Last year the Giants had Carlos Beltran. No, really, look it up. They claimed him on waivers or something, and right after they did it, they looked invincible. They took two out of three in Philadelphia to move four games up in the West. They had something resembling a proper middle of the order, and they were winning. Then they went to Cincinnati, and in the bottom of the 13th inning, Edgar Renteria hit a game-winning single.
After that, the Giants were blown out twice by the Reds. Then they went home and lost the first two games in a series against the Diamondbacks. The four-game lead went poof. We didn't know it at the time, but the season was going to get worse.
And it all started with a big hit from Edgar Renteria.
Just when you think this is all random -- that we're a bunch of atoms duct-taped together, running into other atoms -- the universe does something like that. You couldn't even feel bad about the game in isolation. Like you're going to whine that the Giants were unlucky because Renteria beat them. You'd get struck by a lightning bolt if you even thought it.
The season ended in Cincinnati that night. Following the Renteria game, the Giants scored two runs for the rest of the season. It was Edgar Renteria who ended the Giants' season. The rest of it was a drawn-out, overlong postscript like the end of Return of the King, except Frodo got on the stupid elf ship and went to the Phillies.
So you were forgiven if you figured that Cincinnati was a cursed, squalid place where the Giants' hopes and dreams went to die. It's certainly been a rough place for them over the past two years.
And somehow Angel Pagan, that oxymoronic marvel, gave the Giants a win. It all started with a Joaquin Arias walk and a Ryan Theriot single. I think I'll set up a macro with my word processor so I can hit command-control-x to insert that sentence automatically for the future. Time saver.
I have made some really, really stupid suggestions on this site. Moronic trade suggestions, awful free-agent suggestions, benchings that would have been hilariously inappropriate, pleas to insert embarrassing players into the lineup … the site is seven years old now. That's over 2,500 days where I've had the opportunity to write something stupid, and I don't disappoint. But one of the posts I'm proudest of is this one, in which I made a case that Andres Torres deserved more of a chance. It was April, 2010.
It's hard to remember now, but Torres wasn't a popular Giant in April, 2010. He was the Brett Pill to John Bowker's Brandon Belt -- a truly horrific analogy if you parse it past its logical conclusion -- which is to say, a guy who wasn't supposed to be much, yet kept getting starts. He wasn't hitting anything, except for double plays. The Giants' patience was rewarded.
Pagan is off to a similar, if not quite as wretched, start. Before today, he wasn't the most popular person on talk radio or the greater unwashed Internet. He's a known slow-starter, sure, but he (and his .269 OBP entering today) were an easy target, especially because he can't field like Torres.
I still think he's an upgrade over Torres, though, if only because of the age and health factors. He makes the Giants worse defensively, but that doesn't mean that he makes them bad defensively. And I'm still thinking his true talent level is somewhere between his 2010 and 2011 seasons, which would make him a nice addition. He sure as heck helped today. He's now tied for 12th in the league with one WAR, according to FanGraphs! I think that's how that works …
Melky Cabrera was impressive in the first part of the season, walking as much as he's struck out. But considering that he left the Royals to come to the Giants, it's like he picked up the plate discipline from a toilet seat in a Greyhound station. As such, I can't help but be cynical when he looks as awful as he did at the plate today -- he made Homer Bailey look like a pitcher throwing a golf ball with a cloaking device from 30 feet away -- the nasty voices start chirping in the back of my head. Remember how bad he was with the Braves? They let him walk so they could play Nate McClouth.
But if it was too early to start thinking about an extension when he was on fire, it's too early to start thinking he's Hyde Melky yet. Really, any slump he might have is mitigated by the following: Jonathan Sanchez has walked 17 batters in 17 innings this year. With Pagan and Melky at the top of the lineup, the first half of the order isn't even close to the debacle that it was between Posey's injury and the Beltran trade last year.
Other than the flubbed play where he allowed Drew Stubbs to beat out an infield hit, Joaquin Arias looked like an All-Star. He roped a double and took a walk. Last night, he ripped an Aroldis Chapman fastball right back up the middle. He was hitting .400/.432/.557 in Fresno. In the spring, he hit well. In the winter, he went nuts in the Dominican League.
Does that mean he's now an offensive force? Oh, god, no. There's probably a pretty good reason the guy was a minor-league free agent even though he's perfectly acceptable at short. But it might mean that Ryan Theriot shouldn't get too comfortable. Arias can probably not hit just as well as Theriot, but I'd trust Arias to give Brandon Crawford a rest more than I would Emmanuel Burriss or Theriot. Maybe I'm just drunk off small samples, though.