In the middle of the game last night, I was thinking about how I was going to announce my sabbatical from this site. What could I have possibly written after Tim Lincecum lost a 1-0 game to Livan Hernandez? There's that point when a wave becomes a tidal wave, or when a car sliding on an icy road becomes a car sliding toward you -- a point where you think, whoa, I need to get the hell out of the way. I need to move from bystander to active participant, and I need to do so for my own safety.
That point last night was Dave Roberts getting thrown out at home plate. Okay, I thought. I need to get the hell out of the way, and I need to do so for my own sanity. Take a week off. Don't think about the Giants. Learn how to juggle. Read a book.
So while I'm not thrilled that Tim Lincecum threw as many pitches as anyone else in the majors had in a single game this year, that's not going to ruin the game for me. This team needed to prove that they weren't cursed and unwatchable. The brilliance of Tim Lincecum was in danger of being eclipsed by the malevolence of the Giants' offense. It isn't just that the Giants offense couldn't score, it was that they couldn't score against the worst pitcher in the majors this season. And this pitcher also happened to be the guy whose fatal flaw -- not being Kirk Rueter -- cost the Giants a World Series victory.
If the personification of Hope and Rebuilding and A Better Future for the Giants were to lose a game to the personification of Ineffectiveness and Unpleasantness and The Sadness of Yore, it'd be like Darth Vader closing out The Return of the Jedi by wearing Luke Skywalker's spine like a feather boa. Maybe that's a little strong. Maybe. But it was starting to feel like that.
But, lo!, and a young position player shall lead them! The Giants have had young position players with promise before. Some of them have already built on that promise (Fred Lewis), but most of them flopped spectacularly. A few were able to crawl out of the bog and become kinda sorta useful, like Pedro Feliz or Yorvit Torrealba. So it went for the Giants. So when a player comes up in his early 20s and stars spraying extra-base hits around the ballpark, we take notice. This isn't to suggest that "PAblo has made it!!1" -- he could still lindentify -- but when was the last time you saw a non-Bonds Giants player hit a home run like that? Sandoval took the outside slop given to him, and drove it to the opposite field with enough strength to keep it fair. All aboard the Sandocaravan.
Lincecum is the already anointed, but a game like this allows us to hope that Sandoval becomes the unexpected organizational keystone. Maybe he's our version of the 12th-rounder out of a community college who becomes a future Hall of Famer, or our version of a thrice-traded afterthought who becomes a middle-of-the-lineup presence. Sandoval wasn't even ranked in Baseball America's top-30 list before the season. Maybe he can shock the world.
Maybe. Maybe not. The odds aren't in any young player's favor. But last night we had a dominant young pitcher do dominant young pitcher things, and a 22-year-old give the Giants the lead with a spectacular home run. It's this kind of stuff that gets us giddy in March, even if we didn't know the details just yet.