By Michelle Dingley
The Giants’ 2010 season was torture, but it was magic. Every game was a nail-biter. We made it to the playoffs with a win on the very last game of the regular season. And on November 1, 2010, the elation relieved all the pain from the previous 56 years, even the still-tender nerve of 2002: the Giants were World Champions.
The next season came in stark contrast to 2010. The torture remained, but somehow the wins didn’t come. The Giants had to deal with injuries and a lack of offensive production that kept the team out of the playoffs.
So far, the 2012 season feels a bit like déjà vu, not of our glorious 2010, but of our painful and disappointing 2011. We started our title defense in 2011 with an awful 1-3 series against the Dodgers. Opening this season, our other NL West rivals, the D-backs, swept us in a three-game series at Chase Field. Both seasons started with some weak pitching and shaky defense. Overall, our pitching recovered quickly this season, but the defense continues to let us down.
To say we had trouble at the plate last season would be a huge understatement. This season, we are hitting better, yet we are still struggling with runners in scoring position. We can’t get that clutch hit when we need it. On the plus side, we haven’t been shut out yet this year. Still, with the batters we have in our lineup, we need to be scoring more. One-run games should be a thing of the past.
If I had to sum up what happened to the Giants last year in one word, it might be “injuries.” It seemed like every day we sent a new player to the DL. Sadly, 2012 seems to repeat this as well. In this young season, we have already used the DL 8 times, the fourth most in the league. Freddy Sanchez, who was injured last summer, is still on the DL with no solid return date. Brian Wilson, who was injured during the tail end of the year, underwent Tommy John surgery early this spring and will be out for the whole season. In 2011, Jeremy Affeldt went on the DL due to a freak accident. He sliced his hand while separating frozen hamburger patties. In 2012, Jeremy Affeldt went on the DL with another freak accident. This time, he sprained his knee when his 4-year-old son jumped into his arms. It seems that life at the Affeldt house can be dangerous.
To date, the most distressing similarity between 2011 and 2012 happened in our last series. In early May 2011, Pablo Sandoval broke his right hamate bone. He was one of the few offensive bright spots in that weak lineup. In early May 2012, almost one year to the day later, the Panda broke his left hamate bone. Again, we are losing one of our best and most consistent bats. This season, Panda leads the team in homers (5), and he is second in both average (.316) and slugging percentage (.537). Sandoval likely caused the injury when taking a swing on Sunday, but he continued to play until the pain forced him to come out of the game on Wednesday. He is expected to be out for at least four weeks.
This was a strange, almost ironic time for Pablo’s injury. The Giants were playing game 2 of a three-game series against the Marlins at AT&T Park when he came out of the game. The last time the Marlins were in town was last May. In game 2 of the 2011 Marlins series, Scott Cousins ran off the base path and barreled into Buster Posey, breaking his ankle and ending his season. After Buster’s injury, which came near the end of a devastating extra-innings loss, the team was in shock. They couldn’t muster anything against Marlins starter Anibal Sanchez in game 3. Ryan Vogelsong gave up just one run and took the loss, his first of the season. The Marlins completed the sweep. The day after Pablo’s injury this season, the Marlins sent Anibal Sanchez to the mound. Facing him again was Ryan Vogelsong. Again Vogey gave up just one earned run (plus one unearned), and again he took the tough-luck loss. This time we weren’t shut out, but it was a close one, as the Marlins won 3-2 and again swept us at home.
This season is way too similar to 2011 for my liking. Why make us Giants faithful go through these same trials and tribulations again? I can’t handle any more major injuries. I can’t stand our inability to plate runners. I don’t want to see us bobble the ball and make terrible throws any longer. We thought we knew torture in 2010, but we didn’t know what we were in for. Our 2012 season looks to be just a repeat of 2011. It’s the baseball version of Groundhog Day. In that classic movie, Bill Murray’s Phil Connors lives the same day over and over. Sick of repeating the same wretched day stuck in a small town, he reflects on his predicament: “I was in the Virgin Islands once. I met a girl. We ate lobster, drank Piña Coladas. At sunset we made love like sea otters. That was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I get that day over and over and over?” I can’t help but echo his sentiment: if we are going to repeat a year, why can’t it be 2010? Maybe, like Phil, we have a lesson to learn. Maybe we are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes and reliving the same bad luck from 2011 until we get it right. I just hope it doesn’t take all season for the team to put it all together. The Giants’ figurative February 3rd cannot come soon enough.