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Orange Friday, August 23, 2013

August 24, 2013

It is official.  The Giants will not play October baseball this year.  Of course, we’ve seen this coming for a long time, but some of us have held out hope against hope that a late-season rally was in the making.  The Giants are now twenty games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West Division and nobody’s fooling anyone about an impending miracle.

If anyone’s imagination was still running wild, the current home stand has settled that notion.  We’ve become accustomed to a pitching staff that can carry the team, however this has not been the case for most of this season.  Barry Zito was torched by the Boston Red Sox Wednesday in his first start since he struggled in Philadelphia in late July.  Some speculated that now at the end of a seven-year contract, this would be his last start with the Giants.  However, that was all changed Thursday, when we lost Matt Cain to the disabled list.  Although he somehow managed to walk off the mound without a broken arm when he was hit by a line drive from Gaby Sanchez,  he will nonetheless be out with a painful injury for at least the next two weeks.  With one less starter available, Zito will take the ball next Tuesday in Denver.

The Giants are 1-4 in the first five games of the home stand and were outscored 34-10.  The Red Sox dominanted in their 2-1 win of their three-game series at the beginning of the week and now the Pittsburgh Pirates have taken the first two of the four games series that concludes this weekend.  Last night was Orange Friday.  The Pirates’ won 3-1 behind Charley Morton’s excellent pitching.  Madison Bumgarner also pitched very well and was holding things in check until the seventh inning, when he gave up a thCA5EWI0Bcouple singles.  And then after a sacrifice bunt moved both the runners over, light-hitting Clint Barmes dug a low and inside pitch out for a home run to left.  Given the hitting woes, this was all that was necessary.  The Giants’ 2013 Orange Friday record is now 6-7.

We’re not used to seeing the Giants lose series after series, especially at home.  But what’s really different is how it feels out at the yard these days.  The stands are not as full as they once were, but this could be expected.  The 2010 team and the success that they had, along with a ballpark that is easily accessible in a thriving San Francisco neighborhood, made a trip to Third and King Streets “one of the things to do.”  Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent and the very good team of 2002 built the place, but the City’s South of Market upsurge, aided by the front office’s very clever marketing, has brought in all sorts of people.   Many of these new revenue sources do not notice a cut-off man’s location or to see the five steps Hunter Pence took to his left when Ryan Howard comes to bat or to his right when Yusiel Puig is in the box.  They haven’t yet thought about Tim Flannery’s decisions in his third base coach’s box or wondered if a runner at second was trying to figure out Buster Posey’s signs to the pitcher.  The 2010-2012 teams created a remarkable passion for the Giants.  Irrespective of the many nuances of this beautiful game, the ballpark has been a magic place for everyone the past few years.  Everyone loves a winner.

So the fact that fewer fans are in the stands at the end of the game lately, when the Giants have been trailing, is of course no surprise.  The ranks of the faithful always decline in times like this.  So what.  No, what seems different now is the way that the good teams that come into the house are viewed. There is a sense that another rough game is at hand.  Before, it did not matter who was on the schedule.  There was supreme confidence all around that the Giants would win.  Now, there is a feeling that the Giants not only will not win, but that they cannot win.  The Red Sox?  Look up and down their lineup – how are we going to get those guys out?  The Pittsburgh Pirates?  This is their season – what a team chemistry, what a story their 2013 season has been.  Even the mighty St. Louis Cardinals are having trouble with them this year.

And how the mighty have fallen.  Last year at this time, the Giants were 71-55, three games ahead of the Dodgers.  This year, the team’s record is almost an exact inverse 56-72, a .438 record.  With only thirty-four games to go, the Giants will join the 1991 Cincinnati Reds as one of the defending World Champion teams who have slipped the furthest in the following year.

riverfront

Riverfront Stadium, where the Reds played from 1970-2000. Thankfully, it was replaced by a baseball park with real grass and designed to give fans a better chance to enjoy the game.

In 1990, Lou Pinella managed the team to a 91-71 record and ultimately to a 4-0 sweep of the Oakland A’s in the World Series.  The year before, the Reds season was marred by baseball’s battle with Pinella’s predecessor, Pete Rose.  Twenty-four years ago today, Rose was banished from the game that he loved for his gambling habit.  Horses and casinos could not satisfy his vice, he also gambled on baseball, including games that he was managing.  Rose holds the record for the number of hits in a career (4,256).  He was a perennial all-star, who won many awards.  He was not only one of the best players of his time, but of all-time.  Tragically, he also lead his life in a reckless and garish way.  And now he pays for it by wearing the scarlet letter to this day.  He has been exiled from MLB forever.

“The banishment for life of Pete Rose from baseball is a sad end of a sorry episode.  One of the game’s greatest players has engaged in a variety of acts which have stained the game, and he must now live with the consequences of those acts.  There is absolutely no deal for reinstatement.”

– A. Bartlett Giamatti, 1989 baseball commissioner

The Reds put this spectacle behind them with the 1990 season, but one year later they fell like a rock.  Even with many of the players on the team returning from 1990, the Reds’ 1991 record (74-88) almost matched the 1989 outcome (75-87).  Just to show how quickly these things can change, this same season, the Atlanta Braves went from worst to first.  They were in dead last in 1990 with a record of 63-97 and in 1991 went on to the World Series, where they ended up on the short-end of a seven game series to the Minnesota Twins, 4-3.  This was the start of a very long run of good Atlanta Braves teams.  Tom Glavine received the Cy Young award that year and again in 1998.  His teammates, Greg Maddux (1993-1995) and John Smoltz (1996) picked it up five times in between.  The NL MVP went to Terry Pendleton and Chipper Jones in 1991 and 1999 and the team won another thirteen division titles in a row after 1991.

In the dog days of this 2013 season, the Braves, Reds, Pirates, Cardinals and Dodgers are leading the pack.  The Giants, with many of the same players from the 2012 roster still here, are looking up from the cellar.  A spoiler is the only role that they will have from here on out.

From → Baseball

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