The Giants are not going to the World Series.
Maybe not even making the playoffs.
I could be wrong. I hope I'm wrong. I often am, so hope still springs.
But evidence grows. The look is off.
Even in the San Francisco Giants' comeback win last night against the Chicago Cubs, the hottest team in baseball (yes, the Cubs! The Chicago team!), the Giants had that look.
Rookie third baseman Matt Duffy crashed into veteran first baseman Brandon Belt as Belt snagged a popup at the pitcher's mound in the fourth inning, and Belt just glared at Duffy, looking tired of it all.
In winning times, Belt would have slapped gloves with Duffy, shrugged it off, smiled and hustled back into position with a snap throw around the horn.
Duffy may not play today or for awhile. The safe bet for Rookie of the Year went on the disabled list with a sprained ankle, which happened as he evaded a pickoff throw at first.
He joins a crowd of stars who can't play.
Rightfielder and team spirit leader Hunter Pence is out for who knows how long … dependable second baseman Joe Panik, gone with a bad back (never good news for a pro athlete) … veteran centerfielder Angel Pagan, on whom mortality is slowly gaining … acrobatic shortstop Brandon Crawford, out because of the same muscle strain Pence is suffering … relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, who twice now has torn knee ligaments while playing with his children (and in the past hurt himself going down dugout stairs, and stabbed his hand with a steak knife at home).
Outfielder Gregor Blanco, playing more and more as outfielders go down, and having done something to turn himself into a consistent hitter, has been taking himself out of a few games lately, last night with a sore hip.
Who knows when and if the baseball world will see starter Tim Lincecum again. Maybe not in a Giants uniform, if he does resurface. He's been gone so long, I forget what for. Bad hips, I think; his pitching motion, designed to wring optimum power from his slight body, hurts just to look at it.
(I looked it up: Forearm contusion, from when he was hit with a line drive a couple of months back. That must be some bad bruise.)
Starting veteran pitcher Tim Hudson is hurt. Hulking humble Matt Cain, owner of a perfect game, left something on the operating table last year and is not the pitcher he used to be.
Rookie pitcher Chris Heston, who threw a no-hitter this year, is down at Triple-A Sacramento, resting, I guess, until Major League teams can increase their rosters to 40 players in September.
More players are not going to help. The players themselves will be helped by getting a chance to compete at the Major League level, but the Giants have lost too many key players to make a run for the post-season.
Like I said, I hope I'm wrong. Wouldn't that be something to be wrong about this?
The Cubs looked like the Giants of last year, when San Francisco won its third World Series in five years. A team can't do that without lucky breaks and opponents' timely failures. Talent is huge, but not enough:
Cubs leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber began last night's game with a popup that didn't even get to the pitcher's mound. Catcher Buster Posey crashed into starting pitcher Jake Peavy, the ball dropped to the grass and Schwarber scrambled for second, turning the routine out into a double.
That's the kind of break a playoff-bound team needs. The Giants had it last year, and two years before, and two years before that. The morning hosts on Giants' flagship station KNBR call these "particles," the Giants broadcasters "the Magic Wandoo."
I didn't expect the Giants to go to the playoffs this year. It's greedy to think so. I wish their struggle didn't come through injuries, but I figured they'd put up a good fight and fall short.
The cynic in me (which is most of me) wondered why the Giants made any trades at all this year. The organization fills the stadium every night, and will probably do so for a season or two even if the Giants become awful again. It has a beautiful stadium in a destination city. It doesn't need to spend its considerable money.
I figured the Giants would make a run with its home-grown roster of young players.
But the team got starting pitcher Mike Leake from the Cincinnati Reds. He promptly hurt himself and missed two starts.
After a while, the Giants had to trade just to survive, acquiring outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Reds.
The lineup today will be minor league callups and bench players and fish-out-of-water fielders. I'll need a scorecard to figure out who's who.
The team will go down swinging, but it will go down.
I hope I'm wrong.
Well, time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but boring stories of …
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