Andres Torres

Why Matt Cain should win the Willie Mac Award

Bruce Bochy didn’t need to do it. It’s not like the chances of success were doubled, or even increased by 50% by putting Travis Ishikawa in to hit for Matt Cain. Cain hasn’t had a great year at the plate, but Ishikawa hasn’t done a whole lot lately either, and to expect him to suddenly come through in a pitchers’ duel on a dark, dreary night in Wrigley Field … well, let’s just say Ishikawa isn’t exactly Will Clark.

But when Bochy lifted Cain after only 82 pitches and six nearly perfect innings, Cain celebrated in the dugout. Not because he didn’t want to stay in the game, but because that’s what leaders do. After Tim Lincecum’s mini-meltdown after getting taken out in the sixth inning of his last start, and Barry Zito’s clown tendencies EVERY time he gets taken out when he’s in line for a no-decision or a tough loss, Cain’s reaction in the dugout was telling.

Smiles. High-fives. Chatter. Not just from his teammates, but from Cain. Actually, Cain was the most excited person in the dugout, and that’s exactly the kind of attitude and energy that championship baseball teams need. Because once the others sense that one of the more important players is out for individual glory, the team becomes weaker. Even in baseball, which at times gets painted as a team sport for individuals.

I know the Willie Mac Award is voted on by the team, and their world is much different than ours. I’ve heard people assume the award will go to a position player such as Aubrey Huff or Andres Torres, and both would be great choices.

But this is Cain’s team. Aaliyah is smiling down on us, because how long Cain’s been alive is completely irrelevant. On this team, he’s perpetually 31. And he won the award last year. And while Huff has had his own resurgence, and Torres had a year that has provided inspiration for ADD/ADHD suffers and will provide his family with generational wealth that was far from guaranteed just four months ago, Cain has built upon last year’s Willie Mac campaign and should be honored once again. And oh yeah, Buster Posey is the best player on the team now, with all apologies to Huff and Torres.

It’s laughable to think about what passes for adversity around here. Lincecum lost control of his fastball for a month. Zito doesn’t get run support for a year, after squandering decent run support for three years. Where’s my violin?

Cain’s been a model of consistency, but his offense has been consistently terrible. He used to be doughy, and he completely changed his body composition and kept himself in shape. Cain wasn’t taken out of tonight’s game because he was tiring (although a fortunate double-play got him out of what could have been a tricky sixth inning); he was taken out because the offense was stuck in quicksand. No wonder he didn’t throw a tantrum. He was used to it.

Let the campaigning begin!

— There are going to be writers who refuse to put Buster Posey any higher than third in their ballot, because in this 3-man NL ROY race the other two contenders had a 2-month head start. But don’t worry about those lamebrains, because Posey won some votes tonight. This wasn’t just a homer. It was a homer in Wrigley. It was a homer that broke a 0-0 tie, in a game where both teams looked like they might not score a run until tomorrow. It was a game the Giants absolutely had to win. And it wasn’t a cheapie. There’s something about a homer to straightaway center, especially when the ball lands just to the opposite-field side of center, that says STRENGTH.

— Not quite sure when Eugenio Velez’s role became “defensive replacement.” Even I wouldn’t have gone there.

— I agreed with Bruce Bochy’s offensive aggressiveness in the seventh inning, but as @gggiants pointed out to me on Twitter, Darren Ford should have been on first base instead of Cody Ross for that failed hit and run attempt. At least Ford would’ve had a chance at a straight steal.

— Raise your hand if you thought the Ramon Ramirez deal was smart. I, like many others, figured any relief pitcher the Red Sox were willing to give up couldn’t have been that useful. I think if I had a chance to drive cross-country with a Major League scout, I’d grill him on what exactly the differences are between the National and American Leagues, and how much that factors into trades.

— Brian Wilson is the evolutionary Giants closer. He’s got Robb Nen’s arsenal (mid-to-upper 90’s fastball, slider…OK, maybe not quite Nen but it’s close), Rod Beck’s mullet (at least in the middle, although a full-fledged mullet is probably already planned for next year) and Steve “Bedrock” Bedrosian’s beard. Really, why else would that beard be the shape and color it currently is?

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