If you're a fan of sports, you have probably seen Hard Knocks or 24/7 Road to the NHL Winter Classic on HBO, following the Jets or the Capitals and Penguins, respectively.
The shows provide a behind-the-scenes look at the teams as they work to win championships. Showtime has decided to bring this concept to baseball with The Franchise and follow the 2010 World Series winning San Francisco Giants as they look to repeat.
The show doesn't officially premiere until July, but they released a 35 minute preview episode that gives a pretty good taste of what's to come. The show begins right before spring training and takes you around six games into the season.
For those of you who haven't seen it, here it is:
If you haven't watched it and don't want any spoilers, I would suggest that you stop reading now.
The show is intended to popularize some of the Giants players who seemed to be a rag-tag group of nobodies in the 2010 playoff run. Freddy Sanchez isn't really a household name, even though he won the NL batting title in 2006 with a .344 batting average. It's a travesty that Matt Cain isn't well known, despite being one of the most consistent, durable pitchers of the last six years.
Among those that are featured in the episode is one of the greatest characters in the game: Brian Wilson. Wilson has sky-rocketed to success and ridiculousness as he continues to clown around on and off the field. A mohawk, bright orange shoes, a gimp called The Machine, a sailor's outfit on Lopez Tonight and the best, most feared beard in all of the league are just a few of the wild attributes of the eccentric closer that reminds me of a real life Ricky Vaughn.
Wilson provides insight into his crazy, which seems to stem from his love of the game and effort to always have fun on and off the field. His beard continues to impress and his personality will really be a hit on the show.
Another player focused on was Freddy Sanchez. His story focused on his love of the game and his wife's support throughout his life. He also got to talk a little about his kids and take his wife out on a Valentine's Day/Anniversary date that provided a more romantic theme for those of you who enjoy stuff like "Basketball Wives."
Pablo Sandoval's story over the offseason was nothing short of inspirational. The Kung Fu Panda became a fan favorite when he tore up the league in 2009, but regressed when he ballooned to 275 pounds in 2010. The preview episode shows his incredible work ethic to shed pounds like his career depended on it, likely because it did. He's now at just under 240 and looks better than ever.
Although not featured in the show, his .328 average is proof that he is back.
Andres Torres got a small introduction as he showed his offseason workout regimen in Puerto Rico. Torres looks like a Hispanic Rocky throwing around large cinder-blocks and running up muddy, uneven hills.
Mark DeRosa also got a quick introduction as his storyline seemed to be slipped in early. DeRosa seemed bitter about the way he was viewed going into 2011. He doesn't like that people doubt his ability based on an injury-plagued 2010 and seemed intent on proving haters wrong.
Barry Zito, hated by Giants fans everywhere, seemed to be out of this world. His statements were a little vague and sounded like an aspiring monk who didn't really have any credentials. He strategically didn't mention that he is continually robbing the Giants blind by accepting ridiculous sums of money to hurt the team. They even showed an MLB Network discussion regarding a potential release of the troubled left-hander.
I will say that it's not his fault that the Giants were stupid enough to give him that much money.
The final two stories were much more heart-warming and intense. One featured journey-man reliever Marc Kroon, who has battled his way back to the majors after a six year stint in Japan and the other featured star prospect Brandon Belt.
Kroon's story was incredible. He pitched for Bochy on the Padres back in the mid-90s and eventually had to leave America to pitch in Japan. He spent six years there as a closer who threw a fastball that reached the triple digits. He blew Japanese hitters away with record-breaking heat. Now, at 37, he hopes to return to the majors and was given a spring training invite by the Giants.
His stuff looked really good early on, but he eventually got stuck with pitching BP to Pablo Sandoval and as I mentioned before, Panda is back and crushing the ball. Kroon got rocked, which hurt his chances and was told at the end of the episode that he would have to go to Fresno or look for a new job.
On the flip side, Brandon Belt's story was fantastic to watch. He shot through the majors and was just hoping to show that he could play, but impressed enough to earn a spot in the Opening Day lineup. The emotional scene was when Belt was told he made the team and burst into tears in Bruce Bochy's office.
It was the kind of moment that the show hopes to capture again, in some form or another.
The show ended with the presentation of the World Series rings and a taste of what's to come. It will be interesting to learn more about some of the other players that weren't specifically featured, such as Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, and the Freak, Tim Lincecum.
I have a feeling that Huff will emerge as one of the funnier players in the clubhouse. He's already made his mark with the rally thong presentation at the championship parade. He is also a personal favorite of mine from his time with the Orioles.
Overall, the show was really enjoyable. It's hard to predict how it will be in July, when the season is more in bloom, but it seems to be a hit in the making.
It will be interesting to see how everything plays out because it seems that the Giants will have some stiff competition with the Rockies for the top spot in the NL West.
Look out for The Franchise this July when it continues on Showtime. It should be a wacky show and San Francisco has some great characters that the world will love to get to know.
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