We’ll never know exactly what happened, but the tidiest and most dramatic way to put it is that on this day in 2016, the Giants woke up having forgotten how to play baseball. They closed out the first half with the best record in baseball at 57-33 and would go 30-42 the rest of the way, just barely staying alive to face the Mets in the Wild Card game.
And then Bumgarner shutout the Mets and the Giants nearly stunned the Cubs, and the team was convinced that the 30-42 that dragged them down to that point was more of a fluke than the surprise performance in the postseason against a solid Mets team and superior Cubs team. Fools! Fools, the lot of us!
That 30-42 run was the prologue to the team’s collapse. Since that second half, the Giants are 210-278 (.430). From 2009 to the first half of 2016, they were 665-559 (.543). Sure, there were bad moments mixed in with a lot of the good, but however the Giants woke up on the morning of July 15, their actions from that evening on has set the course for the current state of the franchise.
Andrew Cashner was better than Madison Bumgarner on Friday night. The Padres’ lineup was substantially better than the Giants’ lineup. That’s the elevator summary of the game. They hit the balls harder and farther. Their pitcher threw harder with better command.
You could’ve created a Word template from this to describe virtually every game the Giants played the rest of the season... and the ensuing fifteen and a half months.
But bad second halves befall every team at any time, and two of the Giants’ world championships were thanks, in part, to their competition fading away in August and September of those respective seasons. There’s not an easy explanation for why a great team goes bad, especially in a year when the roster’s average age was 29 years old.
That was the oldest the team had been since 2011, though, and it would only get older from there. We could certainly do a deep dive into the particulars to perhaps satisfy whatever curiosity we may have about why this “championship core” melted down — an average rotation with a lot of bad innings from Matt Cain and Albert Suarez? — but it’s enough to know that the bad came for the club and the club couldn’t stave off the inevitable.
Few teams get what the Warriors and their fans got: instant closure and immediate gratification. In one night, they lost Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, and lost the Finals. That’s about as loud and strong as a window can slam shut. The Warriors won’t stop being a nice, fun team to have on in the background, but they’ve lost the throne atop the NBA.
It took a long time for the Giants to realize that was their fate, too, but now here we are. We can look back on history and just know that there was an era of San Francisco Giants baseball unlike any other. This date in Giants history won’t get a celebration or spotlight on the broadcast, but it’s no less important to the history of the franchise. It’s the day everything changed, even if nobody knew it then or wanted to admit it later.
Who knows where we are in this long epilogue, but eventually, this book will finally close and we’ll get to say, “Hey, that was swell,” while enjoying a totally different team. This year’s team has transitioned from “objectively terrible in every way” to “hey, that’s entertaining!” The next successful Giants team won’t look anything like this one or the ones before it, though, and that distinction will only improve the reputation and recollection of this previous era, the one that ended on July 15, 2016.