May Day! May Day! We're Losing Altitude! -- Part 2

by Gregg Pearlman

Tuesday, May 13, 1997

Helping me out this time are Tom Austin, Jesse, Billy, Richard, Dave F., Dennis, Stephen, and Jesse.

The Giants are in first place, half a game in front of the Rockies -- and a game ahead of the Dodgers. Now, I certainly do not expect the Giants to hold on to first place for more than, say, fifteen minutes, but it sure is a shame that the Dodgers are winning. Something must be done about that, and soon.

On Saturday I had the honor of attending the Giants-Cubs game with Tom Austin, a stalwart Giants newsgroup member who, due to circumstances beyond his control (hint: think pointy hair) is in, shall we say, temporary lurk mode and hasn't been heard from much lately. (I believe I can speak for Tom when I say, "Hi, folks.")

"First time I've been to Candlestick in I don't know how long," Tom said, "and Barry Bonds isn't even playing." Bonds sat out with the flu, and I'm reminded that I'm pretty sure I've seen at least two no-Bonds games, the other one no doubt taking place in 1993.

But the Giants didn't need Bonds, as things were plenty strange without him. First, J.T. Snow had a couple of nice rips, both of which came after he'd been getting ripped in the lower reserves by Tom and me. This was the Earnest Ragging Principle in action, which states that if you are harshly critical of a player -- as long as your criticism is honest and heartfelt -- that player will turn around and do something to help his team significantly and make you look like a fool. Another condition is that the criticism must be without forethought along the lines of, "Maybe if I really hammer J.T., he'll come through." Also, if you catch yourself earnestly ragging a player while you're doing it, the positive result won't happen. The key is, if it's going to happen, it has to surprise you and make you look like you don't know what you're talking about.

But the main reason I will always remember this game is that, true to these frequent words of Hank Greenwald, I went out to the ballpark and saw something I'd never seen before. I mean, I've seen some weird things. I've seen the first pinch-hit home run by a pitcher in 20 years; I've seen a pitcher pinch-hit for a position player; I've seen the Giants win a pennant. But until Saturday, I'd never seen a triple play. And trust the Giants to hit into exactly the kind of triple play that only the Giants could hit into.

With the Giants ahead 3-0, the lifetime-below-double-Mendoza-hitting Kirk Rueter slapped a single to left, then went to second on a similar hit by Darryl "I'm About Speed" Hamilton. Stan Javier, Saturday's left fielder for Your San Francisco Giants, popped one up into shallow center field. Shawon Dunston -- Remember him? Used to play for the Giants. -- and Ryne Sandberg headed into the outfield for it. In tore center fielder Brian McRae. The ball went off his glove, prompting Rueter to try for third. McRae's throw nailed him easily -- the guy didn't slide -- and then Hamilton, evidently figuring (about a minute too late) that maybe he should consider advancing, was thrown out at second. Out number two, right? Then why are the Cubs running off the field? Huh? Huh? Riddle me that, Batman.

Turns out second base umpire Bob Davidson signaled infield fly. I didn't notice this, probably because at the time of the signal, too much was going on -- namely McRae dropping the ball. Davidson said he'd called it at the "peak of the ball's flight," but to this I say, "Liar, liar, pants on fire, hang them on a telephone wire, shove your face into the mire, Betty Boop's your heart's desire, two grand slams for old Chris Speier, Umpire Bob's a frequent flyer." The fact is, and I know this because I watched several replays at home later, including the rebroadcast of the game on SportsChannel, Davidson waited until the ball had nearly reached McRae before signaling. Ergo, the runners had no idea what to do. This prompted them to run the bases like Little Leaguers -- and I know this because I was once on a Little League team that hit into a triple play (and I wanted to say "inning-ending triple play" just to see if you were paying attention, but that would've just been a waste of your time, like this parenthetical remark) -- and get themselves thrown out rather unnecessarily.

The other factor is, an infield fly must be judged to be a ball that could be caught "with ordinary effort." Doesn't have to be an infielder. Well, Davidson got that last part right, but "ordinary effort"? There clearly was nothing ordinary about that popup. And frankly, what happened is, it was a popup to shallow center that McRae dropped. This was not, as near as I can tell, a call that was in keeping with either the letter or the spirit of the rule. All that should have happened was the force on Rueter at third. Ergo, a one-out play. But no.

Jesse attended the game as well and felt that Davidson "waited way too long and was way wrong. McRae made the play about 15 to 20 feet into center field. It's excusable if Davidson made the call early and the ball drifted into center because of a Candlestick wind gust, but he made it way late, when it was already well on its way into center. Still -- it's not really his fault. It was basically really really dumb baserunning on the part of the Gigantes." (By the way, I'm certainly not absolving the baserunners, especially Hamilton.)

Dusty seemed satisfied with Davidson's decision, as he only argued briefly, but I dare say Davidson invoked the Bluff Rule, which is what umpires do when they're caught short.

The umpires compounded their boobery in the top of the next inning when Doug Glanville bunted a ball in fair territory, then dropped the bat -- again, in fair territory -- onto the ball -- which was, I must stress, in fair territory.

Now, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm reasonably sure that the batter must be called out in this case. Otherwise, wouldn't it be a fairly simple thing to, like, drop your bat on the ball deliberately if you don't like the bunt? But that's academic, because Eric Gregg, umpiring at first, called it foul -- even though neither the bat nor ball was ever in foul territory.

Shortly thereafter, Bob Davidson started screaming at Dusty Baker for a gesture made by Ron Perranoski in the dugout. To his credit (if you want to call it that), however, Davidson let Baker have his say and didn't even eject him.

Rueter, incidentally, pitched eight terrific shutout innings, but apparently it took him 137 pitches to get that far, so Dusty turned the ball over to Jim Poole with a 4-0 lead. Poole allowed a baserunner and got an out, not necessarily in that order, and in came Rod Beck. Now, I'm convinced Rodney doesn't concentrate unless he's in a save situation, and this time he gave up hit after hit, loading the bases. Then somebody hit a game-ending double-play grounder to Mark Lewis at third, who (surprisingly) fielded it cleanly and threw to second, where Jeff Kent caught it, then dropped it. And while he was arguing with the baserunner, Shawn Dunston, whom he says spiked him, two runs scored, making it 4-2 (not 4-3, thank you). Beck then struck out Dave Hansen looking to end it, but what an odd game.

But the main thing, aside from the fact that the Giants won, is, hey, I saw a triple play.

The first game of the Cubs series, by the way, saw the Giants win the last two games after going down 5-3 in the first game in 14 innings. It was almost a carbon copy of a game I saw in the mid-'80s, also involving the Cubs, lots of extra innings, and a Giants cave-in in the top of the last inning. This time it was Joe Roa, the seventy-first Giants pitcher of the night, who was left out there an inning too long. As my brother-in-law Joe pointed out, perhaps one trip through the batting order is enough for Roa, as this kind of thing has happened before.

I should point out that the Giants managed to fail despite five -- count 'em, five -- Cubbie errors, none of which hurt them any. The same could be said for Giants batters, though.

The context is irrelevant, really, but Eric Gilmore of the CC Times wrote, "You guessed it. Wilkins struck out swinging." And he did it again at least three more times on Saturday. Looks like his confidence is shot, especially when his first whiff came after fouling off several pitches and looking pretty good up there.

Gilmore finished (for all intents and purposes) with, "Mueller's two-out single in the 14th brought Hill to the plate as the potential tying run. He struck out. What else?"

Superbly put.

And I should mention that it's not so much that Hill struck out, but how he struck out: like a big ol' wink-wank -- waving foolishly at pitches that might have been in the strike zone of other, concurrent games, or, in other words, the way Hill usually strikes out in a game situation. (This isn't to say that he usually strikes out in a game situation, just that when he does, this is how he tends to do it -- as if paid to go down looking foolish.) Yesterday was Mother's Day, so I didn't hear a lot of the game, but I was most satisfied to note that the Giants finally got some offense going. After Mark Gardner found himself down 4-0 going to the bottom of the first, Barry Bonds hit a two-run homer. His double during a five-run third helped make it 7-4 Giants, and they wound up winning 11-5, thanks in part to a late two-run shot by... wait for it... pause for more suspense... J.T. Snow. Really.

So let me just say: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay! My man Jate! So what do you nay-sayers have to say now, huh? Huh? Huh?

My discussion with Billy, who'd taken me to task over my remarks about Ryan Klesko and Tom Glavine, ended on friendly terms. He was a little concerned that many of his comments didn't make it into the last installment of season notes, but I assured him that it was simply because I hadn't seen them yet, not because if you disagree with me, I have the !!!!!!!POWER POWER POWER!!!!!! to ignore your contrary position in EEEEEE! It would be easy to do that, I guess, but not very fair, and I certainly want to be fair. We discussed a great many things, but I'll try to limit this account to my Klesko remarks.

Billy says that the media is sick of the Braves, and I really wonder just how sick. "Very sick," Billy says. "They prefer the underdog."

Well, apparently winning is boring. I mean, lots of us don't think so, but I guess the media does.

Billy figures that Giants fans are annoyed with the Braves stems from the 1993 season, and he doesn't really buy my contention that it may have more to do with, as I said, "Ted, Jane, the Chop, and the Chant." But, Billy said, ""I'm just playing armchair psychologist here."

(Well, heaven knows that even armchairs get the blues.)

I'm not real bitter about '93 four years later (though I'm still bitter about the '88 Dodgers, who weren't even the best team in their division -- by about three teams) because the Braves were just damn good. As a Giants fan, of course it was tough being yanked around like that, but at the same time, I could see it coming. I think most of us just knew.

We established that perhaps I went off a bit half-cocked in my remarks about the way Klesko played the fly ball that led to Barry Bonds' inside-the-park home run, and that I hadn't realized that Klesko was really racked up on the play; from the descriptions I saw and heard, I thought he just sat there like an idiot and watched the carousel spin. Billy assures me that first of all, Klesko hustles and isn't the type of player to just dog it, and that he's also not the type of player to play a bit more conservatively. I said, "Maybe he'd better rethink that position. I know you can't just suddenly 'become' a certain way, but perhaps he'd better learn to back off a bit for his own safety."

"That would be nice if he did," Billy said. "But then he'd have people getting on him for 'not playing all-out.'" Which is a good point. Really, nobody could win in that situation.

Billy also said that Tom Glavine "whines about as often as the Pope has sex." Now, I do bear in mind that Billy's a Braves fan, and why would I expect him to be any more objective about his team than I would about mine, etc., but I also give him credit for having a way better sense of the team's personalities than I would.

To synopsize: I said what I said about Klesko and Glavine because I didn't like what I read. Billy said what he said because he didn't like what I said. We cleared this up, and he filled in some important details that I was missing, and for this I thank him.

Time for a quick vomit break. The Expos came to town and smoked the Giants to the tune of 19-3 on Wednesday. Osvaldo Fernandez was cruising along with a 3-0 lead in the fifth, and then the big kids came home from school, and it was all over. Thirteen of the Expos' runs came in the sixth inning.

Now, that's disgusting enough -- even though I realize that this was just "one of those days," something that could happen to anyone; in fact, I was in attendance that day in 1988 when the Giants beat St. Louis 21-2, and I loved every minute of it -- but Nancy Gay of the Chronicle -- and apparently only Nancy Gay of the Chronicle saw fit to write up Expos' starter (and former Giant) Jeff Juden's gloat-fest.

Joe Roderick of the Contra Costa Times pointed out that when he was here, Juden very much wanted to start, and the Giants very much didn't want that. Juden persisted, and the Giants dusted him. "Juden was informed during a workout at Dodger Stadium," said Roderick, and was so disgruntled by the decision that he made an obscene gesture, according to a Giant, toward the team bus as it left the parking lot."

"Juden," continued Roderick, "said he has no added motivation pitching against his old club. 'It's just another game,' he said.

In a different article, Roderick said, "Juden said he took no extra pleasure in beating his former team Wednesday. He allowed seven hits and three runs in 5 1/3 innings to improve to 3-0. He hasn't lost since the '95 season. 'I just want to say hello to San Francisco,' he said. 'I enjoyed the time I spent here. I don't have ill feelings toward Dusty Baker and the boys."

But then, along came Nancy.

"Most of all," she wrote, "he gloated about his part in humiliating his former team. 'Here I am -- hello San Francisco. How are you?' Juden declared, sticking out his chest and swilling a beer, his anger growing by the minute. "That wasn't an ugly game. I thought it was a great f -- game, the best f --game I've been a part of."

Quiet dignity and grace.

But it makes me wonder -- to Gay's credit, for a change -- if Roderick was actually in the clubhouse, and why he and Gay heard something so differently.

"Juden's checkered career includes stints with the Astros, Phillies and the Giants," continued Gay. "He left on bad terms each time. Asked if he left behind any friends or admirers on the Giants, Juden answered sarcastically, 'Might as well ask them.'"

Doesn't sound like a dude who didn't want to gloat. Sounds like a great big oaf.

Joe Roderick of the CC Times quoted Expos catcher Darrin Fletcher as saying, "You wonder will it ever stop. Balls were hit hard, soft, up the middle, down the line -- whatever. Then you wonder, 'Are we ever going to catch our plane?' "

Easily the best line of the day.

Julian Tavarez said, "I've never seen anything like that, even in Little League."

Well, to Tavarez I can only say: Ha! I was on the winning team in a 39-0 Little League game when I was nine. I think it was halted after four innings.

Richard said, "Oh, so that was your team."

Yep. The Carlmont Shell Rainiers. (Our teams were mostly named for old PCL clubs -- a nice touch.)

"I have never forgiven you all for that," Richard continued. "Because of the humiliation, I turned my back on a positive self esteem and instead became (sob) a Giants fan."

Yeah, but my team won, so what the hell's my excuse?

Wait: I think I just figured it out.

My contribution to that game was a 2-for-2 day -- both high bouncers off home plate. Before the game, our coach had said that whoever had the highest batting average that day would be named team captain. (That's as good a criterion as any, probably.) The kid who went 3-for-4 got the title, and when I said, "Hey, what about 1.000," the answer was, not quite in these words, "That doesn't count" -- I guess because they weren't "real" hits. Funny; I never *thought* I'd been traumatized and completely robbed of my self-esteem, but given my current, long-time rooting interest, evidently I was....

"There, there, my son," said Richard, "we are all victims in the end."

I suspect that as Giants fans, many of us have felt like we've gotten it in the end.

The ludicrous 19-3 loss was preceded by Pedro Martinez making the Giants generally look silly. In about the second inning, I actually thought, "These guys aren't going to hit him at all. He might actually throw one." They did, however, but not before he retired the first 12 men he faced.

Then he hit Jeff Kent with a pitch (bearing in mind that Juden nailed him twice the next day), and Kent, according to Blair, "walked toward the mound with his bat, cursing. But he eventually headed toward first base."

I'm sure Kent doesn't deserve this much credit, but is it possible that he knew damn well that Martinez wasn't trying to hit him and that his (Kent's) display was an attempt to rattle Martinez? That's what I'd do, once my heart started beating again. ("Clear!" Fwumph!) (Actually, he did know Martinez didn't hit him on purpose; it just hurt, that's all.)

Blair continues: "The incident brought back memories of April 13, 1994, when his bid for a perfect game ended in the eighth inning, when he hit the Reds' Reggie Sanders. That precipitated a dugout-clearing brawl, but other than Giants pitching coach Dick Pohl (sic), nobody stirred in the dugout this time."

(Didn't someone also once charge Pedro after he nailed him with the bases loaded?)

"Instead," Blair concludes, "the Giants let their bats do the talking."

There's a word for that kind of sportswriting: chickenshit.

And just when you were wishing the Expos would leave town, a new conflict pops up. Eric Gilmore of the Contra Costa Times reports that Dusty Baker has "accused the Expos of stealing his catcher's signs while on base and relaying them to their batters. He vowed to 'spread the word' to the rest of the league."

Now, I don't care what the so-called unwritten rules say, or the Code of Baseball Machismo, or whatever. That's pretty wussy on Dusty's part. What is this idiotic code of honor that says you can't attempt to steal signs? If Baker had called for 17 pitchouts based on 17 stolen signs and gotten 17 runners nailed at second, he'd be hailed as a genius. If you don't want your damn signs stolen, conceal them. Change them periodically.

Tom Austin said he heard that Baker said that it wasn't so much the type of pitch that was being relayed to the hitter, but the location. Well, isn't that usually the case? If so, the thing for the catcher to do is to set up outside but call for an inside pitch -- I mean, as long as we're going with macho codes.

And just when you were shaking your head at Dusty's apparent lunatic ravings, Expos manager Felipe Alou begins his own blitherfest. First, he denied Dusty's accusations. Obviously. Well, fine. Deny it. No problem. Me, I'd probably say, "Damn right we stole the signs. If they can't be bothered to flash them correctly, why sit on our hands?"

But no. Alou has to say this: "I'd like to express my concern about a minority manager accusing another minority manager about stealing signs." According to Gilmore, "Alou said he felt 'disgust' that Baker would make such accusations in a season marked by the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color line." Puh-fa-reak-in-leeeeeeze. That's Incredibly wussy. Totally uncalled for. What it is is political grandstanding, and kind of odd, coming from Alou. Would he be concerned if it'd been Jim Leyland who said it? Or if Dusty had said it about Tony LaRussa?

Dusty's response was, "I don't understand how Jackie Robinson and the minority thing was thrown into this situation. That wasn't the issue. It was a baseball issue. I don't appreciate the racial thing. When you're playing a game out there, it doesn't matter who you're playing."

Seems simple enough, right? Gilmore wrote, "Baker said it's 'kind of crazy' to think a minority manager wouldn't try to get the upper hand on another minority manager." I'm starting to wonder just how sane Felipe is. I mean, all those years playing right field at the 'Stick... maybe the wind has scrambled his brain.

Again according to Gilmore, "'You mean to say I'm not going to do it to (Colorado's) Don Baylor because he's black?' Baker said. '... I'm only going to do it to white managers and white managers to me?'"

That wouldn't be too divisive. Oh, no.

According to Jeff Blair of the Montreal Gazette, Alou said, "I manage the team. I'm the person responsible for stolen bases and I'm the one responsible for stolen signs if we did it, which we don't." He said that kind of thing a lot. Highly defensive. And if they did steal signs... so what?

"To me, this is part of the sporadic lack of respect for the Expos. I know that we are a little team, that we are a poor team. I know that a lot of people don't want to give us credit for games that we win."

Sounds like "I come from a poor village with no running water." This should be spoken in a heavy foreign accent, accompanied by violin music.

Alou did say something sensible: "At least when they accuse us of stealing signs, they're giving us credit for being intelligent. So, that's good."

Right. Ergo, why be so damn defensive about it?

Blair wrote, "F.P. Santangelo is one player who has been accused in the past of tipping pitches, but he said the Expos 'don't even have a system for it.'" Like you need a team-wide system? If the catcher is setting up inside, rest your hand on one thigh. If he's setting up outside, rest the other hand on the other thigh. Individual batters can work it out between themselves -- and use different sets of signals. A team-wide system suggests, "Okay, if we all touch our 'inside' shoulder, the pitch is inside," and if enough batters do that, of course they'll let the opposition know that they're tipping pitches, and they'll have to spend lots of time ducking inside pitches.

"This is one of those unwritten rules of the game that teams have been violating throughout history," Blair said. "Some teams are better at it than others. Stealing signs from the other dugout and tipping off pitch location become issues only when somebody's caught doing it or when the other team thinks it has detected something, say, in the mannerisms of a baserunner."

Well, nobody thinks it's a violation if you pick up a team's steal sign and throw a pitchout.

Gilmore said, "The Giants and Expos begin a two-game series next Thursday at Montreal. Baker said he knows Alou well, but he hinted that their dispute could escalate from verbal to physical."

Macho caca.

"'I can take anything somebody tells me,' Baker said. 'And if they get out of line, I can handle that, too. I've been known to handle stuff. Pretty good at it, too."

Macho caca.

"'In the meantime, I think that's fired up my team. They don't like anybody messing with me.... They didn't understand the racial thing.'"

Okay. If this was Baker's intention, however, then good job. However, it's better if he doesn't say anything about it firing up the team.

Blair also quoted Baker as saying that the Expos "shouldn't be surprised if somebody's throwing at them." While certainly a true statement, it's awfully petulant to make it.

Alou's declarations of "disgust" over Baker's comments in light of Jackie Robinson's anniversary is political grandstanding at best Utter crap. Has nothing to do with Robinson. Pure media sluttitude. Blair quotes Alou as saying, "I believe maybe he (Baker) should look in the mirror and be more concerned about his team than accusing a poor team like ours." The first part is true. The second part reminds me of this thing in James Herriot's All Creatures books where this gal kept waffling on paying her bill, accusing the vets of making life tough for a "poor widder woman like me."

Alou, says Blair, "added that he was still trying to figure out 'why he (Baker) let his pitcher, Shawn Estes, hit in one of our games and hit into a double play on a 1-0 count.'" Also true -- but Felipe's no one to talk. Hasn't this happened twice: Bonds up, first base open, winning run on second -- and the Expos pitch to him. Bing! Base hit, run scores, party over. I'm not sure Alou has any business ragging on any other manager's in-game decisions, even Dusty's.

Blair wraps up: "'If we are stealing signs and, again, we're not then a team with their payroll and their superstars should do a better job of (disguising) their signs,' said Alou, who added he would leave 'any retribution in the hands of God.'"

Can this guy be more obnoxious? Certainly goes against his rather serene image, which is clearly a fabrication.

The CC Times reports that excitement for interleague play is "limited." My two responses: (1) Ooo! There's a surprise. (2) Good. It seems that none of the games that were supposed to make baseball more interesting -- namely the ones between pairs of teams in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, or Canada -- has sold out. This also doesn't hurt my feelings.

The Times notes that the Giants will play the major leagues' first interleague game June 12 at Texas. This is part of the problem: The first interleague game -- with interleague play being hyped as "Promotes geographic rivalries! Yaaaaaaaay!" -- is between these two extremely-far-apart teams?

But according to the Times, "Giants vice president Bob Rose says the series against the A's on July 2-3 at 3Com Park is generating more of a buzz among fans. He's not predicting sellouts.

"'Those games are definitely going to create extra interest,' Rose said."

First, define "interest." Second, the series against the A's is generating a buzz, but it's still not going to sell out? Good job, baseball.

Rose says, "But the last winning season for a baseball team in this market was 1993. In every market you have to win to maximize crowds, and we're just starting to rebuild our ticket base."

Oh. So a further mockery of tradition -- one of the most charming elements of major league baseball, in some ways -- is the way to do that?


Got a couple responses on my bit last time about which teams are cool to root for and, in contradistinction, the Giants. Dave F. said, "First off, you're right. The Giants have never been cool. The team has never drawn that well, and neither have the A's, for that matter. I think (hope?) the new ballpark will help out a lot. Candlestick and the old Rangers stadium were a lot alike in that they seemed to lack personality. The Ballpark-in-Arlington has done wonders for the Rangers, so maybe PacBell will help the Giants."

That's what I'm thinking -- or at least hoping. Look what The Jake has done for the Indians. (Granted, a good team was in place before they moved.)

"Second," Dave continued, "I want to take issue with some of the categories where you placed certain teams. Certainly the Reds were a cool team for a long time in the early '70s. The Big Red machine with Bench, Concepcion, Griffey Sr., Morgan, and Perez. You bet they were cool. At the moment, the Braves are cool, and I suppose the Indians are as well, although waning. It was not too long ago, however, that these two were the uncoolest of all, so there is always hope. Finally, I thought of the Phillies as having moments of coolness. When they had Kruk and were winning, they were reasonably cool."

Frankly, I guess Dave's right, at least in some ways. The Phils, for instance, were cool almost because they were so uncool -- that overweight, long-haired-hippie-type, dirty image was appealing to lots of people. John Kruk in particular embodied the image, and frankly, Kruk's still cool. I dunno if the Reds were cool, though -- not that I'm disagreeing with Dave; I'm just waffling. They were awfully good, but cool? With the constipated, short-hair (except for Pete), no-facial-hair look? They seemed like choir boys. On the other hand, it's probably fair to say that winning is always cool.

Hence Dave's point about the Braves and Indians. And yet, winning has never made the Giants cool. Go figure.

I referred to the Braves as media darlings in my 1993 season diary excerpts, and Billy said, "Dude, it's been six years since the Braves were media darlings. The media is sick of the Braves."

Well, I was really offering my perception of general fan perception. I mean, I don't think of the Braves as America's Team, but that's what the Braves call themselves, and lots of fans seem to fall right in line. (Not necessarily Braves fans, either.) The same is true of the Dodgers and Yankees; it's as if the media says -- at one point or another -- "This is the team to root for," and the public says, "Oh, well, I guess it is." But I wonder how sick the media really is of the Braves. I mean, they seem to be on ESPN at least once a week, as if TBS isn't enough. (But Billy says he never sees them on ESPN, which suggests that the Braves don't show up as the regional game in Atlanta any more than the Giants do here -- if ESPN even covers the Giants.) But there's one thing to be sure of, and it's kind of hard to understand why (God knows I can't): Winning is boring. So maybe lots of people are getting bored with the Braves. There's nothing in the team itself to be bored about, really, or to be annoyed with. I'll always cite Ted, Jane, the chop, and the chant, but even going on about that has become old.

Billy figures the Braves aren't cool because they're "too low-key, there aren't any bizarre guys on the team (at least, not on the surface)." But when have there been? Since Pascual Perez, I mean? (Oh, sure, there's the Bobby Cox domestic difficulty thing, not that I mean to downplay that.) "There aren't any rippling Dodger-style undercurrents of clubhouse hatred," Billy continues, "and (not to go on and on about it, but) the Braves win too much. The media is very bored with the Braves. (Of course, I say tough shit.)"

Exactly. And well you should. That's certainly what I'd do if my team won all the time.

"They have nothing to write about," says Billy "That's why they had to invent a controversy about Lopez catching Maddux in the postseason. That's their idea of ferreting out clubhouse intrigue: Dig up something that's not even true and that nobody outside the media gives a damn about, then show it on SportsCenter every half hour until they had 90% of the nation believing Maddux and Lopez hate each other. It really comes as no surprise to me that Eddie Murray has nothing to say to the media. But I digress...."

By the way, maybe some of you have been curious enough to try and download the Giants Tweaks Songs (see the Giants' Tweaks Hall of Fame) in the past, and after the eon-long download procedure (because the files were about 1.5 meg each), you might have been brave or self-destructive enough to listen to them. Maybe some of you were turned off by the potentially long download time and never gave it enough of a shot to discover that the songs themselves (or, at least, hearing me sing) turned you off.

Well, for what it's worth, I've converted the two Giants' Tweaks Songs to RealAudio 3.0 format, which lessens the download time considerably and doesn't hurt the audio quality much -- in fact, it probably serves to obscure my voice just enough to where you couldn't pick it out in a police lineup (if they lined up voices, that is).

If you do listen, don't blame me: this was your choice. I can't help the fact that the songs were recorded too high for my two-note range.

When the Giants started playing like everyone said they would, I made the mistake of saying the following on the newsgroup: "I think we're starting to see the real Giants." Not that I think the statement itself was a mistake, or wrong in any way. What made it a mistake was this response from Dennis: "God, I knew this was going to happen to followers of the Gnats! Guys... don't worry about when (or if) they're going to fall from grace... just enjoy the game! And besides... if you can't take a little three game slide once in a while, ulcers and angina are destined to be a part of your future. Relax fellas... let's play two!"

Now, that certainly doesn't sound too hostile, but it doesn't seem as though Dennis had been following the doings and comings and goings in the Giants newsgroup for very long. "Look," I said, "we're all pleased as punch with the hot start. But many of us recognized also that the Giants were playing way over their heads."

"I love this season so far," said Dennis. "Am I the only one, or is everyone going to allow this season to speed by, moaning about what we 'don't have' and what we 'need' rather than reveling in what we've got?"

Well, that depends on what we've got.

When I said, "Whatever magic worked through most of April seems to have been left on a plane somewhere; these guys look beaten," Dennis replied, "They go on a mini-slide and you're cashing them in?" Did I say that?

"They end it in an extra-innings delight," he continues. "I don't see your comments after that one that they're destined to win it all because they're the 'comeback kids.'" Quite. Why would I say that?

Here's the part that pricked up my ears (well, eyes) a bit: "You would have never survived the Jack Clark years...." Who does he think he's talking to? A seventeen-year-old? For anyone who wonders, I'm thirty-six years old and have been a Giants fan since 1962. There's no need to play Old Man River with me.

"We couldn't win dick," Dennis says, "but with the likes of Ivie, Madlock, Moon Man, Pudge, Terry Whitfield, Bill North, Vida, et al., it sure was a lot of fun!"

Of course it was. (Though to be honest, I don't remember a "Pudge.") And in those days -- not just here, but all over the place -- it was okay if your team didn't win every year -- or even at all, sometimes. Things are different now, and we have different expectations. Frankly, it was better then.

"As far as Sabean goes," Dennis concludes, "no one was more upset when Matty left than I was, but hey, if you're gonna jump the GM's shit when we head south, give him his propers when the team produces. Only fair, ain't it?"

Of course. I'll say it again: All of us who have trashed Sabean, Snow, et al., very much want to be wrong. We want the Giants to go all the way.

This seems to be continually ignored.


Stephen said, "Would you S.F. fans approve or disapprove of Tommy Lasorda being commissioner?"

I believe I can speak for many people, certainly Giants fans, in saying, quote, "Yecch."

Jesse agrees, but not because of any personal dislike of Lasorda. (For the record, I don't personally dislike the guy either. I just don't buy his act.) "Baseball needs someone with marketing savvy," Jesse says, "not just someone who's personable and kind of funny looking. My vote goes to Mario Cuomo, but he won't take the job. I say bring in a politician or a corporate type."

(I wish they'd bring in someone who can make bold, wise decisions and say intelligent things without having an owner's hand shoved up his butt, controlling his mouth and wildly waving hands.)

Lasorda's Dodgerness is bad enough, but nearly excusable in light of the many other reasons Tommy shouldn't be the Commissioner of Baseball. He's widely acknowledged as baseball's unofficial ambassador, and that's probably not far wrong; it's fair to say that he's generated more than his share of goodwill, certainly more than Felipe Alou has lately. But he's also widely regarded as being full of it -- "it" being that certain Hollywood phoniness that could only come from being a Los Angeles-centered celebrity and lapping up the spotlight at every opportunity. Is that the kind of commissioner we want? Not only that, but Ted Robinson has said over the last two years or so that Dodgers players have told him that they feel that they've won in spite of Lasorda, not because of him. I trust Ted on this, partly because that's what I want to hear (but that's beside the point), but mostly because I've felt for years that Lasorda is not a particularly astute in-game manager, and also, when he gets a young stud pitcher such as Fernando Valenzuela or Ramon Martinez, he tends to work him to death. (Ismael Valdes should be thanking his lucky stars that Tommy's gone.) This being the case, would Tommy's managerial skills really lend credence to any support for him being the commissioner of a sport that has lacked one for years and has been in disarray? Could Tommy really stop the insanity?

Dave F. came across a column in USA Today in which Mel Antonsen states -- this is a week ago -- that Dante Powell will soon be starting in right field in place of Glenallen "Barney" Hill. Though it might be academic now since Powell was sent down over the weekend with Darryl Hamilton coming off the disabled list, I found this claim interesting enough to check out the article myself. He started with, "Are the San Francisco Giants for real? They may not win the division, but they are better because they have a deep bullpen, a better defense and young pitching that is starting to be consistent. Difficult to believe that the Giants' pitching staff ranked 13th of 14 teams last season. And they were never in first place last season. The most amazing thing is that second baseman Jeff Kent, not three-time MVP Barry Bonds, is their RBI leader with 26."

That's not amazing. Bonds is on base all the time for free, and Kent's done a good job in his own right. Also, Kent has that reputation for being an April hitter, and not just because of that one monster April in 1993 when he hit eight home runs.

"Last season," continues Antonsen, "Kent had 55 RBI. Bonds batted .257 with three home runs and 12 RBI in April. ''It's April. I don't worry in April. I only worry about my kids. But I'm swinging better. I'm feeling better,' says Bonds, who has drawn 26 walks through 25 games. Dante Powell has been a reserve outfielder, but watch this: The Giants' outfield will soon be Powell, Darryl Hamilton and Bonds. Powell will replace Glenallen Hill."

I think he's just guessing. I don't foresee an abrupt end to the Giants' one-of-a-kind love affair with Glenallen Hill.

As Dave points out, Antonsen didn't let on whether Hill now warms the bench, or perhaps there are other plans. I doubt he'll go anywhere except to a club in bad need of a DH. His defense has been shall we say, too much on display lately.

Still, I'll be very interested to see if anything really does come of the Powell/Hill thing. (Now all we need is a third outfielder named Ambrose. Ha! Stupid, semi-obscure history reference!)

May Day! May Day! We're Losing Altitude!, Part 3

Copyright ©1997 by Gregg Pearlman

Last updated 5/13/97
Gregg Pearlman,

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