Bird that Sings

August 28, 2010

Every Season Tells a Story, Don’t it #2

While the rest of the country, not to mention the Northern Hemisphere, cooks in the cauldron of Climate-Change-Alert summer, this has been coldest summer in memory in the coastal towns and cities of the San Francisco Bay. That is until this week when an offshore flow more associated with September and October swept through and brought baseball weather to the cheering packed house down at 24 Willie Mays Plaza, home to the San Francisco Giants.

For the Giants, and certainly their General Manager Brian Sabean, this is a make or break season.

When the Giants played at Candlestick Park, on Candlestick Point, the coldest, most windswept, godforsaken spit of land in the State of California, the typically spare crowds were mostly hard-core and hard drinking.

Then in 2000, the Giants moved to Pac Bell Park, now meretriciously renamed AT&T Park.

In the new millennium, with Barry Bonds–love him or hate him, the greatest hitter of his era–breaking home run records, the Giants in contention, margaritas at the bar, Orlando Cepeda’s Caribbean Cha-Cha Bowls at his concession stand and the once nerdy tech guys and girls basking in their new found dot-com wealth, everyday at the new ballpark was a celebration.

Then came the dot-com crash and the failure of the Giants to win the World Series in 2002.  Bonds got old, then indicted and as Sabean desperately tried to build another contender around his aging superstar, it became clear that for ordinary players, it was really hard to hit home runs at Whatchamacallit Park.

The fans–new and old– went on the warpath, calling for Sabean’s head, but the GM was saved by the emergence of a young pitching staff headed by “The Freak,” Tim Lincecum, and his formidable partner, Matt Cain.

The pitching made the Giants a fashionable choice to take the NL West for the past two years, but the anemic hitting of the post Bond’s era continued, so this year, in mid-season, Sabean went on a wild binge.

He picked up Pat Burrell, the one time Phillies slugger, who had been released by Tampa Bay. He picked up Jose Guillen from the Royals, Mike Fontenot from the Cubs, and this week, Cody Ross, a solid hitter with some power from Florida.

They joined a cast, which, against all odds, was already potent, headed by Outfielder/first baseman Aubrey Huff, having the season of his career. There was career journeyman, Andres Torres, at 34, winning the Centerfield job from one time all-star Aaron Rowand. There was this year’s prize prospect, catcher Buster Posey to go along with last year’s prize prospect, 3rd baseman Pablo “The Panda” Sandoval.

Add to the mix, ex-batting champion, 2nd baseman Freddie Sanchez, and power and clutch hitting shortstop, Jose Uribe and suddenly these Giants had hitting up and down the line-up. They seemed ready to challenge the more than surprising San Diego Padres in the West.

However after losing 2 out 3 to San Diego in San Francisco, and then 2 out 3 in both Philadelphia and St Louis, the Giants came back home to play Cincinnati, a game behind Philadelphia in the Wild Card and 6 games behind San Diego in the West.

The Giants won the first two games of the series and were playing a day game Wednesday afternoon. I was out myself: I needed to go food shopping and was walking over to my first appointment with the local CityCarShare, which I joined after my wife totaled our car. It was still hot, but the weather was already changing. You could feel a slight breeze and smell a hint of the Bay.

I found the reserved car just where it was supposed to be and put the electronic sensor up the window: nothing happened.

I walked home and turned on the game.

The Giants were down 10-1. I went to make lunch . . . and the Giants started rallying. They scored two in the bottom of the 5th, two in bottom of the 6th and then six in the bottom of the 8th to go ahead 11-10.

The fans were going nuts.

Meanwhile Atlanta had lost a 10-1 lead in Colorado, losing their third game in a row, this one 12-10. This was good because my team, the Phillies, had just lost the night before at home in sixteen innings and were chasing Atlanta in the East while trying to stay ahead of the Giants in the Wild Card.

You’re not supposed to lose extra inning games at home when you come from nine runs down to go ahead, but on Wednesday afternoon the Giants did, losing to the Reds, 12-11. Then the Phillies lost that night, at home, 3-2, behind their ace Roy Halliday. Then the Phillies lost again today–four in a row at home to the out of it Astros– while the Giants were off.

It’s now late Thursday afternoon and the fog’s rolling over San Francisco, that sad, gray city as Jack Kerouac once wrote.

The Phillies are flying to San Diego to play the Padres tomorrow. The Giants are hoping that one of them loses, and everybody’s starting to worry about Colorado.

There’s five and a half weeks left to play in the season.

To paraphrase Curtis Mayfield, gotta keep on pushin’.

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