There is an excellent chance that late Tuesday night, the San Francisco Giants will find themselves a full 30 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On July 18. With 68 games and 75 days, or more than 40 percent, of the baseball season left to play. Thirty games behind. The magic number will be 38, and the Giants’ chances of catching the Dodgers can be reduced to absolute zero on August 27.
It would dovetail with their grudging admission Monday night that they are no longer selling out baseball games routinely, as their announced crowd of tickets sold totaled 39,538, or 2,377 below listed capacity. True, they have entertained far more empty seats than that, but the “tickets sold/resold” dodge has covered a lot of underpopulated nights on L’anse du McCovey.
In other words, this is just one more number to remind you of what you already know, to go along with the run-differential disaster (-108, on a pace for -184) and the magic number, and the games-behind barrel-roll.
But the “minus-30” is interesting, not because it is unusual at season’s end but unusual so early in the season that it projects to finishing 50 games back at season’s end. This, then, is a new measurement of their futility, braided as it is with the equally galling truth that the Los Angeles Dodgers are the team burying them so comprehensively in the table. After all, stinking the joint out only works if someone else is tearing it up, and the Dodgers are eating the entire National League field.
This is, then, the worst of worst-case scenarios, the mathematical culminations of the Giants franchise’s worst season in 115 years. And “30 games back” is one of those mythical standards that just explains the obvious in one more way.
And “30 games back in the middle of July” stands out even if your favorite team is used to finishing that far behind. Say, like Phillies fans or Braves fans or Twins fans or A’s fans. Since the original expansion in 1961, 13 teams have been this far back this quickly, with the record being the 1998 Tampa Bays who hit 30 on June 10 en route to finishing 51 games behind the Yankees.
The Giants are on a pace to do that this year, but it would require the Dodgers winning at least 110, and besides, the reality is bad enough that we needn’t do the “on a pace to” dance.
The Giants have only finished 30 games back 10 times in their 135 years of existence. Only the New York Yankees (five) have been so distant from the sun fewer times. And to be more contemporary about it, the Giants have only finished 30 out two other times as a San Francisco entity.
In short, this is rare ground for this franchise, and the “official” end of the sellout streak means that the citizens are not only on to them but perfectly willing to walk rather than endure the difficult days in good cheer and constant presence.
This could be the team, then, that wins the title of “Worst San Francisco Giants Team Ever,” beating the 1985 juggernaut that led to the hiring of Al Rosen and Roger Craig and the beginning of the renaissance that eventually got them to Third Street (for the new park) and then to Market Street (for the three parades).
This could indeed be the team that wins the title of “Worst Giants Team Ever, Ever.” That would be the 1902 team, which gimped in at 48-88, 53½ games behind Pittsburgh, and scored fewer than three runs a game.
But why bother with the olden days at all? These Giants and their fans have finally perceived that they themselves are the abyss into which they have fallen. Management has seen the end of the road, and what it intends to do about it will become the central theme for this season and the two, minimum, to come.
That’s what happens when you’re flirting with being 30 games out on July 18, when the team you’ve lost those 30 games to is your archest of rivals, and when even unsold tickets aren’t interested in giving themselves to the cause.