Last season, Duane Kuiper played up the “Giants baseball … torture” angle to such a degree that many people (including me) experienced t-word fatigue. It was cute at first, but it’s tough to sell a team’s experiences as torturous when the season ends with a World Series title claimed in just five games. But last season, “torture” wasn’t just about tough games against the Rockies. It was about 1962, 1987, 1989, 1993, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004. And a lot of other, less celebrated years. It was more painful because of the previous 52 years than the one we were watching, even though the Giants took 162 games to fight off the San Diego Padres before starting their postseason run.
Last season was a carrot on a string. This season is a steady diet of body blows, in the form of offensive futility and injuries. So, so many injuries. Monday was a rough day in many ways for the Giants, but Brian Wilson pitching around guys until it blew up in his face was the least of their issues. Pablo Sandoval fouled a ball off his foot, limped around the bases and left on a date with the closest X-ray machine. However, at least the results of Sandoval’s X-rays came back negative and he likely isn’t headed to the DL … unlike Sergio Romo.
Romo in 2011 is like the Giants’ version of a really good indie band the year before they hit it big. Kind of like Phoenix before you could hear “1901” on Cadillac commercials. Every Giants fan who’s paying attention loves the guy and has wished Bruce Bochy would use him more often and for longer. Now, the pain in Romo’s elbow means he probably won’t pitch until Aug. 25 at the earliest. It’s just another painful loss in a season full of them.
2011 Giants on the DL — in chronological order
Brian Wilson (Sheen’s fault)
Barry Zito (legit DL stint)
Mark DeRosa (again)
DeRosa (yet again, this time for 60-days … but not long enough)
Buster Posey (forever)
Freddy Sanchez (forever)
Jonathan Sanchez (fake DL stint)
Pat Burrell (fake DL stint?)
Zito (fake, then real)
To this list you might as well add Carlos Beltran and Romo, the statistical freak the Giants are praying won’t have to schedule a visit anytime in the near future with Dr. James Andrews (the Giants say there’s no evidence of structural damage, but it’s hard to exhale in situations like these until you see the pitcher in question pitch pain-free). Wilson’s back was feeling terrible over the weekend, but supposedly he felt better today — yeah, right.
The injuries keep racking up, but fans can’t look for sympathy. The Giants are defending a World Series title. They’ve taken advantage of the DL like billionaires take advantage of tax shelters. They’re lucky to be as close to the Diamondbacks (2.5 games back) as they are. They were more worried about utilizing Belt as a reality show plot line than as an everyday player. They had a record in 1-run games that was too good to be sustained, and after having the best record in that category for most of the season, the Giants (28-17) have slid back to the pack a little and now find themselves behind the Brewers (26-15).
Last year was torture because the Giants were so close to what every fan and team employee dreamed might occur someday, but couldn’t really picture until the parade was in front of their faces. This year is torture because the truth is becoming clearer by the day. Right now, the Giants are not a great team. They’re not even a very good team. Besides their obvious advantages in terms of pitching — which dwindle without a healthy Romo and/or Wilson — there isn’t a lot to count on from game to game. While swagger can exist for a team like the Giants, who’ve battled through dozens of stressful games and experienced success together, without statistical backing swagger can’t last 162 games.
This isn’t to say the Giants can’t win a few more games than the D-Backs the rest of the way before riding Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong to the promised land. But the most painful part of the 2011 season is that with every day that goes by, and every injury to the Giants’ best player at that given time, expecting a repeat of last year’s magical, decidedly non-torturous season gets that much more difficult.