2014 Giants At the All-Star Break

When you live and die with your sports team, if your team is on top and playing well, you’re euphoric and happy. However, when they go through a bad stretch, you just want it to over it, or past it. The Giants had a horrible stretch in June, at one point going 4-15. It truly was the epitome of the phrase “June Swoon,” which I had heard of since and witnesses since my childhood. What had been a 9 ½ Giants lead evaporated into a neck-and-neck battle with the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was not surprising, certainly not welcome by me and other Giants fans, but not surprising. If the Giants’ bad stretch had happened later in the year I might be more concerned, but there is still plenty of time left in the 2014 baseball season. The Giants also had some horrible stretches in 2010, and in 2012, and those baseball years both ended up so great!

 

What made it weird was that as great as the Giants had played in April and May, the Giants played that badly in June. I think that the worst of it was a three game sweep of the Giants by the Colorado Rockies. The Giants had ninth inning leads in all three games, and the Giants’ bullpen blew all three games. I attended one of those games, and the Giants lost on a two-out two-run inside the park homerun. From euphoria to utter despair. What made the Giants’ loss only slightly more bearable was being at the Giants game with a bunch of other great Giants fans. I also think that this was probably the game that Giants centerfielder Angel Pagan re-injured his cranky back. June become a reminder that as Pagan goes so goes the Giants, which is also what happened 2013 when Pagan was hurt. And, now they are dealing with other injury issues—namely to Matt Cain, who’s return is uncertain.

 

During June 2014, all three facets of the Giants play—pitching, offense, and defense all went in the tank. One, two or three of these areas would break down usually resulting in a Giants’ loss. Aside from Pagan being hurt, Giants’ first baseman Brandon Belt suffered a broken finger and was lost for six weeks. Belt’s left-handed power and solid infield defense were sorely missed in his absence.

 

Despite the Giants’ poor play, there were still some highlights for the Giants. Tim Lincecum threw his 2nd career no-hitter versus the Padres. Giants pitcher Madison Bumgardner has generated his own offense by hitting two grandslam homeruns in the same season. Bumgardner also combined with catcher Buster Posey to become the first battery in major league history to each hit grand slam homeruns in the same game. Aside from Bumgardner being named a National League All-Star, the Giants had two other National League All-Stars, Hunter Pence and Tim Hudson.

 

English: San Francisco Giants first baseman Or...

English: San Francisco Giants first baseman Orlando Cepeda in a 1962 issue of Baseball Digest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The All-Star Game has become overly commercialized, and they’ve tried to make it relevant to the game of baseball. The All-Star Game is now used to determine which league gets home field advantage in the World Series. I remember going to All-Star Game at Candlestick Park in 1984. I had a great time, and even met Orlando Cepeda. Having only been a Giants fan for a relatively short time (since 1978), I didn’t fully realize Cepeda’s part in Giants history, and he was fifteen years away from being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. There was no Futures Game, and no red carpet ceremony. It was pretty much just the game, which started at 5 pm, and with the setting sun created poor batter visibility and lots of strikeouts. I met up with my friends after the game, and we went to Tommy’s Joynt, a local San Francisco bar/restaurant for dinner.

The Giants have had a great, albeit mixed history in the All-Star Game. The Giants greats, Mays, McCovey and Marichal, all have great histories in the All-Star Game. Ted Williams was once quoted as saying that “They made the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.” He was spectacular. Of course, it is not a perfect history. In 1983, Giants pitcher Atlee Hammaker gave up the only grand slam homerun in All-Star Game history. He was never the same after that. The Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was named All-Star Game MVP in 2012, only to have been discovered to use PEDs earning himself a fifty game suspension.

 

What do I see going on with the Giants in the second half of the 2014 season? Good things, I hope. The Giants do need to play better and execute more of the things that winning teams do. As I said earlier it does help having Brandon Belt back. The return of Marco Scutaro has been a surprise comeback from mallet finger and back issues. I recognize that Scutaro may not be 100% or even close to it, but he does provide a veteran presence in the clubhouse and in the dugout, and on the field when he is able to play. I am hoping that Scutaro does not re-injure his back, but I trust that Giants manager Bruce Bochy will know and deal with Scutaro’s limitations to try to keep him healthy and on the field, as well as giving him frequently needed rest.

 

The next question is: will the Giants make a trade or two to help themselves? This is such a difficult question to answer. It always starts with who’s available? And what’s left on his contract? And what does the other team want in return? The Giants did pick up released Braves player Dan Uggla; they need to see how much he has left in his tank. His stats are not great, but he might be able to contribute something left, and if he’s not able to, the Braves are still paying most of his remaining contract. This is not necessarily a perfect to pick players, but sometimes Giants GM Brian Sabean does catch ‘lightening in a bottle.’ Now, we need to wait until the end of July to see if the Giants are going to make any trade. As frustrating as this game can be, it is still the best game in town, and I love it.

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