Let’s look at the bright side: As of this writing, the Giants will make the playoffs. They’d play Pittsburgh in a one-game playoff game at our ballpark by McCovey Cove to determine which team gets to face the Dodgers and, er, um, Clayton Kershaw, the Dodger who just massacred the Giants 17-0 and followed that up with a 4-2 Kershaw win. That’s the bright side.
The not-so-bright side is the Giants blew a 9.5 game lead; Matt Cain’s gone under the knife; Tim Lincecum is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Angel Pagan’s body seems to break down with the frequency of a Muni bus; Sergio Romo has fallen apart; Brandon Belt has let us down for yet another year. Dozens of men have been issued cream-colored uniforms and taken hacks, including washout Dan Uggla, 2010 flashback Travis Ishikawa, 2012 hero (the crippled) Marco Scutaro, and a passel of youngsters arriving by carpool from AAA Fresno.
Taking a deep breath, the MVP of the team might be Brian Sabean and the guys who sign the checks, and you can pass out trophies to the doctors and trainers. The front office took large chances on 2013 injury victims Tim Hudson and Michael Morse; Hudson is the second-best pitcher on the team (after Madison Bumgarner), and has added the intangible of leadership; Morse plugged his massive body into the yawning gaps in left field and at first base, and was doing everything well until getting injured, but he kept his finger in the dike until some other victims of injury healed. Sabean picked up old Padre nemesis Jake Peavy from the Red Sox in exchange for a pair of good minor league pitchers. Peavy fills in perfectly for Matt Cain.
After a short return, Angel Pagan is lost for the season and post-season. Unfortunately his back just couldn’t bounce back, so he’s having surgery with the hope he’ll be healthy for spring training. Pagan’s never been an All-Star or finished higher than 32nd for MVP voting, but a case can be made that he’s the most valuable Giant. When he’s in the lineup, the Giants play at a .567 winning percentage; when he’s out of the lineup, it’s .444. The former is usually good enough to make it to the playoffs, the latter is like getting robbed at gunpoint.
Why Angel Pagan? Let’s tip our hat to his intensity, intelligence, and .300 average. Also, when his back goes out, the Giants are left with inferior options in centerfield and at the plate. This year, after a parade of guys failed miserably in the leadoff spot, Bruce Bochy was forced to take a middle-of-the-order guy, Hunter Pence, and bat him leadoff, thereby shortening the lineup.
Kudos to the trainers for their rehabilitation of Buster Posey, who was moving around more slowly than usual, as if he were in a significant amount of pain; and he was gaining weight, as if he were medicating himself with Pablo Sandoval’s doggie bags (as Sandoval continues to slim down until the time the ink is dry on his upcoming free agency contract). Buster’s swinging easy, with menace, and has returned to his MVP form.
Meanwhile, in crumbledown concreteland across the bay, the A’s too have determined their MVP by subtraction. The A’s were putting together a season as in-your-face as Mt. Davis, the concrete football seating that rises behind the outfield. They had the best record in baseball. They were cruising in first place, six games up on the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland; now the A’s are 10 games behind the Angels and clinging to the Wild Card by their toenails.
The A’s are 17-25 since the trade of Yoenis Céspedes to the Boston Red Sox for a three-month rental of Jon Lester (it is assumed that the A’s will in no way compete for Lester’s services when he becomes a free agent this fall). Lester is one of the best pitchers in the game. And the A’s got decent outfielder Jonny Gomes in the deal. During Céspedes’s tenure with the A’s, the team had a .635 winning percentage with him, .384 without. He made most of the other hitters in the A’s’ lineup better. He was their mojo, their MVP. And after Jon Lester leaves, all the A’s will have to show for Céspedes will be (Petaluma native) Jonny Gomes.
After beating the A’s for the seventh time in the last eight meetings to capture the season series, Los Angeles maintained its lead over Baltimore for the best record in baseball and took home-field advantage for the AL playoffs. The A’s wrapped up their home schedule and will hit the road for up to 10 days in various municipalities, including Kansas City, where they could play a wild-card game. Have faith.