I don’t remember what the Giants’ record was at Coors Field in 2013. That wasn’t a fun season, and they surely didn’t have a good record there, but it doesn’t matter whether they went 2-7 or 4-5. It didn’t affect how they played the following season. It was buried in the potter’s field of 2013 and never discussed again.
The Giants have been lousy at Coors Field this year. They’ve been far worse than normal, which is pretty abominable, indeed. You might think of this next April, when they play their first of 97 games at Coors in 2018, but as next season progresses, you’ll find different things to care about. It will have its own personality, and what the Giants did in Coors in 2017 will mean absolutely nothing.
What Joe Panik is doing next year, though, will mean a whole bunch. That goes for Johnny Cueto, too. And at the risk of repeating myself over and over and over again for the next month, this is what makes every Giants game watchable in some capacity over the next four weeks. The Giants are absolutely going to charge into 2018 with a lot of the same players, expecting different results. There’s no rebuild. There’s no drastic remaking of the roster as we know it. We’ve received your 48-step offseason plan that concludes with Mike Trout and Chris Sale on the Giants and each of the top 10 prospects still in the organization, and we’re very impressed, but it’s not going to happen. The only way the 2018 Giants will be better is if most of their current players are better.
Johnny Cueto will probably be around. This was an encouraging outing, then. He threw just five innings, but that’s basically seven innings when you adjust for Coors Field. Any magic worst-to-first season you can think of starts with him being the pitcher we were hoping for in the first place.
Joe Panik will probably be around. This was an encouraging series, then. Perhaps the most encouraging series possible. When I left for vacation after Friday night, he was hitting .267/.328/.399, which is completely uninspiring. Is that enough offense for a second baseman in 2018, when the home runs will still be flying out of 29 different ballparks, most likely? That’s hard to answer. Some teams can thrive with a glove-first second baseman, but I’m not sure if the desperate Giants are one of them.
Now he’s hitting .285/.344/.427, and I shouldn’t be this shallow or easily impressed by the difference in three rate stats after five days, but that looks like the line of a second baseman who can contribute to a contender next year. While it’s very neat that Panik holds the team record for most hits in a three-game series (12), I’m more concerned with the idea that it’s okay to be fervently, unambiguously pro-Panik heading into the offseason. He’s the youngest member of the Giants’ core. He’s the hitter who is young enough to get better.
One of the problems for the Giants this year has been, yes, there have been a lot of disappointing seasons from almost everyone on the Opening Day roster. Another problem, though, is that no one got better. No one had a breakout season. There wasn’t a Chris Taylor. There wasn’t even a Kolten Wong. They’ll need a breakout season or four next year if they’re going to flip their record around.
And if Panik doesn’t have that breakout season, I’ll gladly accept a return to something close to his All-Star form. Flirting with .300. Hitting doubles. Using the whole field. Playing a stellar defensive second the whole time. The Giants are going to push this 25-man boulder up the hill again, and there’s no way around it. For the next month, let’s gather some evidence as to why that might not be so wacky after all. Even if we’re only fooling ourselves, I’ll take the suspension of disbelief. The winter is long, man. Give us some optimism acorns to dig up when we’re hungry.
But you don’t have to look at the big picture if you’re tired of doing that. Joe Panik had 12 hits in a three-game series. The Giants had 16 hits in a three-game series in Cincinnati this year, where they got to play in Great American Ball Park and face Reds pitching. You’ll forgive us if we’re a little excited about that.
Other than Panik, the best part of this game was how the Giants managed to add new wrinkles to a Coors Field game, deftly managing our expectations like an experienced director.
Take the top of the first. The Giants had the bases loaded and one out. Two of the runners were absolutely handed to them, with one of them coming on the first error of Nolan Arenado’s career. Then Brandon Crawford struck out, and it was clear the Giants weren’t going to score.
Then Austin Slater almost murdered Kyle Freeland with a base hit up the middle. It’s good to have Slater back, by the way. But it was also a nice touch to have the Giants start off a reverse-Coors night with that kind of twist.
Take the bottom of the first. There were two outs, nobody on, and Johnny Cueto hit Carlos Gonzalez to bring up Nolan Arenado. Ah ha, so that’s how they were going to screw everything up. Arenado was going to poke a home run to right field, the game would be tied, and the Rockies were going to score six unanswered runs.
Except Cueto got out of the jam. Then he got out of the next one. It continued to be opposite day at Coors Field, and I am very much into that concept.
The Giants finally won a game in Denver, and while it might not be the difference between the Rockies missing the postseason entirely or not, I’d like to think there’s at least a chance. Besides, if the Rockies don’t make it, the Cardinals are likely going to sneak in, and we know what that means.
At the risk of getting too meta, I have a story. This was my first game back from a four-game vacation that I very much enjoyed. Didn’t connect to the internet. Didn’t watch or listen to the games. Didn’t check Twitter. Have no idea what DEFCON we’re at. I could probably make this a permanent lifestyle choice, given the chance. But I’m back, and I’m excited about Joe Panik, and, heck yeah, baseball can be fun!
Then the NBC Sports Bay Area broadcast showed a clip of Vince Coleman in a Giants uniform.
Vince Coleman in a Giants uniform.
When did this happen?
Vince Coleman in a Giants uniform. Only ‘80s Kids Know Why That’s Fascinating To Me. So I googled it.
And I clicked on the first result.
oh my sweet hell no there’s no way that i wrote that please help me how long is this season
This is a true story, every word, and it’s why I’m already planning my next vacation. Gonna be longer this time. Much longer. And it will also be suspiciously timed for a Coors Field road trip.
Boy, you would think that I would have heard of Vince Coleman being on the Giants’ staff! I’ll google this right quick and see how I missed it.
I can’t explain just how bad it feels to do that.
On the other hand, Joe Panik.