Much has been made of the similarities between the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals in this NL Championship Series, but there is one huge difference: Their fan bases.
The Cardinals have long been an institution in a large area centered in St. Louis. Fans throughout that Midwestern area have listened to the games on the radio and grown up with the Cardinals. My wife grew up in Tennessee and she knows better than to call her older sister when a Cardinals postseason game is on.
The Giants’ fan base is much different. When the team was at Candlestick Park, it had some dedicated older fans who knew the game well — they had to be dedicated to suffer through the wind and cold — but it was a small group. I doubt that any of them even come to games now.
When the Giants moved into what is now called AT&T Park, the older and richer fans bought the luxury boxes but many of the younger fans opted for the cheaper, though still expensive, seats below. It is their voice that you hear now and it is far from the traditional voice.
These young fans don’t spend a lot of time watching the game. They’re on various electronic devices, often walking around the park to enjoy the total experience. They’re certainly not agonizing over whether Giants manager Bruce Bochy is going to call for a hit-and-run.
Because of this, they’ve come up with their own expressions. “Torture” seems to be the favorite, referring simply to close games in the postseason, which are the average, not the exception. Local columnists and TV personalities, bereft of ideas, have adopted these silly expressions.
This is a shame because this is an excellent series between two very well-matched teams. I think the Giants have an advantage in Bochy, who handles his pitching staff so well, though he does need to remind young reliever Hunter Strickland that he can’t continue to try to throw his fastball past good major-league hitters. Works in Triple-A, but those pitches have too often wound up in the seats or McCovey Cove.
Now, the Giants have another huge advantage, with Yadier Molina sidelined with an injury. The Cardinals said before the playoffs that Molina was the one player they couldn’t afford to lose, the best defensive catcher in the league and a good hitter with power, at a position managers will usually sacrifice hitting for good defense.
The Giants also have the best starting pitcher in Madison Bumgarner. Clayton Kershaw had easily the best season of any major-league pitcher, but he collapsed for the second straight year in the postseason. By contrast, Bumgarner has thrived in the postseason.
This is an interesting Giants team, one that is relying much more on the farm system than in the earlier part of this century. The entire infield has come from the minor-league system. Though Pablo Sandoval may leave in free agency after this season, the Giants will still retain a solid nucleus.
But there I go, talking baseball when younger fans aren’t interested. It’s all about “torture.” Aaargh.