Monday, November 1, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure!

(Page 1)

You're an editor for the biggest sports news web site in the universe. You need a front-page column about the Giants. One of your columnists, Jim Caple, is a die-hard Giants fan.

To choose anyone else to write the column, turn to page 33.
To spit in the face of objectivity and just have him write it as a starry-eyed homer without any semblance of analysis or relevance, turn to page, 59!

Page 59.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two terrible things happened on Oct. 16, 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis began, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust. Worse, the Giants lost 1-0 to the Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series.

Ha-ha! Good one, Caple. Let's get the insensitive comparison of sport to a time of international panic out of the way right off the bat.

As every Giants fan knows -- it's embedded in the DNA -- the 1962 series ended with the potential tying and winning runs stranded at third and second base in the ninth inning when Willie McCovey lined out to Bobby Richardson. The loss still pains me even though I was only 9 months old at the time. No one, however, feels worse about that ending than Felipe Alou, who failed to bunt a runner from first to second that inning.

I'm going to take issue with the fact that "every" Giants fan knows this. I consider myself a passionate fan of the Orioles and Redskins, and I don't think I could tell you much about either of those franchises from 50 years ago.

I also like "The loss still pains me," because it totally did then, as one-year-old Jim Caple cried and cursed the name of Felipe Alou.

That seems like enough about an irrelevant 50-year-old anecdote that was really just sort of untrue, so let's move on.

"I could not advance the runner and that runner was Matty Alou, my brother,'' Felipe said in the Giants' clubhouse Sunday night. "So Matty was still at first base when Willie Mays hit that double that didn't score Matty. It's one of the sore spots of my career. Of my life, really. But if this team wins, maybe I will forgive me a little bit.''

Oops, nope, we're still on it. So we're three paragraphs in and have covered: The Cuban Missile Crisis, and a time when Felipe Alou failed to bunt his brother over from first. This is a front-page story.

This is sadder than the time Ozzie Canseco left Jose's syringes in the team bus! :-(

The world nearly ended after that first World Series loss. The world literally shook and cracked in a second Giants World Series loss in 1989. The sky figuratively fell in during the third World Series loss in 2002 when the Giants somehow blew a 5-0 lead in Game 6 when they were eight outs away from the championship. But now, after all that and more, after 52 years, after two near moves to Toronto and St. Petersburg, Fla., the Giants are one victory away from their first world championship since moving to San Francisco in 1958.

As if the Cuban Missile Crisis comparison wasn't enough, Caple has now compared Giants World Series losses to natural disasters (basically saying there was a relationship between the 1989 earthquake and their playing in it [!?!?!??!]) and the sky "figuratively" falling (which is nonsense.) Just in case you thought that this was going to have any semblance of objectivity.

If only Caple had put his foot through his computer right now. But instead he keeps writing.

"We're one win away and we can all feel it and taste it and smell it -- everything,'' outfielder Cody Ross said after 21-year-old Madison Bumgarner and the Giants shut out Texas 4-0 in Game 4. "But we have to stay focused and keep grinding like our backs against the wall. If we do that, we'll be all right.''

It's about time to remind you that this column is allegedly about why the Giants winning the Series shouldn't be a surprise.

There have been better Giants teams that fell short -- that 1960s team had five Hall of Famers on the roster -- but we shouldn't be at all surprised that San Francisco leads this series 3-1.

This is referred to as "burying the lead."

For one thing, the Rangers got so much praise after beating the Yankees 4-2 in the American League Championship Series, everyone conveniently forgot that Texas was essentially a .500 team after June (43-42). Meanwhile, the Giants went 52-32 in the same span and then went on to beat Atlanta in four games in the NL Division Series and then beat the team most everyone predicted would win the World Series, the Phillies, in six games in the NLCS.


How convenient, everyone! Or should I say, Rangers apologists! Thought we'd forget you weren't good in an arbitrary period of time defined by a Giants fan, did you? Well it's all out in the open now! You bastards!!!

I mean, I don't know how much you want to weight this as a reason for the Rangers playing worse than the Giants, but it should be noted that the Rangers were a half-game up on June 11 in their division, reeled off 11 straight wins, and were never really challenged again. Meanwhile, the Giants' race went down to the very last day, and almost a playoff. So the Rangers can be excused to lapsing in really meaningless games when the Giants had a bevy of must-wins.

Or we can just make the numbers say what we want them to say.

The Giants are a very good team. And a better team than the Rangers.

I'd like to imagine that there was a rest of this paragraph that gave relevant statistics and analysis but was lost in a violent windstorm or something.

The Giants' pitching was highly regarded -- and rightly so, when Bumgarner is your No. 4 starter and Barry Zito doesn't even make the postseason roster -- but all that talk about torture led to a slight exaggeration about their inability to score runs. For instance, you could win a lot of bets in a bar -- in fact, you could win bets in the Giants' clubhouse -- with this one: Who hit more home runs in the regular season, the Giants or the Rangers?

What this column should have been was: The Giants' pitching is really good and the Rangers' hitting is really good, but the Giants hitting is better than you'd think and great pitching beats great hitting in the playoffs. Instead it's basically been abject nonsense like this based on strange non-facts and numbers molded to make a point.

Also a quick note on Barry Zito is that he sucks. The worst argument to make for how good the Giants are is that Zito was left off the roster. The best argument is: none, because their pitching is awesome and everyone knows that.

So let's get to the next nonsense point, which is that, yes, the Giants and Rangers each hit 162 home runs this year.

"Our ballpark is a tough place to hit, especially compared to this park here -- they're complete opposites,'' Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz said. "So our home run totals wouldn't be as high as the Rangers' in the regular season.''

But they were. The two teams' home run totals were exactly the same: 162. "Were they?'' Schierholtz said. "I didn't know that.''

Okay, so they both hit 162 home runs. I'm about to spend way too long on this but let's count up the ways that this is misleading:

The Giants HR total counts three from a guy who is on the other team's roster (Bengie Molina). It also counts a 11 from Aaron Rowand, who has one World Series at-bat. And then there's just a bunch of strange multi-homer efforts from dudes like John Bowker and Jose Guillen who have absolutely no effect on the Series.

Meanwhile, the Rangers' 162 homers came more from people you'd expect home runs to come from: Hamilton, Cruz, Young, Guerrero. I'm not going to do the math because it takes too long and I refuse to do AB/HR because that REALLY takes too long and is the only way to get to the bottom of this, but suffice it to say: The Rangers WS lineup is homer-hittinger than the Giants WS lineup. Someone, please prove that wrong.

Also, and this is just getting ridiculous now that I'm even bothering but: The Rangers had a shit-tonne of injuries this season. Kinsler and Cruz BOTH missed 1/3 of the season. They didn't really have a regular first baseman or catcher. Oh, and the fricking MVP, Josh Hamilton, missed a month. Pretty remarkable that so much of this team either got hurt or was in some kind of turmoil and still had just as many HR as the Giants.

He's not alone. Everyone seems to look at this team as the Hitless Wonders. "Last year we had a lot of trouble scoring runs so I think that kind of carried over to this year as far as the media goes and everyone expecting us to be the same team,'' Schierholtz said. "Aubrey Huff got hot early and that got us going. We got Buster Posey and Ross and picked up some pieces.''

The Giants were eighth in hits and eighth in OPS in the NL this year. And if everyone expected them to have trouble scoring runs this year, they were dead wrong, because the Giants scored 697 runs, so take that!!!! (Ninth in the NL). Also, they were tied with the Cubs for last in the NL in stolen bases, for what that's worth.

Meanwhile, Texas (who hit just as many home runs!!!!!) had twice as many stolen bases and OPSed .757 to the Giants' .729. You know, as a point of reference for the claim that Texas' offense performed better in the regular season. But these are silly things -- I should have just taken one statistic that both teams randomly had the same amount of and abjectly called the teams the same.

This is a different and much better team than the one that left Scottsdale, Ariz., at the end of spring training. In addition to Ross and Posey, the Giants added Pat Burrell. With a healthy Edgar Renteria now at short and Juan Uribe at third in place of Pablo Sandoval, the infield defense is also improved. San Francisco's lineup still may not inspire fear, but it doesn't have to with the Giants' pitching. And as good as that pitching was at the beginning of the season, it's even better now with Bumgarner.

The hitting was good! The hitting wasn't as good! It didn't need to be good! Don't pay attention to me!

What is all this stuff about how good Juan Uribe's third base defense is? Is this true? This can't be true. Just because he used to be a fat shortstop and now he's a fat third baseman doesn't make him good at defense all of a sudden.

"I played against these guys [with the Marlins] and I'm telling you, I hated facing these guys,'' Ross said. "It doesn't surprise me they shut out one of the best offensive teams in the game because I faced them and I know. We had a pretty good team in Florida with some guys who could really swing it and they shut us down left and right.''

Caple gracefully ends on the note that the Giants have really good pitching, which everyone knew. This column started with a strange Cuban Missile Crisis reference.

As Ross said, the Giants are so close they can figuratively smell it and taste it, but they aren't there yet. They have to face Cliff Lee in Game 5 first, and other Giants clubs have come close without closing it out (damn you, Scott Spieizio!). But those teams didn't have a 3-1 lead and they also didn't have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain lined up back-to-back.

Whatever.

Giants fans have been waiting more than a half-century for this, but with one more victory (cross fingers there are no earthquakes), they and Felipe may finally be able to literally taste a world championship. And I wouldn't be surprised if it tastes like a fine Napa or Sonoma Valley sparkling wine after it has been poured over their heads.

Good luck Giants! We're all rooting for you because apparently when you lose it causes international disasters.

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