Monday would have been the 10th game of the San Francisco Giants season, had there been a season that started on time. It would have been Madison Bumgarner’s return to the Bay Area, which went well for everyone involved, if you’re following my hypothetical season.
The 10th game feels symbolic and poignant, half because of Bumgarner, and half because I’m a human who grew up in society and thus have been taught that things divisible by 10 are important. Either way, it put me in a sentimental mood which ... well, to be honest, is kind of my 24-hour mood these days.
So here’s 50 things I miss about baseball. I chose 50 half because of the aforementioned arbitrary importance of numbers divisible by 10, and half as an homage to Grant Brisbee. Brisbee, who started this silly site, and who was fond of listing 50 things, so much so that we still have “50 awesome things about no-hitters” listed as one of the few sections at the top of the page, despite not having an entry since Chris Heston (!!!) tossed a no-no nearly five years ago.
Maybe we should change that, but that’s not really the point of this article. Instead, here’s 50 things I sorely, heart-achingly, desperately miss about Giants baseball. Some of these things we might still experience this year, because baseball might return in 2020. Some we may never experience. And all of them I’m currently pining for.
1. Buster Posey
Between the regular and postseason, Buster Posey has 5,385 plate appearances with the Giants. That’s a lot more plate appearances behind him than in front of him.
But I plan on enjoying the hell out of every last Gerald Dempsey Posey III plate appearance, framed strike, and moment where he ain’t having it. He’s not the player he once was, and him training his protege in Joey Bart, and eventually passing the baton, will be poignant, but I’m here for every last moment.
2. Pictures of Hunter Pence
One of the greatest joys of writing for McCovey Chronicles is going into the photo editor and getting to see all of the pictures from Getty Images and USA Today.
There’s almost always one or two funny shots from every game, and in those special years when Hunter Pence is on the Giants, those funny shots tend to include him.
I spent three minutes and found these gems in that time:
I found all of those in the first 10 pages of searching “San Francisco Giants Hunter Pence” in Getty.
There are 601 total pages, plus a few more from USA Today.
Who knows what kind of funny pictures we’d be getting from him today.
3. The thrill of hoping for a no-hitter
It’s been quite a while — in relative terms, that is — since the Giants threw a no-hitter.
The Giants had five in seven years, and now they’ve gone four full seasons, and counting, without one.
We may have to wait a very long time, and it will always feel wrong that Madison Bumgarner never had one while wearing a Giants jersey.
But that won’t stop me from getting excited about one every single game.
Maybe I’m alone here, but I look for a no-hitter every game. I hold out hope for a no-hitter until the first hit is allowed. Every game. It’s fun. You should try it. When there’s baseball, of course.
4. Madison Bumgarner’s return
I am sad that Bumgarner is not a Giant. I will likely always be sad.
But sometimes we talk about former Giants as though they’re dead — or worse, that they play for the Dodgers.
Bumgarner is neither of those things. He’s an employed MLB pitcher, who just sadly plays for a different group of fans. I’m still looking forward to watching him, and I’m greatly looking forward to his return to Oracle Park — the reception from the fans, the interactions with the former teammates, the kind words from the broadcast booth, and the proper announcement from Renel Brooks-Moon.
5. Splash hits
Brandon Belt would hit one. Alex Dickerson would hit one. Mike Yastrzemski might hit one!
And we’d love them all.
6. Other teams doing cool things
Look, you’re not supposed to cheer for other teams. But the other day I was reminiscing about past opening days, and I opined that I would be stoked for Clayton Kershaw to shutout the Giants. Because baseball is baseball and damn, I miss it.
The other day my colleague Eric Stephen — who has been cursed with a life of writing about the Dodgers at our evil sister site, True Blue LA — made a deal. In order to get baseball back, I’ll let him have a Kershaw no-hitter against the Giants, and he’ll let me have an Austin Slater five home run game against the Dodgers.
I eagerly await them both, even though the Giants will lose them both. Because even good teams doing good things against a bad Giants team is baseball, and baseball is perfect, no matter what Rob Manfred wants you to believe.
7. The Belt Wars
On a similar note, I find myself pining for logically fallacious arguments about Brandon Belt.
Belt is good, you poopheads. He’s an awesome Giant who has done awesome things and should be remembered for his awesomeness.
Yet as soon as he strikes out looking on a pitch four inches outside the strike zone, and slumps his shoulders a quarter of an inch in sadness, the masses would start roaring about how bad he is at baseball.
Don’t listen to them. But do miss them.
8. This gif appearing in nearly every gamethread
9. The above gif being rec’d more than any other comment in every single gamethread because Buster Posey, damn it
10. Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow
They’re good friends, they know Giants baseball like the back of their hands, and above all else, they’re outstanding at what they do. Listening to Kruk and Kuip call Giants games is like getting to hand pick your narrator of choice for your favorite audiobook. We are lucky.
11. Watching Mauricio Dubon develop
It didn’t take long for Mauricio Dubon to become a fan favorite, and a little bit of me has become fearful that the love for him has gotten so strong that he’ll become overrated, and risk disappointing people if he’s anything short of great.
But here’s what we know Dubon is: A lifelong Giants fan, whom everyone around him loves, who has an 80-grade smile, who hits home runs off Clayton Kershaw, and who plays both middle infield and middle outfield.
12. The Giants beating the Dodgers
In all likelihood, the Dodgers will win the season series, and finish 30+ games ahead of the Giants (assuming a 162-game season). But the Giants will beat the Dodgers, and even if those wins take place in September, when the Giants are eliminated and the Dodgers have clinched the division, it will be glorious and you will love it.
13. Bruce Bochy reappearing
Bruce Bochy has retired — for now, at least — but he hasn’t disappeared. He’s still a member of the team’s front office, and has been open about having a hands-on role at every organizational level.
You know he’ll keep his distance, so as not to be overbearing to Gabe Kapler, but you also know he’ll show up now and again in the broadcast booth to watch a game, and to catch up with Kruk and Kuip.
14. Johnny Cueto, shimmying and shaking
He is waaaaaaay too fun. And it seems crazy to say this for a team that has had Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo, and Brian Wilson just this decade, but he’s absolutely one of my favorite Giants pitchers to watch, of all-time.
15. Not having anxiety about foul pop-ups
The Giants have reworked Oracle Park, and there are no longer bullpen mounds between the foul lines and the stands, which means you no longer have to hold your breath every time there’s a catchable pop-up in foul ground.
16. The grass
One of the things that makes baseball perfect is all that grass. It’s so childlike, and I mean that with a positive connotation, not a negative one. It reminds you that baseball is an innocent game where you stand in the sunshine, smell the fresh air, feel the warm, green grass, and hit the snot out of the baseball. I adore it.
17. Michael Milken
It’s only when you don’t have baseball that you realize just how much you miss the minutiae. Enter Michael Milken, who stops by the broadcast booth every year on behalf of Prostate Cancer Foundation, which is a foundation he founded to . . . well, you can do the math here.
While I don’t enjoy them at the time, I now find myself missing his inning-long forays into broadcasting, which I always thought of as an endearingly awkward segment featuring someone not used to being in the public light, until five minutes ago when I Googled Milken and found out that he’s worth nearly $4 billion and was once sentenced to 10 years in prison as a result of racketeering and insider trading, and was pardoned a few weeks ago by Donald Trump.
The lesson, as always: Never Google people.
18. All the transactions
By now you’ve probably heard that the Giants had a franchise-record 64 players last year. My guess is that they would fall short of that number this year, even given a full season, but I’m sure they’d come close. And while occasionally infuriating, the relentless wheel of waiving, DFA’ing, signing, promoting, trading, and optioning players is a lot of fun.
19. The sound of a fastball landing in the sweet spot in a catcher’s mitt
A perfect sound.
20. The sound of a bat making solid contact with a fastball
21. The sound of an umpire ringing up a batter on a called strike three
Also perfect, presuming the Giants are the ones pitching.
22. Joey Bart’s debut
All signs pointed to Joey Bart — the top prospect in the Giants surging farm system, by many people’s account — making his MLB debut at some point this year. He’d hit a few home runs. He’d show some defensive prowess. He’d make some mistakes, and you’d see Gabe Kapler paternally pat him on the butt. The camera would pan to Buster Posey on the bench, using his hands to diagram something Bart should do differently, and you’d think of rookie-year Posey, and Bengie Molina, and you’d be happy and sad, all at the same time.
23. Random reminders of past highlights
After mentioning Heston’s no-hitter at the start of this article, I headed to YouTube to rewatch the highlights. I’d forgotten a lot about that game, including Heston’s funny little Michael Jackson-esque fist pump after the 27th out.
Did you remember that the corner outfielders in that game were Nori Aoki and Justin Maxwell?
Baseball has a poetic way of always returning to the past. They play games 6.5 days a week, so there’s always a good “on this day...” to reminisce about. Whenever something memorable happens, it’s the first time since the last time, and then we remember the last time.
Hopefully my articles can help us remember a lot of random games and players and highlights during this time away from baseball, but nothing compares to Chris Heston suddenly popping up on your broadcast in the middle of the fourth inning.
24. Watching all nine innings even though the Giants are losing by seven runs
Who cares that they’re losing? It doesn’t matter. It’s baseball. It’s cathartic. You feel better after watching it.
25. Spending $17 on a beer
Today I was browsing through a craft beer app, trying to justify loading my cart with $6 hazy triple dry-hopped wet-hopped fresh-hopped sour quintuple IPAs, and I realized how much I miss spending $17 on a not very good beer, because who the heck cares.
Name one thing better than sitting in a plastic seat that will make your ass sore for five days, and drinking an overpriced beer from an environmentally unfriendly cup, while a baseball game unfolds before your eyes.
26. Keeping an eye on trade bait
The Giants are hoping that Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija pitch well enough to trade. They signed Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly in large part with the hopes that those two could become this year’s Drew Pomeranz, and return this year’s Mauricio Dubon.
As sentimental as I can get about trades, I do love watching potential trade bait perform — it gives you that much more to root for.
27. Looking at the box scores after a game
It’s as therapeutic as it gets
28. Yelling at the TV, then reminding yourself that you’re an idiot
Here’s something that almost every baseball fan has done. If you haven’t done this, you’re a better human than I am. But we both already knew that.
You watch a player swing and miss at a fastball, t-ball location. You’ve perhaps had one beer too many and have a momentary lapse in judgement in which you grumble something about how even you could have hit that pitch.
Months or years or even decades later, you’re at an arcade playing mini golf for your birthday and you decide to head to the batter’s cage and relive your “glory days.” You set the speed on 60 MPH, swing through 20 pitches in a row with no contact, and head home, as your mind slowly remembers that time when you said you could have hit that 99 MPH fastball off Kenley Jansen.
29. Garlic fries
I have an upcoming series on ballpark foods, prompted primarily because I miss garlic fries that damn much and need to make a batch.
30. Saying “Brandon Crawford looked good today, and also he played well,” because it never gets old
Seriously, it never gets old.
31. ¡Adiós, pelota!
32. Watching Brandon Belt have a better eye than the umps
There is a tiny part of me that can relate to swinging a heavy bat, hitting a hard, fast ball, and having the ball go far. There is a tiny part of me that can relate to running after a fly ball, diving, and ending up with said ball in my mitt.
There is no part of me that can relate to watching a baseball come at me at 98 MPH from 60 feet, 6 inches away and have the time to think “nah, that’s about an inch high, I’m good love, enjoy.”
33. Big breaking balls
Give me all the big breaking balls, cutting across the zone, looking appetizing, and then diving in at a batter’s feet.
How do they do that? I’ll never know. No one will ever know. Science will never know. It’s the great mystery of our time.
34. Tyler Rogers, submarining
We’ve all been quarantined, which means we’ve all been trying our hand at yoga and pretending it’s something that’s a normal part of our life.
So we can all relate to how difficult and unnatural and yet incredibly brilliant this is:
35. Jon Miller and Dave Flemming
Giants fans are blessed beyond belief to have Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper. And they’re blessed beyond belief to have Jon Miller and Dave Flemming.
Either pairing is a blessing. Both? Unfair.
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⚾️ Loved being a “Guest Math Instructor” for the Flemming Family’s sheltering-in-place home schooling class. I call it “Historical statistical formulas from baseball’s ancient classical era.” ***Thanks to Katie, Carter and David (and Professor Dave, of course!). @flemmfam ************************************************************ #sfgiants #sfgigantes #socialisolation #selfquarantine #homeschoollife #stayhome #savelives #staysafe #theimportantstuff #sfgiantsfan #johnnycueto #busterposey #jrgiants ************************************************************ @sfgiants @sfgigantes @knbr @nbcsauthentic @nbcbayarea @espn @sfgate @pavlovicnbcs @johnnycueto47 @baseballhall @mlbnetwork @mlb @gojrgiants
36. Brandon Crawford’s defensive wizardry
It’s easy to take players like Crawford — who are good but not great; valuable but unassuming — for granted. Don’t forget that Crawford is not just a feel-good story of a lifelong Giants fan turned homegrown talent, but also unequivocally the greatest shortstop in San Francisco history.
And his defensive highlights never, ever get old.
37. The routine
I’m not sure what’s more comforting: Knowing that at the end of a good day you can cap it off with an evening of Giants baseball, or knowing that at the end of a bad day you have a night full of Giants baseball to comfort you.
Either way, baseball is there for you. It’s there for you almost every night, with the same familiar sights and sounds. The outcomes may vary, but it’s all of the same litter.
38. Pablo Sandoval’s inevitable surprise
Sandoval was not supposed to be good last year, and then he was. And then he was not supposed to return to the Giants this year, but he did. And then was not supposed to be available until halfway through the season, but there he was, taking at bats in Spring Training.
Who knows what he would do this year, but it seems inevitable that it would have surprised us.
39. Creative ejections
Since the implementation of instant replays, managers have had to get a little bit more creative with the way they get ejected. Instead of arguing what they perceive to be a bad call, they calmly wait in the dugout for confirmation that it indeed was a bad call. Then, depending on the phone call from the people upstairs, they either quietly slink back into the shadows, or make a simple headphone gesture. And just like that, things are resolved calmly and maturely.
I hate it. Give me some dust kicking, some spittle flying, and some hands on the hips of beer bellies overspilling the welcome of fabric jerseys.
Managers value ejections because it serves as an opportunity to inject some life into their team’s bloodstream. Now they just have to get creative with how and why to get mad.
40. 6-4-3 double plays
41. Buster hugs
42. Getting angry on off days
Remember when you got upset that there were only six baseball games this week, instead of seven? That you didn’t get a good day game to go with your day off work? That you had to tough out a Tuesday evening without baseball?
43. Jokes at the Astros expense
Suddenly the Houston Astros cheating scandal doesn’t seem like such a big deal. It pales so greatly in comparison to a season stoppage, even if we have no one to blame for this.
I miss making countless jokes at the Astros expense. That was fun. Let’s do that again.
44. Broadcasting flubs
The Giants have the best broadcasters in the game, but that doesn’t mean they’re without the occasional mess-up. But, like true professionals, they turn every blooper into a highlight.
45. Barry Bonds and Tim Lincecum
Lincecum hasn’t played for the Giants in quite some time; Bonds in even longer. Yet Oracle Park is littered with their presence and their memories. Hardly a game goes by where something doesn’t remind us of Bonds and Lincecum, two of the most electric athletes in Bay Area lore. And whenever that happens, I smile.
46. A perfectly framed pitch
Robo-umps are coming, for better and for worse. Mostly for better, but when they come MLB will forever lose the art of pitch-framing, which took Buster Posey from a very good catcher to a very great one.
Pitch-framing is truly an art when Posey does it, and watching him — and eventually Joey Bart — do it is a treat.
47. Alyssa Nakken, making history
Technically, Nakken has already made history by becoming the first woman to coach at the MLB level. But Spring Training, as glorious as it is, isn’t the regular season, and it was going to be wonderful to see Nakken 162 times, in the dugout, wearing her jersey, making history.
48. Surprise guest appearances
Last year, Brian Wilson swung by the broadcast booth. At Bruce Bochy’s farewell, we got to see Tim Lincecum return, and we were left to wonder if maybe he wouldn’t be a stranger anymore.
Someone — or someones — would (will, hopefully) make a surprise guest appearance during a broadcast this year. Maybe Wilson. Maybe Lincecum. Maybe Jonathan Sanchez, or Rich Aurilia, or Juan Uribe, or Robb Nen, or Noah Lowry, or Ray Durham. Just to talk. Just to be around Giants baseball.
49. Balls hit into triples alley that are actually home runs
This won’t actually happen very often, but with the new park dimensions there will be occasional ball (let’s be honest: probably hit by Brandon Belt) that you expect to be AT&T’d. Instead, it will go over the fence, which is now there, and you’ll cheer, but also be confused.
50. The walk-off wins
Even bad teams in bad years in bad circumstances have an abundance of them.
Miss you, baseball.