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What’s new?

Nothing changes as the Giants continue to spin their wheels in loss against Arizona

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

What’s new?

Duane Kuiper posed the question alone in his broadcast booth as Corbin Carroll tracked down a well-struck line drive to record the final out of the San Francisco Giants 7-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.

There didn’t need to be a response. The question echoed back on itself: an animal chasing its own tail, a deflated wheel going nowhere, a hollow zero, nothing new... nothing new...

San Francisco had watched hard-hit drive after sinking liner be hunted down and corralled time and time again by the Arizona outfield on this brief 2-game road trip and their 11 match-ups previous. Carroll went 4-for-5 in the game, scoring the D-Backs first two runs of the game against Logan Webb after two swiped bags.

His lead-off homer against Ryan Walker sparked a 4-run 7th, effectively putting the game out of reach for San Francisco. Carroll became the first player in MLB history to hit 25 home runs and steal 50 bases in his rookie season. His performance today may have snuffed out the last ember of hope in the purest of hearts, a flickering cinder that has waited for the slightest breeze to grow it into a flame since San Diego.

Of course too is that the rhetorical What’s new? pokes at new sensitivities for fans after Tom Verducci’s article published in Sports Illustrated on Tuesday. Not only are the Giants not going to make the postseason—but, oh god, are they boring too?

Is poor performance boring? There’s certainly an argument there: it’s tedious, often unsurprising and dull. The Giants have been all of those things, especially in September, especially when they really needed to be the opposite of all of those things.

But is disappointment boring? There are certainly other descriptors for that, better ones that reflect the deeper understanding and love fans have for their Giants: maddening, frustrating, infuriating, exasperating, *flipping through thesaurus* irksome, galling, vexatious…

Boring is a boring adjective. I spend most of my day battling kids’ “boredom.” It’s exhausting, and frankly, a lot of Verducci’s arguments are well-worn (i.e. “boring”.) He doesn’t like that the Giants don’t have starting pitchers, or that the team doesn’t have a “superstar”, or that they rely too much on match-ups when putting together their line-ups. Low-hanging fruit, Tom! Ever been on a McCovey Chronicles game thread?

I guess I should take solace in the fact that a veteran like Verducci succumbs to the buzzy extremes of internet titling and is willing to put his entire livelihood on the line (“If this is the future of baseball, I want no part of it”) because of a team’s tendency to pinch-hit for a competitive advantage. Bait-y writing—which is forgivable, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of myself—but it still skews the frame. The Giants are not ruining baseball. There have been .500 clubs like the 2023 Giants for the entirety of the sport’s history—only recently have they started finding themselves in playoff races in late September, and are now unfairly scrutinized and bemoaned by the national media for being merely so-so.

Losing doesn’t automatically make you boring (which felt like an undertone of Verducci’s piece). Failure can be just as surprising as success, and there’s some inexplicable oddities hobbling this team.

An obvious mystery: their inability to offer any support to the one constant in their lineup.

Logan Webb leads the Majors with 22 quality starts, he threw another one today (6 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 4 K) and the offense provided 1 run of support—a leadoff homer by LaMonte Wade Jr. His win-loss record sits at 10-13—7 of those losses came in outings where earned a quality start.

Their Jekyll and Hyde performances on the road: another marvel.

Before the All-Star Break the offense’s 106 wRC+ and .760 OPS were both ranked 6th in the Majors. Their 3.91 ERA ranked 6th, 3.75 FIP was tied for 1st, and 1.25 WHIP came in at 5th. Post break? Things turned ugly: 5.36 ERA (25th), 4.66 FIP (17th), and 1.45 WHIP (23rd). On the offensive end? They grabbed a hold of the wrong end of the stick: their 76 wRC+ and .624 OPS ranks 29th, both just ahead of Colorado—a team that just aided them in their all-but-certain exit from the Wild Card race. After today’s defeat, San Francisco has lost 25 of 35 games on the road since the Break.

A couple more runs during a Webb start. A slightly-less precipitous drop in performance while taking the field from a visitor’s dugout and this team has a handful more wins. But would that really be more compelling? I don’t know the answer, but it’d probably get Sports Illustrated off their backs.

When we get down to it, what makes the Giants “boring” is that they aren’t fast, and it’s more fun to watch teams that are fast. If that sounds reductive and an oversimplification, it’s because it is, but I do think that’s basically the heart of the argument. They’re slow. Point taken, I won’t argue. San Francisco has earned a reputation as savvy maneuverers on the base paths, but they aren’t puckish rogues like Atlanta or Arizona, who flaunt and taunt and challenge opposing teams with their daring. Reasonableness and care and calculated risks don’t get on the highlight reels, they also don’t create opportunities and cause chaos—catalysts the Giants have desperately needed to get them out of their rut.

Corbin Carroll turned two non-descript singles into runs with speed. His reputation forced Patrick Bailey to grossly overthrow trying to nab him stealing second in the 3rd. He advanced on the error and scored on a ground out and could be heard giggling from his goatee as he returned to the dugout. It was sneaky and manipulative and felt unfair. When you don’t have speed, it drives you mad with frustration and desire. When you do, it feels like anything is possible. Any ball could be flagged down, any base could be taken. Speed imbues a team with flexibility, it nags and persists when other skills lag. It refreshes and renews.

The Diamondbacks have speed and the Giants don’t and one of those teams is probably going to the postseason and the other isn’t and one is exhilarating to watch and the other is a drag and makes baseball not fun.

I’m kidding, but Tom Verducci isn’t. Looking ahead, the Giants might have to get with the times and come up with an answer to the question: What’s new?