You hate San Francisco. I know. I’m sorry. You’re right to do it — not the city, maybe, which is very pretty and has good coffee and boasts many nice people and anyway is probably going to sink into the Pacific Ocean sometime not altogether very long from now and then how will you feel about all those terrible things that you said? But San Francisco’s baseball team: I get that. Here we are in 2016, two years after 2014, four years after 2012, and six years after 2010, and the stupid Giants have pranced their way into the postseason once again. On Wednesday night, they will play in the National League wild-card game and have a chance to off the Mets, one of the nine other teams to make the playoffs — teams that are all, with basically no exceptions, more deserving of a shot at winning the Commissioner’s Trophy.
So let me say it again: I’m sorry. I’m from the Bay (sorry), and I root for the Giants (sorry), and I know that this — just even mentioning the possibility of a fourth World Series victory in seven years, something only the Yankees and the long-ago Red Sox have ever achieved — is unfair. You’re right to — and don’t think that just because my remote-control Lou Seal is doing donuts around your feet as I write this that I’m not sincere — be frothing. The Mets haven’t won it all since 1986! The Cubs could snap their curse! The Nationals have never won! The Indians are the Indians!
Let’s back up for a second. Through the first half of this season, the Giants were the best team in baseball, and as the summer got hotter and the creepy clowns multiplied and Peter Thiel got scarier, the rumbles of Even Year Bullshit got louder. At the All-Star break, the team was 57–33 and on pace for 102 wi — hahahaha sorry I am crying and also laughing, I will stop cry-laughing soon, maybe, give me a second.
OK. So you know what happened next: The Giants collapsed, going 30–42 in the second half as part of a months-long, nails-on-chalkboard slide down the standings, largely thanks to some spectacular bullpen collapses as the great baseball spirit left the corporeal body of closer Santiago Casilla and his brethren.
But then it was the end of September and the team needed to hang on to its wild-card berth, so that’s what it did, dispatching of the increasingly (SIGH) kindred-spirit Cardinals by sweeping the hilariously superior Dodgers in the last series of the season, and keeping alive a tradition of sending off future Hall of Famers with losses. And suddenly — holy shit — it’s happening again, the Giants are going to the postseason, they’re paying off the baseball gods and the baseball witches are chanting, the little witch cats are sitting in witch windows and mewing at everyone in orange, and it all just feels so inevitable, and you are swearing and throwing things at your TV and getting ready to boo so loudly and for so long that the neighborhood dogs will howl and neighbors will complain to the landlord.
Here’s the thing with these Giants, though. They are, and I say this as an incorrigible homer, probably not a threat to your dreams of vanquishing this Even Year Bullshit once and for all. The bullpen issues remain; manager Bruce Bochy eventually yanked Casilla out of the closer role and now relies on what he calls a “committee,” which is another way of saying: Here comes Hunter Strickland/Sergio Romo/Cory Gearrin/Javier López/Josh Osich and his 6.75 September ERA and oh jeez oh jeez oh jeez. Offense has been lacking: The Giants ranked 19th in the league in runs scored this season (though, for what it’s worth, the Mets were tied for 25th). There are glimmers, still, of that 57–33 team, whose disappearance can’t be pinned on any particular trade or rash of injuries. But I’m just saying that if you happen to have someone point a gun to your head and order you to tell him who will still be playing baseball in a couple weeks, maybe think carefully before putting San Francisco on your list.
Here is another thing: As villainous as these Giants are for just having the nerve to show up in October, they really, truly are not villains. This is a fun team, and one that shares much of the DNA of the 2014 roster, principally in the form of scraggly dudes with longish hair: left fielder Ángel Pagán, shortstop Brandon Crawford, ax god Madison Bumgarner. There’s Conor Gillaspie, who does stuff like this. There’s Buster Posey, who after a slow start to the season remains Buster Posey. There’s Johnny Cueto, who has had an up-and-down second half but is the purveyor of one of the finest Instagram accounts in all of baseball. There is Bochy, who is maybe literally coaching his heart out. I’m not saying that this team and its fans, taken as a whole, do not constitute a greedy monster worthy of your derision. Just that, you know — the Giants at least aren’t run by Joe Lacob. Things could be worse.
In closing, I will leave you with this: Do you know what will happen if the Giants advance past the Mets? They will travel to Chicago to play the best-in-baseball Cubs, who, if all is right in the world, will quickly demolish them. But, well, I will just say that this is 2016, which is not an odd year, and — hey now, remember what we said about saying mean things about a city destined for the bottom of the San Francisco Bay. … OK. OK, that’s fine, you don’t have to yell, sorry.