I’m a weirdo who can’t escape thoughts of how things might have been. Like, what if the Padres traded for Cody Ross in July, 2010 instead of Ryan Ludwick, keeping Corey Kluber in the process? Here come the three-time championship Padres, rolling into town and making us feel bad. Hamburgers eat people in this universe, and everything is awful.
This what-if isn’t as dramatic, but I spent most of the ninth inning wondering what this game would have looked like without Christian Arroyo.
It’s possible that Eduardo Nuñez would have started and gone 4-for-4 with three triples, and the Giants would have won 8-3. It’s possible that Nuñez would have started and hit into five double plays, the kind of disaster game that would get a 30 for 30 in a decade or two. Baseball is a game of limitless possibilities, after all. One time, a baseball hit a bird.
What I’m pretty sure of, though, is that Nuñez wouldn’t have hit a game-winning homer. Them’s the odds. Christian Arroyo, a Joe Panik Chia Pet with a fairy godmother, hit that home run. And while he doesn’t always have to have the best timing on the roster, he sure does right now. The Giants brought him up to kick the lineup in the butt, and he kicked the lineup in the butt.
He’s gonna be a cult hero if he keeps this up.
Arroyo is still hitting .250 with a .250 OBP, which hints at growing pains (or a small sample size) that we haven’t had to confront yet. But he has timing. Since coming up, the Giants are 3-2, and he’s directly contributed to two of those wins. Two of those desperately needed wins, that is. If he doesn’t exist, perhaps the Giants are 1-4, and the rumor mill is whirling with an un-April fervor.
This, then, is the best-case scenario for Arroyo in his debut. Can he field third? Oh, heck yeah, and he’s probably fine at short in a pinch, too. He’s going to be in the majors a long time based on that alone. Can he hit? Sure can, even if he’ll help a pitcher out now and again.
Does he belong? Kind of thinking he’s not going anywhere until he has a rehab assignment for an oblique tweak in 2020. So, yes, he belongs. And he’s helping the Giants win baseball games immediately, which prospects don’t have to do.
This brings us to an uncomfortable discussion. See, the good folks at LOL KNBR, one of the best Twitter accounts out there, have started a movement to call Arroyo “Boss Baby,” after the movie that is probably out of the theaters already. I don’t want to make enemies here, but this is the worst idea ever, and anyone involved should lose their access to electricity for three years.
It’s 1986, and Will Clark is taking the world by storm. He’s dingered Nolan Ryan into a lifetime of Advil abuse, and he needs a nickname. Will the Thrill rhymes and all, but here comes some thinkfluence joker who just walked out of Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, saying, “Ha ha, that Will Clark reminds me of Allan Quatermain!”, and he messes everything up.
Don’t fall for it. Let the nickname come organically. I think his hair makes him look like a chinchilla, but I don’t want the hats to be sold yet. And “Joe Panik Chia Pet with a fairy godmother” doesn’t roll off the tongue, but I’m not totally opposed.
We have time, is all I’m saying. Join me in the struggle against Boss Baby. The rations are meager, but our resolve is strong.
Coming into Friday night, Jeff Samardzija led the National League in earned runs. This is familiar territory for him. The year before he joined the Giants, he led the American League in earned runs. These are not fun facts.
On the other hand, one of the reasons he led the AL in earned runs in 2015 is that he pitched just well enough to give his manager faith, and then he would melt down. Or, perhaps, he would mess the bed early, and the manager would keep him out there, half-punishment and half-pragmatism, only to have Samardzija dominate the rest of the way. He threw 214 innings that year, after all, which some starters won’t sniff in their careers. He had to be some variety of good to throw 214 innings.
He’s a weird pitcher is what I’m getting at. Entirely predictable in a sense. Completely unpredictable from inning to inning, though.
It takes a game like this to help us remember that he’ll help his team win more often than not. He gave up a dinger because that’s his brand, and it was unfortunately timed, but he was dominant otherwise, with the third run coming on unearned shenanigans.
Samardzija is big and fuzzy, and he’ll throw hard and help the Giants win 54 percent of the time, give or take. This is the appropriate take now, and it’ll hopefully be the appropriate take in three years, too.
Joe Panik is not satisfied with one Gold Glove.
I promise that I haven’t looked at the Giants’ WAR totals for, I don’t know, a week, and that’s if I’ve looked at them at all. I have a thick, rugged April callous and a strong resolve. But I’m going to guess that Panik leads the Giants. Here goes.
Okay, he’s tied with Brandon Belt and Buster Posey on Baseball-Reference, which makes sense. FanGraphs has Belt a tick ahead. But the combination of defense and consistent offense has been one of the best parts of a rough start to 2017. Panik wasn’t himself last year, and it’s great to see him back at full strength this year.
If you want to be fair and just, ask yourself if Santiago Casilla gets that play in the second half last year. He does not. It probably isn’t Panik back there, either. It’s probably Michael Morse playing second base for some reason, yet Casilla would get all the blame. What a horrible sport this is.
That’s a good segue to Mark Melancon, who picked up his first 1-2-3 save as a Giant and looked good doing it. While he probably didn’t need that Panik play as much as the last guy might have, he was still glad to have it. And I’m still glad to have him.