Programming note: Giants-Mets coverage gets underway tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
The shards of Monday’s 16-inning loss to the New York Metropolitans are still cutting up the feet of Giants fans, because after all, nothing says misery like one loss that lasts two games.
Add to that the 12 losses in 14 games, the distance between the Giants and the National League lead, the distance between the Giants and their own expectations, and the distance between the Giants and watchable baseball, and you get a level of area misery that you have to go a long way to recreate.
Oh, and let’s not forget one other thing. The A’s are now the fashionable team in the Bay Area, simply by being persistently and aggressively unfashionable. Counterintuitive winning is always the best kind, after all.
Anyway, the anger amidst the Giants fan base now dwarfs the angst-o-rama of 2011, the year after the first World Series title. Next to this, 2011 was a happy Fizzies party, and Scott Cousins was a very useful co tributor – and we can prove it with bullet points.
• At this time in 2011, the team was 51-40, and the pitching staff had allowed nearly eight-tenths of a run less per game.
• At this time in 2011, the Giants were still miracle babies who had defied logic by winning a World Series, as opposed to the dynasty-ette it is perceived to be today.
• At this time in 2011, the Giants had an easy target for blame.
Yes, we speak of Cousins, the Miami Marlin who plowed into Buster Posey in late May and essentially discombobulated the Giants for the ensuing four months. He became a villain for making a standard baseball play, and essentially was upgraded to The Reason Why It All Went Bad.
If you can call 86-76 bad.
But there is no Cousins this time, no handly blame magnet for what seems to be happening to the Giants. This time, the blame is wider, and wholly internal. The pitchers, save Madison Bumgarner, have all hit E at once, and especially away from home. The hitters slammed themselves shut about three weeks ago, to the point where they are scoring in the last month what they did for the entirety of 2011. The defense is spotty, the bullpen is iffy, the Cubs and Mets are hot on their trail, and going bad is going good to them.
What is worse for those who like to delegate responsibility, there is no longer the “I know more than Sabean/Bochy” excuse, or the equally popular “The Giants don’t spend money.” Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy are elite baseball people by any standard, and the Giants have increased their payroll by 56 percent in the past five years.
No, the handy excuses are gone, and now the fan base is aiming lower and closer to the dugout itself. Pablo Sandoval is now too much . . . well, too much people. Brandon Belt is now called a non-major league hitter. Tim Lincecum should be a reliever, and Barry Zito is Barry Zito, and . . . no matter how you dress this up, it ends up being nobody’s fault but theirs.
And one of the great things about fandom is the search for injustice. In 2011, Scott Cousins was that injustice. In 2009, it was Bill Neukom and the Giants’ Way. In 2007, it was the end of Barry Bonds and the Giants’ persistent (and false) hatred of youth. In 2005, it was Bonds’ injury.
In 2013, it could be untimely injuries, but it is closer to the current fallow period in the farm system after years of regular dividends. And most of all, it is simple performance issues. Even the “well, at least the division stinks” argument has lost its steam, because this isn’t 2005, and the division winner isn’t going to be 82-80.
In short, the fan base has turned inward, and it is monumentally pissed, in ways it hasn’t been since the move from Candlestick-sur-la-mer.
Of course, it is still July, and even more appealing to the more aggressively delusional, before the All-Star Break. There is time for the Giants to find their essential Giantosity.
There is, however, no current evidence from this calendar year to suggest that such a rediscovery will occur. This may end up being the worst year Third and King has ever seen, because the customers have seen the best the Giants can be and now have come to think of it as the true standard, when in fact that is an unreasonable assumption.
The Giants have averaged 87 wins per year since 2000, and they are currently on a pace to win 73. If you take out their first seven weeks, they are a .340 baseball team. People are right to be mightily torqued by this. But the real reason they are so dismayed is because there is no excuse that works anymore.
And that’s the worst worse of all. Even worse for them than knowing how much behind the A’s are currently kicking, and how much the nation is beginning to adopt them as the new special on the menu. Now that’s some top-quality misery right there.