Keep Hope Alive

by DrLefty

So here we are: last day of the strange, sad 2020 baseball season. Is it the last day of Giants baseball until spring? We’ll know in a few hours.

I woke up knowing what I wanted to write today, and when I perused the latest comments on the blog, I saw a pretty good paraphrase of how I’m feeling.

Yes, we should all be profoundly grateful that there was any baseball in the middle of a pandemic. The odds were against it. The obstacles and the logistics were and still are daunting. But it happened. And we should be especially grateful that on the last day of the regular season, the Giants are still relevant–that hope is still alive.

It’s also OK to be frustrated that with just a few better decisions along the way, the Giants would have already clinched a winning season and a playoff berth days ago. It’s OK to be frustrated that not even 72 hours ago they controlled their own destiny. Thursday’s extra-inning game against the Rockies was one of the most irritating losses of the year. Then Friday’s second game of the doubleheader said, “Hold my beer.” And Saturday? Well, Saturday to me felt like Game 7 of the 2002 World Series after the Giants inconceivably lost Game 6–flat, tense, defeated.

But here’s the good news: Hope is still alive. This time, there’s a Game 8. To quote Chris Daughtry: “It’s not over.” To quote Yogi Berra: “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Let’s break it down:

  1. If the Giants win and the Brewers lose, the Giants get the #8 NL playoff spot. They travel to LA for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium that begins Wednesday.
  2. If the Giants win and the Brewers win, the Brewers get the playoff spot. But it’s still not over because then the Cardinals have to fly to Detroit for a possible doubleheader. (If the Cardinals win Game 1, they don’t have to play Game 2–they’ll have eliminated the Giants.)
  3. If both the Giants and the Brewers lose, they end up tied, and by virtue of tiebreakers, the Brewers get the spot and the Giants are out.

 

The simpler part of this is that the Giants can’t lose today. They have Drew Smyly going, with all hands on deck (including Gausman) in the bullpen. The Padres, who have nothing to play for, are throwing a bullpen game and resting players. You can’t blame them. Their two best starters have gone down with arm injuries over the past week, and they have playoffs to prepare for. The Cardinals, on the other hand, will be highly motivated to beat the Brewers and not have to fly to Detroit to play tomorrow.

 

Other Giants news

A lot happened yesterday. Mike Yastrzemski, to no one’s surprise, was a very deserving winner of the 2020 Willie Mac Award. The ceremony, like so many things this year, was a bit sad in how understated it was, but it’s still a moving moment and a great honor for the winner. It was nice to see Buster Posey on video congratulating Yaz. I miss that guy!

 

Mike Yastrzemski receives the 2020 Willie Mac Award, presented by teammate and 2016 winner Brandon Crawford. Photo credit: NBC Sports-Bay Area

 

Jeff Samardzija’s five-year career as a Giant came to an abrupt end when the Giants gave him his unconditional release. It’s not as cold-hearted as it sounds. He’d been added from the injured list as the extra player to start the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, and to keep him on the roster, they would have had to cut someone. With doubleheaders and extra innings and must-win games, they need all the available arms they can find. Anyway, people grumble about Samardzija’s contract and his performance, but I think that’s colored by the fact that, except for his first season in 2016, this has been a bad era for the Giants. That’s not really Samardzija’s fault. Per Fangraphs, he amassed a 6.9 WAR of the five years, which included two seasons (this one and 2018) that he missed most of due to shoulder issues. Johnny Cueto, who was signed in the same offseason and was the much bigger name, has a cumulative 6.7 WAR during the same period of time. Now, neither of those are great returns on the investments, but it’s unfair to say that Samardzija didn’t contribute.

Good luck, Shark. You were a good Giant.

Finally, Hunter Pence (2013 Willie Mac winner) announced his retirement from baseball with this fantastic, moving video.

 

You may have left your heart in San Francisco, Hunter, but you stole all of ours while you were here. Hope you and Lexi have a wonderful, fulfilling, happy life together. You deserve it.

 

Today’s game

All MLB games, as has been the rule for a few years, start at the same time today (12:05 Pacific).

Padres at Giants, Oracle Park, 12:05 p.m.

Adrian Morejon (random reliever, 2-2, 4.86 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.38 ERA)

Here are the lineups.

 

I could take us out today with the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s “Keep Hope Alive” speech, but that’s political, so instead I’m taking us out with Daughtry’s song which was played on KNBR every morning in 2007 when the Golden State Warriors were making an unlikely (and successful) run at making the NBA playoffs for the first time in many years. Lefty out.