President Obama poses with legendary San Francisco Giants outfielder Willie Mays during a ceremony in the White House's East Room on Monday. (David Nakamura)

Perhaps hoping some of their winning ways would rub off, Obama feted the 2010 champs during a brief ceremony in the East Room, in front of a crowd that included California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and former mayor Willie Brown.

Presidents playing host to champion sports teams is a time-honored tradition, and the Giants’ visit was scheduled months ago. But the timing might have been fortuitous for the embattled president. From the moment legendary Giant Willie Mays, the “Say Hey Kid,” entered the East Room to a standing ovation, soon followed by Obama, it was obvious that the president, for a few minutes at least, would be a fan favorite.

“Even though these players haven’t always followed the traditional rules, one thing they know is how to win,” Obama said, poking fun at relief pitcher Brian Wilson’s bushy beard.

Pointing out that star pitcher Tim Lincecum has a skinny build, the slender Obama quipped: “America learned sometimes it’s a good idea to bet on the skinny guy.”

The audience laughed. As the president left the podium, his aides were distributing a e-mail to reporters that Obama’s turn at the plate had come: He would address the nation over the debt crisis in a televised prime time appearance at 9 p.m. Eastern Monday in the very same East Room.