On a Tuesday night in San Francisco everything was going so well. And then it wasn’t. The Giants managed to ball up an entire season and shove it into a crippling ninth inning.
And by ball I mean a tennis ball filled with the red tips of strike anywhere matches. And by shove it into a crippling ninth inning I mean a disastrous explosion.
It was a forceful blow to the gut that was simultaneously sneaky and directly in front of the eyes. It absolutely stunned the 43,000 plus in attendance at AT&T Park. And just like that, the season is over – “abruptly” as manager Bruce Bochy put it.
There could not have been a better representation of the Giants’ struggles than the way game 4 of the NLDS concluded. OK, maybe a time-lapse from mid-July to early-October would be a better illustration, but kick rocks, because compiling it into one inning is fun.
Here is what we know. The Giants put up runs (5), which has been a struggle, and their starting pitcher (Matt Moore) tossed a gem, which has been somewhat consistent. And their bullpen came in and issued a colossal failure, which has been extremely consistent.
It was 5-2 before the bullpen took over. And after seeing five different arms, the Cubs recorded their sixth run of the night, which proved to be enough to end the Giants’ season and send themselves to the NLCS to play the winner between the Nationals and the Dodgers.
The Major Leagues has seen a failure of equal magnitude just once in its history. It was the 1986 Mets, and they came back in the ninth inning during game six of the NLDS against the Astros after being down three. The Mets won the World Series that year.
Now, was manager Bruce Bochy wrong in taking out a starting pitcher that was dealing to turn it over to his spill-prone gas-can bullpen?
Perhaps. But he is a future hall of fame manager and the majority is not. Yet, every trendy San Francisco gastro pub, every BART train full of commuters and every major sporting network, will echo with a slough of “What Ifs” for the rest of the week.
And that’s fantastic. This is why there is so much vested interest in the game. This is why I am writing this story. This is why people listen to Skip Bayless, for goodness’ sake.
But what if Bochy was doomed no matter what decision he made? Every member of the bullpen was given an opportunity and not one could consistently get three outs.
In what scenario did Bochy have a reasonable shot to go deep this season? Keep going with Casilla? Fail. Or Smith? Fail. How bout Law? Fail. With Romo, he’s been there before? Fail.
The reality is if there is not one big league pitcher in your bullpen that can be called on to get three outs, you’re probably not a championship team. And that’s what viewers witnessed. Not one of the five included in the ninth inning parade could do it. Not Law, not Lopez, not Romo, not Smith, not Strickland – none.
Even if it works, Moore comes in and closes it out, then what? Then you ask for Cueto to give you 100+ in game five? And Bumgarner in game one of the NLCS, too?
The display Tuesday night, with 30 regular season blown saves factored in, was not representative of a championship ball club capable of supporting the mystical even year narrative. And it took the best team in baseball to plaster the truth on a national level – which is rather mind-blowing, actually. The fact that the Giants’ season extended that far into October is undeniably remarkable.
But, yay baseball, right?
If the Giants look to take their division in the near future, and if they expect to compete for a pennant, and if they wish to find their way to the big stage again, they must fix the glaring weaknesses. If they don’t, they’re essentially eating every dollar tied to the starting rotation.
The Giants now have 12 free agents. Nine of them were paid a 2016 salary. They go as follows:
- Jake Peavy – $15,000,000
- Angel Pagan – $11,250,000
- Sergio Romo – $9,000,000
- Santiago Casilla – $6,500,000
- Javier Lopez – $5,000,000
- Gregor Blanco – $3,900,000
- Gordon Beckham – $1,250,000
- Joe Nathan – $1,000,000
- Ruben Tejada – $507,500
That’s a total of $53,407,500.
Their staring pitching is stellar, perhaps the most formidable one-through-four in the National League. And their defense doesn’t look to be worsening any time soon – what up Eduardo Nunez/Conor Gillaspie in a 2017 shared role?
Get a left fielder that can hit 30 bombs. Get a closer who can get three outs. Anything less is a costly deviation from success.