"I can't believe this, the last time the Giants won the World Series I was one years old" exclaimed my Dad on the phone after last night's victory by the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. At the beginning of the season, few would have predicted a team lacking a single batter to hit 100 rbis and packed full of rookies, utility players , and burned out veterans would have made it to the post season -- yet alone win the World Series.
My Dad however kept some small degree of faith in the Giants. He has been a die hard Giants fan since back when the Giants played in New York in the 1950s. Despite having All Star teams with the likes of Hall Famers like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marchial, and Barry Bonds, my Dad never got to see the Giants win a World Series again. During those 56 years, my father never lost faith in the Giants and watched them every chance he got. He's kept a ball from the 1954 World Series Championship Giants Team signed by the entire team in our living room.
For my father, the excitement of watching the Giants play has provided him with a much needed dose of childhood joy in a year in which his own father has died and his mother is struggling with poor health. Watching the Giants play this fall has also rekindled my faith in the healing power of the church of baseball and my love of the scrappy San Francisco Giants.
In the ultimate fit of teenage rebellion, I abandoned rooting the Giants for the type of team that only a bleeding heart liberal could love -- my hometown the Pittsburgh Pirates. However as they continue to extend their streak of 17 straight losing seasons, I began to lose interest as it became apparent that the Pirates ownership had no interest in investing in their team as they could just make huge profits through sucking off money through revenue sharing. Still baseball was something I followed nearly every day, even when living in Brazil where no one has ever even seen a baseball.
Baseball was always something I found remarkably both incredibly exciting, but at the same time remarkably relaxing, almost meditative to watch. But in 2008 with the excitement of the Obama Presidency, my deep seated love of baseball somehow got lost in my transition to from being a staffer on Obama Campaign to becoming a workaholic, inside the Beltway, labor journalist.
This year with the Giants in the postseason and my anxiety at all times high in anticipation of the expected Democratic losses in Congress, I found myself watching baseball nearly every day for the first time in years. Baseball proved the perfect therapy for understanding what to do after the Democratic' electoral disaster in the midterm elections.
Baseball is a game of persistence. Baseball is about the only sport where you can fail the majority of the time as the hitter and still be considered a success. Even the best baseball teams are defeated about 70 times in one season, but its picking yourself up again and again after defeats that makes a team a winner. "A baseball season is a marathon not a sprint" legendary Giants slugger Barry Bonds was once quoted saying.
The Giants this year did not have a big offense or superstars like the Phillies and Rangers, whom they beat in the post season. Instead The Giants were a motley crew collection of utility players cast as everyday players, veteran players past their prime, and untested young players who simply believed in themselves and each other.
As the leader of the Giants, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy put an unusual amount of faith in their raw stuff and potential of their young pitchers. None of the Giants starting four pitchers were over the age of 27 and none had pitched in the post season in their short careers. Bruce Bochy left 2002 Cy Young Winner Barry Zito off the roster in favor of a pitcher an untested pitcher with a better track record the 21 year old Madison Bumgarner. With Bochy's support, Bumgarner and rookie catcher Buster Posey became the first rookie pitcher-catcher tandem to win a game in World Series' history.
Barack Obama could learn a lot from Bruce Bochy. Obama, as skipper of the party, abandoned young grassroots activists in favor of more experienced superstar Democratic insiders like Rahm Emanuel, who had a much worse track record of winning of elections until grassroots activist under the leadership of Howard Dean forced the DNC to adopt the 50 state strategies in 2006. The choice of superstar insiders over grassroots activists left Democrats with a perceived "enthusiasm gap" in 2010 as they lack the energy of the grassroots activists that propelled Democrats to power in the past two elections. Much like how Barry Bonds never delivered the San Francisco Giants a World Series, these superstar Washington Insiders symbolized by Rahm Emanuel are not going to win any championships for our team either.
Baseball is about believing in all of your players and playing every game like its count. It's about that fighting spirit that keeps players looking for that perfect pitch to hit even when you haven't hit a ball in over a week. Despite going 13-15 in August, The Giants never gave up and made the playoffs on the last day of the season by going 18-8 in September.
Anything can happen over the course of a long baseball season, when a team or hitter gets hot, or a pitcher loses the confidence in their stuff; giving the other side easy stuff to hit as a result. Politics just like baseball can have sudden unexpected swings of momentum.
Superstar Democratic Party insiders got cocky after victories in 2006 and 2008. They stopped throwing "their best stuff" -- a political commitment to empowering the grassroots and its young activists -- which brought the party to power in Congress and the White House in 2006 and 2008 as The Nation writer Ari Berman has outlined in his new, must read book "Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics".
Instead, the Obama Administration threw weak stuff in creating jobs and taking on Wall Street greed; thus giving the Republican Party easy stuff to hit out of the park. Obama likewise created an enthusiasm gap among his other teammates when he refused to run out ground balls in lost fights against the foreclosure crisis, immigration, gay rights, and the Employee Free Choice Act.
A team wins when all of its players play hard and believe in themselves even when the likely outcome might be defeat. My Dad albeit just a die hard fan of the Giants, never gave up or changed his beliefs in the Giants in his 56 years of waiting for the Giants to win the World Series. Paralleling this, my father in his 33 years as a union organizer, he hasn't changed his belief in his commitment to empower rank and file workers to beat the boss. As my father once told me about defeat "it doesn't change much for me. You still wake up in the morning and fight the boss. You do your job and hope everyone else does their job and maybe, maybe you win".
Like the San Francisco Giants, the progressive movement will someday win if we believe in all of our players and play as hard as we can.
For now, I'm glad my father finally got to see his much beloved team win the World Series in what has proven to be a difficult year with the death of his own father. I'm glad I rediscovered something that's been the love of my life since I was five years old -- baseball.
Let's go Giants!