Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Swisher, Soriano, and Tatis -- Lusealin' the Deal

I was living in San Francisco in 2005—the year that was considered Nick Swisher’s rookie year for the A’s—and his A’s formed a team that was pretty easy to love. I tried to get into the Giants—the stadium’s so nice that you really, really want to. Not to mention the fact that they sell tofu dogs there. TOFU DOGS. This vegetarian’s baseball fantasy. Only in California. But DAMN if the Giants aren’t boring to watch. And DAMN if they don’t have the worst fans in the entire universe. (That would be Yankees Universe.)

When I first discovered that they offered wireless internet access at AT&T Park, I thought I had never heard of anything so asinine. (Other than naming your ballpark after a phone company.) Who brings a laptop to a baseball game? In San Francisco, the answer to that question would be everyone. What was so urgent, I would wonder, that it couldn’t wait until after the sixth inning? You see, everyone in San Francisco leaves right around the sixth inning. I tell you, if you want to miss the traffic at a Giants game, you don’t leave early, you stay until the end. On the other hand, who can blame them? Watching the Giants in those days was like watching paint dry until the big jerk on juice came up to the plate and you could listen to the “fans” ooh and ah as he wormed his way into the home run title. I referred to that Giants team as “Eight Schmucks and Bonds.” Now I just call them “Nine Schmucks.”

Then, of course, there’s Luseal. The mascot. She is—you guessed it—a seal. First of all, it goes without saying, don’t have a mascot. No self-respecting sports team ever does. Second of all, if you’re going to have a mascot, even though I will never acknowledge that mascot as something that should exist, it needs to make sense. So unless you are the San Francisco Seals, which you are not, your mascot shouldn’t be a seal. It should be a giant. Why is your mascot a seal? Third of all, assuming your mascot made sense in relation to your team name, it shouldn’t have a dumb, punny name that refers to the kind of animal it is. Like Luseal. So basically the Giants have broken all of the mascot rules, starting with the rule that prohibits them from having one, all the way down to the bottom.

In addition to all the obvious things that are wrong about mascots, here’s my main problem. The people inside those suits—they’re not right. It’s what, say, Mike Lowell would have done for a living if he hadn’t made it into professional sports. If you’re hiding in a seal suit, I think that suggests that you’re not to be trusted. And that seal suit, by the way, has never been dry cleaned. I know this because I have gotten a more intimate look at the seal suit than I ever would have liked. This brings us to a rule about mascots that I’ve forgotten, which is that they should never, ever, under any circumstances be allowed to invade your personal space. I believe that no one should ever be allowed to invade your personal space, but if that person fits Mike Lowell’s personality profile and is wearing ten years worth of I-don’t-know-what on his costume, he especially isn’t allowed to.

Ultimately, it boils down to a question of morality. As someone who cares deeply about the fate of real seals, the ones that are being clubbed to death in Antarctica, I take issue with the fact that the Giants have created a seal so foul and objectionable that it would mislead people as to the truth about actual seals and their level of adorability. So what can I say about the Giants? I tried.

The A’s, on the other hand, were fun. They were young, worked well together, and good enough to make us think they might actually have a shot at the postseason for a while. In the end, they didn’t. LAnaheim was impossible even then, and the AL wild card’s a tough bet any year. But I still enjoyed following them and have fond memories of Swisher. Softy that I am, the thing I like best about Swish is that he points to the sky after every hit to acknowledge his grams, who died of brain cancer in 2005. Swish, who was raised by his grandmother after his parents divorced, wanted to pay her further tribute and recently did so by growing his hair so that it could be used as a wig for a cancer patient. I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic to hear that he hit a three-run blast to win a critical game for the ChiSox against Detroit in the 14th last night. He’s been streaky this year, but every time he does something big—and when he does something, it’s often big—I feel a little glad for him.

On the downside, Farnsy gave up a two-run shot in the eighth to tie the game, and I hate to hear it. I’m wishing good things for him. The real kicker, however, ended up being a 14th inning error by Edgar Renteria, which proved fatal for the Tigers, who were actually ahead at that point and would otherwise have won. I mention this mostly because it gives me an opportunity to just put it out there that Renteria’s name happens to sound a lot like something else. It’s something I might have let slide but for the fact that he was with the Chowdas for a season. I discovered that year that when you’re not feeling well, it’s fun (and more tasteful than the other alternatives) to say, “I’ve got Renteria.” Or “The Renteria.” Whichever you prefer. You can also just say, “I’ve gotta go number 8.” (His number.) There are ways to put Pujols and Crapelbon to similar use, but I’ll go into that another time.

When Richie Sexson, who isn’t THAT awesome, and has never hit a home run for your team hits a grand slam in the eighth to close a six-run gap to two, you win the game. It’s as simple as that. You do it for him. You do it because the Rays and the BoSox both won their games last night and the postseason chasm is growing wider. You do it because the only magic that will take you to October is Yankees magic—not wizardry. True, Pettitte really struggled last night, but we also left a whole lot of guys on base. In the inning and a half after Sexson knocked in his grand salami, we had the tying run at the plate on two separate occasions. Just for fun, with Jeter on first, which of our favorite frosted tip clutch hitters do you think grounded into the game-ending double play? Oh, and which Cub do you think hit a three-run dinger in the seventh to help nail down a comeback win against the 'stros? It wouldn't be the guy we traded for the first guy, would it?

On a more positive note, my grandpa, Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg, for those of you who don’t know, got a mention last night. As we all know, Josh Hamilton has had a phenomenal year, going to the All-Star break with 95 RBI’s. They were discussing the fact that good old Grandpa Hank actually holds that record with 103 RBI’s before the 1935 break, and that was in just seventy-six games. You see, though he may have been famous for hitting home runs, his true obsession was the run batted in. Interestingly, he didn’t make it onto the All-Star roster that year, which some attribute to the fact that then fancier, more veteran first basemen such as Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx were automatically entitled the honor. Others chalked it up to anti-Semitism. My grandfather, for one, never connected the decision with his Jewishness, but that did not stop him from being good and mad--he did not appreciate being on the receiving end of an injustice. He felt he had earned it. And rightfully so—he ended up with 170 RBI’s that year, which was thirty more than anyone else in the league had earned. Additionally, he tied Jimmie Foxx for the league home run title with thirty-six and ended up that season’s AL MVP. Prior to this mention of my grandfather, the last I can recall was when, earlier in the season, Manny Ramirez tied him for third for the most home runs against the Yankees with fifty-three. It’s nice to have that remembrance replaced with a more pleasant one. I mean, really, if they’re going to be comparing anyone to my grandpa, do I want it to be Josh Hamilton or Manny Ramirez?

Joba’s going down South to consult with some surgeon named Dr. James Andrews, who is famous and fancy, or so they keep telling us. Based on recent photos of said surgeon in the Post, I’d say we’ll be lucky if the guy hasn’t had his fifth mint julep by the time Joba arrives for his appointment. It’s possible that Andrews is as well-respected as they say. However, they might have done a better job of instilling confidence in Yankees fans by either including a photo that gave him an air of gravitas or excluding the photo concept entirely. Instead, they’ve made a point of running the same photo twice—and it’s a photo that says, “Hell, boy, you just drink this here bottle of Jack Daniels and that’ll numb you up real good for me to see slice ya open and see what’s rattlin’ around in there.” I’m just saying. There must have been a better picture.

Wags on the DL? Might be the best thing that could have happened to the Mets. But what’s the point if you’re just going to go and replace him with Heilman? It’s like watching, well, Wagner. Give Kunz a chance. You can’t count on Tatis to homer twice for you in every game. Imagine the effect on that poor, pathetic apple.

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