Giants shrink entire season into one cruel ending

Giants shrink entire season into one cruel ending

The Never-Say-Die San Francisco Giants found a loophole in their contract with the metaphysical world, the one that gave them insulation from the most searing fires of danger when they needed it most.
The art of self-immolation.
And not just self-immolation, but an arson pyrospectacular. They didn’t just lose Game 4 of this National League Division Series to the Chicago Cubs and the right to continue playing, oh no. The 6-5 final that ended their season and sent them to a bilious winter doesn’t begin to explain it, nor does the box score, nor the play-by-play, nor even the televised replay.
Frankly, you had to be there to fully appreciate this epochal lava slide. The Team That No Team Could Destroy finally found a team that could.
Oh, all credit and glory to the Cubs, who backed themselves into a corner by being schooled, demoralized and dominated by Matt Moore only to rise in the ninth inning. They averted two city-wide days of what Sir Alex Ferguson used to call “squeaky bum time,” and made history conform to their expectation rather than the other way around for one of the very few times in club history. From Kris Bryant to Javier Baez, from single to walk to double to single to fielder’s choice to game-winning single, these were the proudest 24 minutes and six seconds of their season.
But one team’s miracle is another team’s kiln, and the Giants spat up their 5-2 ninth-inning lead so violently that the pain will linger long past that first round of golf of that first pre-dawn duckblind session. The bullpen that had everything but an apropos nickname (The White-Knuckle Cavaliers? The Blown Save Brigadiers? The Tape The Windows Here Comes The Tornado Crusaders?) flambéed itself in almost balletic unison to snatch epic disaster from the jaws of superstitious omnipotence that people will tell their children for years.
That is,  when they want to scare their children into going to bed.
Derek Law – ground single to left by Bryant. Javier Lopez – six-pitch walk to ice-encrusted Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo – screaming double down the right field line by Ben Zobrist. Will Smith – ground single to center by Wilson Contreras, and bad bunt-turned-Brandon Crawford throwing error by Jason Heyward. Hunter Strickland – Baez single up the spine of the diamond. Three-run lead, gone. Happy stadium, gone. Trip to Wrigley to finish off the team that has been living in a common-law relationship with failure for a century, all of it gone.
There is no reason to commit it to memory. It will be burned involuntarily in your souls. Twenty-four pitches to six hitters in twenty-four minutes. The delightful fantasy of Johnny Cueto in Wrigley Field with advancement on the line turned to soot in the time it takes to watch a miserable (if that’s not a redundancy) sitcom.
“This just sucks,” first baseman Brandon Belt said afterward, finding the most positive analysis available. “Maybe this motivates us for the following season, I don’t know, but right now we realize how much this sucks. Maybe we can look back on this next year and remember how much it sucks and use it.”
In other words, for the Giants, it essentially sucks.
It is also their entire season shrunk to the size of a snow pea, only with the denseness of a collapsing sun. The bullpen Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti could not use their reputations to master left one last epochal failure as its sendoff piece. 
Maybe this was how it was meant to be, but if it was meant to be, the hammer for that particular nail could have been driven just as easily Monday night, when the Giants blew a 5-3 lead because of Bryant’s game-tying two-run homer of Romo and still won, 6-5, in 13 innings.
But no, there was one more masterpiece left, and it was this one. “You gotta get those last three outs,” Bochy said forlornly, “and that has been a problem for us. Last night, the same thing happened, but we held on.”
Fate-tempting is a dangerous business, though. The Giants had dodged all manner of baseball ordnance in winning their three World Series, playing 171 hours and 14 minutes of reputation-cementing baseball as The Team That Does Not Die, only to break the myth themselves in one last supernova of a half-hour.
Oh, and did we mention that Aroldis Chapman, the cannon-armed Cubs closer who was muscled into submission Monday night, struck out Gorkys Hernandez, Denard Span and Belt in the bottom of the night on 12 pitches? I mean, just to close out this evening, continue the Cubs’ flirtation with destiny and shatter the Giants’ big-game invincibility myth in megastyle? That took six minutes, in case you’re timing it for posterity.
To be fair, any Giant fan with a brain where brains should be would take the rest of the decade with thanks. They would cherish the first 52 games and 171 hours and 489 innings since 2010 and be happy as retirees with lottery money in Las Vegas.
But that last inning . . . those last thirty minutes . . . those last 10 batters . . . Tuesday night . . . that will linger just as long as a cold, hard reminder of baseball’s cruelest backhand.
Specifically, for every team but one every year, that it sucks.

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

Why Mike Gerber, Levi Michael are Giants spring training cuts to keep eye on

SAN FRANCISCO -- Early in camp, a Giants veteran looked at a group of young players sitting at a card table and joked that he didn't recognize half the guys in the room. That's no longer the case. 

The Giants, after two more rounds of cuts, are down to 39 players in big-league camp, and most of them are familiar to fans. We have hit the point of the spring where guys who were seriously fighting for jobs are seeing that dream end, so as we did last week, let's take a look at who got cut and who might return at some point ... 

March 14: Outfielder Austin Slater and switch-pitcher Pat Venditte optioned; right-hander Derek Law and infielder Zach Green reassigned to minor league camp.

It was a disappointing spring for both Slater and Venditte, who were in races for a backup outfield job and bullpen spot, respectively. 

Slater hit .185 in 12 spring appearances, with just one extra-base hit. The staff asked him to make some swing changes in the offseason to add more loft and hopefully tap into his raw power, but it continues to be a work in progress. More than just about anyone, Slater really could use an everyday role in Sacramento to try and continue to figure out the new swing. He's just 26, offers positional versatility, and could help balance the lineup from the right side, so a breakout would solve a lot of the big league roster's bench issues. 

Venditte was the first free agent signing of the Zaidi era, but he never got on track, allowing seven runs in six appearances. Even at 33, he had a minor league option remaining, so he seems a good bet to shuttle back and forth this season as the Giants embrace some of that Dodger way of handling a pitching staff. At the very least, the switch-pitching thing continues to be remarkable. 

Law was knocked off the 40-man just before camp, but came in optimistic about the way he was throwing. He made just four appearances, allowing a pair of runs. Law's future is murky. If he can get untracked and find that 2016 form, the Giants would be thrilled to add him to the mix. But he's off the 40-man now, so the road back will be a long one. 

Green, 25, was an interesting addition, and he had a nice month, posting an OPS over 1.100 in 23 plate appearances and hitting a couple of homers. It'll be fascinating to check Sacramento's box scores early in the season. Will Zaidi keep giving shots to guys like Slater and Ryder Jones who have been with the organization for a while, or will newcomers like Green jump the line? Green hit 20 homers in the high minors last season and could soon be the next man up at the corner infield spots. 

March 17: Outfielder Mike Gerber and infielder Levi Michael reassigned. 

Anonymous to most fans, these two are guys to keep an eye on.

Gerber was the first player Zaidi acquired for the Giants and they got him through waivers, and onto their Triple-A roster. He had eight hits in 19 spring at-bats, and might have had the plate appearance of the spring, shaking off a head-seeking fastball from a tough Rangers lefty to line a two-run triple into the gap as the Giants nearly pulled off a wild comeback a week ago. He's an outfielder who can play all three spots, and simply has good plate appearances, which is something lacking in this organization. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him get a shot in the outfield this summer. 

[RELATED: Giants top prospect Bart awarded for impressive spring]

Michael played three infield spots this spring and has handled the outfield in the minors. He has always been a high OBP guy in the minors, and reached at a .400 clip in limited action this spring. Does that sound like the type Zaidi might want on the roster? Yep. 

The Giants will carry 13 pitchers more often than not, and might need a third catcher at times. Anyone with versatility -- Michael, Breyvic Valera, Alen Hanson, etc. -- will have a leg up when decisions are made. 

San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident


San Francisco Mayor London Breed wants accountability in Larry Baer incident

San Francisco Mayor London Breed issued a statement Monday calling on Major League Baseball to issue sanctions on Giants CEO Larry Baer over a March 1 incident involving his wife, Pam.

“When the incident first occurred involving Larry Baer and his wife, the San Francisco Police Department immediately began an investigation,” Breed said in the statement posted on her website. "That investigation is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, Major League Baseball needs to send a message that any and all acts of violence against women is unacceptable.

"The letter written by several respected women leaders in our domestic violence community echoes an all too familiar reality where incidents involving violence against women are not met with true accountability. While Mr. Baer has apologized and expressed remorse for his behavior, it does not excuse his actions and it does not erase what transpired. Mr. Baer’s actions were serious and wrong. We are a City that loves and supports our San Francisco Giants, and that means holding our organization and its leaders to the highest of standards.

“Every little girl, every woman should be able to attend a Giants game with a clear sense of the organization’s values. I share in the call to action by the women who have written the Commissioner calling for greater accountability. There must be a stronger public reaction and response to violence against women in our City and our country.”

The letter that Breed references in her statement came from a dozen San Francisco community leaders, who wrote to MLB that they’d like to see Baer disciplined. The San Francisco Chronicle cited portions of the letter, which told MLB their stance is about “… the responsibility that you, as well as the board and executive leadership of the Giants organization, have to fairly enforce MLB policy, as you would had it been a major league player in that video, rather than a high-profile CEO.”

MLB issued a statement on the day of the incident, saying: “Major League Baseball is aware of the incident and, just like any other situation like this, will immediately begin to gather the facts. We will have no further comment until this process is completed.” MLB has not commented since then.

The San Francisco district attorney’s office told the Chronicle on March 8 it hadn’t decided if charges should be filed and that police had been investigating the situation.