San Francisco Giants: Inexplicable Encore Continues (To Be Ignored) in 2011
OK, so maybe my timing could've been better, what with the San Francisco Giants blowing not one, but two late/extra-inning leads on Thursday—ultimately donating a game they had won to the Chicago Cubs in the process.
But trust me, the Gents really are authoring an incredible 2011 season in the wake of their triumphant run to the 2010 World Series Championship.
The fellas have endured catastrophic injuries to key components, offensive dry spells that make Death Valley look like a water park and inconsistency in the starting rotation yet find themselves perched atop the National League West.
In all objectivity, the fuss over the Sox and Phightins makes perfect sense—Boston started off in a horrendous funk before going nuclear and rumbling all the way to the fore of the American League East (Major League Baseball's toughest). Over in the National League, Philly has baseball's best record while enjoying the services of the Four Aces. That is, until Roy Oswalt hit the disabled list and Cole Hamels took hostile fire off of Adrian Gonzalez' bat.
As for all the hullabaloo over the New York Yankees shortstop being warranted? Eh, not so much.
Yeah, yeah, Jeter's chasing 3,000 hits...So what? I still don't need to know what bases he's running between during his rehab.
Oh well, two out of three ain't bad.
However, lost in all that noise has been the defending champs' first half of baseball (note: I'm not complaining because being overlooked isn't a bad thing, but I'll get to that).
Consider that the Orange and Black is in first place while owning a .561 winning percentage, good for fifth-best in the Show. That right there is a pretty decent story from a team wearing the proverbial crosshairs on its back.
If you peel back the first few layers, though, the angles become even more compelling.
Everyone knows that superstar-in-the-making Buster Posey went down to an ugly cheap shot from Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins—yes, it was totally legal and, yes, it was equally gutless because Cousins went out of his way to annihilate a vulnerable Posey. The catcher broke his leg, destroyed his ankle and has been shelved for the remainder of the year in late May.
Talk about punch in the stomach.
Again though, the loss of its catcher and best hitter has not been the only one suffered by the squad.
Second baseman and top-of-the-lineup bat Freddy Sanchez hasn't seen the diamond since June 10th thanks to a dislocated right shoulder. The Most Interesting Closer in the World, Brian Wilson, missed much of the preseason as well as the first week in April and wasn't really himself until May.
Postseason hero Cody Ross missed most of April and Pablo Sandoval rode the pine for over a month. Andres Torres, Brandon Belt, Mike Fontenot and Mark DeRosa have all served lengthy hitches on the disabled list.
Barry Zito just switched spots with Jonathan Sanchez, returning from the DL as Dirty Dirty landed on it.
It's been nothing short of carnage since the winter freeze gave way to spring thaw.
All of which has contributed to San Francisco's anemic offense (worst in MLB by almost any metric) and whopping run differential of plus-one.
What's more shocking, the starting rotation has given in to the wobbles a bit.
Ace Tim Lincecum is having another unsteady campaign by his Cy Young standards. His stellar overall numbers—3.02 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 122 K, 3.05 K/BB and an opponents' slash line of .225/.299/.335 in 112.1 IP—mask the messier reality exposed by his game log. Sanchez was a bipolar train wreck before coming down with biceps tendinitis and Madison Bumgarner has had his cringe-inducing moments.
Even the old, faithful workhorse, Matt Cain, shuddered a tad out of the gates before submitting sterling efforts in his last three trips to the bump.
Yet the club just keeps winning in the face of all that adversity from the Baseball Gods.
The Giants are 46-36 after rattling off a seven-game win streak that was ended by Chicago on Wednesday.
It's true San Francisco has feasted on their rivals in the weaker NL West (20-11), but the boys haven't simply beaten up on cupcakes. They swept the Cleveland Indians out of first place and managed to be the only blemish on an otherwise perfect nine-game homestand by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Additionally, SF took three of four from the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium and took the season series from the Redbirds by the count of five games to two (all seven were played before STL lost Albert Pujols).
Granted, the Atlanta Braves broke out their brooms at AT&T Park and the Gents haven't seen the Phillies to date. Minor details, nothing more...
Thus far, that's precisely what the San Francisco Giants have been on the national scene: a minor detail.
As I alluded to above, however, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks just demonstrated over in the NBA that intense scrutiny might not force you to lose games, but it sure doesn't seem to help you win them. On the other hand, being overlooked can be just the tonic that keeps the losing doldrums away.
It seemed to work for the San Francisco Giants in 2010.
And it appears to be doing the trick again in 2011.
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