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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wait, is it time for the 2017 baseball season already?

What the hell happened to 2016? There I was, getting all giddy about the free agent additions of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span and making my preseason predictions!

And then?

And then I totally didn't write one post about the 2016 season. Not during it. Not during the playoffs. Not after. I didn't do my year in review. I didn't do anything! It's like the 2016 season didn't happen. But it did! And it was nuts! The Giants were the BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL at the All Star break. Johnny Cueto was everything we hoped he would be and started the All Star Game! Samardzija was pretty decent too. Span was mainly a bust but still useful. The Giants were 24 games over .500 and had a 6.5 game lead over those SoCal Devils in Los Angeles by July 12th. Things were terrific.

And then? 

And then the 2nd half happened where the Giants bullpen couldn't get outs and the Giants offense couldn't score runs. That led to a 30-42 2nd half record that nearly cost them the playoffs. It cost them the division and it forced them into the 2nd wildcard spot, where they were lucky that all the other wildcard contenders also didn't really seem to want to make the playoffs. That 2nd half provided many a consternation to Giants fans and a lot of mutterings anytime Bochy came out to remove a starting pitcher. But due to their amazing first half, they were able to squeak into the playoffs. And anytime you have Madison Bumgarner going in a one game NL Wildcard Game, you feel pretty good about it. Even if the guy opposite him is the mighty Thor (or, ya know, Noah Syndergaard). 

Of course, the Giants biggest bugaboo showed up at the worst time. The Giants had the eventual World Series champion Cubs (how weird does that sound!?) on the ropes. Yeah, they were down 2-1 in a 5-game series but the Giants had so clearly taken the momentum in the NLDS and were up 5-2 going into the 9th inning of a game they clearly had won. They were ready to send Johnny Cueto to the mound (with the Mighty Bumgarner ready to relieve him) for an epic Game 5 at Wrigley where all the pressure and awful history was going to go against the Cubs and the Giants even year magic was going to whisk them to another World Series title, their 4th in 7th seasons. I mean, the bats were coming alive, everything was starting to click.

And then?

And then the bullpen happened. Matt Moore (who cost the Giants the beloved Matt Duffy and his oversized cat) had spun an 8 inning gem. All he needed, all the Giants and their fans needed, was the pen to get 3 little outs. And of course, they didn't. Derek Law, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Will Smith, and Hunter Strickland combined to give up 4 hits and a walk that led to 4 Cubs runs to lose the lead and the series. I mean, yeah, I guess they got those 3 outs eventually. But by the time the Giants went into the batter's box for the bottom of the 9th, we all knew it was over. It was deflating. Like 2002 Game 6 of the World Series deflating. And it was a harsh way to end a season. It wasn't just that we lost in the playoffs. It was that we lost so quickly, so abruptly... right after being on the verge of continuing on to the parade (or so it felt). Baseball man. Baseball.

And then?

And then it was time to turn the page. The Cubs went on to beat the Indians in the World Series in a great showdown and the Giants were ready to pick up the pieces. As pitchers and catchers report to Arizona and Florida and full squads are about to get underway, now's the time to renew optimism. Put that painful 2016 end to the back of our minds and start thinking about vengeance in 2017!

We got Mark Melancon now. He was magnificent as a National against the Dodgers in their own NLDS series. He was magnificent all season. He's been pretty magnificent for the past several years come to think of it. And now he's the Giants closer! No more Romo (have fun in LA bruh), no more Casilla (we'll see you in the Bay Bridge Series, hermanuh), no more Lopez (enjoy golf!). We now have steady Eddie for the 9th. Melancon could be the most stress-free closer the Giants have had since Rod Beck. Think about that for a moment. 

What else? Well, I guess there really isn't much else. The Giants didn't really do much else. They did all their big lifting in 2016 when they signed Cueto, the Shark, and Span and extended Belt and Crawford. This offseason? Melancon and then... a backup catcher (Nick Hundley) and a lot of high risk medium reward signings like bringing back Mike Morse, signing the ageless Jimmy Rollins, and finally nabbing Justin Ruggiano who I feel like SabEvans has wanted forever. They somehow got David Hernandez on a minor league deal (the one time Dbacks closer) and they have some interesting other guys in camp (That Hwang dude from Korea? Could he be a thing?). But the Giants were already a good team. Despite their awesome 1st half followed by them completely forgetting how to hit and relieve in the 2nd half of 2016, the Giants were and are a very good team. They didn't need much so they didn't do much. They addressed their biggest weakness (the bullpen, duh) and are sort of playing it by ear in left field... an interesting approach when you realize the Dodgers look really effing good. But hey, it's spring time and the time for optimism is here. I mean, like, all we need is Clayton Kershaw to go on the shelf for like... months and we'll run away with the division right? Oh wait... he did that last year and somehow our team was the one that fell apart.

Well, forget about that. It's a new season. And besides, Mike Morse is back. He's Hunter Pence's real good friend, not that Posey fella. So I expect a lot of good things. If anything, at least I know I can boo Romo and Casilla now and not feel too guilty about it... because they're actually wearing opponent jerseys instead of Giants ones and coughing up games. Loved those guys by the way... but excited to see a new guy named Melancon out there closing games.

Beat LA.