“How come your dad couldn’t pick you up from practice?”
A Giant Pedigree
1-2-3 favorite Jonah Keri, who inspired me to buy this very cool tie that I am wearing as I write this, wrote about how the Giants managed to put together an all-home grown infield. That infield is presently the best in baseball by WAR: Posey, Belt, Panik, Crawford, and Duffy, three of whom are All-Stars. It’s especially impressive in light of (1) the Giants losing home-grown Pablo Sandoval to free agency in the offseason; and (2) team architect Brian Sabean’s previous reputation as a guy who did not know how to draft and develop position players – a reputation that was pretty well deserved for a long time. When you throw in the fact that the Giants have a possible all home-grown rotation (when everyone is healthy) of Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Heston, and you start to see why the Giants have been so successful over the last half decade. -TOB
PAL: Man, did I pick the right time to move to San Francisco or what! All five infielders and five starting pitchers. Damn, that’s cool. This article really underscores what a huge, unexpected surprise Panik and Duffy are this year. Crawford, Belt, Posey – hey – that’s pretty good. But all five? Again, damn.I love this team like the rest of you – and this story only adds to that love, so let me be the fun sponge for a moment. The starting pitching scares the hell out of me. The word “fumes” comes to mind when I think of all they’ve done over the past 5 years. Cain, Timmy, and Vogelsong might well be on career fumes. One more time, guys!
Media: Please Stop Covering Eldrick Woods.
There’s no story here, just a rant: The British Open began yesterday. It’s at St. Andrew’s, a classic links course. I don’t watch much golf, but St. Andrew’s is my favorite when I do. Tiger Woods has won the Open three times, and twice it was at St. Andrew’s. So there seemed to be some interest in how Tiger might fare there this year. After one day, it is official: Tiger is done. DONE. Can we stop covering him? He hasn’t won a major since 2008. 2008!!!! And yet his weekly failures are reported on ESPN’s frontpage as if it is news. Especially in the Majors. He shot a horrible 76 yesterday, tied with old man Tom Watson for 139th of 156 golfers, eleven strokes behind the leader. And Tiger made the ESPN.com frontpage. Sportscenter did a full 5-minutes on him. Enough! He no longer deserves that status. He should be treated like every other golfer: When he is in contention, cover him. When he’s not, don’t. And it’s time to revoke the nickname Tiger. He’s back to Eldrick. “Tiger” is for closers. -TOB
PAL: “Tiger” is for closers. File that under “Favorite Tommy Lines”. I agree with you, but no one outside of the die hards watches golf. A lot of people have at least a passing interest in Eldrick’s story. While there is a certain group of people who relish this extended comeuppance after his salacious downfall, I think the real draw is the fact that a GOAT at the front end of his prime (for his sport) seems to have lost it. As crazy as this sounds, 49% of me thinks this dude still has 2 majors in him. While they weren’t majors, Woods won 5 tournaments as recently as 2013, and few sports allow a competitor to play at or near the highest level for 20 years. That, and I’m still a bit blinded by his dominance now 10 years in the rearview.
TOB: Quick point: You think Tiger is on the front side of his prime? He turns 40 this December, so the PGA Championship next month will be the last major of his 30’s. Even ignoring all his knee trouble, which has been significant, that is old. The average age of a winner of a major is 32. Guess how often players win a major over 40? Since 1986, when Arnold Palmer famously won the Masters at the ripe “old” age of 46 for his first major since the year he turned 40, only 7 players over the age of 40 have won a major. That is about 5%. Eldrick is done.
You Mess With The Bull…
Joe Distler was an ad man in New York living the regular life. Life was routine. Then he picked up The Swords of Spain in a bookstore. Then he went to San Fermin. Then he ran. He’s been running with the bulls ever since, and he’s considered one of the best to do it. I love how his story is a balance of romance (“I feel I am part of the herd”) and instruction (“Rules of The Run”). If nothing else, give this story a chance just to check out the beautiful photographs. At a more fundamental level, this is a story about a regular guy rediscovering a the passion for life that’s all so often inseparable from fear. – PAL
Although the name doesn’t stick, most of us know Frédéric Weis. He’s the 7-footer Vince Carter jumped over in the 2000 Olympics. It is one of the most popular – and some would say incredible – dunks of all-time. Prior to the Olympics, The Knicks drafted Weis in the first round. Despite the posterization, things were looking up for the big man from France, but everything changed for the worse shortly after the Prior to the “le dunk de la mort” (Dunk of Death). The professional embarrassment at the hands of Carter had nothing to do with it. Here’s a story about the other guy in the sports highlight. – PAL
TOB: Reminds me a bit of the story on Craig Ehlo we covered a few weeks back. I knew that Weis was the guy that Vince dunked over, but did not know that he was drafted by the Knicks. An interesting tidbit in there is how Weis was treated by Jeff Van Gundy during his one summer with the Knicks: Not well.
Never Change, Marshawn
This one does not require much explanation: Marshawn Lynch was at his youth camp this week and a reporter saw he had chicken wings. Stored in his sock. When the reporter asked why, Marshawn said: “”My auntie fried up some chicken and I had my hands full, and I don’t have no pockets on my shorts, so I just had to use what I had.” So resourceful. As I said: Never change, Marshawn. -TOB
Christian Laettner thinks this NCAA Tournament is heating up.
The Media is Public Enemy No. 1 in the Thunder Locker Room. Why?
The Oklahoma City Thunder are stacked with talent. They have two of the top five players in the NBA in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But something is amiss in Oklahoma City. There is a growing divide between the Thunder players and the local media that covers the team. Things have gotten overtly hostile at times. Grantland’s Bryan Curtis dives deep – attempting to figure out what is going on and why. -TOB
PAL: Fascinating read. What role do beat reporters play in today’s sports world? Athletes can communicate directly with fans or followers and have exponentially more reach than that of local newspapers. Regional cable sports affiliates (think CSN Bay Area) – business partners with the teams – have sideline reporters and bloggers (hardly objective), and the the team’s PR folks hover like chaperones at a Middle School dance during the post-game “scrum”. We all get shortchanged as a result. As Thunder beat reporter Berry Tramel puts it with regards to Westbrook, “I’m just going to be writing about how great he is. I’m never going to be writing about who he is.”
Steve Nash’s Legacy
The NCAA basketball tournament and the NFL free agency madness might have muted the retirement of an all-timer. Steve Nash, back-to-back MVP and the prototype of the modern point guard (Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook all have a pinch of Nash in their games) finally called it quits. Writer Lee Jenkins nails this summary of what Nash meant to his country (he’s a Canadian kid) and to the way the point guard position is played. Here’s a guy who received one D-1 scholarship offer from Santa Clara, and who was third string in Phoenix behind – get this – Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. He’s given back to his community (his charity has granted nearly $5 million for child welfare) and has mentored the Lakers young draft picks while battling back and leg issues over the past couple years. What’s more, he’s established credibility to Canadian basketball. In fact, he’s the General Manager for the national team up there. Remember, the last two number 1 draft picks are from our neighbors to the north. All in all, he was a great shooter who also seems like a straight shooter. He was a pleasure to watch. – PAL
TOB: I’ve been a Steve Nash fan since his college days in the mid-90’s, when he helped lead my parents’ law school alma mater (later mine, as well) to some classic tourney upsets. He is impossible to dislike – he made watching basketball more fun. He seems intelligent. He has a good head on his shoulders. This retirement announcement was a formality, as Nash has effectively been retired for a couple years now. But it’s a good opportunity to thank him for years of entertainment. And for a lot of NBA players, perhaps a time to thank him for their huge paychecks (I’m looking at you, Tim Thomas and Channing Frye). Nash, more than any player in my lifetime, made everyone around him better. That’s about the best thing you can say about an athlete, especially a point guard.
Old Man Does Not Trust Lady in iPhone
Thanks to 1-2-3 Sports! reader Michael Kapp for sending in this short but amusing story about New York Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin and his negative experience receiving driving directions from Siri. Choice quote:
“I don’t trust the lady in GPS, I don’t trust her, because they don’t send you the right way. I hit the button and I go ‘Park Ridge, New Jersey.’ And she comes back on, she’s giving me directions. So now I figure out where I am. I hit the thing and I said, ‘Thank you very much, I know exactly where I am now.’ And she comes back and says, ‘You don’t have to thank me.’ I swear to God that’s what she said. And then I couldn’t get her to shut up. Every turn. ‘Take a right here.’ I know where I am. I know where I am. I’m a block away from my house and she’s telling me where to go. I said, ‘I know where I’m going.’”
He is definitely a grandpa (no offense, dad). -TOB
PAL: Wait, this isn’t a story about my dad? There’s nothing more dangerous than a grandpa behind the wheel of a car with a smartphone in his hand. Nothing.
A Lesson In Class
We wrote and posted about Dean Smith following his death in February, but this little nugget was too good to pass up. A quick story worth your time about Smith’s final gift to every letterwinner at UNC (he coached for 36 years). I didn’t know much about Smith while he was alive, but now I understand what the fuss was about. He was a legitimate educator and community leader to the point where, if he hadn’t excelled at coaching college basketball (879 wins, two national championships, 11 Final Fours, 13 ACC Tournament championships, Olympic Gold Medal coach), his life would’ve still been extraordinary. – PAL
Game 7 of the 2014 World Series was a classic, but it almost had one of the most bizarre and exciting endings in World Series history. With two outs in the 9th, the Royals’ Alex Gordon hit a line drive that skipped under Giants’ centerfielder Gregor Blanco’s glove, and rolled all the way to the wall. Gordon made it to third, but many wondered what would have happened if he had scored. Everyone involved (especially Royals manager Ned Yost, who says that Gordon would have been out by 40 feet) agrees that it would have been a huge mistake to send Gordon. But Tim Kurkjian still put together a great article – interviewing all the people involved in the play and using math to determine definitively what would have happened had the Royals sent Gordon. -TOB
PAL: Like Tommy, I dig the oral history approach to analyzing this play. As dominant as Bumgarner was, it is more likely that Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey would’ve executed a throw and catch from 120 feet apart than it was for something to go badly (for the Giants) during the next at bat. With Gordon on third, any hit, passed ball, or error ties the game. As odd as it sounds, Kansas City had more positive options facing Bumgarner than it did taking a chance with sending Gordon.
Video of the Week
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Madbum rocking the Carhartt while slamming suds with Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones. No big deal.
Running & Autism: A Perfect Fit For Mikey Brannigan
Remember those “Faces In The Crowd” pages in the old SI magazines? Well, I’ve just found out they’ve expanded the format for the online version, and – man – it is really cool. Instead of the one paragraph description, SI goes all-in with a full article. This month’s feature is especially impressive – a must-read. Mikey Brannigan was diagnosed with Autism at an early age, and it wasn’t until a chance encounter that the family found the perfect outlet for him: running. The simplicity of the sport, combined with a lot of other factors specific to autism, has allowed Brannigan to do more than compete at the varsity level – he excels. He’s on track to be an Olympic hopeful. How cool is that? – PAL
The Basketball Glass Ceiling Has Been Broken in Russia
WNBA players are not paid very much money. I knew this was true, but even the very best players barely get paid over $100,000 a season. To supplement that income, many WNBA players head overseas in the offseason and play in leagues in Europe and Asia. Amazingly, though, they get paid more overseas. A lot more. Take Diana Taurasi. She was the 2014 WNBA MVP runner-up, and she made just $109,500. But in Russia she made $1.5 million. This has been going on for years. The new twist, though, is that Diana Taurasi’s Russian team, looking to protect its $1.5M investment, is paying Diana Taurasi to sit out the next WNBA season, thus keeping her healthy and fresh for her Russian team. This must be very embarrassing for the WNBA, and worse yet is that apparently foreign teams have been trying to get WNBA stars to do this for years. If more players follow Diana’s lead, the WNBA could be in serious trouble. – TOB Source:“Diana Taurasi’s Russian Team is Paying Her to Skip the WNBA Season”, Kevin Draper, Deadspin (02/03/15)
PAL: A part of me thinks if some Russian oligarch wants to lose $7 million to fund a women’s basketball team for which no one pays to see play, then that’s on him. A part of me thinks that the US market for a professional female basketball player is somewhere between 50-150k – it’s not even in the stratosphere of the NBA, but – hey – it’s a living, right? And then I think about the LPGA (est. 1950) and the Women’s Tennis Association (est. 1973 by Billie Jean King). While Tommy was right – both tennis and golf are individual sports that derive a large portion of revenue from sponsors, consider the following:
According to the LPGA official website, 45 women have earned over $5 million in winnings throughout their career.
Look at the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) – 30 women have earned over $10 million in their career
The Williams sisters have over $80 million in prize money between them!
You know how much Billie Jean King won in her first Wimbledon – what amounts to $857.89.
Women’s professional sports is a longview, social endeavor. It requires support, because it’s more than business. Should I have a daughter, and should she excel in sports, I want to live in a place that allows her dream to become a reality.
10 Steps To Buy A Recruit
Wednesday was National Signing Day for college football, so this story is timely despite its publication date. ESPN televises 17 and 18 year-olds doing their version of LeBron’s “The Decision” on this day – the first day for recruits to officially commit to a college. While the relatively recent glamorization of this day doesn’t sit well with me, the under-the-table work of actually getting player X to sign at school Y is pretty interesting, as this step-by-step, first-person account reveals. We all know that illegal benefits are given to top recruits, but I haven’t seen a story about the system of how to do it been laid out this plainly. This isn’t the story of Nevin Shapiro at Miami – this is the story from the guys who are smart enough to not get caught. One other note – the scroller indicates this story is much, much longer than it actually is. – PAL
“I call it the goddamned blessed road. I’ve buried friends. I’ve put friends in rehab. I’ve watched marriages dissolve. There’s a lot of collateral damage in this lifestyle I’ve had for 33 years. I’m going to send myself home safely.”
That’s exactly how we’d all hug Bumgarner right now.
Tommy – we have to try to recap this third World Series for the Giants. Commence email exchange:
Topics to choose from:
Did the Giants just “Brad Lidge” Hunter Strickland?
Was this a good World Series, or a World Series with a defining performance (Madbum)
Historically bad starts for the winning team (Peavy and Hudson)
The arrival of Joe Panik, and he needs a nickname
Pablo Sandoval and his next contract
Buster Posey…kind of sucked?
Giants that did not play in this Series:
Angel Pagan (lead-off hitter, center field)
Marco Scutaro (2 hitter, Second base)
Matt Cain (#2 starting pitcher)
Tim Lincecum (#3 or #4 starting pitcher)
Favorite moment from this playoff push
The fact that your baby was wearing his Giants T-shirt I gave him for a game 7 win
Game 1: 7-1 Giants
Game 2: 7-2 Royals
Game 3: 3-2 Royals
Game 4: 11-4 Giants
Game 5: 5-0 Giants
Game 6: 10-0 Royals
Game 7: 3-2 Giants
Take your pick, and find a handful of images by which you will remember this post season. This is going to be our post this week, so keep it somewhat clean.
It starts and ends with Madison Bumgarner. I am struggling to put Bumgarner’s performance into any sort of context, because there is no context. He was completely dominant for an entire month, which we’ve seen. Even from Bumgarner. But in the playoffs? In the World Series? Ok, sure, that happens, too. But consider:
Madison Bumgarner pitched 21 innings in the World Series. He gave up a single run (a meaningless solo homer in a 7-1 blowout). The rest of the Giants starting rotation pitched 16 1/3.
Bumgarner walking to the mound in the 5th immediately reminded me of one of my favorite sports movies – Little Big League – when Randy Johnson comes on in relief in the bottom of the 9th to shut the door on the Twins. It also reminded me of Randy Johnson coming on to close out Game 7 of the 2001 World Series for the Diamondbacks. In that series, The Big Unit earned 3 victories – pitching 17 1/3 innings over 2 starts and his 1 1/3 inning of relief. I remember that series quite well, and I remember thinking it was the most incredible pitching performance I’d ever seen. We’ve now seen one that far surpasses it.
For his career, Bumgarner has now given up just that one run in THIRTY SIX World Series innings for an ERA of 0.25. That is a record, believe it or not.
I was very pessimistic heading into Game 7. It just didn’t feel right. Hats off to Tim Hudson, who finally gets a ring – and he was not along for the ride, he earned it – but I just had a horrible feeling that I could not shake. When he was lifted in the second, with the score tied, I was fairly convinced that the game was not going to go the Giants’ way, and I was mentally preparing myself to be happy for such a great postseason run. “A pennant is nothing to sneeze at! Hell, the Dodgers haven’t won a pennant since I was 6!” That’s all bullcrap, of course. And then Bummy walked out. I was still terrified. It was only the 5th! “There’s no way he can give more than an inning or two,” but I had hope he could be the bridge to our suddenly shaky bullpen. Infante led off with a hard single, and I wanted to throw up. Even just a couple runs would have spoiled an otherworldly postseason performance by Bummy. And then… lights out. Between the Infante single and the Gordon hit in the 9th, Bumgarner retired FOURTEEN straight batters. And rarely did anyone come close to touching him.
It’s baseball, and baseball is weird and cruel, so I was still very unsettled until the last out. After the 7th inning, I texted you: “No matter what happens, what Bummy is doing is the stuff of legends.” It’s true, and I meant it, but I also wanted to say that out loud in case everything fell apart. Because win or lose, what Bumgarner did was simply amazing.
Madbum. Have you heard the theory about how the indigenous people couldn’t see the ships when Columbus hit landfall on the Americas? The theory is that the ships were so out of their realm of reality that they couldn’t process what was taking place before them. They couldn’t see the ships! Whether or not that’s true (I don’t buy it), that’s how I felt watching Madbum last night. I knew it was exceptional, but I couldn’t process it. Even when you tell me the numbers (.25 ERA in 36 WS innings…what the hell?), it still doesn’t process. I really don’t think we’ll ever, ever see a WS pitching performance like that again. Too deep of bullpens, too many specialists, and a media that would roast a manager who rode one pitcher that long. What’s even more unbelievable is that I don’t think there was much controversy in leaving him in!
By the way, Michael Powell has a great article in The New York Times about visiting Bumgarner’s dad in rural North Carolina.
Love that article. His dad is hilarious. Sample quotes:
“I didn’t know if he had enough left tonight, but I did know that boy would try to steal a steak off the devil’s plate.”
And a text that Mr. Bumgarner sent to Madison after the 8th inning:
“OMG. You’re so much more than awesome. To see you work on the mound reminds me of watching you in high school. You are willing yourself to perfection and dragging the team along with you. I couldn’t be more proud of your baseball accomplishments.”
Kevin looked at me. “I knew he wouldn’t read that text before the game was over,” he said, “but I wanted him to know this was what his daddy thought of him.”
The best! Look, I could go on all day about Bumgarner. But I have work to do and there are other things to discuss! Like Pablo Sandoval. Panda set an all-time major league record for most hits in a single postseason, with 26. In a World Series where Posey was simply out of gas, Panda was an absolute beast. Sometimes I like to put myself in the shoes of opposing fans when considering Giants’ players. While Bumgarner must have had the Royals fans feeling absolutely helpless, Panda had them frustrated. He’s an amazing hitter and a great defensive third baseman. PAY HIM.
But seriously: PAY HIM. I have been saying this all year, so I was happy to hear Harold Reynolds discuss it on last night’s broadcast: This is a very down era for third basemen. There are just not many good ones, for some reason. It happens. It’s cyclical. But third basemen are at an absolute premium, and we have maybe the best in the game on our team, and he’s grown up in our system, and he’s been a part of three World Series wins, won a World Series MVP, and would have won a second World Series MVP if not for that unearthly performance by Bummy. PAY HIM. I don’t care what it costs. It’s going to be a lot – because he deserves it, and because there are very few good third basemen out there, and because the Yankees, Red Sox, and possibly the Dodgers (shudder) are all in the market for a third basemen. The price is going to go high. And it will go to around 7 years. And yes he has a weight problem. And maybe the last couple years of his deal will be painful. But you cannot let him walk. You just can’t. The Giants fans show up every night. They sellout that beautiful ballpark every game, and they buy tons of Giants gear and buy $11 beers and $7 hot dogs. The team owes it to us to keep Panda. PAY HIM.
Pay him. That’s the cost of success. I’m guessing 7 years / $140 million is the ballpark number and years. I’d rather give him 5/$125 million, but whatever. I’m concerned someone comes in at 7 / $200 million…that’s tougher to swallow. Here are the facts: he can really hit, he is a very good third baseman, and he shows up when it counts the most. While he was also pretty brutal hitting right-handed (.199) this year, I love watching him compete.
You asked me at some point during this season if Bruce Bochy belongs in the Hall of Fame. I made a strong case for it. Now, with his third title, there is no doubt. Bruce Bochy is a Hall of Famer.
Bochy is a Hall of Fame lock. No questions asked. There are now 10 managers with more than 2 WS titles: Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, Connie Mack, Walter Alston, Torre, Sparky Anderson, Miller Huggins, Tony LaRussa, John McGraw, and Bochy. 6 of those dudes are from a long, long time ago – different eras (even most of their names are olden time names). I think we should make a play to ghostwrite his speech at Cooperstown. That’s a good 1-2-3 Sports! goal.
Oh, also, Michael effing Morse! A great off-season pickup by GM Sabean. Let’s not forget his big moments this post-season. Game-tying HR against the Cards, winning RBI last night. By all accounts a great clubhouse guy. Plus, I like watching him get all kid-happy/excited while running to first after a big hit.
You mentioned Sabean. Brian Sabean: Hall of Famer (!!!!). He has now crafted three World Series winning teams, plus those very good early 2000’s teams around Bonds. Additionally, according to Buster Olney, who was a Yankees beat writer at the time, Sabean was one of the major architects of the Yankees 90’s dynasty. Amazing. Six years ago, most Giants fans wanted him gone.
Re Morse: Before the season we did the usual, “How many wins? What are the numbers for this guy or that?” When you asked me who the key to the season was, I said Michael Morse. I thought if he could hit around 28 homers, the team would be really, really good.
Morse started out on absolute fire. I think he had 13 homers by June 5th, on pace for 34 home runs, when the Giants were the best team in baseball. I was feeling great out my pick of Morse.
Then Morse hit a horrendous slump, and the Giants tanked along with him, for the next two months. It wasn’t only the loss of Morse’s power, but it was a big part. Morse finished with just 16 homers.
By the end of the season, I wanted him nowhere near the lineup, because without bombing lots of homers, his outfield defense is a complete liability. He was the perfect DH, though, and we don’t win the World Series without him. Great signing by Sabean.
Jeremy Affeldt needs to be mentioned here. He came into a tie ball game, with two inherited runners, and it was Game 7 of the World Series. It was about 5 innings earlier than he usually enters. When he came out for the 4th inning, I thought it might be a bad call. How often does Affeldt pitch in three different innings in a row? Rarely. I thought Bochy was just asking too much. Affeldt hit Gordon with a curve ball that got away, and I wanted to puke. And then he shut it down. As usual. He induced a double play and a batter later, headed back to the dugout after having pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings… He has now made 22 straight scoreless appearances in the postseason, second all-time to Mariano Rivera (23).
Yes, Affeldt was excellent, and 22 straight scoreless appearances is nothing to sneeze at. I think that situational reliever is kind of like the place kicker of baseball – you’re typically put into stressful situations and people only notice when you fail.
Speaking of the bullpen, I have to ask: did the Giants just “Brad Lidge” Hunter Strickland? Or should we make a verb out of “Byung Hyun Kim“? I don’t know, but he gave up 6 home runs this post-season. Great arm, and I hope he bounces back, but that’s a sh*tload of home runs in one post-season. Also, in general the traditional bullpens of both teams didn’t factor into this series as much as I thought, and that’s a good thing for the Giants. Again, just looking at the scores of the games – 7-1, 7-2, 3-2, 11-4, 5-0, 10-0, 3-2 – and factoring how many innings Madbum ate up, and you have a pretty light load (at least low-stress) for 5/7 games. Not a lot of Casilla, Romo, or Lopez.
I sure hope not. Strickland has some great stuff. But that was about as brutal of a performance as I’ve ever seen.
You asked if this was a good World Series, or just a World Series with a great performance by one guy. It’s a good question. I think it’s the latter. I read, after Game 6, that it was the first World Series to ever have five games decided by five or more runs. Game 5 was great, and a lot closer than the final score indicated. Game 7 was one for the ages. Game 3 wasn’t bad. But other than that… a very weird series. As a Giants fan, I will always remember it. But if this was any other team, it would have been a tough series to enjoy, until Game 7.
Like I said, not a great series when you think about it, but a defining performance that will go down in history.
Would you rather be Bum in Game 7 or Travis Ishikawa for his pennant-clinching home run?
Man. Tough call. Ishikawa’s was dramatic, although less so because it was Game 5. Hard not to want to be the best player in the world right now. But Ishikawa’s story is pretty great. He almost quit baseball this year! And then he comes back and wins the pennant with a home run. Amazing.
Another high point of this World Series – the post-game calls to my dad back in Minnesota. We didn’t talk about anything grand – just a summary – but it reminded me of all the games we’ve watched together, and it was just a real good time. He was openly rooting for KC, but all he could do was laugh and say “Je-sus” when the topic of Madbum came up.
That’s great. My parents are not huge sports fans, which makes you wonder how I turned out like I did. But they love to tell the story of me coming home from school when I was 6 years old and saying, “We need to watch the World Series tonight!” They were like, “Uhh, ok.” And that was the night Kirk Gibson hit that home run off Eckersley.
But they do enjoy watching sports a bit, especially championships. And I called them after Game 7, too. It was fun to see them so into it.
One other thing – can you freaking believe how close we were to Blanco becoming a huge, huge, infamous goat last night? If any of the fast guys are running for KC instead of Gordon, if Crawford doesn’t pick a tough short hop on the relay…I was watching through the window at a table outside the bar, and everyone just stopped. We watched in silence. That play would have gone alongside Buckner’s error in ’86 and Denkinger’s missed call in ’85.
Joe Panik deserves mention. I have been watching the World Series since 1988. That is a total of 27. And while I don’t have total recall, I can’t recall a better and more important defensive play than the double play he turned in the third. It was only the bottom of the third, but until Gordon’s hit in the 9th, it was the last time the Royals would threaten. Cain led off with a single, and the Royals’ best hitter, Eric Hosmer, came up. He ripped a ground ball up the middle, and Panik came out of nowhere to glove it. Cain is fast, and he didn’t have much time, so before he even stopped sliding, Panik flipped the ball directly from his glove to Crawford, and Crawford threw an absolute bullet to get Hosmer at first. If that ball gets through, I think the game does not end well for the Giants.
Click the image for the video. It is a killer breakdown of this play.
After Game 5, my mom sent me a very cute and funny e-mail. After talking about how much she and my dad love Hunter Pence, with his “Marty Feldman eyes” and his high socks and pants pushed above his knees, she said, “Of course, Dad also has his other favorite, Panik. He loves him. He thinks he’s Mr. Baseball.” That nickname is official. Joe Panik is Mr. Baseball.
One last thing. I watched Game 6 from the same bar I watched every single playoff game in 2012 at. The Giants got crushed, but even before that, it just didn’t feel right. So I went home for Game 7. Hey, I’m a dad now. I needed to watch it with my boy. He’s only 4 months old, and he may have slept through the final 3 innings, but it was so fun to experience it with him. One day, I will be telling him about Bumgarner’s incredible performance, and I’ll be able to tell him that we watched it together, and that he was wearing the Giants t-shirt that Phil gave him when it happened. That’s my favorite part of this World Series. Go freakin’ Giants. Long live the Giants!
And that’s what makes the San Francisco Giants of the last five years great. OK, let’s set aside Wednesday’s bullpen debacle (like many of you, I’m done with the Hunter Strickland experiment). How else can you explain a team making it back to the World Series without: A) their lead-off hitter (honestly, when’s the last time Angel Pagan entered your mind?), B) their starting 2nd baseman/#2 hitter/2012 post-season hero (Marco Scutaro), and C) two of their five starting pitchers (Cain and Lincecum)? I’ve never bought in to the notion that sabermetrics (empirical analysis) and the intangibles are an either/or situation. Why can’t a team’s WHIP and team’s chemistry be appreciated by the same person? Why must we be able to attach a numerical valuation to every goddamn aspect of my favorite sport, and why can’t the “old school” and the “new school” meet somewhere in the middle? I’m a big believer in the self-fulfilling prophecy, and I’m also a big believer in Pablo Sandoval’s 1.305 OPS in the World Series. -PAL
Concussions: When Is Enough Enough?NHL star Patrice Bergeron suffered a severe concussion in 2005 that almost ended his career. Some attribute Bergeron’s willingness to speak out about the side effects of the injury to the NHL’s advances in dealing with concussions. Players are no longer told to “shake off the cobwebs,” and that’s a good thing. It’s a very good article, but I find it troubling that Pierce mentions Bergeron’s multiple concussions since 2005 without any suggestion that, by continuing to play, Bergeron is jeopardizing his chances of living a long and normal life. Or rather, he acknowledges it, but it doesn’t bother him. He closes the article, “He has counted the cost more closely than most. He has given the game his informed consent.” I find this sentiment sad. We all know the story of players like Junior Seau. I hope Patrice Bergeron, no matter how good he might be, is able to get out before it’s too late. -TOB
PAL Note: I really like the sentiment of Pierce’s story here. Bergeron is tough in the traditional sense of the word, but the idea of open honesty being considered a type of toughness makes sense, especially in the context of such a masculine sport.Also, like Tommy, I’m concerned for this dude.
After the Storm at Penn State
It’s been three years since the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State. Incoming freshman were 14 when the story broke. The tragedy is old, depressing, tired, and still infuriating (he was found guilty of raping kids, and I don’t know why we call it by any other name); however, it takes years for us to grasp a story of this magnitude. Perspective and time have never been more important than right at this moment when our attention span has been reduced to seconds. We have to remember to look back at a story after the headline has passed. While I think the last part of the article fans out pretty wide, it’s an important read. -PAL
In May 1986, IndyCar racer Randy Lanier won the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award. He appeared on the verge of stardom. By the fall, he had been arrested and was facing a lifetime in prison. Lanier had come out of nowhere, and his sponsors were few. People wondered where the money was coming from. As the world would soon find out, Lanier was a marijuana kingpin. He was arrested and convicted, and under harsh new laws, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. His story is a fascinating one. -TOB
PAL Note: So, when is this movie coming out, because I really want to see it. What an insane story. Can you imagine – I mean, can you freakin’ imagine – taking a speed boat down to the Bahamas, filling it with weed, then driving back to Florida and getting in a race car and going 200 MPH? This guy was a rock star! I would need a diaper, a barf bag, and a life jacket.
Short-Shorts: Not Officially Dead
Ladies, rejoice! L.A. Clipper Chris Douglas-Roberts (aka CDR) was a favorite of mine when he was in college at Memphis. He has bounced around the league in the ensuing years, but he is making headlines as we head into the NBA season. Not for his play – but because he is choosing to bring back short-shorts. This is at once terrifying and hilarious. Good job, CDR. -TOB
When the Greatest Basketball Player on Earth Went to Alcatraz
Phil’s alma mater, the University of San Francisco Dons, won two NCAA national championships in men’s basketball in the 1950’s, led by future NBA hall of famers Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. It’s pretty remarkable to think about now, and it would have been fun to be living here when they were dominating from their tiny school that did not even have its own gym at the time. If they made a tourney run now, you’re damn right I’d jump on that bandwagon. Well, back in the 1950’s, the inmates at Alcatraz felt the same way. The Dons had a lot of fans on The Rock, and when the inmates asked the prison chaplain, who doubled as a professor at USF, if he could bring some of the players to meet them, he was happy to oblige. The players were welcomed like conquering heroes, and all seem to look back on it fondly. This is a pretty cool story, made even more interesting because it had been previously unreported, nearly 60 years later. -TOB
The Giants Win the Pennant! The Giants Win the Pennant!
I’m writing this less than two hours after the Giants finished off the Cardinals to win their third National League pennant in five years. So with that in mind, I say: Baseball is friggin great. But, baseball has a lot of detractors: People say the games last too long, despite being shorter than football. Others say the games are too slow/boring. Well, as my good friend Ryan Rowe once said, “Baseball is a thinking man’s game. I wouldn’t expect you to understand it.” I think the biggest criticism of baseball that I actually agree with is the claim that it is too regional. Here’s the thing about baseball: When your favorite baseball team is good, the summer zooms by. No matter what else happens, you have your baseball team to look forward to at the end of the day. Because they play every day for six months, you really start to feel a part of the team. Unlike football, where a deep playoff run is just two or three games, in a deep baseball playoff run, your team plays almost every day for a month. Every pitch brings anxiety, but it’s the good kind of anxiety. Your liver is about the only thing in town not having a great time. But I get it – if your team sucks, the season is unbearable. When the Giants weren’t in the playoffs last year, I could barely drag myself to watch. That is not true for me with basketball and football. And I love baseball! But this postseason has been especially dramatic. Here, Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal discusses baseball’s problems, but argues that the only cure baseball needs is the postseason. Thankfully, that comes around every October. -TOB
For the Last Time This Month, I Give Props to a Royals Pitcher
One of the coolest/weirdest things about Twitter, is how it puts us in touch with celebrities/athletes/politicians/etc. that until this point in history, we had no chance of being in contact with. It’s pretty cool when you tweet at a famous person and they reply. It’s also pretty weird. This is a great little snapshot into the coolness/weirdness of these interactions. A Kansas City Royals fan jokingly (?) tweets at a Royals pitcher, saying he’s too broke to buy tickets to the ALCS, but really wants to bring his girlfriend. Surprisingly, the pitcher, Brandon Finnegan, actually replies. And hooks the dude up with two tickets. And – he may have also treated him to dinner? What a cool/weird time we live in. And a tip of the cap to Brandon Finnegan – good lookin’ out! Of course, now that you’re facing the Giants in the World Series: Die like a dog. -TOB
This is a short and admittedly insignificant story, but I find myself coming back to it. LeBron James, while playing against Miami Heat in a pre-season game, appeared to set a pick against the wrong team. After 4 years playing for Miami, I can understand the brief mental lapse, yet he denies that’s what happened. Compared to LeBron James, I know nothing about basketball, but I’ve watched the video 10 times now, and he absolutely sets a pick for the wrong team. Why does LeBron lie about something as insignificant as a pick in a pre-season game? Just goes to show you – never trust the Cowboy/Yankee fan combo (LeBron is one of these folks). -PAL
This is largely a photo story, but it’s too good to keep from you. Sumo school curriculum includes history of sumo (obviously), sports medicine (makes sense, but don’t they have trainers for that?), biology (um), traditional singing (I want to go there), and Japanese calligraphy (click on the link already, folks). This all takes place in what looks like a second grade classroom. I repeat, massive sumo apprentices go to class (shirtless, for some reason) for 6 months to paint calligraphy, sing songs, and drill the differences between meiosis and mitosis. No wonder Japan is kicking our ass in the classroom – our athletes don’t go to class while their athletes are learning calligraphy. -PAL
The Friends We’ve Never Met: Mike Krukow & Duane Kuiper
Earlier this season, San Francisco Giants’ color commentator Mike Krukow revealed that he is suffering from a rare muscle disease – inclusion body myositis (“IBM”). Although IBM is not directly life-threatening, it features slow and progressive weakening of muscles, especially those in the legs and hands. This loss of muscle strength can cause sufferers to fall over, which can of course cause life-threatening injuries. Krukow, along with his broadcast partner Duane Kuiper, is the rare announcing team that you wish you could sit and watch a game with. They provide great insight into the game, while being hilarious and fun. Hell, I wish Kruk and Kuip were my real-life friends (and I oddly feel like they actually are, though I’ve never met them). Kruk and Kuip are universally beloved by Giants fans, and the news of Kruk’s disease was met with sadness. Steve Fainaru brings us a rare look into the world of Kruk and Kuip – a true and lasting friendship, and how the two of them are dealing with Kruk’s condition, both in and out of the broadcasting booth. -TOB
Note: One of the true pleasures of living in San Francisco is listening to these two friends talk baseball over the course of 162 games. It seems Kruk and Kuip genuinely love what they do and love that they get to do it together. They are the best, and Krukow has an army of Giants fans supporting him. -PAL
The fact of the matter is we have no idea what it’s like to fight a war on U.S. soil. Our understanding of war is removed. It is something we follow, keep tabs on, discuss; most of us don’t live it and understand its impact on, among other things, culture. That’s why this story on soccer in Ukraine is so fascinating to me. The byline: “Vice Sports contributor R.J. Rico spent two weeks in Ukraine reporting on the role of soccer and soccer fans in the nation’s conflict, and how that conflict has affected the sport.” -PAL
Jim Harbaugh is a Fascinating Lunatic: A Profileof a Complicated Weirdo
Intensity is in most cases a strength, and the pursuit of success doesn’t necessarily feel good. There is no Rocky montage in real life. When I read this profile on Harbaugh – brilliantly and humorously structured around a game of catch between the coach and the writer – I am reminded of the least common denominator. If there is a person out there so one-dimensional in his focus on winning everything – from a conversation to a football game – then how does that impact the chances of success for any well-adjusted human? I’m also reminded that sport is perfect for these types of people (and why we as fans love it so much as a reprieve) – everything is objective at the end of the day. One team wins, and one team loses. There is no gray. -PAL
Sergio Romo catches the ceremonial first pitch before every Giants home game. Most of us aren’t even in our seats yet, and – let’s be honest – we’re kind of hoping for a catastrophe. After all, there’s something fair in a b-list celebrity who doesn’t know how to throw bouncing one in there for us to laugh at, right? Well, that’s not always the case. Here’s a story of that meaningless first pitch changing lives. -PAL