Sneery East Coast sports writers and mouthy fans of the Phillies (and the Diamondbacks and the Rangers and the Dodgers and the Yankees) have been busy these last few days gloating over the San Francisco Giants' dismayingly lousy recent record: 11 losses out of their last 16 games; freefalling out of first place in the National League West; a third straight home series loss this year; the lowest number of runs scored this far into the season since Moses parted the Red Sea.
Even Giants fans are getting ancy.
"The magic is gone!" they wail. "The Giants have lost their mojo! The hitters are MIA! The pitchers are as unstable as the San Andreas Fault! This isn't the team we had last year! Without (insert player of your choice here: Buster Posey, Freddy Sanchez, Edgar Renteria) we're screwed! We're doomed! In short, we're scroomed!"
O ye of little faith, is it really possible that a few low-ebb weeks can make you forget that wise sage Steve Perry's timeless advice -- don't stop believing?
Giants fans, there are still plenty of reasons to keep the faith. Here are five of them.
1. Bruce Bochy
Ignore all that snarky yap about Mr. Bochy being a lousy, inept manager who is busy sinking the Giants because a few unproductive players have him by the short hairs. (Or are hypnotizing him, or whatever.) Mr. Bochy is a rock, one of the most consistently excellent managers in baseball. He's shown again and again that he's not afraid to make tough decisions -- put nobodies in, take superstars and crowd favorites out, mix and match the line-up every game. He's also patient. He understands that, in the long run, damaging a player's confidence by pulling him the second he makes a few mistakes -- maybe even more than a few -- may help win the battle, but it also might help lose the war. The Giants have succeeded like they have because of him. With him at the helm, the Giants can make their way out of any funk.
2. The bullpen
The Giants starting pitchers hog the attention all the time -- and, in most cases, rightly so -- but there's no getting around the brilliance of the Giants bullpen. During these last few rocky weeks, Sergio Romo, Guillermo Mota, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt and Ramon Ramirez have been Greek god-like, carrying on their shoulders the weight of a team mired in No-Hit Land and with starters who have all gone wobbly simultaneously. Sure, the bullpen has had their moments of oh-good-Lord-you-didn't-just-do-that-did-you? weakness but, with guys like Mr. Romo retiring 31 hitters without giving up a run, as a group, they are astonishingly solid.
3. The hitters are due to heat up
Be serious, all of you people claiming that Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres et al.,are all washed up as hitters-- do you really believe their genius at the bat last year was just a freakish fluke, a one-in-gazillion coincidence? There's only one way to respond to that idea: Rub. Bish. Every veteran player knows that, whether you want to admit it or not, baseball is a game of cycles. The idea, of course, is to keep the low bit of the cycle from dipping too low and lollygagging around in the ditch too long. The Giants are due to start on the upward swing of that cycle. Hopefully, it starts before they've fallen too far behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. But I'm betting it'll happen before it really matters -- the playoffs.
4. It ain't over until the playoffs
In the end, does it matter how mediocre a team's record is if they emerge from the playoffs victorious?
No. Enough said.
5. We've been through all this before
Giants naysayers seem to have conveniently forgotten that this team has been through similarly terrifying slumps before. August 2010, anyone? 13 losses in 15 straight games? People were clamoring for Dave Righetti's head on a platter, saying Tim Lincecum was falling apart and that his hide should be nailed to the wall of the clubhouse. Those naysayers forgot all that once September rolled around. The team is a little different this year, but most of the guys that made it through that awfulness last time around are still here. They've seen how perseverance can get you back on track, regardless of how low you've fallen and what the critics say.
They've done it once; they can do it again.