As a fan of the San Francisco Giants, I find conjecturing about the future to be one of the most compelling of all baseball-related activities. With their recent past, and with this year’s team assuming the mantle of continued success, the Giants offer up unlimited opportunities for this pastime.
I mean, one can pose meaningful questions about every MLB team, but some have more relevance than others. For either Atlanta or Minnesota it could be, which team will lose a hundred games first? For LA it could be, will Yasiel Puig ever figure out what constitutes appropriate major league behavior, or is he stuck in middle school?
For the Chicago Cubs, one of baseball’s ongoing legends and not for any reason that the Cubs care to dwell on, it’s simply a matter of, will it finally happen?
For me a big part this postulating about October, centers on The Shark, the moniker affixed to Jeff Samardzija. He arrived with this nickname and has lived up to it from day one. A shark is big, he is aggressive, he is silent and he is deadly.
All of last winter there were whispers, some of them clearly audible within baseball circles. Weren’t the Giants taking quite a chance, what with that 4.96 ERA in 2015, and all those home runs?
And what about all of this pitch-tipping talk? Does anyone think that it’s possible for everyone in baseball to know about this characteristic, without maybe the White Sox and Samardzija himself, also being privy to this knowledge?
At six-five, 235 pounds, right-handed Samardzija IS big, complementing southpaw Madison Bumgarner’s height and weight. With an approximate strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4-1 (62-18), an ERA of 2.54 in ten games started, and a WHIP of 1.06, one can ascertain that The Shark is aggressive.
Samardzija is a team player, meshing well with the Giants, and he keeps a low profile. He goes about the business of performing competitively by letting his actions set the tone, not his mouth. The image of him breaking that bat over his knee a few weeks ago looms large. The Shark is silent.
Finally he has won seven games and is tied with Johnny Cueto for the club lead. Both are well ahead of the pace for twenty-game win seasons. The Shark is deadly.
The Cubs (.702) are also deadly; they currently have the best record in baseball at 33-14. The Giants’ own 31-20 (.608) record pales in comparison.
I have put forth the proposition that these two teams will meet in October. Nothing has occurred thus far to deter this line of reasoning. If I am correct, one team will go on for the opportunity to win its first world championship since Teddy Roosevelt was President, while the other has the chance to win its fourth title in seven years.
When two teams have such a wealth of talent and success within their ranks, intangible factors assume greater proportions. Having played for the Cubs the bulk of his career, I might expect Samardzija’s level of play to reflect that deep association.
It’s no secret that players inevitably put their best game on display when they meet a former team. Whereas it’s just human nature, it takes on added dimensions in baseball when so much is at stake.
I expect that we will see The Shark display all of those four qualities I just mentioned when this October match-up occurs and it could be just the edge that the Giants need to delay the Cubs’ success story for at least another year.
After all, 2017 is not an even-numbered year.