Twelve games under .500 for the first time since the end of a 72-90 2008 season, the defending World Series champion Giants who visited President Obama at the White House on July 29 really had no business being there—because this "team" isn't defending anything except the NL West basement door.
I'm not a knee-jerk reactionary fan, the kind who shows up at AT&T in full Panda gear screaming my lungs out in the midst of an 8-2 homestand—only to denounce the manager, general manager, players, etc. the moment the Giants drop three straight. I am practical and realistic, and as someone who's watched all except 35 or so innings of 2013 Giants baseball, I—while not claiming to be an expert—feel fully qualified to express the following opinion:
As capable as this team is and as much as its 46-58 record should be inversed, they're not going back to the playoffs this year unless the BioGenesis scandal takes out all their division rival's top stars. If I'm wrong, I'll be the first to eat my words and accept any and all vitriol...but I don't think I am.
With the exception of Madison Bumgarner and a few relievers, consistency on this roster is sparse—if at all existent. Some men have attractive numbers that suggest a lack of culpability in San Francisco's struggles—but numbers can be deceptive. (See: Hunter Pence's 5-for-5, one-RBI game versus the Reds and pair of subsequent ugly, bases-loaded failures during the next series—just one example.)
Remember all that late-inning magic produced by the Giants early on? Me, neither. Angel Pagan's infamous walk-off home run May 25 seems like a 2012 memory. 2013 has almost been like two different seasons mixed into one—an unappealing concoction of Nutella and Lil' Lisa's Patented Animal Slurry. (Google it, I'm not here to talk about the past.)
It's almost as if this team forgot how to win and has already—I'll stop short of using the "Q" word—accepted their breaks will mostly be bad, forgetting that in sports (as well as life) you make your own breaks.
Obviously (for example) Brandon Belt is not intending to fumble away a win-clinching grounder, or line out with the bases loaded. But just once, just once, instead of shrugging his shoulders, maybe he could get a little heated? Throw a helmet? Slam a bat? Scream? Argue with an ump over a called third strike? (It should be noted that, given his body language, Belt believes he has yet to take a called strike in his major league career...but still.)
After two months of stability, there seem to be four or five Giants roster moves per week—some necessitated by injuries, some by performance, some by a need for a fresh bullpen arm (Madison Bumgarner is the only sure bet to hurl six-plus quality innings every turn these days.)
What's one or two more?
Early in the year San Fran had no problem erasing deficits early and late—there was a streak this season when the Giants erased deficits of three-plus runs in six of nine such situations. They won four of those games.
Since Pagan's unforgettable walk-off, those same Giants have trailed by three or more 23 times—and mounted comebacks in zero of them. Not one. Not even a tie. There is no fight, no focus, no sense of urgency anywhere on this roster. How else do you explain two bases-loaded, zero-out situations in less than a week where the Giants scored exactly no runs?
Most Giants fans can cope with losing—if said Giants are giving every appearance of maximum focus and effort. The type of losing fans are seeing now, however, is debilitating. This includes (but is not limited to) impatience in critical spots, making silly outs on the bases, failing to throw strikes, sending speed-challenged players into predictable outs at home (yes, the usually irreproachable Tim Flannery shoulders some blame.)
For the first time in forever, a few boo birds have emerged at AT&T Park—and not without just cause.
If I see Pence tap another slider to third base in a big spot, or whiff through one a foot outside that everyone in the park knows is coming, a capillary may burst. Since he is a free agent at year's end...why not flip him now? He's given the Giants his everything. No player in the league hustles more. Without his D, Timmy Lincecum doesn't have a no-hitter. Without his leadership, the Giants might not have made that White House trip.
But he's proving himself to be an ill-fit batting fifth (and occasionally cleanup) on what was once a contender. Honestly, I truly have more faith in Andres Torres at this point. I say flip Pence for a minor league starter. There's enough relief depth to trade Javier Lopez for perhaps yet another pitching prospect.
I'd keep Lincecum unless a desperate, injury-affected club (Atlanta?) overpays, which is unlikely. (Brian Sabean doubts his erstwhile ace is going anywhere.) I'd be more inclined to pull the latter move if a Julio Teheran or Kris Medlen were heading westward, but Frank Wren would be banned from Turner Field for life if he made that move with Atlanta already way up in the division.
As of this writing, the deadline is just over an hour away. I'm not expecting a major move, or even necessarily hoping for one. But the Giants either have to go all-in or kickoff a teardown. The status quo just isn't acceptable.