It’s ridiculous to any logical person, looking back to past performance to predict future success when the participants are different. None of these Giants played for the teams who lost 3-2 series leads on the road in 1987 and 2002. Buster Posey was less than 7 months old when the Giants got shut out twice by the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, and Madison Bumgarner wasn’t even born yet.
I was 9, and the memory of that ’87 NLCS is still something that sticks with me. My dad caught Giants fever in the middle of that season and bought a 20-game ticket plan in order to get the chance to buy playoff tickets. He only bought two, though, so between he, my mom and myself, there was some haggling that went on.
My dad decided that since he had the foresight (and the money, let’s be honest), he would go to games 3, 4 and 5 against the Cardinals. I went with him to Game 3, a tough 6-5 loss. My mom then went with my dad the next day, the 4-2 win with Mike Krukow and Danny Cox both going the distance. And, since I didn’t get to see a win (and they probably feared my mood would range from awful to maniacal if they didn’t allow me to go), I got to see the 6-3 win in Game 5 (the Joe Price game).
We also had World Series tickets, provided the Giants went to St. Louis and won either Game 6 or 7. And as you all know, they got shut out twice, Jose Oquendo and Ozzie Smith hit homers, and the bragging to my elementary school classmates about getting to see the World Series in person was all for not.
This weekend is much more like 1987 than 2002. That 2002 team could hit. They could really, really hit. They just had a bullpen that was absolutely ravaged by a lack of depth, as well as a lack of concern from their manager about the respective workloads of his relievers. Dusty Baker also had no idea who to start in a must-win game, which is why Salomon Torres can’t show his face around here and why Livan Hernandez started Game 7 against Anaheim instead of Kirk Reuter, an almost ignored move far more egregious than handing Russ Ortiz the game ball the night before.
The 1987 team was a similar group to the current squad in terms of the youngster/veteran mix, with guys like Will Clark and Robby Thompson who became key contributors much earlier than was planned, and key acquisitions in the middle of the year (especially the trade which brought Kevin Mitchell, Dave Dravecky and Craig Lefferts to the team from San Diego, a trade that would never happen now between division opponents). But when it came down to it at the end of the season against a team with more national acclaim, a better record and the home field advantage that the best record in the league comes with (sound familiar?), the Giants couldn’t score.
That’s the fear going into this weekend. These Giants can pitch, that isn’t the problem. But to expect Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain to hold the Phillies scoreless until the Giants deign to plate one runner is the best way to set up this team for failure. That’s what was so frustrating about last night — not that Pablo Sandoval backed up toward third base with the grace of an old dairy cow (actually, his throwing error was worse … Pablo really is a terrible third baseman unless the ball is hit directly to him these days), or that ball that shot off Aubrey Huff’s wrist into centerfield. The Giants had a chance to put a big number on the board against Roy Halladay in the first inning, and they could only manage one meager run. A cheap run, at that. They wasted a game where Tim Lincecum out-pitched Halladay, and that’s hard to take.
I feel a lot better about all this than I did last night, when I was supposed to meet my fiance and her friends at Tres Agaves, but that place was PACKED so I met them at her work where they were showing the game on two projection screens in a conference room.
(Side note: My favorite moment of last night was walking back from the restroom with a girl SGL works with, as a guy walks by. This girl was a huge fan, and the Giants were down 3-2 in the 6th inning or something, and the guy says, “Oh, don’t worry. They’re only behind by one point!” Honestly, the idea that guys know so much more than girls about sports is antiquated these days. Lately all I’ve noticed is hardcore female fans and guys who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. My fiance has actually had to temper her own knowledge in front of male co-workers because she thinks she’s crushing their egos when she tells them that Monta Ellis leads the league in turnovers when they were sure that skateboard wreck ended his career.)
Last night was pretty rough. Dreary, and waaaayyyy to much Jayson Werth, who can’t sign with an American League team fast enough. Really, go away. The Giants didn’t play all that well either, and once again the Phillies’ habit of moving their arms directly into the path of pitches is getting extremely old.
So why am I not filled with dread? Because this team isn’t the 1987 team, or the 2002 team. They’ve played in a mess of close games, and don’t have the propensity to turtle, crawl into the fetal position (like Bill Simmons said he would do if the pre-2004 Red Sox blew a chance at making the World Series in Game 5 and had to fly cross country to win a game) and give up. They can win tomorrow, they just need to hit Roy Oswalt. And Ryan Madson. And Brad Lidge. I see big things for Huff this weekend, as he has to feel like last night was completely on him (he left a whopping 6 guys on base last night to go along with that unfortunate misplay at first). But most of all, we and the Giants have to stay loose, believe we can win and leave all the historical nonsense to sentimental sports-addicts like me.