I just spent several hours writing 1,400 words that were devoted to a team on fire. The Nationals were preseason favorites for the third straight season, but instead, you can see the flames from space. It's not just Jonathan Papelbon choking Bryce Harper, either. Everyone is pissed off.
Aw, Matty. We still love you, at least.
The Nationals expected to win this season. So did the Giants. The Nationals were okay, not terrible, just like the Giants. But the Nationals are a mess. The Giants are wearing skull-caps and Tim Hudson jerseys. It's worth asking why there hasn't been a huge blowup with the Giants in one of these lousy odd years. Losing when expectations are high is the easiest way for a team to cannibalize itself. How are the Giants mostly immune?
Let's investigate some theories.
They just won, so the tension isn't there
I can see that. The Nationals were supposed to be the '27 Yankees, unless they were the '98 Yankees. Instead, they were the Beltran-era Mets, doomed to being eternally disappointing relative to expectations. Baseball seasons are long. Now imagine three of them, back-to-back-to-back, all ending in misery. People would get snippy.
The Giants have never had those expectations before a season, not since Bonds's peak. Which is, of course, the last time there was a dugout scuffle. So maybe that's the real issue. Expectations.
Bruce Bochy is hella chill, which makes his team hella chill
Apologies for the technical jargon, but Bochy seems like an even-keeled fellow. It's supposed to be one of his greatest strengths, understanding how the grind of a long season needs to be handled. Act too jittery, and you'll lose the clubhouse. Act too passive, and you'll lose the clubhouse. He's the baby-bear porridge of the baseball world, and that trickles down to his team.
He can be like this because of the winning part, too. Don't forget that. It's all a rich tapestry. Winning makes managers hella chill.
The Giants don't have anyone quite like Harper (or Papelbon)
That is, a tremendous, preternaturally talented player who is growing up in front of everyone. Harper was groomed to take over the world since he was a kid in a way that other players weren't, and I don't know if he's ever thought about not-baseball. When Buster Posey was Harper's age, he was told to sit back, be quiet, and let Bengie Molina do the work. He wasn't told to do everything and carry the entire team on his back. That was the following year.
And more than that, Posey's personality is clearly different. He's always been a speak softly/big stick guy. Harper comes off as a little more caffeinated. That kind of personality is going to attract more scrutiny.
Also, Jonathan Papelbon's senior yearbook quote was probably HAR HAR HAR, and I picture his house being completely empty other than a mattress on the floor and cabinets stuffed with beef jerky. The Giants don't have one of those.
Maybe their attempts to build team around clubhouse chemistry ... works?
It isn't a perfect strategy. They're probably finishing in second place, after all. But it's pretty clear the Giants are interested only in solid human beings, and they've said as much. Chemistry matters to them, and the results might be a bunch of likable players who like each other.
The issue with that, though, is that they're not going to turn a jerkface away if he can hit 30 homers or throw 200 innings. If they had a player with the talent of Harper and HAR HAR HAR of Papelbon, they'd keep him around and deal with it. Just a guess. But the Bonds era gives us a pretty good indication. Talent is the first consideration, and it always will be.
In that sense, the Giants have just been lucky to be blessed with Crawford/Belt/Posey types instead of a Papelbonesque goony bird. If Pablo Sandoval is the weirdest cat to come out of the organization, they're probably doing something right.
They are fighting. We just don't see it
Possibly! Probably! As in, these kinds of dustups don't happen in the public eye that often, so maybe there are a bunch we're not hearing about. The last one I remember off the top of my head was Barry Bonds v. Jason Christiansen, and in the article on it, we have this quote:
"This happens more than you'd think," a club source said.
Asked whether the source was speaking generally or about Bonds in specific, the source said, "Both."
You know the people you work with? Imagine them hanging around you all damned day, then night, then day, then night, then on an airplane, then in a hotel, then all damned day, then night. Oh, and you don't see your family for most of this time.
There will be scuffles. There have probably been a few that we haven't heard about. We're just talking about this one because the cameras were there.
All of the above
Yeah, this one is my vote. It's a little of everything. Bochy commands respect and he's not erratic and hot-tempered. The Giants have a superstar, but he's more like a presidential candidate than a rock star. They aren't fighting against history and expectations. The front office seems to value character quite a bit when building a roster.
And despite all of that, there's probably crap that we're not seeing.
Still, here's a saving grace for you. The Giants have suffered through a disappointing season, but they're not melting down in front of us. It's been a bad season in a lot of ways, but it can always be worse. Close your eyes and picture Sergio Romo and Buster Posey wrestling in the dugout. It can always, always, always be worse.