There have been some great stories emanating this year from Major League Baseball — from Shohei Ohtani’s unprecedented versatility to Vladimir Guerrero’s gaudy hitting statistics to the mound brilliance of Walker Buehler and the trading of big-name stars such as Max Scherzer and Kris Bryant.
But the best story of all has been the San Francisco Giants, an also-ran in almost everyone’s pre-season predictions who have compiled the overall best record of all 30 teams through mid-August.
This is like Charlie Brown’s team finally winning a championship. This is Wichita, Kansas beating out Paris, France for the title of world’s most glitzy city. This is a community newspaper in Armstrong, B.C., winning a Pulitzer Prize.
Here’s what Jack Vita, someone with apparent baseball expertise, had to say about the Giants back on April 2, as he pre-seasonally ranked all the teams 1-to-30, putting San Francisco at No. 26: “The Giants over performed a season ago, just missing out on the expanded playoff field. The Giants have been gradually declining since their last postseason berth in 2016. It may be time to start blowing it up.”
Not even close, Mr. Vita.
No. 1 on Vita’s list was the Los Angeles Dodgers, most prognosticators’ choice as the best team in baseball. No. 3 overall was San Diego, because the Padres made a number of off-season moves that significantly improved their team.
The Dodgers and Padres also play in the Giants’ division, the NL West, so San Francisco earning a trip to the playoffs was, according to most experts, a pre-season pipe dream.
Then, in April, they started playing games and the Giants have been …. well, they’ve simply been the best team in baseball.
At last look, pitchers Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani, all castoffs from other teams, had combined for a 31-13 record.
Johnny Cueto, the most familiar name in the Giants’ starting rotation, was 7-6 on Aug. 15.
Overall, the Giants’ pitching was statistically No. 3 in the NL, behind the Dodgers and Milwaukee, while their hitting was No. 1.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford and catcher Buster Posey are having career years while outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Hall-of-Famer Carl Yaz, had 18 homers, one behind team-leader Crawford.
Overall, the Giants had eight players in double figures for home runs, most in the NL. And acquiring Bryant from the Cubs at the trade deadline certainly hasn’t hurt.
Manager Gabe Kapler, who signed as manager of the Giants prior to the 2020 season with a non-illustrious career managerial record of 190-194, is performing like John McGraw, Sparky Anderson and Casey Stengel reincarnated this year, pulling all the right strings as the Giants played at a .630 winning clip through mid-August.
The best baseball story of 2021 isn’t just a big story. It’s a Giant story.
• Steve Simmons of Sun Media, recalling the playoff shadow job the late Bryan ‘Bugsy’ Watson did on superstar sniper Bobby Hull. Coach Sid Abel told Watson “If Bobby Hull goes to the concession stand, you will go with him and put sugar in his coffee.”
• Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, on a somewhat strange comment by NBC’s Paul Sunderland during an Olympics volleyball game: ‘The Americans must win to stay undefeated,’ said Sunderland. Cracked Mushnick: ‘I’ll give you a few moments to soak that one in.’”
• Bob Molinaro of pilot online.com (Hampton, Va.): “Getting sacked by a blitzing linebacker is an occupational hazard for NFL quarterbacks, but the most dangerous place anyone can stand is between Jerry Jones and a TV camera.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The daughter of rock legend Bruce Springsteen, Jessica Springsteen, won a silver medal in equestrian team jumping in Tokyo. Maybe this will be the thing that finally turns the luck around for the poor Springsteen family.”
• Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “A baseball game was played at a corn field in Iowa in front of a small crowd. That’s nothing new. We’ve always had that. It’s called ‘Double A ball.’”
• Marcus Allessandro on Twitter: “If ABC did the Olympics they would probably add The Bachelorette as a new event. And USA would sweep the medals.”
• Mushnick again: “On Monday, Twins DH Brent Rooker, hitting .157, struck out four times in four at-bats. Wednesday, Rooker, again the DH, again struck out four times in four at-bats. Consistency is the mark of greatness!”
• Pun of the week from RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Teddy Bridgewater is in a battle with Drew Lock for the starting QB spot in Denver. You don’t have to be Simon & Garfunkel to think Lock is troubled over Bridgewater.”
• Headline at the onion.com: “Dog Frustrated After Jameis Winston Sails Tennis Ball 5 Feet Over Head”
• Headline at fark.com: “Car thief tries to steal a vehicle from a UFC fighter. Bad idea.”
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by Bruce Penton