Unless You Can Do Better...
“Baseball been very good to me.” Though I have never watched an episode of “Saturday Night Live” when this line was used, I have quoted it many times. It’s a catch-all phrase, simply expressing the fact that for me, baseball in all forms is not just a way of life, it is the way of life. I derive more enjoyment out of listening to Giants baseball, than any other type of available entertainment.
That doesn’t mean I watch or listen to every game, all the way through to its conclusion; it just means that whenever possible, I take in as much of each game as I am able, and check the end result as early the following morning as I can.
Take last night’s game, against the Blue Jays. Timmy was pitching, it started after seven, and I only made it as far as the fourth inning. However, after the Jays took an early lead in the first, and Andres Torres put us ahead in the second, 2-1, the score never changed. This was quite a contrast from earlier in the season, when we went to Toronto, and got blown out of the ballpark, both games that we played.
There were numerous lapses on defense, during that series in Toronto, both physical and mental, and there was a fair amount of grumbling from Giants fans, everywhere. People sometimes have unreasonable expectations, for a team that plays 162 games over the course of a season. When I think about the multitude of situations that present themselves, to each player, every time he takes the field, I am amazed that our defense stays as consistently on track as it does.
There are so many things that can go wrong, there are so many situations that present themselves-both personally and professionally-and there are so many scenarios that can produce some kind of miscue, that I am always surprised that the Giants can be so consistently on target. I think about the personal lives of the players, and how they have to grapple with family problems or relationship issues, and that those kinds of difficulties can’t be sorted out very efficiently, while three thousand miles away from home.
I think about the level of confidence that each player possesses and how that affects his ability, every time he takes the field. I think about the players and how they have to juggle those aforementioned personal issues. I know I could never have been a professional ballplayer, simply because I could never have left my family at home, and hit the road for those 81 games that are played in opposing ballparks. I am just not emotionally geared to be able to set those personal feelings aside.
And yet, people have such high expectations for the players! When I read the blogs of Brandons Belt and Crawford, and the writing of Gregor Blanco, the players are constantly referring to their wives and kids. It is apparent that they take those responsibilities as seriously as I do. And yet, they have to be separated for much of the time, and are expected to be able to function at the same peak level of performance at all times.
That’s a lot of pressure. There are an infinite number of elements that comprise a major league game, from the offense, to the defense, to the way the players have to deal with the aches and pains of playing a grueling schedule, against the best athletes in major league sports. For a team to be successful over the entire course of a season, so many things must go better than the opposition, it defies comprehension.
The fact that the Giants have won the World Series, two of the last three years, compounds the task of trying to do it again. I always judge a game to have been a successful contest if the Giants can put the tying run on base in the late innings, thereby placing themselves in a position to win. At best, the winner of the NL West will not win more than 95 games, which means that team is going to lose somewhere around 67 games. Just as the best hitters are still going to be out seven times out of ten, a team must be prepared to be on the losing end of games a lot, over a long season.
With all that in mind, I say to those who gripe about the inadequacies of any given player, at any point in time, “Get over it. Unless you can do better, quit your whining, and open another beer. You had your chance, so if you’re watching the games on TV, you obviously couldn’t measure up to the standards that the Giants have proven they possess.”
So play on, men, and if you make an error, we’ll chalk it up to experience, and make up for it with our bats. After all, the players are not robots, only humans, like-as far as I know-the rest of us.