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September baseball and the looming riots

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From a post close to the trading deadline:

This is the year to go nuts. The Giants can’t count on free agent hitters agreeing to come to San Francisco. They can’t count on Thomas Neal to anchor the middle of the lineup while Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Jonathan Sanchez are under contract and pitching well. This is the year that Aubrey Huff is hitting like Eddie Murray. This is the year that Andres Torres is hitting like Kenny Lofton. This is the year with four starters pitching better than most team’s #1. The stars haven’t aligned, exactly, but they aren’t getting any alignier.

Huff isn’t hitting like Eddie Murray right now. Torres isn’t hitting like Kenny Lofton (with more power, I should have added) right now. And those four starters, well, for most of August they were pitching like a collection of #5 starters from the bowels of PCL rotations.

The overall thesis still stands, though. The Giants have had a lot of good fortune this year. They aren’t one game back if Huff hasn’t matched his career-best numbers, or if Andres Torres is just the fifth-outfielder we thought he would be. They aren’t one game back if the pitching staff doesn’t stay mostly healthy – though a couple of DL stints in August might have actually helped. They aren’t one game back if they don’t make a radical, post-deadline deal for Jose Guillen.

Well, maybe that last one is a stretch. They might be six-games ahead if my math is right, and by "math" I mean "half-hearted guess based purely on how much distaste I have for the trade."

My point is that this is likely to be the very best chance for a while to make the playoffs, and as a graduate of Jeff Weaver University – school mascot: the Fightin’ Stringy-Haired Weasels – I think any team has a shot to win 11 out of 19 potential games once they do make the playoffs. Therefore, I am going to freak out about every single game from here until the end of the season. This success might be fleeting.

Please don’t confuse this with "The Giants aren’t going to contend for the next decade." Things happen. Maybe the pitching staff will stay healthy and effective. Maybe Huff and Torres will be just as awesome, and they’ll remain Giants. It’s possible that the current paradigm will lead to more success in the future.

And if the surprising, fortuitous things that I’ve listed don’t come to pass, maybe four more surprising and fortuitous things come up and slap us in the face. When I wrote this lamentation after just the second game in 2008, Tim Lincecum was just a prospect, an unknown quantity. Pablo Sandoval was a chubby kid coming off a mediocre season in the Cal League. Buster Posey was in college. Madison Bumgarner was less than a year out of high school. All sorts of valuable players in 2010, from Andres Torres to Juan Uribe to Santiago Casilla, were traipsing around the dustbin of the majors in 2008. Things happen to turn a bad team into a contender, and they happen quickly.

But these things don’t always happen. They have for the 2010 Giants, and to a lesser extent the 2009 Giants, but they don’t always. You can’t assume that Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner are just going to keep improving, just as you can’t assume that the Giants will have a hitter as good as Huff next year, even if they re-sign the genuine article. This is a good team now. It might be the most likable, charismatic team I’ve ever followed in any sport, but it’s also one of the better Giants teams of the past decade.

If they come up short, it will be devastating. There will be freakouts. I’ll probably be guilty of a few.

If they actually make the playoffs, those same freakouts will happen. I’ll still be guilty of a few. The only difference is that they’ll just be a little more embarrassing to read in retrospect.

It’s indigestion inside. Also, fear masked as anger. Just thought I’d give you fair warning.