So here we are, a month into the Giants season, and what do we have to report? What have we learned? Well, for one thing, our starting rotation is a bit dodgy at the moment. Cain had a good start against the Dodgers to clinch the three-game series sweep at AT&T park the other day, going 7 innings, giving up 5 hits and 1 measley Earned Run, with 3 walks and 4 Strikeouts. Which is more along the lines of what we expect from Cain, but he's still sporting a 5.57 ERA on the season, which is pretty awful. He did get his first win of the season however, and it was against our nemesis and arch-rival no less, so hopefully we're back on track. Granted, in the game on Sunday vs. da Bums, he benefited from some excellent defense, but a fly ball pitcher like Matt Cain depends on the guys behind him to do their jobs. It's part of the deal. At any rate, something has been off with Cain in the beginning of this season, and we here at The Pitch & The Diamond believe that it's a three-fold problem.
A) Tired Arms. There's a definite element of fatigue going on here, and the fact that all five of our starting pitchers have consistent shut-down innings, featuring excellent stuff with high velocity and good snap on the breaking pitches leads us to believe that we're not carrying injuries. But then the blow-up inning arrives, and everything goes haywire. Listening to the KNBR broadcast the other day, Mike Krukow made the observation that when pitchers get tired, they start to lose consistency in their "arm slot", which is the location at which a pitcher releases the ball in his delivery to home plate. When the arm slot wavers, location becomes an issue and bad things happen. Look, these guys won two World Series in three years, and the cumulative effect of going so deep into the postseason twice can't be underestimated.
B) Growing Up. So we've got Cain at 28, Lincecum at 28, Zito at 34, and Vogelsong at 35. Considering that the acknowledged peak performance age for athletes is 27, we've got two guys on the cusp and two guys over the edge. (Bumgarner is 23, so no worries there. Yet.) Not to say that pitchers can't continue to perform at an elite level well into their thirties, but inevitably, velocity drops, location issues arise, the breaking pitches lose their edge, and the pitcher himself has to come to terms with that. Which is exactly what Lincecum is going through right now. In the 2012 postseason, he came out of the bullpen and was absolutely lights out, looking like vintage Timmy. So he still has the stuff. It's a matter of dealing with the unrelenting attrition of age, and the psychological ramifications of not being the guy anymore. Which, to a greater or lesser extent, is what we all have to deal with at some point. It's just that those guys have to do it in the media spotlight with hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.
C) Focus. This certainly relates to points 'A' & 'B', but it's a slightly different issue, because independent of age, fatigue, contract issues, and the like, the ability to bear down, shut out the noise and distractions, and just make the pitch is precisely why these guys make the big bucks... and we don't. We here at The Pitch & The Diamond realize just how incredibly difficult it is to be a big league pitcher, having played a bit of ball when we were young. We weren't terribly good at it, but we were good enough to get by, and we know what it takes. In baseball as in anything, all the physical gifts in the world don't amount to a hill of beans if: 1) you don't work harder than everybody else, and 2) you can't focus when the pressure is at a fever pitch. Kinda like in music. It comes down to preparation and performance, both of which are utterly dependent upon one's ability to focus. As to why the guys on the bump are being inconsistent with their focus, we can only imagine that there are a plethora of contributing factors, the aforementioned being the most important. However, the fact that it's May is a great consolation. And we're hitting like crazy. And we're scoring runs like nobody's business. And our defense looks stellar. And our bullpen is solid. And we have Bruce Bochy. Yeah... we're gonna be okay.
At any rate, it is far, far better to start off the season lukewarm and get hot after the All-Star Break. And hey, the Giants are 19-12 as of today, and we're in 1st place in the NL West. As we've said for the last few years, if we can stay within five games of 1st place and hover above a .500 record, we'll be just fine. Sabean will likely pull another rabbit out of the hat with a mid-season trade (alá Ross in 2010 and Scutaro in 2012) and we'll be just fine. So hopefully we put a dodgy April behind us, and this will all seem like a sweaty, grimy, uncomfortable dream come July. This is only the beginning.
As to the Arsenal, we're saving a lengthy post regarding the Greatest Team in London til after tomorrow, for on Wednesday, Chelsea meet Tottenham. This is a crucial match for the third and fourth place slots, for if Chelsea wins, Arsenal is within spitting distance of forth place, and all we have to do is win our next two matches against bottom of the table teams. Easier said than done, but Arsenal is having a run of relative quality at the moment, so the End is in sight, and things are looking up. Our destiny is in our hands, lads. Let's do this. Happily, we've made great strides in our focus and consistency (there it is again) in the last two months, and it looks as though we'll squeak into one of the top spots yet again, and thereby qualify for Champions League play next year. And even if Spurs win tomorrow and Chelsea loses, the brass ring is still within our grasp, as both Chelsea and Spurs have difficult matches ahead of them, and points may very well be dropped. And we lead on goal differential, which may very well prove to be crucial. So there we are.
Speaking of The Beginning and The End, how about them Warriors? And them Sharks? Admittedly, we are not huge hockey fans, and we could care less about basketball, but the fact that yet another (and another!) Bay Area sports team is doing well in the playoffs is encouraging, to say the least. This sort of winning mentality is contagious, after all. So good luck to the Sharks and the Warriors. May all your dreams come true.
Baseball is finally back in town for reals, and today is the first day of the Regular Season: Giants vs. Dodgers in LA, Cain vs. Kershaw. We're very excited about the 2013 season, not only because it's a chance to repeat as World Champions, but because the lads in Orange and Black are back together and look solid as nails. Brandon Belt had a phenomenal Spring in Arizona, knockin the cover off the ball, and Brandon Crawford was not only playing stellar defense at ShortStop, but also was looking very Scutaro-esque as he sprayed the ball around the outfield. Pablo's got an elbow thing, so he's starting the season on the bench but might pinch hit, but the Starting Rotation looks great (Lincecum's travails notwithstanding), Posey looks like Posey, and the outfield is shaping up nicely. Let's do this!!
My god we love the mission. We feel like it justifies our existence, sometimes. We feel at home there, with the oldtimers, the young bucks, the irish remnants, the history... thriving artists, homeless vets, porn stars, glam trannys, the mixing pot extraordinaire, urban farmers, entrepreneurs, medical marijuana millionaires, SF lifers, norteños & sureños, pimps&hos, blue-collars, assorted weirdoes, poseurs, faux hippies, actual hippies in their 70's, lesbians, punks, bikers, aging rockers, twenty-somethings searching for themselves, a healthy assortment of bat-shit crazies, nuns, yogis, sikhs and swamis, hustlas, teenagers, aging G's and Baby Mommas, families on a stroll down Mission Street, occasional naked dudes, hip-hoppers, party rockers, non-stoppers, beboppers, rockers, sweet talkers, tweeters, googlers, techies and trust-funders, gangbangers, rock slangers, tourists, LGBTactivists, & mudders, evangelicals and ex-cons, poets, priests, saints and politicians, all thrown together in the combine and somehow everyone's just tryin to make their way and find their own way to shine. We f*cking love this City. And to this list we must add musicians, because seriously, we're like rats: Live anywhere, can't get rid of 'em, feed off garbage, make noise, sex constantly. Wouldn't be a city without us. Whatta wonderful ol' world, eh?
And yes, also, Los Gigantes signed BOTH Pagan and Scutaro in the earliest days of the Winter Meetings. Merry Christmas, San Francisco. You deserve an early present. Enjoy. Pagan for $40mil, 4 years, Scoots for $20 over Three... That's sixty over seven for two proven performers, seasoned vets in key positions... Not bad, not bad at all, considering those last few years are write-offs. And as a leadoff combination, it's formidable. (Of course, 2013 will tell the tale, and we'll be there to watch it unfold. Oh yes we will.) Also, there's Joe Panik comin up, and he'll need a steady hand to shepherd him into our franchise at Second Base... Scutaro as a shoehorn, if you will. Not to mention Gary Brown and the Pagan influence. Very exciting. And what with locking down Affeldt early, and Wilson's value on the open market wavering, we're looking pretty set in the Winter Meetings. With an addition or two to the bullpen and perhaps acquiring a proper-swinging right-hand-hitting left fielder during the summer, well, then we're over the top. Knock wood. (Ooooh, me 'ead.) ....oooooh, quick aside: so would you like to know the secret thoughts of our collective heart? If so, you've happened upon the deepest secret garden of truth. It is this: Repeat Discreet. Feel the beat, party rockers. We are excited yet trepidatious regarding our prospects for 2013. We're holding off on prognostications and predictions til Spring Training rolls around again. But we're gonna kill it and win it all in 2014!! Every two years, Baby!! Not holding my breath for next season, though. But it could happen. It's always a dream of the future, SPORT.
So much for secrets...
LET'S Go GIANTS!!!
But to be truly honest, the less said about Arsenal at the moment, the better. Oooof. Tenth place we are in, sure, but six points separates tenth and third right now, in the English Premiere League Table. That's two wins (or losses) ~at three points a match~ between EIGHT teams. Very tight. This weekend will be awfully telling, as we here at the Arsenal face West Brom, who presently reside in fifth, and looked indomitable early on. Both teams need a win to stay relevant. Of course, We'll be there at 7am, at Danny Coyle's, to shout an sing an laugh an carouse... Good Times, people. Good Times indeed.
And Arsenal wins another North London Derby 5-2. Excellent. You know, football (or, rather, soccer, as we Americans call it) is a crazy roller-coaster ride of a sport, and these matches between Arsenal and Tottenham (our arch-rival) are entirely unpredictable. They tend to be high-scoring matches, and lots of wild things happen. For example, yesterday, Spurs went up 1-0 on a goal by Adebayor, who used to play for Arsenal and is now deeply reviled, but then Adebayor drew a Red Card and was ejected from the game for a foolish, reckless tackle on Santi Cazorla, our spanish playmaker. It was an awful tackle, really, flying in late with both feet, studs up, and the kind of thing that can seriously injure a player. And it's not the first time Adebayor has done something like that, not by a long shot. He can be a dirty player at times, and he's a hot-head as well, often geting into fights and creating controversy. So we were happy to see him off the Pitch. Spurs were playing well at the start of the match, and had he not been ejected, it would have been a much closer match, and who knows how it might have ended. Instead, Arsenal played 70+ minutes up a man, and ran away with it. With goals from Mertesacker, Giroud, Podolski, Cazorla, and Walcott, five different players scored five different goals for a wide-ranging win. There's a certain poetic justice to a player who once played for your team (but now plays for your rival) making a stupid tackle, getting sent off, and as a result allowing your team to get back into the game and eventually win it. Also, winning 5-2 over Spurs is resonant, because last season Arsenal won by the same score in a match that turned our season around and eventually led to Arsenal finishing above Spurs at the end. Which was awesome. So hopefully this outcome will herald a momentum change for the Arsenal, as it did in a similar fixture once before.
One other point we'd like to address here is the weakness in the back for Arsenal right now. Before this season began, a new Assistant Manager was brought on, Steve Bould. Bould played for Arsenal during the late 80's and through the 90's, winning several major trophies with the club, and has managed the Youth system with the club for almost a decade. His promotion to Assistant Coach under Arséne Wenger was thought to potentially strengthen Arsenal's back line, and indeed in the first three matches of the season the back four looked very solid. But since then, something has changed, and one theory is that Bould is attempting to introduce the defensive strategy of Zonal marking, in which a defender is responsible for a specific area in the defense and thus responsible for any opposing player who enters that area. The defender has to be much more aware of whats going on around him and must communicate effectively with his team-mates. It can be a very effective strategy, but it's much more difficult to successfully execute than the more traditional man-on-man, one-to-one system. At any rate, the idea is that the transition to to this system and the challenge of working with a new coach is making it difficult for the Arsenal defense to stay organized and tight. However, given time and opportunity, we here at The Pitch & The Diamond believe that things will settle down, communication will improve, fewer errors will be committed, and there will be much more stability in the back. Patience is certainly a virtue in these regards.
In baseball news, the Giants' own Buster Posey did indeed win the NL MVP for the 2012 season. So, two World Series rings, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, the 2012 Batting title, and now Most Valuable Player. He's amassing quite the trophy cabinet. Posey really is the heart and soul of the franchise, and it's wonderful to have a player of Posey's calibre leading the team, and as the emerging face of the franchise. So, congratulations to you, Buster Posey. You deserve everything you've achieved. Now let's get out there and DO IT AGAIN!! Sweet.
Greetings Intrepid Voyagers!!
Although this is primarily a Sports blog, we're taking a slight detour here into the relationship between sports and politics, and we hope that Hunter S. Thompson would be proud. As you may or may not be aware, Presidential politics are dependent on a multitude of factors, not the least of which is the outcome of various sporting events. To wit: it turns out that last night, "The Redskins Rule"* has failed for only the second time in 72 years. More interestingly (and personally resonant) is "The Baseball Rule".** Indeed, San Francisco has had two massive wins on a National scale in the last fortnight, and that's a beautiful thing. (And yes, we're chalking up the Obama re-election in the SF column.) And yet, there are others: "The Crimson Tide Rule"*** which really, primarily indicates that Alabama will win another BCS, most likely edging a win over Oregon in a bowl game, in spite of it's being the most reliable presidential indicator of all. (We here at The Pitch & The Diamond have a few acquaintances with some serious money riding on the BCS outcome, so we're pulling ever so slightly for the Tide. Not that we care about college football, but still. Science is science.) Also, "The Dow Jones Rule" & "The Lakers Law", **** both of which predicted Obama.
(see below for explanations of these indicators, some of which are slightly confusing...)
What can we take away from all of this noise? Only this: people will find meaning in virtually any random series of events and look for significance in patterns where there is none. We, as a species, are rather adept at finding order in chaos, after all. Jesus' face in a flour tortilla, for example. What matters is this: The GIANTS won the World Series, and Obama gets another four years. It makes us feel as though we've collectively turned a corner, somehow. And that the Supreme Court is safe from becoming a three-decade bastion of cruel, petty, partisan, small-minded, retro-kneejerk conservative judicial activism, at least for a little while. Dodged that bullet. Whew!
Cheerio, -The Pitch & The Diamond
* Redskins Rule: A win in the Redskins final home game before the Presidential election means that the Incumbent stays in power; in this case, the Redskins lost :-( but Obama won :-) So, that's a FAIL for the rule. Was it the exception that proves the rule? Well, the only other time the Redskins rule didn't work was in 2000 when Gore narrowly failed to defeat the babbling idiot and his evil puppeteer, but everyone knows that 2000 was rife with vote tampering and fraud on the Republican side, and Gore actually won that one. So 2012 is the first actual refutation of the rule, GOP shenanigans notwithstanding. (There's also some sort of amendation to the rule involving the 2004 election and Kerry, but we're ignoring that for now, and trying our best to forget the Bush years in their entirety.)
** Baseball Rule: If the National League team wins the World Series, the Democratic nominee for president wins the presidency; if the American League team wins, the Republican takes office. This one has been a bit less reliable over time, with 12 of the last 16 Fall classics accurately predicting the general election, including the last four in a row (including 2012), but still. You gotta love the fact that the National League = the Democratic Party. It's all about the Pitch and the Defense; Democrats don't need no stinkin' DH! And as long as the Giants continue to win it all every two years, we're set.
*** Crimson Tide Rule: Since 1984, whenever LSU has won the LSU-Alabama game, the Republican nominee has taken the White House. In election years when Alabama won, so has the Democrat. The Crimson Tide prevailed on Nov. 3rd, 21-17, and Obama won by a similar margin yesterday (when averaging the Electoral College and the Popular vote margins, by our highly scientific and incredibly accurate mathematical techniques.) This rule has yet to fail, but it's an admittedly small sample size. Go Tide!
**** Dow Jones Rule: Though not technically a sport, the Stock Market is looked at with a discerning sporting eye by all major bookmakers, so we're including it here. When the DJIA is up more than 5% a year, the incumbent party has held on to the presidency. The Dow is up at an annualized rate of almost 13% since Obama took office. In the last fifteen elections (including 2012) this has held true 12 times and failed only thrice. So, BOOM. That's what's up. And finally, the Lakers Law: The Republicans win the Presidency in any year that the Lakers reach the NBA Finals, regardless of the series' outcome, because who really cares what happens in basketball? Interestingly, this predictor has only failed once before, in 2008, when the Lakers met the Celtics (again, who cares who won?) and Obama took his first term. But this time it held, since the Lakers suck. (And if there was a Dodgers Rule, we're pretty sure it would have something to do with Tommy Lasorda being a fat loser and the Giants kicking Dodger ass.) So at any rate, the indicators seem to have held up, with the Redskins Rule being the exception (that may or may not prove the rule). And now we've got four more years of sanity on the horizon, which comes as a tremendous relief.
Thus concludes our foray into political waters, and we now return to our regularly scheduled sports obsession.
p.s. also, as a footnote, there's something floating around out there about Obama playing a pick-up basketball game with friends and aides before an election, which he did on 2008 -- and he subsequently won that election. Then he did it again yesterday, so there's that.
First of all, apologies for not keeping this blog up to date. To begin with, we were on a short hiatus over the summer, band-wise, during which our collective brain was taken over by a multitude of alternate realities, most notably, the amazing and historic run of the Gigantes towards their second World Championship in three years. As a result, we neglected our blogging duties, and we feel somewhat remorseful about that. However, Bruce Bochy, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum & the Bullpen have all publicly forgiven us our lapse, as we were fervently and rabidly supporting their collective effort, so we hope that you can do the same.... :-)
Geez Louise, so much has happened in the last few months that there's no possible way to summarize what has occurred in one backward-looking blog, but suffice it to say that it was a dazzling experience, and our ears are still ringing with the glorious cheers and chants of our fellow man. We here at The Pitch & The Diamond were lucky enough to attend a few playoff games at AT&T Park, and they were fantastic, as I'm sure you can imagine. So much history transpired in the 2012 season that the list of memorable and indelible moments is quite lengthy, but here goes: Matt Cain's Perfect Game; Angel Pagan breaking the franchise record for Triples; Melky Cabrera dominating and leading the league, then getting busted for juicing, and the Giants' subsequent galvanization as a team and winning run of 30-15 after his suspension; the acquisition of Marco Scutaro who went on to lead the Giants on and off the field; sweeping the Dodgers in a three-game series with three consecutive shutouts, which had never been done before; winning the NL West over the Dodgers; going down 0-2 vs. the Reds in the NLDS and coming back to win three elimination games in a row to advance to the National League Championship Series; The Reverend Hunter Pence's motivational speeches and the "Rally Throng"; going down 1-3 vs. the Cardinals and winning three MORE elimination games in a row to win the NLCS and clinch the National League Title; defeating Justin Verlander and the Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series on the back of Sandoval's three home-run game; and of course, sweeping the Tigers in four games to win it all. And then, today, there was a Parade down Market street, which we attended and enjoyed immensely (after waking up at 5:30am to get a good spot on the parade route). We know we missed a memorable moment or two there, but wow. Whatta season. Let's do it again next year! And also, Brandon Crawford, you are our hero. LET'S GO GIANTS!!
Also, just a thought: It's pretty incredible that in roughly six years the Giants have gone from a perpetual 'also ran' to one of the best teams in the league, if not the absolute best. A big, big part of that is management: eight years ago, Brian Sabean, the GM, set out to build a team around pitching and defense, in due deference to AT&T Park. He actively moved away from the "Big Slugger" model we followed in the Barry Bonds era, and starting drafting pitchers like Cain, Lincecum, & Bumgarner as well as drafting or acquiring solid defensive players that can hit for average and get on base (Posey, Crawford, Belt, and pretty much every other Giant on the 2012 roster). Less than a decade later, voilá! Two Championships in three years. Amazing. Indeed, we Brazillionaires managed to go to a couple of playoff games, and we had a blast, but the Giants never would have given us the opportunity had Sabean not engineered the aforementioned paradigm shift... We here at The Pitch & The Diamond watched many of the 2012 playoff games at Danny Coyles, a pub in the Lower Haight here in SF, and it was quite the scene. Loud as hell (mostly because of us, haha) with a super positive energy, and everyone in the bar was totally, completely into it. Cheering every pitch, every play, every throw. SO fun. And when we won? Total delirium! Pandamonium! Yelling, screaming, liquids flying through the air, hugging total strangers, jumping up and down like little kids... sports ecstasy! So awesome. I have a feeling we'll be doing this again once or twice in the next couple of years, too. And it's all because of Brian Sabean.
Oh, and here's a couple of quick jokes for you true Giants fans out there:
Q: How do you spell "Cody Ross" in Spanish?
A: M-a-r-c-o S-c-u-t-a-r-o!
Q: What's the difference between a "Giant Dog" and a "Dodger Dog"?
A: You can't get a "Dodger Dog" in October!
Q: How do you spell "Dynasty"?
A: B-u-s-t-e-r P-o-s-e-y!
Whatta crazy game today!!! The Giants won earlier today by a score of 9-0 over Jair Jurrjens and the Braves. 9 Runs?! And 5 RBIs from Posey?!?! Posey is on Fire like an Exploding Fireworks Factory! So Awesome. We here at The Pitch & The Diamond would absolutely LOVE to sweep the Braves. Did you hear Jon & Dave say that only once in history have we taken a series from the Braves in Atlanta, and we've never swept? We think that's what we heard. Anyway, we'll know more about Hector's Sprained Knee tomorrow, but we agree with Pavlovic (pasted below) that Hector could use the 15-day DL to get some rest, as banged up as he is. Which means that we'll probably see Whiteside back in the dugout tomorrow or Thursday. So be it.
ALSO, didja hear that Jonathan Sanchez was designated for assignment by the Royals? He's 1-6 with a 7.76 ERA in 12 starts... ouch. Wait, does he have any minor league options left?! We doubt it, but that would be hilarious if we picked him up, and then he tore it up in Fresno for a month or two, and then he got called up for a spot start or some bullpen relief in August. Ha! Two for the price of... None!!
And yeah, Melky's worth about 37.5 Jonathan Sanchez's right now at the going exchange rate. So no worries there. Yup. Heck of a trade, Sabean. Heck of a trade.
Anyway, here's an excerpt from the blog post on the SJ Mercury news blog, which you can read by clicking here. Interesting stuff from Alex Pavlovic:
Hard to imagine the Giants would leave Hector Sanchez on the active roster if he feels any pain in the morning.
To be clear, we don’t know the severity of the sprain yet, but if Sanchez has to go on the disabled list, the obvious option is Eli Whiteside. He missed out on making the team in the spring and has played 47 games for the Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies. Whiteside is hitting .241 with a homer and 11 doubles, but has been better of late, posting a .313 average and .405 on-base percentage in his last 10 games. Plus, he knows the pitching staff.
(I don’t think Tommy Joseph would get much consideration. He has a very, very bright future, but just turned 21. He’s best served by playing every day.)
In an odd sort of way, Sanchez probably could really use a 15-day break. He took another serious foul ball off the mask on Saturday and was as banged-up as any Giant at the end of the first half. I think trainers have come out to check on him more than the other 24 Giants combined. It took nearly a month for Sanchez’s left leg to fully heal after he fouled two straight pitches off of it earlier this season. He’s a tough dude, but if he’s not able to go tomorrow, it’s likely the Giants will give him a couple weeks to heal, especially since they’re in the midst of a tough road trip.
And so, here we are again, in this dead week smack dab in the middle of the Giants season, waiting patiently through the All-Star Break, and now that Euro 2012 is done, there is no soccer, football, basketball, college sports, tennis or even golf (and we're bored bloody stiff by golf) and the olympics have yet to begin at the moment, and Arsenal's pre-season hasn't even started yet. It's the one time of the year where absolutely nothing is happening, sports wise. Oh, there's more than enough to write about (How about the four Giants All-Stars: Buster, Melky, Panda, and Cainer being the four best players in the entire game?! Melky & Panda together drove in 5 runs and Melky got the All-Star Game MPV. Fantastic. The National League wins home field advantage in the World Series, thanks to the lads in Orange & Black. And yes, the Giants season is looking pretty swell at the moment. There's another 61 games to go before October, but who's counting. On the flip side, Robin van Persie is now seemingly inevitably leaving Arsenal, and there's much hullabaloo and hubbub about "The Statement" that RvP released to the press last week indicating that he won't be renewing his contract. So now it all seems a bit cynical and calculating and ungrateful, considering the timing of "The Statement" just before pre-season and right when we're in the hot period of trying to sign more talent during the Summer transfer season. Not to mention that he sat on the bench injured or underperforming for the majority of his eight years with Arsenal before this last breakout season. He finally managed to stay healthy long enough in 2011-2012, and he showed the world just how good he can be. And now, at 29-- admittedly the tail end of his peak performance and earning years-- he wants to cash in on his momentum. Arsenal stood by him when he was down, but apparently filthy lucre is a devilish mistress. The clarion call of cash money proves irresistible to a professional athlete... yet again. Shocking. Not that we really expected much better, but still. It's a bitter pill to swallow.) ...so, yes, we could go on and on and on about those two topics alone, and we haven't even begun to ramble about Timmy, the Euros, the Earthquakes (Top of the League!) or the Niners. All of which could inspire hours and hours of clicking on the keyboard and filling space with endless words about... well, about the two greatest teams in the two greatest sports in the world. Another time, another rhyme. Til then, Brazillionaires
Well goodnesssesses. What can we even say. Cainer actually threw a Perfect Game. Which is absolutely incredible. Then we Swept the Dodgers -- oh, no what's that? You say we Shut Out da Bums in a three game sweep for the first time in history? Then today, another shutout? And tomorrow CAIN is tossin?! DEALING?!?! Damn. This year with the Giants is all Historical an shizzle. Also, Euro is as Euro does. What's crazy is that our inclination in European soccer tournaments always leans towards the Allies. Holland, England, and France. The forces of good in WWII. Turns Out, they played some shockingly poor football these last few weeks. Weird that Germany (was) is -ahem- playing the most creative and positive and interesting futbol of the tournament, and now ITALY is looking aesthetically pleasing?!?! The world feels upside down. Guess we're pulling for Spain from here on out, then. But is Spain really the lesser of four Evils? Hard to say, but they're probably going to win it all. Again.
Weird. We feel like someone has hacked into this moment and uploaded a virus. It's all Flipside. Very Weird Indeed. But we're loving Euro 2012 undisirregardless. Hooray Proper Football.
And so the Premiere League has come to an end, with an exciting finish on the very last day of the competition. Arsenal somehow found themselves in third place, which means that we automatically qualify for the Champions League next year. We here at The Pitch & The Diamond have to say, we're pleased as punch to see the backside of this season... it was quite the impending disaster. We really could've cared less which of the two Manchesters won it all (the Scum -United- or the Mercenaries -City-? Blah blah blah) but that was an exciting finish, and in spite of the fact that we deeply resent Citeh for hyper-inflating the market by stealing and then overpaying players, we didn't really mind them winning because it afforded us the pleasure of watching all the United players and fans looking depressed and disappointed. Which makes us happy, regardless of circumstances. Plus, at the pub the other morning, during the final matches of the season, there was a lone Citeh fan going absolutely MENTAL when they won (he was an older dude who grew up a ManCity fan) so that was amusing. Arsenal just barely managed to scrape into third, a mere point ahead of the spuds, and with all of our injuries and massive defensive gaffes, we were lucky on more than one occasion to nab three points, or even just one... Thanks again Fulop; your ineptitude saved our asses. And Theo's quote a couple weeks ago about how we were "consistent... in patches" pretty much sums it all up. Quote of the season, that. So it was a horrendous start to the campaign, a rough patch in January/February, then we crack off a string of seven victories in a row, only to just barely limp over the finish line. We must say, though, that it was an exciting season, though not at all in the way that one would prefer. Far too many agonizing matches. Not entirely sure that we deserved third place, but then again, no-one else really earned the spot, and so we're quite happy that spurs, newcastle, chelsea & liverpool all finished behind us, but that had much more to do with their failings and missed opportunities than with our successes. Whatever; we'll take it. And now it's time to look forward to the Summer, both Transfer-wise and Euro-wise. We're excited about the tournament that starts next week; and you may find it interesting that we here at The Pitch & The Diamond are beginning to feel a bit of fondness for Deutschland, certainly in stark contrast to our previous attitude towards the German National Football Team in years past. And it's not just because Arsenal signed Podolski and we should have Mertesacker back next season, (so there's a good chance that we'll have a bit of Germanic influence on the training pitch) but also because the German team is young and talented and plays much more positive attacking football than the Germany of old. In the past, Germany played the most boring possible style of football, hyper-methodically organized, clinical and sterile, inevitably scoring a single, uninspiring goal and then subsequently shutting down and parking the bus for a win. Borrrrrrrr-ing. But now, that seems to have changed, and the German national side is playing dynamic, creative, attacking football. Fun stuff. Also, we Brazillionaires were in Berlin last summer, and that was awesome, plus, we've been watching a bit of the bundesliga this year, and it's been fun to catch. No, they're not our favorite by a long shot (that honor goes to Holland, as usual, with a soft spot for England, Ireland, and yes, France --- The Allies!) but we no longer despise the German national team as we once did. An additional upside to this recent shift in persuasion is that we can now reserve the entirety of our loathing and disgust for the Italian national side. Everyone needs a villain, we suppose, and as much as we love the Italian people, history, countryside, cuisine, art, fashion, design, motorcycles, sportscars, musical traditions, and culture, the Italian National Football team is the devil incarnate. Bring on the Euros!
In baseball news, Tim Lincecum faced Ian Kennedy of the D-bags last night. It was exciting, but mostly in the who-will-be-worse way, rather than the who-will-dominate way. Lincecum has had some fine moments thus far in the season, and seems to pitching well on the whole if you look at his strikeout rate, but either he's losing focus and concentration or battling himself or something, because he keeps having these blow-up innings where he gives up 4 or 5 runs and ruins his start. We heard J.T. Snow on KNBR the other day talking about pitchers, and about Lincecum in particular, and he said, "There are two types of pitchers in the league: Pitchers with 'Stuff' like a 95 mph fastball and nasty breaking pitches, and pitchers who know how to pitch." (So that is to say, pitchers who know how to out-think a batter and get him out with intelligent pitching.) Snow went on, "Timmy used to be a pitcher with stuff, but he's not anymore, and now he has to learn how to pitch." Interesting observation. Perhaps Timmy was listening to KNBR, too, because he seems to us to be pitching a little smarter, and he didn't have his blow up inning last night. (Whew!) He actually earned his second quality start of the season (6+ innings pitched, gave up less than three runs) but there are still worries. We do feel like Lincecum is turning a corner, though. Kennedy has had his problems as well this year, but last night Kennedy had the edge, as he totally shut down Cabrera and Posey. So the Giants lost last night, but Melky Cabrera is on fire right now like pissin with the clap. He. Is. Awesome. 51 Hits in May, tying a franchise record? Fantastic. And you gotta love the Melkmen (the guys in the stands that dress up like Milkmen and cheer wildly for Melky Cabrera.) You know, if we can miraculously avoid injury, and the heart of the order plays to their ability, we might just have a shot at it this year... that 2nd wildcard is gonna make things awfully interesting. And so far, even though we've had some ups and downs, we've been playing reasonably well, and we're showing signs of being a terrific team. Let's hope for health and prosperity, shall we? And just as an update, the de facto starting line up these days is looking like Posey behind the dish, Belt at 1st, Arias/Theriot at 2nd, Crawford at SS, Panda at 3rd, Blanco in RF, Pagan in CF, & Cabrera in LF. Not too far from our predictions of a couple months ago, and very pleasing to us here at The Pitch & The Diamond. We do like to see the youth out there, gettin all seasoned up. Unfortunately, Brian Wilson is out for the year with Tommy John surgery, & Guillermo Mota got busted for violating the league's juicing policy, but Casilla is doing a fantastic job of holding down the closers role. Yes, at the moment, Pablo Sandoval is still recovering from his (other) hamate bone injury, but he'll be back, crushing jacks soon enough. Fortunately, he only had two hamate bones, one in each hand, and now they've both been removed. He should be back in a couple weeks. Joaquin Arias has filled in at Third Base admirably, and in fact, Pablo's defense might be a slight downgrade from what Arias has been giving us recently, but it'll all shake out nicely. And as the most pleasant surprise of the year, Barry Zito is pitching exceptionally well, which is always a relief. We'll be shocked if that lasts past July, as his last few years have hewn to the "Quality 1st half of the season, Lousy 2nd half" program. But we'll take what we can get.
Allrighty, that's it for now. With Arsenal and the EPL out of season during the summer, we'll now be focusing on El Gigantes til late August or so, excepting a bit of Gunners transfer news here and there. It's an off day for the Giants today, but the Cubbies come into town tomorrow, and we'll be at the ballpark for at least two of the three games this weekend. So... LET'S GO GIANTS!!