Somehow the Success Continues…

I want to be angry. I want to say: the Giants have blown over 20 saves; Kirk Reuter has mistaken this season for a celebrity softball tournament; Ricky Ledee is a less-angry, therefore less-good Michael Tucker; the only hope for Scott Eyre's slider is a whiffle ball. But I'm not mad. I won't utter such things. Because every Giants fan from Elko to Waipahu should be thanking the watery gods of the bay that this season is still alive.

The year was over before it began, when Vlad Guerero bypassed the Bay Area and took his bat south to impale the luckless heads of Athletic and Mariner relievers. It was over when Robb Nen succumbed to his 75-percent-torn rotator cuff, turning our bullpen into a cackle of milking cows (I'm talking about you, Tyler Walker). Over after sweeps by the Dodgers, Mets, Pirates, etc…

This season was definitely done in May when Moises Alou struck doom into the heart of Felipe with his extra-inning homerun at Wrigley, dropping the Giants eight-games under .500 (I was watching from the sports book at The Rio in Las Vegas. I lost one hundred dollars on that swing, along with my faith that the Giants could ever win in that gorgeous boneyard of a town, Chicago).

And I'll tell you what, any lingering chance that our beloved Giants might turn it around--that the bullpen and clutch hitting might elope in a beautiful marriage of opportunity and production, that this team was more than the sum of its Neifi Perezes--flopped like a Sid Bream slide when Pittsburg ripped out our extra-inning hearts last week.

You must have watched these games, horrified Giants fans. Rollercoaster is the metaphor of the simple-hearted. How can you accept an error on a double play ball by Cody Ransom, the slickest slickster this side of Fresno? Or the hesitation and errant throw by Ray-Ray Durham that still was enough for the out at home in the ninth inning, or so the replay showed?

And the next night, when the offense hit into two extra-inning double-plays before the bullpen surrendering a walk-off job...All of it terrible and possible because of unlikely flashes: Tucker's superbomb in game one, Ray-Ray's river floater the next night. Two exquisite moments that became exquisite pain in the turn of a few innings. A fitting end to a blown season, one would say. Because the bullpen blows, the starting pitching sucks, the lineup is overpaid, over-aged, and under-moxied. Right?

No. Of course not. Maybe at times, yes, the team has been weak sauce (much of the time, you could say…) But we are past the midpoint of August. The Giants are in position for a playoff spot. I will tell you something honestly: I have never once believed that this season was out of reach. I have never agreed to the doomsaying stirred by the litany of sour losses.

And let me tell you something, cynical Giants fans: neither have you. You are not surprised at success. You have forgotten the malaise of the 70's and the dreadful early-80's, capped by that 100-loss season in 1985. Some of you weren't even around then. We have all grown tipsy off the sparkling years at China Basin, along with the prior three when we finished no lower than second place. We expect contention like a birthright, and even though the naysayers have chimed that the team is finished, they knew, deep down, to check the scores on the internet, unable to wait for morning papers.

This expectation is a remarkable shift in San Francisco Giants fandom. I am part of it. My first memory of a Giants game comes at the tail end of the '86 season, when Roger Craig took over. His base-coach, Gordie Mackenzie, had been my old man's manager in Double-A Jacksonville. After the game, we waited in the field-level seats at the ‘Stick, and Gordie eventually popped out of the clubhouse, jawed happily with us for a bit, then rolled a baseball across the dugout roof for the six-year-old me to keep. It has been quite the good luck charm. Since then, the Giants have been in contention during the last week of the season 9-out-of-18 years. The younger generation has become familiar with winning. With meaningful games in August and September. It is all we have known. It is expected.

So what? you say. The resulting postseason heartbreak makes us all more cynical. Yes, you're right. In October. A time the young and old equally dread. But it's still summer. The Giants are competing.

This year has not been magical. It has been wrought with human shortcomings like Matt Herges and his sleepless nights. But last season was filled with game-winners and improbability, and it all wore away in the teiled heat of South Florida. It's better to save the magic for the penultimate times, like against Atlanta in the NLDS, making it there first on fumes and fury. You can quote me now: if we somehow make it to the playoffs this year, there will be magic, and it will go further than you think. I don't care what the odds against the Giants' horses look like.

But again, that's the optimism of the new generation. Don't get me wrong, I was raised on the great oral tradition of meaningless nights in cold, concrete surroundings. But as the scouts say, seeing is believing. Or refusing to see, I guess…

Either way, the tribulations of this year have been exhilarating. And exhausting. Like one of Ray-Ray's diving catches and botched throws. I am weary and wanting for humor in the mundane; I actually had meant to write this week's column on the fat, shiny media guide my crazy cousin sent me, replete with stats like Felipe Alou's winning percentage in Wichita and Pedro Feliz's career errors in left field.

But this isn't a season of reverie in numbers, unless they have to do with the almighty 25. It is one of irrational hope, stilted anger, and continued thanks to the bay gods who have been quietly appeased through a steady diet splash hits. After all, this recent win streak is definitely not the result of Brian Sabean's renowned deadline brilliance.

So rejoice in J.T. Snow's confusion between the present and 1997, in the merciful cleansing of Neifi Perez and Felix Rodriguez, in Dustan Mohr's old-school freestyle in the outfield, in Jason Schmidt's no-hit flirtations and Barry Bonds' lightly-worn crown. No way the season has ended up here. And no way it continues on.

Or so you'd think.



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 denevi@hawaii.edu

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