Programming note: Giants-Cardinals coverage starts today at 4:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on CSN Bay Area.
The San Francisco Giants head to St. Louis as they always head on the road – having convinced themselves and their attention-span deprived fan base that happy days are here again.
Then they limp home, beaten curs, to start the process all over again.
At least that’s what you think it is, because you’re fans and what the hell. You’ve been given some sort of eternal pass to feel better and worse about your team than reality warrants, and do so in such a way that when your wisdom is challenged, you call it trolling and hold your breath until Tim Tebow turns blue.
In fact, this:
The Giants have the ninth-best road record in baseball.
That sounds odd given the energy expended in making them seem like home warriors, but here are some of the teams with dramatically worse road records:
The Blue Jays.
Then there’s the pitching, with the dodgy starters who can’t go deep enough into games and the threadbare bullpen, except:
They are league average in innings per start, quality starts and slightly better than league average in run support, and the bullpen is 23rd in runs allowed and second-best in inherited runners allowed, which is better than we’ve been led to believe. Indeed, they have used fewer starters than any team except San Diego, and fewer pitchers in all (Kansas City and Milwaukee are second).
So they aren’t nearly as disadvantaged as they would seem. They just scare the hell out of you if you’re a fan, and if you’re not used to that by now, you’re not allowed to invoke the overused battle cry, “Torture.”
But they’re still headed to St. Louis, with the best record (paced out to 104 wins), the best home record (paced out to 115), 73 fewer runs allowed than any other team and the best record in one-run games. Then it’s Pittsburgh, the third best team, then Chicago, the fourth best team, then St. Louis again, then the Dodgers, the fifth best team. They’re supposed to be destroyed.
But they are as they always have been – like roaches. You think you’ve killed them, but you haven’t. Then you think they’re rolling, and yet they’re not.
And you’d be right, while of course being wrong. Because these are the Giants, more than anything else:
They have five winning streaks of five games or more, and four losing streaks of the same duration. Those games make them 30-25, and they are six-over in the other 62 games. In short, they are not a great team or a terrible one. What they are is baseball on Ritalin, and though they are other teams that possess this same facility, they have three rings that imbue them with greater powers within the fan base than mere Diamondbacks or Rays.
Maybe it’s that the last four home stands, all six-gamers, have gone 5-1, 5-1, 4—2 and 4-2 – 18-6, for you math deficient. Or that the last four road trips have gone 3-7, 5-1, 0-6 and 3-2, which is 11-16. Or maybe it’s that every three days or so there is harrowing injury news that must surely destroy the fabric of the team.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s that granulating a 162-game schedule is as just plain taxing in its own way as playing one, only you don’t have the constant lobe-numbing lectures about keeping an even keel and not get getting too high or too low. Maybe in its own way, being the math fan and being the anti-math fan are two sides of the same pork chop, and that to understand the Giants, one must step back and zen the process a bit more.
Look, this is a team rich with strengths and flaws that takes a long time to congeal, in the time-honored Bochy way. The ones that made sense early lost, while the ones that won made your eyebrows dig holes in your skull. It’s like making a quality pasta sauce – the secret isn’t the ingredients or the stove or even the lavishing of pseudo-love from the cook. It’s in the hours of simmering; I know this because my aunt told me so, and her sauce was the stuff of legend.
Well, there was one other secret – simmering while drinking a bottle of wine without using a glass so that the time will pass quicker. That has been my contribution to the process.
Anyway, those were, are, and shall always be the Giants, whether they catch the Cubs and Dodgers and guarantee another postseason or get their hats blocked over the next three weeks and die the death predicted of them back when the calendar turned odd.
But if it helps, drink a bottle of wine, and don’t stop until you’ve stopped giving so much of a damn. Trust me, it’ll work.