As far as baseball weekends go, the San Francisco Giants and their faithful have had better than the one that unfolded on Aug. 25 and 26.
Not only did their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, pull off one of the more mind-numbing trades in recent memory, but the Gents also dropped their last two contests to the visiting Atlanta Braves. On national television, no less.
Not a good look for San Francisco.
No, definitely not a good look for SF.
The news was not all bad, however.
The home team took the first two of the four-game series behind Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong, hurlers who are considered back-of-the-rotation starters. On most weekends, splitting a four-gamer with one of the best teams in baseball would've been counted as a success and left the club thinking happy thoughts.
Except it was not a normal weekend thanks to this coup de grace (via ESPN).
The Dodgers' trade with the Boston Red Sox became official on Saturday. The swap sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, Nick Punto and $11 million to Chavez Ravine in exchange for James Loney, Allen Webster, Rubby De La Rosa, Jerry Sands and Ivan De Jesus, Jr.
Incidentally, outstanding work by Beantown, just outstanding.
If you can't move the needle in your own pennant race with all that talent, might as well use it to muck one up across the country.
Who would've thought the Sox to be that cellar-dwelling fantasy owner who dumps all his/her talent in a dynasty league for picks in next year's draft, securing pennies on the dollar for top-tier talent while screwing up the competitive balance for the season's most critical stretch?
But I digress...
Adding Gonzalez to a lineup that already features Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier is obvious cause for concern. What's more, the insertion of Beckett into that rickety rotation could be the bigger groin strike.
Say what you want about the Dodgers' sputtering offense, but it's the Los Angeles starting pitching that has the potential to derail this nine-figure train.
Clayton Kershaw is a super freak, but the confidence level drops precipitously once you move past the 2011 National League Cy Young. Chad Billingsley (just placed on the DL), Chris Capuano (starting to fade), Aaron Harang (still Aaron Harang) and Joe Blanton (a poor man's Harang) are all in some state of disrepair. Meanwhile, Ted Lilly is still struggling to get healthy.
You can see the dilemma—just like his non-insular cousin, no man is a rotation, either.
If Beckett can turn back the clock in a new environment and pitch like some semblance of his 2007 self, the Bums would have a formidable two-man front and enough firepower to survive the shaky back end.
If the new right-hander continues his messy slide into obscurity as he did in his Dodger debut? It's more likely that L.A. just spent a skyscraping pile of money to finish second in the West and watch the playoffs from the couch.
Whether it proves to be so in reality, the trade is a game-changer on paper and that makes it a significant shot to absorb for the moment.
On the heels of the Melky Cabrera suspension, it has all the makings of a soul-crusher, that elusive stroke of genius that finally puts los Doyers over the top in the NL West.
Except that's not how it's playing in the Giants' clubhouse.
Bruce Bochy was the first to give verbal yawn in reaction to the impending trade (via the AP's Janie McCauley):
Boch wasn't done there, telling the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea, “They made a blockbuster deal. They’re a better club. At the same time, it’s not something we need to worry about.”
Taking a cue from his manager, Buster Posey echoed the tactfully ho-hum sentiment by telling ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball crew that the trade was exciting and "good for West Coast baseball."
No panic, no the-sky-is-falling calls for an immediate answer, no woe-is-me appeal for sympathy in the face of Evil Empire-deep pockets.
Just a confident compliment before going about the daily routine.
To a degree, the stoic front was predictable.
What is the manager of a big-league club and its best player going to do? Break into tears and wring their hands while conducting a search for their blankies? No, probably not. Even if such were their natural impulses.
But there is reason to believe the lack of angst was and is sincere. More than one, actually.
Does Dodgers' latest trade make them the favorites in the NL West?
There is the aforementioned frailty of the Dodgers' starting rotation and the fact that Beckett is not the relatively sure thing that Gonzalez is.
Adrian will hit, that we all know, but how a 32-year-old fallen idol will fare on the mound is open to considerable debate.
Sure, Beckett is trading the AL East for the NL West and that means goodbye to the Rogers Centre, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and the designated hitter. Instead, Josh gets to say hello to Dodger Stadium, AT&T Park, PETCO Park and pitchers who must swing a bat.
Each element should ease his transition and make life easier.
Of course, the Red Sox should have made the playoffs last year, and the St. Louis Cardinals had no business winning the 2011 World Series.
There is many a slip twixt what should happen and what does happen in Major League Baseball. Logic often loses out to Lady Luck and the baseball gods.
The Giants have a few things on their side, too.
They know what they have in their ballclub. They aren't trying to assimilate talented-but-foreign parts on the fly. The roles have been defined, they're playing good baseball and they've got continuity in their favor.
Continuity along with plenty of excellent ballplayers.
Angel Pagan is hot. Buster Posey has been hot since the All-Star break. Brandon Belt is having a nice month of August. Marco Scutaro has been a revelation. Pablo Sandoval is rounding (thank you) into shape. Role players are making key contributions and Hunter Pence is showing signs of life.
They've still got two of the best pitchers in baseball in Bumgarner and Matt Cain, plus a third with two Cy Youngs. Timmy's been better in the second half, Vogelsong pitched well against the Bravos after a jagged stretch and even Zito's had his moments.
Plus there's a silver lining to the blockbuster—the Giants no longer have the target on their collective back despite being in first place.
When you add talent worth a quarter of a billion dollars, you also add the burden of expectation and that means the bull's eye is firmly rooted on the Dodgers.
They've made no secret about their intentions to win now and they've got no excuses. Not with Gonzalez, Beckett and Punto added to a roster of deadline acquisitions that already included Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Brandon League, Joe Blanton and Randy Choate.
And you know what that means: The Dodgers should win the NL West...