Cody Ross takes Roy Halladay deep — twice! — as the Giants take Game 1

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As is so often the case in life, the anticipation was greater than the reward.

Not that Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum were bad or anything. Just mortal.  Lincecum was off his 14-strikeout form and was hit a bit hard early, but he avoided big trouble. Halladay was nowhere near as sharp as he was against the Reds in the Division Series, obviously, but the falloff seemed stark by comparison, as the Giants beat the Phillies 4-3.

Halladay allowed two home runs to Cody Ross, both on inside fastballs. Did he just have a lapse in concentration when he went back to the same spot he hit when Ross jacked the first one, or could he not throw it where he wanted to?  Whatever the case, in the end, all four Giant runs were charged to Halladay and all three Philly runs went on Lincecum’s ledger. Decent. Maybe even solid from both guys. But not what we had been hoping for all week.

The game remained tight throughout, with no inning ending with one team more than a run ahead of the other. And with a close game like this, you’d expect the little things to make the difference. Two little things that did were (a) the strike zone; and (b) Bruce Bochy’s decision to pinch run for Pat Burrell in the sixth inning.

Home plate umpire Derryl Cousins called a tight zone all night, and one pitch that was called a ball made a big difference. In the top of the sixth inning, Halladay had Pat Burrell 0-2 with two outs and a runner on first base. Halladay threw what he, the crowd and most of us watching at home thought was strike three. But Cousins — as he did a lot of pitchers low in the zone and shaded towards the righthanded batters box — called it a ball. Halladay was obviously miffed, and it may have carried over to the next pitch which Burrell drove to the gap in left scoring Buster Posey. At that point Bruce Bochy pinch ran Nate Schierholtz for Burrell. Many managers with otherwise weak offenses wouldn’t have taken one of their best hitters out of a tight game in the sixth like that, but when Juan Uribe singled in Schierholtz a couple of pitches later, it looked like genius.  It wasn’t genius — that move has hurt the Giants just as much as it has helped this year — but it was good fortune, and Schierholtz’s run ended up being the game winner.

But there would still be three innings before it was ultimately won, and in these three innings came the sort of torture Giants fans have gotten used to late this season. The Giants’ bullpen got six outs in this game, five via strikeout, but it felt much worse than that because Brian Wilson went into deep counts with just about everyone he faced. Bending but not breaking was enough to get the job done tonight, however. What about tomorrow? Good question, as Wilson threw 33 pitches in Game 1, meaning that Jonathan Sanchez probably needs to go deep and the rest of the Giants’ bullpen will need to step up in Game 2.

But it’s a good problem to have if you’re the Giants. Who, as they head to their hotel tonight, can tell themselves: “one ace down, two to go.”

The day Giancarlo Stanton became a “True Yankee”

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Personally, I would’ve assumed that the day Giancarlo Stanton became a “True Yankee” was when the Yankees traded for him, thereby willingly incurring a legal obligation to pay him hundreds of millions of dollars and pencil him in the lineup until his knees fell off and, probably, for some time after. That, however, is not how things go with the New York Yankees.

The Yankees can trade for you, but that does not make you a “True Yankee.” They can sign you to a nine-figure deal in free agency, but your signature on the contract is not your “signature Yankee moment.” They can draft you, develop you for six years and play you for another three and you still may not have enough time and accomplishments under your belt to be anything other than, more or less, a probationary employee.

No, to be a “True Yankee” you have to be declared so by the media after doing something neat like hitting a big home run like Stanton did last night to lead the Yankees to victory over the Mariners. Until then — until you become the hero of a Wednesday night game in June, I guess — you’re suspect. After that, well . . .

And:


And:

Seeing these headlines and the many other stories and tweets with references to Stanton’s newfound “True Yankee”-dom makes me wonder when, say, Jonathan Villar, became a “True Brewer” or when Daniel Descalso will deliver his “Signature Diamondback Moment.” I’m sure someone will tell us.

Haha, just kidding. No other team does that. Probably because no other team likes to stoke its own mystique like the Yankees do. They have always done this to some degree — and given the franchise’s success, they are allowed a bit more leeway to boast than other ones are — but I blame George Steinbrenner for taking this to silly levels.

Big Stein was the first owner to really take advantage of free agency, but that also made him the first owner to stigmatize the players he signed as somehow owing the team more than any other player for their having accepted a big paycheck. For having to prove themselves in ways other players didn’t. He famously did this with Dave Winfield, contrasting him poorly with Reggie Jackson, who had proven himself in ways that made Steinbrenner happy. He never really did this with homegrown Yankees players. It was like a parent being partial to their natural child and cold to the adopted one.

Steinbrenner also built up the level of expectations for Yankees players — all of them — beyond reason. I think it was in the late 90s that he started up with that “anything less than a World Series title is failure” jazz. I question whether that was motivational to highly-trained and already motivated baseball players, but it was certainly good for building the Yankees brand. The idea that you’re not a “True Yankee” — which I seem to first remember being a sticking point with Jason Giambi — is a logical extension of that. While it may not be the best way to run an organization it is, as a matter of brand-building, pretty effective to portray your team as having higher expectations and something of an initiation period for its players. It’s a way of making fans feel like the club and the players they root for are a level above everyone else.

Of course, George Steinbrenner was George Steinbrenner, and being sorta crazy and sorta unfair and working overtime to build the Yankees brand was what made him The Boss. It was literally his job to do that kind of thing, so let’s not be too hard on him. I get why he did it that way.

I do wonder why, however, the media tasked with covering the Yankees has so eagerly taken up the job of Yankees brand-building like that. Wherever Big Stein is today, he’s likely beyond caring about things like money, but I bet he’s still probably pretty happy with all of the free P.R. work his team continues to get, long after he shuffled off this planet and became an immortal Yankee.

Wait. I’ve gotta talk to a trademark lawyer, stat.