This game was the killer. May 24th, at Seattle, the Giants lost the rubber match of the series, even after exploding for four runs. The team was 20-23, had lost nine of their last 11, and were nine games back of the Dodgers. Going into this season, I was a member of the “.500 Would Be Just Ducky” Brigade. Claw out of the basement, develop some of that young talent, identify the team needs, and charge into 2010 with hopes of seriously contending. So why was it so, so painful to watch a team that was pretty close to .500?
I’ve figured it out, and I hope I remember it the next time I catch myself hoping a team is good enough for a .500 season. A .500 team really isn’t different than a team with a .600 winning percentage if you watch every game – it’s just an extra win every ten games. There’s more to it than that, of course. An extra win for every ten games is the difference between a mediocre team and a great team. But when you watch almost every game, the difference is almost imperceptible. A .500 team loses five out of ten games, and of those, a couple of the losses are bound to be close, frustrating losses. A .500 team seems cursed because it’s as if they’re on the precipice of being a really, really good team, even though that’s mostly illusory.
So nuts to the whole .500-is-good idea. It makes for an unpalatable, soul-spindling season. Mercifully, the Giants have surpassed all but the most homery of predictions. Ten games over .500 at the break? Leading a race for a playoff spot? Pablo Sandoval, a hitter worthy of more than a few top-ten MVP votes? It’s like some magical dream, except this time you’re wearing pants. And if the Giants finish up at .500 when the season’s over, this season isn’t going to be remembered as a magical step in a rebuilding season; it’s going to be a wings-of-wax, spectacular, propeller-in-the-airshow-stands failure of a season. They’ve teased us with premature contending. We have a taste for it now.
The Giants have the third-best record in the league (just one percentage point behind the team with the greatest outfield in the history of professional baseball, which is a huge accomplishment). They have easily identifiable weaknesses, and there might be a trade or two that will help the roster in the short-term. All of this leads to a comment starter:
Are you satisfied with the Giants’ first half? Before you answer, please note that any answer other than “Yes” will be roundly mocked, flagged, and/or delted.