You’re a Giants fan.
You danced and frolicked while they rampaged through the month of April and made mincemeat out of the Dodgers and Jeff Kent’s Houston Astros. You reveled over Joe Nathan’s improbable return and applauded the performances of Kurt Ainsworth and Tim Worrell. Jose Cruz, Jr., could do no wrong with timely hitting and SportsCenter highlights in almost every game.
Ah, yes… you’re a Giants fan.
May began inauspiciously enough as Dusty Baker returned to his former employer’s yard and matter-of-factly took two of three. Robb Nen was officially lost for the season. Felix Rodriguez lost his confidence. Joe Nathan more than proved that he’s human. Jose Cruz, Jr., began to swing like Desi Arnaz, Jr. And Barry’s ailing.
On Tuesday, you rolled out of bed while cursing the fact that your three day week-end was over, opened the sports page and hmmm... The Dodgers and Giants were tied for first place.
Then you wringed your hands while the Giants couldn’t get the big hit for nine innings against the faltering Diamondbacks. You ran screaming through the dark of night when Ruben Rivera suddenly looked like your worst little league teammate as he bumbled around the basepaths. You hung your head in shame as Matt Williams seemingly burned his old team.
And then Marquis Grissom’s searing seed off the right field bricks made it all better as the Giants scooted back to a one game lead over the Dodgers. Get used to it, orange and black brethren, because you’re going to be in for one helluva ride in 2003.
That’s right. You’re a Giants fan.
The Giants are going to play just well enough to keep fans’ chins up and the Dodgers will be sure to serve as the picnic pests buzzing in their ears. Jason Schmidt will anchor an otherwise inconsistent staff and the Giants hitters will heal their sore legs and bruised psyches. Dodger starters will continue to get the job done without dazzling really anyone in particular and compensate for the hitters’ lack of run production.
The respective ownerships are going to show just how much they want to beat the other come July. Again, this is going to get good.
What about the other teams, you ask? The Diamondbacks, for one, are the Mets without the cancerous clubhouse attitude. Older and punchless, not to mention their two aces are damaged goods. The Rockies, on the other hand, hang around the party until mid-June when they suddenly realize that they have to start planning their postseason vacations.
Count on it. Colangelo doesn’t have the dough to save his financially failing team this go 'round and the Rockies are, well, the Rockies.
That leaves us, then, with the upstarts from LaLa Land and the reigning National League champions. Everyone in California knows that a baseball season is that much better when the Giants and Dodgers are both contending. Sure, the Dodger fans act aloof by racing home in the 7th inning to watch the sunset and give you a devil-may-care attitude when asked about the Giants. And Giants fans find it difficult to stomach the fact that a team who hasn’t won a game of significance since Game 5 of the ‘88 World Series is in a dead heat with the Giants. But these two teams will be the ones looking to jump off the top turnbuckle and pin their dazed opponent in September.
Why? Because you’re a Giants fan and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
In ’97, would you have savored Barry’s two run blast off Chan Ho Park and his pirouette at home plate if the team they beat was the Padres? No. And on the next day, would you have nearly rammed your car through the guardrail on the Benicia Bridge due to cheering and pumping your fists like I did when Brian Johnson crushed the game-winning, extra-inning round tripper if he did it against a team like the Phillies? No.
Conversely, there’s the pain the Dodgers have inflicted upon the Giants (and me) during my lifetime. I’m not sure what the stats are, but I think Steve Garvey hit at least 1.000 against Giants pitchers every time he came up with a runner in scoring position. Then, you have the debacle of game # 162 of the 1993 season. The scene: Dodger Stadium. The Players: Tommy Lasorda and his journeyman candidate to pitch the game of his life against the Giants, Kevin Gross, against Dusty Baker and a pitcher who any manager other than Dusty would never have allowed into the team’s hotel let alone to start a must-win game, Solomon Torres. Giants fans will never know how 20+ game winner, Bill Swift, might have done in Torres’ stead. (Thanks, Dusty.)
But that’s the thing. Equal amounts of joy and pain. That’s the Giants and Dodgers.
The Giants got healthier with the return of batsmen, Ray Durham and Barry Bonds, as they opened a twelve game homestand with a miraculous victory over Arizona. The Dodgers get to pummel, er, play the Rockies and Brewers for the next 6 days and then enjoy some truly horrid interleague opponents like the Tigers, White Sox and Indians. Although their fortunes could change with a three-game stint in the Twilight Zone of Major League Baseball, Coors Field*, the Dodgers are in a good position to fatten up before the All Star Break.
I know, I know. It’s only the last week of May. But if you’ve ever suffered through a game like Tuesday’s 4-3 win, you can just feel that nothing is going to be easy for the Giants in 2003. Who, then, would be the perfect villain to make life even more difficult for them? You guessed it: The Dodgers.
Remember, you’re a Giants fan.
*Anyone who read my last column saw what I truly feel about Coors Field expressed in a two word sentence: "Stupid park." Annika Sorenstam aimed way too high last week by playing in the Colonial. She simply should have asked for a roster spot on the Rockies and promptly hit .320, 2 homeruns and 7 RBI against the lifeless Giants pitching staff over the weekend. Preston Wilson has 47 RBI. Do I really need to continue?
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.