Here’s a sobering thought for euphorically optimistic Giants fans: Not only could your “Wait till next year” rally cries actually start next week, most of the current regulars won’t even be back in orange and black in 2012.
Unlike a year ago at this time, when the Giants catapulted to the NL West lead thanks to the San Diego Padres’ 10-game losing streak, the Arizona Diamondbacks come to town this weekend with a newfound swagger.
While the D’backs closed out their 11th straight home victory Tuesday, including eight in a row overall, the beleaguered world champs have lost 21 of their past 31 after Tuesday’s defeat.
Not coincidentally, the Giants are batting .177 with runners in scoring position over the last three weeks.
It would be nice to think that turning the calendar page will awaken San Francisco’s slumbering bats, but few of their seasoned veterans seem poised for a strong September push.
Chris Stewart, Eli Whiteside, Orlando Cabrera, Andres Torres, Cody Ross, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell, Miguel Tejada and Aubrey Huff are all batting below .250.
Sure, Jeff Keppinger and a finally healthy Mark DeRosa have played well of late, but of the 11 players listed above, only Huff and Rowand are under contract for next season. All are over 30 except Stewart. Are they wrung out or just worn out?
Torres, hampered by injuries much of the season, looks fresh. Stewart, although a horrible hitter, is among the game’s best defensive catchers. A sorely needed commodity given how poorly most Giants pitchers hold runners on base.
The others are having dreadful seasons. Don’t forget the Giants’ most celebrated pickup, Carlos Beltran, is also a free agent after the season, and he continues to look less and less like the dominant player he was a few years ago.
A sore right wrist probably hasn’t helped his struggles at the plate with only four RBIs in his first 18 games with S.F., but the two-time Gold Glove winner has also failed to provide a steadying influence on the suspect Giants defense.
Saturday, the boo birds in the right-field arcade really gave it to Beltran after he let a catchable ball drop at his feet. Then on Sunday, his three-hop throw to second base handed the Astros’ Carlos Lee a gift double.
Maybe Thursday’s expanded roster callups will help. Then again, when it comes to talented young bats, the organization’s cupboard is kind of bare. Shortstop Brandon Crawford was hitting .190 when he was sent to the minors in late July and is batting only .253 at Fresno, while 21-year-old switch-hitting catcher Hector Sanchez is batting just .261.
More troubling than that, it’s anybody’s guess if we’ll see Brian Wilson or Jonathan Sanchez pitch again this year.
Whatever “magic inside” AT&T Park the Giants conjured up last season had better make a return engagement real soon, because the rest of the league isn’t impressed or intimidated. In fact, just the opposite.
Many losing teams say they are inspired by the raucous sellout crowds at Third and King streets. As to the suddenly formidable Diamondbacks, they didn’t look rattled in taking two of three from the Giants at AT&T in early August.
Feisty ol’ Kirk Gibson has his Snakes poised for a September to remember. Too bad the Giants seem destined to end a very forgettable 2011.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.