The San Francisco Giants merry promotional campaign is still airing on local television. "We're in this thing," cry happy fans, anticipating their team's first playoff appearance since 2003.
And mathematically, they still are. For a few more hours.
But it's not going to happen. Not this season.
That doesn't make it a wasted season. The Giants have exhibited the first signs of green life sprouting from the ashes left behind by the great
The Giants aren't going to win the wild card, but they played meaningful baseball for most of September.
But now they are five back of the Rockies with 11 games to play. An ugly loss to Arizona on Tuesday night appeared to seal a fate that was pretty much decided in the heat of Dodger Stadium last weekend.
On this road trip, the Giants' twin demons of road struggles and impotent offense have been on display. So has been a disturbing late-season development: The Giants vaunted pitching staff hasn't come through when most needed.
But the worst news for the Giants in recent days isn't that they won't win the wild card; that's simply fulfilling preseason prophesies. No, the really bad news was far less predictable. The Giants top young Dominican prospect,
Just 19, Villalona was signed by the Giants when he was 16, earning a $2.1 million bonus. He was considered a prime slugging prospect in the system and was penciled in to be the team's first baseman for years to come, just as
Villalona was projected to be one piece of the Giants' new youth movement. For years, during the Bonds era, the Giants traded draft picks for aging veterans. But now they have rebuilt their farm system and their young pitching staff is the heart of the team. Their big two of
But in the stretch run, the dominating pitching didn't come through as planned, perhaps the result of too many innings piling up. Cain has won just one game since late July and on Tuesday night in Arizona he only lasted 2 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career.
Even the trusty Lincecum may have dashed any hopes for a second consecutive Cy Young on Sunday, wilting in the Los Angeles heat. Lincecum disputes the notion that he struggles with the heat, but his recent outings reflect a pattern: He thrives in the cool weather at AT&T Park but isn't as sharp when the temperature rises on the road.
The Giants are far from a complete team. Their road record has been lousy (33-44), while their winning percentage in China Basin is .649. Their offense has been among the league's worst in recent years: The Giants are last in the league in runs scored, second to last in home runs in baseball and near the bottom in RBIs. It seems like some kind of karmic payback for all those years of riding baseball's hottest bat.
Among their young hitters,
One of general manager
The Sanchez injury was just one more blow in a dismal week. But, despite that, this has been a successful season for the Giants. Expected to contend next season, the Giants found themselves ahead of schedule. The team won its 81st game this week, breaking a four-year streak of losing seasons. The Giants kept their fans engaged and hopeful, something that hasn't happened in recent years.
They're not in this thing, not anymore. But they expect to be in the future.