Heart and Soul
The Giants lost yesterday to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-2. Jonathan Sanchez continued his plunge into mediocrity with a lackadaisical performance of less than five innings, featuring a spate of walks. He issued free passes to four batters in the first four innings, and all of them scored. His control issues now outweigh his opponents’ batting percentage, which will dampen the enthusiasm of the most vociferous of Giants fans.
All along I have maintained that good pitching is the mainstay of the operation, but these past three weeks have presented a mixed bag in this area. Our starting pitching has an ERA over four during this period, and we are scoring runs at a clip well below three per game. That would seem to indicate a basic problem.
Over the course of the season, we have been outscored 420-407. That is very unusual for a first-place team. It would have been even more unusual for that trend to continue. I have written a lot about what it would take to get back into gear, but writing won’t make it happen. Now that Arizona has finally been able to capitalize, the Giants are no longer in control of their own destiny, and they must stop the free fall.
Last year at this time, we were three games more above .500, so we are still pretty much on the same pace; it’s just that last year, we got it together in time to make a go of it. On the other hand, Timmy struggled mightily in August, and we still prevailed. This August Timmy is pitching against teams like the Phillies, and making them pay.
If we were seeing a repeat of last year as far as Timmy struggling, then maybe I would be more inclined to say, “Wait for next year.” Giving up hope now, because the Giants are in a funk, is so opposed to the way things are supposed to work. I’m not even talking about “with hope that springs eternal” because we are not talking about a pipe dream here.
Last year at this time, the Giants were still one of the many teams trying to prove something. This year they no longer have the same thing to prove, but that doesn’t mean that no one will hold them accountable. We are still the best team in our division, even if our recent play would seem to indicate otherwise. If we have something to prove, it is only that the depth of our club is adequate to make up for the injuries.
No one hates to use injuries as an excuse more than I do. Though many maintain that the Giants’ chances to repeat went up in flames when they carted Buster off the playing field, I have never been one to whine about what might have been. The handling of the pitching staff has always been the priority, and I have seen no indication that the catching has had any negative impact on that aspect of our game.
Nonetheless, four Giants remain on the DL, and when you take note of the fact that these days, there are only likely to be three Giants in the lineup, who were there on Opening Day (Huff, Sandoval, Ross) we have to recognize that this is not the same group of guys who were running the show last year.
Juan Uribe made some timely defensive plays, though his range may not have been as extensive as Cabrera’s, but his strength was in his clutch hitting. Pat Burrel came out of nowhere to hit a series of late-inning dingers that left us marveling at his timing. And Aubrey Huff led the team in home runs and RBI’s for the whole season.
Freddy Sanchez handled second base and the second slot in the lineup, and did both consistently once his initial shoulder problems resolved themselves. Finally, Buster Posey represented the heart and soul of the franchise, and accomplished feats that had not been seen since the days of Yogi Berra.
Each step of last year’s victory season seemed carved out of the most improbable performances by our self-named bunch of misfits and castoffs. Where are those characters today? The answer to that question is to treat it the same way we did with Aubrey’ red thong. That was last year; this is a whole new ball game.
It would appear that, if the Giants are to make another go of it, that a few of the mainstays of the organization are going to have to get moving. Otherwise, we are just another one of the pack, with good pitching, and a special trophy on our organizational mantel shelf, and a memory of a parade that rocked our region to its soul.
No one can remove those memories, and only a few guys can recreate them. The time is now, and it’s running out. Fire up the afterburners, or watch the D-backs rattle their way to the play-offs while we go take some fungo practice in the back yard with the kids.