There is a 2010 echo in Joshua Prager’s brilliant book “The Echoing Green”, which details the amazing history of the New York Giants’ 1951 season and Manager Leo Durocher’s outrageous decision to steal the opposition’s pitching signs. No, the San Francisco Giants have not set up a Wollensak telescope in the center field wall at AT&T Park to relay the visiting catchers’ signs to Giants hitters. At least, not yet.
The resonance 2010 shares with 1951 are the odds both Giant teams faced at about mid-season. On July 5, 1951, Durocher’s New York Giants were 7 games behind the first place Brooklyn Dodgers in the race for the National League pennant, with a 42-35 record; on July 5, 2010, Bruce Bochy’s San Francisco Giants were 7 games behind the San Diego Padres, in 4th place with a 42-40 record.
After July 5th in their respective seasons, the two Giants teams took very different paths to turn their fortunes around. On July 20, 1951, the NY Giants installed an elaborate system at the Polo Grounds to steal the visiting catchers’ signs to their pitchers with a telescope and electronic buzzer system; by the end of July 2010, the SF Giants had picked up a number of players discarded by other teams to beef up their inadequate offense and injury-riddled bullpen.
One team made it to the World Series, and one team is still riding an inside out rollercoaster and fighting for all it’s worth to make the National League playoffs.
Going into a three game home set last weekend against National League West shoe scrapers the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Giants were expected, expected, to take all three games. Instead, they were outscored 24-12 and only managed to salvage a win in Sunday’s finale. Monday was the start of a three game home series with the Colorado Rockies, who appeared to be doing that Rockies late season surging thing they’ve been doing the last several years.
Game one against the Rockies on Monday August 30, 2010, will likely go down in San Francisco Giants history as the most brutal loss of 2010. The base-on-balls-addicted Jonathan Sanchez threw a beautiful game, going into the top of the 9th inning with a 1-0 lead after giving up only two walks. Champagne was being unpacked and plans for a parade down Market Street were being worked out when Manager Bochy took Sanchez out of the game with a runner on first and no outs. Closer Brian Wilson came in and the next Colorado batter hit a triple, with an errant relay throw going into a camera well, and it was 2-1 Rockies. At the end of the 9th inning, it was also 2-1 Rockies.
In what has already become a legendary replay, newly minted Giants right fielder Cody Ross heard Carlos Gonzalez’s bat split apart when it met a Wilson 96 MPH fastball, and instinctively took two steps in to catch what he knew would be a limp fly ball just over the infield. But Gonzalez managed to put good wood on the pitch before it turned into split wood, and the ball sailed over Ross’ head and went to the wall. Pitcher Brian Wilson did not get himself into position to back the play up, so after a desperate throw by relay man Freddie Sanchez to get Gonzalez at third hit the runner in the back, it rolled into the dugout.
Throughout the Bay Area, grown men shook their heads in disbelief and uncharacteristically ordered a third glass of chardonnay, small children threw their teddy bears against the wall and wailed, and stay-at-home moms made the decision to flirt with the UPS man to try and bring some meaning to their lives. Thank you Cody Ross and Brian Wilson.
Oh by the way, the Giants took the next two games from the Rockies, including Tim Lincecum’s gem on Wednesday September 1st: 8 innings pitched, 1 run, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts. Thanks to San Diego doing what I said they would not do (lose six or eight in a row), the relentless San Francisco Giants are now 74-60, in second place a mere three games behind the Padres, and a really mere 1½ games behind the Phillies in the Wild Card.
What about the rest of September? In the words of the great Yogi Berra, attending a recent dog show at Madison Square Garden, “Bring it on bitches…”.