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10.18.2005

The Bleeding Heart Show 

I turned on my computer yesterday and an odd thing happened. After months of barely noticing my desktop wallpaper, I sat and stared and smiled at the image of Omar Vizquel in the 2005 opening day game, leaping into splits to complete a double play as Jeff Kent's helmet narrowly misses his crotch. Omar-Fu.

Despite seeing it nearly every day this summer, the image had faded into visual background noise as the season gathered itself into a big hairy dustball of disappointment and finger-pointing.

But a season of bad baseball is infinitely better than, well, a lot of things, like hockey. Or Tom DeLay. Though it's not better than feta cheese. If I lived under a political system that allowed its citizens either baseball or feta cheese but not both, I would lead a band of insurgents into the mountains, raise sheep, clandestinely subscribe to satellite TV, and every so often sneak down to the urban areas to pick off a few soldiers or apparatchiks. Despite the campaign of violence, I would remain optimistic and sunny, in part because I'd be eating a lot of homemade feta, but also because I am optimistic and sunny by nature.

That's why, at the end of the Giants' season, I shuddered to think I had grown cramped in mind and sour in outlook, obsessing over the next trade, the next signing, the next year, always next, next, next, when instead I should spend a few minutes in appreciation some of the wonderful things the Giants did this year.

Uh, let's see...

OK...

This won't take long.

Randy Winn made landfall at the trading deadline and hit the NL West like Katrina. A suspect metaphor, perhaps, but there's a long, rich history of athletes and storm systems mythologized in prose and verse.

The glovework of Omar Vizquel was something to behold. Other shortstops make diving, spinning, leaping plays, but Omar has a certain raffish yo no sé about him that makes him a lot more fun to watch than, say, the sparky but stiff David Eckstein or the lean, mechanical Derek Jeter.

Noah Lowry showed poise and guts after struggling in the first half. He fixed his mechanics, never got too frustrated, and became NL pitcher of the month in August with an unbelievable run of 3 runs in 39 innings over five starts.

The young bullpen: Taschner, Accardo, Munter. Except for a couple rough patches for Accardo and Munter's elbow injury (keep your fingers crossed), these three sailed through their appearances with seemingly minimal effort.

Twin Cinema: OK, the Giants didn't have anything to do with the New Pornographers' new album, perhaps the best album of the year. But come mid-January, when Pacific storms blow down darkening streets and spring training seems light years off, a few ecstatic refrains of "Hey la, Hey la, Hey laaaaaa / We have arrived..." will brighten my grimmest off-season day.

Game of the year: Matt Cain's two-hitter vs. the Cubs on Sept. 9. There were other, more spectacular comebacks (two thrilling victories early vs. Colorado) and bigger nailbiters (Tyler Walker's three-K save of Schmidt's shutout in Detroit), but Cain's gem was the highlight of the best part of the year: watching the changing of the guard, with some admission (finally) from the Giants front office that maybe these kids can play a little.

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