If there’s one dialog that’s defined the offseason of the Giants, it’s the dialog about luck. The rest of baseball chatters on about how lucky the Giants got, and then Giants fans get hacked off because that implies the team wasn’t good.
Frankly, some of the talk hacks me off too. As we’ve already covered, I don’t think Matt Cain is a league average innings muncher keeping one step ahead of the regression furies. I also feel like soundly beating a Rangers team that was giving regular ABs to Bengie Molina and regular innings to Tommy Hunter wasn’t an event all that far in to the thin part of the bell curve.
But in their rush to defend their team, I feel like Giants do forget about some amazing turns of luck last year. And forgetting about the crazy good fortune diminishes some of the magic of 2010. The Giants were a good team that needed luck to win, but they were also a team needed some luck to get good. It all wasn’t quite the ’69 Mets, but there’s enough to stand back and gawk in amazement at.
Here’s sonething to gawk at: Javier Lopez.
The line is amazing enough, (though every good pitcher probably has a great 25 inning streak in him) but the timing of it was also amazing. The Giants traded for Joe Beimel for their playoff run, but acquired Billy Wagner.
I wasn’t thrilled about trading for Javier Lopez. I was disappointed to give up on John Bowker and I thought Martinez might come in handy for a rotation that lacked any depth beyond the 5th slot. The return looked just okay. Lopez was having a good, unspecial season on the Pirates. He looked to be an improvement on what we had (nothing you’d want to rely on, thanks to injuries), but not the lights out guy you would hope for in a WIN NOW trade.
Do you remember those fake X-Ray glasses that they used to sell in the back of comic books? The ones that just made crappy, weird lines on everything. You knew that they wouldn’t really work, but you ordered them anyway, because even fake X-Ray specs are better than no X-Ray specs. Well, if what if when you ordered them, some wacky mix-up occurred and you got a real pair of functioning X-Ray glasses? That’s essentially what happened with Lopez trade. The man threw 20 of the most important innings that the Giants had down the stretch, facing down assorted left-handed sluggers. And he was close to flawless.
And there was this.
One of the things that’s great about baseball is that there are so many individual matchups that the unheralded have a regular chance to beat the game’s stars. Joey Votto has already won one MVP and may win more. Javier Lopez will never take home any comparable hardware. But for one at bat, he made an MVP look like he had no business being in the big leagues. And he followed that up with several more at bats of worm-killing, bat-missing, high-leverage joy.
For 2010, I’m not expecting anything close to what Javier Lopez gave the Giants last year. That’s because if Javier Lopez were capable of a whole season of that, he wouldn’t look like the slight, professorial fellow that he does. He’d look like a winged demigod, eight feet tall and farting unhittable sliders. I’m sure he’ll be an acceptable groundball machine. If he misses that projection in either direction, well, I’m not going to complain.