I think Giants fans have been patient enough, which is to say slightly more than their usual standard of not the slightest bit. The point is, the team in which they invest such an inordinate amount of energy, time and attraction is killing The Magic Of The Even-Numbered Year.
With Wednesday’s 6-5 hope-suck (read: latest galling defeat) to the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants were just swept by a team inserting itself into the National League wild card race, have lost five of the first six games in an important 10-game home stand, and have lost 21 of 30 games since the All-Star Break.
They have in that time lost 13 games to the Cubs, 8½ to the Cardinals, 7½ to the Dodgers, Nationals, Pirates and Rockies, 5½ to the Marlins, and just for mean-spirited spite, four to the A’s.
We threw that last one in just to see if we could make Larry Baer turn purple. Sadly, it didn’t work, but we’ll certainly keep trying because, well, we all need a hobby.
The Giants are the worst team in baseball over the last 5½ weeks, losing in all varieties of ways that we imagine are all roughly the same – Wednesday, it was a routine 4-0 lead gone in by the fifth inning, three days after blowing a 7-1 lead.
But this isn’t about why they are failing; explaining that is Comrade Pavlovic’s job, and if he wasn’t too busy drinking between innings he would have told you by now.
All we know is that this even-year thing was supposed to fill in the cracks in the back end of the rotation, and the inevitable unraveling of the bullpen, and the injuries and the slumps and, most chilling of all, the very real likelihood that the Giants are actually just another team – mean to their underlings, but easily bullied by their equals and betters.
This was cheerily forgotten when they were going
40-15 in the two months before the All-Star Break. Then again, 39 of those 55 games were played against the flotsam, jetsam and novelty store bric-a-brac of Major League Baseball – an almost unrelenting parade of Diamondbacks and Padres and Braves and Brewers and Phillies and Athletics. They were 10-6 in those games against winning teams, but at the time, the Cardinals and Dodgers were treading Jell-O and only the Cubs were overwhelmingly frightening.
Nevertheless plus-25 is plus-25, and you can only beat the teams the people at the home office tell you that you have to play. The problem is, they have given almost all of that back in barely more than half the time, in a stretch that has seen the D-Backs and Padres and Phillies and Brewers replaced with the Pirates and Orioles and Nationals and Marlins with the disturbing result that they are minus-21 since the break and still have seven more games with the Mets and Dodgers. By that time, they will have ended a 37-game stretch in which they played teams with winning records 28 times, thus exacerbating their shortcomings and all but obliterating their positives.
If they are planning to maintain their strident win-one-game-per-series habit against New York and Los Angeles, they will finish the stretch at a hideous 11-26, making them a decidedly mediocre 41-41 in the heart of the season, and they’ll be lucky to be in contact with the outer fringes of the wild card race rather than the National League’s elite.
But there we go again, assuming that nothing ever changes in baseball and that they are doomed to be a .297 team the rest of the season in the same way that we assumed that they really were a .727 team in the good old days. The macro-trends hide the micro-nature of the last quarter of the season, and teams catch fire or snuff themselves for the smallest but most varied of reasons.
What is clear, then, is that neither the .297 team nor the .727 team is the Giants team people thought they would be in the off-season. They were destined/doomed to be a team whose success would be measured in whitened knuckles and gritted teeth. Nobody was buying that even-numbered-year arglebargle except people you would back slowly away from in a tavern, and nobody was buying that three-starters-make-a-rotation nonsense either. What they did expect was a team that could hit and field and improbably squeeze one more year out of its bullpen and wait for Bruce Bochy to put on his massive conical hat (known to his friends as the Pyramid of Geezer) and think his way to four or five extra wins when they mattered most.
And maybe that will still be how it works, despite the evidence after three-quarters of the season that the Giants are simply a massive clot of false positives and disturbing negatives – just like the Dodgers and the Cardinals and the Pirates and the Marlins and the Mets.
In other words, a wild card team, even if they end up winning the NL West despite all the indications to the contrary.
This much, though, is clear. They will have to do this the hard way, or reconcile themselves to the notion that they might not do it at all. No magic, no numerology, no “hey-we-know-how-to-win-when-it-matters-most” cosmology. Just taking 60-grit sandpaper to their last 41 games in hopes that they can look enough like the .727 team to not keep looking like the .297 team.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com