We’re about to enter into an odd year, and that doesn’t mean a damned thing. It probably never did, but it was fun to believe in the even year/odd year stuff. Now the Giants are just another team, at the mercy of baseball, which is fickle and often cruel. The probably won’t win the World Series next year, the year after that, or the year after that, just because most teams won’t.
Yet if the Giants were just another team this year, this certainly wasn’t just another season. Even though almost every baseball season ends painfully in some capacity for each team, this was quantifiably one of the most painful seasons in team history. In September, the Giants lost five games when leading after eight innings. They lost more such games in just eight of their 58 full seasons since moving to San Francisco.
When you compare just September, 2016 with any other full season season since 1958, the 2016 Giants fare poorly. But there were the months before September, which were also awful.
There was also October.
If there was a game that stood as a synecdoche of the entire season, other than Game 4 of the NLDS, it was that miserable, foggy, dumb September game against the Padres. It was after everybody knew that the bullpen was filled with nothing but anthrax spores and the constant moaning of the restless undead. Bruce Bochy was already committed to using Anybody But Santiago Casilla, which was probably overdue.
It still didn’t work because nothing would. Single, strikeout, single, infield single, walk, ground out, home run by a made-up player on a 1-2 count.
Let it be a learning lesson, I suppose. Let that be the worst two-strike pitch that Steven Okert throws in his career. The part that stung is that if Casilla started the ninth, the Giants probably would have won the game. That goes for Game 4, too. Every blown save was the perfect mix of horrible luck and horrible pitches, exactly the wrong pitcher at the wrong time.
It was the Giants holding the winning lottery numbers a week late, every damned game. Also, the ticket was covered with cat barf.
That would seem to be the memory of 2016. When you think about the 2016 Giants, you’ll think about leads that weren’t held and the monster under your bed coming out to eat you, over and over again.
And yet there was also this:
That is, roughly as many transcendent postseason moments in a week as the Giants had from 1963 through 1988. Without going out of my way to make Nationals fans feel bad, do you realize the Giants packed more fun into this postseason as the Nationals/Expos have in franchise history? That almost goes for the Mariners, too, if we’re talking about postseason moments that will be remembered for decades.
Between Will Clark up the middle and J.T. Snow’s homer, there wasn’t anything iconic. Nothing even close. After Snow’s homer, the Giants didn’t win another game for the rest of the year, including the one with the freaking homer. And we’re complaining about a season that gave us two Gillaspie bolts and Madison Bumgarner dominance in an elimination game? You horrible, spoiled monster.
Of course, one of those Gillaspie bolts was temporarily ruined because the bullpen couldn’t hold a danged lead.
Of course, the Giants were eliminated from the postseason because they couldn’t hold a three-run lead. There were five pitchers used in that fateful ninth inning. All of them did something wrong or had bad results. That was the 2016 Giants, alright.
So as 2016 comes to an end, we’re faced with a choice. Do we remember this team for the pain and the misery, the unlikely and dreadful losses they piled up, again and again and again. Or will we remember them for the moments where it seemed like even-year nonsense was a real phenomenon?
The 2016 Giants were exceptional at reminding us why we don’t always like baseball.
The 2016 Giants were exception at reminding us why we like baseball in the first place.
The real answer is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Both can be true. It’s a little maddening, but it’s almost as if baseball seasons aren’t binary, as if there’s a lot of gray areas between the two outcomes, and there’s still a way to remember the best times, even as the worst times keep creeping back in. Just another way that baseball is totally like life, he said, hoping the towel at the bottom of the door would keep the R.A. from smelling the smoke.
It was a year we’ll never forget, though. I don’t remember much about 1999. There are memories of 2007, but they’re a little fuzzy. Sometimes I get 2011 and 2013 confused. But 2016? Oh, man. That was a decade of nonsense packed into a single season, and I hated it so much, other than the times when I was completely in love with it.
Thanks for the oases of excitement, 2016. But I’m going to have to ask you to go away and never come back. I hope you’ll understand.