Manager Bruce Bochy’s Giants have fallen on hard times as of late, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are still within striking distance. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Dodger Dogs keeping Giants alive

In a news release on 2014 WORLD CHAMPIONS letterhead, the Giants are informing fans how to order 2015 playoff tickets. You may register online for the right to purchase seats in the opening rounds, and, if selected, you may forward credit card information later. Given their dismal 2-5 trip through St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Buster Posey’s 3-for-26 answer to my MVP nomination and management’s inability to acquire a legitimate No. 2 starting pitcher (as suggested here since April), I’m not imagining the server breaking down in the AT&T Park ticket office.

“We had a hard time this trip, no getting around it,” Bruce Bochy said.

Yet as they struggle not to fade in a National League flush with superior ballclubs — including the Cubs, who invade tonight with a lineup just young enough and a manager just frisky enough to make the Champs seem ready for AARP discounts at Denny’s — they’ve been allowed to breathe and even find comic relief in the assclowns who lead their division. The Giants may be flawed, banged-up and an arm or three short. But the Dodgers are dopey and dysfunctional, eminently capable of such a monumental collapse that no one can blame their venerable play-by-play voice for still not committing to another broadcast season.

Imagine being known as the $300 million team that ran off Vin Scully.

Or The Biggest Baseball Flop Ever, choose your insult.

Always fancying itself as more progressive intellectually than the Botox-Bentleys-and-bimbos sphere of southern California, the Bay Area seizes all opportunites to expose Hollywood as shallow and superfluous. The ground never has been more fertile for total L.A. humiliation than the 21st-century condition of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. Here are the Giants, homegrowing their cornerstones and adding vital pieces when necessary, winning three World Series in five years with chemistry and cohesion in the clubhouse and wisdom and cost-efficiency in the front office. And here are the Dodgers, owned by their latest nameless and faceless blob, throwing money at more money, year after futile year, accomplishing nothing and looking like some of the dumbest SOBs on the planet.

At present, they are The Best Charlatans Money Can Buy, losers of five straight and owners of a 45-46 record since mid-May. Their assortment of ongoing issues, unconscionable with the highest payroll in American sports history, are keeping the Giants in a race in which they don’t belong. They’ve been so deficient themselves at times, they’re only 4 games ahead of the Diamondbacks in the NL West. And don’t cry for their injuries, seeing how the Cardinals have perservered with the majors’ best record and pitching staff after losing ace Adam Wainwright, slugger Matt Holliday, their hottest prospect in an offseason automobile crash and various others. But if the Giants manage to squeeze enough from their nostalgic throwback rotation and receive healthy September doses of Hunter Pence and Joe Panik, I dare paint a favorable path created by both geography and those Dodger Dogs.

Say the Giants, who are 9-3 against L.A. with seven games left between them, win the division. It means they avoid not only the dastardly play-in game but any divisional-round playoff matchup involving the NL Central, which, by most accounts, currently features the league’s best three teams in the Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs. While the Midwestern teams are beating up each other that opening postseason week, the Giants would draw the NL East winner, which should be the Mets. That also would be advantageous. While their starting rotation is filled with kid flamethrowers and their run-starved lineup has been helped by Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets would be new to playoff baseball and the pressures of red, white and blue bunting. The Giants, if nothing else this season, can flaunt their Series rings and the accompanying experience and savvy. I’m guessing they’d cobble together whatever ligaments and tendons are left among starters not named Madison Bumgarner — Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Ryan Vogelsong, Tims Hudson and Lincecum — and still beat the Mets on instinct and gumption.

Of course, had Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans been able to acquire David Price or Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, the Giants likely would be leading the division. It’s no coincidence that those three aces are leading their new clubs toward the postseason, just as it’s no shock that Chris Heston hit the rookie wall and is in the minors. If the front office has been brilliant at past trade deadlines, it appears the boys have underachieved in Evans’ first season with the general manager assignment, acquiring pitcher Mike Leake, who hasn’t looked like a No. 2 workhorse when he’s struggling to stay healthy, and bat rental Marlon Byrd, a feast-or-famine plug-in for Pence. Compared to more aggressive clubs — Toronto, Texas, Kansas City, the Mets — the Giants haven’t left the appearance that they’re gunning for a fourth title in six years.

They can take solace in how the Dodgers have whiffed far worse. Their idea of picking up a No. 3 starter behind the Clayton Kershaw-Zack Greinke vortex has backfired, with Mat Latos already banished to the bullpen after ugly starts. Their bats go silent for extended periods, held hitless last week by Houston’s ordinary Mike Fiers. Since the All-Star break, the bullpen has a plus-6.00 earned-run average. They made a 13-player trade that hasn’t helped much. They signed Chase Utley, who chose L.A. over the Giants because he’d do a lot of sitting while Panik played second base down the stretch. They scapegoated the third-base coach, Lorenzo Bundy, and hired former Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke, already rumored as the eventual replacement for beleaguered skipper Don Mattingly.

Might the Dodgers replace Mattingly in Sepember? The madmen who run Guggenheim Baseball, clueless tycoons who hired metrics wizard Andrew Friedman in the offseason to out-think the Giants, appear capable of any frantic whim at this point. Mattingly has all the charisma of a dishrag, which makes him useless while knowing Bochy could outstrategize him in a deep sleep. Kershaw has taken it upon himself to lead, oddly firing a baseball into his team’s dugout last week in Oakland and issuing a verbal warning Sunday.

“I hope we’re panicking a little bit. I think panic’s a good thing, to a certain extent,” Kershaw said. “There needs to be a sense of urgency, maybe that’s better to say than panic. I feel like we have to start playing like that. Not to say we haven’t, but it’s definitely time to start thinking that way.”

Meanwhile, veteran Jimmy Rollins complained about a schedule that gave the Dodgers an off day on both ends of the two-game O.Co Coliseum series. “We have this strange schedule,” he said. “Start and go, start and go. In September, you don’t want that. You want to start running downhill.”

Check the calendar, Jimmy. We’re not in September yet.
Don’t think the Giants aren’t noticing the crash-in-progress, with a three-game series approaching next week at Dodger Stadium. “There’s a bright side in that we’re only 1 1/2 [games] out going home,” Vogelsong said. “We just need to keep grinding. This team is good at that.”

There wlll be no World Series at Third and King this year, I safely can say. But deriving glee from a rival’s continuing idiocy can be great fun, too.

Get your tickets now.

Bobby EvansBrian SabeanBruce BochyLos Angeles DodgersSan Francisco Giants

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