Tuesday, July 1, 2014

It rhymes with June

It's my fault. I caused this.

Just three weeks ago, I may have said aloud — all right, I did say it, but in a muttering, hope-no-one-hears-me kind of way — that the San Francisco Giants were getting kind of … boring. They were winning every game so handily, nary a fight from opponents, that they were starting to lose their entertainment value.

I might have snorted audibly (no one was in the car with me) when the guy on the call-in radio show after a game said the Giants were good but still needed a better-hitting second baseman and more power hitting off the bench, and ought to make a deal RIGHT NOW!

What the heck for? I said to myself post-snort.

Three weeks ago — June 8 — the Giants sat high atop the National League West Division, 9 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers. The radio snigger was that Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly was at risk of losing his job (a Yankee turned Dodger, so doubly black-hearted and hated), and that LA was in disarray, a bunch of individuals impersonating a team.

Then in San Francisco, something broke.
Like a cyanide capsule in clenched teeth.

The same team suddenly produced different results. Different saddening, maddening, aggravatingly familiar results. In three weeks, the Giants of 2014 became the mediocre Giants of 2013 — with a couple of dodgy new plug-ins.

Giants starters kept on pitching well — the dodgiest of them all, Tim Lincecum, even pitched a no-hitter, his second, joining the great Sandy Koufax as the only pitchers in Major League history to have at least two World Series rings, two Cy Young awards and two no-hitters.

Lincecum's no-hitter, though, was the only Giants win in the last seven games, one of only 10 wins amid 16 losses for June.

They had gone 19 wins and just nine losses in May. Was it something I said?

The starting pitching was good then and now, but the hitting and fielding and relief pitching has gone all déjà vu on us.

Now all the promotional commercials, of winning moments and ridiculous home runs and key strikeouts, feel like raw taunts from bygone times.

The Giants finished June in a tie for first with the … Dodgers. At least they're still in first — in the same way that a stone floats on water the nanosecond after you drop it from your hand.

Three weeks ago, I didn't think I'd have to trot out this illustration, which I had thrown high in the garage rafters, atop the box of Santa's Village figurines we never use. Not this early, anyway.

But here we go again.

June Swoon is sort of a tradition with the Giants — I don't know about other teams. The team had an almost identical record last June, but it was hobbling by then and never quite recovered. Something about that month turns momentum into so much steam and sunflower seed shells, and sometimes seals the team's fate.

Optimists are pointing to the fact that the Giants "banked" a bunch of wins before June swooning this year, so they're in better shape.

We'll see.

The second half of the season begins today, Giants hosting the Cardinals. Tough team. Nothing's easy. Maybe center fielder Angel Pagan will be back after hurting is back. Maybe first baseman Brandon Belt will be back sooner than expected after breaking his thumb. Maybe the team will remember how they did it in May.

If it gets any worse, though, I may have to start watching World Cup.


I can't say the Giants are boring anymore. Even if I could, I wouldn't.

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