Return of the Melkman: Cabrera & Blue Jays visit AT&T
Melky Cabrera served the Giants well before he was found to be a pharmaceutical playground. (AP)
Programming note: Giants-Blue Jays coverage begins tonight at 6:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
The Giants welcome Melky Cabrera back to the scene of his greatest triumphs this evening, and of course the great percentage of the debate has centered around how he will be treated by the fan base that felt so scorned and humiliated by his suspension.
This question is raised so that we don’t have to endure another round of “Why Can’t Johnny Pitch?” and for that we are grateful.
But Cabrera served the side well before he was found to be a pharmaceutical playground, and since we have not yet heard any groundswell for returning either the wins he helped provide or the money those wins generated, we’re going to assume that there is a limit to everyone’s outrage.
Besides, the Giants have their own current issues, foremost among them being how they became such a wretched road team. Having just completed a third of their season in the grays, they are on pace to finish a hideous 30-51 away from home, which would be their worst such performance in 21 seasons.
In other words, tying it back to Cabrera, their last pre-Bonds season.
Of course, poor performances by their rotation would account for a fair amount of that, since they play their home games in a profound pitchers’ park, where errors of omission, commission, location and velocity can be hidden; they do, after all, have the third-best home record in the National League, and the sixth-best overall. Even their starting pitchers look relatively good there – 11-4, 3.88, 1.24 WHIP.
Well, we said relatively. If you want their road splits, you get 6-12, 6.20, 1.49.
And we didn’t think you would want those.
But the notion of the Dynastic Giants runs aground on such minor notions, because it is one of the oddest crypto-dynasties in baseball history. No other team has managed to win two World Series in three seasons while missing the postseason entirely in the year before the first one, the year between the two and the year after the second.
The Giants as of this morning are less a dynasty than an intriguing form of whack-a-mole. And we say “as of this morning” because there are still two-thirds of a season, give or take a couple, still to navigate, including the trade deadline/pull-one-out-of-your-ear season for Brian Sabean.
The Giants, in short, are two games out of a playoff spot with only 105 games left to play. But for the moment, they are standing on the rickety platform of being a dead average hitting team with high double plays and low strikeouts, a dramatically below average defensive team almost across the board, and a pitching staff that looks from a distance like a bullpen with starters attached to it. They can’t even bully the less fortunate: With Toronto and its 24-33 record in town for a quickie (two games and out), the Giants are currently 14-13 against teams with losing records, with a nine-game road trip looming against Arizona, Pittsburgh and Atlanta.
By contrast, Oakland is 24-5, in a league with fewer truly awful teams, and even if you de-Astro-fy the record, it is still 15-5. And dynasties – even dynasty-ettes like San Francisco’s – are built in part on bullying one’s inferiors.
In sum, these two days should be regarded by Giants fans not as a chance to boo Melky Cabrera for crimes against the state of baseball that actually benefited the state of Giant; that would be like booing a crooked assemblyman from your district who got all your potholes filled and your school repaired.
Rather, this is a moment to steal a couple of things and run. As the only losing team in this stretch of 22 games, the Blue Jays represent the only really good chance the Giants will have over nearly a month to make the customers feel good about themselves, so the less time spent on booing bygones and complaining about stubborn inadequacies, the better.
Because, in the immortal words of John Cleese, there’ll be plenty of time for that later on.