A Little Surprise

Note: I’m breaking my promise of 250 words or less for this post (and I don’t care).

Admit it; this slump has worn on you. It’s made you a little bitter, maybe even questioning the Giants’ offseason strategy. First you were in denial, now you’re just angry. You expected so much more from this team. Hell, if you live in a time zone outside Pacific Standard (like me), you’ve probably turned off a few games lately with the outcome still in doubt (but let’s not kid ourselves, you knew what the outcome would be). Maybe you never turned the game on to begin with.

If this doesn’t describe how you’ve been feeling lately, you’re either incredibly even-keeled, or you’re not as big a fan as you thought. Either way, at least you aren’t suffering. As for the rest of us, we’re reeling. Can you blame us? This team entered the season with high expectations. Damn high. But what we’ve got now is a lifeless, gutless group that has backed its way almost completely out of the picture in two months. Even the 2011 team was 12 games over .500 at the break, without Posey! Like 2011, though, I just don’t think we’re going to see any miracles this summer.

Which leads me to this: Yesterday we woke up to a surprise (that maybe wasn’t all that surprising to some). The Giants had agreed to sign Jeff Francoeur to a minor league deal. Francoeur was released by Kansas City last week, and he seemed like the kind of guy the Giants would go after at this point. Of course, he’s not the hitter he was even two years ago, but for a guy who’s been in the league since 2005, he’s only 29. Personally, I like the Frenchy signing. The guy has power (which we desperately need) to go with a great outfield arm, even if he’s not the most reliable defender anymore. If he can add a little spark to the club, I’ll be satisfied.  He suited up in Fresno last night and went 1-4 with 2 K. The hope is that he can get his bat going and be in San Fran fairly soon.

The Francoeur signing at least gave Giants fans something to talk about yesterday. But the day’s biggest surprise came when I checked the CSN Bay Area site for a lineup about an hour before the game. Playing LF and batting 2nd, making his big league debut, Kensuke Tanaka. Tanaka, who had high hopes to make the team out of spring training, was a Japanese all-star and gold-glove infielder. As most of us know, it was his glove that undid him this spring and denied his lifelong dream of playing in the Major Leagues. I followed him for about the first month or so in Fresno, but it didn’t take long to see that he was a singles hitter who couldn’t field well enough, and I (like most people I assume) kind of forgot about him. So the Giants (literally) pulled this one out of left field, but I couldn’t think of a better time for it. Tanaka made an immediate impact, leaping for a catch at the wall in the second inning. He put the ball in play, got his first career knock, took a walk and helped execute a perfect hit-and-run in the 7th… and he did it all with a smile on his face. He was, as Kruk says, “a shot in the arm.”

I don’t see any reason why the Giants won’t continue to give Tanaka a shot. He seems like he can handle the bat, and as long as his defense isn’t completely awful, I envision him helping the team. But more than anything, Tanaka’s surprise promotion and his inspiring attitude helped me finally come to terms with this season. The Giants still managed to fall apart and lose, but for the first time in quite a few games, I was legitimately excited to watch an at-bat.

Maybe the recent roster moves won’t make us contenders, but at least the Giants are showing they aren’t afraid to change things up. At this point, that’s all we can ask for.

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A New Low Every Night

The turnaround will have to wait yet another night.  Two months ago, the Giants were making us immune to comeback victories.  Now, eight games under .500, we’re becoming immune to bad baseball.  On a night that started so promising, Buster kept his red-hot bat alive by taking Matt Harvey deep for a two-run shot in the first.  On the other end, Timmy was as good as he’s been in two years.  Heading into the 5th, he hadn’t allowed a hit and his split-change was something straight from 2008. The park was alive, and for a short time all the recent bad vibes were forgotten.  The Freak would go on to battle for seven innings, allowing three runs while striking out 11… seriously, ‘08 stuff (albeit against a team 11 games below .500).

In the end, Lincecum’s vintage performance and Posey’s career-high five hits weren’t enough to propel the Giants, who stranded runners for SIXTEEN innings on their way to a bitter 4-3 loss.  After tying the game at three in the bottom of the 7th, the Giant bats posted nine consecutive zeroes on the board, and a Brandon Crawford botched grounder allowed the go-ahead run to score in the bottom of the 16th.

The Giants signed Jeff Francoeur this morning, who was recently released by Kansas City, and who hasn’t been referred to as “The Natural” by Sports Illustrated in years.  He’ll play a few games in Fresno to get his bat going before coming to SF. His .208 average is rough, but he’s a decent hitter against lefties, and, come on, can we really get any worse at this point?