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SF Giants Sweep Detroit Tigers to Become 2012 World Series Champs


Giants Win

After Game 1, all bets were off. I never expected them to win, or come anywhere near winning, that first game. When Detroit announced Justin Verlander as their first starting pitcher—no surprise—I  mentally crossed off Game One. This was even before I knew Zito was the opposing pitcher—when I learned that, the deal was sealed. So when the Giants turned out to be the only team in the Majors that can actually hit Verlander, nothing was etched in stone anymore. Then again, with baseball it never is.

As much as I wanted the Giants to win here at home, and as much as I wanted to see Barry Zito give another sterling performance, losing two games might have demoralized them and stopped their incredible drive to victory, so I rooted for the final win in Detroit last night—and got it. That was another magical event in this series: nobody expected the Giants to beat Detroit in their own house. When they left San Francisco on Monday, a lot of fans prepared themselves for a possible loss or two by looking forward to the win and celebration next Tuesday. Then we got it last night; the team was geographically far away, but still in our hearts, as well as on a Jumbotron in Civic Center. I wonder if other cities televise their teams’ games in big public plazas? If I’d forgotten SF is special, I was reminded of it last night.

About that magic: the Giants were inexplicably sensational. Every time they hit a home run it was a stunning surprise, maybe ‘cause they just kept hitting them. Every time they put a Tiger out of business, the play was so unlikely that its victim recoiled in disbelief and stomped, scowling, off the field. Magic: Pablo Sandoval hit three—count ‘em, 3—home runs in Game One, becoming the fourth player in the history of the game to do so; the others are Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. That’s Pablo Panda Kung Fu, the guy who contributed hardly anything to the 2010 series and was so out of shape he was told to deal with it…or else. Magic: Barry Zito, left out of the 2010 World Series, was front and center this time and pitched the best game of his life. Magic: The same pitcher who rarely hits, did hit two of Verlander’s unhittables at key moments.

The Elite World Series Triple-Home Run Club: Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols, Pablo Sandoval


Victory is sweet. The SF Giants are World Champions for the second time in 3 seasons, and they’re the only players who can hit Justin Verlander! Word is he was last seen checking into some kind of rest home to get over the trauma.


Barry Zito’s Chatter: The Loneliness of the Ace Pitcher

Barry the Beautiful

I had to laugh when I checked my stats today and saw Dirty Laundry got its second highest number of views of all time yesterday. Under “Search Terms” were several variations of “Barry Zito Talks To Himself.” The phrase linked readers to the many posts I’ve written over the years about Zito, who I’m obviously mad about (if only he wasn’t so much younger than me…).

Anyhow, it’s true: Barry talks to himself on the mound with no shame or embarrassment. I don’t know if he’s conscious he’s doing it, but he must be, since he’s such a conscious human being–he meditates and does yoga regularly. I’d love to be a fly on the mound so I could hear what he’s saying. His chatter must help him in some way with pitching. Besides, pitchers are known to be the quirkiest players in baseball; some are nearly psychotic. I wrote a post about this once–but I left Zito off the roster of loco pitchers, since he’s so sane compared to the others. I mean, what’s a little muttering on the mound? It’s not like breaking a player’s hand (Hernandez to A-Rod) or throwing broken bats at them (Clemens to Piazza) or knocking down old men (Pedro Martinez to 70-something Don Zimmer).

When I was a kid I had a friend who talked to herself. She was an only child, and she told me she did it because she was alone all the time with nobody else to talk to. I’ve been talking to myself more and more as I get older, even in public; I’ve tried to control it, but cannot seem to stop. Part of the reason I do  it is because, like my old friend, I’m alone a lot these days.

Maybe that’s also Barry’s reason: up on that mound, he’s so very alone. Maybe his self-conversing is an antidote for The Loneliness of the Ace Pitcher. Whatever the reason, if it helps him do what he’s doing these days, he can do as much of it as he wants.

Go Barry Baby!

Baseball Mid-June

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I’ve been baseball blogging at the end of each month, planning to continue this way, but considering recent events on the field I cannot wait another minute. There’ve been 2 no-hitters; a perfect game; a contested one-hit that might be upgraded; several shutouts; the breaking of the Grand Slam record—and that’s just among the teams to which I pay close attention! Let’s begin with the perfect game pitched by SF Giant Matt Cain on June 13th.

Cain’s achievement is exciting for me up close and personal, since it involves the team that has my # 2 home-town loyalties. More important to them and to baseball, however, this was only the 22nd perfect game in history, and a first for the Giants. Three days later, emotions and celebrations are still running high in San Francisco. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said he was so nervous from 7th inning on that he thought he’d vomit. Like his teammates, he was terrified of making a mistake that might blow it for Cain. Late in the game he sat in Cain’s regular dugout spot, only realizing his error when manager Bruce Bochy stared at him in disbelief. The game of baseball is rife with superstitions, and this is how people behave during potential no-hitters and perfect games. Announcers trip all over their tongues to avoid direct mention of what’s at stake. Umpires prefer not to know what’s going on until it’s over. Cain’s perfection was a second for umpire  Ted Barrett at home plate: he’d previously worked David Cone’s, in 1999 (Yankees v. Montreal).

Cain himself can hardly believe he goes out to pitch again Tuesday, as if nothing’s happened, when, as he says, his life has been changed. The game was his 8th win of the season with another personal best: he struck out a career-high 14 batters.

For the final item of Giants news, Barry Zito, the pitcher who was once on top of the world as an Oakland A until the Giants bought him for an over-the-top sum of money, followed by the collapse of his arm, pitched 8 and 1/3+ shutout innings! Zito was already doing better this season than previously, but the shutout was unexpected.  I’m beyond happy for the guy. He must have a helluva talking tape in that pretty little head of his, and I hope this event tips him to an uplift. The shutout, against the  Chicago Cubs, was Zito’s 5th win of the season. He has 4 wins / 4 losses, with an ERA of 4.31

Let’s give Los Gigantes a great big round of applause!

Mets No-Hitter

A couple of weeks before Matt Cain’s perfection, Mets pitcher Johan Santana started June off with a no-hitter. Again, the accomplishment was notable for several reasons. For one thing, up ‘til now the Mets and the San Diego Padres were the only MLB teams to have never accomplished this feat; now San Diego stands alone. As sports blogger and Mets loyalist Daryl Hochheiser succinctly put it, “It took 8019 games but…A METS PITCHER THREW A NO-HITTER. The celebration was tremendous!”

Of Santana’s 134 pitches, 77 were strikes.  He walked 5 batters and struck out 8, shutting out none other than the St Louis Cardinals (8-0), the reigning World Champions.

As if this weren’t enough nachas for the frequently underdog Mets, 12 days later R.A. Dickey, one of a handful of knuckleball pitchers, did it again! This time, though, it was rated as a one-hit game; the Mets petitioned MLB to have it changed. What happened was this: In the first inning,  B.J. Uptown hit a high bouncer which David Wright tried but failed to catch barehanded.  The Mets want the hit classified as an error charged to Wright. A successful appeal would give them their second no-hitter in 12 days after going 50 years and 8000 games without one. (Note: MLB Decision rendered; see article highlighted below.)

As of today (Sat., June 16th) the Mets are in second place in their division, (National League East), 4 ½ games behind the first place DC Nationals. By the way, their rivals on the other side of a bridge or two are also in second place, in the American League East. Do I hear a Subway World Series barreling towards October?

The Sound of Subways Clacking

I’m not jumping the gun on the World Series here, but talking about last weekend’s Yankee/Mets 3-game series, which the Yanks swept. I’ll try to reign in my enthusiasm, since I watched it side by side with my co-blogger Mr. Hochheiser, and my joy came at his expense—not a great feeling for a mother! In fact, I kind of hoped the Mets would win the final game; after all, I’d already sealed the deal on our Frappuccino bet, which is a 2-out-of-3 games won. (When we’re really flush we sometimes bet merch, like team jackets and other MLB gear.)

As for the Yankees, they didn’t crawl, they flew, out of a string of bad games, and are now on a 7-game winning streak. Batters are still freezing when the bases are loaded, or even with two runners on, what I call The Curse of the RISP, but they’re compensating for that in other ways, primarily home runs. The most exciting hit of the season was A-Rod’s Grand Slam on June 12th, when a loss loomed inevitably; not only did the GS win the game for the Yanks, but it tied A-Rod with Lou Gehrig for most Grand Slams in history.

The Return of Andy Pettite. I cannot say enough about how wonderful it is to have Andy back on the mound. Andy Pettitte, Good Ole’ Reliable, with that face, that form; that steady, reliable, excellent craft master. Truly a blessing, no disguise.

Department of Sports Racism Inc.

During Interleague games the Yanks played, and swept, the Atlanta Braves, which made a lot of people happy, particularly those of us who cringe at the Braves’ incessant, idiotic, monotonous, insulting-to-Native Americans, Tomahawk Chop.” Ugh!

Most cringe-worthy is watching little kids younger than a year making the move like tiny robots-in-training, with no idea what they’re doing; they’re just imitating, or following instructions from the so-called grownups around them. As they say in the musical South Pacific, “You’ve got to be carefully taught how to hate.”

Players and fans love the chop, and don’t seem to think it has any deep significance. It originated in 1991 when Deion Sanders, a former football player, joined the Braves. Sanders had played for Florida State, whose team did the chop—so when he came to bat the first time, fans spontaneously began to chant. Team bigwigs encouraged it by having the organist play chanting music.

But while they make it sound perfectly innocent, those of us without sentimental associations hear only a mocking call and can’t help being offended. Says critic David Churchill on Sports Critics At Large:

This chant is a parody of the supposed Native American war dance song from thousands of Hollywood western movies…This drone is actually quite ignorant, if not outright racist, towards Native American peoples. The ‘savage’ warrior message contained within the drone and the cartoon red tomahawk is unseemly… Do they not have any clue how this is being perceived throughout the rest of the baseball-watching fans in North America? Or do they really just don’t give a flying fig what the rest of the US and Canada thinks?

Oakland Athletics

Update on Manny Ramirez, June 17th: Manny has asked for and been granted release by the A’s. Apparently they feel he’s still not up to par, and they’re getting what they need from outfielder Collin Cowgill. Not wanting to wait any longer to play, Manny will try to get placed elsewhere. Unlike the usual blame-and-rant Manny, he expressed only love and gratitude for the A’s. “Oakland is a great place,” he said. “They gave me a chance. I was proud to get an opportunity there.”

In 17 games for Triple-A Sacramento, Ramirez hit not a single homer, and scouts for the As say he doesn’t resemble his former self anymore. It’s too bad–I for one was looking forward to watching Manny and his dreads fly around  Oracle Field. His would-be teammates said they had a great time with him in spring training, and are sorry to see him go.

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The Return of Barry Zito

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After four years of disappointing performance as a San Francisco Giant, Barry Zito returned from rehab after a sprained foot  (his first rehab in 11 years as a pitcher), last week. He didn’t just return healed, but HEALED. He might not be the old Zito who was one of the most outstanding pitchers in baseball when he was an Oakland A, but he’s definitely made a comeback as an ace in his first two outings, and I, along with other fans, am thrilled to death. Not only is he pitching like he used to, last night he did it  after a three-hour rain delay!  As MLB pointed out, “Many starters would have called it an evening, for fear of injuring their throwing arm or aggravating one that might have stiffened. But unlike Detroit starter Max Scherzer, who vanished after the delay, Zito returned to pitch four shutout innings.” (emphasis mine for comparison purposes).

I’ve adored Zito for many years. Not only because he’s so physically adorable, and when he’s good he’s very very good, but also because his windup and delivery is a thing of beauty; and because he does yoga, meditates, and plays guitar — evidence of a consciously evolving human being.

So welcome back, Barry. I sure hope I’m not jinxing you by declaring your comeback after just two games, but I’m optimistic it’s going to continue. Love ya, babe!

Two of My Other Posts on Zito:

Zito Razzle Dazzles

The Ballad of Barry Zito

Zito Razzle-Dazzles

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It’s a proud day in San Francisco. After three seasons of rock-bottom performance, Barry Zito made his season debut Tuesday, pitching like the ace he was when he played for Oakland. (See my musical lament, The Ballad of Barry Zito.) He threw six scoreless innings and won a season debut for the first time since 2003.

What makes this a bigger deal than most good pitching openers is, of course, Zito’s dismal performance since joining the Giants for an astronomical salary that, IMO, got in his way psychologically. In 2008 Manager Bruce Bochy demoted Zito to the bullpen after his worst performance of the season, a three-inning, eight-run outing in a 10-1 loss to Cincinnati. That dropped Zito’s record to a Major League-worst of 0-6. His ERA was 7.53.

During the same season Zito did pitch one great game, but as I said at the time, “one win does not a comeback guarantee, and there’s no way to know if this is the beginning of Zito’s recovery or just a fluke.” I’m afraid to admit it, but the same could be said for what happened Tuesday; I’m keeping my fingers crossed this is a new–or rather recovered–Zito we’re seeing, who will continue to knock ’em dead throughout 2010. One point in his favor is that, according to Giants closer and Zito’s good friend Brian Wilson (not to be confused with the Beach Boy), Zito has increased his capabilities with a slider, which helped him pull off a 2.83 ERA in last season’s second half. “He’d been working on that last year, but today it was on cue,” said Wilson, who himself pitched a perfect ninth for his second save in two nights.

The Giants not only won Tuesday’s game, they swept the Astros. We just might be in for an exciting San Francsico season, for the first time since they made the World Series back in 2002 (even though they lost.)

Barry Zito UpdateMay 8th:

Five weeks into the season it’s apparent that Barry Zito’s comeback is real. This is no fluke, no one- or even six-time lucky streak. On Wednesday the SF Chronicle‘s Sportssection carried Zito on the front page under the headline: “Back in business,” and a sub-head saying “Zito looks like the ace Giants signed in 2006.”

Hell, he looks even better! After pitching 42.1 innings, Zito’s ERA is 1.49, better even than the Giants’ darling Tim Lincecum (1.70). He’s won five games and lost none.

You can see the change in his persona: on the mound he’s looking ferocious, zeroing in like a laser beam, focus and fury behind every pitch. He talks to himself, muttering in between pitches, not caring who might notice. That’s an indication that Zito’s in his own private pitching zone, instead of fretting over what people are saying and thinking about him.

While he says he can’t explain the steps to his comeback, he knows the reason for his three-year dive. “It was about money,” he told the Chronicle. It was about the microscope being on me more than ever before in my life.”

I just love saying  “I told you so.” For three seasons I told anyone who’d listen that Zito’s problems came from making so much money and being watched so intensely. At the time, nobody else pinpointed this as the root of the issue. Zito now says he was caught up in frantic people-pleasing pressure.  Most of us can probably relate to that; too bad Zito can’t bottle his recovery process — he’d make a fortune.

Knowing Barry Zito, if he could bottle it, he’d give it away free. The reason I like him so much, besides his adorable face and pitching delivery and skill, is that he’s a real mensch. Even more impressive, Zito practices yoga and meditation, and seems to be familiar with the dark side of his psyche.

I like that. It shows courage. It shows depth. It shows there’s more to his pretty-boy looks than meets the eye. I can picture Zito as a distinguished gentleman of  80, his handsome face deeply lined, his eyes unfathomable pools of wisdom.

Not too soon, though — Barry Zito has a lot more innings to pitch before then!