Each year, 29 Major League Baseball teams do it, they give up. Wednesday was that day for the San Francisco Giants.
It happens like a move does.
First you take a look around nothing is packed. And it never will be. Just stuff everywhere, books and sheets and piles of old bills and shoeboxes you inexplicably kept while you threw other ones out and what is this pair of gas station sunglasses doing under there?
You sigh, you fret, you go get frozen yogurt and then return to unfold one empty box, tape its base and start sorting through things. This comes, this goes, this stays — this could maybe be sold on eBay if I had the time and on and on and on. Till suddenly, after the heavens have been thanked that not all newspapers are completely gone, otherwise what would you wrap that pint glass from that 2007 St. Paddy’s day 5k in, you’re done. You’re done and you sigh again and you look over and all there is to mark your time at the place you’re leaving is a lumpy Hefty bag of hangers spitting up all over the carpet.
…That last part is the likely fate of your favorite baseball team each season.
If you’re lucky, this pack up and move out doesn’t happen till the end of September. If you’re blessed, October. And for Giants fans the world over — three out of the past six seasons — it hasn’t happened at all. But in 2016, the year the bid to make it a fourth-consecutive even-numbered world championship in a row, the effort ended in early September. Wednesday, Sept. 7 at Coors Field in downtown Denver to be exact.
There were rumors this was going to be the week. The Chronicle’s chief Giants observer Henry Schulman did portend as much a few days ago when he intimated that the 2016 Giants were simply lacking that clubhouse magic, that certain postseason-ready spark that gets grown-man millionaires reignited about playing a sport they should’ve given up in fifth grade. The kind of late-season fury necessary to turn post-game showers of lament into pregame sunflower seed baths.
Schulman threw it out then immediately backed off the notion that the trade deadline move sending homegrown fan and clubhouse favorite third baseman Matt Duffy to baseball (and life) purgatory in Tampa resulted in a sort of karmic flatline, leaving not as much as an anxious exhale to puff up the Giants’ sales for the stretch run.
These Giants, once the best team in the Major Leagues midway through this season, are now owners of one of the worst second-half records in franchise history, not to mention all of baseball this year. They are the single bookend you leave out curbside because you can’t find its mate; the abandoned box spring leaning upon the dumpster, listlessly resigned to its own fate.
The Giants’ beat writer didn’t quite double-bag his theory that this group of boys have an incurable case of the summertime blues, but we all know it to be true — so do they. The majority of the bullpen already seems to have Airbnbs in Turks and Caicos on lock. Beach towels, swimsuits, flip flops and some kind of satellite phone device stashed in a dufflebag under the bed.
One of two things usually happens at this point in the season — especially were a team to, say, still be clinging to an ever-so-slight Wild Card lead: They do book those postseason baseball-free plans and start saying drawn out goodbyes between spits from the top dugout step. Or something DOES happen to wake them, to shake them and get them past the dry hillsides and towards the distant mirage of postseason glory. All the recent memory and beating one’s body takes after six straight months of business travel, it goes.
But it has to happen as a unit — or, the end comes quickly.
The 133rd version of the Giants watched the end come Wednesday, unexpected, as it does in real life. A game in hand, when only about a literal handful of Denver’s commute class stuck around to see their 66-win Rockies take a two-run deficit into the ninth, was lost.
A solid start by the second-half surprise Albert Suarez, the man who replaced the
injured cooked Matt Cain as the fifth starter, who allowed only three runs in five innings — gave way to five middle relievers who dutifully threw three scoreless innings and brought the Giants within three outs of winning the series and earning their first consecutive road wins since late-July.
Enter soon-to-be-former-closer Santiago Casilla who missed with a cutter over the plate to Nolan Arenado which trimmed the Giants’ lead to 5-4. Casilla struck out the next batter, David Dahl, but gave up a single to Tom Murphy after that and was removed for Josh Osich, who hit pinch-hitter Charlie Blackmon. With a pair on, manager Bruce Bochy summoned closer emeritus Joe Nathan, but by then it was already written.
Nathan got Nick Hundley to hit a lazy fly to left-center but neither Angel Pagan nor center fielder Gorkys Hernandez could track it, and it fell to load the bases. The next hitter, Cristhian Adames, smacked a double off the right field wall to bring in a pair. A blown save opportunity (for Nathan), another loss on the road and a second half in the abyss for the Giants. All seven Rockies fans who remained went home happy.
And that was it. No words in the clubhouse, no post-game speech. The Giants packed regret and dismay onto their carry-ons for Phoenix and a three-game set against the Diamondbacks. If there was anywhere on the road to get better this late in the season, it’s in Arizona where the Giants fans usually outnumber the snakes 2:1 and, well, there’s always ogling the off-duty staff from the Tilted Kilt getting Legionnaires splashing around the outfield pool to pass the time.
But after last night, the season took a turn. The clubhouse is trying to cover for it, no doubt. Shortstop Brandon Crawford says a loss is a loss. Hunter Pence has still got a hopeful playoff beard going and Bochy terminally carries himself with that dulcet, hangdog, no-stress Sam Elliott demeanor that wins rings.
…But the signs have been around for a while. They’re traveling along the winding road back to San Francisco unencumbered knowing the season is grinding down to single-digit games.
The end, mercifully, already decided.