Giants lineup comes up short against archrivals


Giants lineup comes up short against archrivals

SAN FRANCISCO This is how Giants manager Bruce Bochyassessed the state of the NL West:

This is going to be a tight race, he said. In lateSeptember, well know whos going to win this division.

Or early October. The Giants end the regular season withthree games at Dodger Stadium Oct. 1-3.

Bochys other assessment after the Dodgers pulled within agame after sideswiping his club in a 10-0 victory Saturday:

Right now, were not doing a lot right.

No fact checking required there. The Dodgers have a healthyMatt Kemp and an apparently motivated Hanley Ramirez, which is a chillingcombination. Meanwhile, the Giants have struggled to lengthen their lineup allseason. And now that Pablo Sandoval is out of the picture for two weeks, theylook as short as the Lollipop Guild.

Entering Saturdays game, the Giants ranked 27th in the majors with a .637 OPS from their No.7 hitters. Their No.8 hitters had a .561 OPS, which ranked 29th. And as much as we believe in Matt Cains power potential, it isnt often that the pitchers spot will turn over a lineup.

Add their problems with run production a .188 average withtwo outs and runners in scoring position, just seven home runs from their firstbasemen, an icy second half from Angel Pagan in the Nos. 5-6 spots and thelineup appears several noisemakers short of a party as the pennant stretchapproaches.

And yet, the Giants were 9-3 before losing two to theirarchrivals. And Fridays loss came in extra innings. So the burn always feelsthe worst immediately after a spanking.

Weve seen the Giants manhandle an undermanned Dodgers rosterhere in June in historic fashion while throwing three shutouts. Now weve seenthe Dodgers return the favor, with Kemp and Ramirez living the lo viste loca.

So wheres the truth? Somewhere in the middle? Where dothese teams stack up, when both are healthy? How do you begin to handicap thesefinal nine games?

RATTO: The Giants-Dodgers pennant race is really on now

I think were pretty evenly matched when were all at fullcylinders, said Barry Zito, who mostly pitched well despite allowing fourearned runs in 5 13 innings. Were just excited for this to come down to thewire here. Thats what its all about.

I feel like we have to step it up because we have to stepit up. Its not because the Dodgers did anything. We know we can play betterthan we did the last couple days. We want to get healthy and have everybodyplay up to their potential.

If the Dodgers can pull off a sweep behind Clayton Kershawon Sunday, the division will be a dead heat. And there will be nine moremeetings between these two rivals.

Including three in October.

Right now were not swinging well, Bochy said. Weve gotguys who have been trying to find their swing. Its important we come out of itbecause weve got a lot of baseball left.

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.