Those who’ve followed the San Francisco Giants have been observing the most dramatic franchise in Major League Baseball over the last ten years, and it isn’t even close. The most crushing World Series defeat in the last decade, and the most recent victory. The game’s best player breaking records, now on trial this week in federal court. And throughout the way, lessons have been taught. Lessons haven’t always been learned, but they’ve been taught. And one of those lessons is baseball isn’t about one person.
The Giants have been like a royal family, ever since they and the Dodgers stormed the western shores like baseball imperialists. The royals went by the name of Bonds and Willie (or Will). And instead of great stories about teams, the Giants told great stories of teams that didn’t do their stars justice.
Quickly, name as many Giants as you can who were instrumental in wins during the 2010 playoffs.
Chances are, unless you were too impatient and wanted to read the first sentence of this paragraph (bad choice), there were too many names to keep track of. Cody Ross was an absolute demon during the NLDS and NLCS. I remember watching Ross break in on a broken-bat liner off the bat of Carlos Gonzalez, before realizing a split-second later that CarGo’s blast was no ordinary bat-shattering flare, and I remember the boos Ross heard afterward. (Not from me. In fact, on the way out of the park I had to play “voice of reason” with my sister’s new boyfriend, who wanted to release Ross that night. They’re no longer dating.) Ross might not have even made the postseason roster if Jose Guillen hadn’t been caught trying to lengthen his career via chemistry (although I would hope the Giants were leaning toward Ross at the time, since Guillen was broken from the time they traded for him). Without Ross, today would have been very different.
Still, we’re trained to celebrate Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey, and to a lesser extent Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt. And that’s a solid group of stars. Lincecum and Posey are already on the Willie/Bonds path, and Wilson is the team’s resident multimedia star.
Before today’s home opener, Wilson had a fun speech, and every time we see that orange flag waving in the outfield we’ll remember its debut as an ode to the cult of B-Weez. A few hours later, Wilson had words for the home plate umpire after being lifted. Wilson might have been squeezed on a couple pitches, but he wasn’t exactly the dominant pitcher we saw against Texas. Too much reliance on his slider, especially against Ryan Theriot, along with spotty control that’s completely understandable considering he never had a real Spring Training.
Wilson will be back, although if he keeps getting pulled by Bruce Bochy before nailing down the final out he may consider his beard to be extra weight. But today was about Guillermo Mota, making Bochy look like a genius again for pulling Jonathan Sanchez before he could surrender a near inevitable 2-run home run to Albert Pujols. Javier Lopez continued a run of recent Giants pitching defense that would make Greg Maddux vomit, but he also pitched about 1 2/3 more scorless innings than what managers usually ask of situational lefties. And then there was Aaron Rowand.
Aaron Rowand! Maybe this is the Rowand we needed: ANGRY ROWAND.
He doesn’t want to play in left or right, and during the pregame introductions he didn’t exactly look like a guy who was ready to bask in fan appreciation. Who could blame him? Rowand had an almost 2-year honeymoon after signing that contract. Stat-heads ripped him from the start, but the center field bleachers loved him. But after he was removed from the starting lineup last season, everyone else followed the sabermetricians. Even following a game-saving outfield assist in Game 3 of the NLDS, Giants fans were ready to say good-bye, and it has appeared that Rowand was more than willing to oblige.
But ANGRY ROWAND can hit! Who knows, maybe this was the guy who ran through outfield fences, or maybe he’s just a disgruntled employee trying to raise his trade value, but besides Sandoval (who had a spectacular game today), nobody else has hit the ball as hard consistently as Rowand.
We’re immune to the “every day someone else is the hero” storyline, but its one Giants fans need to immerse themselves in, just to remind themselves where all these pregame celebrations came from. It’s fun to watch funny commercials on YouTube and pretend the entire team is full of future HOFers, but guys like Rowand, Mike Fontenot, Ramon Ramirez, Mota and Nate Schierholtz will be instrumental as well, especially on the days where the stars are reminded how humbling baseball can be.