San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8)  celebrates center fielder Denard Span (2) scoring a run against the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on October 10, 2016. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) celebrates center fielder Denard Span (2) scoring a run against the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NLDS at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on October 10, 2016. (Stan Olszewski/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Giants can’t lose another game of musical closer chairs

MLB free agency is open for business, and you know what that means, boys and girls.

That’s right — the Giants will search for a relief pitcher who can protect a lead in the ninth inning for a change. Once again, they’re not alone.

The word on the street is that the Giants are on the trail of Mark Melancon again. At 31, the veteran isn’t as flashy as Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen, who also are available, but that’s not what the closer role is about. It’s about dependability. In that regard, Melancon may be the best choice available. In the last two seasons, his 94 percent success rate is better than that of Chapman (93) and Jansen (91).

Then again, we’ve seen the start of this movie before.

As you might recall, the Giants inquired about Melancon before the trade deadline last summer. The Pittsburgh Pirates practically wanted to give Melancon away in a salary dump, but they liked what the Washington Nationals offered a bit more.

If the Giants thought they had a puncher’s chance in the postseason — and there was no reason not to at the time — they should have sweetened their offer. That’s how championship-caliber organizations do business. But Giants operations honcho Brian Sabean held firm, and the Nationals got their man.

Since the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians already had swooped in to acquire Chapman and Andrew Miller, respectively, the Giants were left with no choice but to hand the ball to Santiago (Gas Can) Casilla in the stretch drive. We know how that horror show turned out, don’t we?

Lucky for them, Sabean and company have several options only months later. But they’ll have to step up the pace this time. The Cubs also like Melancon, especially if Chapman re-signs with the New York Yankees for big money, and they’re not ones to wait. Or the Cubs could pursue Jansen, although the Dodgers would be in position to match them dollar for dollar.

Either way, the Giants can’t be left out in the cold again, not when their so-so-farm system is an excuse no longer.

ONE MORE TIME: If the Giants really want to make a big splash in McCovey Cove, then Yoenis Cespedes also will be on their free-agent wish list.

The Giants finished 28th in home runs and 25th in slugging percentage in the majors last season. Consider that Cespedes plays left field, where the team has an obvious void, and he’s an ideal fit for what it needs at the moment.

Problem is, the Giants like Blue Light Specials. At $25 million-plus per year, Cespedes will be anything but that.

In other words, Giants fans, be prepared to settle for ex-Athletic Josh Reddick and like it.

CONNECT THE DOTS: ESPN lost a staggering 621,000 subscribers in October, Nielsen reported. Or roughly three-quarters of The City.

The EPSN plunge coincided with its ill-advised decision to turn the Colin Kaepernick fiasco into a morality play. Meanwhile, rival Fox Sports 1 kicked the political football right down the middle and experienced one of its best stretches ever.

YOU’RE FIRED!: Then again, ESPN is the same four-letter network that hired numbers jamoke Nate Silver to replace talented columnist Rick Reilly a while back.

Silver’s career highlight came when he correctly predicted the outcomes in 49 states in the 2008 presidential race. But on the eve of the latest election, he claimed Hilary Clinton had a 71 percent chance to beat Donald Trump, the kind of analysis you couldn’t get anywhere else.

Really, not even Sebastian Janikowski can miss that far wide to the left.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Balls came thisclose to a write-in vote for Phil (The Thrill) Kessel, the Pittsburgh Penguins star.

The Vote for Phil campaign slogan: “Nice guy. Tries hard. Loves the game.”

Yep, if you’re a puckhead, that just about covers it.

JUST SAYIN’: Come to think of it, the presidential election is kinda like a Stanley Cup playoff series. The two sides abuse each other for days, then when it’s over, they shake hands and pretend it never happened.

THE LIST: Can’t-miss picks against the spread in Week 10 of the NFL season . . .

Cleveland Browns (+10 points) at Baltimore Ravens.

Green Bay Packers (-2 1/2) at Tennessee Titans.

Santa Clara Phony-Niners at Arizona Cardinals (-13 1/2).

Last week: 2-1. Season: 12-15 (.444).

YOUR TURN: “Please run a picture of Kaepernick’s girlfriend. Since she has wrecked his career, I’d like to see what has him so whipped that he would willingly become the most hated man in the NFL. The one I have seen of her makes me question his sanity.” — Jim Olson, Berkeley

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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