I could spin a yarn about the Atlanta Braves that is both original or timely. I could mention the hard-to-believe decimation of what used to be the deepest pool of starting pitching in the National League. I could dissect the Braves' lineup, giving special attention to Jason Heyward and somehow folding in some brilliant, trenchant commentary about the hype surrounding Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.
Or I could get all Uncle Rico and talk about something that happened a couple years ago.
But it all kind of ties into the present. Sort of. The 2010 NLDS was probably the best collection of playoff games I've ever watched. By "best", I mean "tightest and most competitive." I also mean, "within the subset of playoff series the Giants won." The Phillies series was close. But all of the Braves games were looks-like-I-picked-the-wrong-week-to-quit-sniffing-glue affairs. Utterly tense and nerve-wracking. All four were one-run games.
I re-watched those old playoff games recently -- no, no ladies, back off, I'm married -- and the third game is the one that really made me think. Start with the Freddy Sanchez at-bat in the ninth inning. Craig Kimbrel threw two fastballs, and Sanchez might as well have been swinging an HDMI cable. No chance. Late on both. He then fouled a pitch off. He was lucky to do that much.
Then, on an 0-2 pitch, Kimbrel looped a slider in the middle of the strike zone. Considering how bad Sanchez looked against the fastball and considering the count, it might have been the worst pitch in the history of the postseason. I mean, I'm no catcher, but jeeeeeeez. Another fastball there, and I might not have this World Series Commemorative Car Chamois next to me to clean up after I spill my morning cocktail. That's how fragile that whole 2010 season was. There were dozens of those moments. There always are in every successful postseason run.
Sanchez singled, and that was followed by a Huff single to tie the game. The camera cuts to the dugout. Tim Lincecum shouted his famous expletive-laden "Shut up!" Everyone's happy on the Giants' side.
One of those players was Jonathan Sanchez. The camera followed him as he ran down the dugout in excitement and high-fived Lincecum. Quoth Dick Stockton:
And Jonathan Sanchez has reason to be elated again.
The worst player of that series, at least from a scouting perspective, was Melky Cabrera. He was 0-for-8 with a strikeout. He made the last out of the series with the tying run on second and the winning run on first. He looked like he was encased in carbonite and being dragged around by Labrador Retrievers who would stop every ten feet to lick themselves. He was the antithesis of a baseball player.
That was a year-and-a-half ago. Today, Jonathan Sanchez was designated for assignment. He walked 7.4 hitters per nine innings in 12 starts with the Royals. His ERA was 7.76. If you want him, he's yours.
Today, Melky Cabrera is the reigning All-Star MVP. He was voted into the All-Star Game. Fans in San Francisco wear silly costumes in his honor. He will become a wealthy, wealthy man this offseason.
I keep going back to that series with every successful Melky-related outcome the Giants have enjoyed this year. He was done. The worst. And Sanchez was one of the reasons the Giants were in the postseason. His brilliant start in Game 3 was the reason there was a meaningful Freddy Sanchez single in the first place. Without 2010 Jonathan Sanchez, no one here remembers Brooks Conrad.
This isn't anything you don't already know. Baseball is a Native American trickster story -- a duplicitous jerk of a coyote -- and we keep falling for the same crap time and time and time again. Why are we surprised by baseball? Why do I waste my life forming opinions on baseball? Just let it happen, brother.
You already knew that baseball was weird. But this is a reminder that it gets weird really, really quick. Imagine a disembodied head interrupting the telecast right after Huff's single and saying, "In about a year-and-a-half, the Giants will trade Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera. Tim Lincecum will be awful. Ryan Vogelsong will be robbed out of his second straight All-Star appearance." You'd be under a bridge right now trying to suck the lithium out of a battery.
Instead, it's 2012, and the Giants are contending because of Melky Cabrera. Indirectly because of Jonathan Sanchez too, I suppose. Hell, Ryan Verdugo is starting a major-league game tonight. I don't even know, man. About 21 months ago, I thought I knew things about baseball.
What an idiot. What a complete and absolute idiot.