Thursday, April 24, 2008

Deathtour~!: PETCO Park, San Diego

Before I talk about my experience in San Diego, the third leg of my 3-city tour, I just wanted to thank Shane Welker, Pat Loika and the Mesa members of the Weisenburger family (that's my mom's side for those wondering) for being gracious hosts and putting up with my presence for a day or so at a time over the last week. I may be the only one making the trek across the country to all 30 stadiums but having friends and family along the way to visit and attend games with adds another dimension to my travels that I’d be hard pressed to do without. There will be games and cities where I will be alone and I feel blessed to have had companions in all three cities on this trip.


PETCO Park is the 4th stadium I’ve visited this season and, like the previous 3 I’ve watched games at, it’s a young ballpark, opening up in 2004. Unlike PacBell, Busch (which I’ve visited), Wrigley and Philadelphia (which I’ll see later in the season), PETCO does not have the classic brick fa├žade, except for the Western Metal Supply Company building, instead utilizing sandstone and steel to give the stadium a southern taste. The Western Metal Supply Company building, the ‘jewel’ of the park, was built in 1919 and ingeniously included in the design of the ballpark with the corner wall acting as the left field foul pole. I can’t get over how cool that is. Beyond centerfield is the Park at the Park, a standing room only type area which only costs $5. The hill in the park is a great area for a family picnic during a game. A jumbotron on the reverse side of the scoreboard provides Park at the Park patrons with an additional view of the game, a vital feature as despite a grand view of home plate and centerfield, a full third of the playing field is obstructed by the left field seats. The Park at the Park also includes a miniature diamond for kids and a statue of Tony Gwynn, who is apparently the only Padres legend in the team’s history as evidenced by the almost complete lack of any mention of other great players who have donned a Fathers uniform.

One of the pleasures of seeing the Giants in all three games on this trip was finding kindred spirits in the stands. St. Louis was devoid of Giants faithful, not surprising given the fanaticism of Cardinals supporters and the relative distance of St. Louis to San Francisco. Arizona was much better. It’s not that far removed from the Bay and Scottsdale is the spring home of the franchise. San Diego had an even larger group of Giants fans, including one in particular who works as an usher for the Friars. As I was leaving my section to tour the stadium I heard an unfamiliar voice call out to me. I looked around quizzically and saw an usher headed right for me. I had no idea what was going on until he came right up and shook my hand. “I’m the biggest Giants fan in this stadium,” he told me. Initially I thought it was set up of some kind but was assured after few words that I’d found a new friend. He seemed even happier to see me than I was to see him.

I came back to my seat after walking around and decided to talk with this usher again. After properly introducing myself to Jon Goodbar, we discussed our mutual interest in the Giants, how Jon came to be a Giants fan living in San Diego and working for the Padres, different ballparks and how PETCO compares to PacBell. He even gave me a short history of the area. In all I’ve never met a more friendly usher at a game, home or away, and if I ever find myself back at PETCO, I’ll be sure to go up to section 317 to say hi, regardless of where I’m sitting.

The game itself was promising enough. Two great starters – Cain and Maddux – one of whom is a solid up and comer and the other a sure Hall of Famer looking for his 350th victory. And both pitchers lived up to the billing. Cain surrendered only one run and striking out seven. Maddux pitched seven shutout innings giving up only four hits with five Ks and was looking to be on his way to his milestone victory, with Cain on his way to another 1-0 decision loss, until Trevor Hoffman, another Hall of Famer, gave up the game tying home run to Bengie Molina with 2 outs in the ninth. The Giants fan in me was excited, but the baseball fan in me was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see a piece of history and dreading the possibility of another 22 inning affair. The winds were howling in the upper deck and I was freezing my butt off in the third row from the top. By the 11th inning my hands were frozen and shaking so much that I couldn’t write in my scorecard any longer. I hadn’t even dared to get out of my seat to grab a bite to eat. With an early flight the next morning and my long term health on my mind I decided to do what I’d hoped not to do: leave before the final out. It pains me to type it and a part of me regrets the decision. I have no excuse.

For the next few weeks I’m back home with no games slated until I travel to Seattle to watch the Mariners take on the White Sox. I’ll update the blog as much as possible with my incoherent ramblings, but until the next game enjoy these pictures of PETCO Park.

The Western Metal Supply Co. - Still standing after 98 years.

Tony Gwynn. The only Padre who ever lived. Aside from the retired numbers above the centerfield backdrop, which did not include names, I saw no prominent display for Winfield, Garvey or the Goose (who were both a big factor in the Friars first pennant).

The centerfield sandbox and the Park at the Park.

We got there early enough to watch the Giants take BP. Our young stud John Bowker spent that time learning the ropes at 1st base from one of the best defensive players at that position, JT Snow.

The view of our seats and the view from our seats.

Hoffman enters from the bullpen and then gives up the game tying home run to Bengie.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Deathtour~!: Chase Field, Arizona

Stop number two of my three city week long excursion finds me in the middle of a desert. Who decided to build a city here, anyway? I can’t find any reason for it. But apparently over 4 million people have decided to live here. The worst part about this place is how spread out everything is. Nothing is in walking distance from anything, which, as a non-driving citizen, would make living here impossible. I looked up the population density and there’s just a hair shy of 3,000 people per square mile here. That’s 1.5 million spread out over 517 square miles. By comparison, San Francisco’s density is over 15,000 per square mile. We’ve squeezed half the population into one tenth the amount of land (47 square miles). No matter how many people live somewhere, you shouldn’t be allowed to call yourself a city unless you have a density over 7,000 and an adequate bus system supported with a subway or light rail. Phoenix is officially a town.

Chase Field

Unofficially, it’s still The BOB, just like AT&T is still Pac Bell. The BOB seems more natural. Even the mascot of the Diamondbacks is still a BOBcat, though I’m sure the impracticality of an armless snake mascot has something to do with it. The win on Sunday filled me with a false sense of optimism coming into Arizona. I was wearing my colors a little more boldly and the orange and black were well represented at the game. I even found myself seated next to two Giants fans (who unfortunately were not the members of my extended family I was with) who were as happy to see me as I was to see them. After only finding 3 Giants fans in St. Louis, it was nice to be closer to home.

As is becoming my custom with each park, I took a walk around the concourse, checking out each feature along the way – The Pool in right center, Friday’s Sports Grill in Left field, the stadium organ along the left field foul pole. There’s a kids diamond beyond the outfield, which seems to be a popular attraction at ballparks now and a community wall featuring all the little league ball parks the club has funded.

Until this point, I’d only been to outdoor stadiums. To come in and see the roof overhead was quite the experience. The sounds of the ballpark echo from side to side in an unusual way. It’s more like a basketball game or a concert. I was told by my uncle that they keep the roof closed during the day to keep the field cool and then open it up right before the game. It was about 25 minutes before game time when we took our seats in the upper deck directly behind home plate. It was then that I realized I didn’t have a program or scorecard, a requirement for all my games. I walked back down to the lower level, into the team store and purchased a program for the bargain price of $3. By the time I’d made my way back to my seat the roof had been opened. I was kicking myself for missing an obvious photo opportunity.

The additional benefit of sitting behind the plate is the uncanny view of the most spectacular HD screen I’ve ever seen (a new feature this year according to my program). And they make great use of it too throwing up tons of information on the game without compromising the size of the picture used for replays. My favorite feature of the screen was a recap of the last 3 plays. This is of great help if you’re keeping score and need to make a pit stop of grab a bite to eat, which is another requirement for me.

I wasn’t able to find a warm food item that stood out so I asked the concession worker what was good. She gave me the standard ‘everything’s good’ line so I asked what was popular. I came away with some chicken strips and some fries, not exactly unique, but I was hungry and needed something to pass as ‘dinner’ since my next food choice wasn’t going to qualify. Down here they have something called Cold Stone Creamery (which I kept wanting to call Stone Cold) which serves some drool inducing ice cream in waffle cups drenched in caramel. Perfect! It’s 8:30pm and 80 degrees out. Ice cream is exactly what I need. And it certainly made the rest of the game enjoyable as the Giants lost a tough one 4-2, to the delight of my family.

Center field before the game. The roof was still closed at this point.

Roof Open. I would have had the perfect location to watch the transformation if I hadn't forgotten to get a program outside.

Friday's Sports Grill in left and the Lexus Club in right. Fine Dining at the game. The pool is just to the left of the picture in right. I've always liked the funky dimensions caused by the bullpens. I prefer them on the field, down the lines, but this is almost as good.

I don't think this picture does that screen justice. It's really extraordinary. I want one for my house.

On a per dollar basis, upper deck seats directly behind the plate may be the best value in baseball. It's just like watching a classic game on SuperNES.

Seventh Inning stretch. The organ is right underneath the Sandlot sign. The lower deck filled in nicely but the upper decks were bare. Only 22,097 at the game.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Deathtour~!: Busch Stadium, St. Louis

With the hometown portion of the Deathtour halfway completed (Oakland yet to come) the long road trip got started this weekend, fittingly, with a Giants themed 3 game leg. It’s of course impossible to see the Giants in every city, the schedule just doesn’t work out for me and they don’t play in 12 of the 15 American League parks, but I thought it would be fun to follow the team for a short road trip through St. Louis, Phoenix and San Diego to start the tour.

The first destination was St. Louis. I’m well traveled, having covered half the states in the union, but St. Louis, Missouri and the Midwest in general are foreign to me (I didn’t even realize St. Louis and Chicago were of a similar distance to San Francisco and Los Angeles). Aside from Chicago, my only experience in the Midwest involves looking down on it from 30,000 feet. Naturally I was looking forward to coming here, not just for the game, but to experience a new region of the country.

For cost purposes I chose to take the red-eye from San Francisco with a layover in Chicago which may not have been my best decision. I can’t sleep on planes as it is and with my work schedule my internal clock is ready for bed at 8pm. By the time we were in the air at 11:45 it was already well over 3 hours past my bedtime and between home and Chicago I may have managed an hour of sleep with another hour between Chicago and St. Louis which accounted for my lethargy the rest of the day and the minimal amount of conversation I was able to hold with my buddy Shane (sorry dude) and his lovely wife Michelle. I was even fighting off the Sandman during the later half of the baseball game.

I arrived after 9am and shortly thereafter we sat down to eat breakfast at White Castle, of all places. I’d seen a sign for White Castle and mentioned that I’d never eaten there before, although I’m well familiar with their miniature burgers. I downed 4 cheeseburgers along with a coke and realized that perhaps this wasn’t the healthiest way to start the week, considering I’d be attending 3 baseball games, spending a considerable amount of time at airports and have very little opportunity to workout. Already I’m dreading my Friday session with my personal trainer.

Before the game Shane gave me the nickel tour of the St. Louis area stopping to point out and provide the history of every third building we passed. Coming from California there are a few geographical differences that really stand out. Firstly, this entire third of the country is obscenely flat. When you’re used to walking steps hills on a daily basis and view great mountains in the distance it’s jarring to look around not see more than a small mound for miles and miles. Secondly, the Bay Area is green all year round. Evergreens line the sidewalks and fill the parks. Forest Park, St. Louis’ version of Golden Gate Park, and the surrounding landscape in general, is sparsely covered with leaves this time of year, making it appear more barren than it probably is.

After the game we walked down Delmar Avenue, visited The Star Clipper and a hip little used record store, which was reminiscent of the much larger and more expansive Amoeba Records back home, and finished with dinner at a local microbrewery.

New Busch Stadium

The Cardinals new home, which opened last season, was built partially on the site of the old stadium. There are even markers outside the stadium to indicate the foul line and a plaque depicting the overlap of the two parks. From the exterior Busch reminds me a bit of home with its brick finish, which is all the rage in new ballparks, and attention to history. A bust of Jack Buck, accompanied with a photo collage and audio clips of his famous calls, sits outside left-center field. It’s a fantastic tribute to the man who is arguably the best sports (not just baseball) announcer and unarguably one of the most important of the past 50 years. Just a bit further down from the bust is a group of statues of some of the Cardinals and St. Louis Browns greats from Dizzy Dean and Rogers Hornsby to Stan Musial. Another Musial statue stands just outside the main gate but the less spoken about that one the better. Inside the stadium is another tribute to the old ballpark, the hand operated scoreboard, which has been permanently frozen in time at the moment the old stadium finished its last ballgame. Sadly, the scoreboard at the new yard is a step back from the classic look and given the retro design of the new stadium, the electronic setup doesn’t mesh with the rest of the stadium, which looks great.

Coming into the game the Giants were 7-11 and the Cardinals were 12-6 and atop the central division and despite the Gigantes moderate success against St. Louis this year I wasn’t keen on our chances of winning with Jonathon Sanchez on the mound. What I didn’t count on was Braden Looper pitching for the Cards as he gave up 6 straight hits allowing the Giants 6 runs in the third inning. Sanchez himself provided 5 workmanlike innings of shutout baseball. I was as stunned as anybody in that crowd, even Shane who spent most of the game with his face in his palm. “You’re not allowed back here,” he declared, not even halfway through the game. The Giants scored two more in the 4th to make it 8-0. I gleefully looked around the sea of red and white for another orange and black fan to share my excitement with as I polished off a Bratzel, a Bratwurst wrapped in a pretzel (again with the diet). In total I counted 3 Giants hats among the 41,000 plus. Even though I’ve been down on my team this season it was hard not to walk out of Busch with a smug smile on my face as Shane muttered violent expletives to himself.

The Great Jack Buck.

Old Busch Scoreboard. Giants were winning 2-0 over Arizona. Hopefully a similar outcome awaits my visit to Phoenix today.

The view from our seats. The centerfield scoreboard looks fine but the out of town scoreboard in right center just doesn't seem right to me.

The St. Louis Legends.

Proof I was here. You can see the modern looking out of town scoreboard in the background.

Shane has been immortalized as the self appointed Czar of Cardinal Nation.

But the Czar was not to happy with the outcome of Sunday's game.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Deathtour begins~!

Baseball is a game unlike any other. A tradition dating back over 150 years referred to as our national pastime, baseball stands apart from those other sports. A game played with passion and patience, not urgency. A game not restrained by time but played in the moment. If basketball is played by 7 foot giants, football by 300 pound behemoths and hockey by, uh, Canadians, then baseball is played by children. It is the only sport that can so completely strip away the husk of adulthood to reveal our inner child. To lift us off our feet and carry us back 30 years in time to our days on the sandlot.

Seasonally separating itself from the other sports, baseball hogs the summer spotlight filling stadiums with children of all ages, inviting them to relax and enjoy the cool summer breeze. Away from school, away from work, away from all your worries.

Even the dimensions are unique. Football, no matter where you watch it, is played on the same 100 yard field, basketball on the same 94 foot court and hockey on the same 200 foot rink. The interior or the stadiums and arenas vary slightly from location to location but for the most part they’re remarkable similar.

Not so in Baseball. No two parks have identical surfaces, each with walls and fences of varying heights and lengths, contours of every design that help to create the ballpark’s identity. The Green Monster, The Ivy Wall, Tal’s Hill, McCovey Cove – Each of those names conjours up images of a specific place, features of a ballpark not found anywhere else in the country. These features help give each stadium a life of its own. No one can mistake Camden Yards for Comisky Park or The Ballpark at Union Station for Wrigley Field.

Since I was a kid I have dreamed of visiting these sites. To see the House that Ruth Built, or the Green Monster, or be where Cal Ripkin stood when he broke Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played. Until now I’ve only seen pictures. Sometime last year I got the crazy idea in my head to fulfill those childhood fantasies and travel around the country to each and every one of those stadiums. And that, at the risk of my sanity, became my goal for 2008. 30 major league teams and 30 major league stadiums, and appropriately it started at home on opening day.

The Ballpark at China Basin

Maybe it’s because I’ve coming here year after year. Maybe it’s because it’s my home city. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been anywhere else. Maybe it’s because I don’t know any better. But to me, the Ballpark at China Basin, regardless of which phone company you attach to the marquee, is the best park in the country. It may not have the history of Yankee Stadium, Fenway or Wrigley but aesthetically it is unsurpassed. The park is not even ten years old yet but already its legacy is far reaching. It was not the first of the new age ballparks to ditch the feel of the multi-purpose stadiums from the 60s in favor of the classic early 20th century look, but it set the standard for all future ballparks. Since it opened, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cincinnati, San Diego, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and St. Louis have all built new parks with Minnesota and both New York clubs set to open their new stadiums next season.

The Giants have one of the richest franchise histories in the game and you’re made aware of that before you even step inside the gate as you pass the statue of Willie Mays, whose name and number double as the address for the park. Once inside, everything harkens back to the past - from the old glove in left field, the brick wall and hand operated scoreboard in right, the cable car in center, the bullpen along the foul lines (a true relic these days). Retired numbers, and there’s plenty of those in this organization, adorn the top of the first deck in left field. It’s a who’s who of Giants history: Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Mathewson, Ott, Cepeda, McGraw, Terry and Hubbell. Two legends of broadcasting, Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges, have had their mics retired. And a list of the Giants personal 500 Home run club is posted in right-center.

This was the second time I’ve been able to attend opening day and there’s nothing like that experience of rebirth in April. Despite knowing how bad this year’s team is likely to be (and on the 50th anniversary of coming to the city) I still got caught up in the pre-game festivities and deep down I almost felt a hint of optimism creep into me. But that soon dissipated with the start of the game as the Padres scored twice in the top of the first and the Giants hit into a double play with their first opportunity in the bottom half of the inning.

It's the 50th Anniversary of the San Francisco Giants and we're celebrating with our worst team yet. Thanks for still supporting us.

It's a parade of legends. At this point I think the 1958 Giants could give their 2008 counterparts a run for their money.

Brian Bocock has 8 whole days of Major League service. Ed, upon seeing this, "I'm surprised they don't have that calculated to the hour." I was focused on the lineup. Our lead off hitter is hitting .133.

The coke bottle, 1927 vintage glove and a bleacher section still packed in the 3rd while the game was still competitive. Below, a new 50th anniversary commemorative sign in place of the Bonds sign from last season. On it are several Giants legends no longer with the team. Not one of those legends: Barry Bonds.

Announced attendance was 42,841 but someone forgot to tell the fans there was a game today. We hadn't even hit the seventh inning stretch yet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Historic Futility

It’s one thing to be bad. It’s another thing entirely to be historically bad.

In all my years as a sports fan I’ve never actively rooted against my team. To do so is taboo. Even in circumstances where losing is more favorable to winning I just can’t do it. I’ve witnessed enough unlucky lottery selections and bad draft picks to know that dumping a season is not reliable means to future success. Rooting against your team is tantamount to tempting the wrath of the sports gods. So I root for my team to win every game, even when they don’t have a shot. It comes with the territory of being a fan. There’s a natural ebb and flow over decades of seasons, periods of greatness followed by periods of mediocrity. And in the modern sports age there’s plenty of mediocrity to go around. Those seasons, the 85-77 and 73-89 summers or the 8-8 winters, are frequent and forgettable. The die-hard rides the wave of mediocrity, toughing it out, waiting for that one special season where the stars align and it all comes together.

Giants baseball has been entrenched in the pit of mediocrity since losing the World Series to the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Only the presence of Barry Bonds saved the team from being completely irrelevant in the Baseball universe and his absence threatened make them forgotten altogether. Three weeks ago I’d resigned myself to the reality that this was going to be yet another season filled with blown leads, heartbreaking 1-0 losses with Matt Cain on the mound, with flashes of potential from Eugenio Velez sprinkled throughout the summer. A 72 win season. A Completely and unquestionably forgettable season.

Then came this exchange between my buddy Ed and I as we were pumping ourselves up for the Giants home opener.

Ed: The way things are looking we may have the opportunity to see the first Giants win of the season.

Me: The way things are looking we may have the opportunity to see the ONLY Giants win of the season.

I’d only said it in jest, but it got me thinking. We could not only have one of the worst teams this season, we could have one of the worst teams of ANY season. I pondered the possibility and the more I thought about it, the more intrigued about the prospect I became. We’ve been somewhere between bad and average for 5 years. Could we achieve historical awfulness this season? Was this something I wanted to see? And if so, what does that say about me as a fan?

After thinking it over I capitulated to my inner sports demon. It goes against everything I stand for as a fan but there are a couple of reasons I made to justify the decision.

1. Historical Purposes – It’s easy to have a bad season. Half of all teams finish with more loses than wins. But this is a rare opportunity to make history and that’s something I’d like to witness, even for a dubious cause.

2. Record Breakers – I’m a huge numbers geek and I think this was the tipping point in making the decision. There are 3 records that have stood for decades that the Giants have a shot at breaking this season – Shutout Loses, Fewest Runs Scored per game and Loses - and thinking about the odds of achieving all three fills me with a sense of joy. It’s the math geek equivalent to being a kid in a candy store. And it’s not just the records themselves, it’s the test of time these records have stood.

Of the three records only one comes from after the dead ball era. The 1960 expansion Mets famously lost 120 games finishing with only 40 wins. Since then the 2003 Detroit Tigers have come the closest to the record finishing just 1 game shy of tying the Mets with 119 loses. The Giants are off to a good start at 1-6 but of the 3 records this is the least likely one to break. What they have going against them is decent starting pitching. Tim Lincecum looks poised to have a great season and Cain and Zito should provide the Giants with enough solid starts to keep the anemic offense in most games. Of course, in order to win any games they need to score at least 1 run.

Which brings us to record number two. It’s entirely possible that this team isn’t good enough to score any runs on most days. The record for most times being shutout in a season is 33, set by the St. Louis Cardinals way back in 1908, 100 years ago this year. It’s only a week into the season but the Giants have been shut out twice which puts them on pace for 46 for the season. I hardly expect them keep that rate up for a whole season but 33 is within their range. 25 is almost a stone cold lock.

And not scoring runs game after game adds up, so to speak. Those same 1908 Cardinals hold the record for fewest runs on a per game basis with 2.41 totaling 371 in 154 games. With the evolution of hitting it’s not surprising this record belongs to the dead ball era. In fact, since 1925 only 8 teams have averaged less than 3 runs for a season - the lowest of which is the Phillies of 1942 (2.61 runs/game) - and 6 of those came between 1968 and 1972. To average less than 3 runs in the steroid era would be astonishing and if broken would be a true testament to how awful this team is and the level to which this franchise has fallen.

Does the possibility of breaking these tantalizing records justify my breaking fanhood law? Probably not, but I just can’t sit back and watch this on field carnage unfold without taking some sort of sick pleasure in it. So keep hitting those double plays and rack up those loses one at a time. We’re going to make history boys.

The 2008 San Francisco Baseball Giants

Jose Castillo, Brian Bocock, Steve Holm. These are my 2008 San Francisco Giants. Wait, let me rephrase that. These are my 2008 San Francisco Giants?! I must have been hiding under a PacBell Park (yes, I still call it that) sized rock since November because I haven’t heard of half these guys. I knew the team was turning the page on the Barry Bonds era but this is something else. Although, to be fair, turning the page is something of an understatement. Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean ripped the page out of the book, set it on fire and danced the happy dance as it evaporated into winds of McCovey Cove.

And I’m not a fair-weather fan. Through the good times and the bad, I’ve supported this team since I was old enough to throw a baseball. I even, sort of paid attention during spring training this season even though this team, by all rights and analysis from the ‘experts’, is destined to finish in the cellar of the National League West and there are several other more important and interesting sports storylines in the Bay Area. (For instance, have you seen the Warriors lately? They’re the most exciting team in the NBA these days. And those Sharks that no one outside of San Jose seems to care about? Why they have a decent shot to win the Stanley Cup this season. )

So I shook my head when the Giants signed Aaron Rowand to a bazillion dollar contract (anyone ready for a salary cap yet?) and sighed when Omar Vizquel, Noah Lowry and Ray Durham went down to early injuries and resigned myself to the fact that this just wasn’t going to be our year. But, hey, on the bright side we’re going to play all those young prospects I saw last September, right?

Er, well, maybe. Maybe? What happened to the Ortmeiers, Schierholtz and Frandsens of the world? I guess I should have been paying closer attention in Spring. If I had I would have known that Ortmeier was impressive enough to barely make the roster, which according to him was his goal the whole time. I thought that was interesting given that I and everyone else living within 50 miles of PhoneBook Park were expecting him to be the everyday 1st baseman but I guess he fooled us.

Schierholtz was even better than Ortmeier this Spring and was rewarded by being assigned to AAA.

As for Frandsen, apparently he was hurt in March as well, a fact that I had forgotten about until now. And forgotten is a appropriate word in this case as it describes Frandsen’s career up to this point: Completely forgettable.

So now we have Brian Bocock, Steve Holm and Jose Castillo. Three players I’d never heard of until Saturday when I happened to catch a few innings of the traditional Bay Bridge series. And it’s not surprising that I haven’t. Bocock and Holm haven’t played a single major league game between them and Jose Castillo has played the last three seasons in Pittsburgh, which I’m told still has a major league franchise.

So this is what I have to look forward to today; my new look 2008 San Francisco Giants. Well, had to look forward to, as while I was typing this, my Giants, Bocock and all, lost in perfect, predictable fashion, to those Bums from downstate, 5-0. As I watched that final pitch I pondered what the over/under for shutouts for the season would be and whether or not I could put money on it.

It’s going to be a long season. A long season of being shutout game after game after game. A long season of blowing late inning leads (when we have them). A long season of defensive blunders sure to make every Sportcenter blooper reel. A long season of watching players named Bocock, Castillo and Holm. A long season of hating Jeff Kent. A long season of double plays with one out and runners at the corners: the bane of every Giants fan over the last 3 seasons (this last point and the ensuing exerpt from an e-mail exchange with my buddy Ed prompted this blog).

Ed: I'm only listening on the radio... Do they look as bad as they sound?

P.S. I need to get a bigger heart just so I have somewhere for all of the hate that I feel for Jeff Kent.

Me: So far, they're as bad as they sound.

Without Bonds in the line up, Lewis, Davis, Velez and anyone else at the top need to be stealing bases every time they get on. Guys need to be sacrificing runners over and not hitting for the fences. And NO MORE Double plays! It's at the point where anytime the Giants have runners at 1st and 3rd with one out I just assume the next pitch will be hit into a DP. Fuckin' embarrassing.

Ed: Seriously. Their ability to hit into a double play even when it seems improbable is frightening.

It’s going to be a long season. I can’t wait to see them in the home opener.

I love baseball.