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I spent most of Thursday battling Bay Area traffic, largely because my wife
and I had tickets to go catch the Padres/Giants finale out at Pacific Bell
Park. Pac Bell is really a great place to see a ballgame, and would pretty
much be perfect if it weren’t for the fact that I loathe its primary
occupant, the San Francisco Giants, with a passion usually only seen in
those with a history of mental instability and accompanying violent
behavior.

Or, to put it more succinctly….

I don’t just hate the Giants.

I hate the f—ing Giants.

Part of why I hate the Giants is raw, unbridled jealousy. They are the top
banana in this media market. No matter how many world championships my
beloved A’s win, (four in the last 30 years, including a sweep of the
Giants–thanks for asking) the hearts of the Bay Area belong to the Giants.
The A’s get some bandwagon fans when they win, but the stickiness just isn’t
there. The local media loves the Giants, and as long as I can remember,
there are just more Giants hats in the area than A’s hats, and it’s never
going to change. I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by White Sox fans,
and I feel your pain. Well, as much as I can without having Hawk Harrelson
around. ("Asparagus tastes good, Wimpy." "You bet,
Hawk.")

Naturally, my hope was to get out to the park, see a crisply pitched
ballgame, punctuated by a late-inning appearance by Rickey Henderson,
who would draw a six-pitch walk with two outs, steal second, and score the
eventual winning run on a squib single by some light-hitting middle
infielder. That would have been perfect.

So anyway, I’m in the circumstance of being in enemy territory. I feel like
Cam Bonifay at a SABR meeting or something, and I’m not really there on
business. Russ Ortiz comes out to start the game, and he’s a complete
mess. Ortiz’s fastball is a little flat and just a bit slow, and the
patience of the Padre hitters is devastating. The first three hitters
basically sit fastball and let everything else either drop out of the zone,
or fade down and away. All three walk. Phil Nevin works the 5-6 hole
for a single, and a blooper by Mike Darr brings in two more runs.
It’s a happy 4-0 after half an inning.

The top of the second is similar. I don’t know if Ortiz was tipping his
pitches, but the Padres were swinging only at fastballs, and letting
everything else just drop out of the strike zone. Three walks, a couple of
groundouts, and an early shower for Ortiz. Chad Zerbe came in and
gave up a quick single to Darr, scoring two more for a 6-0 lead, and
approximately 30,000 changes in SoMa exit strategies. Getting out of San
Francisco isn’t easy near commute time, and having a Giants game dispersing
at about the same time the work day ends doesn’t make things any smoother.

From that point on, the game is notable primarily for a very strange wind
pattern. The wind at Pac Bell doesn’t feel anything like the wind at
Candlestick. It was beautiful on Thursday, with just a touch of a breeze
blowing out towards the harbor. Or so it felt. Once the ball got above about
60 feet high, it absolutely took off. Felipe Crespo‘s two home runs
were both legitimate (well, mostly), but got a significant boost from that
jet stream. As the day got warmer, balls started to just fly out of the
place.

The Giants pulled within four runs in the sixth, but it just didn’t feel
like the game was in doubt. Ryan Vogelsong threw meatballs to Alex
Arias
and Cesar Crespo in the seventh, and they did their part,
depositing the ball over the walls in left field and right field,
respectively. In the bottom of the seventh, I was heretically thinking about
getting the hell out of the city and back to the East Bay. My wife Kathy,
who is apparently and disturbingly psychic, says "I hope someone gets
on this inning so Bonds can come up, and we can get over the bridge before
it’s complete gridlock." I married well.

Fate didn’t disappoint. Rich Aurilia hit a bleeder to left for a
single, and then Brian Lawrence wanted to test his theory about
Barry Bonds‘s primary weakness being the 86-mph fastball in the
middle of the plate at approximately the mid-thigh. Not all the results are
in, but the first data point in Mr. Lawrence’s study indicates that this is
not Barry Bonds’s primary weakness. Bombs away to dead center. The ball
would have left an exit wound had it hit someone. Seconds after the ball
landed, at least 50% of the crowd was headed for the nearest exit.

Some silly observations I made during the game, for what they’re worth:

  • Bobby Estalella‘s bat looked very slow. Something is definitely
    wrong, either physically or mechanically.

  • Barry Bonds is ridiculously talented and disciplined. You don’t maintain
    this kind of performance level at this stage of your career without an
    amazing amount of hard work. His preparation for each at-bat is surprisingly
    measured, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t been the subject of a Baseball
    Tonight
    feature yet. The crowd response to him is one of respectful awe,
    not the sheer effusive love that St. Louis shows to Mark McGwire.
    (Please pardon my subjectivity and hypocrisy.)

  • Pac Bell Park is one of the best-run baseball facilities possible. From
    the mass-transit feeds to the well-trained ushers, to the beautiful
    architecture and view, this really is a wonderful place to see a game, and
    it’s worth a trip. They’ve created an ambience that mutes your shocked
    laughter reflex when you hear the response of "Nine dollars" to
    your "Two Cokes, please." That’s no small feat.



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Here’s a view of the park from our seats; there are no bad sight lines at
Pac Bell. The fact that 40,000 people showed up for a Thursday afternoon
game against the Padres is a testament to the experience the Giants have
created here. Their ops team deserves a serious round of applause. Also,
thank you to Cathy, Pierre, and Christian DuVair for the tickets.




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And, as a favor to the sales guys at Pac Bell, I have discovered the last
remaining square footage within the park that is currently without
advertising. It’s approximately 35 square feet of prime exposure just above
Section 152.

Seriously, I’m unbelievably grateful for the opportunity to do stuff like
this. Life is unbelievably great almost every day. I’m lucky and thankful.
If you’re reading this, find ten minutes to go outside today and take in
some of the beauty around you. If you need to save the time, skip reading
Sheehan’s column.

Enjoy your weekend.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.

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