Last week, I said that The Franchise had finally found the right balance between broader storylines and behind-the-scenes intrigue. It turns out that I was in the minority: many non-San Francisco reviewers, including Claire Zulkey of the AV Club, thought it was an episode that only a Giants fan could love. I understand the criticism. As I've said several times, fans will approach this series differently from nonbelievers, if only because we follow the team closely enough that we don't need any backstory on its day-by-day results.
The third episode was mostly details with little general intrigue. For this show to please everyone, it needs something for the casual fans.
Luckily, the fourth episode should appeal to more than just the citizens of the Bay Area. In part, that's because the arrival of trade-deadline pickup Carlos Beltran is legitimate national sports news. Showtime handles the story very well, forgoing any insight into Brian Sabean's process, as they did last week when handling the Jeff Keppinger trade. Instead, the show focuses more on what happens when a player changes teams.
At first, current Giants discuss the proposed deal among themselves. The best of these exchanges happens in the bullpen during the team's first game in Philadelphia last Tuesday. Brian Wilson asks bullpen coach Mark Gardner what he thinks, with Gardner refusing to discuss it because the trade's not yet official. Wilson, ever the joker, amends his question to refer to the trade as "potentially official," after which Gardner says that he thinks he'll help the team. Clearly, everyone is anxious to get a big bat in the lineup, and there's palpable excitement in the clubhouse.
On the Thursday when Beltran arrived in Philly, we get a real insider's look at his arrival and the team's preparation for it. In fact, Showtime even managed to get some cameras in Beltran's cab to the ballpark, which means they had contact with him before the team itself. Although Beltran looks a little uncomfortable in his first interaction with the ever-present cameras, he handles himself well, saying all the right things about how he's happy to be in a pennant race and help the team. As Beltran rides to Citizens Bank Park, the Giants prepare. We see a #16 jersey with his name on it, which is quickly consigned to the dustbin of history when Bochy says he can have it free of charge.
When Beltran shows up, he has luggage emblazoned with a Mets logo and blue-and-orange number markings on his bats. He watches part of his old team's game on a TV. Yet, there he is, meeting new teammates and becoming an official Giant even as he seems equally invested in New York's fortunes. To Beltran's credit, though, that all changes when he takes the field to face starter Kyle Kendrick. He high-fives Pablo Sandoval after a home run, gives a remedial scouting report for players who haven't seen Kendrick ("He throws a lot of shit"), and generally ingratiates himself to players who'd previously known him only as a very talented opponent. By the end of the game, Beltran is a Giant. He even went 0-for-4 to prove he won't show anyone up.