Bird that Sings

October 14, 2010

Every Season tells a story#5/A tale of two cities revisited

And then there were two.

Just as it’s finally cooling down in the East, it’s heating up on the West Coast after one of the coldest summers in memory. However the contrast between the baseball atmosphere around the San Francisco Giants versus that of the Philadelphia Phillies is less than the similarity.

While even contenders like Atlanta, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay struggled for attendance this year, in Philadelphia and San Francisco, sellouts and full houses were the rule.

Both Citizens Bank Park in Philly and AT&T Park in SF were more alive and vital than anywhere  west of the Last-Days-of-the-Raj grandeur of New Yankee Stadium with its six thousand dollar a game seats in the Legends-of- Investment Banking mezzanine and whispers of lap dancing and cocaine rimmed flutes of champagne in the VIP lounge.

The Yankees are an empire unto themselves, but more on that next week.

For now we’re looking at what promises to be a seriously competitive National League Championship Series.

Much has been made of the “year of the pitcher” in baseball, and while some of that may be due to the decline in the use of steroids and Human Growth hormone in the game, this series does feature the two best starting pitching staffs in the National League, and probably baseball.

Going into the Series, the Phillies have to be considered the favorite since they not only have the 3 Aces — Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels — going for them, they also have, when healthy, the best one through eight hitting line-up in the league.

The problem with being the favorite of course, especially in a tight Series with good pitching, is that the pressure is on the Phillies, while the underdog Giants are playing with house money.

The Giants start with their pitching and sometimes end there, but the result is that they’ve played a lot of very close games. In fairness, they’ve lost a lot of them too, but it hasn’t been the fault of their young starting rotation anchored by 26 year old, two time Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum, 26 year old righthander, Matt Cain, and the sometimes erratic, 27 year old Lefthander, Jonathan Sanchez.

In fact the Giants, with their young front line pitching, along with their patchwork line-up and eccentric closer, Brian Wilson, remind me a little of the 1969 New York Mets.

1969 was the year the Mets shocked the world, winning the World Series behind 24-year-old future Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, 26 year old left hander Jerry Koosman, 22-year-old Gary Gentry and 24-year-old closer, Tug McGraw of blessed memory.

Like these Giants, those overlooked, lightly regarded Mets also featured a patchwork line-up built around two good players, left right fielder Cleon Jones (La note: thanks Dave Margolis) and center fielder Tommy Agee along with a cast of part timers; Art Shamsky, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool, Donn Clendenon, Wayne Garrett, Ed Charles, a young Amos Otis, et al.

It must also be added that the 60’s were an era when Great Players roamed the earth, and like these 2010 SF Giants, the Mets didn’t have any.

These Giants do, however, have a lot of pieces. Aubrey Huff has always been a pretty good player and now is in the first post season of his career. Pat Burrell is as dangerous a power hitter as he was in Philadelphia, without the pressure of being a franchise player. Freddie Sanchez is not quite the player he was when he won a batting title with Pittsburgh in 2006 but is still an excellent contact hitter.

And rookie catcher Buster Posey is the real thing. If he doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, he got rooked.

The Giants can’t match the power of Philadelphia up and down the line-up. They don’t have a Chase Utley or for that matter a Ryan Howard, or a Jason Werth, but they have enough to win, especially if the Pitching match-ups work out in their favor.

We already got a glimpse of this with Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Pitching coach Dave Righetti flipping their starting rotation so that Jonathan Sanchez will pitch the second game of the series in Philadelphia, where he previously 2-hit the Phillies on August 19th.

It is entirely possible that Tim Lincecum could outpitch Roy Halladay in the first game of the Series and then Sanchez once more shut down the Phillies left handed loaded lineup. If so, the Giants would go back to San Francisco up by two.

For Phillies fans like myself, this is a scary prospect, but that’s why they play the games.

I say, the Phillies in six… or seven.

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