Monday’s game against the Marlins wasn’t exactly pretty. Madison Bumgarner was far from his sharpest, the Giants fly balls all died on the warning track, and the hitters combined for one extra-base hit while striking out 11 times.
And yet . . . I kept expecting them to win. When the game began, I thought they would win. When they trailed 2-1 in the fourth, I thought they would win. When they trailed 7-5 in the seventh, I thought they would win.
They lost, of course. That 7-5 score held true, as it so often does. But it wasn’t until Andrew McCutchen slowly rolled out to start the ninth inning that I actually expected that loss to take place.
The loss can’t be reversed. There’s no way to change that now. But neither can the two and a half hours I spent watching the game, happily expecting a triumphant victory. A loss doesn’t erase that time spent.
To the dismay of most, the Giants lost 98 games last year and didn’t blink. Unlike other teams in their position, San Francisco didn’t mortgage their best players and reload for the future. By all accounts, they didn’t even consider it.
There are plenty of reasons to dislike this approach, and most of them are compounded by the fact that the team opted for the middle ground. They spent conservatively, preferring to lose prospects rather than money, and stayed under the tax.
It was questionable.
And yet, 66 games into the season, the Giants are .500, despite dealing with numerous injuries. They’re a mere 3.5 games out of first in the NL West, and Fangraphs gives them a 10.5% chance of winning the division.
33-33 isn’t exactly what front offices spend their days wistfully dreaming about, but it has the Giants right in the thick of things as their reinforcements begin to trickle in.
And, just as importantly, it has me spending the first eight innings of a random June road game expecting a victory.
In all likelihood, the Giants will miss the playoffs. And until we see how deep they dig into their pockets this winter, and what big free agents have their interest piqued by San Francisco, we won’t know whether this year’s strategy was a good one.
But for now, it’s fun. After the sinkhole of repugnant attempts at baseball that populated the entire 162 games in 2017, this year has been a win. The team is fun to watch, due to veterans like Brandons Crawford and Belt lighting the world on fire, reclamation projects like Pablo Sandoval re-establishing themselves, and youngsters like Reyes Moronta and Alen Hanson carving out their roles at the highest level of the sport. And, most importantly, because they give their fans a reason, every night, to genuinely believe that the team will win.
The strategy remains debatable. But the team is enjoyable, and that’s worth a lot.