Miami and New York City are the kind of evil, demon-populated towns that baseball history has always favoredplaces where fish walk upright and win championships, where anthropomorphic baseballs act metropolitan, and where the ghosts of Pudge Rodriguez and Benny Agbayani wait like vengeful shadows, the memories of their terrible deeds always relived during each of the yearly visits to their old haunts.
That is, if you’re a Giants fan from the recent Sabean Era. Which I of course am guilty of being.
But something strange happened on this year’s trip to these cities. The Giants didn’t lose in extra innings on a Mike Piazza home run. Didn’t drop four in a row amid so much Floridian humidity. Didn’t watch rookies and veterans alike throw games away as the bullpen sat helplessly by.
Sure, they got beat late in Saturday’s New York nightcap, a game they should have won. And they lost the first two in Miami to a Marlins team that would probably struggle against one of the better ballclubs in the West Coast Conference.
But then there was Sunday’s game. They blew two leads in the late innings, after coming back with their own late-inning rally. Armando Benitez, whose splitter looked the best it had all year, surrendered a pair of bewildering home runs, blowing a save through an act of sheer, unencumbered fecklessness (though the pitch selection might have had more to do with the backup catcher Alfonzo’s calls, Mike Matheny having been concussed).
And then, in the twelfth inning, Pedro Feliz sees half-a-dozen curveballs in a row. But instead of somehow hitting into a two-out double play, he slaps a game-winning hit.
And Jeremy Accardo, who looks a lot like that teenager who asked you to buy beer for him at 7-Eleven last week, gets a 1-2-3 save, breaking in half the bat of David Wright, the Mets third baseman who has one of the prettiest right-handed swings in the Show.
And to top it all off, the Giants return to the Bay Area, learn that Moises Alou is progressing ahead of schedulealong with the bullpen-bound Timmy Worrelland embarrass the Marlins in a 14-2 rout.
And Barry Bonds giggles like a schoolgirl after the game, uncontrollably giddy at the absence of media.
This can only mean two things, Giants fans.
Either this is as good as it’s going to get, the team over-performing in close games in the way most .500 squads tend to do, for certain stretches, old-age soon to combine with the flaws in the lineup and the bullpen to unravel such recent progress. (Remember, the baseball gods, despite their whimsical proclivities, are strict adherents to the laws of averages, always choosing, in the end, to slightly tweak the importance of such averageslike the difference between 103 and 104 winsas opposed to sublimating, say, someone like the Royals to 90-win bliss).
We might have reached a watermark, given the disparity between the roster of the Giants and a playoff-capable team like the Mets, whose lineup packs twice the punch and whose closer throws 100-mph and has a hamstring that remains attached to the bone.
But there could be another meaning to the latest momentuma meaning that has been so egregiously noted by the saucy Chron and its plain-Jane sister with a heart of gold, the Merc: this could be the proverbial turning point to the season.
15 of the next 18 games are against teams with losing records, and then the N.L. West battle resumes, with a roadtrip to L.A., Denver, and the desert. Conventional thinking says that if the Giants are going to be successful this year, they need to make a move now, and an inability to bring about said move will only lead to ruin and hardship.
Which I don’t really buy, either. The season is long and crazy, the divisional talent overvalued. As we saw last year, there is always a glimmer of hope in the later stages, as long as the deficit isn’t too steep.
So I guess the recent success can mean more than two things. Or maybe nothing at all. Really, in the end, the question becomes when, in fact, the momentum’s gonna ebb for goodbe it now, September, the playoffs, or next spring, when a championship trophy is carted in to the pipes and timbrels of...Sigh. Just thinking about that makes me hot.
I will leave off with a quote for all us suffering Giants fans out there from the Good Doctor, Hunter Thompson, who really only liked sports so far as he could make money off them, which wasn’t a very likely thing, since the baseball gods take some of their most prolific joy in sticking it, via bad hops or blown calls, to gamblers:
I stopped at the Money Wheel and dropped a dollar on Thomas Jeffersona $2 bill, the straight Freak ticket, thinking as always that some idle instinct bet might carry the whole thing off.
But no. Just another two bucks down the tube. You bastards!
No. Calm down. Learn to enjoy losing.
Ballers of the Week:
Jeremy AccardoJonathan Sanchez tag-team:
“Jonathan Sanchez and Jeremy Accardo found themselves doused with beer and clutching a game ball after Sanchez earned his first big-league win and Accardo his first save with perfect innings.”
Fighting over a baseball while doused in beer? What makes me think Steve Kline and Todd Greene were watching all this from their lockers, throwing hundred dollar bills down on which kid would pass out first?
Mike Matheny. He’s such a baller, he had to literally be knocked silly to come out of a game. Anybody else think Matheny would have made a hell of a boxeror a high-school principal, for that matter?
It’s good news for Dock of the Bay favorite, Todd “The General” Greene, though. There’s no question here that he’ll tear it up, during this brief stint as a starter.
Meathead of the Week
Oh Lastings Milledge. Just when we begin to worry that the world is lacking in true, unabridged meatheadity, you show up, high-fiving dozens of fans down the foul line after a dramatic, extra-inning home run.
Only problem was, the game wasn’t over.
First of all, act like you been there, meat. Cliff Floyd is gonna slap you silly if such tomfoolery ever happens again.
And second of all, thank you. There’s a reason your Mets lost that game. And it’s not because the Giants deserved to win. Whatever the baseball gods may be, they are far and away the most vengeful toward meatheads, and any time you manage to out-meathead a team that has both Pedro Feliz and Lance Niekro on it, well, that’s some pretty heavy attrition you’re setting yourself up for.
And during a strange season like this, the Giants will, of course, take it.
Tim Denevi is a die-hard Giants fan. Please e-mail him with your opinion on any issue at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in the columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the site's publisher, writers, or other staff members. The content on this site may not be redistributed without the expressed consent of SFDugout.com.