Maybe this World Series will be good for baseball.
Instead of the usual powerhouses, the New York Yankees or the Philadelphia Phillies, baseball fans will see the rag-tag San Francisco Giants, a team filled with cast-offs from other franchises, face off against the Texas Rangers, who will be trying to convince Dallas to forget about the Cowboys.
Both the Giants and the Rangers earned their way to the fall classic.
On Saturday night the Giants surprised the baseball world by winning the National League Championship Series, beating the Phillies 3-2 in Philadelphia’s home park in game six. On Friday night, also in game six, the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, knocked the defending champions, the New York Yankees, out of the post season by a score of 6 to 1.
The World Series will pit a Texas team that has both track star like speedsters and home run hitters against a Giants team that has some of the best hurlers in the sport, including ace Tim Lincecum, winner of the Cy Young Award last year.
Nolan Ryan's boys
The Texas team may become known as Ryan’s Boys since their president, former strike-out king Nolan Ryan, put them together. The San Francisco fans already call their brand “torture baseball,” since the team has a way of getting into and eventually out of jams.
The last time the Giants made it to the Big Dance was in 2002 when the “boys by the bay” lost to the American League wildcard Anaheim Angels in seven games. That series will be remembered for a record 21 home runs and a record 85 runs scored. Barry Bonds tied a seven-game series record with four home runs and shattered the single-Series walks record with thirteen. (That was before he was indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in the steroids scandal.)
The current Giants are not loaded with the same kind of power. Yes, they beat the Phillies on Friday night when infielder Juan Uribe punched a Ryan Madson pitch over the right-field wall to give the Giants a 3-2 lead. But, in 2002, the Giants, led by Bonds 46 regular season home runs, hit 198 four-baggers compared to 162 this year when their most prolific long ball hitter was Aubrey Huff with 26 blasts.
The Giants' 'cast-offs' win big
Mr. Huff is an example of how the Giants fielded a team made up of players other teams had given up on. In ten seasons, he has played for Tampa Bay, Houston, Baltimore, and Detroit. Only two years ago, he commanded an $8 million annual salary. But, this year the Giants signed him for $3 million. In 2009 his home run production had declined to only 15 four baggers.
By way of contrast, the Texas team is made up of a combination of home-grown talent and some stars acquired by adept trades. For Texas the most notable trade was in July when the team acquired left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners. Mr. Lee seems to become impossible to hit during the post-season when he has seven wins and no defeats.
Texas also has the bats to backup the hurlers. This year, the team hit 162 homers – the same number as San Francisco. But, the team is better known for its ability to race around the bases. The team had 123 stolen bases, the fifth best in the American League and 7th best in the Majors. The Giants had only 55 stolen bases.
Another indication of the team’s speed: when it had a runner on first, he advanced to third base 122 times this season, 22 more than second place Cincinnati.
Strong San Francisco pitching
But, a team can’t steal if it can’t get on base. Texas will have to show it can bat against the Giant’s lanky, long-haired ace Lincecum (who posted a 16-10 regular season record and threw 231 strike outs), Matt Cain (13-11), Jonathan Sanchez (13-9), and closer Brian Wilson, who had 48 saves.
On Saturday night, Mr. Wilson showed his stuff when he got five outs to win the NL Pennant for the Giants. Facing Phillies slugger Ryan Howard with two men on base, he dropped an off-speed pitch over the plate for a called third strike. End of game.
San Francisco will open the series on Wednesday at their home park. The first match-up is expected to be Lincecum against Lee.