Stuart Stevens, who ran Mitt Romney’s campaign for president, offers his post-mortem. This part is exactly wrong:
I appreciate that Mitt Romney was never a favorite of D.C.’s green-room crowd or, frankly, of many politicians. That’s why, a year ago, so few of those people thought that he would win the Republican nomination. But that was indicative not of any failing of Romney’s but of how out of touch so many were in Washington and in the professional political class. Nobody liked Romney except voters. What began in a small field in New Hampshire grew into a national movement.
A year ago, everyone thought that Romney would win the nomination, and that was due precisely to his support among politicians and establishment Republicans who believed- with justification- that he was the only GOP contender who had a shot at beating President Obama. It was the voters who didn’t like Romney, actually, which is why they searched in vain for any plausible alternative. Recasting Romney as an outsider who won the nomination because of grass-roots support simply ignores history.
Mission District murals on Clarion St.
First snow, a grim milestone
World Series Game 4: Giants 4, Tigers 3 (10)
The 2010 World Series win was more cathartic, yes, as generations of Giants fans knew that they would not die without watching their boys win a championship. I’m not being flip- for Giants fans of middle age, this was no small thing. Had that season been it- had the Giants gone back to years of mediocrity interrupted by the occasional postseason appearance ending with crushing disappointment- most fans wouldn’t have minded so much. We have 2010 to savor, at least.
Yet for other fans there existed a gnawing sense of bitterness at the way the national media portrayed the Giants title. They were a “band of misfits” and “mercenaries” who “got hot at the right time” and capitalized on lackluster play by the heavily favored Phillies and Rangers. In short, the Giants’ victory reflected the zany unpredictability of postseason baseball rather than the actual quality of the team.
That’s what makes 2012 that much sweeter. They did it again. Yes, they showed tremendous gumption in coming back from deficits against Cincinnati and St. Louis, but the Giants dispatched the Tigers without so much as a loss. Detroit had one lead- one- the whole series, gained on a goofy wind-aided home run by Miguel Cabrera in Game 4. Otherwise, they were outhit, outfielded, outrun, outpitched, and outmanaged. I mean no disrespect to Jim Leyland, one of the game’s great managers, but Bruce Bochy was in control.
The Giants have now won two World Series titles in three years. The last team to pull off such a feat were the Yankees, who won four out of five from 1996-2000. The last National League team to win two titles in such short order were the Big Red Machine in 1975-76. Both the late ’90s Yankees and mid ’70s Reds are rightly regarded as dynasties. Will the Giants receive similar recognition?
Maybe, maybe not. Now is not the time to care about such things. Now is the time to celebrate this great team, and even though I’m sitting in an apartment waiting for a mega-storm to hit New York City, that is what I plan to do.
- This Giants team has had unsung heroes all season long, so pointing them out each game seems redundant. But there are a few worth mentioning: Jeremy Affeldt for mowing down the Tigers’ best hitters, Brandon Crawford for laying down a perfect bunt to put Ryan Theriot in scoring position so that he could score on Marco Scutaro’s single, Crawford again for a magnificent barehanded play on a ball deflected by Matt Cain, Cain for a gutsy, strong outing marred only by two fluky home run balls, Gregor Blanco for yet another nice running catch on Jhonny Peralta’s long fly out
- As the game went into extra innings, Dave Flemming asked Jon Miller if he wanted to do the play by play. Miller declined. “It’s your time, kid,” he said. Flemming, remember, was on the mike for Barry Bonds’ 715th home run but was stymied by a mysterious technical failure. He also was on hand for Edgar Renteria’s decisive three-run home run in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, but quite embarrassingly had his voice crack due to the effects of a cold. This time, however, there were no problems. Flemming handled both Scutaro’s game-winning single and Romo’s perfect 10th with grace and professionalism, a great tribute to his mentor and colleague, the Hall of Famer Jon Miller.
- The smartest take on the World Series I’ve read? Dave Cameron, from FanGraphs. Great analysis. Check it out here.
World Series Game 3: Giants 2, Tigers 0
In September, as the Giants were cruising to a division title, something seemed amiss: the starting pitching. For reasons unclear, both Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong started to get pounded, while Barry Zito continued his usual inconsistency. Tim Lincecum’s nightmare season rolled on, and even Matt Cain- the one guy Giants fans could always count on- started to struggle a bit.
The Giants were scoring runs and playing lousy teams, so it didn’t seem to matter. But the Giants without good starting pitching was a seriously unappetizing prospect in the postseason. And when the Reds beat up on Cain and Bumgarner to start the NLDS, my suspicions seemed confirmed.
We all know what happened next, of course. But even the most optimistic Giants fan could not have predicted that the starting pitching would turn around quite this quickly. But oh, how it has.
After losing Game 4 of the NLCS to the Cardinals and falling behind in that series 3 games to 1, the Giants have won six games in a row by a combined score of 32 to 4. In four of those six games, they have shut out their opponent. The Giants have shut out the Tigers twice in a row- the same Tigers team that was shut out exactly twice during the 162 game regular season. And when you consider that two of the four runs came on a Jhonny Peralta home run off of George Kontos in Game 1 of the World Series, Giants starters have allowed a grand total of two runs in six games.
The timing is good, too, because the Giants bats have cooled quite a bit. After pushing across just one run against Doug Fister in Game 2, the Giants were able to score twice against Anibal Sanchez. In September, both of these games would have been lost. But not now.
- It seems like years ago now, but back in April and May fans worried that the Giants had put together a lousy defensive team. Angel Pagan took circuitous routes in center, Brandon Crawford booted the ball at short, and Pablo Sandoval flopped around erratically at third. The Giants had led the National League in errors early in the season, and it seemed that their poor fielding would undermine their usually taut pitching. In the World Series, though, has any team played defense at the skill level of these Giants? Not only do they make spectacular diving catches seem routine, but they execute all the plays they’re supposed to make. The truly glaring difference between the two teams so far isn’t in starting pitching or hitting- it’s in relief pitching and defense.
- I must admit that I was skeptical of Bruce Bochy’s decision to carry all five starting pitchers on the postseason roster, something few teams seem to have done in recent years. But goodness- it has really worked out. Tim Lincecum could have easily sulked in his role as a super-reliever, but he has embraced it and pitched better than he has all season. I hope that he will take his success in the postseason into the 2013 season, when he will rightfully be restored to the starting rotation.
- The Giants mustn’t get complacent. Max Scherzer can dominate, and I have to believe that Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder won’t go down this quietly- both are too good. But the Giants are playing with great confidence now, have Matt Cain on the mound, and a rested bullpen. We’ll see how it goes.
World Series Game 2: Giants 2, Tigers 0
“The Giants get all the lucky bounces!” “The Giants somehow turn it on in October!” “The Giants have suddenly gotten hot and have stayed hot!”
Or, as the case my be, maybe the Giants are just good.
There’s no question luck played a part in the game. Gregor Blanco’s bunt could have just as easily kicked foul, or else scooted straight into the glove of Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder could have slid so that he could have evaded Buster Posey’s tag, or else the umpire could have missed what was a very close call and called him safe at the plate. In the context of a very close game, these plays turned out to be hugely significant.
On the other hand, the Giants showed their superiority over the Tigers in other ways. Blanco’s bunt occurred in the course of a rally that resulted from some wildness by Drew Smyly, Detroit’s pitcher at the time. Why was Smyly in the game? Because the Giants had forced Tiger starter Doug Fister to throw 114 pitches, even though they failed to score any runs against him. For the second day in a row, the Giants had good, long at bats and forced the Tigers to make outs. Detroit failed to do the same against Madison Bumgarner, who struck out eight, and were subsequently shut out for just the fourth time all season.
With a 2 games to 0 lead, Giants fans have been crowing all over the Internet about the “East Coast bias” of national sportswriters, most of whom picked the Tigers to win the Series. This line of commentary is tiresome and lame, but it does contain a kernel of truth. For whatever reason, the Giants are still perceived as scrappy overachievers and gamers, the sort of team that win games out of pure moxie. Even after beating the Reds and Cardinals, teams that are quite clearly better than the Tigers, the Giants were still expected to roll over against the invincible Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.
And hey! They still might! The Tigers could easily win four of five and take the Series. But somehow, I don’t think the national press is predicting that to happen.
And now onto game notes:
- The umpiring was noticeably excellent last night. The home plate umpire Dan Iassonga correctly called Prince Fielder out on the play at the plate, noting that Buster Posey nicked the lumbering first baseman on his back foot. First base umpire Fieldin Culbreth, meanwhile, correctly called out Marco Scutaro on a close play at first and accurately ruled that a Brandon Belt chopper was foul, not fair. It is said that umpires are only good when they’re invisible, but sometimes it’s only fair to note when the men in blue do a good job.
- The scariest moment of the game was when Doug Fister took a screaming Gregor Blanco line drive off his noggin. Fortunately, Fister remained in the game and appeared to suffer no ill effects. All the same, here’s hoping Fister gets it checked out with an MRI. You don’t want to mess around when it’s your head.
- Hunter Pence still hasn’t done much at the plate this postseason, but his at bats were noticeably better last night. He is finally starting to lay off low breaking balls, forcing pitchers to give him something over the plate. If Pence were to catch fire these last few games, it would change the tenor of the Giants lineup completely.
- You’d much rather be the Giants than the Tigers at this point, but it’d be foolish to count Detroit out. Game 3 starter Anibal Sanchez is lethal against the Giants, and Game 4 starter Max Scherzer was one of the more dominant starters in the AL in the second half. Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain are no slouches, either, but I’d be shocked if the Tigers didn’t come out crackling with the Series back on their home turf.
World Series Game 1: Giants 8, Tigers 3
In 2010, the Giants advanced to the World Series after a hard-fought NLCS in which they dispatched the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Experts throughout the country expected San Francisco to subsequently drop the World Series to the Texas Rangers, a team with powerful hitters and the best pitcher in the game, Cliff Lee. How could the Giants win after conceding two games to Lee? Because they weren’t going to ever beat Lee, were they?
In 2012, the Giants advanced to the World Series after a hard-fought NLCS in which they dispatched the favored St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Experts throughout the country expect San Francisco to subsequently drop the World Series to the Detroit Tigers, a team with powerful hitters and the best pitcher in the game, Justin Verlander. How can the Giants win after conceding two games to Verlander? Because they’re not ever going to beat Verlander, are they?
In 2010, the Giants got to Lee early, scoring five runs before he was removed. When Juan Uribe launched a three-run home run to make the score 8-2, the game was essentially over. The Giants went on to win Game 2 and Game 4 before defeating Cliff Lee a second time to win Game 5 and the championship.
Last night, of course, the Giants touched Verlander for five runs before he was removed, earlier than usual, after four innings. When the Giants took an 8-1 lead on a single by Marco Scutaro, the game was essentially over.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the Tigers will come back and win the World Series. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, actually. Odds are that Justin Verlander will be much sharper in his next start, should he get that chance.
But the lesson here is clear- there are no givens in baseball. Great pitchers have ordinary outings all the time, just as ordinary pitchers often have great outings. (see Zito, Barry). That’s what makes the game great.
Now, onto game notes:
- This is my favorite factoid about Pablo Sandoval’s three-homer game: it was the first time that any player in any game, postseason or otherwise, had hit three home runs since the very first game ever played at the stadium. When sportswriters first caught a glimpse of beautiful Pac Bell Park in 2000, the overwhelming majority thought the Giants had just built a bandbox. Kevin Elster’s three-homer game on Opening Day that year did nothing to dispute that assumption. But as we know now, Pac Bell (now called AT&T) Park is one of the 2-3 toughest places in the major leagues to hit home runs. Pablo Sandoval’s achievement is even more remarkable in that context.
- One reason to be bullish on the Giants offense this World Series: they know how to make contact. Two of the Tigers’ four starting pitchers, Verlander and Max Scherzer, are excellent strikeout pitchers, but are vulnerable to low-strikeout teams because they’re forced to rely on Detroit’s shoddy defense. Marco Scutaro’s second RBI single was a case in point. The ball wasn’t particularly well hit, but once it went through into left field it was clear the Giants would score because Delmon Young couldn’t throw anyone out at the plate if his life depended on it.
- Angel Pagan was an unsung hero of last night’s game for one reason: he saw a lot of pitches. Even before the Giants added to their 1-0 lead, Verlander’s pitch count was very high and it was clear he would not pitch as deep into the game as usual. The Tigers’ bullpen is very shaky at the moment, so the earlier the Giants knock out the starting pitcher the better.
- Gregor Blanco is making diving catches seem routine. I didn’t react to them at the time, but when I watched the replay this morning I realized just how special a defensive left fielder he is. Most fans had never heard of Blanco when the Giants signed him this past off-season. Everyone knows his name now.