On the first day of October, in the Year of Our Bonds, 2014, the Giants will play an elimination game in the postseason. Everything they've worked for, everything you've rooted for, comes down to 27 outs. So much nonsense can happen between that first out and the 27th out. It almost seems unfair, until you remember this is a chance the 1993 Giants would have shaved their eyebrows for.
In this game, Travis Ishikawa will start in left field.
I don't think we've made a big enough deal of this.
It happened so quickly. The Angel Pagan injury wasn't much of a surprise, considering his history. His body is a 12-string guitar tuned up a step, and strings are always going to pop. The Marco Scutaro injury wasn't much of a surprise, considering he was a phantom in the Cactus League. Michael Morse, though, caught us off guard. He was just here, and he broke behind closed doors.
Now Travis Ishikawa is the starting left fielder.
Before the season started, shortly after the Giants signed Morse, there was a mini-debate about who was better, Morse or Gregor Blanco. Defense vs. dingers! Oh, this was a debate for the ages, and dingers took the early lead. It looked like a rout, but then defense came back, charging, sprinting, and it was a dead heat ... and then everyone got hurt. Blanco is the starting center fielder. Travis Ishikawa is the starting left fielder.
Literally Travis Ishikawa.
When the Giants signed him, here's what I wrote:
Hopefully, we'll never see him in a Giants uniform again, because that will have meant something went seriously wrong with the major league roster, but in the event of emergency, he's not a bad player to have behind the glass.
Unless Pagan is going to miss time, and the Giants are going to put Morse in center, Belt in left, and start Ishikawa. You know, that's so crazy, it just might ...
Oh, you are so cheeky, Grant. Except in an elimination postseason game, Ishikawa is starting in left field for the 2014 San Francisco Giants. Where are your funnies now, funny man? Not so funny now.
The oddest thing -- saddest? -- is that he might be the best choice. We don't have the defensive stats on him in the outfield, but my eyeballs agree with the Giants: He looks good out there. Clean lines, good breaks. Quick reads and an accurate arm. So if you're willing to gamble on him out there defensively, he might be the best hitter the Giants have out there.
Again, we're talking about ... look, don't blame me for the repetition. Blame the Giants. How can you not be stunned at this? Here was the lineup when Ishikawa made his debut in 2006:
Randy Winn - RF
Omar Vizquel - SS
Steve Finley - CF
Barry Bonds - LF
Mark Sweeney - 1B
Mike Matheny - C
Pedro Feliz - 3B
Jose Vizcaino - 2B
Matt Morris - P
Thirty players appeared in that game. Only one of them appeared in a game in 2014. He's starting in left field for the Giants in a postseason elimination game.
What are the alternatives? There's a touch of cost certainty in putting Juan Perez in center and Blanco in left -- it makes for a superb defensive alignment. Perez has been awful at the plate, though, truly awful. He's come to the plate 109 times (!) and accounted for 88 outs. It never felt like he was hitting into hard luck outs, either. He's just been lost.
Gary Brown is a likable chap, and I'll assume his defense in left or center would be a plus. But using a) Fresno numbers and b) anecdotal evidence from a couple batting practice sessions I've watched, I'd rather have Perez at the plate.
Chris Dominguez was 1-for-17 with a dinger, which is just about the perfect stat line for him. He plays left field like Michael Morse and hits like Mike LaCoss. It makes me angry that he's even being brought up as a postseason roster option. From Cole Gillespie to Jeff Francoeur, there has to have been a better option floating around out there at some point this year. I invoked Francoeur's name without irony, you know.
Ishikawa has a 109 OPS+ with the Giants (!) this year, and his season mark of 100 is just a tick better than what the Giants should expect. He's a slightly below-average hitter. He has a little power. The early returns on his defense are good. He's probably the best option.
I love this. I don't love the injuries and lack of reasonable alternatives, but I love the idea of an old friend making a cameo at the most important part of the season. The studio audience really gave him a warm ovation, but now he's trying to become a regular cast member again. That's awkward and forced, but still great. What's a postseason run without some completely random players? No one expected Cody Ross. No one expected Ryan Theriot DHing. No one expects whatever Ecksteins crawl out from under the floorboards.
The thing that sold me: narrative. Ishikawa was the starting first baseman for the Pirates on Opening Day. I would root for the Pirates against almost every other team, but at the same time, I have to acknowledge their generation of schleprockitude, from which they're only now breaking free. There just might be a couple sad remoras of bad luck and poetic failure clinging on there. The Pirates' Opening Day first baseman returning to his original organization and getting an important hit against them in a one-game playoff would fit in with the script you wrote for the old Pirates.
Let's hope there's enough old Pirates left. Let's hope there's enough old Travis Ishikawa left. Because, you'll never believe this, but starting in left field for the 2014 National League Wild Card Game is ...