I always wondered what it would be like to be a guest host. On one side, the freedom, like a substitute teacher, knowing you won't be back anyway, so what the hell. On the other, the pressure to maintain the standard set before you, sort of an Ed Harris in a flat-top, "Not on my watch" responsibility.
And make no mistake, there IS responsibility involved. Like most of the rest of you, I've enjoyed Grant's writing - about the Giants and otherwise - going way back to the glorious, sephia-toned Waiting for Boof days. I want to continue the Tradition of Excellence, I don't want to drop the ball here. I remember the disappointment when I was a kid and I'd stay up late on a Friday night to watch 'The Tonight Show', only to find Joan Rivers guest hosting. Boo! Booo!! BOOOOOO!!!
I want to be more like Jon Stewart guest hosting 'The Larry Sanders Show', where the network suits just love me so much they start looking for ways to terminate Grant's contract (can you say, "morals clause"?) so they can bring me on full-time. You know, because I'm so fresh and hip, and because all the kids are talking about me. But I'm too classy to do Grant that way, so he gets to keep his gig, but he always owes me one. And it hangs over his head for years and years, until finally he forgets about it. Then, while he lives a quiet, peaceful life in the suburbs somewhere with his wife and kids, I appear on his doorstep one dark and stormy night, with a favor of my own to ask. A favor which could shatter the quiet, peaceful life he's built...
Maybe I'm putting a little too much thought into this. Let's just discuss the Giants a little bit, shall we:
I've been burned before. That's why I show extreme caution when it comes to getting excited over Giants pitching prospects. It started when I was a kid. I thought Trevor Wilson was the next Sandy Koufax. Growing up, I bought the Giants media guide every year and follwed Salomon Torres' stats all the way up from A ball -- I had all my friends convinced he was the second coming of Juan Marichal. You know the names which have followed -- Van Landingham, Estes, Ainsworth, Williams, Foppert. Each one carries with it my dashed hopes and dreams. So I've been careful not to give up my heart so easily. I read all the stories on Matt Cain with a healthy amount of cynicism.
I was happy with what I saw out of him in his debut against the Rockies, but not overwhelmed. Winning the battle with Helton was nice, but there were those walks, and the lack of strikeouts. Most troubling for me was his pitch selection. I was impressed with his fastball, sure, and the slider was occasionally nasty as hell. But he only threw two or three curves, and they all hung badly. This surprised me because I remember reading good things about the curveball, and remember that as his breaking pitch of choice when he appeared the Futures Game last year.
I didn't get a chance to see his second start against Arizona, but I liked what I saw in the box score. He lowered his walks dramatically, doubled his strikeout total, and pitched two innings deeper into the game. Still, though, I read that Cain depended mainly on his fastball, and I wondered if that was a sign of trouble.
Last night, Cain put those fears to rest. Complete game, two-hitter, eight Ks, one walk. And it looked that good, too. The fastball was crisp as ever, and he was moving it around well. Best of all, he finally displayed the curveball, and it was nasty. Correction: Naaasty. He struck out Hairston looking on one that was so unhittable, if it had been any more unhittable... well, it wouldn't have been very hittable at all, now would it?
What's more, he finished off his masterpiece in the 9th with just a one-run lead. Against the top of the order. And the first guy reached on a hit. I thought for sure Alou would pull him there. So did the Cubs announcers. But Felipe let him take his shot, even against MVP candidate Derrek Lee, representing the go-ahead run. Lee had already homered off Cain, and was just 2-13 lifetime vs. Benitez, who was warm and ready. Did the kid blink? Did he throw a couple of sliders in the dirt hoping for a gift swing? Maybe fastballs off the plate, hoping for a call? No. He threw a 94 mph fastball, inside part of the plate, right in on Lee's hands, jamming him into an infield pop.
That's stones my friends. And to hear him on the postgame on KNBR was illuminating as well. He didn't seem all that shook up. He was calm and very down to earth. He seemed to be taking it all in stride. In short, it was exactly what you would want to hear... Unless you were trying really hard not to get excited about a Giants pitching prospect, of course.
COMMENT STARTER: In what year will Matt Cain be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and what will his career statistics be?