Tuesday, July 30, 2013

¡Adiós pelota!

The Giants are dead. Long live the Giants.

Yeah, I don't know what that means either. Maybe an Elizabethan form of "Wait 'til next year!"

With the Giants these days, I don't know what anything means.

Except that they're dead. Of that I'm certain. I'll call time of death 9:43 a.m., July 30, 2013, in Philadelphia, city of brotherly love.

They died long before, of course. I'm just being charitable. What fans see now are the undead, going through the motions, pantomiming hitting the ball and fielding grounders and running bases with regard for rules.

The wake will commence tonight and continue through Sept. 29, the last game in the regular season. Undead but twitching, the Giants will put on as good a show as they can muster until that time.

They are a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a wasted scoring opportunity.

Most mysterious is how the 2012 World Series winners (the very same team, save for some parts and pieces) could be so horrible this year.

It's greedy of us fans to want three World Series titles in four years. But it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect the Giants to rattle contenders, to hum along in second or third place, raising hopes of a dynasty.

No chance of that. After many many days of Manager Bruce Bochy telling reporters "These guys are really trying hard," and sports commentators saying, "Maybe now they've reached rock bottom," the Giants have in fact reached rock bottom. They've become the lowly Chicago Cubs.

Worse, they are lower than the lowly Cubs, who swept the Giants in San Francisco over the weekend.

This time it wasn't the pitching. Matt Cain (the workhorse!) threw 115 pitches deep into the game Friday, good enough for the win. Then a ball skipped through the usually sure-handed first baseman Brandon Belt in the ninth. The Cubs won 3-2.

Madison Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings Saturday! Cubs still won 1-0, on a ninth-inning homer by former Giants Nate Schierholtz.

Tim Lincecum struck out 10 Sunday, 30th 10-strikeout game in his career! And got the Giants' best hit! Cubs won, of course, 2-1. Was it this year Lincecum threw a no-hitter? Good God.

But pitching had faltered before. Also, players got injured; center fielder Angel Pagan is gone for the season, having hurt himself May 25 in the Giants' last truly great moment this year, scrambling for a game-winning inside-the-park home run.

Then hitting failed, then once-solid fielding. Then all these together, for game after harrowing game.

Twice in the last three days, Giants loaded the bases with no outs — and couldn't score. Saturday, after loading the bases with no out in the eighth and failing to score, the Giants loaded the bases again in the ninth with one out — and Tony Abreu grounded into a game-ending home-to-first double play.

None of the Giants' hitters, including the powerful Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence, could hit the ball out of infield. Most Valuable Player Posey hasn't hit in the last six games.

Hunter Pence, trying hardest of all — accounts are widespread of his prodigious pre- and post-game workouts, his paleo diet, his quirky intensity — still has popped up on the first pitch to blow one scoring opportunity against a tired pitcher, then swung at three pitches in the next county to blow another opportunity.

Like commentator and former Giants second baseman Duane Kuiper said, the right guys were up at the right time all weekend and couldn't get anything done.

What's going on? Even the players don't know. More in sorrow than in anger, everyone has a theory.

A San Francisco Examiner writer calls it the curse of The Dawg, when a longtime Giants fan, so nicknamed, was told he could no longer roost along the outfield fence after he interfered with a fly ball that an Atlanta Braves fielder might have caught.

Feelings hurt, The Dawg left and didn't come back and the Giants fell out of first place.

Well, The Dawg finally returned to AT&T Park over the weekend, but he did the Giants no good.

Within the spectrum of possibilities, I'll even accept that the Giants are throwing games for some reason, or that nefarious forces are threatening their families if they win. My guess is as good as yours.

My guess is that if the Giants can somehow play for love of the game, rather than for countless unrealistic expectations, they'll improve. 

Of course, fans are angry. Talk shows tingle with recriminations and simultaneous demands and denunciations of trades. The trade deadline is today; we'll see. I hate baseball as business.

To the old saws of firing Bochy and General Manager Brian Sabean, fans have added calls for bringing in the fences at the Giants' ballpark, because so many of the Giants' long fly balls would have been home runs in just about any other ballpark.

Maintenance crews could have pulled the fences in front of second base and still not helped the Giants this weekend.

The only good news in all this: Such a shockingly impotent performance only elevates the brilliant pitching, hitting and lattice of lucky breaks that enabled the Giants to win the National League in two do-or-die series last year, then sweep the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

How rare and precious such feats!

As long as fans continue to clad themselves in the gear of their heroes and put their butts in seats, even this malaise is profitable, entertainment so bad it's good.

Thousands of other fans commiserate, some faring better than others. Multiply that by the thousands of fans of at least 20 other miserable teams, and a strange kind of comfort blankets the continent.

While the Giants floundered Sunday, my mother-in-law asked if was praying for them. God has better things to do, I said.

Besides, I understand zombies are popular these days.

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