Put the above headline in the category of “relatively speaking.” Objectivity has always been a selectively used tool in this space, and that’s probably being generous. Today was the first time I saw an actual game at Mays Field this season, and it was another reminder that above all else I’m head over heels for the baseball team I’ve prayed for in a secular fashion since deciding I really liked that Chris Brown guy back in 1986.
I don’t want BASG to be known as the Nate Schierholtz blog, but … this is the Nate Schierholtz blog. In covering sports for a defunct weekly offshoot of the CC Times named … The Danville Times, I’ve been on the Schierholtz beat since 2007. Ever wonder why radio hosts and columnists are especially kind in their treatment of certain players? It’s because they like them, or focused so hard on their careers that it’s almost like an investment. After meeting his mother in my pre-editorial career as a shoe salesman, I became a fan. After his mom bugged Nate so many times that he finally took one of my calls, and then give me a long interview over the phone, I became an even bigger fan.
(Don’t let Hank Schulman fool you; getting your start in the media game is fun. Talking to Nate was the first time I’d ever interviewed a professional athlete, which in my career was kind of like how a baseball player feels when they collect their first hit in the Majors. I’m definitely a little more cynical about the sportswriting game than I was back in 2007, but I’ll never grow jaded enough to forget just how important that moment was.)
Since then, a lot has gone on. The Giants won a World Series, and Schierholtz played a significant role. I got to interview Schierholtz in person at Media Day. And this season, Schierholtz has grown from a defensive specialist with no discernible plan at the plate to the guy who’s put together as many solid at-bats as anyone.
Why wasn’t he starting today? Gio Gonzalez is a lefthander, but Schierholtz is 2-for-2 with a HR against Gonzalez in his career, and is playing as well as anyone on the team. However, the shoulder that bugged Schierholtz last season flared up once again after Schierholtz’s Wilson-saving catch of Jamey Carroll’s liner on Thursday night. It gave Pat Burrell yet another chance to rewind the clock, or at least keep it from violently spinning forward.
When Schierholtz came up this afternoon in the bottom of the 8th, I sat in my seat hoping for a home run, even though it’s against the rules. As fans, you’re supposed to do what the hitters are supposed to do — hope for solid contact and a hit up the middle. If you’re a good little boy or girl, you’ll get enough hits to let your team get back in the game. But sometimes, players and fans throw that line of wishing out the window. The only time I can remember hoping for a HR at a game I’ve attended where my wish was actually granted was back in the days when Barry Bonds homered two times every five games, if not more often. But that was different — I expected a HR every time Bonds came up to the plate from 2000 on. Schierholtz has tantalized Giants fans with tape measure shots, but never has he hit a HR in a spot that’s mattered.
Today, he launched one skyward just to the left of the right field foul pole. This one mattered. Oh man, did it matter.
The last time I jumped around like that was the last time I saw a game in person at Mays Field — when Juan Uribe clubbed that homer off Cliff Lee. I screamed. My mother-in-law’s boyfriend, a hardcore Cal fan who rooted for the A’s and Conor Jackson all afternoon, sat stonefaced. Schierholtz didn’t just crush the Athletics’ hopes of a relatively easy win, he dug himself even further into the Giants’ time capsule. As an irrationally passionate Giants fan I root for all the guys who wear the laundry … but it’s hard once you get to know these guys to not pick favorites.
Ford? More like Porsche…
– Darren Ford’s stolen base was just an 11th inning appetizer. Ryan Sweeney’s throw was outstanding (he gunned Ford), but Ford’s speed, combined with the angle he hit Kurt Suzuki’s knee, solidified the winning run. It’s rare you see a wicked, violent slide at home where the catcher doesn’t have to block the plate and shoulders aren’t involved. Ford’s slide brought to live visions of Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays and Sid Bream (just making sure you’re still paying attention).
– How bad can Emmanuel Burriss’ defense be, especially compared with Tejada and Fontenot?
– Jonathan Sanchez should never have been pulled for Aaron Rowand in the 7th. Especially if the plan was “let Jeremy Affeldt try to reclaim his former dominance.” That was Bochy’s Geren moment of the weekend, although it’s hard to blame Bochy for two reasons:
- Bochy’s been allowing his starting pitchers to stay in for too long more often lately than at any time since he came up north.
- If you’re going to increase a shaky bullpen guy’s confidence, the A’s are probably the best team to do it against.
– Sergio Romo has been used somewhat sporadically this season, especially considering he may have the most unhittable pitch in the National League this season not thrown by Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson or Roy Halladay. Watching Romo strike out Conor Jackson (allowing me to passive-aggressively taunt my mother-in-law’s boyfriend again), was outstanding. Sometimes I think the Giants would be a better team if they only carried 11 pitchers, as long as it meant Romo got to pitch more often.
– I know Giants games are a great, fun time. I know it’s the West Coast, and many of us enjoy wearing flip-flops (and bragging about wearing flip-flops) a little more than we should. However, there’s no excuse for middle-aged guys throwing the bare feet up for the whole section to see. C’mon man, think of the people behind you whose view to the plate is sullied by your old man feet.