The 2010 World Series match up between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants is most fascinating indeed.
It is fascinating because no baseball prognosticator saw it coming before the season began. It is fascinating because both teams upset the defending league champions with the Rangers upending the New York Yankees and the Giants denying the Philadelphia Phillies a third consecutive National League pennant. It is fascinating because the two teams play a very different brand of baseball. While the Rangers are very aggressive on the base paths with their propensity towards stealing bases; the Giants are very conservative in their approach to running the bases.
That might well be the only thing that makes San Francisco more conservative than Texas these days. Because perhaps the most fascinating thing about this year's World Series is the political and cultural divide that exists between the two cities.
Now I am sure there are members of the Rangers who voted for Barack Obama just as I am sure there are members of the Giants who would prefer to see Sarah Palin in the White House.
Yet when Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton accepted the American League Championship Series MVP the first thing he did was to praise God and Jesus Christ. Hamilton was loudly applauded by the sold out crowd at Rangers Ballpark for this acknowledgment. Could you imagine the flak Hamilton would have caught had he uttered such praise in San Francisco? Half the crowd would have been on the phone with the ACLU.
The other half of the San Francisco crowd would be on the phone with PETA because of the head of a ten point buck that is mounted above Hamilton's locker. The Rangers evidently also watch the Fox News Channel because you can see Neil Cavuto interviewing Senator Jim DeMint on the television beside the buck. All things considered, San Franciscans would probably turn up the volume on their radios tuned into NPR.
It is believed that the buck is partially responsible for the antler and claw craze which has swept Texas like wildfire. Whenever a member of the Rangers gets a base hit his teammates will make a bear claw gesture from the dugout signifying it was a good play from and the Rangers player will reciprocate in kind. Whenever a member of the Rangers steals a base or otherwise puts on a burst of speed the Rangers dugout makes an antler gesture which is also reciprocated by the player in question. Not surprisingly, the claw and antler gestures have caught on with Rangers fans and have spawned t-shirts.
Then again why should any of this come as a surprise considering that the Rangers were once owned by George W. Bush? It should be even less surprising with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan at the helm.
After the Giants clinched the NL pennant, Giants General Manager Brian Sabean had a more temporal source of inspiration. Sabean explained his team's success by invoking Hillary Clinton stating "we've gotten to a point where it 'takes a village,' it takes a whole team to win a series." I cannot imagine that would have gone over well deep in the heart of Texas.
Nevertheless, it is probably an apt description of the 2010 San Francisco Giants and may help to explain why the Giants are resonating with fans in the Bay Area. According to Monte Poole of the Oakland Tribune:
The chemistry on the Giants seems to be exceptional, and fans are responding to the no-star environment. With the exception of Tim Lincecum, the attraction is less to the artistry of the individual than to the beauty of the collective.
I can't imagine Texas fans being into the whole "the beauty of the collective" concept. ESPN baseball anyalyst Tim Kurkjian doesn't see much beauty either:
So, how do they win? They are a tough, gritty team that is all about character, diverse personalities and great starting pitching. Outside of their rotation, they are a collection of misfits, outcasts and waiver claims.
One could make the case there are misfits even within the Giants starting rotation. If one were to look at Giants ace Tim Lincecum one could be forgiven for mistaking him for a long haired, skinny skateboarder not old enough to shave. You would never know you were looking at a man who has won back to back NL Cy Young Awards and has led the NL in strikeouts for three consecutive seasons. Well, they don't call him The Freak for nothing. Appearances are indeed deceiving. Or are they? Lincecum was charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana in November 2009 following a traffic stop outside of Seattle.
Then there's Brian Wilson. That would be the Giants closer, not the ex-Beach Boy. Wilson wears a partial Mohawk, dyes his beard black, keeps the top of his jersey unbuttoned and for a time wore bright orange shoes when he pitched until MLB fined him. Then watch him talk about crossword puzzles, omelets, and certified ninjas. Despite his eccentricities, Wilson led the NL in saves in 2010.
And where else but San Francisco could Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff be embraced for wearing a ladies' thong? Rangers fans would have probably considered such an act unmentionable.
I really don't have a dog in this fight. There are no Yankees to root against. So I'm happy if either team wins. The Rangers have never won a World Series and the Giants haven't won since 1954 when they were still playing at the Polo Grounds. Rangers and Giants fans might not agree on much. But I think they can both agree that it is fun to watch their teams play in the World Series.