I spent Saturday at AT&T Park watching the Giants play the Oakland A’s. Saturday was a great day. There was this vibe in the ballpark, on the field and in the stands, that gave me a sense that something special was happening. Sure, Ryan Vogelsong and the bullpen threw a 1-hit shutout, but it wasn’t that. It felt like the team was coming together. Even on the ride home listening to KNBR, they were questioning whether the Giants had “turned the corner.” The responses were a bit mixed, but the general consensus was that they were close. Some fans wanted to see a couple sweeps first. Some fans felt that Saturday was the day. Overall though, we’re getting the idea from the fans, from the broadcasters, and from the way the team is playing, that this team has a chemistry that last year’s team didn’t have.
Not to knock on last year’s team, but they just didn’t have the magic of 2010. Maybe it was the Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez injuries. Maybe it was Miguel Tejada and Aaron Rowand sucking the life out of the team (and the payroll). Maybe it was Barry Zito, Cody Ross, and Aubrey Huff slumping (more than usual for Zito), or all the camera’s from The Franchise in there all the time.
It wasn’t all bad though. The bright light on a season of disasters was Ryan Vogelsong. This year, he’s proving he’s not a fluke. In fact, there is a good argument he is the ace of the pitching staff this season. And the fact that Vogelsong could be this year’s ace, or that a reasonable arguement could be made for Matt Cain, Barry Zito, or Madison Bumgarner is what gives me hope and makes me feel like the Giants are [thisclose] to turning that proverbial “corner.”
Why am I not there yet? Why are other Giants fans not feeling like we are there — just yet? To answer that, we just have to refer to Sunday’s game against Oakland with our actual pitching ace on the mound. Tim Lincecum is the reason. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of “he’s lost it,” but I can’t continue to “not worry” like at the beginning of the season. The truth is, Tim Lincecum is the center point of this team. Sure, Buster Posey may be the leader of the team, and Matt Cain may be the horse of our pitching staff, but when your bonafided ace is slumping, it hurts. Losing to Oakland yesterday, in AT&T Park, breaking the streak of home wins against them, with our ace on the mound, hurt. A lot.
So what I’m pondering today is whether this team really can turn that corner until Tim Lincecum turns the corner. I think that without Timmy, we can stay competitive. I’m just not sure if we can get the push we really need to start being the team this group of guys has the potential to be. We have the sparks. The three guys in the outfield, Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Gregor Blanco have given this team a spark we haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Melky Cabrera was hands down the best trade in MLB during the off-season. Without him, I’m afraid we’d be sitting dead last in the NL West. Yet, here we are, on the cusp of coming together. A team of gamers, without a Carlos Beltran or Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, who have the will and the guts to go out there and win games.
Sure, we have issues with the bat. We did in 2010, too. But, in order for this team to have a good shot at the post-season, we need the Freak back, not the guy we have on the mound doing his best Zito or Jonathan Sanchez impersonation. We need consistency out of Tim. The good news is that the rest of our rotation, including Zito, are pitching like All-Stars, and I think that is what will eventually get Lincecum back. Once we get him back to true form, I’m pretty sure the magic will come alive once again. I’m not promising a World Series, but if and when Timmy is back, I think this team will do special things. Even if he doesn’t make it quiet back to the Cy Young winner of his past, I think we can expect special things out of this team…but we’re not there just yet.