What happened to the Giants? The better question is, what didn’t happen to the Giants?
From Opening Day, when they were beaten by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw — and Buster Posey was still healthy — there was a sense this year might be as frustrating as last year was elating.
The Giants already were offensively challenged with Posey and Freddy Sanchez in the lineup, not on the disabled list. After they departed for the season — Posey with a broken ankle in that May 25 collision at home plate, Sanchez with a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum 2½ weeks later — San Francisco seemed hopeless at the plate.
Pitching? Pitching they still had, the second best team ERA in the National League next to Philadelphia. But other than Pablo Sandoval, virtually nobody could hit. Not, aside from brief flashes, from Aubrey Huff or Cody Ross. Not anybody. The Giants had the second-worst team batting average in the league, the third worst in the majors.
They would lose games 2-1. They would lose games 1-0. They would lose more and more players with injuries — Andres Torres, Nate Schierholtz, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson, Sandoval, Barry Zito.
And then, the Arizona Diamondbacks, of whom in spring training one baseball scout declared, “They’re awful,” no longer were awful. They overtook San Francisco, and as the Giants struggled, manager Bruce Bochy one night in late August after being shut out by the Astros, declared, “We were awful.”
So many players hurt, including Posey, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year. So many players unable to produce.
Aaron Rowand finally was released. So was Miguel Tejada, who at his age, 37, had to be a reach for a team unable to find a shortstop. And, oh, Tejada also was injured.
Sport is making the best of what is available. Not of making excuses. The magic of 2010 evaporated in 2011. Even with the unforeseen pitching of Ryan Vogelsong, the surprise of the year. Even with the late addition of Carlos Beltran, who along with Sandoval seemed to be the only other person on the Giants able to hit a moving baseball.
Expectations hung heavily. The Giants were supposed to win a rather weak National League West, and who knew what might happen from there? Another pennant? Another World Series title? What happened is that everything bad happened, and the weakness, the inability to hit, became an inescapable flaw.
Tim Lincecum, two years away from the second of his consecutive Cy Young Awards and one year away from getting the win in the World Series clincher against the Rangers, ended up with a losing record, 12-13, and a 2.74 ERA.
Matt Cain finished 12-11 with a 2.88 ERA and Madison Bumgarner went 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA. To believe in April those three would combine for records showing as many losses as victories would have been difficult. But this season has been difficult.
Sooner or later, the strain of attempting to compensate for the lack of runs by pitching nearly perfectly had to affect the starters.
“What else can we do differently?” Bochy asked one night after getting only a single run against the sad-sack Astros. With the personnel they had, very little. It was a year not to remember.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.