Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Down the Line

The Giants opened their final Eastern road trip of the year last night with a victory over the Mets at Citi Field in Queens, and before the week is through they'll play their first game at the new, third-generation Yankee Stadium, against another team whose bright 2013 expectations didn't work out. Then it's home for the last six meaningless games of the season.

Now, it was a fine weekend previous down in LA, where the Giants took three of four from the Dodgers and ensured there'd be no National League West-clinching celebration on their watch.  Of course, the Dodgers themselves don't much care if they clinch at home or, say, at Arizona tonight, but we know their fans do, very much-- and as any seasoned Giants fan will tell you, it's not always the Dodgers themselves that are so annoying, it's their front-running, celebrity-sotted, eternally clueless fans. So there!

Well, unless the Giants manage to go undefeated the rest of the way, they'll endure their first losing season since 2008, since Tim Lincecum emerged as a star, since the club committed its post-Barry Bonds fortunes to "pitching, pitching, pitching."  That 2008 team finished with a  worse record than this one will, but it was also a team suffused with youth, optimism, and a sense of urgency. We've been basking in the glow of the flame first lit that year ever since. Now things are different.

We'll paw through the stats looking for clues during our annual post-mortem, once the season's final out has been recorded, but it don't take a weatherman to know that the winds of change are blowing once again through Candlest-- excuse us, AT&T Park.  (Did you all know that Candlestick is set to be imploded next spring? We're already planning our first trip West since 2006 to be in attendance when the venerable old bowl makes her final bow. Will y'all be there?)   The Giants have only two reliables left in our once-populous stable of starting pitchers, there's a big hole in the outfield, there's age and conditioning-related concerns around the infield, and most of all there's a sense of common identity that's beginning to fray around the edges.

Is this the last gasp of the two-time championship team that was born five years ago and flourished so brilliantly so recently? Or is this just a typical dip in the road that all successful clubs endure, to be quickly addressed and corrected as we get back on track next year? Eleven months ago, we used the "D-word" in reference to the Giants for the first time in our 47 years of fandom. Whether that was a giddy moment of delusion or an accurate depiction may be decided this offseason. =

We'll see what the numbers say in a couple of weeks, and something tells us we won't wait long after that to see what the San Francisco Giants say.

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