For the love of the game
by Julia Asin
Published October 8, 2013
During the 2013 baseball season, the San Francisco Giants followed their 2012 World Series Championship season with an elimination from the playoffs on Sept. 9, finishing the season with a 76-86 season tied for third place. It was their first losing season since 2008, and for part of the season it looked like they were going to be the first team since 1902 to win the World Series one year and come in last place the next. Most would agree that this was a tough season to become a Giants fan, and that’s something I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished.
At the beginning of the season, I was a casual fan. My family has enthusiastically followed the team for as long as I can remember, but I’ve always been more into playing sports, not watching them. I’d long thought that baseball was pretty boring, and the games were way too long, but after becoming wrapped up in the bandwagoning that was the 2012 World Series, I decided that maybe baseball was worthy of my attention. At the start of summer, I watched every single pitch of every single game, especially when I got my wisdom teeth out and was confined to the couch for a week and a half.
The Giants got off to a strong start at the beginning of the season. On May 25, centerfielder Angel Pagan hit a walk-off inside-the-park homerun against the Colorado Rockies, placing the Giants in a three-way tie for first place. That was also the last game the Pagan would play in until the end of August, as sometime around his inside-the-parker he injured his hamstring to such a degree that it would require surgery. From there on out, it was a long downhill ride for the Giants, and they took me with them.
At the beginning of June, it seemed like the Giants were going to survive without Pagan. They won a few games, Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres seemed to be performing acceptably in the role of the leadoff hitter and the pitching, which had gotten off to a slow start, was stumbling, but not tumbling over. They weren’t winning all of their games, but they weren’t losing every game either. However, by mid-June, everything started to fall apart. Not only was the pitching failing to live up to expectations, but all of the batters seemed to be in deep hitting slumps. The only person who ever seemed to get a hit was Buster Posey, and even he sometimes struggled.
It became more and more difficult for me to watch the games. Even with my intense dedication, at times during the Giants miserable stretch that lasted through all of July, a month where they only won eight games in total, the future seemed bleak and the games became unbearable.
There was a high point right in the middle of the terrible month that was July: Tim Lincecum pitched his first no-hitter, a feat that anyone who knows anything about baseball knows is not easily accomplished. Timmy’s no-hitter was a deliriously glorious moment in the middle of the murky hideousness of a team that was often unable to find clutch hits, and sometimes just any hits at all.
But I still watched. While the Giants may have had no luck throughout the 2013 season, especially in July, they were a lovable team. Brandon Belt, who had a tough start in July, made an adjustment to his swing, and suddenly his August became spectacular. He became the “baby giraffe” we all knew he could be. He had recorded a .225 batting average in July, but that skyrocketed to a .350 average for the month of August, where he belted it out of the park five times. Not only was Belt, a stellar first baseman, suddenly an amazing hitter, but his awkward personality and Twitter fights with Dodger’s fans endeared him to many.
Belt’s rise coincided with some improvement from the Giants. They didn’t do nearly as horrifically in August, and when Pagan came back from the DL they went 17-12, a stark contrast to their record without him (31-51). Perhaps that was all the Giants needed to win some games this season: their lead-off hitter and some opportune hitting.
Another standout player this season was Hunter Pence, who had one of the greatest salary drives that I’ve ever witnessed. Over the four-game series against the Dodgers in September, Pence hit five home runs, and was named the National League player of the month. He became the first Giants player since Barry Bonds to hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases in a single season. He also solidified his spot as my favorite Giants player of all time. Not only is he an inspiring Willie Mac award winner, but he also stays healthy by following the clean-living paleo diet, which attempts to mimic the cuisine choices of our ancestors, the cave people, by eating a diet consisting mainly of fruit, meat, and nuts. Hunter stayed so healthy that he was able to start all 162 of the Giant’s games this year, a feat that had never been accomplished in the history of the team since they moved to San Francisco. Talk about dedication. At the end of the season, he signed a 5-year, $90-million contract, which, as pitcher Madison Bumgarner says, “is pretty cool if you like 90 million.”
So yes. The Giants lost this season. At some points they played ugly, ugly baseball. But there were also beautiful moments, moments that could fill anyone with love for the glorious game that is baseball. Whether it was crushing the Dodgers, 19-3, or Pablo Sandoval hitting three home runs in one game (again), the Giants showed that while they weren’t a team capable of getting to the playoffs, this season they were a team capable of taking a girl who didn’t even know what a ground rule double was and turning her into a baseball-crazy superfan. They were able to keep selling out their stadium to thousands of energetic fans every day. Most importantly, they’ve let us know that they will keep trying, they will keep training and they will not let the 2014 season turn out like the 2013 season did.
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