The new season is called the post-season. Spring Training is the pre-season. The regular season is 162 games spanning over six months which is the most grueling regular season of any sport, and all of that is used for seeding the post-season.
The post-season is a new beginning. Every year the book of statistics is wiped clean—a clean slate for a new one. It is not always about batting average rather runs scored, RBIs, productive outs, and Sacrifices loom large. The smallest details are magnified as there is a chain of events in baseball.
Last night’s game was a 3-0 loss, and the hero was Conor Michael Gillaspie, a 29-year-old journeyman, who was a freebie DFA who the Giants picked up on February 3rd of this year, but he would not have been the hero last night if Joe Panik did not work the walk in the top of the 9th inning last night. Terry Collins explained in his post-game presser that if the Mets got Panik out they would have intentionally walked Gillaspie.
It is not Panik’s first time being the key player to win a game. It was the same Joe Panik as a rookie in 2014 who scored the tying run in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Nationals against Drew Storen. Panik, with two outs in the 9th inning of that game, worked a walk against Jordan Zimmermann. The storybook ending was supposed to be for Jordan Zimmermann to get Panik to make the last out, but he worked a walk. It seemed so innocent at the time in a 1-0 game with 2 outs in the 9th inning.
Joe Panik was responsible for over half of the Giants 9 runs scored in the entire NLDS as he drove in 2 runs and scored 3 runs. It was the impact of those runs that loomed large. Who knows if anyone beyond Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean know his value as he is still out there playing for him even though his post-season batting average today is .224. Panik got no hits last night, but his walk moved the line and thwarted Terry Collin’s move leading to Gillaspie’s baseball heroics.
Who is the Washington Nationals version of Joe Panik? Which player will be the Cody Ross, the Marco Scutaro, the Travis Ishikawa, the Mike Morse, the Conor Gillaspie? The common denominator with all of them was that none had/have long tenures with the Giants, but each was a key in the Giants post-season success. Cody Ross had 154 games, Marco Scutaro had 193 games, Travis Ishikawa had 53 games in his 2nd stint with the Giants, Mike Morse had 131 games, and we will see with Conor Gillaspie who had 101 games this year with the Giants, but Joe Panik has 300 games for the Giants. Panik went to college in the shadows of CitiField. Panik does his thing in the shadows. He is part of the success.
Dusty Baker needs players to step up, but he also has to put players in their best situations to succeed. They do not even need a great baseball pedigree rather just the ability to shine at the times when others wilt under the bright lights. When players execute, they make their managers look good and when they don’t, we know the consequences.