This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever


This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever

The Major League Pinball Championships resumes Tuesday in Los Angeles, with its slick baseballs and plutonium bats and shape-shifting strike zones and death of the slider and bullpen rubble and look-the-other-way racism.

You know. The baseball of the future.

Except that it probably isn’t. This is the least baseball-ish World Series ever, and while people are riveted by every bizarre whack-a-mole moment, it doesn’t actually translate to the baseball that leads to this kind of baseball.

In other words, the Giants can’t do this. The A’s probably can’t. Most teams can’t. And even allowing for the fact that this is the most homer-happy time in the history of the game, Sunday's game, which Houston won 13-12 over Los Angeles, was a Planet 9-level outlier. And if you fell in love with the game based on Sunday night, your disappointment will be palpable.

In fact, that disappointment may be felt as quickly as Tuesday, when Justin Verlander gets the start for Houston.

But the notion that the World Series should be this different than the rest of the season is a fascinating one. Not necessarily a bad one – this is not the Old Fud Hour, and change is irresistible – but a fascinating one.

If Houston and Los Angeles are really that different than everyone else, then good on them for building their teams to reflect that fact. But if the game itself is this much of a car crash throughout an entire season, is it actually sustainable by the sport’s current standards, and if not, can the sport change quickly enough to reflect it?

Yes, this is small-sample-size stuff, but a big rating World Series is going to help arrest what is perceived to be baseball’s demographic rot, and imitation is the sincerest form of cashing in. And unlike Bud Selig, who changed much about the game without either intending to or always enjoying it, Rob Manfred is more comfortable with life outside the box. If the slider dies on his watch, and the response is more home runs and eyeballs (on all your available devices, of course), he’ll take that in a heartbeat.

And not just him, but the entire hierarchy of the sport. It’s too easy to say, “Manfred this,” and “Manfred that,” just as it is cheap shorthand to substitute the names Goodell, Silver, Bettman and Garber. No, this is baseball at a new crossroads, the extreme of a clear shift toward a strikeout-or-homer sport whose nuances are under subtle but noticeable attack.

And the questions to be asked are “Can this be replicated across the sport?” “Should this be replicated across the sport?” and finally, “If it can’t be, what happens to the longterm artistic and financial vitality of the sport?”

Put another way, if Justin Verlander is truly Verlander-esque Tuesday and the final score is 3-1, how many people will be bummed out that it wasn’t enough like Sunday? I shudder to think.

What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's


What the next 25-26 games will tell us about the Giants and A's

The schedule is always a treacherous way to decide the future of a baseball team. Teams get hot and grow cold again based on much more than the color of their uniforms and whether they cab or drive to the ballpark.

But it can be reasonably inferred that the San Francisco Giants were eager to reach this part of their season, in which 20 of the 26 games between now and the All-Star Break would be played in their relatively clement Third Street digs . . . and that the Oakland Athletics would be just as dismayed to hit the same stretch, since 20 of their last 25 would be played away from home – in San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and San Francisco.

But even if you throw out the last three for each team given that there are no hotels involved, these are still long stretches without schedule balance.

For the A’s, who are average in every way imaginable (20-20 at home, 16-16 away), this stretch could eliminate them from their thin hopes of a playoff spot, if only because Boston, New York, Houston and Seattle seem to lose so rarely, and a struggle between now and July 15 could cause their already daunting 10-game gap with the postseason spots to grow beyond their ability to control it.

For the Giants, on the other hand, their deficit is a much more manageable 4 ½ games with Arizona in the NL West and four with Washington for the second NL Wild Card. Moreover, their health shortfalls are supposed to end soon, with both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to return before the break.

But oddly, the Giants are racing toward rope-cutting time, in which they have to decide if (a) they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and (b) what they want to buy and what they have to sell. That is why this next stretch could well determine their fate just as much as Oakland’s.

San Francisco hasn’t been healthy at all this season (only two teams have spent more disabled list days so far than the Giants), but nobody cares. Every team has injuries, and every team deals with them. In short, life is cruel, and then the body part replacements come.

But the Giants have been kicking the rebuilding can down the road for awhile now, and this next stretch – against Miami, San Diego, Colorado, at Arizona and at Colorado, then St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs and finally Oakland – will very likely solve their most pressing conundrum.

Specifically, whether it’s worth it to draw from an already-thin prospect list to chase a veteran or two who could propel them into October, or whether it is better to bag the whole attempt and try to go with a full remodel.

The Giants haven’t rebuilt their rosters for a decade now, and said rebuild was an unqualified success, if judged only by rings and parades. But that time is again upon them, as much as they like to claim otherwise, and the matter of when that rebuild should commence will be settled to some extent by these next 26 games.

At least that is how the Giants would like to frame it. Both Arizona and Los Angeles could fall off the earth’s mantle and come back to the Giants, or one of them could heat up and render the whole exercise moot. Things change all the time in baseball, and they don’t follow a linear path. It’s kind of like WAR (wins above replacement, that is, rather than the other one). It all depends on the formula you use.

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

Mike Krukow reveals why Giants 'were not too happy' on Sunday in LA

With every major holiday that occurs during the season, all MLB teams have their jerseys and hats tweaked to feature the colors associated with the holiday.

On Memorial Day, it's camo. On Mother's Day, it's pink. On the Fourth of July, it's red, white and blue.

For Father's Day, it's light blue, and that made for a slightly awkward situation Sunday in Los Angeles as the Giants' black hat was replaced by a light blue hat. Shirts underneath the jersey had to be light blue.

Appearing on KNBR 680 Monday morning, broadcaster Mike Krukow was asked about the Giants' wearing blue against the Dodgers.

"What is up with that? Serious business. And the boys were not too happy about that," Krukow said before the phone connection cut out.

Why do MLB teams wear blue on Father's Day? It's to raise awareness for prostate cancer and raise money for research to fight the disease.

So the Giants may not have been thrilled about wearing the color of their arch rival, but it was for a good cause.

After beating the Dodgers on Sunday, the Giants are back home Monday where they open a 10-game homestand against the Marlins.