Experience is the name we give our mistakes. - Oscar Wilde
For the first time ever, both World Series combatants will have gone at least 50 years without a title, with the Giants mired in a championship drought since 1954 and the Rangers never having been to a Series in their 50-year history. This is just one of the compelling storylines that make this Series matchup one of the more interesting in quite some time; perhaps not since the Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins contested their historic 1991 battle have there been two teams so little known to the average baseball fan.
Without question football is America's most popular and also most national sport in the sense that fans' identification with football teams is not nearly as geographically fixed as it is with baseball. It's not uncommon, in fact it's routine, for fans to live in one city and root for another municipality's team - just a cursory glance in a sports bar on any given Sunday and this fact is born out. And the best players on most teams are well known outside of their local network jurisdiction.
This is decidedly not the case with baseball. For better or worse, even in this 24-hour sports environment where access to any and all teams is possible, baseball has maintained a local flavor, thanks in large part to its quotidian rhythms. It takes work, and time, to devote oneself to a team and daily involvement is essential in baseball if one is to call himself committed.
And in this championships matchup there are several players who have put in the long years without acquiring that elusive title. I'm sure they'd trade in some of their productive years for a championship, no questions asked. Experience, after all, can be a very overrated commodity.
This Series surely promises to give some very good veteran players who have paid their dues much deserved exposure this late in the year, something they're not accustomed to. Take 33-year-old Aubrey Huff for example. An under-appreciated player during his tenure in Tampa Bay - just before the Rays became a good team - Huff then went to Baltimore where he still produced strong numbers, albeit for a dreadful team. But now in his first year with the Giants, Huff had one of his best years, thanks in part to greater patience at the plate yielding more walks.
Then there's Huff's infield mate Freddy Sanchez. To state that Sanchez has been underrated and under-appreciated is an understatement. Consider that the former Pirate won a batting title while in Pittsburgh in 2006 in seeming anonymity. Like Huff, Sanchez is well aware how rare a chance this is, to participate in a World Series.
On the other side of the field is Rangers shortstop Michael Young. The all-time Ranger leaders in hits, the 34-year-old Young has been a consistent offensive force for Texas. An oddity of sorts as he accumulated five consecutive 200-hit years while also averaging nearly 100 strikeouts per season (his relatively weak OBP for such a strong offensive force is one reason Young is never mentioned among the league's best players), he's never come close to playing for a championship.
And while there are an abundance of Series first-timers there is one man in this Series who always seems to be there - Edgar Renteria. The Giants shortstop has seemingly been playing forever but is still only 35 years old. Some players just seems older and Renteria is that guy. If someone had told me he was 42 I'd have believed it. He's now played on four playoff teams and been in three World Series (Marlins in 1997, Cardinals in 2004 and now the Giants).
Also seeming older than his age is Rangers outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who is only 26. Again, if someone had said he was 30 that would have seemed right to me. The one-time "next big thing" Francoeur never lived up to the hype in Atlanta and just seemed lost while with the Mets. But in his very brief tenure thus far with Texas, Francoeur is playing inspired baseball. He's also the owner of one of the finer outfield arms, an often overlooked asset.
But in the end, while the aforementioned will likely play instrumental roles in the Series, the outcome will likely be decided by the abundance of youth present - be it the precocious and scarily effective San Francisco starters or the dynamic Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. Actually, some 30-something guy named Cliff Lee may also play a role. And it's about time a blend of youth and age gift fans a seven-game series. After all, the current streak of seven Series without one going to a deciding game is the longest such stretch since 1923.