Remember when we were all looking forward to the 2017 baseball season for a distraction from “real life”?
What has gone better than expected so far for the Giants? Let’s see … Matt Cain has been outstanding for two of his three starts. Who would’ve predicted that? Certainly not this guy. Joe Panik has been really good. Hunter Pence has remained healthy. Aaaaaaannnnndddd, that’s about it.
Instead of a distraction from the news, this season has been a mix of the trivial (mediocre baseball) and stressful (all-too-frequent reminders that life is precious).
— The bullpen collapse on Opening Day didn’t quite ruin Madison Bumgarner’s legendary feats at the plate, because those will always be remembered, but they provided a reminder that signing an expensive closer and calling it a day guaranteed absolutely nothing. What happened in the eighth and ninth innings of the Giants’ first game of the season certainly wasn’t a life-and-death moment, but their version of real life IS baseball, and their top priority heading into this year was shrugging off the most epic bullpen collapse in franchise history. The relievers’ made a first impression that gave the season an ominous feel, to put it lightly.
— The “emotional” (Bruce Bochy’s word to describe it) home opener started with the late Navy Seal Ryan Owens’ wife Carryn talking to the team in the clubhouse. Then their children threw out the ceremonial first pitches. There are many ceremonies in sports that give lip service to patriotism or our love of kids — this particular ceremony was so, so much deeper. Everything about it was real, and you could sense how much Owens’ death meant to everyone in the park in part because the players were so greatly affected.
— A half hour or so after first pitch, the Giants’ best player was drilled in the head with a Taijuan Walker fastball.
— Brandon Crawford’s sister-in-law tragically died as the result of a severe asthma attack later that week.
— Bochy had his third heart-related hospital stay in two years, this time to undergo a “minor ablation procedure” yesterday morning, which almost seemed symbolic in a way. This team has gone through too much, too soon.
The Giants are currently 6-9, which is no big deal. The Dodgers are 7-8 and the Cubs (so talented on paper that KNBR host Larry Krueger said on the air that he wouldn’t be surprised if they won 120 games this season) are 7-7. The question is whether the Giants can stick together and help each other get through and past what has been a very difficult first two weeks of the season, or whether the strain will prove too much. Or, if this is just this team’s destiny in 2017, to deal with terrible occurrence after terrible occurrence.
The luck will probably start to turn in the Giants’ favor at some point, but Bochy is the main concern. Is it all that surprising that he’s dealing with heart issues after such a tumultuous start to this season? He shoulders so much when the team goes through problems, on the field or off, as the man who has centered this team so many times before. But of all the tough times listed above, the health of his heart is the one thing this team might not be able to overcome.
- The bullpen has had a few hiccups, but it’s hardly been a disaster (3.29 ERA, just one HR in 38.1 innings).
- Posey was the DH yesterday (he went 3-for-5) and it seems like he’ll be able to get behind the plate soon — the only worry with him is if he has delayed concussion symptoms that prevent him from playing.
- Crawford’s family is dealing with a terrible tragedy, but Crawford is one of the toughest players on the team and if anything the worry might be that he internalizes his grief. Hopefully he can find some time during a nonstop season to get whatever help he needs.
That last sentiment goes for Bochy, too. He seems to be responding to this latest scare the same way he did to the previous two: joke, joke, and joke some more (it was convenient for Bochy to have Jeremy Affeldt as a punching bag once again). He knows his team is at a point where they need to start winning a little more often than they lose, or risk falling behind by a large number of games in their division, so he’s going to deflect attention away from his health.
We have to assume that if he was at any sort of major risk, his doctor(s) would suggest he retire. Whether he would listen is anyone’s guess. Hopefully the “real life” stuff will ease up a little bit for the Giants and Bochy will be able to get into the rhythm of the season without too many added stresses. The job, with the daily grind, travel, and (worst of all) lack of control over what occurs on the field more often than not, is difficult enough without having to be the rock for your squad, particularly on those days when emotions are high no matter what happens on the field.