2011 MLB Postseason: 6 People San Francisco Giants Fans Can Root for
The NFL, fantasy leagues and college football will help. But some of us will get sucked into the postseason's vortex.
As a public service to Giant fans searching for someone or something to get behind, here are six suggestions plus a do-not-support list.
And for the really despondent, take heart: only 150 days until pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale.
As the lead announcer for Fox MLB telecasts, Giant fans have had plenty of exposure—not all of it positive—to Joe Buck.
Prior to the 2002 World Series Buck expressed disdain for Barry Bonds after the slugger allegedly dissed him during a one-on-one exchange.
Some fans sensed anti-Giant bias from Buck during the 2002 NLCS against St. Louis, won by the Giants in five games. Add the sting of losing the Series to the Angels and the seeds of resentment toward Buck were sown.
The fact that Joe and his legendary father Jack broadcast Cardinals games for decades added fuel to the theory that he was predisposed to disliking the Giants.
Eight years later, Buck was behind the mike for two Giant postseason series—Fox had rights both to the NLCS and the World Series. I scrutinized every telecast for hints of negative bias, and found none.
In fact, Buck and partner Tim McCarver practically fawned over AT&T Park and aerial shots of San Francisco aired during transitions into and out of commercial breaks. Their calls of the games were stolid, and fair.
To me, a top broadcaster like Buck whose vocal cords are seriously impaired by an unusual virus deserves empathy.
I've included him here because a) if you pay any attention to the MLB playoffs you're going to hear plenty of him, and b) he's been a source of irritation in the past.
If you still dislike Buck, feel free to seethe during Fox's ALCS and World Series telecasts. There'll be hours and hours of opportunity for personal angst.
If not, give the guy a break and join me in hoping he's fully recovered.
Even without the Giants the 2011 postseason includes a player whose fingerprints are all over their World Series title.
It's Atlanta Brave utility infielder Brooks Conrad, whose fielding miscues led to two of San Francisco's runs in their 3-2 NLDS Game 3 victory.
One run scored after Conrad dropped a second-inning pop up; the third (and go-ahead) run came after a ninth-inning Buster Posey grounder shot through Conrad's legs.
Thanks largely to Conrad, the Giants avoided facing a potential elimination game in Turner Field. They extinguished Atlanta the next night, and you know the rest of the story.
In the wake of a three-error night, Conrad showed remarkable class. He made no excuses, telling reporters"...it was completely embarrassing...I feel like I let everyone down."
If the Braves earn the 2011 NL Wild Card (they lead St. Louis by one game with three to play) and Conrad is on their NLDS roster, Giant fans should keep a candle lit in Conrad's honor each day Atlanta stays alive.
It's easy to forget that the 30-year-old journeyman was playing only because of injuries to Chipper Jones and Martin Prado. If those balls had been hit to either of them...
Thanks to Conrad, the Giants never got that close to slipping off that ledge. This year he deserves some cosmic Giant payback.
As with Conrad, there is a significant connection between Texas Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba and the Giants's 2010 playoff run.
Unlike Conrad, Torrealba's ties to the Giants run deep and personal.
Torrealba was in the Giants' organization for 11 years (1995 - 2005), the last five in San Francisco. He was traded to Seattle in 2005, then returned to the NL West with Colorado in 2006.
The Giants got the last laugh—sort of—by eliminating the Padres on the final day of the 2010 regular season. Torrealba watched his former club celebrate their first division crown since 2003—a title he helped them win.
Torrealba signed last offseason with the Rangers, succeeding Bengie Molina, another former Giant. Molina, too, ended 2010 in the opposing dugout watching his former club celebrate a title.
Now Torrealba gets to pursue a title of his own while his former club watches.
Perhaps I'm still jaded by the Giants' catching woes in 2011, but here's hoping this proud, tenacious former Giant makes the most of his opportunity.
Had Scott Feldman's career begun in San Francisco instead of Texas, his story would be even more compelling for Giant fans. A local-guy-makes-very-good-then-disappears-then-seeks-redemption tale.
As is, this 28-year-old right-hander is worth your time, attention and (perhaps) affection.
Feldman was a 30th-round draft pick in 2003 out of the College of San Mateo (CA).
Full disclosure: he is a graduate of Burlingame HS, the school each of my three children attended. I've closely followed Feldman's career.
A middling reliever from 2005 - 07, Feldman was made a starter in 2008. He blew up in 2009, going 17-8 in 34 starts. Last year Feldman crashed to earth (7-11, 5.48 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) before blowing out his knee.
Micro-fracture surgery put Feldman on the shelf until mid-2011; the Rangers have slowly eased him back into service as a middle relief/spot starter.
It's uncertain if the Rangers will even include Feldman on their NLDS roster. A five-game series works against him—clubs can get by with as few as three starters—but his adaptability may land him a spot.
Feldman's is a redemptive tale—albeit not in Ryan Vogelsong territory—worth watching.
Tony Plush (aka Nyjer Morgan) and the NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers have really chafed the Giants and many of their fans in recent years.
I don't get this. The Brewers:
—Are fun to watch; they've smashed 177 home runs in 2011.
—Have two elite, marquee stars—Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun—plus Nyjer Morgan, a comedically-genius center fielder who adopted an alter-ego to help control temper issues threatening to unravel a promising career.
—Play their home games in Miller Park, a beautiful retro yard that opened in 2001 and entertains fans with, among many things, Racing sausages (I'm partial to Polish Sausage).
—Have had the same broadcaster, the hilarious Hall of Famer Bob Uecker, since 1970.
—Celebrate walk-off home runs with a silly Human Bowling Pin home plate celebration, starring Prince Fielder. (the Giants were deeply offended when this happened to them in 2009; I laughed out loud)
How can you not like the Brewers? I love them—except when they're beating the Giants.
If all this isn't sufficient, the Brewers are a small-market club crashing a postseason party populated by East coast bullies: the Yankees, Phillies, and (maybe) Red Sox. That alone ought to warm Giant fans' hearts.
Fans of a certain age also recall that Milwaukee, a great sports town, lost the Braves to Atlanta before being awarded the ill-fated Seattle Pilots (renamed the Brewers) in 1970.
Recalling how close San Francisco came to losing the Giants in 1975 and again in 1992, perhaps I have a special affinity for fans of the Brew Crew.
With the Giants out of the postseason, the Brewers are my adopted guys. Including Polish Sausage.
Jim Leyland is a chain-smoking, plain-talking, small-town gentleman from Perrysburg, Ohio (a suburb of Toledo). He's well worth rooting for during the 2011 postseason.
The Detroit Tiger's manager since 2006, Leyland is a rarity: humble, honest, not driven by ambition. He stayed to manage the Marlins a year after winning the 1997 World Series, when owner Wayne Huizenga ordered a fire-sale of the club's vast assemblage of young talent.
The 1998 Marlins lost 108 games; Leyland resigned after that season partly in protest over Huizenga's ridiculous behavior. But he stuck around for that season; how many managers would've bolted?
Leading four small or middle-market clubs (Pittsburgh, Florida, Colorado, and Detroit), Leyland has fared well despite having none of the advantages afforded managers of major-market teams. He's one of only seven managers in MLB history to win pennants in both leagues (Marlins in 1997, Tigers in 2006).
There's also a Giant connection: Barry Bonds played for Leyland in Pittsburgh before B. Lamar was lured to San Francisco.
To me, Leyland is the sort of guy you'd want to sit and talk baseball with for hours. And he strikes me as the sort of guy who'd do that as long as he could bum a few smokes off of you.
And that—the style, success, and humility, not chain-smoking—makes Leyland a guy I'm rooting for this postseason.
Plus a Few You Cannot Root for
A Giant fans' 2011 postseason do-not-root list:
Arizona Diamondbacks: Dethroning the Giants as NL West champs earned Arizona a measure of respect, not support. This is baseball, not March Madness (where rooting for the winner of your school's conference is accepted practice unless it's UNC and you attended Duke, or vice versa).
Plus, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson was a Dodger. Case closed.
Philadelphia Phillies: This presumably needs no explanation, but just in case: To the Phillies, the GIants didn't win the 2010 title; they believe they lost it. If Philadelphia wins the 2011 Series, it'll fortify their fantasy that last year was a fluke.
No self-respecting Giant fan can get behind that.
Texas Rangers: Supporting Yorvit Torrealba or Scott Feldman is one thing; rooting for the Rangers because "we beat them last year" is weak. Besides, the Rangers play in (effectively) Dallas. As a San Francisco fan, you can't root for Dallas in anything.
New York Yankees: Are you kidding?
Boston Red Sox: It was fashionable to root for the Sox when they hadn't won a title in...what, 370 years? They've now won two since 2004. Plus, fans of the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins have ample titles to cherish. It's time they shared the wealth.
St. Louis Cardinals: If Atlanta blows its Wild Card lead and the Cards sneak in, the legend of Tony La Russa grows. That's just a frightening thought.
Tampa: It is against the laws of baseball to root for any team from a city that made a serious bid to steal your team. Giant fans cannot root for the Rays.