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Mind over matter?

The Giants have struggled with letting mistakes on the field get out of hand. If they want to stay competitive, they’re going to have to find ways to re-focus and re-energize

Manager of the San Francisco Giants, Gabe Kapler, watches a game against Milwaukee from the dugout. He’s wearing sunglasses. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The 2022 San Francisco Giants Experience has often felt like Schrodinger’s Cat: a crap-shoot, a paradox. Is it dead or alive in the box? It’s a fifty-fifty shot if we open it, should we take the risk? Is it our fault if it’s dead?

Each night we as fans have braced ourselves for the unknown: Are we going to get BASEBALL! or Basic-ball ? (Ha!) Are we going to get swept by the White Sox or sweep the Dodgers? Will we get Sunday’s team that blanks the Padres 12-0 or Monday’s that capitulates to the Diamondbacks?

For as infuriating as inconsistency is to watch, the comfort we can take from it is that the potential is there. Yes, they’re 12.5 games back from the division leading Dodgers and looking through the window from the outside in on a crowded and raucous Wild Card party—but the 2022 Giants are a good team that can play into October. I believe that…at least, right now I do, I think. Ask me again after this coming Dodgers series.

They’re in the top-third of most offensive categories, their starting pitching, even with injuries and poor defensive support, has been excellent. They’re still 5 games above .500 and only 2.5 games behind 2nd place San Diego. Their 12-19 record in one-run ball games is telling. They’ve under performed in close games but they’ve also kept a lot of games close.

Their longest winning streak is 6 games, so is their longest losing streak. The most runs they’ve scored and allowed in a game are 15. They’ve shut out an opponent, and been shut out, 4 times.

After 91 games, the balance of opposites with these Giants feels less like a mediocre team playing mediocre baseball and more like lapsed potential, wasted energy. Something is missing and I don’t think it’s as simple as a right-handed bat that plays solid defense.

Mike Yastrzemski, after hitting his walk-off grand slam that capped a 6-run 9th against the Milwaukee Brewers, credited Joey Bart for sparking the offensive outburst. Bart hit the homer to lead off the 9th, but it was the young catcher’s overheard dugout motivation when down by 3 runs that Yaz says righted the ship and changed the team’s mindset.

A winning team is always greater than the sum of its parts. Mindset, mental toughness, the intangibles: that’s the 6th tool, the mystery ingredient, and as wishy-washy as that sounds in these uncertain times, is often what makes a team great.

The 2022 San Francisco Giants have not been great.

Too often in this first half, it’s felt like the Giants have played against themselves, getting in their own way, allowing themselves to lose focus and sulk after a mistake or a bad break. The stolid way of the Giant is susceptible to numbness, a level of complacency and winnable games have slipped through their fingers due to their stupor.

The defense has been a liability. Full stop. It feels like every grounder hit in the San Francisco infield is a hold-your-breath-and-grip-the-armrest event—and that description is only a little dramatic. The great frustrations of the season has been watching this team let errors or misplays or bad breaks to compound and define the rest of the game.

For example: a couple of frustrating infield hits by the New York Mets in the 3rd inning off Alex Cobb led to a 13-3 blowout on May 23rd.

Or, Brandon Crawford’s first inning error that allowed two Kansas City runs to score, ended up being the defining play in the 3-2 loss in which at-bats came and went, scoring opportunities were squandered and a early deficit proved insurmountable.

But we’ve also seen these mental and physical mistakes in the field counterbalanced with shut-down pitching, timely hitting, or paradoxically, excellent defense.

Compare that game against the Royals to Opening Day. A Thairo Estrada error led to 3 Miami runs in the 9th, but he answered back with a game-tying home run in the bottom of the inning and the Giants eventually logged the win in the 10th.

Or on May 24th when Joc Pederson responded to a Mets hellish 7-run peppering by knocking a game tying home run onto the arcade with 2-outs in the 8th.

Or on June 11th against the Dodgers, when the fall-out of another Estrada oopsie was tempered by Camilo Doval gritting his teeth and striking out Gavin Lux and Mookie Betts with the bases loaded and the lead still intact.

Or the aforementioned 8-5 walk off win over Milwaukee. An error by first baseman LaMonte Wade Jr. led to 3 unearned runs and cost them the lead in the 5th, before a dugout wake up call helped the bats record their first walk off grand slam in 49 years.

Winning teams do not eliminate errors, but manage them. In other words, it’s finding the right outlook after an inevitable mistake occurs. Its about controlling your emotions and not dwelling in the past but staying present. Its about limiting the damage. Its about recovering the confidence and belief in yourself to perform and execute at your highest ability.

Resilience—it’s a small thing, but essential for a team in making a playoff push. Yaz and Bart certainly agree. Is a kick in the pants or a well-timed dugout pep talk going to address all of the Giants problems? Absolutely not—but with two more weeks and five more games against LA before the trade deadline, it’s free and available now.