Mark Melancon could be a more cost-effective solution for the Giants’ problems at closer. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Mark Melancon could be a more cost-effective solution for the Giants’ problems at closer. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Sleeping Giants need wake-up call before trade deadline

If you saw this coming at Third and King, raise your hand.

Uh-huh, thought so.

Nobody could have predicted the Giants would be this bad after being so good for so long. Two weeks ago, they had the best record in the National League. They entered the weekend with a 2-10 record since then. Hit, pitch, field, run — you name it — they haven’t done any of it well lately.

Months from now, maybe we’ll say the reality check was the best thing that could have happened to them.

What the downward spiral reminds us is that the Giants have flaws like everyone else. Baseball brains Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean knew this already. But now that the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have caught them in the standings, the B&B Boys have all the more reason to wheel and deal before the trade deadline on Monday.

The recent acquisition of Eduardo Nunez is a start, but the infielder doesn’t answer the most urgent question in the big picture. In a Game 7, would you feel comfortable with Santiago Casilla as your closer?

If the answer is no, or maybe, then the higher-ups should be on the phone with the Pittsburgh Pirates immediately.

The Pirates have made it known that closer Mark Melancon is available. The price is reasonable — reportedly an upper-level prospect and another relief pitcher. The Giants can accommodate them.

At 31, Melancon would be a swift countermove to the Cubs’ acquisition of flamethrower Aroldis Chapman last week. The three-time All-Star has been reliable again this season — 30 saves in 33 chances, 1.51 earned run average — although metrics geeks point out that he’s mortal. Certainly, in terms of the wow factor, Chapman blows him away. Yet for closers, only one statistic means anything — save percentage. In the last two seasons, Melancon boasts a 94 percent success rate (81 of 86), while Chapman checks in at 95 percent (54 of 57).

Added bonus: Melancon has never abused a woman as far as we know.

Consider that Melancon wouldn’t cost nearly as much as Chapman or ex-New York Yankees teammate Andrew Miller for that matter, and the right-hander could be a comparative bargain.

Melancon has a good track record at AT&T Park as well. In seven appearances there, he owns a 1.35 ERA and six saves. The veteran could bolt as a free agent after the season, but if the Giants were to make a competitive offer, why would he want to leave a perennial contender in a major market?

Here’s another reason why the Giants should act quickly: The Nationals also want Melancon and reportedly want him badly. A dependable closer could be the final piece to their puzzle.

In the ongoing game of musical closer chairs, the Giants can’t afford to sit this one out.

IT’S ABOUT TIME: For the sixth consecutive season, the average major league game lasts more than three hours, and Rob Manfred suspects relief pitchers have a lot to do with it.

Well, commish, that makes at least two of us.

At approximately six calls to the bullpen per game at four minutes apiece, that’s roughly 24 minutes of needless, unadulterated boredom. How to fix it? Simple. Borrow a page from the NHL manual. Allow each team to activate 14 position players and five pitchers on its 25-man roster every game. The rest are healthy scratches. That leaves each team with four relievers, not the seven or eight who suit up today. It also cuts the number of stoppages almost in half, which saves between 12 to 13 minutes per game.

Then the umpires can crack down on Rule 8.04, which requires a pitcher to throw the ball within 12 seconds with no one on base. Never heard of it? Well, a lot of pitchers haven’t, either, because the average delivery is almost twice that amount. Make it 20 seconds at the risk of a called ball — and the batter can’t step out of the box to scratch his crotch once he steps in — and about five more minutes are off the clock.

Now the average game time is less than two hours, 50 minutes, which is still too long but at least bearable.

Just Dew It.

THE LIST: The Raiders open preseason camp this weekend, and expectations are higher than Aldon Smith if that’s possible. Before Balls signs up, though, it wants answers to these questions:

5. What is Latavius Murray, anyway — a franchise back, Herman Munster with bad hands or something in between?

4. Can David Carr be trusted as a game manager, especially late in close games? Or will the third-year quarterback forever be a loose cannon?

3. How much will golden oldies Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson be missed on the field? In the locker room?

2. How many months does it take to screw in a revamped secondary?

1. Is coach Jack Del Rio a Point B-to-Point A guy? Or a Square Two-to-Square One guy?

BE (SORTA) LIKE MIKE: More professional athletes have begun to speak out against the senseless violence that has gripped the nation in recent years, but talk is cheap especially in this day and age of eight-figure salaries. If the multi-millionaires really want to make a difference, they can help fund programs that address the problem.

So give a sliver of credit to Bulls legend Michael Jordan, who took a major step with his recent $2-million donation even if did come a bit too late. And amounted to less than .002 of his reported $1.14 billion net worth.

“About time that he stepped up,” New York Knickerbockers money-bags Carmelo Anthony said. “At the end of the day, amongst us, he is our face. He’s a very powerful African-American. So for him to step up in the midst of these times now, it was very big.”

Yeah, and if Anthony kicks in some of his $24.6-million salary next season, it’s bigger yet.

JUST SAYIN’: The Cubs are looking for a translator to assist Chapman, yet another domestic violence loser. C’mon, how long does it take to find somebody who can say, “Yeah, but he has a 103-miles-per-hour fastball” in English?

— The Chicago Bulls won the 2016 Summer League championship, and ex-Bull Scottie Pippen says they could beat the 2015-16 Warriors, too.

— Asked who would be his quarterback after Tom Brady served his four-game suspension, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick replied, “Jesus Christ,” but he got it all wrong. Lucifer would be a much better fit.

— As long as linebacker NaVorro Bowman is healthy, there will be at least one positive story in 49ers camp this summer.

— Can’t wait for Niners wide receiver Quinton Patton to channel his inner Draymond Green. Balls sets the over-under at two weeks.

WHERE HAVE YOU GONE … Rashaun Woods?

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.andrew millerAroldis ChapmanBrian Sabeanmark melanconMLB trade deadlineNew York YankeesPaul LadewskiRob ManfredSan Francisco GiantsWashington Nationals

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