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It’s hard to be a fan.  It’s a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy.

It’s particularly hard to be a fan — after spending a tremendous amount of time and emotional energy — having to watch a manager make the same mistakes over and over and over.

That happened tonight… my San Francisco Giants were eliminated from the baseball playoffs… because of INSANE bullpen management by Bruce Bochy…

… the same INSANE bullpen management style that made the Giants nearly the worst team in baseball after the all star break.

I’m tired of hearing how it’s the players fault… that we don’t have any closers.  We had lots ways to close a game… how about just keeping your starting pitcher in when he has a hot hand?  Bochy pulled Matt Moore after the 8th even though he was throwing a 2 hitter!

Or how about using one of your other starting pitchers?  It was, after all, an ELIMINATION GAME.  Any of your starters would have gladly taken the ball… how about Samardzija?  Or Blach?   Heck, even Madison Bumgarner, who only threw 5 innings last night, would have picked up the ball in an instant.

Or how about letting a fresh Will Smith throw to more than one batter?  It’s so painfully clear that Bochy’s platooning style simply wasn’t working.

How about doing ANYTHING other than doing the same ineffective stuff over and over and over?!

This is the second most crushing loss in my five decades or so of being a Giants fan.

And — even harder to swallower — this one was eminently avoidable.

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They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

I’d say FIVE blown leads in the 9th inning — using the same, completely ineffective bullpen management — qualifies.

I obviously — and painfully — misspoke in my “One Other Thing I Know” post below.  I want to say last night’s loss to the Dodgers — with the Giants winning by one run going into the bottom of the 9th — was a terrible, horrible gut punch…

… but, the truth is, it’s no worse than our other terrible, horrible, gut-punching 9th inning losses in September.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy, sadly, is insane.

Why he pulled Madison Bumgarner in the 7th — with 10 strike-outs, no walks, and a ONE HITTER going — is beyond all baseball reasoning.

The fact that he won’t share his reasons why he did this — he offered all of:  “I said we talked. I’ll leave it at that.” — is simply an irresponsible cop-out.

Sorry, after the September he’s managed, we fans deserve more than that.

I’m only a fan.  But it seems pretty obvious to me that (1) the Giants don’t have a reliable bullpen, so (2) the Giants should have been playing September like we’re in sudden death — because WE ARE — so (3) they needed to use STARTERS to close games, and (4) Bochy needs to abandoned his ineffective bullpen platooning and if a reliever is getting the job done (like Smith was in the 8th inning), just let him keep throwing.  Duh!

Call a spade a spade:  Bochy may be a Hall of Fame manager, but he’s completely mismanaged the Giants down the stretch.

Boch, please get your stuff together before it’s too late!

When the Giants bullpen blew yet another save a few weeks back, I suggested that the Giants trash their entire bullpen and have starters close games.

After all, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Knowledgeable baseball people scoffed, however.

Two weeks ago the Giants looked to have a firm grasp on at least a wild card spot.

Then they blew FOUR 9TH INNING LEADS in about a dozen games.

Now, they’re barely hanging on to the last wild cards spot by a thread.

For those of you who aren’t baseball fans, that is a COLOSSAL, COLOSSAL fail.

Finally, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy got a clue… that he better play these last dozen or so games LIKE THEY’RE PLAYOFF GAMES… and he used a starter last night to close a game.

It wasn’t a save situation… the Giants were already down by 3 runs.  Still, it was nice to see an experienced hand take the ball… and shut the door.

Desperate times called for desperate measures.  That’s Management 101 and that should have been initiated two weeks ago.

Never too late, though, to do the right thing.

I hit a low point in my San Francisco Giants fan career.

The Giants were the best team in baseball before the All Star break.

And the worst after the break.

It’s been an oh-so-painful ride straight downhill.

I was watching the Giants-Mets game last night… tied in the 4th… the Giants Ace Madison Bumgarner on the mound… and with a 1-hitter going into the inning… somehow loaded the bases… and I thought to myself:

This is it.  This is the entire Giants season right now.  We have our best pitcher on the mound.  What team are we really… the before-the-All-Star-break team that will find a way to get out of this jam… or the after-the-All-Star-break team that will continue to get abused… ?  This next pitch will tell…

And just when you think it couldn’t get any worse… the very worst thing happens:  The batter hits a GRAND SLAM!

I’ve been a lifelong Giants fan… which means I’ve suffered my share of heartbreak…

… but that one was one for the ages.

I distinctly remembering at that very moment giving up hope for the season.  That’s NEVER happened to me before while there’s been a mathematical chance to win and a pulse left in my body.

I was dejected.  Heartbroken.  I turned off the game.

I climbed in my car 30 minutes later to hear the Giants announcer say something I will NEVER forget:

“After allowing 4 runs in the fourth, the Giants rally right back in the bottom of the inning to drop a 5-spot on the Mets and take the lead, capped off by none other than Madison Bumgarner’s two-run homerun.”

People thought I was crazy in my car…  it’s hard enough scoring 1 run in baseball, let alone 5 in the same inning… I was cheering and clapping unabashedly… just as if I were at the game!

Thank you, San Francisco Giants, for reminding me that until you are dead — no matter how improbable — there is ALWAYS HOPE!

“And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew. That one small head could carry all he knew.” –Oliver Goldsmith, The Deserted Village

 

That was one of my stepfather’s favorite quotes.

My stepfather — Richard A. Brown — he always used his middle initial in formal situations — passed the night of June 28th.

He passed of heart failure. I suspect he simply thought it was his time to go.

Richard was an interesting, sometime heartsore, ball of contradiction. He was a farm boy… yet had an incredible intellect. He was a man’s man… yet spent many hours with my mom planting the most delicate of gardens. He was fiercely private… yet, he loved people, entertaining all with folksie story-telling and self-deprecating humor.

Richard grew up in upstate New York.

He grew up much faster than the rest of us. He had to. Where were his parents? Gone. They left him — and six younger siblings — with grandparents. At a time when you’re supposed to be a kid, Richard — as the oldest Brown child — had to be an adult — with parental responsibilities that would overwhelm adults twice his age. Of course, Richard downplayed this… I can just hear him say, “my only real responsibility was to make sure the younger kids didn’t get struck by a meteorite.” (Pitchforks were a different story, Richard was always fond of recalling!)

Richard was big and strong as an ox. He used to laugh remembering how someone had talked him into carrying not one BUT TWO 100-pound feed bags at the same time. He would say, “I was just an ignorant baby, I thought that was normal because no one told me it wasn’t.”

Later in life he wore that “simple farm boy” persona. But we all know he was far from being a simple farm boy. His intelligence was off-the-scales. I could go on about him “walking backwards through the snow to Cornell University”… or being a decorated military intelligence officer… or him being fluent in Russian… or him having an encyclopedic opinion on just about every academic topic under the sun…

… but when I described Richard’s intelligence, I usually do it this way: The man does crossword puzzles… IN INK!

Was he supposed to be a good ‘ole farm boy? Was he supposed to be an academic? Was he supposed to be a soldier? Was he supposed to be “the Big Bastard” (as he was wont to call himself)? What was the best way to be a father 3,000 miles away from your kids? Was he supposed to unselfishly counsel every needy soul within a 30-mile radius?

He didn’t know. He searched most of his life just trying to figure out who he was.

And his searching did not come without cost, as attested to by 40 years of taking it “one day at a time.”

But he persevered when people thought he couldn’t.

He persevered with my mom when she got sick, ultimately being the responsible caregiver for a slowly declining Alzheimer’s patient.

And he persevered when his physicality started failing him. So he got around the house a little slower. So he got to his projects a little slower. So curbs and, well, other cars got in his way from time to time. He remained fiercely independent. And — always — sharp-as-a-tack.

Richard loved working with his hands, and in particular working the soil. I remember him explaining to me one of the great shames of South San Francisco. Before development, South City had incredibly rich top soil. The developers, so it seemed, scrape off the top 10 feet for resale, exposing a barren, unproductive layer of clay. Richard spent years — maybe a decade — composting that soil back to its original fertile state… sweating all the way… cursing the developers all the way… cursing the gods all the way… but at the end of the day, you could just tell how pleased he was… “good enough for government work,” he’d always say… but it was far more than that… Richard grew anything and everything… including something I found recently: A monstrous, 5-lbs lemon! I never did get to ask him about that… his botanical secret now sadly a secret for the ages.

Richard loved his Mason Lodge — Francis Drake #376 — where he presided as its Grand Master for many years. He most especially loved his Mason brothers! The Masons were the center of Richard’s social universe for the last half of his life… there’s many generations of “kiddies” (as he would call them) who still think he bares an uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus!

Richard was an avid reader and a fine marksman. And “Poppa” loved – loved – LOVED his grandchildren. Whenever one of the kids couldn’t fall asleep, Poppa would put that grandkid on his belly and, in an instant, they’d be sound asleep!

Above all, Richard loved flying… by himself… in singular control… way up high. Peace. At last.

I last saw Richard on Father’s Day. I — like everybody else — couldn’t imagine that would be the last time I saw him… the Brown’s have a consistent way of defying the gods.

For me, so many things left unsaid. He took care of Doodie. He took care of my mom. I love him for those things.

It’s difficult to summarize a man — and his life — as complex as Richard. There’s no doubt Richard is snickering somewhere saying, “Good luck with that one, buddy!”

So I’d like to do it this way. All his life, while Richard may have searched for who he was…

… he never had a doubt about what he was: An intelligent man. And an honorable man.

At the end of his life, I think he’d be especially pleased to hear that.

Richard A. Brown… to you a good soldier’s send off. Rest in peace, Poppa.

I am not an NBA fan.

That’s not to say I’m not a big basketball fan… there is nothing more exciting than high school and college basketball.

But I don’t like the way it’s played on the professional level.  You don’t see teamwork.  You don’t see hustle.  All you see is self-promotion… and a complete flaunting of the basic rules of the game.  (When was the last time you saw a pro player called for traveling?  Never.  Exactly.)

But I was a big fan of the Golden State Warriors this year.

Because they played like no other NBA team.  They played with teamwork and hustle.  The played unselfishly.  In doing so they brought up the level of play from their opponents, making games fun to watch again.  In doing so they also won an NBA record 73 regular season wins.

Sadly the Warriors didn’t complete their magical season… losing Game 7 of the championship.

It’s only sports… but it matters to the Bay Area… we’re in shock… and mourning.

We’re swimming in a sea of “what if’s?”.  What if the Warriors didn’t lose their big man Andrew Bogut?  What if the Warriors were actually able to adjust to the obvious, that the Cavs were simply standing on the 3-point line taking away those shots, and that all the W’s had to do was simply take some easier/higher-percentage 2-point shots?  What if the officiating wasn’t completely and utterly against Step Curry?  What if the league didn’t job the Warriors and ridiculously suspend Draymond Green for Game 5 in an effort to balance out the series?  What if Klay Thompson had just apologized for wearing a f***ing Dodger cap to a Giants game?

I suspect we’ll be talking about this for a long time into the future.

But — while this may be premature — let me be the first to pick myself up off the canvas and start the chant:

“74… 74… 74… !”

Here’s to an incredibly deserving Warriors team AND 74 regular season wins next year AND a 2017 NBA Championship!