ATLANTA – All Giants fans remember the last time the orange and black played at Turner Field. Robb Nen induced Chipper Jones into a bizarre 3-6 double play and pandemonium broke out on the pitcher’s mound. Barry beamed. Dusty danced. And the first round playoff monkey was off the team’s back.
A 4-games-to-1 dismantling of the Cardinals ensued in the NLCS. Aurilia awed. Benito blasted.
And the next thing you knew, Dusty flipped Russ Ortiz the game ball in Game 6 of the World Series. The Angels seethed and before you could scream, “NO! NOT LIVAN IN GAME 7!” we watched Darren Baker cry, Dusty was shown the door and Brian Sabean traded Ortiz for a pitcher with Wolverine sideburns.
Some have asked what would have happened if Baker let Ortiz try to get out of his one-out, runners on first and second jam. Others have pondered if the Angels would have had the fire in their bellies (and bats) had Baker not so publicly handed Ortiz the game ball upon his departure. Regardless of the outcome, Giants fans, Russ Ortiz was already ticketed out of San Francisco. The simple and notorious economics of baseball dictate that even a team like the Giants and their $75 million-plus payroll can’t afford every player. (There’s not enough space to do a MLB Economics 101, so just roll with me on this one.)
Somehow, after everything that happened on that mound in Anaheim in the 7th inning of Game 6, the Giants and Russ Ortiz have landed on their feet. Ortiz has more than filled in admirably for Tom Glavine as he currently leads all Braves pitchers with wins, ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched. His maturation is seemingly complete and under the tutelage of Greg Maddux, he’ll only get better. Perhaps the addition of a pitcher like Ortiz will be enough to prevent Bobby Cox from merely shaking his head in disbelief in those post-game press conferences after yet another disappointing series in October.
Damian Moss, meanwhile, has dazzled teammates, front office and opponents with an unbeaten record and a miniscule 2.11 ERA, not to mention his affable clubhouse presence. And that Wolverine comment was a compliment, by the way. Not every team is so fortunate to have a mutant who can mix speeds, be effectively wild and get hitter after hitter out with regularity. X-Men parallels aside, Moss is proving that he is a great pitcher to follow flame-thrower, Jason Schmidt.
But there will be a strange aura around the ballpark where the Giants took a huge leap toward national respectability last October. Gone are half of the starting line-up and one manager who served as the stepping-stones toward the 24-9 team we see today. And as those cameras flash on the faces of Damian Moss and Russ Ortiz while they sit in their new dugouts, you have to wonder if they are asking themselves, “Now…. What happened to get me here?” The answer isn’t that they are the unwitting stars of one of those early 90’s lame identity/body switching movies starring either Judge Reinhold or Kirk Cameron. Like they say, it’s baseball.
Keith Larson writes for SFDugout.com because he's lived and died with the Giants since 1972. He welcomes all words of praise and insult at firstname.lastname@example.org, but mentioning anything having to do with Game 6 is to be done with extreme caution.