Okay, we are done now. The eagles and grosbeaks and bluebirds and kingfishers and all of the countless other visiting birds have bred and begun to spread out elsewhere. The pleasant noise of Spring has progressed to the still, relative quiet of late Summer. We aren’t looking for the sun to warm us and help things grow now. We want to cool down and we want some water.
As so many of us who still remember DeSotos and Captain Beefheart so frequently note, the seasons and years flow by ever so much faster as we leave youth behind. Just yesterday, the owners’ lockout was ending, right? And the day before that Ken Griffey was a rookie, right? Or was that Vada Pinson? We threw water on our face and realized that this is 2022 and we have fewer than forty games left in the major league season. Realistically, it already is over for several teams except for the humdrum task of finishing the schedule. Now that the post season includes almost as many teams as the National Basketball Association does, some people have that to look forward to as we enter the first of the two months of Halloween we are forced to endure.
One of the teams that has fallen out of the picture is the San Francisco Giants. A lot of things have gone wrong for the Giants all year, starting with the realization that the team would have to carry on without their quiet leader, a great catcher named Buster Posey. In my view, the real nastiness all began May 13. The Giants beat the St. Louis Cardinals that day, 8-2 as logan Webb won his fifth decision against a single defeat. That win put the Giants a half game behind the Dodgers (20-11) and the Padres (21-12). The Giants have a management team that thinks a lot. Some of us believe they might think too much. The loss of Posey to retirement was not unexpected but the team seemed to be prepared because they had an able backup, Curt Casali, who had the respect of all of his teammates, especially the pitching staff, and young Joey Bart who, like Casali, was good defensively and had a promising power bat. Casali had delivered his first home run of 2022 in that win over the Cardinals and Bart was striking out an awful lot. Mauricio Dubon was a youthful part of the Giants roster depth who could back up veteran Gold Glove shortstop Brandon Crawford and, being fleet of foot and strong of arm, also do a credible job of playing center field. He was capable of making mistakes in the field and on the bases due perhaps to his lack of experience but his youthful exuberance was welcomed on a team that had been getting a bit long in the teeth. Dubon got traded after that game. He was sent to Houston, where the calm, now grandfatherly Dusty Baker will no doubt help him get the best out of his talents. Dubon has good potential, so one might reckon that the Giants received something in the way of good potential in return. They received Michael Papierski. What was the long term plan for the rookie catcher? Well, he appeared in five games, batted zero for nine with one walk, and the was put on waivers and picked up by Cincinnati, for whom he is currently batting .159. Meanwhile, veteran infielders Crawford, Tommy LaStella, Evan Longoria, and Brandon Belt have all played hurt and been on the injured list for most of the season and a long list of minor leaguers have taken their turns being new infielder of the week. The Giants have won 41 and lost 51 since the trade, which most folks would consider a minor one. From here, though, it seems like a bigger deal.
An even sadder story has been the descent of the Angels. The World Champions of 2002 won only 77 games last year but Mike Trout missed a lot of action and Anthony Rendon even more. Plus they seemed serious about getting some pitching help, notably adding Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup. So it was seeming like Joe Maddon had some good tools to work with out of the gate but, as Dick Enberg would say, “Oh my!” Maddon has been axed and now formerly popular owner Arte Moreno is looking for a buyer. Just don’t sell to Disney again, Angels, and while you’re at it remember: a good shortstop makes all the pitchers look better. Shohei Ohtani deserves some help so that he won’t retire being remembered mostly as the best argument against the designated hitter.
The best teams will glide on to the playoffs and with a month to go, anything could happen but the Astros, Braves, Mets, Dodgers and (cough cough) Yankees look to rise toward the top without much trouble. The big theme of the season has been injuries and the big health news of the 21st century is damn! Look how many players are still playing after surgeries! Wow!
Here’s a quick word about jewelry and how baseball and jewelry don’t really mix well. I don’t have any resentment toward professional athletes and the amount of money they get paid, I really don’t. It’s a fact that minimum wage for major league players is $555,00 at the same time that workers in the United States have been trying so long to get their minimum wage to $15 per hour that inflation has made that $15 obsolete. However, there are movie stars, hack musicians, and many other relatively useless individuals who make millions inexplicably despite a lack of demonstrable skills, so I blame the system, not the players. What does bug me, though, are all of the gold chains around the necks of so many players. Look, it’s a bit in your face to the average fan. I get it, it’s a sign that hey, folks, I made it, I’m well to do. On my team they would be banished, The Yankees don’t like hair, I don’t like gold. Banned or, if a player was willing, he could achieve dispensation by contributing 10 or 15 grand per season to a fund that would help feed the hungry, house the homeless, or help provide opportunities for poor kids to play ball safely. That would assuage my angst.
I’ll leave with a question. How did the geniuses running television sports decide that we like talk shows more than games? First it was those predictably boring in game chats with managers. “How is Sargalowski doing after he ruptured his spleen walking out of that bar, Murph?” And the artful replies like, “Well, Bill, he is rehabbing at home and we expect him to be back soon if there is no relapse…”. Now we are talking to players on the field DURING THE GAME! I do not tune in a ballgame to hear what Joey Votto or anyone else has to say about anything. I realize that many players are articulate, charming, funny, and other things but I do not want or need chitchat, thank you. I humor myself by imagining FOX or ESPN trying that with, say, Bob Gibson or Will Clark. Now that might be entertaining.