It’s an even year.
The San Francisco Giants sneak into the playoffs. They go on the road in front of a raucous crowd. A relative unknown explodes at the plate.
Madison Bumgarner pitches a shutout.
I’ve been a Giants fan my entire life. From the Chili Davis years, to my all-time favorite player Will “The Thrill” Clark, to now, when the team is led by (my favorite university) Florida State alum Buster Posey. I’ve been through the Roger Craig years, 87 and 89, the earthquake series, winning 103 games and finishing a game behind Atlanta and missing the playoffs. So for me, I’m really not yawning.
The Giants may have won three titles in short succession, but each one is better than the last. I know that after this current run is over, the Giants may not win another title in my son’s lifetime, and he’s seven years old.
But the fact of the matter is, the Giants are a dynasty. Great for that team’s fans, but horrible for everyone else. The Giants have become MLB’s Spurs, or Patriots: well-run franchises that people want to play for, a model for the rest of the league. And I say that without any of the smug that comes with being a Cardinal fan, for example. I know how rare this is, I don’t take it for granted.
I am also a sports fan. I can love my Sacramento Kings, but be in awe of the Spurs. I can love my Niners, but look over at Oakland and respect the hell out of what the Raiders are doing. So when I saw that Theo Epstein had relocated to Chicago a few years back, I kept a very close eye on that situation.
I believe Epstein is the greatest executive in sports history, and he’s in his forties. He broke the curse in Boston, and he’s trying to break an even bigger one in Chicago. The team has improved every year since he arrived. He absolutely loaded up the farm, and last year’s minor success came way earlier than most thought.
The Chicago Cubs are the best team in baseball, and I don’t think it’s close. And it couldn’t matter less.
In football and basketball, the best team generally wins it all. In baseball? Not so much.
Yes, you could argue that the last team standing is the best, but not in baseball. Baseball is about streaks, chemistry, and a little bit of pure luck. Really, it’s all about timing. You could say the Giants weren’t the best team in any of their three title years, but who cares? What they were was a team that rose to the occasion when the lights shined brightest and when many other squads shrunk.
All the pressure is on the Cubs. Forget Boston, Texas, LA, or even the Giants. The world is waiting for the Cubs to collapse. On paper, it seems unlikely. They really have no weakness. They’ve been masterfully put together, by someone in Epstein who is the equivalent of a baseball Mozart. All the pieces are there, but here’s the thing: they have to perform.
Prior to their title-winning ways, there was one series that always stood out to me as a Giants fan. The year was 1989, Giants vs. Cubs. The peak of Will Clark’s superpowers. The man will never be a Hall of Famer, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better performance from a hitter in a playoff series.
Clark tied the record for most RBI in an NLCS series in the first four innings of GAME ONE. He hit SIX FIFTY (.650) for the series (I capitalized those words so that they would stand out and drive the point home, not annoy you). Game 1 was also remembered not only for Clark’s slam off of Greg Maddux, but the fact that Clark read Maddux’s lips when he told his catcher “fastball high and tight” on the mound. This is why players cover their mouths with their gloves now, because of Clark’s eagle eye.
So the teams have a little history.
Here’s the thing though – the Cubs own the biggest and most storied curse in sports. The Giants have won three titles in Barack Obama’s administration. There’s a slight difference.
I didn’t want this. Had the Giants lost to the Mets, I would’ve put all my fan juju on the Cubbies. All-in for a great story. But now, as a guy who is used to rooting for the underdog, I find myself instead the greedy, selfish, frontrunner guy. And I hate those guys. But what can I do, not root for my lifelong team?
If you aren’t a Giants fan, you have no business rooting for anyone but the Cubs. I don’t care if you’re a Cardinals fan and it burns your eyes, how could you not root for the lovable Chicago losers, especially when they’re playing a team that has been the polar opposite.
My heart and soul are with the Giants, I hope they sweep the Cubbies and piss everyone off taking yet another even-year title.
But if they lose, my sadness will be buoyed ever so slightly by the fact that Theo Epstein and his unstopables are that much closer to redemption.
I love sports.
I hate sports.
But mostly I love them.