The Giants caught a break when Barack Obama knocked off John McCain and Mitt Romney. While the two Republicans are fine fellows, Sports-Fan-In-Chief Obama simply made a better host than his challengers would have when the championship Giants teams visited the White House in 2011, 2013 and 2015. This brings up the big question for 2017: If the Giants follow their even-year trend, who would be the best man/woman to celebrate their 2016 title at the White House?
There should be no debate on this. Of the five main candidates, Donald Trump would throw the wildest, most entertaining and unpredictable party. Who would not watch this? And just imagine his speech. “The Giants have beaten the American League four straight times in the World Series. What a bunch of stupid losers. If I was baseball commissioner, I would make the American League great again!”
Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz just seem like the wrong guys to celebrate a winner, since they both give victory speeches for finishing second and third. Maybe if either becomes president, it would be more appropriate for them to greet the runner-ups. Bernie Sanders might look at the Giants winning every even year, and embarrass everyone by yelling out, “The system is rigged.” Hillary Clinton would no doubt feel awkward. Looking around the room at all the ballplayers, she might say, “You know, this is really strange for me to talk to a group of millionaires, and not get a speaking fee for it.”
INAUGURAL BALL: I have taken an unscientific poll (aren’t they all?) and determined that based on my findings, it does look like Trump has a good shot at winning it all. This is based on the ABV Index, which stands for Autographed Baseball Value. Now I’ll admit that I was surprised that not only are there signed baseballs from the candidates available on eBay and other Internet sites, but that their value mirrored the status of the political races. Trump’s ball led the field at $999. The Cruz-Rubio values were very conservative, of course, with the Cruz ball going for $200 and Rubio’s for $199. I couldn’t track down whether the fact that Cruz got his ball to be worth a dollar more than Rubio’s was a dirty trick. A Jeb Bush ball signed while he was governor was listed at $508, but as his candidacy plummeted, so did his ABV as a ball signed during his campaign dropped to $421. Ben Carson also had a ball valued at $421, and poor John Kasich was barely in the picture with a ball worth $87.95. Clinton held a slight advantage over Sanders, out-pricing his souvenir $799 to $689. Interestingly, Hillary wants one person to write a check for the ball, but Sanders insists that 10 small contributors pool their money and share the value. What is interesting is that when Bill Clinton’s autograph is added to Hillary’s ball, the worth rises to $1,799. So Bernie, don’t underestimate Bill’s impact in this election. None of the candidates can compete so far with the ABV Index of Obama, who has a ball priced at $4,274. George W. Bush is a distant second, at $2,499.
WORSE THAN THE DH: The MLB should celebrate the 20th year of interleague play by dumping it. The expansion to two wild-card teams means that clubs in each league are battling for five postseason spots. This year, for example, the Giants are expected to compete fiercely for those berths with the non-NL West Cubs, Nationals, Mets, Pirates and Cardinals. Yet, the Giants only play them seven times each. Instead of adding another series for each of those teams, setting up some great August-September dramatic matchups, the Giants play 20 games against American League teams they are not contending against. This is a more difficult argument to make this year because many Giants fans are excited about a home and away series against Boston, and a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. However, these marquee matchups are not the norm — who out there has marked their calendar for the Giants-Tampa Bay showdown? The June 7 game against Boston will likely be the hottest ticket of the season (Giants already are pricing this one high) because Red Sox Nation shows up no matter what the venue, and also because it should mark Pablo Sandoval’s return to AT&T Park. I hesitate on the latter reason after seeing the spring training photo that revealed that Pablo has been spending more time behind a plate than a catcher does. If he plays that night, Giants fans must greet him with a standing ovation. Let him be the Panda again for two nights — he deserves that for his great moments and good times he provided for the Giants.
SKIP THE OPENER: The home opener is always special, but this year, the third home game is the most attractive. The Giants make their 2016 AT&T debut against the Dodgers on April 7. There is no title to celebrate, no championship flag to raise, so the fans will have to make do with the traditional team introductions, fly-overs and ceremonial pitches. Just two days later, the way it shapes up now, Madison Bumgarner will duel Clayton Kershaw. Gentlemen, start your rivalry!
SHORTSTOP SQUARE OFF: An article on MLB.com evaluated the fantasy value of the Giants vs. Dodgers position by position, including rotation, closer, and setup men. The Giants edged the Dodgers 6-5 with three ties in the 14 categories. The eye opener was at shortstop, where the writer favored Dodgers rookie Corey Seager over the Giants Brandon Crawford. Seager appears to be the undisputed top prospect in baseball, hitting .293 in the minors with 18 homers, and .batting .337 in 27 games in the big leagues in 2015. Crawford hit .256 with 21 homers and 84 RBIs in 2016. He has played a minimum 143 games each in the last four years, and has a Gold Glove, an All-Star berth and two rings. Seager appears ticketed for Cooperstown already, but for 2016, I’d put Crawford ahead of Seager on my fantasy team. Regardless, watching both perform this year should be a good sidebar to the rivalry.
DUCK AND COVER: MLB is looking at having netting installed from dugout to dugout at ballparks to protect fans near the field from line drives and bats or pieces of broken bats. The No. 1 fan of such a move is new Giants centerfielder Denard Span. Span, leading off for the Twins in an exhibition game against the Yankees in 2010, hit a screaming shot into the stands by the first base dugout. The ball slammed into the chest of his mother, who was wearing a Denard Span jersey with his name on it. Span dashed to the stands as soon as he realized what happened. Fortunately, his mother was not seriously hurt, and after being checked, remained for the rest of the game. Span said at the time that netting needed to be placed along the lower seats to prevent a tragedy.
MONUMENTAL DECISION: Gaylord Perry was a great Giant, and everybody loves him. The workhorse hurler was 134-109 with a 2.96 ERA. He played with seven other teams and had 314 career wins. Yet, it was surprising when the Giants announced they would honor Perry with a statue at AT&T. There are four statues now — Mays, McCovey, Marichal and Cepeda. Those monuments are baseball’s equivalent of Mount Rushmore, which has existed quite well over time as a national symbol without adding on another president. And if a fifth statue is necessary, how is it not Barry Bonds? AT&T is the house that Barry built. Sure there is that nasty problem about Bonds cheating, but isn’t Perry legendary for juicing the baseball? Well, maybe later Barry. For now we can look forward to celebrating Perry’s statue when it is unveiled in August. I hear the artist has done a great job capturing Perry’s features. In fact, some might call it a spitting image.