You might remember, from back at the beginning of the NFL season, when we previewed each team by having a writer we liked write about their favorite team.
Well, we're less than a month away from the start of baseball — spring training is here! — so it's time to do the same thing in the baseball world. Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The San Francisco Giants. Your author is Rick Chandler.
Rick Chandler is the associate editor of Deadspin. His words are after the jump.
She was a lanky sunburned girl whose tan dress of thin woolen stuff clung to her with an effect of dampness. Her eyes were brown and playful in a shiny boyish face. She finished shutting the door behind her, leaned against it, and said: "There's a girl wants to see you. Her name's Abdul."
"I guess so. You'll want to see her anyway: she's a knockout."
"Shoo her in, darling," said Spade. "Shoo her in."
Unable as I am to get to the bottom of things like one of San Francisco's more celebrated and coldly detached former residents, the hard-boiled private detective Sam Spade, I'm still not quite sure what to make of all of this steroid and amphetamine business. I'm a child of more simpler times, when, if Willie Mays hit one over the chain link left-field fence at Candlestick Park, one could feel reasonably certain that there was nothing behind the blow but pure boyish enthusiasm and a shot of adrenaline. Or, in the case of Will Clark, several liters of hooch. The Giants were always more fun when fate, and not science, was conspiring against them. The manic, unpredictable Candlestick wind; the manic, unpredictable shortstop Johnny LeMaster; and an ownership that seemed dedicated to letting the team languish in either third place, or Tampa Bay.
The three defining moments in San Francisco Giants history consist of Godzilla-proportioned near-misses. They occurred in the team's only three World Series appearances since its New York days: In 1962, down by a run in the ninth inning in the seventh game and with Willie Mays on third base and Matty Alou on second, Willie McCovey's line drive was snared by Yankees' second baseman Bobby Richardson for the final out. Then, in 1989, God himself got involved, sending an earthquake prior to Game 3 with the Oakland Athletics. The temblor actually caused Candlestick to sway, with me holding on within, although nothing in the park was actually wrecked except the Giants' chances. And in 2002, up 3-games-to-1 to the Angels, San Francisco quite impossibly found a way to let it slip through their aging and weathered fingers.
She had dark red hair and glistening lips that were redder still, which was odd, since she wasn't wearing lipstick. She wore a t-shirt that read 'SF Giants,' although by the way she filled it out, it should have read 'Bowling Balls For Sale: Inquire Within.' Spade rocked back in his chair and asked: "Now what can I do for you, Miss Abdul?"
She caught her breath and looked at him. She swallowed and said hurriedly: "Could you—? I thought—I—that is—" Then she tortured her lower lip with glistening teeth and said nothing. Only her dark eyes spoke now, pleading.
Spade smiled and nodded as if he understood her, but pleasantly, as if nothing serious were involved. He said: "Suppose you tell me about it, from the beginning, and then we'll know what needs doing. Better begin as far back as you can. But one thing first. Let's start with your real name. You are not Paula Abdul, are you?"
The current facts are these: A fourth near-miss is not likely to happen in 2007. Barry Zito's new delivery notwithstanding (that's a crock, by the way; he's planning no such thing), the Giants are too old, have too many holes and are dedicating too many resources to a certain part-time left fielder whose load-bearing beams could collapse at any moment, leaving hundreds dead and injured. I'm not your garden variety Brian Sabean basher; I think he's done more with fewer resources than just about any GM one could name. But like the aging team he's constructed, time is not on his side. As another notable San Francisco character, Robin Williams, once said (and probably stole), "You had an hourglass figure, but your time is up."
The Departed: Moises Alou, Steve Finley, Shea Hillenbrand, Mike Matheny, Jason Schmidt, Tim Worrell. And Please Welcome: Rich Aurilia, Ryan Klesko, Bengie Molina, Russ Ortiz, Dave Roberts, Tyler Walker, Zito. For Aurilia and Ortiz, it's their second tour of duty. Sadly, they come in without sufficient body armor. It's not that the Giants are in worse shape than last season, it's just that they aren't appreciably better. But hey, you go to war with the army you have, as someone once said. I think it was Crazy Crab.
Spade suddenly spun on his heels, grabbed the woman by the scruff of her t-shirt and gave her two swift slaps across the puss. She let out the kind of a yelp that one might hear at a dog show, or a Jets game. All pretense was gone now, her wig askew, revealing a glistening, bald head.
"You're Barry Bonds, aren't you?" demanded Spade, cuffing him once more for good measure. "Look at yourself! What have you done?"
Bonds' voice shook a little, and his lips shaped the words with nervous jerkiness. "I'm deathly afraid of Bud Selig, the grand jury, needles, and for some reason Robert Goulet," he said, the words gushing in torrents. "I'm afraid of not breaking the record. Of failure. Of everything."
Spade released him in disgust, and Bonds slumped into his chair.
Sing no sad songs for the 2007 Giants. The tainted "glory" of Barry Bonds' home run record chase will soon be over, Bonds will retire, and things will slowly return to normal. Summer will arrive, and then fall, and then the realization that, in the most eye-pleasing ballpark on earth, in the most picturesque city, all things are possible once again.
Spade considered Bonds as one might a baby squirrel that had fallen from its nest ... albeit a squirrel with three times the normal shoe size. The detective was a man who had seen the corrupt, the wretched, the tawdry side of life in this city. So why did he feel nothing but pity for this cheater? Looking at Bonds slumped in his chair, weeping softly into his Paula Abdul wig, as two bowling balls rolled slowly across his office floor, Spade picked up the phone and dialed a local number.
"There's a guy I know who will help you out," he said, lighting a cigarette. "Speed, dope, horse steroids, whatever you've been doing, I don't want to know. And the guy I'm calling won't ask any questions. He'll help you get better."
He didn't know why he was doing this exactly, but it felt right. And sometimes that's enough. He offered the pack to Bonds.
"No thanks," said the baseball player. "Those things will kill you."
(NOTE: Thanks to Dashiell Hammett, mayor Gavin Newsom and former Giants third baseman Fran Mullins, without whom this preview would not have been possible).