I don’t know about you, but I’ve always watched the HBO show Hard Knocks and thought to myself, “This show would be so much better if it followed a team I actually cared about.” I mean, Hard Knocks is a great show, but when you don’t have anything invested in the team it doesn’t quite mean as much. Except for when they followed the Baltimore Ravens and we got to see Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe mess with each other. That was amazing television.
Thankfully, Showtime took the Hard Knocks approach and applied it to baseball, resulting in a show called The Franchise. And what better team to follow for a year than the defending World Series champs?
The first preview episode of The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants aired this past week, with the actual series starting this summer. I watched it for the first time today, and wrote down a few thoughts:
- The show opens with an extreme close-up of Bruce Bochy lighting a cigar. Kind of an unsettling image.
- Brian Wilson talks about his dealing with the media. Clips of his infamous sailor costume moment on the Lopez show are played. He says that when people see him in the media, they think he’s either crazy or “flippin’ smart.” He forgot to mention option 3: trying too hard.
- “My brain waves work in a completely different pattern than a lot of people.” Okay, Brian. We’ve got it.
- There’s Bochy, out on the ocean fishing for sharks. Sharks are circling the boat. If only there was someone else on the boat to make the obvious “the boat is the Giants, the sharks are the other teams!” reference. Oh wait, there is.
- Freddy Sanchez has been with his wife since high school? Wow, good for them. He looks like he’s a good family man. His wife tears up when she talks about him winning the World Series. Nice moment.
- Here’s Barry Zito laying down tracks in the studio on his guitar. They show clips of his meltdown against the Padres in the second to last game of the year. Good way to introduce him.
- Zito goes on a tangent about God or the universe giving you signs and how this year he’s going to “live in the moment” which will apparently make him pitch better. Do you remember that scene in Good Will Hunting where Robin Williams’ character is asking his class why trust is so important, and the kid he calls on answers, “Because trust is…trust is…life”? Zito is that kid.
- Clips of the players arriving to Spring Training. Hey, there’s Mark DeRosa! Thanks for coming out, Mark.
- Clips of Tim Lincecum lead to the voiceover announcer giving the obligatory “the Giants have a lot of quirky characters” line. I thought that played out last year, but no.
- Willie Mays meets Miguel Tejada in the clubhouse. Mays says, “We shoulda had you a long time ago.” Somewhere in Cincinnati, Edgar Renteria weeps.
- And here’s Andres Torres’s offseason workout regimen. From what I can gather, it involves wearing designer jeans with the pant legs rolled up, running barefoot up hills, and throwing cinder blocks over his head. I mean, it doesn’t look like an easy workout or anything, but what’s with the jeans?
- If I was a cynic, I’d say that running barefoot up hills probably isn’t the best thing for your heels. But I’m not a cynic, so nope, not going to say it.
- Pablo Sandoval and his workout routine. The shots of him last year with his shirt off show just how far he’s come as far as fitness goes. It’s nice to see him so dedicated.
- Here’s Brandon Belt, his wife, and his dog. He seems like a nice guy. Shots of Aubrey Huff joking that he needs to get his outfielder’s glove are interspersed with shots of Belt ripping the ball. How prescient.
- Some fascinating footage of Bochy and Brian Sabean looking over the roster on a dry erase board in Sabean’s office, discussing Belt’s chances of making the roster. It looks like all of the guys on the bubble have a red dot next to their names.
- The most entertaining/captivating footage of the entire show deals with Marc Kroon and his attempt to make the big leagues. Kroon tells a story of introducing his kids to his absentee father for the first time, only to have his father immediately ask him for money. It’s a heartbreaking story, but also shows the strength Kroon has as a person. It’s a shame Kroon didn’t make the team out of spring, but it’s nice to know he accepted his assignment to Fresno. He’s just a guy you root for to make it.
- Kroon is far more interesting than Wilson, by the way.
- More on Sandoval. He’s lost 35 pounds and weighed in at a shade under 240. I thought he was pushing 300 last season, but it turns out he topped out at 275.
- More Zito. “I heard one time that anger is frustrated love. You don’t get angry at someone you don’t love.” I don’t know Barry, I was pretty angry at the guy who cut me off on the freeway today and I’m pretty sure I’ve never met him before.
- “We’re just regular dudes, man. And we’re just chasing our dreams.” Zito is almost getting into “underperforming athlete complaining about people who complain about his salary” territory here, but he just barely avoids it.
- Footage of Kroon being told he didn’t make the team. Man, that’s tough to watch. I know they want cameras everywhere, but some things we don’t really need to see. It feels like this should’ve been a private moment.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum, here’s footage of Belt being told he’s made the team. He breaks down crying. Bochy tells him he doesn’t have to go back to the clubhouse right away. “You can hang out with me for a while,” he says. “You need a beer? Grab a beer!” Belt grabs a beer. Awesome.
- Huff: “Some people say have him go play the outfield. He’s your first baseman of the future, let him play there. I’ll go play the outfield.” Amen, Aubrey.
- The rest of the show is footage of the first few weeks of the season: Belt’s homer in LA, Huff’s troubles in the OF, the banner raising, the ring ceremony, the Giants/Dodgers anti-violence message, Aaron Rowand’s and Tejada’s walk-off hits, etc. The ring ceremony footage is especially cool. Huff says to Sabean, “thanks for bringing me over.”
Overall, a very good show that made me excited for the series to start this summer. I thought the breakout star of the series was easily Kroon, and I hope the Showtime cameras continued to follow him in Fresno. It was also fun to see a different side of Bochy. He’s very buttoned down and straightforward in the public eye, but he has a lot more personality than he lets on. It should be fun to see his interactions with players over the course of the season.
This show might actually be better than the Baltimore Ravens of Hard Knocks. I never thought I’d type that sentence.