In the last podcast episode, my wife expounded on the magnetic draw of the fuming intensity of Pat Burrell. His physical presence and his facial expression and his statued stance; it all typifies how I’ve perceived the Giants as a team for a long time: a statuesque team, low on speed, high on mediocrity.
Over time–the slow baseball time that only the most patient fans think in terms of–the team changed. They drafted a phenom, and had a few good young pitchers evolve into good pitchers period. Now they’re a good team, with just a few vestiges of the old style, the Burrells and Aaron Rowand, a hero in Chicago and a forgotten toy on the shelf in San Francisco.
When you field a team full of Pat Burrells, we all fall asleep and forget about you except to say every now and then that you’ve heard they play in a nice stadium.
But when you put Pat Burrell out there with a team full of otherwise exciting players, players who flash talent and charisma, then Pat Burrell becomes a venerable figure. You can almost write the Pixar movie, where Burrell emerges from the shadows, covered in cobwebs, to impart upon the colorful, energetic rabble the value of sticking to it and of finding a quiet place in the mind to fill with hate and fury.
For Burrell exudes fury. Quiet, deadly, the intense dislike for the ways of the world that kept him from becoming, say, a hall of fame hitter, or that cursed his glove to mediocrity. Each at bat is the latest and maybe the last chance to strike back at fate.
Who could play the flip side of that coin but the phenom himself, Tim Lincecum, whose success was only very lightly prophesied by anyone, and which has come in droves and droves, even to the point that the Giants are looking like a real damn team in the honest to goodness playoffs themselves. Lincy is guided by a chorus of young men singing at the top of their voices at 12:45 in the AM, at the the height of revelry before anyone starts to think about getting on home.
In the quiet moments, if there are any, do Burrell and Lincy talk to each other? Can an aging slugger offer anything of value to a double Cy Young winner with a rubber arm? Is he the old cop and Lincy the young buck? Big brother, little brother? Older cousin, the one that taught you how to pack a dip?
The teams that invite conjecture like this are the great teams, the teams where you can’t help but wonder how they get on. There are those teams. Then there are those other teams that play like a single organism, like the team that got Rowand his big old contract not so long ago, or Big Papi’s teams. What good is a team if you don’t have questions about how it gets on?
And what good is a player if you can’t think about how he makes conversation when the cheers die down?