The Franchise, Episode 1: Just Change Your Name to The Underdogs

The San Francisco Giants, capitalizing on the national interest and goodwill that comes from winning a World Series, have a reality show on Showtime called The Franchise. Now, I hate the Giants, but before watching this show, it was only because of last year's NLCS and World Series. This television show has helped me find so many more reasons to hate them, causing my hatred to grow and bloom like a beautiful, rare flower. Starting today and lasting until the end of the series on Sunday, I'll post a recap of an episode of The Franchise.

The first episode has two halves. The first consists of many of the major players getting their own bit of storyline, going over their history and setting up a possible arc. (Some get more time than others.) The second half speeds through the first three and a half months of the baseball season, bringing the viewer up to nearly present day.  Pretty much everything that's shown, though, feeds into the narrative of the entire series: THE GIANTS ARE UNDERDOGS AND YOU BETTER NOT FORGET IT.

After the requisite rehashing of the past and the necessary "we're the hunted and not the hunter" yakking, we're shown Cody "Giant Parade Float Head/Sad Clown" Ross being recognized on the street. Ross is shockingly self-effacing, saying that he knows that the 2010 postseason was most likely the pinnacle of his career. "You look at my baseball card, it doesn't have those sort of numbers on there." Pay attention to that, because you'll need to remember it later.

The Giants’ first setback is the loss of Andres Torres, their "offensive spark plug." Now they’re even more underdoggy than they were before! Apparently, it’s up to "Kung Fu Panda" Pablo Sandoval to save the team. I’d balk at such a stupid nickname, but Sandoval really does look like a human-panda hybrid. Last year, Sandoval didn’t have a great season and was really fat. Now, all he does is exercise! He runs! He lifts weights! He…runs some more! He lost 40 pounds in the offseason, and is a CHANGED MAN.

It might surprise you to know that Barry Zito is the highest paid player on the Giants, despite being one of the most useless members of their pitching staff. He went on the DL after spraining his foot during his third start. Can you say "redemption arc"?

By far the most interesting storyline of the entire episode (and perhaps the series) is that of Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong is a journeyman. Do not forget that. He also used to suck, and is a veteran. Those are other things that you shouldn’t forget, though it’s not like you ever could, considering the frequency with which they shove those themes down the viewers’ throats. Seriously, we get it. It’s a team of loveable journeymen-veteran-loser-underdog-misfits. Anyway. Vogelsong is actually humble, honest, and incredibly grateful for his success.

Injuries plagued the Giants early on! They’re underdog-a-riffic! To deal with those injuries, they called up prospect Brandon Belt from AAA. The cameras are rolling when Bruce Bochy tells Belt that he’s coming up to the majors. Belt is extremely emotional. Bochy tells him to get a beer. I hate Bruce Bochy. Belt is sent back down to AAA on his 23rd birthday, and this time Bochy doesn’t offer him a beer.

For all of us who are not baseball players and therefore never leave our families for any reason, the Giants would like us to know that leaving family is hard.  Matt Cain (who is just 26 and at seven years is the longest tenured Giant) does not like leaving his very pretty wife Chelsea and their infant daughter behind when he goes on road trips. Jeremy Affeldt doesn’t like leaving his wife and two sons either! I am SHOCKED.

Hey, did you know that the Giants suck on offense? Because they do. But the fact that they are really awful won’t prevent them from somehow succeeding. Misfit-tastic!

Also, was I the only person unaware that Mark DeRosa is a crazy person? I present to you this quote, verbatim: "Funny story, I was driving home from dinner with my parents in Georgetown, and when we rode past an Exxon station and gas prices were five dollars a gallon, I said wow, I said that night ‘All I want is for gas prices to go down and for Bin Laden to be killed.’ And I got home and turned on the TV and that was on." That quote is their intro to the Bin Laden death portion of the program. Who thinks those two things together? Either he’s lying, or he’s a real life crazo. Then they show Brain Wilson, and he says (again, verbatim) "I was watching CSI Miami, and then I figured out the ending so I changed it to President Obama addressing the nation. Gave a big fist pump for America, and then I went to bed." He could quite possibly be the biggest douche to ever exist anywhere at any point in time or space. Yes, he was watching CSI Miami like all of you peasants, but then he figured out the ending and changed the channel. He would like you to know that he’s better and smarter than you. Oh my God I hate him so much.

Now it’s Aubrey Huff’s turn. He was the team’s offensive leader last year and also kept the team’s sprits up. This year he sucks, but he still keeps the team’s spirits up. They say something about a rally thong, but then I black out. When I wake up a minute later, the first thing I see is Huff doing some kind of douche dance with Kevin Millar on Intentional Talk, and I black out again.

When I wake up the second time, the Giants are returning from apparently the longest road trip in baseball history. There’s even a soulful female singing "I’m coming home," accompanied by a pianozzzzzzz…

Cody Ross, who has three adorable moppets with normal sized heads, is slumping. To that, he says "2011 for me is all about being the player that I am…you know, I’m the guy that goes out there and keeps doing what I’ve been doing throughout my career." Hmm, I seem to remember him saying something about being a thoroughly mediocre player, so I don’t know exactly what he’s expecting from himself.

Let’s return to the Barry Zito Redemption Arc. He’s doing yoga now, and he seems a little bitter about how well Vogelsong is doing. Aaaaand I’m done with the Barry Zito Redemption Arc. It is now the Barry Zito Gets His Comeuppance Arc.

Tim Lincecum: "Knowing the crowd is going to be here the whole game, it’s almost like a playoff atmosphere all the time." How sad is that quote?

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: Buster Posey is a Whiny Little Baby.  They open it up with footage from an interview he did on ESPN in February, in which he talks about how dangerous the position of catcher is. Cut to his injury, and Posey begrudgingly saying that he wasn’t ready for Scott Cousins to run into him. Posey has the attitude of an undertaker, and as he continues talking, I’m waiting for him to offer Cousins his absolution for the event. What I end up getting is Brian Wilson saying that it’s just one of those plays in baseball, and it sucks. If Posey had said anything like that, they would have shown it. But they didn’t, so I’m assuming that he’s still being a whiny little baby about the whole thing.

The whole sequence is just over the top with the music and the comments they weave in from the media. They play GM Brian Sabean’s radio comments about Scott Cousins, and he would like you to know that he made those horrible comments about Cousins because he’s a father of five boys, and he’s emotional and passionate! That is an excuse for everything! Honestly, the only reason I was able to stomach this entire Giants/Posey pity sequence is because I knew they’d have to show the footage from the 1980 NLCS of Pete Rose running over Bruce Bochy. It was worth it just for that.

Say, did you know that the Giants love to win and hate to lose? That they're resilient? That they're remarkable because they’ve overcome SO MUCH? Veteran-riffic!

Barry Zito, making his first start off the DL, takes the audience through his pre-start routine and disappointingly does not get his comeuppance. Yet.

Good God, they’re talking about Buster Posey again. Enough. We get it. A star has fallen. The world will never be the same again. Let us all mourn.

Bruce Bochy is submitting his All-Star roster. The point of showing this is to feature Vogelsong again, because he has never made an All-Star game before. He plays it pretty close to the vest, but it’s clear that he’s delighted by the transformation of his career.

Next time on THE GIANTS ARE LOVEABLE, DAMMIT: Brian Wilson! The All-Star Game! Brian Wilson’s beard! Random shots of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay! And Brian Wilson!

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