The schedule is always a treacherous way to decide the future of a baseball team. Teams get hot and grow cold again based on much more than the color of their uniforms and whether they cab or drive to the ballpark.
But it can be reasonably inferred that the San Francisco Giants were eager to reach this part of their season, in which 20 of the 26 games between now and the All-Star Break would be played in their relatively clement Third Street digs . . . and that the Oakland Athletics would be just as dismayed to hit the same stretch, since 20 of their last 25 would be played away from home – in San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Houston and San Francisco.
But even if you throw out the last three for each team given that there are no hotels involved, these are still long stretches without schedule balance.
For the A’s, who are average in every way imaginable (20-20 at home, 16-16 away), this stretch could eliminate them from their thin hopes of a playoff spot, if only because Boston, New York, Houston and Seattle seem to lose so rarely, and a struggle between now and July 15 could cause their already daunting 10-game gap with the postseason spots to grow beyond their ability to control it.
For the Giants, on the other hand, their deficit is a much more manageable 4 ½ games with Arizona in the NL West and four with Washington for the second NL Wild Card. Moreover, their health shortfalls are supposed to end soon, with both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to return before the break.
But oddly, the Giants are racing toward rope-cutting time, in which they have to decide if (a) they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline, and (b) what they want to buy and what they have to sell. That is why this next stretch could well determine their fate just as much as Oakland’s.
San Francisco hasn’t been healthy at all this season (only two teams have spent more disabled list days so far than the Giants), but nobody cares. Every team has injuries, and every team deals with them. In short, life is cruel, and then the body part replacements come.
But the Giants have been kicking the rebuilding can down the road for awhile now, and this next stretch – against Miami, San Diego, Colorado, at Arizona and at Colorado, then St. Louis, the Chicago Cubs and finally Oakland – will very likely solve their most pressing conundrum.
Specifically, whether it’s worth it to draw from an already-thin prospect list to chase a veteran or two who could propel them into October, or whether it is better to bag the whole attempt and try to go with a full remodel.
The Giants haven’t rebuilt their rosters for a decade now, and said rebuild was an unqualified success, if judged only by rings and parades. But that time is again upon them, as much as they like to claim otherwise, and the matter of when that rebuild should commence will be settled to some extent by these next 26 games.
At least that is how the Giants would like to frame it. Both Arizona and Los Angeles could fall off the earth’s mantle and come back to the Giants, or one of them could heat up and render the whole exercise moot. Things change all the time in baseball, and they don’t follow a linear path. It’s kind of like WAR (wins above replacement, that is, rather than the other one). It all depends on the formula you use.