Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Cubs 5, Giants 3

Game 2 Box Score: Cubs 12, Giants 11

Game 3 Box Score: Cubs 1, Giants 0

And now back on top of the rollercoaster. The Cubs return home, where they’ve looked like a genuine class team all season, and though they did their best to drop one or two to the Giants, they also couldn’t break their own resolve. A resolve they only seem to have when donning the blue pinstripes. Still, they’ll enter the weekend in first place, no matter what the Cardinals do with the Rockies tonight. They won every type of game–a shootout, a pitcher’s duel, and your conventional one. Why does the rest have to be so hard?

Let’s…

-You wouldn’t suggest Cole Hamels is “back,” but he had at least enough stuff and enough savvy to kind of Forrest Gump his way through Tuesday’s opener. It was sort of the Jon Lester thing where you feel like he’s about to give at any moment, but gets through the inning and start simply because he wants to. After what he’d done his two previous you’ll take it, but we’d much prefer the dominating one from earlier in the season back.

-It had been a while since Rizzo had won a game for the Cubs on his own. You have to say though that a mark of a great player is that they’re still finding ways to help even when the power game goes. Rizzo has gotten on base consistently even if he wasn’t slugging, but a slugging binge is what the Cubs need.

-I was worried that with two recent starts for Tony Kemp that Joe Maddon had overreacted to two grounders that were outside Ian Happ‘s limited range during that collapse in Philly, but that fear has subsided since. And thank god for that.

-There isn’t much to say about Nick Castellanos at this point, but it is important to remember an unsustainable binge shouldn’t influence you or the Cubs on whether he should be re-signed this winter or not. There’s going to be a huge push to do so, and that may be the right decision, but just try to keep the whole picture in mind. He’s not a .400 hitter. He might be entering his prime right now and could be better than what he’s been before, but let’s try and keep reasoned here if possible.

-There is so much to say about Wednesday’s win I don’t know if I have time. We’ve been over Yu’s work, so we don’t have to go over that again. There were some curious decisions from Maddon, which he got away with because his offense decided they were going to win no matter what. He definitely got caught cold with how quickly it blew up on Darvish, which meant only Derek Holland was warming up. And when he got through two lefties who both got on, that meant he had to face a righty which he never should have to do. Secondly, Joe never seemed to realize that Little Yaz has been better against lefties than righties all season, even having Kyle Ryan deal with him today (which he also got away with).

In the 7th last night, Joe seems determined to make sure that Steve Cishek warms up and comes in double the amount now to make up for the appearances he missed while on the IL. Right into the fire. But there were runners on, lefties up, grounders needed, which is what Brandon Kintzler does. Cishek got out of it with only a sac fly given up, but you wanted things on the ground or Ks. Kintzler probably should have started the inning. Of course, Kintzler gets out of the 8th relatively cleanly. Coudl have used that in the 6th or 7th.

-Luckily, Kris Bryant is still a Cub. That’s three games in a week he’s pulled the Cubs’ ass out of a sling.

-Today’s game looked a lot like one where both teams played too late last night. The sun was the offensive MVP, and the Giants only real chance came after Castellanos got pretty dizzy chasing what would have been a homer from Crawford on 75 other home dates. Still, the Cubs got six outs from the pen to protect a one-run lead without needing Kimbrel or Cishek. That’s an upset.

-Those two outings were the best Kimbrel has looked since becoming a Cub. I won’t count on it to be a trend, as it’s just going to be a weird season for him given the preparation, but 98 MPH is 98 MPH.

Onwards…

Baseball

The Giants held all the keys, or marbles, or cards, whatever game we were playing, at the trade deadline. They had the most sought-after reliever in Will Smith. They had perhaps the most coveted starter in Madison Bumgarner. The Giants could have started planning for a future they’ve put off for years now, as the glow from #EvenYear has finally faded.

And they chose to do nothing.

Oh sure, there was some tinkering. Out went Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon, the latter another panic signing in an attempt to plug holes on the good ship Giant a couple years ago. In came Scooter Gennett to try and fill what had become a black hole at second base, though he seems to have been swallowed up by it as well. Still, no major shift. No groundbreaking on a new era for the orange and black. No shift whatsoever.

Which makes one wonder what the plan here is for GM Farhan Zaidi. These current Giants clearly have an end date, and that’s after the 2021 season. Both Brandon Crawford‘s and Brandon Belt‘s contracts are up then, and Buster Posey will only have one more year that can be bought out for just $3M. Right now the three combined for some $55 million on the payroll, which has been something of an obstacle as together they’ve been worth exactly replacement level this season. They’re not going to be linchpins of this team in their mid-30s in two seasons, that much is clear.

And perhaps the Giants didn’t feel they were going to get those pieces in return for Smith or Bumgarner. Smith is a free agent after the year, and as good as he’s been, two months of a closer plus whatever playoff games you only might get him into just isn’t worth all that much. Bumgarner is having a bounce-back season as he’s hardly walking anyone, but he’s a free agent-to-be with a ton of miles. And only a couple of contenders would have felt they needed another starter. The Phillies? The Braves definitely could but believe in their young rotation as well as being overly miserly, and made their move with Dallas Keuchel. Where the Brewers or Yankees were on this is anyone’s guess, but the Yankees probably figure they’ll be throwing their bullpen for five or six innings in every playoff game anyway. Houston opted for Zack Greinke, objectively the better pitcher.

Still, what are the next two years, then? The Giants prospect pool is filled with kids who are at least two or three seasons away from being anything on The Cove. Perhaps Bumgarner or Smith don’t get you the players to come up and fill in that gap, but they might get you closer. Or maybe the offers were just that bad and Zaidi figured it was better to try and miracle half of a playoff spot (the Giants are only 3.5 games out of the second spot but have three teams to leap).

The Giants aren’t totally out over their skis financially for next year. Yes, the core of those three parades are taking down the aforementioned $55 million or so, and throw Johnny Cueto‘s and Evan Longoria‘s paper on top of that and that’s $91 million for four players who are on the back nine of their careers and one pitcher coming off Tommy John. Not ideal.

Still, the Giants aren’t paying anyone else after that, aside from Jeff Samardzija. And they might be able to move him along, as he’ll only have 2020 left on his deal. None of their arbitration players are due for huge raises. And the Giants weren’t afraid to at least look like they wanted to throw money around last winter, making some kind of attempt at Bryce Harper to finally give them ANYTHING in the outfield, which they haven’t had since Hunter Pence died.

That didn’t work, and this free agent class isn’t worth putting too many eggs in. Gerrit Cole would help things, whether in combination with a returning Bumgarner or as a replacement. But there isn’t much to help the lineup. Anthony Rendon can’t be crowbarred in with Longoria at third, unless they move the latter to left field? And Longoria is still good with the glove. J.D. Martinez can’t play in the NL without being a danger to himself and society as a whole, though you’d be tempted to see if everyone can survive with him in left. Nick Castellanos isn’t a team-turner.

And should the Giants just lose Smith and Bumgarner in free agency, they aren’t going to have anything to peddle next year to try and fill the gap in their old era and new. Samardzija isn’t landing you much other than space on the payroll. Maybe if Cueto proves to be healthy, as he’ll have another year and an option year left on his contract. Perhaps that’s what the Giants are banking on.

But without a splurge, or something really creative, this team is kind of just floating there for the next two, three, or four seasons. Good thing the ballpark is nice.