“Attention to detail” is the way KNBR’s Ray Woodson recently summarized the 2014 Giants’ success. GM Brian Sabean’s off-season implanting of his wish list was precise and customarily budget-conscious. He got the big bat, the quality starter, and a second baseman who could possibly offset the absence of Marco Scutaro.
The Giants’ marketing department under senior vice president Tom McDonald appears to be seeking similar long-ball impact this season. Their output is rife with all manner of hammy promos, utilizing the team’s playfulness and abundant camaraderie.
What’s lacking in the marketing effort, perhaps, is the sort of precision that marks the care that went into shaping the current on-field product.
So, let’s see what we can come up with to illustrate that discrepancy. Clearly, team nicknames are the place to start. A number of players have had nicknames conferred upon them; a couple of those names are spot-on, others aren’t particularly exacting or are outright clumsy. Indulge me as I hit away here.
- Brandon Crawford — This young man’s instincts and creativity are unsurpassed. And with his hitting he’s fast becoming an all-tools performer (as he’s always insisted to the faint of heart that he would). But it’s his glove work, of course, that has continually roused our amazement. It shouldn’t be the slightest bit difficult to award him an appropriate sobriquet. A convenient clue is that his given name could be easily mistaken for that of veteran actor Broderick Crawford. And there you have it. Brandon is HIGHWAY PATROL. And you can 10-4 that.
- Hunter Pence — Post-2012, references to Pence as “preacher” were to be expected. After all, this is the evangelist who was miraculously instrumental in parting the waters for the Giants in the most perilous skein of games most of us have ever witnessed. The aquiline features and lean, kinetic fervor perpetually on display from Pence eerily brings to mind another renowned revivalist. You watch the respective footage on these two originals, and the resemblance is uncanny. Hunter Pence is MARJOE GORTNER.
- Hector Sanchez — The league has become aware of Hector Sanchez. He’s no longer thought of as a defensive liability, and his switch-hitting ability off the bench has been duly noted. His bourgeoning talent is clearly in evidence, and opponents regard him as a significant threat at the plate, as his late-inning pinch-hit heroics this year have attested. Echoes of Bengie (“Big Money”) Molina shouldn’t be thought of as premature with regard to Sanchez. And there isn’t a more positive attitude on the club than his. It would be a surprise if he doesn’t fully live up to his nickname, LATE NIGHT (with Hector Sanchez).
- Sergio Romo — What you first notice is an aura of menace. Of something subterranean and sinister, yet evasive and cautious. The pulled-down cap obscures the eyebrows and makes the eyes appear to recede back into the skull. The thick brush of facial hair rolls upward into the face. And then the movement begins: hunching, fidgeting, darting, stamping. The effect is that of a many-legged land crab, calculating and furtive, seeking the terrain’s best vantage point. Once positioned, there’s a price to be paid for confronting this creature. It’s stinging and it’s lethal. There’s a Spanish word for what Sergio Romo embodies — “alacran.” And it translates as SCORPION. (Thanks to my long-time colleague Betsey Culp for this idea.)
- Joaquin Arias — You’ll never see Arias shuttling back and forth to Fresno. That’s because he’s invaluable. This is the most versatile player on the team, adept at all infield positions, and someone who came up in the Yankees system as an outfielder. He’s confident, calm, reliable, with superb athletic skills. Few bench players hit consistently when they don’t get regular at-bats, but Arias has proven that he can be productive. There are plenty of other teams that would love to have him, because THE HANDYMAN can.
- Angel Pagan — No historical figures or comic book superheroes are adequate here. Nor do any zoo identifications make for a fit. Something else is going on here with Pagan, more like a force field, if you will, a zeitgeist of sorts. That’s what the man brings to his endeavors. And the simplest way to characterize this phenomena is to attempt to infer its essence: PAGANISMO!!
- Madison Bumgarner — Calling him MadBum doesn’t seem terribly inventive. His formidable skills, approach and maturity already evoke intimations of a legend. Given his arm slot, his whip-like delivery, and the slicing trajectory of his pitches, you could conclude that a name that better typifies him would be something along the lines of SLINGBLADE.
- The Willie Mays Wall — It’s of passing interest that before anyone went and named any outfield walls after Mays, no one happened to notice during the past 15 seasons the small pocket just beyond the fence in straightaway center. Had they, might the words and notion, MAYS’S BASKET, have sprung to mind?
- As McDonald expands his promotional inspirations he could surely make use of manager Bruce Bochy. The skipper, as we know, has become quite practiced and proficient in giving commercial endorsements. Certainly the developing motif of this season deserves to be properly addressed. The spot might have Bochy hunched forward and peering intently over the dugout railing as he intones: “Bottom of the ninth. They’re ahead. They’ve got two outs on us. The poor bastards.”