carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

carry edmondson/usa today sportsMichael Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his season debut Sunday.

Sinking Giants should turn focus to future

The champs are on the ropes, they're taking a flurry of shots to the head, it is time for the referee to step in and call the fight.

The ghost of the Carlos Beltran trade, Zack Wheeler, came back to haunt the Giants at AT&T Park on Wednesday, tossing seven innings of three-hit ball, handing the team its 19th loss in 24 games. The diehards are cursing Brian Sabean for dealing the 23-year-old right-hander back in 2011 right now, but one starting pitcher wouldn't have reversed the tailspin that could knock the team out of the playoff race before the All-Star break.

The optimists will say it's too early to throw in the towel. The Giants are still within a stone's throw of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West and the A's reached the playoffs last year despite being nine games out of first place on July 11. They're right, anything can happen in baseball.

Regardless, Sabean needs to make a decision in the near future about whether the Giants are going to be buyers at the trade deadline, like they were in 2011, or whether it's time to cut their losses and start thinking about the next bout.

At this point, the champs are one clean punch away from hitting the mat, so it doesn't make sense to trade another future star when they have a plethora of holes to plug.

Back in 2011, the Giants had one glaring weakness: the lineup needed punch. When they finalized the trade, they were three games ahead of the Diamondbacks for first place — it made sense to trade a young arm for a shot at defending their World Series title. But this year is a different story: they need starting pitching, power hitting, help in the 'pen, a replacement for Angel Pagan and for Matt Cain to remember that he's Matt Cain.

This week, Sabean indicated that he isn't willing to mortgage the future to give this team help at the deadline. How about clearing some payroll to replenish the farm system?

Let's face it, Tim Lincecum isn't going to be wearing orange and black next season. He wants to be a starter and the Giants aren't going to dish out $12 million to $15 million to keep him on the back end of the rotation. In the last month, Timmy has managed to string together five decent starts. Someone will nibble on the bait hoping he's on the verge of regaining his Cy Young Award touch.

Saying goodbye to one of the team's most popular players will surely upset the fan base when the Giants are, theoretically, still within striking distance. But they'd need to go 50-22 the rest of the way just to win 90 games, which is what they'd probably need to get to, as bad as the division has been this year, to catch a scorching-hot Los Angeles Dodgers team by the end of September.

With every game, it's becoming obvious that the champs aren't going to defend their title this year. They don't need to wait for the knockout blow to shift their focus to winning three in five years.

Paul Gackle is a contributor to The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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