For half of a season I've been observing the San Francisco Giants. A team built around pitching and little else, I could not bring myself to become a fan.
I watched games in which their right fielder missed the cut-off man. Three times. I watched their self-serving closer with his ridiculous beard and moronic quotes somehow get the job done but never without some angst. Seriously, who throws a 3-0 slider with a lead in the 9th? I watched as the Panda went AB after AB without having a clue: he's hitting lefty with a runner on second and nobody out, watches a fastball in for a strike, waves at a breaking ball, then pops up. Have a clue. I watched as Andres Torres, the team's leadoff hitter, take the sombrero (4 strikeouts) ALL on fastballs out of the strike zone. And by ALL I mean he swung and missed at eight (5 consecutive) fastballs up and out of the zone. The same damn pitch.
For a team needing to scratch and claw for every run, they sure seemed content playing station-to-station and waiting for the three run homerun that no one could hit. They relied on pitching and then the pitching relied on itself and in August, that just didn't work.
Giants baseball just wasn't a good watch.
Then the playoffs happened and the sexiest thing for a baseball fan in the playoffs is big time pitching performances. How does opening the playoffs with 29 IP, 3 ER, 5 BB, 36 K out of your starting staff sound? Sexy. But I still wasn't a fan.
I became a fan - not just an observer but a fist pumping, jump-up-and-down-alone-in-your-living-room fan - when Pat Burrell, the now one-tool talent (power), went first to third on a flare down the left field line off the bat of uber-enfuego Cody Ross. Standard Torture (the name given to the Giants' offense by the local paper) would call for Burrell to pull up at second. Station-to-station. Not that night. Off the bat he was going to third.
Had I really just seen the Giants work to improve their own chance to score? Indeed I had. I was impressed and on board.
I'm not a Giants hater but I do need for my team to give the impression that they are gonna fight and when they punched back at the Phillies Wednesday night I saw something I hadn't seen before. I saw a team not trying to belong but a team trying to win.
The Giants followed with a double from struggling third baseman, Panda McChubby, and it was clear to me that this team had arrived.
I don't necessarily need a winner but I need to see a fighter and, for the first and most important time this season, the Giants are fighting.