A post on the Giants newsgroup today said “Unlike some people here, I love the Giants, win or lose.” This drew the appropriate response, “Name one Giants fan here who doesn’t love the Giants, win or lose.” The first poster said that he doubted he could name any such Giants fan, but that the tone in the newsgroup sort of bothers him. Or words to that effect. That’s pretty standard stuff in the newsgroup, but I’d like to explore the larger concept, namely Giants fandom—which, as you know, is as large a concept as any you’re likely to find.In the EEEEEE! 2002 Postmortem I wrote a piece about what sports and teams mean to us, titled “Why Does it Matter So Much?” This was pretty exhaustive—that is to say “long”—but didn’t adequately cover the “thick and thin” angle. And to be honest, plenty of newsgroup post, and a few e-mails, have seriously worked my nerves by taking that approach. The implication is that because I—or many of us in the newsgroup—aren’t “real” Giants fans because we dare to point out the occasional nudity of the emperor.
Well, horrors! You know? My response to today’s post was, “I love my kid, too, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t annoy me sometimes.” Am I supposed to maintain psychotically inaccurate illusions about my team? Am I supposed to believe that—win or lose—they’re just wonderful and sublime? Well, yes, I guess. The Giants will always be my team, no matter who they trot out there, and while it’s true that once you don the colors, you’re One of The Beloved, why shouldn’t I complain if you stink?
All it really comes down to is that there are different types of fans, and who’s to say that one type is somehow superior to another? And when we talk about different types of fans, we enter the realm of personality types. Some folks are optimistic by nature, and I have to say that I envy them to some extent. I can’t imagine, for instance, waking up and thinking, “This is going to be a great day!” But I wouldn’t mind feeling like that—would you?
Rather than pessimistic, I tend to think that the diametric opposite to “optimistic” is “realistic.” Now, that’s not meant to imply that I possess the gift of seeing things exactly the way they are; it’s more like this: Maybe you were excited about the debut last night of Matt Cain, whom we may as well call “Super Bowl” because of the unbelievable hype we’ve been exposed to since the Giants drafted him, and maybe this excitement manifests itself in “Well, maybe he didn’t throw a perfect game, or even win, but we’ll be riding his arm to a World Championship!” I too was excited—probably as excited as I’d been before any game this season—but my expectations were not high, nor could they be. Hey, I wanted that perfect game, too, but I realized after a while that what I really wanted was (a) a Giants victory, and (b) something approaching a “quality start” from Cain, something that would provide some solid footing, some confidence, whatever else he needs to, I dunno, be a good pitcher for the Giants. I think of that not only as a reasonable hope, but a realistic one.
Think about the last few guys we’ve seen hyped. I’m sure I’m missing some key figures here, but the guys who come to mind, in reverse chronological order, are Jesse Foppert, Jerome Williams, Mike Remlinger, and Mark Grant. Foppert and Williams, definitely, were supposed to be The Real Deal. Indeed, they both threw some good games for the Giants, especially Williams. And they both threw some bad ones, as anyone else would. These two should have been rotation stalwarts for years to come, but even after all the hype, Brian Sabean traded them. Remlinger came up and threw a shutout, then another good game, then two not-so-great ones, then returned to Triple-A… and went to Seattle in the Kevin Mitchell deal. Grant managed to fashion a reasonable major league career, but he never really panned out with the Giants—and was traded in the previous Kevin Mitchell deal.
Okay, on the one hand, this tells me that you have to give up quality to get quality, as general managers are so fond of saying. That’s okay. I mean, as consumers, we all know that, for the most part, we get what we pay for. It’s just kind of depressing to see these kids come up, sporting a “Can’t Miss” label, and then leave. Thankfully, neither Grant nor Remlinger haunted the Giants all that much (though Remlinger’s career may have come to an end only within the last couple of days), and we don’t know about Williams and Foppert yet. But whether Cain is traded or not, I kind of expect the same thing.
I don’t want the same thing. I want him to be great. I want him to make Giants fans forget about Marichal and Perry—well, older Giants fans, anyway, because the younger ones often don’t know who those guys are. I want Cain—some Giant, anyway—to win a Cy Young. I’m tired of the fact that the Giants just don’t grow great pitchers anymore. (Nor do they grow great position players anymore, but for the moment, that’s beside the point.)
I did like what I saw in Cain last night. You have to temper his wildness by bearing in mind that he had to be pumped up like a monster-truck tire. I look forward to his next couple of starts, just to see if he comes up with something that works besides a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, and maybe puts some movement on that, too. It’s a shame he lost—he wasn’t great, but he didn’t deserve to lose, especially considering that the Rockies’ second run in this 2–1 game scored on a double-play ground ball.
But you know what I want for this guy? I want him to be fun to watch. The last Giants pitcher I can remember really enjoying was—wait for it—Atlee Hammaker. Yes! In the first half of 1983, he was masterful, and, as awful as the Giants were, I looked forward to his starts. I do enjoy watching Schmidt and Lowry, but I hope Cain—or some Giants pitcher, soon—can provide that much fun again.