Commentary

Don't tune out this World Series

Absence of Yankees and Phillies doesn't mean this won't be worth watching

Originally Published: October 26, 2010
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- Watch. Don't watch. It's not as if Joe Buck will send me a commission check if you do.

But this World Series has yee-haw thrill ride written all over it. In fact, when the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants advanced to the Fall/Early Winter Classic, I sprayed myself with ginger ale.

Nothing against the New York Yankees, but I needed a baseball blood transfusion. I'm A-Rod'd and Derek Jeter'd out.

[+] EnlargeBrian Wilson
AP Photo/Jeff ChiuPeople should turn the television on just to see Brian Wilson and his beard against the Rangers.

Another appearance by the pinstripers would have meant at least two games at Yankee Stadium and countless shots of really rich people on cell phones sitting behind home plate in those cushioned chairs the size of Murphy beds. And you don't even want to know how many times we would have had to watch the chalupa commercial in which Joe Girardi slaps another man's bum.

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies have gone to the past two World Series. So it's somebody else's turn, OK? Plus, who wants to see good guy Ryan Howard go through the division, league and possibly the World Series without driving in a run?

I love this Series and this matchup because absolutely no one on the planet predicted it in March. (And if you did, I want to see documentation.) Its come-out-of-nowhere quality makes it the Boise State versus Missouri of World Series.

As late as Aug. 28, the Giants were jockstrap-deep in trouble. They were six games out of the NL West lead and trailed Atlanta in the wild-card race, too. They had just lost their third game in a row, this time 11-3 to last-place Arizona. The Giants weren't out of it, but their traveling secretary wasn't exactly calling around for postseason hotel rates.

Of course, that's nothing compared with the Rangers. As late as Aug. 5, the franchise was auctioned off like a foreclosed house on eBay. Think about it (I guarantee you Mark Cuban does; his investment group was the losing bidder): One of your World Series teams was a custodian of bankruptcy court less than three months ago. Now, the team is overseen by the legendary Nolan Ryan, who still looks as if he could beat the sani socks off Robin Ventura.

How strangely cool is that? This whole Series is cool.

In honor of Giants closer Brian Wilson, I'm dyeing my goatee Just For Men jet black. Hockey players grow playoff beards, Wilson grows facial hair from Mars. Meanwhile, I can't look at Giants starter Tim Lincecum without thinking Jeff Spicoli and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." What Jefferson was saying was, Hey! You know, we left this England place 'cause it was bogus; so if we don't get some cool rules ourselves -- pronto -- we'll just be bogus, too! Get it?

The Freak is your Game 1 starter. He'll face the Rangers' pitching freak, Cliff Lee, who has not lost any of his eight postseason starts (7-0, 1.26 ERA). Lee is more automatic than a gas station car wash.

The Rangers are managed by Ron Washington. No biggie, except that he tested positive for cocaine use in 2009, publicly apologized in March and rewarded the Rangers' faith in him by leading the team to its first Series appearance.

Their best every-game player is outfielder Josh Hamilton, who was a walking drug and alcohol lab until 2005. If Hamilton's ongoing story of demon fighting doesn't cause a lump in your throat, then you're the world's only living heart donor.

Then there's ultra-private Vlad Guerrero, deemed expendable by the Los Angeles Angels. So he comes to Texas and makes his first Series appearance in a glorious 15-year career. I like watching Guerrero because he swings at anything and usually hits those things very hard and very far. You know when the plate umpire tosses a scuffed ball toward the dugout? Vlad will swing at those, too.

The Rangers' catcher, Bengie Molina, was the Giants' catcher until he was traded in July. He's holding a winning baseball Lotto ticket. That's because he's likely to get voted a full Series share by each team, meaning an estimated $1.2 million postseason payday.

And it's hard not to have a soft spot for Rangers president Ryan. I covered one of the Ryan Express' no-hitters when he pitched for Texas. Afterward, he kept us reporters waiting -- not because he was being a jerk but because he first wanted to work out! The man pitches a no-hitter, then does a workout that buckled my knees. That old-school mentality has rubbed off on the Rangers like pine tar on a bat handle.

[+] EnlargeJosh Hamilton
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezJosh Hamilton overcame quite a bit to stand on the World Series stage.

Again, cool.

I love that the Rangers got here on a $55 million payroll and meanwhile the Yankees and their $206 million roster are being treated for playoff withdrawal. I love that Jerry Jones built a football palace for his Dallas Cowboys but that Ryan and GM Jon Daniels built a team.

And how can you not go on a warm and fuzzy alert when talking about the Giants? The Giants last celebrated a World Series in 1954. They weren't even Californians back then; they were New Yorkers. Only the Cleveland Indians (62 years) and, sigh, the Chicago Cubs (102 years) have longer winless streaks.

Look at the Giants' lineup and bench. It's dotted with baseball refugees, such as outfielder Pat Burrell, who was dumped by the Tampa Bay Rays. And had you heard of Cody Ross before the postseason started? Didn't think so.

The Giants signed Barry Zito to a $126 million contract -- and left him off the playoff roster. They traded respected Molina so they could insert a rookie catcher, Buster Posey, in the lineup. They diminished the role of pricey outfielder Aaron Rowand, all in the name of winning.

The Giants win heroically (Juan Uribe's eighth-inning dinger in Game 6 of the NLCS) and nervously (Wilson's 3-2 strikeout of Howard to end that series was on the lowest sliver of the strike zone). Six of their seven postseason wins have been by one-run margins.

I've reached a settlement agreement with my DVR. It gets the NFL games while I'm gone. I get to watch the World Series live.

For once, I got the better deal.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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