Road Trip of Demons

Dock of the Bay's Weekly Jaunt

This recent road trip—the Giants five-loss jaunt across Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—was the kind of doomstruck catastrophe most often witnessed in Indiana Jones movies, specifically in that moment when, despite all good conscience, someone decides to remove a sacred, untouchable relic from the altar.

And then the entire temple collapses, and enormous boulders are unleashed like a fury of Chase Utley home runs.

And the main character staggers home, lucky to be alive, amazed that he managed to salvage, above all else, his stupid Indiana Jones hat.

Or, in the Giants case, a Sunday-night Barry Bonds moonshot—number 713.

This trip felt cursed. Not Boston v. New York cursed. Not even 50-year-championship-drought cursed. Instead, it felt as if the baseball gods had taken time off of their busy, bad-hop-inducing schedule to say, “Eat it, Giants. It’s a hard knock life for you. (Take the bass line out.)”

On Wednesday, the first game of the trip, there was the batting-practice foul tip by rookie Kevin Frandsen that capped Bonds on the dome, dropping him to the ground and inciting a slump that wouldn’t break until a wind-aided base hit on Saturday.

On Thursday, we witnessed the death of catcher Todd Greene—the General, as we like to call him here at Dock of the Bay—in a collision with Brewer’s first baseman Prince Fielder. Asked why he didn’t hold on to the ball long enough to show the umpire, Greene responded, “It felt like my face was on fire and I had to put it out.”

On Friday, Moises Alou, the best hitter in the National League, missed a routine fly ball in right and failed to cut off a double in the gap. Then, on a foul drive down the line, he stumbled, twitched, and collapsed in a heap of screaming pain that felt, well, as if the Giants season itself were twitching and collapsing.

In the first three innings of Saturday’s contest, ten Giants reached base. And not one managed to score, thanks to a caught-stealing and a pair of double plays. Ten. In a span of nine outs. And not a single run? That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard.

By Sunday, the entire team seemed to be playing not only against the red-hot Phillies, but also against the spate of bad luck that seemed to magnify with every pitch from struggling starter Matt Morris.

I’d like to think that Bonds’s home run—his first real bizzniddle bam bomb of the year—cleared the proverbial palate, exorcising the ghosts of this bad-luck stretch in advance of the return to San Francisco.

But in the inning after the shot, the Giants bullpen walked in two runs. And then, in perhaps the most ominous moment of the entire trip, ex-Giant Aaron Fultz struck out Pedro Feliz, Bonds, and Steve Finley in the top of the eighth.

So Fultz is still in the Show, eh? Good for him. It definitely explains why that short, bald, left-handed guy who pumped my gas last week had no idea who Benny Agbayani was.

So what does it all mean, the losing? Well, this year is starting to feel a lot like the last. Which is perhaps the worst possible analysis that can be given. However, there is one major difference: the 2006 team does not stink. Don’t be fooled by the hockey-loving local media; sports columnists for the Merc and Chron can often see only as far as their next Tom Cruise simile.

Instead, listen for a moment to my godless optimism. When last year’s team lost eight games in a row, it wasn’t a matter of luck. Each one of those contests was a result of terrible—terrible—starting pitching and a complete inability to catch up in the late innings, via home runs or a strong bench. Although the results are similar, that eight-loss stretch was far more painful and abject than anything this year.

I mean, doesn’t anybody remember Brett Tomko, for godsake?

No, I refuse to peddle gloom and glower, despite the recent stretch of monstrous play. Instead I will peddle (not false) optimism:

This team ain’t that bad, meat.

Things will get better soon.

(Insert platitude here.)

And these recent losses are in fact the results of the bewildering, slow-working tendencies of chance that, when compounded into a string of infelicitous results, seem to resemble a many-headed demon—the kind that we all remember well, as Giants fans.

You know, the demon that blinked its multiple demon eyes at us in 2003, when J.T. Snow collided with Pudge Rodriguez in the final game of the NLDS, ending our season. Or the one that sat on Livan Hernandez’s shoulder during Game Seven in the 2002 World Series. Or the one that picked up a bat and, in the guise of Gary Gaetti, hit a two-run homer to help the Cubs steal the 1998 Wild Card spot.

Now that’s a baseball god. But not the one menacing us now. Not yet at least.

Just remember that luck changes. Being a bad baseball team doesn’t. So I guess we’ll see what’s-what in the end, anyway, which far and away is the most delightful aspect of this strange, unique thing we call a 162-game season.

Reporter at Large
During the Sunday-night game in Philadelphia, Dock of the Bay was lucky enough to have a reporter on the scene, a certain Tom Hope who writes for PhillyPurge.com. He sat in left field, about a dozen rows back of Barry Bonds. Among other things, he mentioned that somebody was passing out hundreds of fliers imprinted with a giant asterisk. And after Bonds hit his gigantic home run, he watched as Phillies fans surrounded a gentleman sitting in that section—a guy sporting Giants paraphernalia who’d been rooting for Big Poppa all game—and proceeded to shove a mustard-slathered hot dog in the man’s face.

His final report:

“Okay, so the Giants fan didn’t get a hot dog shoved in his face. Apparently it was a slice of pizza. He did come back toward the end of the game, and received a little more harassment.

“Also, I wasn’t saying ‘boo.’ I was saying ‘Boo-onds.’”

Baller of the Week
We’re gonna go with a sentimental award: the recently departed Jeff Fassero. Last year, he pitched better than expected. This year, he pitched worse—or, to be precise, he pitched like Jeff Fassero.

He still throws in the nineties. He is often mistaken for a coach. And now he is off to the realm of the retired, no doubt joining the likes of Rick Aguilera and Rod Beck in some beer-drinking level of the baseball underworld.

Happy trails, you old baller.

Honorable Mention
Todd “The General” Greene. Simply because his face was on fire and he had to put it out with his hands.

Meathead of the Week
Ooh, this is a tough one. So many losses means so many meatheads. How about Lance Niekro? The kid is 2-for-his-last-30, his only hard-hit balls ending up in double plays.

But that’s too easy. We’re gonna go with the whole team. Let us say to them:

Come on, meats. Stop losing. Get runners home from third with less than two outs. Throw strikes. Ball down.

And, for the love of the baseball gods, go out and sacrifice something meaningful, like a live chicken or the rookie Kevin Frandsen, to keep those demons at bay.



Tim Denevi is a die-hard Giants fan. Please e-mail him with your opinion on any issue at denevi@hawaii.edu

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