I Hope the Giants Lose a Hundred Games
I was born in San Francisco in 1986 and have been a Giants fan since as early as I can remember. As a child, I paid twenty-five cents to take the bus to Candlestick and a dollar for a bleacher seat. I remember the cold concrete and late game winds, hundreds of people huddled under blankets watching Barry Bonds obliterate stat sheets before we knew the exit velocity of a home run. Bonds aside, the Giants were pretty mediocre during the 90s. In fact, from 1990 to 2009 the Giants had eleven winning seasons with four losing playoff appearances. During those nineteen years, my life from age five to twenty-four, I watched my team evolve, fail, and try again, and I have the baseball cards to prove it.
The millennium saw a gorgeous new park and the average attendance nearly double. Ticket prices rose (AT&T park is now the fifth most expensive place to watch a game). 2004 informally marked the end of the Bonds era as his production declined, and in 2006 Bruce Bochy took over management of the team, the same year that Matt Cain debuted at age 21 (along with Jonathan Sanchez and Brian Wilson). Those transition years were hard but nothing new, at least, not to me.
Then 2010 happened. A hodgepodge group of players found each other at the right time and under the right direction won the Series. It wasn’t easy and long-time broadcaster Duane Kuiper coined the term “torture” to refer to the difficult, stress-inducing, close games that defined the entire year. When Wilson threw that last strike on Monday, November 1, everyone around me exploded with joy while I sat motionless, staring at the screen with my hands over my mouth and tears running down my face. I didn’t know that such a moment could happen. Driving home I called my best friend from high school who was then living in Chicago. I didn’t know who else to call. He said that he was crying too and his wife didn’t understand why, that it was just a game. But for us, having grown up in the city when the Giants struggled to have a winning season, let alone make the playoffs, it was so much more.
After 2010 it was hard not to like the Giants, misfits as they were called. Panda hats, beards, wigs, the whole scene was amazing. ‘Even year magic’ sprouted after 2012 and the bandwagon was in full force, riding strong through a third World Series in 2014 until now. Now the bandwagon is collapsing. Most have fled to the sunnier shores of Warrior basketball. Those who remain are distraught. Last season’s epic second half collapse broke the bandwagon, and this season’s inability to remedy those woes are stranding many behind. I read calls for trading nearly everyone and hear people hating on struggling Matt Cain.
For reference and as of this writing, Matt Cain has given the following for the Giants: 13 years, 2,070 innings pitched, 3.66 ERA. Postseason: 51.1 innings pitched, 2.10 ERA. He threw 14.2 World Series innings, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits. Only a bandwagoner forgets these facts. Only a bandwagoner is upset that he’s still pitching because being a bandwagoner by definition means that one doesn’t see the bigger picture. Matt Cain, on the other hand, is the definition of a Giant, joining only Hall of Famers Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry as pitchers to throw 2,000+ innings with the team. Cain is now in the bullpen, and I heard on the radio that he took it in stride, saying he wanted what was best for the team and would do his part to help the club out.
This bandwagon attitude is symptomatic of a greater phenomenon. San Francisco has become a bandwagon city and we live in a bandwagon culture. It feels like we don’t really want to see the Giants win, rather, we just want to see winning. Baseball, basketball, presidential promises, it doesn't matter. When we don't win, we then write off a losing season as a sign to start rebuilding, as though the only options are win it all or rebuild. The truth is that baseball, like many things, is a process. In between the black and white, dynasty or basement, is where most spend their time.
I hope the Giants lose a hundred games. A one hundred loss season is good for a team because it reminds the players, the management, and the fans that no one can buy or force a championship. It also reminds us of how special our championships are, and how hard the players worked to make them happen. I hope that management has faith in our team's talent, giving younger guys a chance to shine and keeping veterans on board to balance the ship--because jumping it isn’t an option. It wasn’t in the doldrums of the 90s and it isn’t now with three rings behind us. Now’s the time to hunker down and play the spoiler.