Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Kuip Pumps Seven!
Among my newsfeeds are Henry Schulman’s Giants blog and the Giants section from the Chronicle, the Mercury’s Andrew Baggarly’s Giants blog, and ESPN.com’s baseball page—which rarely tells me anything interesting.
Last night Tim Lincecum—who, I should emphasize, won the National League Cy Young Award in 2008—pitched eight innings of a 4-0 win over the Braves. This is what the ESPN newsfeed had to offer (and bear in mind that many of the titles predate last night’s Giants game by hours or even days:
Ooo! A lineup change for the Boston Red Sox! Somebody who was in the Brewers’ lineup, then evidently wasn’t, is back in! A pitcher who’s been canned by four teams from 2006 through spring training this year, and who hasn’t been healthy in five years, now plays for an independent minor league team! Some team’s gonna bring up a prospect! Some guys are injured! Other guys are called up! Someone hasn’t won a game in three years! A bunch of Mets are hurt! The new Tim Lincecum beats the Tigers! Whee! Is there a damn word about the Giants? I feel as though if there had been, it would’ve said “Atlanta Braves Rookie Medlen loses 4-0.” (Those items almost always give the complete city and team names, as if fans wouldn’t understand, say, just “Giants” or even “Nats.” Some potentially relevant stuff gets lost in those ellipses, because….)
Zach Greinke threw a complete game, giving up six hits and a run, walking none and striking out eight. Lincecum went eight, giving up zero runs on five hits and two walks, striking out eight. But Greinke apparently is the flavor of the month—no doubt he’s good enough. And since I didn’t use the newsfeed last year, I don’t know whether everything Lincecum did was covered, but ESPN’s history does not suggest as much.
Okay, I really don’t care that the ESPN.com newsfeed didn’t mention Lincecum or last night’s victory in particular. I honestly don’t. It’s just something I noticed because it’s symptomatic of the network’s general approach. I mean, even print-media sportswriters make fun of the fact that ESPN has rarely given Crap One about anything that happens outside of New York and Boston, and sometimes maybe LA. On the Giants newsgroup, we’d been complaining about this on and off for years, sometimes really dropping the hammer on ESPN. Once or twice, someone at ESPN would respond, saying something along the lines of, “Hey, I care about the Giants!” But that doesn’t really appease the faithful, who for the most part are cheesed off because aside from Giants fans, people only seem to care about the Giants enough to hate them, or at least to make fun of them for front-office foolishness or, more likely, the increasingly conspicuous failure of “San Francisco Giants: World Champions!” rings to exist.
The new MLB Network is a little better, at least—they sound almost like they know who a lot of the Giants players are, and they actually do show some highlights (which beats the snot out of ESPN’s common practice years ago—maybe they still do it; I wouldn’t know—of offering up a teaser about a Giants game during SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight, then failing to say anything about it by the end of the program). Plus, it’s probably unfair to criticize ESPN too heavily about the lack of even-handed baseball coverage, since those folks are mostly about college football and hoops anyway.
I mention the MLB Network because they said something about some team—I can’t remember who; nobody relevant—whose fans are impatient because their team hasn’t won a championship in 17 years, or 23, or 31, or whatever. Yesterday, while looking up something else, I happened upon a Reds’ fan blog that said, “It has been X number of days, X number of hours, and X number of minutes since the Cincinnati Reds’ last World Championship.” I suppose I visit the blog again so I could tell you what those X numbers are, but who cares? It’s only the Reds—it’s not like it’s important economy news, terror alert upgrades, the Giants, or major medical breakthroughs. Still, I can’t fault the misled—they’re misled. Each of us is entitled to his or her opinions, no matter how wrong and foolish they are for not being Giants fans. They can’t help it. (Well, they could, if they really wanted to be okay.)
Now, if you’re a faithful reader of this blog—well, first of all, you’re one of (and here comes a generous estimate) maybe half a dozen people, not counting me (and I don’t really read it except while I’m writing it), but second, you know very well how I feel about other teams’ fans moaning about their teams’ failures to win any World Series lately. Namely, you know I believe that only Giants fans have any real right to moan about their teams’ failures. And you know why. (Hint: 51 years and counting—and no sign of running out of numbers to count.)
Still, whaddayagonnado? I have learned—and this has been reinforced, over and over, possibly since long before any of my ancestors even came to this country—that I have no control over the Giants’ fortunes, except in situations such as the 2002 World Series. (If you read EEEEEE! afterwards, you know that the Giants’ failure was pretty much my fault. But that’s one of the many exceptions, not the rule.) It’s just that since so few of us have much control over our lives, you’d think a guy could have control over the baseball team he follows, but nooooooooo! I mean how fair is life? Shee.
This is why the Good Lord invented tabletop baseball games, which have been around since long before Major League Baseball even settled on a sacrifice-fly rule everybody could live with, and why they, and computer baseball games survive and thrive today. People want to win—or lose, but mostly win—on their own merit. And if they decide to helm their favorite Major League Baseball simulated teams, those teams can finally win, no thanks to the folks who run the real teams. Indeed, one of they main purposes of “replay”-type baseball games is to show how much better you could do than the people who ran the actual team did. And hell, if you don’t like the way things are going, you can cheat, if you really feel the need.
When David Beck and I were avidly working on our baseball game eons ago, we tended to keep the major leagues out of the picture, probably because we didn’t need any imaginary Giants frustrating us to death, too. So Dave had his NBL, and I had my various leagues. Eventually, in a gesture born out of desperation, Dave developed The NBL Superiority Overrule Roll. See, The Game had, annoyingly, more than its share of dice-rolls that, once a play was finally determined and carved in stone, still could overrule that play, turning a hit into an out and vice-versa. The NBL Superiority Overrule Roll took this to the limit: When frustration became too much to handle, Dave—and I, I must admit—would pit one of his NBL teams against a team we hated, such as… hmm… lemme think… what teams might we have hated in those days?… hey, how ’bout, oh, the Dodgers! And, under the premise that the NBL was superior in every way to the Major Leagues, every moment of Dodger success or NBL-team failure in such a simulation could be overruled and, essentially, reversed. Now, the overrules weren’t automatic. Oh, no. You’d still have to roll a 12-sided die, and depending on the result, a play might not be overruled at all. That’s how, after many NBL-vs.-Dodgers contests, the Dodgers finally scored their run. Of course, we had to do the same thing with the Giants, developing a Giants Superiority Overrule Roll. Perhaps you cannot see the attraction of laughing like a loon while Duane Kuiper jacks his seventh home run in as many innings in support of Renie Martin’s 143-0 perfecto over the Dodgers. Of course, one cannot spend too much time in such pursuits—ask those people who delight in stepping on ants—but its fun while the imaginary superiority lasts.
One of the first things I wrote for publication was a review of MicroLeague Baseball, back when I worked on a magazine that catered to 8-bit Atari computer owners. I liked MicroLeague a lot, really, and eventually I actually purchased—yes, Atari people: I actually purchased some software, rather than copying it—the disks that let you set up leagues, make trades, and compile statistics. And one of the teams I made up consisted entirely of Dodger players I heartily disliked (as opposed to just disliking them for the uniform they chose to wear), all of whom were turned into .160 hitters and 14.00-ERA pitchers (because I didn’t want to make the disparity too ridiculous). This team played frequently against what were then the current Giants, all upgraded to .750 hitters who were capable of hitting, say, 80 home runs a year, to say nothing of a bunch of 0.50-ERA pitchers.
Watching runners circle the bases á la that part in “Baseball Bugs” where hundreds of opposing baserunners are doing a conga around the bases was a hoot, but for sheer hysterical giggling, you need to see opposing outfielder after opposing outfielder chase baseballs as far as possible before running out of room. Again and again. Hee. The best part—yes, I know: if this is the best part…—was that once the Giants reached 127 runs in a game, MicroLeague would freeze. Then the challenge was to see how soon they could get to 127.
Today’s the last day to get the new version of Out Of The Park Baseball for ten bucks off the retail price, and because I’m still not working, I shan’t indulge myself—although, hey, at this writing I almost have a job: that is, it was offered, then, at least momentarily, rescinded—so I’ll end up paying full price in the future. And now it’ll let you create players based on statistics you input, which means I may just have to pit a bunch of .750-hitting 2009 Giants against a Dodgers team that tends to cough up, say, 27 runs a game.
Even then, I wonder if ESPN.com would deign to put Giants-related headlines into my newsfeed.