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San Fran & Tim at the Half

It’s a jaded man indeed who can remain unmoved, flipping his newly acquired cable over to the high-def channels and catching an awe-inspiring aerial shot of San Francisco on a typically cool July evening, just prior to the 10:15 eastern start time of a Mets-Giants game. I’ve made no effort to hide my distaste for some of the city’s less-appealing elements, but generally speaking they have to do with people – be they aggressive street indigents pursuing you with bad intent for politely declining their request for a five, or civic-minded Van Driessen sorts bent on protecting said indigent’s right to pursue. Even a moderately-minded person like myself gets a bit fed up with countless ballot propositions to name a sewage plant after George Bush or change the name of the Golden Gate Bridge to Cesar Chavez Walkway. But pulling back from all of that crap and catching the view from a hill, plane or rooftop can render only one conclusion : this is one beautiful city.

It’s an odd angle on things, being so utterly familiar with one place while observing it from an increasingly familiar but very different other, 2,582 miles away. Add to this an intense connection with the particular setting – ballpark, team and neighborhood – and you’ve got a recipe for a crisis of identity. Luckily, I had Mets announcers Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen to pull me through. For those familiar with the Giants broadcast team of Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, Keith is more or less Mike to Gary’s Duane. (A rough translation at best.)  Hernandez’ unflinching self-love and Bob Dole tendency to talk about himself in the third-person is tempered by his quiet acceptance of Cohen’s occasional ribbing over the ex jock’s famed ego. Less palatable is Keith’s shameless condemnation of any modern-day ballplayer involved in the steroids scandal. Wasn’t this the same guy doing lines off  Mookie Wilson’s batting glove back in ’86? Hypocrisy not withstanding, the two do a decent job and have come to grow on me while accepting the Mets as my pseudo surrogate team and preference by large margin over the Yankees. But that’s another column.

It also didn’t hurt that Tim Lincecum started for the Giants last night, pitched a six-hit complete game shutout, and registered his tenth win of the season. How high has Lincecum set the bar for himself? Consider that he’s 10-4 one game past the break on a weak-hitting team with questionable middle relief, has an ERA under 3.0, leads the league in strikeouts, and yet some have questioned what’s “wrong with him” after a few poor starts. I’m guessing whatever it is, it’s the kind of “wrong” that several other teams would be willing to take a chance on. It has been suggested that Lincecum performs well in cool conditions – something that might bode well for keeping him in a Giants uniform beyond his current contract. Or perhaps he just has an innate sense for the obvious: when two well-matched teams with good pitchers square off on a typically stirring San Francisco night marking the middle of both the baseball and summer seasons, things can often live up to expectation.

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