This is my favorite time of year. Camp opens; batters get stiff backs and pitchers are throwing balls over the backstop. College teams cough up twenty-five runs to assemblages of similarly anonymous minor league pros. Comcast cameras swinging around Scottsdale invariably pick up footage of J.T. Snow everywhere because the man is everywhere and he’s either grinning ear-to-ear, or smiling right around his face. I love Spring Training.
Last year this time I was able to write up my Top 5 Postseason Moments from 2010. I was still riding the high from the championship season and was far more interested in looking back and reliving Orange October than looking forward to the new campaign. This year, however, I’ve been plenty pensive about what needs to sort out in the desert before the season opens on April 6. Here’s where my head is during Cactus League play, in ceremonious Top 5 fashion. Continue reading Giants Spring Training 2012
On the last day of the 2010 regular season, with all apologies to that scintillating infield of Will Clark, Robby Thompson, and Matt Williams, I realized that, no matter how this Orange October would resolve, this team was my favorite Giants team of all time. This band of castoffs and misfits, this gritty homegrown pitching staff, this Buster Posey kid and thong-swinging Aubrey Huff, went on to create one of the single most intense stretches of anticipation, tension, and excitement in my life. A stretch that ended, of course, in pure joy.
It’s been a long time coming. A lot of heartbreak and a lot of frustration. But a lot of exuberance too. Winning the World Series was not just about chasing away demons from so many failed seasons past. Throughout this entire postseason I had exultant flashbacks to teams, players, and even broadcasters from the past. So forgive me if I’m not quite ready to move on completely from that magical season.
On the eve of Opening Day, 2011, I need to take a minute and count down my
Top Five Postseason Moments of 2010
5. Tomahawk Whiffs
The Giants won the West. We were hosting the Wild Card winning Atlanta Braves for the first two of a five-game NLDS. So why was the world ready to send the Braves off to another LCS before the first pitch had even been thrown? Why am I hearing on KNBR that our pitching measures up about equally, but the Braves have the edge in hitting?
This east coast bias monstrosity was just starting to build. And in the opposite corner, an orange-and-black northern California heartbeat, freak-powered and boldly defiant. You want to see pitching?
Tim Lincecum struck out fourteen Braves in Game One of the NLDS. Fourteen. Equal my ass. That one run? All the Giants needed. There’s a reason this kid won two straight Cy Young awards. And if the rest of the country hadn’t caught on yet, this was just the kind of call to attention they needed. Continue reading Top 5 Postseason Moments of 2010
When I was a freshman in high school, my social studies teacher, Mr. Stiegler, recounted a story to our class about lifelong sports fandom triumphantly rewarded. For years, including every pathetic campaign during the 1970’s, he placed a five-dollar bet on the 49ers to win the Super Bowl. It was a symbolic gesture: he rooted for the team, and naturally wanted to see them win the title, even if in his heart he knew the gesture really only amounted to flushing an Abe Lincoln down the toilet every August.
When Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, and Dwight Clark stunned the country in 1982, Mr. Stiegler was five hundred dollars richer.
The story was inspiring. My good friend and classmate Nelson Wong was likewise intrigued, so as soon as we turned twenty-one, one of us, sometimes both, would place five bucks on the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series. On occasion the bet was a bit more (we were both in possession of five-dollar heartbreaks in 2002, but Pudge Rodriguez’s ’03 fistpump in my face cost me twenty bucks and a shot at two hundred), and the bet location often had a lot to say about the odds. Most of my money was dropped in Tahoe, but the odds were generally better during Nelson’s formerly regular treks to Las Vegas. Continue reading The Sportsbook Dilemma