Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Hangin' In Limbo

Was that not the longest 9-inning game ever? Well, it seemed like it. Doug Davis has a way of putting runners all over the bases over a six inning start, looking like he has no stuff, walking everybody, constantly being on the verge of getting knocked out with one big hit, but then at the end of the game you look up and your team has scored only two runs...and they've lost.

Luckily, the Giants were able to break through and string enough hits together tonight to get Davis the hell out of there and come away with a victory, but not before Davis had succeeded in slowing the game down to a snail's pace. At around 9:30, I was ready to switch off the cable and hit up my latest Netflix arrival (Barry Levinson's Diner...nope, I've never seen it), when I realized it was only the fifth inning. Come on, Doug, I only have so many hours to squeeze in my nerdy, extra-cirricular crap before I have to hit the hay! Commendations around to all the brave souls at the ballpark tonight who stuck through the entire game.

With their playoff chances ready for a good eulogy, the Giants are in sort of a weird limbo state right now. Tonight they looked like they were playing loose, not wound up and rearin' to choke like those awful games against the Cubs on Friday and Saturday. As a fan, I'm torn. Obviously, the only thing to really root for at this point is for the Giants to try to run up their win total, to make it look as pretty as possible so we can look back in 20 years and fawn over this magical, bounceback 87-win season or whatever. That, and root for the Panda to do some serious stat-padding.

However, I long for the drama. With the Giants good again this year, it almost seems like we're being cheated without a playoff race that would go right down to the wire. Yes, the last time the Giants had a winning season, that season died with Wayne Franklin's career, but at least there was excitement. There was the thrill of going into the final weekend knowing one team makes the playoffs and one team goes to sit at home and pout, even if the pouting bastards were your team. Now, there's just something unwholesome and empty about your good team playing near-pointless games as the season closes.

My question: If you know your team isn't going to make the playoffs (but had a good season, like 88-90 wins), would you rather they just get eliminated a week early, like this year, and play out the string? Or would you rather they go into an elimination scenario in the last day and lose in horrible, heartbreaking fashion, like the Giants in 1998 or 2004?

Maybe I'm a raging masochist, but I'd almost rather take the heartbreak. Baseball is about suspense, and there's something whimsical about being able to look back years later and say, "Oh my God! Do you remember when J.T. Snow came barreling into Ivan Rodriguez and he knocked I-Rod into next Friday and oh my God it was a vicious hit and holy shit one of the most exciting plays ever but I-Rod held on to the ball and the Giants lost and I went and cried into my pillow for a week straight oh why oh why must I suffer being a Giants fan?!?!"

Even the tragic losses have that hint of nostalgic wonder, the idea that even though your team narrowly missed, and probably because of some awful, Neifi-induced fiasco, at least they were thisclose, and it was damned memorable.

Unless, of course, it's Game 6 of the World Series and you have a five-run lead in the 7th inning. Then it just fucking sucks.

--Bengie Molina hit two home runs tonight, setting a new career high. Long after Bengie is gone from baseball and we recall with misty eyes his deathly slow gait that couldn't outrun Bill Conrad with with a boulder strapped to his waist, we'll remember him as a Good Giant, and with good reason.

That said- and I know I may be beaten savagely by many Giants fans by saying this- I really have a hard time watching the guy hit. He just has no clue up at the plate. He swings at everything, hits more weak ground balls on bad first pitch breaking balls than anybody in the league, but he runs into just enough fastballs to make him look kinda okay. Yes, I realize this isn't anything new, and since he's a catcher, his bad hitting "philosophy" is seen in many circles as a little easier to take, since anything you can get from your catcher is essentially seen as gravy. But gawd almighty, it's been wearing on me lately. It's just brutal to watch.

When Bengie is making enough contact that his bloopers are falling in and his OBP isn't a disaster, like last season, then no problem. When the evil god of BABIP comes back to open up a can of karmic whoop-ass, though, he's a brutal, outmaking machine. The problem with those 20 home runs lies in what they may mean for the future. Let's see...career high in home runs, he's a free agent at season's end, and the Giants are stubbornly loyal to their veteran players? Uh oh.

If I had to make three quick and silly predictions for moves the Giants make to improve their offense this winter, here is what they would be (Note: "improve" meaning in the minds of the Giants' brain trust):

1) They'll overpay Chone Figgins and stick him at second base or left field or something and it'll be a huge disaster. Figgins is a good player and he'd add some much-needed patience to this lineup, but he's exactly the kind of guy the Giants would seem likely to hand a five-year deal to and not bat an eyelash. He's 31 and "proven", which makes him a valuable commodity to the Giants but really means he's going to hit his decline phase sooner rather than later. Not that they learned their lesson from Aaron Rowand or Edgar Renteria or anything.

2) They'll be seduced by Juan Uribe's career year, give him a 3-year deal, and it'll be a huge disaster. I love what Uribe's done this year. I'd be an idiot otherwise. I take back all the horrible things I've said about him, because his bat has been a godsend to a lineup in need of any kind of competence. Still, he's not this good. He's a had a monster second half that's really out of line with anything he's ever done, and I can't believe- not for a second -that he has this in him for a full season.

I'd love him back on a one-year deal, but the Giants, again, are the kind of franchise that has proven in the past to overreact to one hot stretch and overpay a guy based on that stretch. See: Winn, Randy.

3) They'll give Bengie Molina another couple of years, thinking Buster Posey isn't ready, and it'll be a huge disaster. Okay, maybe they aren't crazy enough to do this, but you just never know. The Bengie love is really out of control in Giants-land, and a franchise that ignores OBP and focuses on grittiness and magic catching juju like this one seems bound to make irrational decisions that defy explanation. See: Matheny, Mike.

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