Goodbye, baseball. Come back, baseball.
The 2015 Giants finished 84-78. That's about what we should have expected, considering the expected inconsistencies of the rotation. As always, though, there were unexpected developments, hacky plot twists, slow reveals, and jump scares. The ending might have been predictable, but what a weird way to get there.
In the last game of the season, the Giants gave you one last metaphor for the road. They had a promising start, tugged on your emotions, fell into a pit of steaming garbage, gave you the slightest glimmer of hope toward the end, but ended up rolling around in the steaming garbage for a bit. Am I referring to Sunday's game or the entire 2015 season? Yes.
It's okay. They clean up nice. Hit the showers and come back next year, with a way to navigate around the pit of steaming garbage. Maybe the Giants can do it with another pitcher or two. Maybe they can do it by telling teams to stop hitting our batters with baseballs. Maybe they can lay a couple of boards over the garbage and make a nice little bridge. At the end of 2009, I was convinced the Giants were never going to build a contending lineup, and that they would squander their stellar pitching. At the end of 2011, I was worried that Buster Posey would never catch again, and even if he did, that he wouldn't be able to catch more than 75 games the following season. At the end of 2013, I was pretty sure the run was over, that the problems from that season would carry over into the next year, and that Michael Morse and Tim Hudson weren't going to be enough to fix them.
At the end of 2015, I'm pretty sure the Giants will be just fine. And assuming the people stop THROWING BASEBALLS AT THEM and their obliques stop being jerks, they might be more than fine. Assuming the Giants take their newfound payroll flexibility and get a talented pitcher or two, well, this might be the most excited I've ever been about the team entering an even year.
Even though they left an entrail-flavored taste in your mouth with their 162nd game of the season. But I've already forgotten about that game. What game? No, this is a recap of the 2015 season. And it wasn't as exciting as we might have hoped. But at least it came with a side of optimism.
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Matt Cain is a part of that optimism, ending the season with his best start of the year. He wasn't missing as many bats as we might have hoped, but he claimed to have found a flaw in his delivery, a kink in his arm slot, a bugaboo in his motion. And while that's in the best-shape-of-his-life genre -- you're not going to read a lot of "I have nooooo idea what's going on, but maybe I'll get lucky" quotes from struggling pitchers -- his final start supported his claim, if just a bit.
The Giants will count on Cain again, just like they did before this season. In retrospect, it was silly to expect too much from a pitcher coming off major elbow surgery. If we're going to learn from that mistake, we should probably figure that it's silly to expect too much from a 31-year-old pitcher who hasn't been effective for three seasons, even if most of the ineffectiveness can be explained away with health problems. It's not likely for Cain to reclaim his place atop Mt. #2 Starter.
But if he did, that would be rad. And it's not like the Giants are going to pay him to try to do it for another team. So the leash is long, and the spot secured. As long as that's the case, all we can ask for is that Cain keeps giving us these one-game spots of hope. Actually, we can also ask for him to be better than ever before. We can also ask for him to be Jake Arrieta, give or take. It's probably reasonable, though, to keep our hopes only somewhat unrealistic.
I can do that. I'll spend all offseason doing that. Then I'll do it all spring. It should be fun, hope aboard.
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Again, there will be time this offseason for a full Affeldt appreciation. It's not like you want to read about the Mets' NLDS victory all month*, so there will be an appropriate moment for us all to take a breath and think about what it takes for a middle reliever to get that kind of standing ovation in his last career game.
It takes success. It takes a good sense of humor and universal praise from his teammates. It takes a sense of self-awareness and humility. It takes success and more success. And an occasional frozen hamburger patty. We won't see a combination like that from a middle reliever again for a long time.
I choked up. Did you you choke up? Yes, you did. That was the last time we'll ever see Jeremy Affeldt throw a baseball. Time is still undefeated, and I hate it so, but I'm so appreciative that Affeldt existed in the first season. A low-key free agent deal for a lefty reliever after the miserable 2008 season turned into that. I'm starting to think that baseball isn't very easy to predict.
*Yes, you will.
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If the Rockies made three quick outs in the ninth, they would have picked #3 in the 2016 Draft. After that unexpected comeback, they'll pick #4. Because they're the Rockies, you absolutely know that will screw them somehow. Let's change that to "baseball is rarely easy to predict."
Happy offseason, everyone. Happy offseason.
Stupid odd year.