San Francisco Giants: No Matter What, It Could Always Be Worse


The San Francisco Giants‘ 2015 season has gone exactly as planned. Earlier in the season, they looked like a legitimate postseason contender, holding on until big players like Hunter Pence could return from injury and push them over the top. Now, they are a hairsbreadth away from elimination, and the worst case scenario is staring them in the face. To at least keep hope alive, the Giants have to beat their arch rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, four games in a row in the final series between the two. Even then, they have to hope for a miracle after that to sneak into the postseason. The Giants need to sweep their final series with the Colorado Rockies, and the Dodgers have to be swept by the San Diego Padres.

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But even with things looking so grim in the postseason chase, another team’s extreme implosion reminds the Giants, and their fans, that things could always be worse.

On the east coast, the Washington Nationals were dubbed as the World Series favorites before the season began. The signing of Max Scherzer, adding to their already utterly impressive rotation, prompted young superstar outfielder Bryce Harper to famously ask “where’s my ring?” before first pitch had even been thrown in Spring Training. Fast forward seven months to now, and not only are the Nationals not even going to make the postseason, but they’re on the verge of a steel cage death match.

Last week, Harper criticized Nationals’ closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies around the trade deadline, when Papelbon was ejected, fined, and suspended (which is being appealed) for throwing up around Baltimore Orioles’ third baseman Manny Machado‘s head before hitting him in the shoulder. Harper was upset that he would be the likely recipient of any retaliation from the Orioles, but there was no counter action from Baltimore.

That was just the beginning. On Sunday, tensions boiled over in the eighth inning of their game with the Philadelphia Phillies. Harper flied out during his at-bat, and Papelbon was unhappy with Harper’s efforts as he ran to first. As the outfielder made his way back to the dugout, Papelbon could be seen saying “run that out” to Harper, and the two exchanged more words before coming to blows. Papelbon wrapped his hand around Harper’s throat while Harper did the same to his teammate turned opponent. Other Nationals’ players eventually separated the pair before any blood was shed.

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Nationals’ manager Matt Williams was apparently oblivious to the severity of the entire commotion as his star outfielder and closer were attempting to rip each other apart, as Papelbon actually pitched the ninth inning.

Papelbon at least had the presence of mind to use his left hand (his non-throwing hand) to attack Harper. The same can’t be said for the man he replaced as Nationals’ closer, Drew Storen. While slamming his locker door shut after blowing a late-lead to the Mets early in September, Storen broke the thumb on his pitching hand, ending his season, and removing the Nationals’ eighth-inning set up man from the equation.

Sunday’s fight overshadowed what was likely the last home game for the Nats’ shortstop of six years, Ian Desmond, who will likely not be brought back in the offseason after his contract expires. Desmond received a nice ovation from the crowd, and after the game, offered his thoughts on the altercation. He called the entire situation a “non-issue“, and that “it happens..sometimes emotions boil over“. Non-issues don’t usually get as much press coverage as the Harper-Papelbon altercation has.

The Giants are in a similar situation to the Nationals. After looking like a potential postseason threat earlier in the season, the Giants have faltered dramatically, and are all but eliminated from making another long October run. But instead of allowing tensions and controversy to swallow up the team, they have shown how close-knit the group is, despite the standings.

The past week for the Giants has been spent honoring teammate Tim Hudson, who is not only very well-respected and liked among his teammates, but among the entirety of baseball. To show their respect for the 40-year-old Hudson, who has made it clear that retirement is his next step following the season, the entire team, from manager to player to employee, dressed in Hudson’s patented travel attire, a cream-colored polo. To take it an extra step, they donned bald caps to match Hudson’s hairless, shiny cranium.

Before Saturday’s game, all the Giants’ players united as they wore jerseys adorned with Hudson’s name and number on the back. The game on Saturday, which pitted the Giants against their cross-Bay rivals, the Oakland Athletics, saw the teams forego their competitive nature, and take an opportunity to honor two pitchers who hold special places in Bay Area baseball lore, Hudson and Barry Zito. Hudson spent eight of his 17 Major League seasons in the Bay, while Zito split all 15 of his big league seasons between Oakland and San Francisco. The duo made up part of Oakland’s Big Three, along with Mark Mulder, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday besides his contemporaries.

While the two pitchers who started each pitched well below standards, they were honored every step of the way. When Hudson was pulled in the second inning, he was met with a hearty ovation, despite wearing the colors that Oakland fans despise. Between innings, the visibly-emotional Hudson honored fans’ requests for a curtain call, and was much with another tremendous showering of cheers. His counterpart Zito was pulled in the third inning, and tipped his cap and waved his arms to the fans that cheered as loud as possible for a game that was basically meaningless in the standings. Zito, like Hudson, received a curtain call as the crowd took the chance to shower Zito with their adoration.

Despite falling out of contention, the biggest controversy for the Giants is whether or not they’ll let Marlon Byrd‘s option vest over the final week of the season. They aren’t at each other’s throats, or subtly ripping one another in the media. In fact, they seem closer than ever, as their mutual respect for their teammate Hudson has seemed to make them realize that this game isn’t forever. The Giants still represent a team in every meaning of the word.

Remember, even though this season hasn’t gone as planned, it could always be worse.

Next: Jarrett Parker Taking Advantage of Opportunity