At this writing, the defending world champion San Francisco Giants—as in, the twice-in-three-years-defending champs—are in a dogfight with the Colorado Rockies for the National League West’s sewer. Adding insult to further insult, the Giants were eliminated mathematically from postseason contention on 11 September. And the Giants’ ignominious collapse from the top of the heap to the bottom of the sea has been what the conspiracy theorists seem to wish the original 9/11 atrocity was, an inside job.
Perhaps it’s wise to accept at last that the winter meetings, freshly concluded in Nashville, are not always going to produce blockbusters. Since this year’s meetings didn’t, unless you want to count Dan Haren landing with the Washington Nationals, there’s a consensus brewing among the hot stove toppers that they were “boring” or “eventless.” Well, as the man used to say on old-time radio, oh, now, I wouldn’t say that . . .
LEGS UP . . .
“We could not find our game in the World Series,” Miguel Cabrera mourned, while the San Francisco Giants partied heartily in Comerica Park’s visiting clubhouse. Actually, the Detroit Tigers found their game in Game Four, when they needed it most. The problem was finding it against these San Francisco Giants, who were so accustomed to playing with elimination a game away they didn’t know how to get comfortable on the threshold of a sweep.
Now, this is a novel position for the San Francisco Giants to assume. They’re not used to being up two games to none in a postseason set this year. This could be the start of something . . . weird?
The way they got into this position was probably weird enough even by the standards of a Giants team that’s spent at least half this postseason benefitting from the transdimensional. Can you remember any team winning a World Series game with nothing but a double play and a sacrifice fly to score the only two runs they proved necessary?
Two teams who’ve made a fine art of shoving back with their backs against the proverbial wall returned to San Francisco to square off in Game Six of the National League Championship Series Sunday night. This time, it was the San Francisco Giants with their backs to that wall—again—and a pitcher who’d gone from prospect to reclamation project making certain enough that the St. Louis Cardinals joined them in the same position for a seventh game.
Alex Rodriguez in his post-American League Championship Series sweep grief vowed to come back like it was 2007. Barry Zito, starting Game Five of the National League Championship Series with his San Francisco Giants a game away from winter vacation, came out to the Busch Stadium mound in St. Louis Friday night and pitched like it was 2002 and he was nailing his Cy Young Award.
Presumably, the world can breathe a little easier now that the first post-Slide confrontation between Matt Holliday and the San Francisco Giants has ended without on-field amputations, at-the-plate decapitations, or other actual or reputed disembowelings. None involving Holliday, anyway.
The nearest thing to a legitimate atrocity in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 3-1 Game Three win was the one committed by Carlos Beltran’s unexpected substitute, in the third inning, in his first time at bat after stepping in for the wounded slugger. The Giants could and did beat Chris Carpenter on the mound earlier in this National League Championship Series, but they could not and did not beat Matt Carpenter stepping into the Cardinals’ unexpected right field breach and hitting a go-ahead two-run homer whose advantage survived an eventual 3.5 hour rain delay.
This is going to be a very large and hard pill for Dusty Baker to swallow. It’s bad enough that he couldn’t find a way for his Cincinnati Reds to push the San Francisco Giants down, back, and out of the postseason in this fifth division series game. But he’s entering the history book on the dime of the franchise he once pulled to within five outs of a World Series title a decade ago.
Did I say it was going to hover well and large over the Cincinnati Reds, when Brandon Phillips ran them out of what should have been a bigger first inning Tuesday, and Scott Rolen got so eager trying to field a short hop he chested the San Francisco Giants into a tenth-inning, life-saving Game Three win?
If I didn’t quite say that, Game Four may compel its saying just yet, with Pablo Sandoval tacking on the exclamation point with his mammoth two-run bomb in the top of the eighth, and Tim Lincecum merely signing off on what may yet prove these Reds’ death sentence.
As has been pointed out several times already, sometimes cruelly, it isn’t as though the San Francisco Giants have been strangers to the tentacles of actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances even if you don’t mention the name of Bonds. Or even Jose Guillen. And with Melky Cabrera suspended, at a time when he was the Giants’ no questions asked best option in left field, we’re going to see what this year’s Giants are made of.