Monday, September 30, 2013

Oldest Ringless Players: 2013

It's time for the annual list of Oldest Ringless Players! Which combat-tested veteran will finally get his championship ring this year? I know the Playoffs technically haven't started yet, but since tonight's tiebreaker is taking place after Game #162, we can just throw in both participants for fun.

Even though I have a hard time considering this "Wild Card game" a true postseason game, I technically have to count it. The first time I did this list there were only eight teams, and now there are eleven. Come on, MLB. You're killing me.

As usual, I'm only counting players who were on their teams' 40-man rosters at season's end, though there might have been older players who played earlier in the season that are in line for a ring.

Atlanta Braves: Tim Hudson (July 14, 1975)
Boston Red Sox: John McDonald (September 24, 1974)
Cincinnati Reds: Corky Miller (March 18, 1976)
Cleveland Indians: Jason Giambi (January 8, 1971)
Detroit Tigers: Torii Hunter (July 18, 1975) 
Los Angeles Dodgers: Michael Young (October 19, 1976)
Oakland Athletics: Bartolo Colon (May 24, 1973)
Pittsburgh Pirates: Kyle Farnsworth (April 14, 1976)
St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran (April 24, 1977)
Tampa Bay Rays: Jamey Wright (December 24, 1974)
Texas Rangers: Joe Nathan (November 22, 1974)

As you can see, the Cardinals have the youngest player on this list, and are also the most recent champions, so if the story of the 2013 season is going to have a happy ending, the Cardinals provide very little to advance that interest.

The Pirates have been exciting to follow all year, so if they end up one-and-done against the Reds, I will condemn the Wild Card game to my death.

After we have the results of the tiebreaker tonight, I'll probably chime in with my playoff predictions. As usual, I'll expect the worst and hope to be wrong. It's the only way I can deal with this game.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Characterizing the Fanbases #9: San Francisco Giants

Welcome to the latest installment of Characterizing the Fanbases! In this series I’m attempting to present the psychology of every MLB fanbase. This series, as you would expect, comes with a disclaimer: These characterizations are based on my own perceptions and opinions, and no offense is intended by them. I freely admit that I’m only one man, and my view is therefore limited. I’m fully aware that many fans will not fit the profile I depict, and that’s to be expected, because it’s impossible to make blanket statements about large groups of people. If you want to contest anything I write here, feel free to leave a thoughtful, civil comment. Otherwise, sit back and have fun reading. Perhaps I might even say something insightful!

I’ve found Giant fans interesting for some time. I remember coming across the website EEEEEE! years ago, and the writing there really struck a chord with me, because the level of good-natured devotion the guys there had to their team always made for a fascinating read. They had all kinds of random memories about games they saw and players most people had long since forgotten, and it was one of the first things that made me ponder life through the eyes of another team’s fans. Who knows? Perhaps without Gregg Pearlman and his cohorts I wouldn’t be writing this blog post now.

So what are Giant fans like? For starters, I haven’t seen much in the way of negative traits, so forgive me if I seem to be inflating their reputation. They’ve always come across as fiercely loyal, yet friendly and intelligent. After waiting 52 years for a title they might be a bit pessimistic sometimes, but perhaps “cautiously optimistic” would be a better description. Before they won it I saw neither defeatist talk of curses nor an overflowing sense of destiny. They were always hopeful without going overboard.

The internet reactions to the 2010 World Series title reminded me of what was good about baseball. Unlike the entitled bully Cardinal fans from 2011, the Giant fans genuinely seemed to be grateful for what they were witnessing, and enjoyed every minute of the ride. If ever there were a group you could feel happy for in the end, it was them. It’s a shame such fanbases aren’t more frequently rewarded.

The only real hate they have is for the Dodgers. They still take games against L.A. more seriously than other games, but they don’t lower themselves to childish bashing as frequently as other teams’ fans do with their rivals. In fact, they seem to have a begrudging respect for the Dodgers, as the Giants have clearly been on the poorer side of the rivalry since both teams set up in California. For a long time the Dodgers seemed to have it all: a beautiful stadium, bigger stars, more national exposure, an iconic announcer, World Series titles, you name it. Now that the Giants have ditched windy, gelid Candlestick Park for charming, comfortable AT&T Park and have two World Series titles to their name, they have fewer reasons to be envious.

Their sense of humor is worth noting as well, as Giant fans strike me as a witty bunch. Whenever I read the comment section of a McCovey Chronicles post, I usually find myself laughing out loud at some point. They also come up with some gems for their sponsorship messages on Baseball-Reference, which make my statistical browsing a richer experience.

Based on what I’ve seen, I think the Giants have the type of fanbase I most wish I could be a part of. Their demeanor and camaraderie seem like a lot of fun. I’ve heard some talk in recent years about Giant fans becoming more obnoxious and self-important (a la Red Sox fans), but perhaps I’ve just been fortunate in that I haven’t seen it myself. Knowing what I do about human nature and the tendency to lose perspective, it’s possible that further titles will eventually destroy the archetypal Giant fan I found myself with an affinity for. However, the lover of humanity in me hopes that it’ll never change.