pass on Tim Lincecum. Twenty-nine had to pass on Aubrey Huff. Edgar Renteria had to play through a torn bicep and a strained old. Some players had to stay healthy, and other players had to get hurt to make room for the players who would lead the Giants to a World Series title.
"The Giants won the World Series. The San Francisco Giants. No foolin’. It’s on Wikipedia and everything."

So, so many things had to go right, and they did. American League East, or National League West, pitching wins championships. Yet, still, it's hard to believe the Giants are today on top of the baseball world. An hour after the game, some of the Giants sat in uniform on the infield grass of The Ballpark in Arlington. They probably couldn't believe it themselves. Because it wasn't supposed to happen. Not with Brian Sabean at the helm. Not with Barry Zito counting his money while left off the playoff roster. Not with that offence. Not with Kung Fu Panda on the bench, and Cody Ross, plucked from the scrap heap, playing left and right field. Not with Pat Burrell batting cleanup, and Juan Uribe manning the hot corner. Not with Nate Schierholtz and Mike Fontenot starting games in the goddamn postseason. Not with 35-year-old Edgar Renteria, his best days clearly behind him, playing shortstop.

And, yet, how fitting. All of it. I mean, we're talking about the San Francisco Giants. A franchise that oozes baseball tradition. A franchise that has sent more players to Cooperstown than any other in baseball history. A franchise synonymous with one of the greatest baseball players I've ever known, Barry Bonds. And with many more legends I never had the privilege to watch: Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and others. Do yourself a solid and read some of the comments at McCovey Chronicles; this World Series title is as much for the legends above as it is for Will Clark, Matt Williams, Rob Nen and J.T. Snow. For the long, cold, empty and foggy nights at Candlestick Park. For the Croix de Candlestick. And it was the most unlikely group of overachieving Giants who finally put the ghosts of 1962, 1989, and 2002 to rest. Who finally made San Francisco proud.

From the San Jose Mercury:

"It was the Giants' first ever game in November. And it became their favorite month of all. ...
Shout it from atop Coit Tower and let the party begin: Yes, the Giants really are World Series champions."

Congratulations, San Francisco. And thank you. The Giants are why, in spite of it all, we believe.

That's a Getty Image, above, and a damn fine one at that. Via daylife, of course.

November 01, 2010


From Monday's Globe and Mail:

"I have no problem with any concern the [Blue Jays] might have that I could repeat again. If I have to play another year under arbitration, I’ll do it again. Maybe I won’t hit 54 homers. Maybe I’ll hit 60."
- Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista continues to believe in Jose Bautista. And I find his confidence utterly enrapturing.

The World Series isn't yet over, and I'm already pining for spring training.

Someone at Reuters took that photo. Daylife hooked it up.


"Hockey is a man's game. The team with the most real men wins."
- Brian Burke

I'm quite certain that's not the case. The team that scores the most goals usually wins.

The honeymoon's over. They said the Toronto Maple Leafs would struggle to score goals. They were right.

It's not all bad news, though. Five wins in October is a whole lot better than one. And while the power play is languishing at 11.9%, the Leafs are killing 84.8% of their penalties. I'd wager that's the most successful they've ever been in that endeavor since Ron Wilson took over behind the bench. And, yes, both J.S. Giguere's .910 and Jonas Gustavsson's .920 save percentages have a lot to do with said success. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather the Leafs struggle on the power play than play shorthanded as if they're a beer league squad. Lord knows they can't be effective at both aspects of special teams.

Both keepers have been solid. Jiggy's .912 save percentage (31 saves on 34 shots) when the Leafs are a man short -- the anti-Toskala -- is exactly the type of goaltending the Leafs need. It must continue. Monster's .932 save percentage five-on-five is making me believe he just might be the next one.

But, yeah, the offence. I'm not worried. I probably should be, but I'm not. As long as Tim Brent and Colton Orr have more goals -- two -- than Nikolai Kulemin (one), Kris Versteeg (one), Tyler Bozak (one), and Mikhail Grabovski (zero), the Maple Leafs will continue to lose. But let's get real. Brent and Orr won't outscore those guys for long, no matter the NHL's policy on goaltender interference.

Ottawa's in town on Tuesday. I can't imagine a better night for a few of Burke's good men to break out of their respective slumps.

Reuters image, via daylife.