Greetings from San Francisco

63 Comments

SAN FRANCISCO — Because of personal weekend travel on top of World Series travel, I wake up this morning in the third different time zone in the space of four days. I’ve wrestled American Airlines to something close to a draw — they may not have given me what I wanted for all of my trouble but I am certain now, based on their disdain for their customers, that I will outlive them — and I am staring six days of World Series coverage right between the eyes.  I may be tired, but I am winning.

But who is winning this World Series?  Such bets are for suckers. A proposition that, if we didn’t know before this month, we certainly know after seeing the improbable occur again and again this postseason.

As late as mid-September the Tigers looked like they’d be golfing right now. An 88-win team which seems remarkably well-constructed for the playoffs. A team which is going to start Delmon Young in the vast expanses of AT&T Park’s left field tonight and presumably tomorrow and who counts Phil Coke of all people their most reliable reliever is favored by the people who are supposed to know these things.

For personal reasons I watched the Tigers more this year than I had since I was 11, and not one time until they started sawing off Yankees bats in the ALCS did I look at them and say “yes, that’s your probable World Series champ.” But I am inclined to say it now. It’s a mild inclination, one I may forget as soon as pitches begin to be thrown in anger tonight, but an inclination all the same.

But what of these Giants?  One thing noted by several smart people in the past 24 hours is that while they may be playing cardiac kids again this year and may have some flaws of their won, they match up well with these Tigers. The Giants don’t strike out a lot and don’t hit a lot of homers which means a lot of chances for opposing defenders to make fools out of themselves.  The Tigers, of course, have a defense that could very well be exposed in such an instance. Or maybe they could just defy the predispositions of Giants hitters and strike everyone out like they’ve been doing a lot of lately. I don’t know, but we kind of have a neat matchup in that regard.

Intangibles are pure rot, but if fan enthusiasm has any bearing on this sort of thing, the Giants should actually be your favorites. When I got off the plane at SFO, this was the first thing I saw in the airport:

source:

OK, that has nothing to do with anything apart from my never-ending wonder at how on-the-nose Californian this city can be.  But the point here is that I have been here before, several times over the past 15 or 20 years thanks to many friends calling it home, and never in all of those visits have I seen so much conspicuous Giants gear festooning the place.

I’m sure it was nutso in 2010 as well, but you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an old person wearing a Giants cap, a young person rocking Giants shirt, a bus flashing “Go Giants” from its route sign and every bar, restaurant, bodega and coffee shop sporting a banner or a sign (a couple of them still say “Beat L.A.,” but old habits die hard). And it’s not just in SoMa where I’m staying or right over in front of the park. It’s everywhere. Not long after I hit town last night I hopped a train down to have dinner with a friend in Belmont and the orange an black was flying high down there as well.

There’s an electricity in this city as I awake this morning. A bursting-at-the-seams energy that is poised to explode when Barry Zito — Barry Zito?! — throws the first pitch of Game 1 of the 2012 World Series. I’m assuming that electricity exists in other cities just before the World Series begins too, but this is my first World Series and I find it a remarkable departure from the norm.

And I kind of love it.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

Getty Images
Leave a comment

No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.