The D-word tempts gods to laugh

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The D-word tempts gods to laugh

I hear the D-word being bandied about again, so it is incumbent upon me to remind you of what happened the last time we heard it.Scott Cousins happened. Jonathan Sanchez happened. Cody Ross and Aaron Rowand and Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff happened. Showtime happened. And then nothing else happened.In other words, the D-word Dynasty is the best way to get the gods who handle baseball to laugh.Oh, the talk is louder this time, because Giants are the proud owners of two World Series in three years, and everyone connected with the operation today is being called a genius at worst, a galactic overlord at best.And as delightful as the sensation felt for Giant fans, it now seems closer to being prophetic. And trust us, it isnt.Not that the Giants cant be a dynasty, mind you. Anything is possible. But dynasties are rare, so the odds run against them. Plus, the last time they defended their title, they lost their way, their best players, their bat rack and their sense of joie de sport.In short, championships are fragile. Anything can turn them, especially the notion that one guarantees more.So heres your assignment until the parade forms: Look at 2011 in all its mutant horror (yes, 86 wins is horror now aint that a steel-capped boot in the temple?), and realize that the parade commemorates not only the deeds of October but the struggles of May and July as well.Note that youre a catchers injury away from not defending your title, and a center fielders contractual desires away from losing your exterior defense, and a third basemans attention span from losing the heart of your teams order.Look, lets just generalize. Things happen after a championship, and not all of them are good. Some players fall in love with the good life. Some players fall in love with the free market. Some players fall, period.RELATED: 2012 Giants World Series page
All three of those things happened in the winter of 2010 and the spring of 2011. The Giants of 2012 had none of those issues. Their biggest injury was to Brian Wilsons arm, and they managed to more than merely cope. Their second biggest injury was to Melky Cabreras brain, and they survived that.And that was it. Buster Posey played in 148 games, or 30 more than anyone including him figured. Their starting rotation made 160 of their scheduled 162 assignments, and the others were an emergency start in April for Eric Hacker a few days after a doubleheader and a post-clinching one-off for Yusmeiro Petit. Pablo Sandoval broke a hand and pulled a hamstring. Ryan Vogelsong strained his back in March. Jeremy Affeldt and Ryan Theriot did 15s. But this was largely a very healthy team.And the budget rose to 130 million cover the important contractual matters (Lincecum, Matt Cain), thus keeping what had been built intact.But there is no guarantee that the Giants will remain healthy in 2012. And the savings from expiring contracts and whatever Cabrera isnt going to get if he returns will be eaten by Buster Posey, Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, assuming the latter two want to return. And in honesty, good fortune is not forever, and no team that wins a World Series for the foreseeable future wont have at least some of that. In a million simulations of the Giants postseason, Johnny Cueto doesnt get hurt in most of them, and Lance Lynn doesnt hit second base on the fly in most of them, and Justin Verlander doesnt lose his game in most of them. The Giants did very well to capitalize on all these events, but sometimes luck swings back the other way, with a bullet.The point here is, what has been built can be taken out with a stroke of the pen, a snap of a femur, a distracted mind, or just plain old baseball. You can talk the D-word all you want, but in this new world when MLB plays out a lot like NHL, the variables often have more power than the plan.So say it all you want if you must. Maybe silly and grandiose things will be said tomorrow on a dais in front of city hall, and shouted from convertibles. But some of it will be whistling in graveyard, or just be wishful thinking and fate-tempting. The Giants are good . . . very very good indeed. But the last time they were this good, their turn ended abruptly.What can be said is this: They are built to survive as much as building can cover. But building and maintenance are two very different things.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.