The Giants were the best team in baseball for two months and went on to blow a hefty division lead in historic fashion. The Brewers managed to blow it in much the same way but never recovered, paving the way for our favorite baseball team to secure a spot in a one-game playoff.
Now they travel to Pittsburgh to face off against the Pirates in the Wild Card Game to determine which team gets the honor of facing the best team in the NL, the Washington Nationals. Both teams finished with 88 wins. The Giants have won five games at Pittsburgh in 12 tries over the last four years and are 11-14 overall against them. The Giants have won three total games in Washington over the last four seasons and are 9-17 overall against them. The Giants will be using Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card Game, meaning he'll likely get only one start in a potential series against the Nats.
So the odds are against them and the situation is grim. The question: Should the Giants even try to win the Wild Card Game? And to be clear: try means "to pick up a bat and/or glove or even attempt to play the game of baseball in a manner consistent with the other professionals of the sport; to exert effort in an attempt to defeat the opponent at the given game."
Point: No. The Giants are playing like total jagweeds.
by Bryan Murphy
Edinson Volquez coming out of nowhere to throw a, like, 1-hit shutout feels like something that will absolutely happen. Besides, what does it matter if they win? They'd just lose to the Nationals. The Giants have struggled against journalists lately, so I can't really see how they'd fare better against Nationals pitching.
The Pirates are really good, too, and so the Giants can't really try anything interesting or be creative with their roster construction because they can't risk losing the game, meaning Madison Bumgarner only gets 1 start in the division series, meaning the Giants' best chance to hang with the Nats goes right out the window.
Hunter Pence has slumped mightily the past two weeks (four hits in 50 plate appearances) and Pablo Sandoval had 14 extra base hits in the last two months of the season (52 games, 216 plate appearances). Gregor Blanco is not Angel Pagan. Travis Ishikawa is the starting left fielder now. In many ways, the team is sputtering into this game.
The two choices are: be the best team in baseball for two months and then end the season ignominiously by getting swept out of the first round or be the best team in baseball for two months and then lose the Wild Card Game on the road. As a man, ego, unfortunately, comes before all, and the idea of embarrassment via competition is so unpalatable that I'd just as soon avoid it. But some men -- perhaps even most men -- would see it as a challenge worthy of effort.
I contend that the Giants have already tried and failed. They blew a huge division lead, they blew being the best team in baseball, they have blown the opportunities they've had to take control of their sports destiny and they essentially coasted into this position (thanks, Brewers, for just ceasing all winning). Yes, there's still a chance they could make a deep run in the playoffs because anything can happen in a single game or a short series. We have literally seen everything happen to the Giants since 2009; we've seen all possible highs and lows. But just because we've seen it all doesn't mean the more likely thing won't happen: the Giants will lose either this game or the next series and will probably look terrible in doing so.
The Giants accomplished their goal: they made it to the playoffs. Great. Awesome. But they didn't do it with any meaningful style of play. It wasn't torturous (2010), it wasn't surprisingly good (2012), it was just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Oh, and the Brewers turned from good to bad.
So, the Giants should not try to win the Wild Card Game because it will save them and us the risk of further embarrassment. It will force some sober decisions to be made concerning the roster and it will get us thinking about next season much, much faster. 2014 was such a weird year that staying with it any longer risks turning it into a joke that is funny at first, then stops being funny for a while, but then goes on for so long that it becomes funny again.
Counterpoint: What in the absolute hell did I just read?
by Grant Brisbee
Bryan, you ignorant slut.
It doesn't matter how well the Giants are playing now. It doesn't matter how poorly they finished the season, or if they have the GoBots to the Dodgers' new set of Transformers. They have a chance to troll the damned world.
They have a chance to troll the damned world.
Think of an 88-win Giants team going from the second wild card to the NLCS, ending the season of two teams along the way. Think of them winning the pennant with this limping, inconsistent mess. Think of them winning the World Series for the third time in five years. Think of how many people that would royally cheese off. Start with the Dodgers fans. End with the Cardinals fans. Do it the other way around. Mix in some A's fans. They would all be unfathomably bitter. Each of those teams would have their Jose Cruz, Jr. or Sidney Ponson, the goats whose mere names can define a season. The Giants would have another championship and parade. All they have to do is go 12-8 against four different teams.
They can do that. They were 12-4 from August 20 through September 6. In that stretch, they beat Doug Fister and David Price, and they lit up Stephen Strasburg. You don't even have to go back to the absurd stretches in April and May to find a stretch with Giants winning six out of every 10 games.
Now I get what Bryan is saying. The odds are overwhelmingly against the Giants. They have something like a 45- or 50-percent chance of getting punted before they even get to the real postseason. Even if they slip past the Pirates to get to the Nationals, who are clearly better, the Giants would have something like a 10-percent chance at winning it all. Those are the same odds of Tim Lincecum getting a hit in any given at-bat. Bryan's just assuming the pitcher is going to make an out, statistically speaking. There's no sense getting attached to the idea of the Tim Lincecum getting a hit, just as there's no sense getting attached to the idea of the Giants winning it all. Might as well limit the pain to one isolated game.
Except they have a chance to troll the damned world.
The 2010 team felt like a team of destiny, a random collision of disparate electrons that stunned us all. The 2012 team was the same, but more so, with Marco Scutaro using karmic black magic to ruin Matt Holliday and his stupid team. The only reason this team doesn't seem like that sort of team is because we haven't seen it yet. We can look back at those teams and say, "Oh, they had something that this team was missing," except we get to do that only because Mat Latos missed with his location at exactly the wrong time to exactly the wrong hitter.
Say, that's the one. To get to that game, the Giants won a 10-inning game in which they had three hits. To get past the next series, they needed Barry Zito to contribute. It was all absurdly unlikely. But it happened.
Think of it like this: The Giants don't have to play exceptionally well for the next four weeks. The other teams can play poorly. Think of Scott Rolen booting an easy grounder. Think of a Murderer's Row of sluggers playing the game the right way, and now think of them waving through Zito curveballs. Preposterous. But it happened.
If the Giants get past the Pirates and look like jagweeds against the Nationals, fold that pain into a ball and shove it up your nose. Ingest it and let it blacken inside of you. When the Giants do win another World Series -- 10, 20, 80 years from now -- let that blackened, malformed disgust come out in inappropriate ways. Set a car on fire. Dance on the bar until you get arrested. Literally shoot a gun into the air.
You'll have earned it, you know.
The Giants should try to win the Wild Card Game because they're playing with house money. The silver dollar is already in the slot machine. Why wouldn't they pull the damned handle? Because it would feel too awful if it came up cherry-7-cherry? That's weenie talk.
And you're no weenie. Bryan is, but you're not.
The Giants have a chance to play better than we expect and annoy people. That's a beautiful dream. We should root for it.