Ned Yost said it but you were all thinking it by now: “I’m sitting there thinking it’s Game 4; it’s tied 2-2, this is a phenomenal series, it’s exciting, it’s fun. And we got another great game tomorrow that we get to play.”
There it is—and that’s from the mouth of the manager who just lost game four. He’s skippering a team which hasn’t won a pennant in 29 years and neither he nor his players seem to care that it’s been three decades or three weeks. They’re not just happy to be there, they’re happy you’re happy they’re there.
I get why most of America is rooting for the Royals. It’s a Cinderella story and one the game and its oft-beleaguered but most intriguing “small markets” (a misnomer: revenue-sharing insures all markets are big markets) needs.
That said, I’m not quite sure folks are rooting as much for the blue and white as they against the region that makes you buy devices you don’t need every year and a half and makes
multi-millionaires billionaires out of assholes like Sean Parker who decide to do things like fuck up forests in order to stage a Hobbit wedding and then write a check for $2.5 million in fines like it’s a parking ticket.
But a closer look reveals the San Francisco and the Giants’ smoke and mirrosmanship is an accurate reflection of today’s professional baseball.
Allegiance to a team is like saying you’re a fan of Tide or Clorox or Coca-Cola. That you not only enjoy their product, but you actually cheer it and the front office on from afar. Your fandom—of any franchise—is simply padding the pockets of the handful of owners. In this case very wealthy owners who through gate sales, TV deals, development rights and concessions, stand to make a mint off your experience.
But let’s put all this aside, shall we? Because when you think too hard about the land of venture capital you realize some 19-year-old right now is developing an app that simulates a whiteboard on mobile that’s going to be used in meeting spaces across the world for like two months. In the meantime, someone bigger is going to gobble up this piece of shit technology and that same icky little savant is going to have a cool half-billion dollars in the bank, enough to never have to go to McDonald’s again, unless he wants to go there with actual LeBron.
…Because it’s all scalable economies. Because your time is valuable, to the teams, the networks and their advertisers. It is the millions of little yous that give teams like the Giants a ninth zero after their first comma and put teams like the Royals who were purchased for less than their current payroll in 2000, not far behind. So at the very least, by watching and cheering and feeling something more—you are actually contributing to someone’s vacation estate on Larry Ellison’s Lanai.
And for the first time perhaps since 1991 when the Braves and Twins seven games of spectacular baseball (three of which went into extra innings) and ratings bonanza (a 29 share), real baseball is being played out there.
I’m talking Giants third baseman Panda Sandoval plucking a grounder bare-handed and whipping it to first for an impossible out. I’m talking Royals’ center fielder Jarrod Dyson laying out in the wet grass leaving Dad-sized divots in his wake for a crucial mid-rally out. I’m talking about the kind of shut-down relief pitching that baseball hasn’t seen—well, ever. The 21-year-old phenom Brendon Finnegan, at five foot eight still short enough to deliver your paper (if you still took a paper) yet outsized enough to gobble up and grind out the heart of the Giants’ old-guard of the postseason.
If Finnegan is all finesse and no flash, his foil would be the Giants’ mercurial rookie reliever Hunter Strickland whose game-two meltdown was so profound they had to scrub him off in the showers like Meryl Streep in Silkwood. He’s all bombast and 97-mph heaters with no movement (except over the fence: the rookie owns the MLB record for round-trippers given up in a postseason with five …and we’ve got three games to play).
There are more story lines than a season four of the Wire: The enigma: Hunter “The Preacher” Pence and his scooter (we get it Joe Buck, he rides a scooter) and signs. The superstar in waiting: Eric Hosmer and his star-making performance at the plate and as a vacuum down the first-base line. The future: Fresh-faced Joe Panik, the New York native and the one that got away from the Yankees organization (their belated “You’re Welcome” for SF’s Joe called DiMaggio), announcing his arrival by combining with Brandon Crawford to create a vortex where grounders go to die in the Giants’ middle infield. The chosen ones: A four-man KC outfield platoon of Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Norichika Aoki and Jarrod Dyson are so quick to the ball oftentimes their infield and pitchers linger after the final out, standing there in a fugue state trying to count up the notches in their heads.
What started out to most of this country as an undercard match-up: an underestimated Giants squad sitting on the dock of the bay in the permanent shadow of the $2 billion hedge fund-owned Dodgers with the $235 million payroll and a manager who can’t quite figure out how to win with the Cuban answer to Barry Bonds and the second-coming of Koufax; and a Wild Card from the misbegotten and oft-forgotten flyover division that is the AL Central. KC who woke up the nations (and their own upstart fan base) the last two weeks of September with a brand of baseball that, well, looks like 9-to-5 guys putting on their hard hats and running the base paths and getting timely hits and pitching like every out actually does count. It’s everything fictional author Terrance Mann set out to write about when he stepped into that corn field.
Yes. Baseball is back. Real baseball. Your grandfather’s baseball. Post-war baseball. Baseball with suits and ties. Baseball with steals and signs and stealing signs. Black-and-white baseball. Baseball worthy of the scorecard it’s remembered upon.
And one more thing: In just three more games, the Bud Selig era—a 22-year dirge blemished with a strike-shortened season, a cancelled World Series, a generation of puffed-up drug-addled cavemen which he spawned in his own lab only to turn his back upon, an All-Star game ending in a tie, Armando Galarraga’s getting cheated out of a perfect game, the All-Star game …deciding on home field advantage (?)— comes to an end. Fitting, to say the least, the players have finally revolted. And this year, in Selig’s swan song, this hand-wringing, sac-bunt swinging, inning-ending double-play bringing, purist’s journey has brought ’em back.
Mighty Bud waving his revenue-sharing wand has done everything in his power to usurp the game of the one thing it has always been: fun.
His mission to turn a child’s game between the lines into a bottom line …has failed.