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I want the Giants to matter again

Dodgers end their regular season in San Francisco

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend, the San Francisco Giants returned to Los Angeles for the final time in 2023 in a four-game set where the Giants’ minuscule, tiny, rapidly diminishing, virtually non-existent playoff hopes were on the line.

“The natural rival is coming to town in September. The Dodgers can banish the Giants to the golf course.” Those sentences alone should make you feel tingly as a Dodger fan.

Admittedly, if you feel this way, good for you. This essay is not for you.

As for me, I could not have cared less. Why? A few reasons really.

Giants in the crab bucket

Personally, I hate the extra wild cards in the playoffs now. Why? Because effectively more mediocrity (outside of the AL Central) is rewarded now with playoff possibilities, and as a result, there are fewer trades because more teams are mathematically alive for a best-of-three series at the division winner with the worst record.

Of course, last season, the Phillies absolutely demolished the above-reasoning at the expense of the now-hapless Cardinals, the then-asleep Braves, and the unfamiliar-with-success Padres, because of course, they did. Chaos ruled in the National League as the Dodgers and Braves dropped the ball, which has been discussed ad nauseam.

However, the higher seeds mostly prevailed in the American League in 2022, with only Toronto not holding serve, as Houston ultimately coasted to a non-trash-can-fueled title.

Even at the start of the weekend, there were four teams (Arizona, Chicago, Miami, and Cincinnati) within three games of fifth seed in the National League, with San Francisco and San Diego on the fringe. As of the completion of play on Sunday, Arizona, Chicago, Miami, and Cincinnati remain locked in the same status quo. Miami and Cincinnati are running out of time, but are in a better position than San Francisco and San Diego who were all but mathematically eliminated.

And on Tuesday, the axe fell for San Francisco and the axe will likely fall on San Diego in the coming forty-eight hours. As such, it is time to address an arguably inescapable conclusion as to the Giants over the past years.

The Giants have been functionally irrelevant since the last out of the 2014 World Series.

But Michael, aren’t you forgetting the 2021 season? Of course, if you ignore the obvious, you can make this argument and blah blah blah.

I can hear the rebuttal from McCovey Chronicles now, but I shall continue my argument by acknowledging the truth while ignoring our mediocre cousins from the North. In fact, I will argue that 2021 did not excite the San Francisco fanbase and ultimately locked the franchise into a status quo instead of finally embracing a rebuild back to relevance.

The 2021 season was an incredible, delightful mad fluke for San Francisco

Adric at NLDS Game 2. Oracle Park, October 9, 2021.
Adric at NLDS Game 2. Oracle Park, October 9, 2021.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

As a Dodger fan, who likely saw more Dodger games than you that year, I loved the 2021 season.

I loved that season not just for the 30 games in 13 cities over six months, but for the madcap division race that technically went down to the wire. Truthfully, the race was over on September 5th when the Dodgers dropped the finale of the final three-game series of the year with the Giants in San Francisco where Walker Buehler was lit up like a Christmas September.

Yes, the Giants won the division, and broke the Dodgers’ streak of division titles, by a single game over a 162-game season.

Just think about it for a second, if any of the following events listed below go the other way, the Dodgers win the division and the legend of Chris Taylor never truly begins.

For all the talk of the vaunted rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants, prior to 2021, they had never played each other in the playoffs (the two National League tiebreakers were regular season games, including the 1951 season, for which the Giants admitted to cheating for arguably the most iconic home run in the history of the sport, a secret which was largely kept out of the public eye for over 50 years).

You would think that such an unprecedented pennant race would excite the City of San Francisco into coming out to the ballpark. You would be wrong because attendance stayed flat at eighth in the National League and has remained ever since the halcyon days of the three titles in five years of mid-2010s.

Do not misunderstand me. I acknowledge that those Giants teams were good, especially the 2010 and 2012 teams. The 2014 team? I will argue that the team was wacky variance made real as Madison Baumgarner never pitched that well before or since. But a title is a title. I may not like it, but I acknowledge it.

And before anyone says COVID protocols, yes, the Dodgers ended socially distant baseball approximately two weeks before the Giants did. But those two weeks cannot possibly account for the over 1.2 million difference in paid attendance between the Dodgers and Giants.

Now, the paid attendance numbers are infamous for being fudged. The announced paid attendance for the game shown below at Yankee Stadium on September 25 was 41,096, which was the paid attendance for the original previously scheduled, Aaron Judge bobblehead date.

Even anecdotally, I recall the 2021 Giants running ticket specials, practically begging the citizenry of San Francisco to come out to Oracle Park. They didn’t — except when the Dodgers came to town.

In any event, that mad, wild summer for our Northern cousins was clearly a fluke, delaying a badly needed rebuild as recent draft classes have come up mostly fallow. Although this Patrick Bailey fellow might be worth keeping an eye on. I “hated” and respected Buster Posey, and having a catcher to “hate” and respect in orange and black would be a nice change of pace.

(Author’s Note: “Hate” is in quotation marks because while he’s on the field, I will boo passionately, but off the field, I wish all players, except for Bauer and now Julio Urias, the same thing: love and peace. Having ballplayers live in your head rent-free is silly.)

Dating is great but have you ticked off Bumgarner? Max Muncy and Yasiel Puig were savants at doing that, as apparently, it was so easy back in the day to tick off Baumgarner. Sure, Logan Webb checks his Twitter direct messages a bit too often, but it is not the same.

One would think that the team would supplement deficiencies in the farm system with free agent signing, but apart from Arson Judge, can anyone name any notable free agent not named Joc Pederson? Not Judge, mind you, that player is a difference-maker when he is not cosplaying as the Kool-Aid Man at Dodger Stadium.

The Giants mattering is not the same as the Giants being good

MLB: SEP 24 Giants at Dodgers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No self-respecting Dodger fan wants the Giants to be good.

So let me make one thing perfectly clear: true despair cannot exist in the absence of hope. The Giants are worse than bad right now: they are boring and clutching to mediocrity like a child with its favorite toy.

I want my blood to figuratively boil when the Dodgers play the Giants. As of now, it does not even simmer.

Why? Because true despair is absolutely impossible for our northern cousins because, for most of the last decade, they have been without hope.

For most of the last decade, the Giants have been that kid from high school who achieved just about everything their hearts desired and then fell off the map, reliving old glories to the point that no one cares anymore.

And that situation is so boring. It is like running into that hypothetical person when you visit home and they are still wearing their letterman jacket. You almost want to shout at them to get their act together.

Between the Giants’ ongoing mediocrity and the Padres channeling their moxie into spectacularly underachieving, which deserves its own day in the sun, divisional play has been a bit of a letdown over the past few seasons. I finally understand Yankee fans when they grouse about how irrelevant the Red Sox were for all those years.

That sentence hurt to physically write. Clearly, something must done!

The likely highlight of the Giants’ season is when they came into Dodger Stadium and swept three games over Father’s Day weekend, more than three months ago. Imagine how utterly unsatisfied you would be if the Dodgers’ highlight of the season was in June.

If Fangraphs is a guide, the Giants were technically playoff-viable until games started being played in September. Then the trend line made our cousins wish to be woken up when September ends as it went straight down.

As it stands now if you can get riled up when the Dodgers and Giants play, then more power to you. But until our northern cousins get their act together, all a Dodgers/Giants game means is inflated ticket prices and mostly irrelevant entertainment regardless if the game is played up north or at Dodger Stadium.

And God forbid, you live in the other team’s broadcast area, so now what should be a marquee, must-see event, is now a literal hassle in order to watch the game on television. Or even worse, you miss out on the dulcet tones of Joe Davis and Orel Hershisher.

Still, Jon Miller can be fun though, as he is a hoot to follow on Instagram.

Do I bite my thumb?

Admittedly, this essay comes at a moderately awkward time as I am effectively biting my thumb with absolute indifference in the vicinity of the San Francisco fanbase mere days before going to San Francisco. There is never a wrong time for Shakespeare.

Maybe you somehow disagree that 2021 was a fluke, but the fact remains that the Giants have still been a literal .500 team the past two seasons, again clutching to the literal definition of mediocrity.

Whether Gabe Kapler stays or goes, whether Farhan Zaidi stays or goes, feels like a rearranging of chairs on the Titanic — wasted effort in the sea of obvious player issues. The iceberg has been struck, the ship is listing, does it really matter at this point who is at the helm if no one acknowledges the hole in the ship?

Now the Giants are eliminated and this final coming weekend serves as nothing but an overpriced exhibition and a possible regular-season goodbye to an actual legend.

Instead of mirth, I feel nothing.

As for Clayton Kershaw, his situation will work itself out, one or another. I will return to Oracle Park for the penultimate game of the season, for a solitary reason: my sister has never been to any game. Plus, I will tour the stadium, which I have never actually done before.

My father’s final commandment was to have fun. Mocking the weak garlic fries at Oracle Park while spending time with family does sound like a good time. See you there!