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MLB

The Giants Can’t Beat Anyone Except Their Teammates

NBCS

Few teams have taken an improbable season and rendered it more absurd a year later than the San Francisco Giants. Having won nearly two of every three games in 2021 with an army of journeymen having career years, and enough pitching and fielding to make it all seem like the spreadsheet for the future, they have reverted to the mean like crazed bastards. Nearly every player is worse than a year ago; the bullpen is shambolic; their defense is nearly Soxian. They aren’t even winning half their games this year and there is no sign that they can (a) be buyers at the deadline, (b) be sellers at the deadline or (c) do anything to affect what happens after the deadline. They have achieved the three true outcomes of mediocrity: They are weak offensively, defensively, and stultifyingly dull across the board.

Their one hope for effervescence is typically starter Carlos Rodon, the White Sox ex-pat who is an excellent pitcher when healthy and is the one player mentioned when the Giants’ future is raised, either to move or to build around for 2023. But he has a bit of a temper about his current residence, which manifested itself Tuesday night when, in separate fits of Rodonitude, he first nearly backhanded a staff member with his glove and three innings later kicked a bat that clipped teammate Thairo Estrada. Both acts were temper-fueled but inadvertent, and both are part of what is a decomposing season for a team that was so full of look-what-we-can-do hope and has now lost six straight, is 8-15 in July, and 26-35 since their highwater mark. 

Who knew that notorious firebrand, hothead, and general excitement machine Buster Posey could take all that with him when he retired to do more fatherhood? Who knew that manager Gabe Kapler could go from zenmaster to Phillies manager Gabe Kapler so quickly? Who knew that general manager Farhan Zaidi couldn’t keep making magic with Joc Pederson as his best player and that fans prefer stars to platoonies?

Well, everyone did. Nobody bought the 107 wins a year ago as a sign of a glorious future and a new way to run a baseball team. Everyone expected regression—just not so much that they would approach the 100-game mark with only a two-game lead on Miami. They are still sixth in runs scored, but they are unbearably drab with no avenue for being anything but aggressively same.

Except for Rodon, who is at least inspiring the lads with acts of random terror. He is a free agent at year’s end, and will probably need a heap of convincing to stay in San Francisco to try to revivify a team of dogged flatliners that have been looking up at the Phillies for about a month now. Kapler is now considered too staid and non-reactive, and people are noticing that when you let the payroll slip from $205 million to $130 million in four years, you don’t normally get better, or even maintain the same level of whatever the hell you were doing.

Except that in this case, they actually are, because 2021 was a cheat. They hit a record number of homers, had an exemplary bullpen, and never had a bad month. They had two four-game losing streaks all year, and had 18 pinch-hit home runs. The year before, they were 29-31, 77-85 the year before that, and 73-89 the year before that. Those are these Giants, not the 2021 team.

But they do have Heads-Up Carlos to inspire them as they head for a 76-win season and let their fans imagine they would seriously try to chase Aaron Judge in November. They will, but they won’t succeed because they aren’t a team that wins free agents’ hearts. They do, however, know when to duck and cover: every five days. It’s something, anyway.