The San Francisco Giants have gone from a sluggish start, to complete free-fall, having now lost five straight and plummeted to the worst record in baseball at 11-23. Having lost 18 games in April alone pretty much sealed the deal but if you are going to do something right, you might as well go all the way.
Since the wild card format began, only the 2001 Oakland A’s started out with as many as 18 losses in April, and recovered sufficiently to reach the playoffs. Three reasons why they were able to do so? Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder.
The Giants have Johnny Cueto.
As much as I wanted to deny it at the time the accident occurred, the season effectively ended for San Francisco, the day Madison Bumgarner crashed his dirt bike. A team does not recover from a loss such as this, just as a team does not survive the loss of a Buster Posey, which we found out in 2011.
That’s the bottom line. It isn’t bad; it isn’t good; it just is.
I thought to myself, when it first happened, that it was just possible that Ty Blach could build on his epic victory over Clayton Kershaw and the LA Dodgers, last October 1st. If he were able to do so, then just maybe he could hold the fort down while MadBum got his shoulder issue sorted out.
I thought to myself, when it first happened, that it was possible that Matt Cain, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija would step up big-time, and demonstrate solidarity for their fallen brother-in-arms. It’s been known to happen.
Finally, I thought to myself, when it first happened, that it was possible that an unrelated team move, such as promoting the kid tearing it up in Sacramento with a .446 average, just might do the trick. Though he has provided some electrifying moments early on, Christian Arroyo has not been enough.
How could he be?
The team is in free fall not only because it has lost its legendary Big Iron, but because it has lost its mojo, or its chemistry, or its whatever you want to call that magic that says a team is “firing on all cylinders.” Right now the Giants are misfiring on all cylinders.
I could be wrong here, but I can’t help thinking there are two camps within the clubhouse: One side believes that it was a foolhardy thing for Madbum to have done, and it’s his fault the team is similarly derailed. The other camp believes that it is what it is, and that MadBum would not be the individual he is, if you tried to hobble your main steed.
Why is none of this bad, as in, it is what it is? It’s not bad because from the midst of the chaos, order will be restored. That’s the beauty of having a stable organization, with excellent leadership. None of what is happening with the Giants is Bruce Bochy or Dave Righetti’s fault, or Hensley Bam Bam Muelens’ fault, either.
Top brass recognizes this and will stay the course, and for that I am grateful. We will have the opportunity to see which Ty Blach really exists: the one who has battled Kershaw toe-to-toe, twice. Or the one who gave up ten runs, eight of them earned, in Cincinnati over the weekend.
I know, I know. What series in Cincinnati? Unfortunately, it happened.
We will have the entire season to work out the left field conundrum, something the organization has been trying to do since Barry Bonds left the building. With Jarrett Parker’s injury already upsetting the apple cart, we might as well find out if Mac Williamson has what it takes. That’s what you do when adversity occurs: You try to overcome it.
I thought for a minute there, that Matt Cain was going to shoulder his former load, and it’s still possible he will, but again, that series in Cincinnati that didn’t happen, has sure caused the ship to spring a few more leaks. The nature of the 162-game series does not allow the ship to merely sink and put us out of our misery. No, it’s not that simple. It’s just another form of torture.
On the other hand, the Giants are not alone. Other 2016 playoff teams, like the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays, are also occupying their respective divisions’ basements. Even the vaunted Chicago Cubs are only one game above .500.
For the time being we need to revert to an earlier philosophy when it comes to watching the Giants every day: It’s not whether they win or lose, but how they go about the business of playing. We will seek out the highlights, the way we used to do before the 2010 World Series escalated our expectations.
We will essentially mark time because there is no alternative. Says so in the manual, right next to where it says, “Please don’t trade Johnny Cueto away at the trade deadline. He is too much a part of this team that is temporarily on the outside looking in.”
We will have the second half of 2017 to rebuild and prepare for 2018, and we will have a reasonable expectation of being able to compete for a playoff berth. 2018 is, after all, an even year.