Since my last post illuminated the glory that is big time college football, I thought I would give some love this week to the fervor for America's pastime here at Loma. This is inevitable, seeing as Loma doesn't have a football team (that's a topic for another post), and my knowledge of soccer is limited to bicycle kicks, side-bicycle kicks, Wayne Rooney's bicycle kick, David Beckham, Beckham's wife, Beckham's hair, and Beckham's sweatpants line, which I am currently wearing (not sponsored). Once you take those sports out of the equation, add Title 9 and Loma's removal or "phasing out" of softball, golf, men's track and men's cross country, baseball is really all that's left.
As those of you living outside a cave are aware, the World Series took place this past week. The Series was between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants. The Giants swept 4-0, winning 3-2 tonight in dramatic fashion after a clutch, 9th inning hit by -- who else -- Marco Scutaro.
However, let's rewind to the beginning of the playoffs, when baseball fever at Loma began. As soon as the Giants made the playoffs (they ran away with the National League Western Division, winning 94 games this year) the San Fran jerseys began to sprout up around campus. You'd see the occasional Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson (beards often included), Matt Cain, Buster Posey and Dave Righetti (just kidding, though they should be wearing his) jerseys wandering around campus. By the second round of the playoffs, the NLCS, Giants jerseys were everywhere. When the World Series rolled around, crowds of people would flock to televisions throughout campus to watch.
Tonight I was walking out of the cafeteria with my friend long after it had closed. As we crossed the doors, I looked to my right and saw a couple dozen people had pulled up chairs from who knows where and were ensconced in the game, which was on the television usually displaying what food the caf is serving. Almost all of the people were in Giants' uniforms.
When Sergio Romo struck out Triple-Crown winner Miguel Cabrera to end the Series and give the Giants their second victory in three years, I could hear screams of "Yeah! Let's go Giants!" throughout my dorm. Who knows how many people heard similar shouts around campus. It was a purely San Fran atmosphere.
But...why? Why the Giants? Maybe it's because we're in California. Still, it's Southern California. We have the Padres, Dodgers and Angels to cheer for. Or, even if you're from Northern California, there's still Oakland, who were this year's Cinderella team before getting left at the ball in the ALDS. So why so much love for the Giants?
Maybe it's because they're one of the most exciting teams to watch. They showed they can win with the long ball, with Pablo Sandoval crushing a historic three home runs in one game earlier in the World Series. They also have shown they can win with small ball, winning the last three games of the World Series by a total of 5 runs. Maybe it's their incredible pitching staff. There's Cain, Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson, Tim Lincecum, Jeremy Affeldt, just to name a few.
I think it's more than the star players and geographic proximity, though. It's the attitude of the team as a whole. They're unselfish. They're supportive. They don't give up. At the beginning of the year, their All-Star closer Brian Wilson went down with Tommy John surgery and was out for the season. In came former setup man Sergio Romo to the closer's role -- one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports. Who knew if he could handle it? Flash forwad: in his post-game interview after striking out the side to win the World Series, he said: They let me be myself. They let me do what I was capable of.
When two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum was struggling in the starting rotation, Bruce Bochy moved him to the bullpen. Are you serious Bruce? This guy had been Superman (or The Freak) since he came into the league. He had lead the National League in strikeouts for the past two seasons. He has two Cy Youngs!
That's probably what almost everyone was thinking, except Lincecum. In an era when starting pitchers are spoiled, placed on pedestals, and babied, Lincecum accepted his new, supposedly "diminished" role without complaint. Out of the bullpen this postseason, he posted an ERA under one and a half. He accepted the role for the sake of the team, and he made it work.
Then there's the suspension of All-Star Melky Cabrera for illegal levels of testosterone. This guy was leading planet Earth in batting average at the All-Star break. He was the All-Star Game MVP and one of the favorites for regular season MVP. Losing him could have been a death stroke to the already offensively-challenged Giants. But it wasn't. Pablo Sandoval stepped up, Buster Posey took on the MVP-worthy load Melky had abdicated, and the Giants won 94 games. In the postseason, who came through time and time again with big hits? Some guy named Marco Scutaro, who, like Mongo, was up until that point a pawn in the game of life. He's a king in San Fran right now.
Ninety-four wins. Think about that. How many would they have won if Melky had been with them? If Lincecum had been up to his usual, nigh unhittable self? If Brian Wilson would have been there to nail down saves in the 9th? They won the World Series with sub-par or nonexistent performances from three of the leagues' top players.
No wonder Detroit was shell-shocked. No wonder why Giants players are sporting two rings now. And no wonder all I've been seeing for the past few weeks is orange.