But there's little comparison to that gleaming year. Russ Ortiz is pitching for Atlanta. Jeff Kent within helicopter range of his ranch. Ellis Burks feasting on the living in Boston, a poor caricature of the speed and power rookie I fell in love with on original Nintendo's RBI Baseball. And Robb Nen, who's fiercer than any Matt Herges scowl, is up against the bell jar of retirement.
I still hold out judgment for this season. Despite my superstitious attempts to finagle the future, the most I can do is predict, and with this ungainly marriage of talent and record, the summer don't look too darn bright. Best to recite the positives: balanced division, underachievement, Brian Dallimore, Barry Bonds, Marquis Grissom, Bonds, bizniddle bamble Bonds. I wrote a scathing email to Neil Hayes of the Contra Costa Times, responding to his article about the club's fleeting hope. I screamed with capital letters that he is a doomstruck meathead bringing down the rest of us. And after reading The Chronicle a few days later, I think I might have threatened Scott Ostler. But it sure felt good--nothing soothes more than typed irrationality.
This April was the hottest I've ever seen Barry, by the way. That at-bat against Gagne, pulling a 101 mph pitch foul into the Cove, then homering to center … the tightest and most balanced I've ever seen his swing. You gotta check out his website (www.barrybonds.com). Hilarious. It's as if Darth Vader decided to sign off Instant Messenger with "U guys r 2 cute! :-)"
But we all want to be negative, Gentle Giants fans. The facts are sad and disproportionate. Wayne Franklin would be playing in Quadruple-A Honolulu if such a limbo were fortunate enough to exist. F-Rod is just another Kyle Farnsworth without the svelte manhood. Kirk Reuter finally less than the sum of his parts. Dustin Hermanson is beginning to resemble…himself. And for the love of the Big Ten, Jason Schmidt gave up a 400-foot homerun to Mark "The Pride of Northwestern" Loretta.
The harbinger, though, is A. J. Pierzynski. He hit into a would-be double play in the Braves series, only to have Rafael Furcal bobble the pivot. Then he slides wide of the bag at second, and the twin-killing finds him anyway, called automatically.
What the hell is that? Are we in such a funk that rallies are squashed by rulings like out of the baseline? It's bad enough that a teenage coup was attempted by unnamed pitchers, and that A. J. must have done some of the annoyances mentioned, but now we're losing because of inelegant slides?
I can see two reasons for this year's blight--amazing because when I'm this angry, I usually see viscous streaks of blue. Either the talent isn't enough, and it's time to lower expectations, like in some torrid and doomed relationship, to keep from getting hurt.
Or maybe it's not our team's fault. Maybe the Powers That Be have made a dark determination against this year's club. Retribution for the successful beginnings of the last two seasons. For Bonds' apotheosis. Or for Dusty Baker's presentation of the game ball to Russ Ortiz in the Sixth Game of the World Series--before the seventh inning had started!
Maybe we are being tested. All of us: the fans, franchise, base coaches, and talk show hosts so angry they're on the verge of devouring their own flesh, a la Pizza the Hut in Spaceballs. Yes, this is a trial by one-run losses to see who will be left at the Anchor Steam stand after a month like April--not too dreadful, considering we only went four games under .500. But enough to jolt away those who never stayed past the seventh at Candlestick.
As Benito Santiago would say: Let me tell you something. Do not believe our lack of success is talent-related. Ignore J.T. Snow's billowing front shoulder and Edgardo Alfonzo's weak pop outs to right. In this answer, there is no hope for improvement. The games will not be worth watching, the summer will be stifling and Olympics-strewn, and you will be left rooting for piddling improvements, like a two-hit game by Cody Ransom.
I lived in Chicago in 2000, watching with maniac Northsiders as the Cubs went 65-97. Trust me, this is no way to live your baseball life. You deserve better. So do the Giants. Get out now before your offspring sour from such a broken relationship.
No, you must believe this is a test by cruel and laughing baseball gods who, in their twisted, pine-tar soaked minds, think the city of San Francisco is a gloating den of hubris.
These gods are wrong. But avoid blaming them. They are not human and year-counting like us. They remember 1954 for its post-Korean-War resurgence, not for the Giants' last championship.
Seek instead to appease them. Arrange bobble heads in a triangular fashion, decapitating any left-over Jose Cruz Jr. figurines. Listen to games on the radio as not to appear lusting after graven images. Name your cat "Tomky" and your dog "Pierzy" and have them fight through their instinctual animosity. Call your Italian cousin and sing, "Woke up this morning, got myself a Bonds…"
Don't, don't, don't give up on an entire season because of 30 uneven games. Don't stop listening to the eighth and ninth innings because we're down by two and Barry's been walked thrice. Try not to scream like a lunatic from the fringe—even when you're right to do so. Because the Powers That Be loath negativity most of all. They hate nothing more than a loss of faith in their ability to turn a season around with a flick of divine will.
Things may go bad. But so what if you're wrong, if you thought we'd be in first in August and the Rockies are ahead of us. You'll seem the good soldier.
However, if the Giants make a run and you've stayed positive, you'll be on the side of improbability, able to shout the four sweetest words in any relationship: "I told you so!"
Most of all, ignore that the season is starting to resemble one of the more harrowing moments from the Good Doctor's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:
-Us: O God, Giants. Did you lose all these one-run games?
-Giants: That's right. Trade away my starters now.
-Us: You better pray to god there's some luck up ahead, or you're in bad trouble the rest of the summer.
-Giants: I don't care! Let this season go!
So what if our beloved team is behaving like a drug-addled Samoan attorney. It makes this early test of losses all the more desperately fun. Right?
Tim Denevi is a raving Giants fan who can't decide if he would rather have Mike Aldrete or Marvin Biz-nard pinch-hitting with the game on the line. E-mail him with your opinion on any issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
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