Playoff baseball is here, so crush all your nonsense narratives

Playoff baseball is here, so crush all your nonsense narratives

It has become an almost irritating staple of all conversations involving the San Francisco Giants, the “They know how to playoff baseball” meme that provided their largely psychotic fan base so much succor during The Troubles (a.k.a. the post-All-Star Break).

In fact, we’re wrong about that. It isn’t “almost” at all. It’s flat irritating, because it is used to cover their multitude of second-half sins, as well as proof of their value in the last week of the regular season, when their five-wins-in-six-games ended up better than St. Louis’ five-wins-in-six-games. Their experience is so mighty that all other teams are unworthy by comparison.

Hey, if that’s working for you, fine. We don’t want to disabuse you of any preconceptions.

But if you think the Giants have the best chance of winning their fourth World Series in seven years, a feat only two teams (the New York Yankees several times and the Boston Red Sox 100-some-odd years ago) have achieved, just because they’ve been there before, your attention span is being mocked by fruit flies everywhere.

Baseball’s history is easiest viewed as a macro-mural, in which you can walk into and make all things congeal according to the pattern you seek. The fact, though, is that at the more granular level, too many things are affected too many ways by too many tiny moments made large in hindsight.

In other words, Madison Bumgarner being the Giants’ only pitcher two postseasons ago will have no bearing on his Wednesday start against Noah Syndergaard and the New York Mets. Neither will the Mets playing at home, or how the two teams did against each other, or how they did against everyone else. Even historical matchups have a diminished predictive value when you look closer at them.

In other words, the fact that the other nine teams in this postseason have gone a total of 395 combined years without a World Series parade probably means a lot less than you think (although, if the Nationals win all, it would be right and proper to have a parade in Washington and one in Montreal – or at the very least, an extended happy hour in Montreal).

Oh, there will be plenty of narratives (a word which, when I become Secretary Of Taste in the Stanhope administration, will be banned and its users jailed for a minimum of 15 years). They all make for good scenics and interviews with men in their early hundreds . . . the Cubs and their marriage to Chicago’s downtrodden self-image (which actually doesn’t exist, as a three-minute chat with any Chicago sports fans will assure you) . . . the Dodgers in their first non-Scully World Series since 1949 (he thought enough of the playoffs to watch all the games in his smoking jacket and commemorative Giants fez) . . . or the Nationals in their first-ever World Series (Canada included) . . . or the Rangers, who also have never won (but this year alone are riding the mythological power of winning nearly every one-run game they played) . . . or the Indians, who haven’t won since 1948 (Bill Veeck and Satchel Paige, case closed). 

But the games work independently of all that, because the players don’t worry about the history. Most of them don’t know it at all, save those who actually played in a postseason before this. Baseball teaches its greatest practitioners not to worry about any of the things we obsess about . . . like October experience, or long-suffering fan bases, or revenge for former failures or legacy cementing for former successes.

At this time of year, there is only the game. And that starts Wednesday. So do yourselves a favor, leave your wearisome narratives at the door, and bask in the twitchy nerve-wracking hell that awaits you all.

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Bumgarner injury just the latest in recent run of misfortune for Giants

Eight years ago in this very space, I postulated that Brian Sabean had done a lucrative deal with Satan.Co to win the Giants’ first World Series in 56 years. He never denied it, so I took that as silent affirmation.

Now, it seems Beelzebub has brought the bill, to be paid in full on receipt of same.

The San Francisco Giants, who needed as few things as possible to go wrong to start this season, just got two full-on groin shots in the space of less than a week, the second of which was delivered when Madison Bumgfarner fractured his hand trying to repel a line drive from Kansas City second baseman Whit Merrifield during Friday’s Cactus League game.

The injury did not look serious at first because, well, because Bumgarner pretends to be made of adamantium, but an X-ray revealed the fracture and though no time for recovery was listed, Bumgarner may return to health before the Giants do.

And yes, I know spring training is no time for fans to lose hope for a cheery season, but you take the fact as they present themselves, and the Giants are already 40 percent down from their projected starting rotation. Jeff Samardzija is already on the disabled list with a hinky pectoral muscle, and as the Giants know all too well, things like this tend to come in sixes, if not eights.

The 2010 Giants hit on every midseason trade and parlayed that good fortune and the assets already on board to a storied October run. A year later, Buster Posey got Scott Cousin-ed, and his broken ankle snapped the team’s hope of repeating.

The Giants then won in 2012 and ’14 without too much incident, but starting midway through 2016, continuing into last year when Bumgarner flipped his dirt bike, and now down to today, it’s been nothing but seeds and stems for Giantvania.

The rumor mill has been quick to offer up possible replacements for the Bumgarner vacancy (though not for his expected results), but at a time in the game’s development when the best and most progressive-thinking teams are talking about four-man rotations and Staff on every fifth day, a strategic development that requires strength in numbers, the Giants have neither that strength nor those numbers.

Their best internal choices are veteran Derek Holland, who might already have been penciled in as Samardzija’s replacement, and phenom-in-training Tyler Beede. But that essentially uses up the in-house bank of usable goods, so Sabean can either buy something very off-the-rack or hope he and Bruce Bochy can fake it long enough for Samardzija (three to four weeks) and then Bumgarner (six to eight, according to ESPN's Buster Olney).

This seems awfully daunting, especially for a team that has buzzard’s luck and a rotting bat rack for a season and a half. But with six days before the regular season starts in Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers...oh, the hell with it. If you’re a Giant fan, start drinking, and continue until further notice. The evil lord of the netherworld will tell you when it’s time to stop.

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

Bumgarner fractures bone in pitching hand in final tune-up before season

SAN FRANCISCO -- A day after the Giants lost one of the game's most durable pitchers, they took a much bigger blow. 

Madison Bumgarner fractured the fifth metacarpal in his pitching hand when he was hit by a line drive Friday in what was to be his final appearance before facing Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Opening Day. The Giants did not have an immediate timetable for how long their ace will be out, but he is expected to miss a significant portion of the season for a second straight year. The rotation is already without Jeff Samardzija for the first month of the season because of a strained pectoral.

Bumgarner told reporters he will have surgery on Saturday to insert pins into his hand. He expects the pins to be removed in four-to-six weeks, and that he'll be able to pitch before the All-Star break. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that, in all, Bumgarner will be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Bumgarner looked poised for a huge season, and he threw well all camp. He was injured when hit by a liner off the bat of Kansas City's Whit Merrifield. Ironically, Bumgarner and Merrifield grew up close to each other in North Carolina, and Merrifield has told a story about getting beamed by an intimidating 11-year-old Bumgarner in little league.

The Giants had little rotation depth coming into the season, and the group is now in shambles. Derek Holland, a non-roster invitee, may be the No. 2 starter. The Giants will also have to lean heavily on young pitchers Chris Stratton and Ty Blach. Johnny Cueto is the de facto ace, but he's coming off a down year and at times has struggled this spring. 

There are not many appealing options left in free agency and the Giants likely would have to go into the tax to sign one. Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez are the top in-house options.