The Loneliness of the Eight Run First Inning

The box score for the Giants’ Tuesday June 21, 2011 interleague game at home with the Minnesota Twins doesn’t begin to tell the real story.

Sure, the Twins scored eight runs in the first as Giant starter Madison Bumgarner learned what it feels like to stumble down a 50 foot rabbit hole, and both teams stuck around to to play the rest of the game. Just like it says you’re supposed to do in the rule book. As a result, two hours and thirty-nine minutes later the Twins were on the much better side of a 9-2 final score.
 
baseball-roundThe reason this crushing loss, which bum-rushed the Giants into 2nd place for the first time since June 4th, was so dully depressing to watch had nothing to do with the fact Bumgarner’s pitches were grooving directly across home plate at belt level like they were following a continuous tractor beam. 

The soul-crushing aspect of this contest was having to watch two over the hill, range-impaired players at shortstop (Miguel Tejada) and at second base (Bill Hall) representing the World Champion San Francisco Giants on the field.

I can’t begin to express how disheartening it was to watch ground ball after ground ball skip by Tejada and Hall in that gloomy first inning. Twins lead-off hitter Ben Revere led the game off with a ground ball slightly to Tejada’s left, which the movement-impaired shortstop did manage to wave at on its preventable journey to left center field.

Here is the actual text of ESPN’s batting summary for Twin’s #3 hitter Joe Mauer in that first inning: “Mauer reached on an infield single to shortstop”.

What followed were numerous ground balls that Hall and Tejada could only pretend to try for, their performance error-free because in baseball you have to touch the ball to make an error. For the record, Tejada did manage to make contact with the ball later in the game and earn his team-leading 7th error. Hall has only been on the team a couple of weeks, but he is already second on the team with 5 errors.

Don’t get me wrong. Starter Bumgarner had an odd affliction in his 1/3 of an inning pitched in this contest: he couldn’t not throw strikes. And several blazing grounders shot past third baseman Pablo Sandoval– although I doubt even a third bagger with any combination of the words “vacuum cleaner” in his nickname could have grabbed those rockets.                 

As the talented Bumgarner threw his first pitch to start this game, on the Giants’ bench sat defensive whizmasters Brandon Crawford and Emmanuel Burriss. They may have been wondering, as I did, just how old and unable to bend over you need to be to qualify for a job in the San Francisco infield.

What about hitting?, you whimper in response. Isn’t that why Miguel Tejada and Bill Hall are in there. You know, hitting… ?

Grab your walker and speed dial 911 because the news is pretty startling: Tejada is batting .221 with a .251 OBP and a .288 slugging percentage; Hall is hitting .227, with a .274 OBP and a .344 SLG. Forget about starting Tueday’s game, why are they still on this team? They must have secret damning photos of Bud Selig actually doing a good job on some difficult baseball issue.  
      
As the fog slowly began to circle AT&T Park after a blazing hot day Tuesday, my companions and I took our seats in Section 110 on the first base side and looked up at the scoreboard to see the Giants line-up. We were full of excited expectation as the talented Madison Bumgarner trotted out to take the mound. Thankfully, that scene will happen many times in the coming years.   

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