Saturday, April 18, 2015

World Series rings remind Giants there are better days

SAN FRANCISCO – By mid-afternoon on Saturday, the line of people leading into AT&T Park was already backed up from the main gate on Willie Mays Plaza on King Street down Third Street and all the way across Lefty O’Doul Bridge headed hard left to McCovey Cove.
For what? Paul McCartney? The Pope? Monster trucks?
Each and everyone of those people was standing in line to see … wait for it   here comes the punch line … the last-place home baseball team that had lost eight games in a row?
What’s wrong with this picture?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It speaks to the devotion of a fan base that has witnessed and appreciated three World Series titles in five years. On this night San Francisco Giants fans – representing the 333rd consecutive regular-season sellout at AT&T Park -- were hoping to get one of the 40,000 replica 2014 World Series rings passed out before their heroes received the real ones in a pregame ceremony filled with gold and glitz that, at least momentarily, took the grimace off the faces of the frustrated Giants.
Say cheese.
“It gives me a chance to see their teeth. I haven’t seen their teeth all week,” quipped Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose team since April 10 has exhibited the relative excitement of going to the dentist. “It’s been a long week for those guys.”
The last time the Giants were on the brink of enduring such a long losing streak was August 1, 2006. They have long forgotten that day and their starting catcher that night for their ninth consecutive loss – the unmemorable Eliezer Alfonzo.
Still, it seems nothing fazes these Giants. Their remodeled clubhouse, which now resembles an upscale, darkened night club, was business as usual on Saturday. All seven overhead TV screens were tuned to the Golden State Warriors playoff game in case, I suppose, the Giants needed a reminder of how to win. The only apparent pall in the room was Jake Peavy’s announcement that he was headed to the 15-day disabled list with a strained lower back and the revelation that he may have re-aggravated the injury moving boxes or luggage in Phoenix before the team broke spring training. Bochy said Peavy will be out 2-3 weeks and ordered him to quit playing U-Haul.
“It needs more time,” the Giants’ 33-year-old starting pitcher said. “Surgery? I have not heard that word nor do I expect to. We have a pretty good handle on it.”
Peavy joins a Giants disabled list that already includes Matt Cain, who is spending more time on a motor scooter than a mound of late. He has a flexor tendon strain in his pitching arm and probably won’t begin throwing until May when Hunter Pence is expected to return around Hunter Pence Bobblehead Night and give the Giants offense the booster shot it so desperately needs.
The Giants may be having trouble scoring enough runs right now, but they always know how to do ceremonies. They had it covered on Saturday when they had officials riding in six cars drive around the warning track to home plate where five Giants Baseball Hall of Famers were seated next to gift boxes stacked like a Macy’s Christmas display before four parachuters descended from the heavens to deliver the Tiffany and C. rings to everyone from Willie Mays to the team’s massage therapist in the infield which was framed by gold stars serving as reflections of all of the World Series championships in the franchise’s history before streamers and fireworks capped the festivities.
The ring ceremony was as breath-taking as that last sentence. So was the end result: A Giants won thanks to a rookie starting pitcher, Chris Heston, who was a high school pitcher in the Florida the last time the Giants had such a losing skid. He rose to the occasion on World Series ring ceremony night.
“It seems like these days I’ve gotten to pitch are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities,” said Heston, who also started in the Giants’ home opener. “Tonight was a reminder of how good last year was.”
That was Bochy’s message before and after the game. Forget the recent losses and google your accomplishments.
“It was a big day today. They were getting the hardware and pretty fired up before the game,” the Giants’ manager said. “It was something they really needed. It reminds them they are the World Champions and they are really good.”
Giants fans obviously realize that. Any fan willing wait in line for four hours is willing to wait out a losing streak.