Here is a link to my Thursday column. The full text runs below:
This is about the Giants, the Captain Marvel Paradox, Marty Lurie and ice cream.
The Giants are a flawed team — sometimes they are downright crummy — but they still could win the World Series. I’m dead serious.
Before I get into the Captain Marvel Paradox and Marty Lurie and ice cream, here’s an admission. I am writing this column Wednesday morning, hours before the Giants played the Cubs Wednesday night. So I won’t account for that game. But come on, we know what we know about the Giants.
This is what we know. They are playing the Cubs. One hot team. The Cardinals come to San Francisco next weekend. The Cardinals are baseball’s best team. The Giants currently face a high degree of difficulty. The Giants are the walking dead. Hunter Pence isn’t playing. Joe Panik — ditto. Angel Pagan — double ditto, but his loss is no loss. Jeremy Affeldt — triple ditto.
Am I missing a ditto?
The Giants have exactly three reliable, above-average starting pitchers. Three is a troubling number when elite staffs need five. The three are obvious — Madison Bumgarner, Mike Leake and Chris Heston, currently in the minor leagues. Huh? He’ll return next week. None too soon.
The candidates for the final two spots are vague. Jake Peavy. Sure. Matt Cain. Not so sure. Something is terribly wrong with him. In a single game he’ll look great and wretched. It happens pitch to pitch. When he looks great, he puts an unhittable ball exactly where he wants. Next pitch he throws some dud over the middle of the plate, the ball screaming, “Crush me.”
The batter crushes it. On Tuesday night, Cain gave up two killer home runs. I tweeted — God help me, I do tweet: “Matt Cain is no humdinger. He’s a home-dinger (giver upper).”
Prediction: Cain never will be right this season. Not consistently.
Ryan Vogelsong is a better fifth — or fourth? — starter. His issue is obvious. He gets murdered in the first inning. Let’s say he has the ability to get murdered. He’s like the unfortunate boxer who takes one round to warm up. In that round he is open to the knockout punch. Vogelsong is a precision pitcher, and a great competitor. He sometimes needs an inning to get all his gears in sync, and in that first inning he is vulnerable. After that, he’s remarkably good. If he could skip the first inning, he’d be a cinch for the rotation.
Tim Lincecum and Tim Hudson remain in pitching limbo. If you know what’s going on with them — what’s really going on — please write a tweet.
What I’m saying is the Giants may not have enough good players, may not have enough good starting pitchers to make the playoffs. I’m also saying other stuff. Like the Dodgers lead them in the National League West, and the Giants could win the division — the Giants can forget about winning the wild card. The Dodgers are as screwed up as the Giants. They have two phenomenal starting pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, and then what? Matt Latos?
The Giants might crawl into the postseason over the dead body of the Dodgers. Certainly could happen. Then hold onto your hats. Which brings me to Captain Marvel.
I compare the Giants to the comic book hero Captain Marvel. You remember Captain Marvel, right? In real life he is a 12-year-old homeless newsboy named Billy Batson. But when Billy says “Shazam” he turns into superhero Captain Marvel.
The Giants are Billy Batson in the regular season and Captain Marvel in the postseason — if and when they get there.
Which brings me to Marty Lurie, the noted baseball historian who does pregame and postgame shows for the Giants. We recently spoke about the difference between regular-season Giants and playoff Giants, although I didn’t tell Marty about the Billy Batson-Captain Marvel comparison for fear of his looking at me strangely.
In a minute, I’ll tell you what Marty said. First this about Marty and me. We’re the same age. We’re from the same part of Brooklyn. We talk alike. We look alike.
We were in the elevator at AT&T Park recently and Marty asked people in there if we are related. The passengers eyeballed us. Concluded we are cousins. Which made us happy. We are 11 years old in each other’s company. Rachel the elevator operator knows we’re not cousins, but she didn’t say anything.
Several years ago, Marty asked if I’d open with him an ice cream shop in Montclair Village, Oakland. “We can call it Big League Ice Cream,” he said, enthusiastically, trying to sell me on the concept. “And we can wear those big white chef hats and T-shirts that say Big League Ice Cream, and we can give extra large scoops. With sprinkles.”
I explained I already had a fulltime job and didn’t think I had the time to scoop ice cream. Marty was crushed. Even now, he’ll come up to me and say, “We should have opened that ice cream shop.”
I love Marty Lurie.
Anyway, he and I were talking about the Giants. Marty acknowledged the weakness of the Dodgers and then introduced the paradox. If the Giants manage to win the NL West — I think they will — they become dangerous in the postseason. It’s like Bruce Bochy says Shazam and Billy Batson morphs into Captain Marvel.
All the Giants need is three good starting pitchers, Marty said. The Giants have them. Marty said Bochy is a genius at melding his starters with the bullpen, at creating good pitching for nine innings. No one is better at it than Bochy. We’ve seen it before and we know what happened.
So, the key is qualifying for the playoffs in the first place. Qualifying is harder than winning the World Series, as wacky as that sounds.
One other thing. Would you like vanilla or chocolate in a waffle cone? We’re running a special on toasted almond.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.