The 2018 baseball season officially came to end this past Sunday for the San Francisco Giants, a season that we’ll all try to erase from our brains.
I’m being kind when I say this season was a disappointment. Injuries, lack of clutch hitting and an inconsistent bullpen led to the Giants losing 89 games — an improvement from their 98-loss season in 2017, but far from a success. Still, what I witnessed Sunday was downright embarrassing. Personally, it was one of the lowest points and most shameless acts I’ve seen in my 30 years of watching Giants baseball.
During a 15-0 sweep-clinching drubbing at the hands of the Dodgers, Hunter Pence — who likely played his final game in a Giants uniform during that Sunday travesty — was celebrated as if his last name were Mays or McCovey. On a good day, Pence isn’t even Jeff Kent, much less deserving of the adulation due to legends. Yet, Sunday was the culmination of a two-week lovefest for Pence.
No, I’m not ripping on Pence. He contributed to two of the Giants three championships this decade. But he is arguably known more for his 2012 NLDS locker room speech — when the Giants were down 0-2 to Cincinnati — and for helping the team introduce its kale garden in center field than for his on-field production.
I get the love affair the fans have with one of the quirkier players we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Pence always had a minute for the media and was great with the fans. His all-out hustle was appreciated.
But I’m not going to sit here and lie to you: Watching Pence circle the warning track on his scooter at AT&T Park after the Giants got obliterated 15-0 to end the season bothered me, and it should bother every Giants fan in this universe.
Seriously, with a chance to prevent the Dodgers from winning their sixth-straight National League West title, the Giants got swept. They looked like a Triple-A team.
The Giants entered September as a .500 ballclub (68-68), but effectively out of the playoff picture. Then things got worse.
This team preceded to open up the final month of the season with an 11-game losing streak, the worst skid since the team moved to San Francisco and the longest for the franchise since 1951. The team held a meeting in the midst of that losing streak, during which, according to multiple sources, manager Bruce Bochy preached “effort.” Boy, that meeting helped. They won four of their next five before ending the season by losing nine of their last 10 games. They finished 5-21 in September, batted .211, hit into 22 double plays, and produced a putrid on-base percentage of .256.
For a team that had the second-highest payroll in baseball, what transpired in the month of September should have CEO Larry Baer cleaning house. Baer has already blown out general manager Bobby Evans and strength and conditioning coach Carl Kochan, which left players befuddled.
Evans and Kochan shouldn’t be the only guys heading out of town. It’s time to reset and commit to a rebuild. Why are Bochy and Brian Sabean allowed to hover around the organization when Baer has already committed to bringing in a new GM?
With a new voice, shouldn’t that new voice be allowed to bring in his own manager? The Giants, as currently constructed, are nowhere near competing for a championship.
I got into it on Twitter with a lot of fans who feel like I disrespected Pence on 95.7 The Game. I don’t have a bad word to say about Pence, but people, let’s keep it real: When Pence signed his five-year, $90 million deal with the Giants in September of 2013, it seemed like a great deal. He ended up making the All-Star team in 2014, and capped off the season with a very productive World Series, helping the Giants win their third in five years.
But, his last four seasons have been putrid. He was banged up, his body broke down and he couldn’t hit a slider or catch up to a fastball. To say he didn’t live up to that contract would be an understatement. It was sad how Pence’s skills eroded.
I’m all for honoring Giants for past contributions, but Pence doesn’t deserve the love fest that he received Sunday, and there are few who do. It was too much. He’s not Derek Jeter. He’s not the best right fielder the Giants have ever had.
What went down Sunday was an absolute joke, and everybody associated with the act should be ashamed of themselves. It’s one of the softest things I’ve seen from this organization.
Let’s hope 2019 is the start of a new era.