There will be some grousing about how the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants present an unappealing match up of obscurities, but I like this World Series.
I like it that the Yankees won’t be around to call time, step out of the box and then work the count by fouling off balls thrown in the strike zone while resisting balls thrown out of the strike zone.
If the Yankees were involved in this World Series, the scheduled first pitch today at 4:57 p.m. would be followed by a second pitch delivered, oh, sometime after 5.
I like it that the Series is between two teams west of the Mississippi River – really west, not just west by a few blocks in downtown St. Louis – and that bragging rights potentially extend beyond the state of California.
I like it that a once-contentious Dallas-San Francisco playoff rivalry (the Cowboys and 49ers have faced each other in the NFC championship six times, with the Cowboys winning four) will find the baseball fans in one of those markets celebrating a World Series title for the first time.
And then there are teams. I like the Giants, who used the same roster-construction blueprint as the 2010 Mariners – superior pitching augmented by just enough hitting to get them through the night – and ended up winning 92 games, which is 23 more than Seattle won.
(On the other hand, the Mariners led San Francisco in dugout spats, silent-treatment boycotts of a reporter, abrupt retirements of future Hall of Famers, trades of ace pitchers for prospects, midseason coaching shakeups and managerial firings.)
And I like the Rangers, not only for revealing the flaws of the aging Yankees during the playoffs, but for enabling the storybook revival of a Texas franchise that only two months ago was put up for auction in bankruptcy court.
Which brings me to a quandary: Who is the sentimental choice?
For one, they have been established as slight underdogs. When all else seems equal from a distance, no matter the sport or the event, I tend to pull for the team Las Vegas doesn’t prefer.
For two, as a proponent of using the All-Star Game to determine home-field advantage in the World Series – the only other proponent who comes to mind is commissioner Bud Selig – I’m anxious to finally see evidence of that advantage: A ninth-inning, Series-clinching rally in Game 7, before a raucous crowd in San Francisco, would qualify as evidence of home-field advantage.
(In case you’re wondering, the World Series hasn’t gone to a Game 7 since 2002, a year before the All-Star Game result figured into the equation. In 2002, thanks to a home-field edge tangible enough to turn Scott Spiezio into a hero, the Angels beat the Giants.)
Another reason to like the Giants is their improbable trek into the spotlight. The talent of two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum was no secret. (No secret, at least, except to the Mariners, who turned down a chance to select the former University of Washington star in the first round of the 2006 draft.)
Nor was it a secret that Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez would join Lincecum to form the foundation of a dynamite pitching staff.
The surprise was how the Giants’ position players, a collection of retreads and castaways, became the team’s very identity.
I recall watching an ESPN spring-training feature on the Giants – a crew from the network visited every camp – and when the presumptive opening day lineup was posted in a graphic, my thoughts turned to the poor, unfortunate souls I know as San Francisco Giants fans.
The opening day lineup, it turned out, had little resemblance to the lineup that dethroned the mighty Phillies as NL champs.
The heart of that lineup included rookie catcher Buster Posey, who spent the first two months of the season in Triple-A. Behind Posey was Pat Burrell, released by Tampa Bay in May. Behind Burrell was Cody Ross, acquired through waivers in August.
Posey is a Rookie of the Year candidate who merits consideration as Most Valuable Player. Burrell, a Bay Area product who’d done nothing to upgrade his role as an occasional designated hitter/pinch hitter with the Rays, hit 18 homers for San Francisco, rejuvenating a once-promising career with, well, promise.
And Ross? He deserved to be the MVP of the Giants’ division series elimination of the Braves, except a division series MVP isn’t recognized.
No sweat. He was named MVP of the NL Championship Series against Philadelphia.
Bruce Bochy’s club has the vibe of a beatable team that won’t be beaten when it counts. The Giants are a throwback – it happens every decade – to the 1969 Mets, 1988 Dodgers, 1990 Reds and 2006 Cardinals.
Prediction? San Francisco prevails, somehow, some way. Fantasy prediction? The Giants in seven, after the deciding game is taken well into extra innings.
In which case I’ll have to applaud the Rangers, again, for beating the Yankees.
If the Yankees are playing extra innings in Game 7, the World Series isn’t decided until Thanksgiving.