AT&T Park

Greetings from San Francisco

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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.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Thursday’s action

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 16: Starting pitcher J.A. Happ #33 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on June 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
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Did you know J.A. Happ is in the thick of the American League Cy Young Award race? Of all the contenders, he may be the biggest surprise, even ahead of Drew Pomeranz. Happ leads the league with 17 wins and only has three losses to go with it. He’s holding a 3.05 ERA and a 133/44 K/BB ratio in 150 1/3 innings.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Happ was struggling to stay in a starting rotation. In 2011, his first full season with the Astros, he finished with a 5.35 ERA. In 2012, he put up a 4.79 ERA with the ‘stros and Blue Jays. The next year? 4.56 followed by 4.22, both with the Jays. Then, with the Mariners, he continued the mediocrity with a 4.64 ERA before he was traded to the Pirates.

Under the tutelage of Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, Happ turned his career around. In 11 starts in Pittsburgh, the lefty had a microscopic 1.85 ERA. That came with significant improvements in his strikeout and walk rates. Even the ERA retrodictors like FIP and xFIP, which had so often agreed with his uninspiring ERA’s, agreed that he had thrown like an elite hurler. So that’s how we arrived at J.A. Happ, Cy Young Award contender.

Among AL starters, Happ is fifth-best in ERA behind Cole Hamels, Jose Quintana, Aaron Sanchez, and Steven Wright. However, his 17-3 record is equaled only by Rick Porcello. As there are still a significant number of voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America who consider won-lost record, Happ is sitting in a good position and will be even better if he can cross the coveted 20-win threshold. He’ll get a bit of a boost as well if he can help the Jays return to the postseason for a second consecutive season.

Happ’s Jays will host the hapless — and Happ-less — Angels on Thursday evening. He’ll take on veteran Jered Weaver in a 7:07 PM EDT start.

The rest of Thursday’s action…

Baltimore Orioles (Ubaldo Jimenez) @ Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer), 7:05 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez) @ Miami Marlins (Tom Koehler), 7:10 PM EDT

New York Mets (Seth Lugo) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Adam Wainwright), 7:15 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin) @ Texas Rangers (Cole Hamels), 8:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta), 8:10 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (James Paxton) @ Chicago White Sox (Anthony Ranaudo), 8:10 PM EDT

Atlanta Braves (Matt Wisler) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray), 9:40 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Matt Moore) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Ross Stripling), 10:10 PM EDT

Let’s play the “how long has it been since the Cubs won the World Series?” game!

1908 Cubs
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It started with a no-good St. Louis Cardinals fan being a troublemaker. That no-good Cardinals fan was Drew Silva, who began things innocently enough, noting that, despite their dominance this season, any team can theoretically beat the Chicago Cubs in a short series because that’s just how baseball goes:

Cubs fans started giving him guff for that, so Drew gave some back:

And with that it was on like Donkey Kong (a super old video game which was not invented for another 73 years after the Cubs last won the World Series). I tweeted this:

And with that, my followers went crazy. Here’s a sampling of some of the best ones:

And, for that matter . . .

Too soon. Unlike the last Cubs World Series title.

Like I said, this was just a sampling. I’ve retweeted a ton more on my timeline and those I didn’t retweet can be seen in the replies here. My favorite one may have been “literally the invention of sliced bread,” which debuted in 1912, but I can’t find that tweet.

Please, Cubs fans, have a sense of humor about this. You have a wonderful ballpark that is not named after a third tier mortgage company, a grand history that is fantastic even if it hasn’t featured any championships and a future that is as bright or brighter than any other team out there. Maybe even come up with some of your own in the comments! History is fun! As is self-deprecation! What I’m saying is don’t be salty about this sort of thing. Salty is a bad look.

In other news, the Morton Salt Company was incorporated in 1910, two years after the Cubs last World Series victory.