I have some advice for political campaigns trying to reach voters in the San Francisco Bay Area: do not call them this Wednesday or Thursday nights (October 27-28), without risking a major backlash against your candidate or cause. These are the first two games of the Giants-Rangers World Series, and with Bay Area residents entranced by the most suspenseful dramatic series since the end of The Wire
, this is not the time to interrupt their focus with personal contacts or even worse, the dreaded robo-call. I know this firsthand. I got a robo-call from Andy Katz of the Sierra Club on Saturday night during the Giants-Phillies game, and because I was expecting a call around that time about a plane arrival, I felt I had to leave the television to answer the phone. I have never hung up on a call so aggressively. And if I had not long known Katz and was a supporter of the Club, I could see going out of my way to vote against everything they wanted as a penalty for interrupting my experience of the game.
I know I speak for long suffering Giants fans everywhere when I say that Saturday night’s victory over the Phillies will never be forgotten. It will be one of those events where you will always remember where you were when Brian Wilson got that called third strike on Ryan Howard.
While I wish I could say that I never doubted Wilson, and that I relish how he always gets in trouble before escaping, his seemingly inability to throw strikes in the 9th inning did not strike me as just part of the prelude to victory. I saw nothing inevitable in a Giants triumph that night, and only relaxed when the umpire called Wilson’s final pitch a strike.
We’ve heard many comparisons between the current Giants and the 2002 version that lost the World Series in seven games. But the biggest difference is likely that the 2002 team was not a big underdog in its drive to reach the Series, while the current team was picked by every single ESPN “expert” to lose to the Phillies, with most assuming they would be vanguished in 5-6 games (the arrogance of FOX having an ex-Philly, Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams and an ex-Dodger, Eric Karros, both dismiss the Giants chances before the first game almost had me throwing something at the television set).
The Baseball Gods
I believe in the Baseball Gods, though their intercession of the Giants behalf in 2010 was not inevitable. I was happy to hear KNBR talk show hosts Marty Lurie and F.P. Santangelo also speak of the Baseball Gods before Game 6, with both feeling that this meant the Giants would find a way to defeat the Phils.
But believing in the Baseball Gods – the forces that got a favored Red Sox team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in 2004 and which propelled the 1969 Mets over the powerful Baltimore Orioles – means accepting that the Gods’ interests be the same as those of Giants’ fans.
We learned this in 2002, when an Angels franchise that had experienced some of the most heartbreaking losses – Dave Henderson’s three-run homer off Donnie Moore in 1986, with two outs in the ninth and the Angels one batter away from their first World Series appearance tops the list (Moore later committed suicide) – found a way to beat the Giants in Game 6 despite being down 5-0 in the seventh inning.
What does this mean for the Giants and Rangers?
First, that Giants fans should recognize that the Rangers believe that the Baseball Gods are on their side rather than ours.
No team was more forlorn that the Washington Senators franchise that was reinvented in 1961 and then moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972. And Ranger fans did not even see their team win a playoff series until 2010.
Add to this the story of Texas manager Ron Washington’s quest for redemption after testing positive for cocaine last March – and those who still believe Billy Beane is a genius should recall he passed over Washington so he could hire his former roommate to manage the A’s – and you’ve got all the ingredients of a classic team of destiny.
That’s why I called my friend and fellow Giant fanatic Dean Preston during the Rangers-Yankees series to ask whether I should abandon my lifelong Yankee hating and back the team that would not have any Baseball God backing against the Giants. But Dean thought the young Giants starters could be intimidated at Yankee Stadium, and that it was better for us to face the Rangers.
Fortunately, Giant fans have their own story line for 2010, which closely parallels that of the 1969 Mets. That was the team whose powerful pitching – Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Gary Gentry with Tug McGraw as closer – compensated for a rather punchless offense led by Tommie Agee, Cleon Jones, and Don Clendenon.
The Mets victory over the powerful Orioles was brought by the same type of unsuspecting heroes – the Cody Ross and Juan Uribe equivalents – that led today’s Giants to the World Series. When notorious poor outfielder Ron Swoboda made the catch of his life
in Game 4 to stifle an Orioles rally, fans knew that the Baseball Gods were clearly on the Mets side.
My first prediction is that there will be multiple stories seeking to analogize the possible Republican resurgence in the upcoming elections to George W. Bush’s former ownership of the Rangers, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s representation of San Francisco. And if the Rangers and Republicans both do well next week, count on this becoming a major story line regardless of the fact that few players on either team are even voters in their respective home cities.
The Giants do not have to beat Cliff Lee to win the Series, but defeating the Phillies’ supposedly unbeatable Roy Halliday in Game One set the tone for that series. The same would be true if the Giants win behind Lincecum on Wednesday night. I like Cain in Game Two, so the Giants will likely head to Texas either up 2-0 or even at 1-1.
Jonathan Sanchez has become key to the Giants success, and cannot repeat his last two outings. It will not be easy for the Giants to win in Texas – the Rangers home field environment reminds me of the Angels and their “Rally Monkeys” in 2002, with both set of fans sharing the same red outfitting – but Tampa Bay swept both games in Texas in the opening series.
The Giants did not have the home field against the Angels in 2002, and if, as I expect, the Series gets back to San Francisco for Games 6 and 7, the Giants will win their first World Series since leaving New York City. If the Rangers win they will do so in five, with Lee winning two of the games.
It may be torture, but I know no Giants fans who are complaining.
Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron, and still has bad memories of the Giants falling short to the Dodgers in the 1965 and 1966 pennant races.