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Pain and the San Francisco Giants: Historical Perspective

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If the Giants lose tonight, it would be extraordinarily tough for them to make the playoffs. The race wouldn’t be over. The remaining games would still have a lingering odor of contending about them – Polo’s Runner Up!, now with more anise and sulfur! – but the odds wouldn’t be good.

Hey, that has 75% less irony since the first time I posted it. So we have that going for us. Which is nice.

But let’s assume the worst. Heck, let’s go beyond the worst, and let’s pretend that the Rockies go on a five-game winning streak, and let’s pretend that the Giants go on a five-game scoreless streak. Season’s over, Freddy Sanchez is put on the DL with a pulled everything, Randy Winn loses playing time to John Bowk…hahahaha, okay, I couldn’t keep a straight face with that last one. Seriously, though, if the end were to come swiftly and mercifully, how would we feel?

This isn’t 2003. This isn’t a 100-win season ending in a four-game stretch of pain.

This isn’t 2001, in which a team that was expected to contend fell short, wasting historic performances from Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia.

This isn’t 1998, when Neifi Perez neified the Giants for the first time.

This isn’t 2005, when it was miserably apparent that the Giants weren’t going to make our autumns interesting for a loooong time.

This isn’t 2002, in which a very good Giants team wasn’t allowed to compete for a championship because of the famine caused by locusts.

On the pain scale, a collapse this season wouldn’t rank too highly. As a midpoint in a rebuilding process, a lot of us wanted only to see some progress. Posey’s doing well in AAA, Lincecum and Cain are fantastic, Jonathan Sanchez is stringing together some good starts, and Zito looks as if he’ll be able to contribute to future Giant rosters, salary be damned. Where the Giants were once a complete overhaul away from respectability, now they’re only a few tweaks away from something more.

This shouldn’t be taken as a eulogy for the season. I’ll watch today’s game as if it’s the seventh game of the NLCS, hopping up and down and swearing when it’s appropriate. The season is still very much alive, and as a staunch Anyteamcanwinelevenoutofnineteenist – we light incense in front of a Jeff Weaver picture before each service – I’m desperately hoping the Giants make the playoffs. Tonight’s game is the most important game in years. We’re in this thing. Kind of.

But to use a cliché, it feels like I’m playing with house money. As the Giants were getting pummeled on Saturday, I had a blissful kind of acceptance. The bullpen is filled with pitchers with ERAs under 4.00, even though none of their peripherals suggest that’s their true talent level. The offense would have been historically awful without Pablo Sandoval; as is, it’s just awful. Randy Johnson didn’t provide much value. This isn’t a team to live and die with. It’s just too flawed of a roster.

Yes, if the Giants don’t make the playoffs, they’ll have wasted two fantastic starting pitching seasons, and they’ll have wasted some fluky bullpen work. It will be disappointing. But it won’t be a soul-smelting disappointment, if that makes any sense.

The best way to put it is probably this: If the Giants lose tonight, I will not kill a baby duckling. I will only maim one. So go, local sports team. Make us proud.

Comment starter: Is the house money analogy appropriate? Is that how you feel, or are you completely invested in this season?