Strange Rumblings in the Rocky Mountains

Dock of the Bay's Weekly Jaunt

Over the past half-decade or so, it feels as if each year’s Giants team can be defined by its most heartbreaking loss - and the games surrounding.

In the second week of 2005, Armando Benitez blew a three-run save opportunity against the hated Dodgers, the day ending as the ball scuttled beneath Jason Ellison’s glove in left field. It seems as if that squad, lacking Barry Bonds for 9/10th’s of the season, never got over the sight of Jeff Kent and Milton Bradley jumping around together at home plate like school girls who’d forgotten their jealousies amid so much excitement.

During the final game of the 2004 season - the day after Steve Finley’s evil twin brother, Rat Face the Giant Killer, hit a ninth-inning walk off - the Giants responded with ten unanswered runs, only to find out that the Houston Astros had won their game, taking the final playoff spot.

In 2003, it was a weird, awkward defeat in June to the Royals on the road. Mike Sweeney smacked a three-run double off then-closer Tim Worrell, the result feeling more like an aberration - like an obvious billing mistake you know will be corrected by some overly friendly customer-service rep - than doom.

In 2002, it was Game Six (Infandum!) and the subsequent, listless outing by Livan Hernandez.

In 2001, I was in college, enjoying myself way too much in the presence of so many vile Cubs fans, but nevertheless I remember a certain game in September just after the season had resumed - a blown save at home against Moises Alou and the Astros that caused my future wife to ask, “Are you really crying?”

And if, off the top of my head, I could remember our most heartbreaking loss from 2000, I wouldn’t say so here. Because such tetherings of memory and obsession are just weird, right?

But as my favorite purveyor of baseball lexicon, the Mike Krukow figure, would say, Irregradless, meat.

The year is 2006. Large rodents roam the streets of New Orleans. Oil costs three girl-children a barrel. Barry Bonds is assailed by syringes and adverbs alike. And our San Francisco Giants, finding themselves on the cusp of rebuilding seasons and a sense of ennui not felt since 1991, have suffered their first terrible loss of the season, a blown save in Colorado that felt like being punched in the stomach by your sister.

And how did they respond?

With fastballs projected into the backs of their enemies.

That’s right. After giving up four runs in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night - a loss that ranks with those epic meltdowns of the past - the Giants retaliated with a 6-4 win on Saturday, and then with a beanball extravaganza that rivaled a late-nineties Charlie Hayes brawl.

This is how it all started: back in the 1997 World Series, then-Indians pitcher, Jose Mesa, blew a save. Omar Vizquel, shortstop and renowned lyricist, ended up writing about the event in his memoir:

“The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose’s own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game.”

Okay. Makes sense. Mesa blew the save because, instead of a soul, he is filled with the kind of unholy emptiness that makes cats hiss. I agree 100 percent. I mean, we’re talking about Jose Mesa here, the same evil headcase who walked in the winning run two games in a row back in the 1998 season, when he was acquired by the Giants for the stretch run. Not that I hold grudges or anything.

Speaking of grudges, Mesa responded to Omar’s prose style with the statement, “I will not forgive him. Even my little boy told me to get him. If I face him 10 more times, I’ll hit him 10 times. I want to kill him.”

Way to bring your progeny into it, Jose. Generational blood feud = on. He proceeded to hit Omar the next three times they faced each other. Bringing us to 2006. And this year’s Giants squad. And their first heartbreaking loss of the season.

And then came Sunday afternoon, when Giants starter Matt Morris took the mound, backing up his shortstop with two fastballs into the bones of Colorado hitters - all in the first inning.

I don’t care if Morris’s second beanball wasn’t intentional. The Rockies thought it was. So did the umpires. Which is all that matters.

As a result, this year’s team reminds me a bit of the crazy guy you’re always afraid to go drinking with. You know, the guy that’s got a good heart and all - he convinces you to do the wildest things, this guy, like breaking into a city zoo or stealing a boat - but who also, on account of that chip on his shoulder, gets you into impossible situations, the kind that result in a broken bottle and fifteen stitches in your scalp.

That guy. That’s who this team resembles. They’re gonna take us on a crazy ride this year, and we fans will have more fun than in 2005. But the game’s are gonna be like the one this Wednesday against the Mets: strange, roller-coaster epics that include game-tying home runs and terrible bullpen outings - all of it adding up to a sense of tedium that amplifies even the most inconsequential plays to the realm of fate-changing.

The Giants will be in the hunt all year, on account of the weak NL West. There will be days that they are mercilessly blown out. In contrast, they won’t wipe the floor with too many opponents. The best we can hope for, as fans, is that this squad resembles the team from 1997 - the one that made the playoffs and won 90 games, becoming the first ever to do so in the history of baseball and still allow more runs than they ended up scoring.

We shall see. But I like how these Giants have responded so far. And personally, I’d rather hang out with the crazy guy myself. As long as he’s Steve Kline-crazy, not Jose Mesa-style.

And as long as, during that first week in October, we all end up on that stolen boat to the playoffs.

Because that’s how you roll, 2006 Giants.

Ballers of the Week:

Matt Morris-Omar Vizquel tag-team. Morris gets this honor for throwing that second pitch at the Rockies, the one that completely screwed over our bullpen and messed him up, personally, for his next start. Now that’s a baller statement.

And Omar is a baller for the way he handled Mesa. When he was drilled on Saturday, he jogged down the line, classy as can be. Then, on Sunday, when he was on first base and Mesa was summoned from the bullpen, he walked slowly - ballerly - toward the center of the diamond, stepping right at the crazy person who had threatened to kill him.

That’s how talented Vizquel is. He can take on the guise of a crazy person himself - the exact opposite of his normal disposition - when the situation calls for it. (He is an accomplished actor, of course). And Mesa didn’t do nothing but stare on with those vacant eyes of his. I like it.

Honorable Mention:

Barry Bonds. Big Poppa has 4 hits in his last 11 at-bats, including 3 bombs. Is he super hot? No. NBA Jams, two-buckets-in-a-row hot? That sounds more like it.

Right about now Krukow is exclaiming, “He’s heating up!” And on Barry’s next home run, watch as the ball brightens into a trail of fire. Hot indeed.

Meathead of the Week:

Pedro Feliz. I’m not familiar with the current economics of baseball bartering, but I would bet that, through 19 games, the market value of 2 home runs and 13 RBI’s is somehow less than 4 double-play balls and 16 strikeouts. And a .169 batting average.

Pedro’s not gonna sink this team, especially in the way so many Giants fans out there seem to believe. He’s hitting seventh in the order, for god’s sake. His defense has been on the level of baller.

But it’s the repeated, meathead approach at the plate - the inability to make any semblance of an adjustment - that draws the wrath of so many Giants faithful.

Hopefully he’ll find and a way to avoid meathead status. But my crazy cousin just bet me twenty bucks that Feliz breaks A.J. Pierzynski’s double-play mark of 27 from the 2004 season...27!

Man, that is something I would definitely pay money to avoid seeing.



Tim Denevi is a die-hard Giants fan. Please e-mail him with your opinion on any issue at denevi@hawaii.edu

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