July 18, 2011
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Whether it's Michael Jordan dropping a feathery finger roll over a 7-footer, Wayne Gretzky conducting an orchestra on ice behind the net, Jerry Rice turning a seam route into a 66-yard score, or Ken Griffey Jr. launching long balls with that languid lefty swing that looks like it came straight out of a bottle of thick maple syrup, the truly great ones make it look effortless.The ease with which they do what they do as elite athletes is akin to the ease with which rank-and-file mortals dump the previous morning's coffee grinds into the trash compactor.Wait, check that. Who hasn't dropped those grinds on the linoleum floor when the soggy filter basket busts? Oh, stop it. Yes, you have.We're getting off point now, though, so let's bottom-line it near the top: No matter the field, the best in that field at the very peak of their powers perform with such enviable grace and efficiency that you can't help but stop, watch, admire and wish you were them for one stinking day.Even a Cavs fan would want to be like Mike.What's all this got to do with Giants baseball? If you were at AT&T Park on Monday for the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Dodgers, you know.Ryan Vogelsong made it look that easy.RECAP: Giants 5, Dodgers 0
Not that anyone's ready to dive into a sea of hyperbole and come up claiming Vogelsong deserves a spot among the aforementioned all-timers, but if Vogelsong keeps doing what he did to the Dodgers for another few months, at the very least his story will be an all-timer -- not just locally but nationally.It was a shame that Vogelsong didn't get to make an appearance in last week's All-Star Game; if he had, the Fox announcers would have been forced to tell his story to an audience that likely hasn't heard it. Here in the Bay Area, we can recite it by rote.But the story isn't a story at all without Vogelsong doing incredibly special things on the mound, and while he's had games with numbers similarly impressive to the ones he posted Monday, Monday's outing had that magical simplicity that marks all masterworks.Strike one, strike two. Fastball in, slider away, wrinkles at the knees. Heck, everything at the knees. Everything around the plate. Nothing in the crush zone.Trouble? Whatever. Here, ground into a double play for me, you nuisance. There's a cup of water in the dugout with my name on it, and I'd very much like to get back to it before that Wilson character does something evil in it.That was Vogelsong's night in a nutshell. It was the kind of game you watch and think, "I could do that."But you can't. Not in a million years. That's the thing about guys who make it look easy. What they're doing is actually hard as hell, but you'd never know it watching them.It's when talent and preparation collide at the intersection of intelligence and preternatural poise.It's the best at their best, and with his dominance of the Dodgers, Vogelsong actually was able to lay claim to being the best: His 2.02 ERA is the lowest in the National League.Giants Insider gallery: NL ERA leader
He also improved to 7-1, an .875 winning percentage. The Giants are 10-5 in his 15 starts, a .667 clip of success.Can he keep it up? There were whispers before this one that he was fading, mostly because he'd issued 13 walks in his final three starts before the All-Star break, to the tune of a 3.38 ERA that looked beached-whale bloated compared to the minuscule numbers he was ripping off prior to that.Did Vogelsong hear the whispers? His own, perhaps. As the Giants clubhouse emptied well after the 5-0 victory was in the books, after he'd done the surrounded-by-cameras-and-notebooks thing, he conceded during a brief one-on-one chat that those three starts had, indeed, gnawed at him a bit."I felt a lot better tonight than I had in those three games before the break," Vogelsong said. "My command was back to where I want it to be, to where I need it to be."To where it has to be to make it look easy?If you think Vogelsong would bite on a question like that, maybe his story needs even more telling. This man does humility like Ghandi does peace and tranquility. He lauded the defense behind him more than anything, calling the double plays that got him out of his only two jams "big-time."But before those big-time turns can be made -- and there's no question that Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford made a little magic of their own -- there needs to be a big-time pitch made under big-time pressure.Vogelsong made them. And he made them look easy."It wasn't easy," he said with a smile, slowly shaking his head left and right. "It never is."