Urban: No bite in Giants' bark

August 13, 2011, 3:29 am
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Aug. 12, 2011


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Mychael Urban

You see it all the time in sports. A team loses a superstar, and the healthy remainders collectively raise their level of play for the short-term, responding to the challenge of the perception that they can't quite get it done without the alpha dog.That's essentially what happened when the Giants lost not one, but two of their alpha dogs.OK, nice guys that they are, it's probably not quite fitting to call Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez "alpha dogs." They're more golden retriever. Sweet disposition, all-around solid in every way. But they were absolutely crucial to the Giants' success, just as the more prototypical alpha dogs -- think Michael Jordan -- were to their respective teams. Posey and Sanchez as Jordan? It's not as crazy as you might think. Don't let the sport or the glitz or the Gatorade commercials fool you.
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When Jordan would go down with, say, a sprained ankle, the Bulls generally raised their level of play for a short time. They responded to that challenge. But if Jordan missed, say, five or eight or 10 games, eventually the team came back to earth as the reality of the situation set in.Holy crap. He's not coming back anytime soon, is he?That's what you're seeing with the Giants these days.When Posey and then Sanchez went down, the Giants played inspired baseball, insistent on showing the world that they'd be fine without their two most pure hitters. And just when the reality set in, as mentioned above, there came a psychological boost in the form of the Carlos Beltran trade. Beltran was the bridge. The new alpha dog.But as we've all seen, the alpha dog didn't exactly come in barking or biting. And now, in the worst possible development for the team's overall psyche, Beltran's wrist is now barking, and if you aren't thinking disabled list at this point, congrats for being the biggest optimist in the world. It's a mental game now. The Giants are without Posey, Sanchez and Beltran, and there's no more alpha dogs in the kennel.And that's what makes this road trip, which started Friday with an unbelievably uninspiring outing and another loss to a previously struggling club, so crucial.Are the Giants going to lay down like dogs, or will they come out flashing fangs?