It was the worst of games, it was the best of games, it was a time of beginnings, it formed the stage of legends, it structured a period of doubt, it outlined an era of illumination, it hinted at a season of despair, it created a spring of aspirations, it suggested an autumn of anguish, we had it all in front of us, we had nothing in front of us, we were ascending into the pearly gates, we were plummeting into the depths-in short Opening Day in the desert was so like the experience of euphoria, as to silence the deafening protests of critics, for good or for evil, in the extravagance of victory.
For triumphantly, the San Francisco Giants did emerge, dazed and bewildered from the epic opening game in the desert, against the Arizona Diamondbacks, where nothing seemed as though it were normal. There were so many miscues and flashes of brilliance that it seemed as though matters were in the hands of some unfathomable authority. This force, controlling and guiding, seemed intent upon extracting from every Giants’ fan the admission that there is a God-or gods-governing this unpredictable game of baseball.
Madison Bumgarner was not the razor-sharp presence he has been all spring, and yet he escaped unscathed. First, he was not charged with the runs he allowed, and second, he did not get pinned with a discouraging loss, thanks to an improbable offensive explosion by his teammates. The Giants were only charged with two errors, but there were mental errors galore, and those are the worst kind because it indicates a lack of focus.
Yes, Brandon Belt got eaten alive by that hard-hit grounder that played him for a fool, but only after he handled a first-inning, higher-than-the-ceiling pop fly by Paul Goldschmidt, which required a rousing rendition of the popup dance. By the time he settled matters, Belt was on the third-base side of the infield, in foul territory, in front of Buster Posey, who was obviously thrilled to give way. And then there was the botched pick-off of Goldschmidt by the two Brandons, again with no physical error charged. It was just that kind of game.
Pablo Sandoval attempted to get out of the way of a pitch, and ended up using the bat as leverage and connecting with the ball. He somehow managed to loft a soft pop fly behind second base, where it bounced off the heel of Owens’ glove, meaning he had actually overrun the ball. And Pablo ended up safe on first base.
Later in the game, we saw Sandoval come skittering across-and in-towards the pitcher, to snag a bunt. He then allowed the ball to inexplicably squirt out of his hand, as the comedy of errors continued in front of us. Amazingly, Sandoval was not charged with an error as he should have been, because any time you have the opportunity to square up in front of the grounder, and still drop it, you must be held accountable.
And speaking of dropped balls? Buster took an accurate throw from right-fielder Hunter Pence, swept around and applied the tag to the runner, and the umpire called him out. The only minor glitch was that the ball was not in Buster’s glove; it was sitting in clear view of everyone in the stadium-everyone except the home plate ump. It’s not every day you see a home umpire call a runner safe at the plate and for once, have the whole world able to prove him wrong.
We saw the D-backs score four unearned runs in the fourth, and we witnessed six consecutive batters reach base for the Giants in the seventh. During this seventh inning, Hunter Pence actually drew a walk, with the bases loaded to force in a run. Hunter Pence, the most free-swinging player on the team, besides Pablo, takes a walk? With the bases loaded? Say again?
We saw the Giants improbably tie the score in the seventh, and we saw Buster Posey stroll up to the plate in the ninth and launch a rocket off the second deck, deep in the left field bleachers. We watched Montero smack one out in the ninth, for the D-Backs, making it a one-run game, after all was said and done.
Well, it’s the first day of April, March is over and done, and we’re grinding our teeth and fidgeting. The Giants share the lead for first place, the Dodgers are experiencing injury problems and the D-backs are still stunned. What are the baseball gods doing?
They are sitting around writing preposterous scenarios for different outcomes to Baseball 2014, on little scraps of paper, and tossing them into a big empty Gatorade cooler. When they are done, they will ask one of the resident bat boys to stroll over and select one of the little strips of paper, and that will determine the circumstances and outcome of this year’s baseball season. That is as good an explanation for how baseball works, as any that you can provide.
Tell me that I’m wrong. Tell me there is some other logical way to explain yesterday’s game. More importantly, convince the Giants that yesterday’s game will not be the norm. Those baseball gods are pretty creative. Look at last year, and how improbable that was, that the Giants would end up ten games below .500, struggling to stay out of the cellar, after having won it all the previous fall.
Get ready, fans, because the ending of the season has already been determined. Let’s just hope that the little scrap of paper that is chosen by that bat boy includes the Giants. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter what Sabean, Bochy or the Giants’ players do; it’s out of their hands, and in the hands of some folks who have had a lot more practice at predicting the future than I have, those baseball gods.