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My Favorite Game of the Year? You May Be Surprised.

I figure now that the season is over I should probably make some attempt to be a cultured person, so I went to a museum exhibit this afternoon.  And while paintings of frozen Dutch rivers are absolutely lovely, I spent a good part of the exhibit replaying the season in my head and trying to choose my favorite game.

It feels like an impossible thing to do, because along the way, games are wonderful for a huge number of reasons.  Sometimes it’s simply that it’s an important one or that it’s one that I got to go to or one where the Giants just did really well.  But one did keep standing out in my mind and saying, Pick me!  Pick me!  (Yes, baseball games do talk in my head.  Not weird at all, right?)

So I’ve picked that one.  It probably wasn’t that important and dramatic in the scheme of things, but it’s one that I’ll never forget all the same.  Let’s flashback to it, July 2nd, 2011 at Tigers Stadium.

It’s Giants vs. Tigers, Zito (2-1) vs. Max Scherzer (9-4).  Detroit is 1.5 games out of first place and San Francisco is in first place, 3 round games ahead of Arizona.  Yesterday, they beat the Tigers in heart attack fashion for the first game of the series by a final of 4-3, with Wilson throwing a world class tantrum after blowing the save.

So it began.  The Giants scored five runs in the first inning on B-Craw and Panda homers and things moved along nicely from there, blowout style.  But Michigan weather had other plans.  A massive thunderstorm hit in the third, suddenly and with a stunning amount of rain.  We all worried that game would not restart and all those runs would go to waste, but then the sky turned orange and I, for one, knew that boded well.

After nearly three hours, once all the fans had presumably gone home and gotten toasty with hot chocolate or whatever, the umps announced the game was back on.  We all raised our eyebrows and un-muted our televisions.

And then the fun started.

The first pitch following the rain delay was hit grandly into the stands by Miguel Tejada for a grand freakin’ slam.

Zito stayed in his zone by listening to lame rappers (hey, whatever works) and came back to pitch after all that time and gave the team six scoreless innings, over 80 pitches.

The runs party did not stop there and the game eventually ended at 12:36 local time with a final score of 15-3, Giants winning.  It was one of those crazy games that just reaffirms your adoration of baseball and that the game will do what it will do.  And, you know, I live for rain.  So if my team can pull off 15 runs in the rain, that makes me love them a little more.  If that’s even possible.

Diamond Girl

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162 Things I Loved About 2011 In San Francisco Giants-Land

In no particular order, in honor of the 162 games of the regular season…

162.  The walk-off on Opening Day for the second consecutive year.  And provided some awesome entertainment along the way as I drove to Fresno to see the Grizzlies Opening Night.

161.  The new and improved Pablo Sandoval.

160.  The rather awesome drama and content they provided for their reality show.

159.  Heck, they had a reality show!

158.  They carried first place for a good long while, even though they didn’t finish with it.

157.  They had All Stars.  A whole bunch of them.

156.  They gave me bragging rights for life.   We got Carlos Beltran.  (Never mind what happened afterwards.)

155.  They kinda massacred the Chamber of Horrors, aka Coors Field.

155.  NATE.  That is all.

154.  Their hitting coach who takes, “Reach for the moon, if you fall down, at least you’ll fall in the stars” very literally.  Like, he’s-going-to-the-moon literally.  It’s sure to bode well for the offense in the future.

153.  They chewed gum at the White House.  It was strangely endearing.

152.  Heck, they went to the White House!

151.  They were so resilient I can’t even express it in words.  Well, maybe I could.  But I have a whole lot more of these to write, so I’m not going to get into it.

150.  Santiago Casilla and his epic and previously undiscovered closing skills.

149.  Brett.                                   

148.  And Brandon.

147.  And, oh, the other Brandon too.

145.  The multitude of B’s!

144.  The incredibly pleasant surprise that was Eric Surkamp in his first start back.

142.  And the incredibly pleasant surprise that was Ryan Vogelsong all around.

141.  Chris Stewart.  And his brainiac-ness.  And his overall awesomeness.

140.  The fact that AT&T Park exists and is amazingly beautiful.  Pays to remember that, every now and then, right?

139.  D-Ro having a few more special moments.  I really hope he’s back next year in some way.

138.  Madison and his trademarked first inning meltdowns.  And yes, that he was otherwise amazing.

137.  Bruce Bochy.  ‘Nuff said.

136.  Conor Gillaspie(The name!  The name!)

135.  Those special little moments when Guillermo Mota came in for long relief and just saved us all.

134.  Getting to see Travis Ishikawa one last time, when he got his ring.

133.  OH!  Yes!  The ring ceremony…

132 …and the mismatched, mint colored boxes the rings came in…

131. …and Sergio Romo goofing off at the ceremony…

130.  …and seeing Nuekom with his adorable bowtie there (though, unfortunately, it wasn’t orange) one more time.

129.  There was also Vogey’s lovely little speech when he got the Willie Mac Award.  

128.  Remember when Tim Flannery, third base coach, sang the National Anthem?  Epic.

127.  The crazy thunder storm/rain delay in Detroit.  And the way the broadcasters filled the empty time.  That was magical.

126.  Kepp’s walk-off vs. the Astros.  So there, Houston.

124.  Crawford’s grand-slam in his first game against Milwaukee.  Remember that?  Goosebumps and smiles.

123.  The prank Ross et al. played on Huff.  Which we got to see because of aforementioned reality show.

122.  Did I mention, THE GIANTS HAD A REALITY SHOW?

121.  When Brandon Belt met a baby giraffe and took pictures with it.  That may actually be my favorite moment of the entire year.  Seriously, how utterly fantastic?

120.  That they never missed a beat, even after the loss of Posey and then Sanchez.

119.  Timmy back to being Timmy, for the most part.

118.  And Timmy and Matt Cain both reached 1000th career strikeouts, which was fabulous.

117.  Finishing ahead of the Padres.  Vendetta?  Yes, vendetta.

116.  Romo shaving.  Because that may imply that other people will shave soon.

115.  coughcoughBrianWilsoncoughcough

114.  NATE.   Again.

113.  And Nate’s upper deck shot in Colorado that his brother got.  Too many awesome things about that to mention.

112.  Slightly irrelevant, maybe, but Jon Miller not doing ESPN any more meant that he broadcasted for KNBR on the weekends.  Which was enough to make the season, right there.

111.  Together, We’re Giant.  It actually grew on me.  (But It’s Time is still, and always will be, better.)

110.  The “sellouts”.  Because they seriously cracked me up.  Especially when the upper deck was e-m-p-t-y.

109.  The little Sabean moment in Moneyball.   When Billy Beane totally played the Giants.  My rational mind was outraged and the rest of me was snickering.

108.  Watching Pablo’s defense just reappear before our very eyes.

107.  Being there for Carlos Beltran’s 300th career homerun.

106.  And speaking of homeruns… Brandon Belt had a couple to remember.

105.  And when Brandon Belt made the club out of spring training and it felt like nothing could possibly go wrong.

104.  The fact that some people didn’t get injured.  Can’t think of any?  No, I’m sure there were a few.

103.  The fact that Aubrey Huff always has good years after bad ones.  Most definitely.  This bodes well for 2012.

102.  While I hated that the cost for parking doubled, I think it was because they won the World Series. And I do love that.  So, by extension, I love the new parking rates.  Sort of.

101.  The Churros guy.  If you’ve ever been to a Major League ballpark, you know what I mean.

100-50. Looking at the new lineup every day, usually with my mouth gaping wide open.

49.  The few nice Zito moments.  They were there.  And they were smile-inducing.

48.  The fact that the year after the championship, while it wasn’t exactly a success, was not a collapse either.  This was a pennant race right down until the end.

47.  Can I just say one more thing about Chris Stewart?  His first Major League homerun rocked.

46.  When Edgar came back, if only for a bit.  *sniffles*

45.  And remember when Uribe came back?  *sniffles again*

44.  I also liked riding my first roller coast (no, really.  It’s related.) because it drove home that this season was like a roller coaster.   Which is to say seriously headache inducing, but fun afterwards.

43.  I don’t know how this all worked, but I’ve been hearing Giants ads for the Not For Sale Campaign.  If they’ve partnered, then that is most certainly something I love.

42.  Jeremy’s rebound year.  Minus the frozen burger patties.

41.  That they didn’t do anything silly like start the season in Taiwan.

40.  That they rocked their doubleheader at Wrigley.

39.  Matt Cain ruled overall, as always.

38.  That they let themselves get swept by Milwaukee in May.  I’m sure they have a crystal ball and knew they wouldn’t get into the playoffs, but the Brewers could, so they gave them that series.  Very thoughtful, you know.

37.  When Pablo Sandoval decided to retweet people who said nice things about him making the All Star team and he retweeted me.  It made me a lot happier than it rationally should have.

36.  When Bruce Bochy got congratulated by Ryan Braun on winning the World Series (minute 1:40.  I know you want to see it.)  This is what I call icing on the cake, people.

35.  NATE.  One last time.  Sorry.

34-20. This is when Diamond Girl had to leave unexpectedly to sniffle in the closet for a bit at the realization that this is really the end of the 2011 season.

19.  Okay!  Back.   Let’s do a silver lining thing now: not winning the pennant means the target-on-back will lessen or disappear.  And these Giants do better when there are no Great Expectations.  Sorry, Charles Dickens.

18.  They also helped me and my new fish bond.  I am quite positive that the reason my fish seems to be liking me more is that we’ve endured the torture holed up in my room (yep, I said torture) together.

17.  That, by some luck, these players channeled enough thoughts about balking to Bob Davidson that he actually called a balk on that fateful June day.  And also gave me a great photo-editing opportunity.

16.  Emmanuel Burriss’s nickname-picky mother.

15.  That they did not take me up on my Hawaii Vacation/gold watches offers.  Which means they didn’t do that well, but it also means I won’t be in debt for the rest of my life.

14.  Totally random memory:  Pat Burrell and Eli Whiteside both hitting triples in one game.  Weird and great.

13.  The promotions their awesome TV network came up with.  Especially the Ultimate Tim Lincecum one.  (Which I, eh, won.)

12.  The players designing endearingly horrific t-shirts.

11.  That they drafted another good-name player in the draft.  That is Joe Panik.  If only for the name, it was a good pick.

10.  Walk-offs!

9.  And more walk-offs!

8.  And even more walk-offs!

7.   The power outage in St. Louis.  Now I really credit the Cardinals (read: Tony LaRussa) for that, but it was a Giants moment anyway.  And a darn memorable one, too.

6.  When Cainer demonstrated he actually does have the ability to dress well.

5.  All the opportunities they gave me to use my dearly beloved balloon-popping set of photos from Despicable Me.  Because seriously, I love those photos.  Even if it meant they broke my heart.

4.  Last thing about Chris Stewart!  I promise!  But I remember the first time I saw him do a throwdown to second.  And I think I thought it was cupcakes and brownies and cinnamon roasted almonds all mashed into one.  (And yet it was good.  All those foods mashed together probably, um, wouldn’t be.)

3.  Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking you shouldn’t let your kids watch baseball!  It’s educational!  I mean, this year I learned what “contusion” means.  Overandoverandoveragain.

2.  It was like a magical realism book (what is a magical realism book, you ask?  Read here and be enlightened.)  Stray bits of left over magic were everywhere.  And that’s even better than full-on magic, somehow.  (Although, yes, I like full-on magic when it means winning the World Series. But don’t interrupt my poetic-ness, please.)

1.  They gave me a lot to blog about.  A lot, a lot.  So I thank them for that.  And I thank you all for bearing with me and my weirdness and my love of strange foods and for reading and commenting here as well.  It’s been a brilliant, crazy year and more fun than I can possibly express.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I need to go reminisce for a bit more and then find my antlers and morph into Ranger-Girl.  Bye-bye, 2011 season.

Diamond Girl

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Some Unique First Hai– I Mean, First Half Awards

What did I take away from the 2011 All Star Game?

Justin and Jessica are having issues.  On-again-off-again is off right now.  So much for them eating tacos together, TMZ et al.  He was acting psycho.

(Note lame Fan Cave promos everywhere.)

Seriously, I was hoping he’d at least have a snappy outfit in the Bad Clothing Center of the Play aka the All Star Game, but no such luck.  His hat was nearly as terrible as that shirt.   Anyways, he’s now confirmed he’s a Dodger fan, so my Timberlake moment is over.  Flashing lights and all.

Anyway!

The game itself was kind of boring, except for Ogando and Gio pitching back to back.  That was fun.  But even when Wilson came in, the drama felt 100% manufactured.  I didn’t know who to root for, because I can’t decide how I feel about home field advantage and also because I actually liked more people on the AL squad, because the Giants don’t really play them so I have fewer negative memories of them hitting homers off us or whatever.  You know.  So I rooted for individuals and mostly just enjoyed all the players smiling at each other.  That’s so cute.

So I figure now that’s all over, I should do some mid-season awards.  Here we go:

First Half MLB Awards

Most Improved Hair: Michael Young

As previously discussed, the haircut goes a long way to making Michael look less like an evil blackmailer of Jon Daniels.  I’m liking him quite a lot right now.

Most Improved Facial Hair:  Barry Zito

I hated the ‘stache from moment 1.  The silver lining to Barry’s injury was that the superstitious baseball player that he is, he shaved it off.  And has come back lookin’ and pitchin’ better than ever.

Most Worsened Facial Hair:  Prince Fielder

This goes out to Wilson too:  beards like that make you look homeless.  Not to mention 10+ years older.  Bad idea all around.

Best GM: Theo Epstein

First everyone thought the Sox were going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Then everyone thought they were going to be a total bust.  I think we’re back to the greatest thing since sliced bread stage now.

Giant MVP: Nate Schierholtz

‘Nuff said, Giants fans.

Moment That Doug Melvin Outed Himself as a Shopaholic:  Ryan Braun’s Extension

I just can’t get it out of my head that they’re paying him through 2030.  Who knew that Doug and Rebecca Bloomwood are kindred spirits?

Best Brandon Moment: Tie between Brandon Crawford’s Homer in Debut and Brandon Belt’s Opening Day Call-Up

Our Brandons have made for some pretty great moments this year.

Worst Brandon Moment: Brandon Phillips Hit Which Resulted in Freddy Going Down

Other people’s Brandons?  Not so much.

So what are you awards and strongest memories from this 2011 first half?  Tell me, just because there’s been no real baseball for days and I am going through withdrawal.  Thanks.

Diamond Girl

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Jose Who? Five Things I Love About Brandon Crawford

Last year, the only rookie everyone talked about was Buster Posey.  He, uh, panned out.  This year, it was all Brandon Belt.  And as much as I like and respect Belt- and the season is still young, he hasn’t screamed, Impact!  Who has?  The one I lovingly branded (pun intended) The Other Brandon.  I may be speaking too soon, but I think if anyone takes us all the way, it’ll be him.  When Tejada started to be an obvious problem at short, the name Jose Reyes kept popping up.

Jose who?

We have a shortstop.

From, Single A.  Who hit a triple that was as close to perfection as anyone comes on a baseball field?  Keep Jose, Mets.  It would be weird to see him wearing other colors anyway.  This coming from a rabid 2007 fan of yours.

And Matt Cain’s game wasn’t perfect, but it was a beauty.  Five hits, one run, complete game win.  ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, since I can’t get over Crawford, I have made a list of five things I love about him.  Besides his obvious baseball chops.  Read on.

5.  The Hair.

I think he works hard at it.  It pays off. 

The best part?  Curly hair doesn’t seem to equal curly brains, because…

4.  He’s Got Brains

You know how people always go ga-ga over actresses or models who graduated college?  Granted, many more baseball players graduate but for whatever reason his major is on his Wikipedia article and it’s physiological science.  I don’t quite know what that means but it sounds brainy.  Interesting.

3.  He Signs…

…autographs.  Because he remembers being in the position of wanting ‘em.  I don’t begrudge players who don’t like to sign, but I do give points to people who go out there and do it.

2.  FISU World Champion

Whenever I hear about an MLBer who’s had success in another league, I am intrigued.  I know Nate Schierholtz competed in Beijing and that’s always been one of my main associations with him.  Crawford was on the US team when it won FISU World Championship in Havana.  Which means he’s ready to be a champion again, right? 

1.  He’s Toolsy

Fine, just kidding.  I’ve been watching the draft for three days but that doesn’t mean I use that word.  He’s just a flat out ballplayer.  I don’t know of any other way to say it. 

I think good things are in the team’s future.  But speaking of shortstops?  I really hugely miss Edgar Renteria.  So these next few days may be emotionally difficult.  Bear with me, okay?

Diamond Girl

p.s.  If I’ve failed to mention that I want a name like Conor Gillaspie, I will say it now.  I want a name like Conor Gillaspie.

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I Am Irrationally Excited…

…about the draft tonight. And all the gossip. I even watched a painfully boring, but still kind of interesting video about the top 50 prospects and I have popcorn waiting to be popped in expectance of the show at 4 PT. MLB says this is the deepest draft ever and Jon Daniels/Kip Fagg seem to imply the opposite. I can’t decide who I believe. Probably the Rangers. Neither the Giants nor the Rangers are picking anytime near the beginning, but I do have a Pirates soft spot, so first overall should be fun (but shame on you, people who leak who’s going to be picked. It takes away all the suspense!). You know what won’t be fun?

The coming weeks in Giants rotation news.

I’m scared. I really am.

With every beautiful Vogelsong start that makes me warm and fuzzy I am reminded that Zito and his pesky foot are getting a little closer to being better and that at some point (sooner rather than later?) Sabes et al. are going to have some choices to make. They say they are going to “get creative”. I say, if that includes glue and feathers then Zito should definitely get the call. If it includes pitching? I vote for Vogey.

Or maybe the A’s are in need of starting pitching and the Giants will eat the cash, get rid of him and I can still see him sometimes. Is that selfish? Don’t answer that question. Really, I don’t think it would be smart (or viable) for Giants to get rid of him. It’s called “insurance”, my friends, (not to mention piles of cash) and with our injury luck that rotation doesn’t feel safe. So I’ll just have to sit tight and wait until they decide to put their creativity on display (in a case? On a table? Mounted on the wall? Anyone’s guess.).

The bats aren’t exactly on fire, but they’re doing a decent job and the team seems dead set on looking only forward, which I am loving. The Nationals, who are in last place, nine games out, are coming to town tomorrow and Arizona is ever-so-vaguely skidding so now seems like a good time heat up.

Even though here in the Bay Area we are all walking around under a ceiling of fog in winter coats. That has got to make it a little harder to play baseball.

Diamond Girl

p.s. I don’t mean to be a fawning fan girl. I really don’t. But aren’t Brandon Crawford and his fiancé the cutest couple ever?

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