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The SF Giants June Swoon

I can recall one time when I was a kid, one of my sisters asked me “What about the Giants’ “June swoon?” At the time she asked I was not familiar with what the phrase “June swoon” actually meant. Now, many years later I am painfully aware of what the June swoon is, and it definitely happened this year. And, it was quite painful to watch. The Giants have a  history of poor play in June, and that’s just the way it is.

This year’s “June Swoon” all started in the middle of the month of June with a road trip to Toronto and Houston, and it continued when the Giants arrived back at A T & T Park to play the Red Sox and Dodgers. The Giants lost two out of three games to both the Blue Jays and Astros. What makes this all the more painful is the fact that neither the Astros nor the Blue Jays are very good teams. I was hoping that the momentum would change with the arrival back home to AT & T Park after their road trip.

The Giants did win a very exciting Friday night game against the Red Sox. The Red Sox kept leaving multiple runners on base in the late innings, and they weren’t able to drive them in against the Giants’ bullpen. This was the highlight of the home stand. The Giants lost the two remaining games to the Red Sox and all three games to the Dodgers, swept by the hated Dodgers. It made for a horrible weekend, with the only possible exception of it being my niece’s high school graduation party, which was fun.

Barry Zito Photo by Icon SMI

Luckily, the Giants are not so far out of touch that they’re out of contention. They need to play better baseball more consistently, and this just isn’t happening. The starting and relief pitching, which was supposed to be a strength, has been neither good nor consistent. Also, with some consistent run support, the win-loss records of Matt Cain and Barry Zito would be noticeably better.

The other constant problem that the Giants offense seems to have picked up the ability to hit into double plays. From April through to the beginning of July, the Giants have hit into 85 double plays. And it’s all different kinds of double plays, not just your standard 6-4-3 double plays. I have also seen it with runners going and with outfielders flagging down line drives. The biggest culprit is Pablo Sandoval; it does show that he does hit the ball hard, but it is usually right at an infielder with a runner or two on base. This really reminds me of when the Giants had A.J. Pierzynski in 2004, who set the Giants’ team record for hitting into double plays. It also became painfully obvious that he did not want to play for the Giants: he left after one year (Unfortunately, he went to the White Sox who won the World Series in 2005).

Madison Bumgarner Photo by Icon SMI

If the Giants had played decently in the second half of June, they wouldn’t have needed to make changes on the team. One of these changes was necessitated by an injury to Todd Wellemeyer, the number five starter. Wellemeyer had pitched very well at  the home ballpark, but absolutely horribly on the road. The Giants tried Joe Martinez for one start before switching to phenom Madison Bumgarner, who is a good talent, but is still gaining experience. The other injury that has hurt the Giants is that Mark DeRosa’s wrist wasn’t getting any better, so he had season-ending surgery. I think that his veteran experience and slack will be picked up by Pat Burrell.

Due to the Giants’ lethargic play, something had to be done, and a trade was made. Giants fan favorite Bengie Molina was traded to the Texas Rangers for RHP Chris Ray and a minor league pitcher. Molina’s play over the course of this year has declined greatly– both offensively and defensively. Molina did make his contributions to the team, but the Giants thought, obviously, that it was time to go in a different direction. What this means is that Buster Posey will be taking over as the new starting catcher, and he’ll be eased in slowly to the position to give him the time necessary to make a successful transition. Catching is the most complex and difficult position on the field– a catcher has to call the game, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of all the players around the league, what they can and cannot hit in different situations. A catcher must also know the strengths and weaknesses of his own pitching staff, as well. And while the catcher is figuring out which pitches to call he must also dodge pitches coming off the bats of hitters. Is it any wonder why catchers’ gear is called “the tools of ignorance?” In addition to all of this, the catcher must also try to make an offensive contribution to his own team.

There is a reason why former catchers have a tendency to be successful as major, and minor league managers and pitching coaches; it’s because with all their experience they have learned to manage the game very well– thinking about game situations and scenarios well ahead of the actual situation.  There are so many factors that go into each managerial decision that the every day fan has no idea about the percentages of each move in each situation. In addition to all of this, the manager will be second-guessed for each successful and unsuccessful move that he makes. There is a saying in politics, but I do think that it applies to baseball as well– “You go with them that brung you.” What this means basically is that the manager is only as good as the players on his team. A manager has to put his players into situations where they’ll be have a chance to be successful in a given situation.

While I am not at all thrilled with the Giants’ play in June, it is still early enough that they can get on a hot streak, and get back into the pennant race. I have seen several teams this year have hot streaks which propelled them back into the pennant race, and I see no reason why the Giants cannot do this. Now, we’ll just have to wait and see what July brings for them, aside from the All-Star Break.  Go get’m, Giants!

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