On September 24, 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League West. The final out was recorded by Brian Wilson, who did his finishing move, arms aloft, beard flecked with spittle. The entire Dodgers team rushed the field as everyone in the crowd lost their voices. No one bothered to turn the bubble machine off. The Dodgers won the division.
Fill the tub up with that and sit in it for a bit. It feels worse before it feels better. Also, it never feels better.
Watch this on a loop for 12 minutes. It might help.
Nope, nope, nope. Didn't help. But at least I wirelessly passed some hate from my black heart into space, back down into fiber optic cables, and into your mind. It took some of the edge off.
Let's take one play as a microcosm for the entire last week. Gregor Blanco made a baserunning boner early in the game, with the Giants needing runs and Kershaw showing a smidgen of vulnerability. He froze on a ball that looked like a single from the moment it left the bat, and he was stranded on third base. I made notes to investigate later. "Blanco boner?" and "Write about Blanco's boner" were two of the notes.
Then came the actual boner. With the Giants down by four and one out, Blanco tried to take an extra base for no apparent reason. Again, down by four. That's a we-need-runners code red. Not only did he fail, but he failed spectacularly. He flopped before the base, helmet coming off, then twisted in agony as he rolled past the base. That slide was the decision to take third of slides. That decision to take third was that slide of decisions to take third. Symmetry. It was quite poetic.
You thought you had a boner with the first one? No, that was a boner. It was the kind of boner that made me take several minutes and photoshop this:
What a stupid, stupid play. What a hilarious collapse. It's a metaphor for the last week, then. The odds were against the Giants. They needed to play perfectly and catch a few breaks, but there was a chance, a small chance. And right when you started to dream just a little, they did something horrifically stupid and embarrassed themselves. The Giants stumbled and fell and looked like jackasses, and you wondered what they were doing there in the first place.
Let's take one play as a microcosm for the entire season. Buster Posey came up with the bases loaded against Clayton Kershaw. The Giants had a one-run lead, but with the bases full, one out, and their best hitter up, it felt like more. That was the peak win expectancy for the Giants -- per FanGraphs, they had something like a 73-percent chance of winning at that point. It just took a knockout blow.
Instead, the worst possible outcome happened. Double play, inning over. Their best player prevailed. The Giants' best player failed. The early lead was doomed. The odds that were once in the Giants' favor turned almost instantly, and suddenly the whole team was upside down.
Without Posey reclaiming his MVP form, the Giants don't watch the Dodgers celebrate in front of them. They're out a week ago, maybe more, and they're probably in a sad death match with the Brewers right now. Posey did his best, but he isn't magic, and he came up just short against the best the Dodgers had. There's no shame in it. Just endless frustration.
You want to take moldy lemons and make moldy lemonade? I can do that. Welcome to Optimism Corner brought to you by State Farm. Here goes:
Tim Hudson pitching a masterpiece on Wednesday night would have been confusing.
It's true! So true. He did his best, better than expected. The Clayton Kershaw triple was something of a fluke, and the 0-2 homer to Puig was unfortunate, but if that was Hudson's best, it's not better than the other four options in the rotation.
Take the inning after the Giants scored a run against Kershaw. The feeling at the home office was the Giants scored a run off Kershaw oh my god oh my god oh my god they scoooored. Don't know about your neighborhood, but I saw at least two cars get tipped over in mine. After the barrage of run, Hudson's job was to not screw anything up.
He walked the leadoff hitter.
That hitter didn't score, though. Good job, effort, and so forth.
After a clean fourth, Hudson hit the leadoff hitter. Then he failed to look him back. Then he allowed a triple to the pitcher.
Tim Hudson doesn't put leadoff hitters on for free unless there's something wrong. He did just fine, considering the circumstances. But he didn't make things confusing. You don't want to bounce Yusmeiro Petit. You don't want to bounce Ryan Vogelsong. Hudson gave what he had, and it wasn't enough to think that he's one of the five best starters on the Giants' staff. A dominant start would have led to Petit going to the bullpen, I'll guess.
This game increased the Giants' World Series odds.
Yeah, that's it.
Two quick grumbles about Bruce Bochy.
First, his decision to give the Dodgers a free baserunner in a one-run game with one out -- so that he could play match-ups -- was incompetent. Bochy isn't much of a sacrifice bunter, and you know why? He knows the odds. Someone showed him the math, and he accepted it. That's to his credit.
On this one, he's hoping for an infield grounder, handled cleanly, to turn into a double play. I don't have an 80x80 matrix of every possible outcome, but I'm pretty damned sure that the exact outcome Bochy was looking for was outweighed by the disadvantage inherent in giving the Dodgers a free baserunner in a one-run game with one out. Live and learn.
Second, his decision to start Chris Dominguez three times in the last four games is bizarre. Simply bizarre. It didn't cost the Giants the game, necessarily, but it's so danged weird.
Consider that on September 2, 2009, the Giants were 5½ back in the NL West, but they were just a game out in the wild card. They couldn't hit. Oh, mercy, how they couldn't hit. You kids think this lineup is frustrating, hoo, y'all ain't seen nothing at all. That lineup was lousy. So they called up their best prospect, a catcher who was destroying the Pacific Coast League. Absolutely laying waste to it.
It took nine days for Buster Posey to get an at-bat. A single at-bat. He didn't start a game until three weeks later, when the Giants were 10 games out of the division and five out of the wild card with eight to play. All told, Posey started four games that year.
Chris Dominguez has started three. He has a chance, man. He has a chance to best Posey's rookie year. As an outfielder, Dominguez is a third baseman. He's basically Michael Morse with a touch -- just a touch -- less creakiness. He has a strong arm, but that doesn't matter if he can't throw it where he wants to. So he's not in there for his defense. Yet in Triple-A, he was abysmal as a hitter. In 528 plate appearances, he walked 22 times and struck out 143 times. If he put those numbers up in the majors, they would comprise the third-highest strikeout total in Giants history. It would be the highest strikeout rate, too. Except he did that in Triple-A. As a 27-year-old.
"Here, kid. Do something against Clayton Kershaw."
It's not like the Giants are overflowing with great options. But there's still some bizarre logicking going on right there. And it made me wonder why this is the rookie that Bruce Bochy is suddenly okay with.
Win a game against the Pirates, and the Giants and Dodgers are equals again. Thank you, society, for making everyone feel like they need a ribbon for participating.
(No, seriously, thank you.)
Before the season, I picked the Dodgers to win the West and the Giants to win a wild card spot. I was okay with that back then.
I'll tell you, it's the damnedest thing, I'm disappointed right now. Funny how that works.