The Giants held a players-only meeting before today's game. I am always amused by the notion of baseball players having a meeting because that doesn't quite sound like the right word for the situation, even though that's exactly what it is. No, when I think of a meeting, I think of a conference table, proper conference table chairs, a white board, a wall clock everyone's watching, promises from people around the table to do this or that (even though you know they won't do what they've just promised), and a general feeling that we've all wasted our time here. Sure, watching the Giants feels like a huge waste of time at this point -- losing 18 of 23 now means we're watching the Cubs or the Astros or the Diamondbacks -- and there's nothing even worth hate-watching or viewing simply out of morbid curiosity, but to the players, these games are literally their life's work. They have to be there whether they like it or not, even when a loss is assured (seriously: they're so bad, what's the point of optimism?), so, there's every reason to believe that these spittin', snot rocketin', cup adjustin' babes took the meeting very seriously. Which makes the image that much more amusing.
Matt Cain: Pablo, you were going to say something?
Pablo Sandoval: Yes, I think it is important that we focus our efforts on improving the quality of our performances so that we can, as a group, win. Collectively.
Matt Cain: That's a great point, Pablo, and I'm glad you made it. Okay, guys, can we all agree to own this? To improve our efforts?
(Nods of agreement. Then --)
Matt Cain: Yes, Michael?
Michael Morse: 'Scooz bra, I was told there'd be various baked goods at this meets. What gives?
Matt Cain: Michael, that's a great question and I'm glad you asked it. But let's stick to the agenda. We'll put a pin in your question for now and circle back to it. Agreed?
Michael Morse: Kew bra.
I'm sure the truth is much closer to this than anything else, where the guys just sit around and talk about their misfortunes and how crazy all this losing is and how it feels and how they might be more accountable to each other. I think we've all been there before: sometimes, work or life just isn't panning out as planned and we need to stop and reassess.
But there's only so much the players can do while in the grips of negative regression, bad luck, punishment from the Baseball Gods or whatever it is that has befallen the Giants. They are beyond terrible, because at least that could be interesting sometimes. Instead, they are inertly boring.
Today, Eric Stults looked like Michael J. Fox, in that a guy who is not really amazing was replaced by someone who was amazing, all thanks to the Giants being unable to hit or layoff a pretty good changeup. It was only Michael Morse who managed to hit the ball the other way (by the way, he hasn't homered in a month). Hunter Pence sent the first pitch of the game to the warning track. That was the closest the Giants came to scoring all day. Oh sure, in the very next inning the Giants managed to load the bases, but with two outs it was left to Matt Cain, who is not a completely terrible hitting pitcher, but he's still a pitcher and he (predictably) struck out.
At the same time, Matt Cain looked like MATT CAIN. Sure, he surrendered a home run to Alexi Amarista who is 1" shorter and 10 lbs. lighter than me, a writer, but save the third inning, where Cain's stuff was hit very hard, he looked just fine. Three walks (the strike zone was a little fuzzy at times), seven hits (three from Chase Headley alone), six strikeouts, and only two runs allowed is a good night. He kept his team in it. Excuse me, he pitched good enough to keep *a* team in the game. Unfortunately, *his* team has been replaced by a smoking crater.
Miscellaneous thoughts before the sun finally sets and the west coast goes full fireworks:
* Matt Cain now has 1,502 strikeouts in his MLB career, which puts him fourth on the all-time SF Giants list behind Juan Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and Tim Lincecum. It's interesting to note that in just two calendar years, the idea that both Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain could wind up on the same list as two all-time greats is a bit surprising.
- Joaquin Arias hit a double, confirming Bochy's reliance on the batter-pitcher matchup stats. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing because if the entire roster is a smoking crater, second base craters all the way down to the C.H.U.D.s. I don't know how good Joaquin Arias is supposed to be. Unrelated, but related: I don't know how valuable Angel Pagan is supposed to be. What I do know is that when Angel Pagan is not in the lineup, the Giants (sample size: ~4 months over the past two seasons) are measurably worse. Along that same line, though, the Giants' record when Brandon Hicks (.165/.285/.325 in 238 PA) starts at second base is 38-19. I don't think that *means* anything, but I just want to point out once again that baseball is weird.
- Brandon Belt returned from a broken hand and after crushing minor league pitching to find that his hand works just fine and he is still an above average defender at first base, but his timing and comfort in the box against major league pitching might need some time to catch him up to speed. He didn't look bad, rough or tentative at the plate, just a touch out of sync. I expect that timing will be back pretty quickly, as Belt is a quality baseball player.
- Brooks Conrad played today. A reminder of when the Giants were maybe a better team, but certainly a luckier one.
- A reminder: there is nothing, absolutely nothing, the Giants can do to improve the major league roster. What they have simply has to improve.
- My fondest Independence Day memory: when a group of ragtag tax dodgers beat back a world empire.