The World Champion San Francisco Giants: who are these guys?

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Willie Mays never won a World Series in San Francisco. Neither did Willie McCovey. Or Orlando Cepeda. Or Barry Bonds. Or Juan Marichal or Gaylord Perry.  Hall of Famers? The San Francisco Giants have had many. But world championships? None.

Before tonight, anyway. Before a lineup full of role players and aging veterans — and one rookie who may one day join the immortals in Giants history — beat the odds in beating the Phillies and the Rangers and now stand as champions of the baseball world.

Perhaps the most overlooked veteran role player in the bunch was Edgar Renteria. A man who rode pine for months this season, fighting, age infirmity and ineffectiveness and who was seemingly marking time until he could retire and return to Colombia where family and business ventures wait.  A man who wouldn’t have been playing much if at all in this World Series had it not been for Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot screwing up at third base and forcing Bruce Bochy to play Juan Uribe there. This afterthought of a player who hasn’t wielded lumber or flashed leather with purpose for years, it seemed, became the World Series MVP. If he follows through on the many suggestions he’s dropped this year and retires, he’ll have ended his career the way most of us came to know of it back in 1997: as a World Series hero.

But before we go too far down the road of praising the misfits and castoffs — or proclaiming Brian Sabean’s mastery of the waiver wire the new “Moneyball”-style inefficiency — let us remember that there is some serious artillery on this Giants team. In that rookie catcher I mentioned above, sure, but mostly on that pitching staff. In Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner who each handcuffed a strong Rangers team. In Brian Wilson, who hardly broke a sweat in any of his three World Series appearances. And most of all in Tim Lincecum, billed as the playoffs’ third or fourth best starter depending on who you talked to a couple of weeks ago, but who showed that when he’s on he’s better than anyone in the game. With the exception of one adrenalin-fueled mistake to Nelson Cruz Lincecum absolutely cruised, striking out ten and seemingly toying with Rangers hitters from beginning to end. Lincecum’s presence alone puts lie to the notion — a notion you’ll probably hear a lot of in the coming days — that the Giants are a team of nobodies. Lincecum is a superstar, and he’s part of a core of budding superstars.

So it wasn’t purely a triumph of an elite team, because there were many mismatched parts. And it wasn’t purely a triumph of a misfit team, because there are certainly elites on that roster.  It was simply a triumph of a team. An imperfect team with low expectations and clear weaknesses but with underrated strengths and impeccable timing. We get these sorts of champs more often than we typically remember. The 2006 Cardinals were one. The White Sox in ’05. The Marlins. The Diamondbacks. The Angels. Really anyone who isn’t the Yankees, Red Sox or recent-vintage Phillies, all of whom seem so . . .formidable.

And when we do get a champ like this — a team with human-scale personalities and human-scale expectations — it reminds you of everything that is good about baseball. How anything can truly happen in October.  And — when a past-his-sell-date shortstop gets hold of a pitch from a seemingly superhuman lefty — anything can happen on the first of November too.

Major League Baseball orders balls stored in climate controlled rooms for some reason

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Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that Major League Baseball will mandate that teams store baseballs in “an air-conditioned and enclosed room[s]” this season. He adds that the league will install climate sensors in each room to measure temperature and humidity during the 2018 season, with such data being used to determine if humidors — like the ones being used in Colorado and Arizona — are necessary for 2019.

This move comes a year after Major League Baseball’s single season, league-wide home run record was shattered, with 6,105 dingers being hit. It also comes after a year in which two different studies — one by Ben Lindbergh and Mitchel Lichtman for The Ringer, and another by FiveThirtyEight’s Rob Arthur — found evidence that baseballs were altered at some point around the middle of the 2015 season which coincided with home run numbers spiking in the middle of that year, quite suddenly.

Also coming last year: multiple player complaints about the baseball seeming different, with pitchers blaming a rash of blister problems stemming from what they believed to be lower seams on the baseballs currently in use than those in use in previous years. Players likewise complained about unusually smooth and/or juiced baseballs during the World Series, which some believe led to a spike of home runs in the Fall Classic.

To date, Major League Baseball has steadfastly denied that the balls are a problem, first issuing blatantly disingenuous denials,  and later using carefully chosen words to claim nothing was amiss. Specifically, Major League Baseball claimed that the balls were within league specifications but failed to acknowledge that league specifications are wide enough to encompass baseballs which could have radically different flight characteristics while still, technically, being within spec.

Based on Verducci’s report, it seems that MLB is at least past the denial stage and is attempting to understand and address the issues about which many players have complained and which have, without question, impacted offense in the game:

Commissioner Rob Manfred said Tuesday that MLB commissioned a research project after last season to study the composition, storage and handling of the baseballs. He said that investigation is not yet completed. “I’m not at the point to jump that gun right now,” he said about the findings.

The investigation is not yet completed, but the fact that the league is now ordering changes in the manner in which balls are handled before use suggests to me that the league has learned that there is at least something amiss about the composition or manufacture of the baseballs.

Major League Baseball is a lot of things, but quick to impose costs and changes of process on its clubs like this is not one of them. There is likely a good reason for it.