It would have been a 15-yard penalty in the NFL for taunting. The unwritten rules of baseball has at least a full chapter devoted to showing up your opponent. In the NBA, such unsportsmanlike behavior would have led to a technical foul and ejection. The NHL would have sat the perpetrator down five minutes in the penalty box for misconduct. The guilty party: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who brought in Brian Wilson to toss the division-winning pitch against the Giants with a 9-1 lead. Wilson, once a revered Giant, burned his bridges and incinerated all the good will when he berated Giants President Larry Baer in a post-game, on-the-field tantrum in 2013 over why he hadn’t received his World Series ring. The Dodgers skipper had multiple pitching choices to officially close out the Giants and get the party going. Poor Don gets no respect against the Giants, as he is often rated as a second tier manager to the Giants Bruce Bochy. But by going with Wilson, Mattingly got the last laugh, at least for now.
Other thoughts on the night the Dodgers clinched:
FROZEN Ps: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval have been referred to as the Killer Ps. In the last six games, with so much on the line, they have hit like frozen peas. Posey is four for 24 with no RBIs and no extra base hits; Pence is one for 25 with two RBIs and a homer; Pablo is four for 25 with no RBIs and no extra base hits. Together they are nine for 74. Their joint slump is why the Giants are having so much trouble even clinching a wild-card spot let alone home advantage in a wild-card do-or-die game. At the same time, their slump is the reason why you can’t count the Giants out because if they all come back to life at the same time, they can do post-season damage. Just ask the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers, the victims of the Giants bats in the 2012 post-season championship run.
REAL RIVALS: This Madison Bumgarner-Yasiel Puig feud is getting fun. And the best part: In these days of players jumping from club to club, the two combatants are likely to remain on their teams for some time. The pair had a nice dustup earlier this year when Puig homered against Bumgarner at AT&T Park. It was a two-fer for Puig as he flipped his bat and then did one of those “Chariots of Fire” impersonations as he ran the bases in slow motion. A steaming Bumgarner met him near home plate to voice his displeasure at the display. The adversaries had a rematch in this series when Bumgarner struck him in the lower leg, sparking an exchange of words that brought both teams onto the field. These two confrontations are still pretty tame when compared to clashes in the rivalry over the years, but it’s a start. I actually laugh at such incidents these days. If these big, strong athletes really wanted to fight, they could go one-on-one before anyone could stop it. Bumgarner didn’t throw his glove down and yell something like “let’s go” to Puig until 30 players, coaches and umpires were between them. The other comical part of these “brawls” is when the guys in the bullpen come sprinting toward the infield to join the fracas. You know that they probably have no idea what the beef is, but it’s mandatory to show you are backing your teammates.
CELEBRATIONS: Should the Giants have a champagne celebration and run around the field in front of adoring fans if they clinch a wild-card spot? The Pirates went full-champagne mode as if they had just won the World Series when they clinched a berth in the one-game wild-card match. That seemed a bit much to me and they might have paid the price as the celebrants lost the next day. The stumbling, fumbling Giants arrive home at AT&T after an embarrassing three-game sweep by San Diego and a dreadful 9-1 loss to allow the Dodgers to celebrate in front of them. They were outscored 31-12 in those two series. So if the Giants win, say Thursday, they should keep it low-key and get a good night’s sleep. They are playing for a wild-card home game, and they shouldn’t interrupt that quest with a champagne-swigging party. That’s for teams like the long-suffering Pirates, not the classy world champs of two of the last four years.
FREAK OUT? Did Tim Hudson’s performance Wednesday night against the Dodgers secure his place in the rotation? It wasn’t Kershaw-like, but it wasn’t a disaster, although he seems to be about a five-inning pitcher at this point. Some, like me, wanted Tim Lincecum to get a shot at the Dodgers instead of the recently ineffective Hudson. Unless Lincecum gets a chance to start this final weekend against San Diego he might have to be a spectator in any post-season action.
BIG MAC AWARD: Clayton Kershaw won the prestigious Roy Campanella Award, given for team leadership. Madison Bumgarner should get the equally prestigious Willie Mac Award, named after Giants great Willie McCovey. Bumgarner’s all-out effort, dedicated approach to the game and success carry on the attributes of the legendary Giant. McCovey has been hospitalized with a serious infection, so I don’t know if he will be there to present the award. But I do know that it will be an extraordinary emotional night at AT&T. I can’t be at the game, but I think I’ll make sure my treasured baseball that McCovey signed for me when I was a kid in 1960 will be front and center on my sports shelf in honor of this special man and great Giant. Get well, Willie.
NOT OVER: The odd thing about the Dodgers winning the division title against the Giants in this new wild-card era is that it doesn’t mean the Dodgers move on and the Giants go home. Assuming the Giants get to the wild-card game, and then win it, they could end up playing the Dodgers in either the National League division series or championship series. Maybe that helps explain the disturbing scene I saw Wednesday night when manager Bruce Bochy and other Giants coaches doffed their caps to the celebrating Dodgers from the dugout after the game. I’d like to think that rather than going soft against their long-hated rivals, Bochy and crew were softly humming the old Roy Rogers Show song, “Happy Trails to You, Until We Meet Again.