Friday, October 8, 2010

Hummm, Baby!

Let me start off by saying that this may be the most exciting week of the year.

There is pre-season NBA basketball. College football is approaching the "getting down to business" portion of the schedule. The puck is dropped on the NHL season as well. And nothing says October like post-season baseball!!

While I have vested interest in every one of the sports listed above, there is one team that my focus is on right now. The San Francisco Giants.

This does not mean that I care less about the other teams. How on earth could I when the Ducks are ranked third in the nation?? But the Giants have been my favorite sports team for the longest time. My Dad introduced me to them as a young kid. Because of that, the Giants mean so much to me. San Francisco was the first professional team I ever liked. Home Run King and long-time Giant Barry Bonds is my favorite player (save the steroid jokes, I've heard em all). I have been going to at least a game or two every season for the last 5 years or so, not bad for living outside of the Bay area. Heck, San Francisco is my favorite city! I love it down there. The Giants have had good years, including a World Series appearance in 2002. The Giants have had bad years, including four straight losing season from 2005-2008. Through and through, I have always stood by the Giants and will continue.

But what really makes this the team that I care about? The current team is something special. There comes a time when a fans can just tell that this is a good team. The 2010 NL West champion Giants lack some offense. They rank near the middle of the pack in most offensive categories. The bats will go quiet at times, scoring only a couple runs per series. But then, all of a sudden, they will get hot and pour the runs on. The G-men had several series where they produced double digit runs every game, only to follow it up the next series with single digit runs for the entire series. A Jekyll and Hyde offense. What makes this team stand out is the pitching staff and team chemistry. For starters, look at their starters: Tim Lincecum (two time NL Cy Young winner in three full seasons), Matt Cain (has been one of the most consistent but cursed pitcher in the majors), Jonathan Sanchez (has ranked in the top-13 in strikeouts the past two seasons), Barry Zito (one of the most lethal curveballs in the majors) and Madison Bumgarner (a promising young talent). This rotation is a top three rotation in the National League. Look at the bullpen. This is an area in which the Giants have struggled with in the past. Clearly the management was devoted to changing this. Jeremy Affeldt was a key signing a year ago and has paid huge dividends for the team despite not pitching a whole lot this year. Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez were key trade-deadline additions (more on this in a bit). Sergio Romo is a hard throwing set up man. To top it all off, the Giants have Brian Wilson closing games for them. Wilson is possibly the strangest bird in baseball, but he is no doubt the best closer in baseball right now (save Mariano Rivera of the Yanks). Wilson is a two time all-star and lead the Major Leagues in saves with 48 this season. Needless to say, the Giants have put together a nice pitching staff.

The roster is solid, but the chemistry between players is electric. The connection between youngsters (namely rookie sensation Buster Posey, Lincecum, Cain and Pablo Sandoval) and veterans (Zito, Wilson, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez and Aubrey Huff) is amazing to watch. At times it appears as if the vets feed off the youngsters. Never before have I seen so many seasoned players get so excited over runs scored, but these veterans definitely know that something special is going on with this team. Aubrey Huff gets so excited, he looks as if he may punch Freddy Sanchez in the stomach after a clutch hit or he gives teammates "air love-taps" on the base paths. Pat Burrell smirks in the dugout after hitting a clutch home run to put the Giants ahead in the bottom of the 8th. Wilson always being animated on the mound. These kind of reactions really show that the 2010 Giants are for playing for keeps.

Several players who did not start on the 2010 Giants roster have made huge contributions. I mentioned earlier that Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez were two key additions to the Giants bullpen. That is a bullpen that at one point in September helped the pitching staff in holding opponents to three runs or fewer for 18 straight games! The Giants pitching staff finished first in team ERA and 1st in opponent batting average. No doubt acquiring Lopez and Ramirez were key in that stretch. Pat "The Bat" Burrell was a quiet but important roster move. Tampa Bay released Burrell in mid-May. Burrell was failing to replicate his run he had while in Philadelphia for several years. Apparently all he needed was a switch back to the National League. Burrell has added a huge veteran influence and a rejuvenated bat to the Giants lineup.

Add it all up: a fine pitching staff+ a mix of veterans and youngsters, clutch hitting lineup and the best team chemistry in the playoffs= a great chance at making a good run for the pennant. It may or may not happen, that remains to be seen. But I have a great feeling and win or lose, I couldn't be happier with the way the season turned out.

He's a Bum! Humm, Baby!

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