(By Eugene Chang)
The Season That Was: 74 wins, 85 losses. 4th Place in the NL West.
The Week That Will Be: 3 games at home against the San Diego Padres.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown for he must defend the kingdom. You can hear the rumbling. The armies are forming, their flags flying blue and purple and red. They are Vandals. They are Huns, Visigoths, Mongols. They are Barbarians at the Golden Gate, thirsty for noble Franciscan blood. They seek to sit upon our throne, but they must first get past our armaments. We are guarded by Freaks and Pandas and Belts and Angels and Madbums and pockets full of Posey.
That was the last paragraph of the first entry of this column and now it’s the first paragraph of the last. And well, the gates have been crashed and the towers have been burned—Winterfell has fallen.
Two weeks ago, I attended the beautiful wedding of two dear friends. At the hotel, the night before the wedding, I got drunk. The next morning, on the day of the wedding, I was, well, I was hungover. I showered, got dressed, ate what I could stomach, and I made myself more or less presentable. But I was off. I was a little slower, a bit moodier. Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, you lush.
The 2013 San Francisco Giants are a team, not an individual, semi-functioning alcoholic, but yeah, the Giants were hungover. And who can blame them? The World Series is a helluva party! Waking up to the next season must feel like the morning sun burning a hole through your blurry eyes, deep into your throbbing brain. Sunday mornings are bad, the season after is worse.
The hangover explanation for the San Francisco Giants isn’t original nor is it satisfactory, but what else explains this terrible, awful, horrid season? The core of the team that won it all in 2010 and 2012 remained intact. There wasn’t an OMG-Buster-Is-Broken injury like in 2011 (although the season took a curious nose-dive right when Angel Pagan got injured. But Angel isn’t as valuable as Buster, right? Or, is he?!) So what was it then? Save Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain, everyone’s performance was down. Buster? Down. Panda? Down. Zito? Down. Down, down, down.
The Giants in 2013 were you at Boogaloos or Zazies or Grubstake with shades on and bed hair, trying your damndest to get through the morning. 2014, then, will be Monday and it’ll be back to business, right guys? Good.
The end of the 2013 season brings the end of an era. Barry Zito, a Giant with whom the fans have always had a complicated relationship, pitched his last game in a Giants uniform. Barry Zito is awful. Not as a person! As a major league pitcher. He used to be great. Cy Young Award great. And then he joined the Giants. Oh, he’s shown flashes of that greatness as a Giant, most memorably in last year’s post-season, and for that, we will always be grateful and he will always be warmly remembered in this town. But his time in San Francisco has come to its end, and to Barry we tip our caps. You did ok, brother.
Tim Lincecum. Timmy. The Freak. That skinny kid we saw come up from the farm all those years ago, twisting his tiny frame into a wicked delivery and into two Cy Youngs, two World Series rings, four All-Star games, one no-hitter, and straight into our hearts may, MAY, have pitched his last as a Giant. And it hurts. No other player in recent memory has been as beloved by Giants fans as Timmy. He was there during those awful years and he was there during those great years, and throughout it all we fans knew we’d rue the unthinkable but seemingly inevitable day when our Timmy would return to our park in a Yankee or Mariners or *shudder* Dodger uniform. We thought he’d be stolen from our desperate grasps, but, as it turns out, the goodbye might come with a mutual handshake. Who knows, maybe, hopefully, Timmy comes back. We don’t know yet. I hope he stays, but if he doesn’t, Giants fans will always feel endless fondness in our hearts for our kid, our Timmy; and damn it, even if he comes back in Dodger blue, we’ll stand and cheer like it was 2010 all over again. Once a Giant, always a Giant, especially for our tiniest one. Thanks Timmy. For everything.
As the 2013 season comes to an end, a lifetime of Giants fandom will begin. On Sunday, I’ll be at the final game of the season with my brand new little nephew for his first Giants game. He won’t know what’s going on, but he’ll be in Orange and Black and the seed will be planted in him as it was in all of us. His parents will let him choose many things and will let him live his life the way he will, but he will have no choice in this matter. He will be a Giants fan and he will thank his parents later for raising him right.
The beanstalk has been chopped down and the Giants have fallen—but they are not dead. The Giants will find a cave to wait out the winter, heal their wounds, and come spring they will find magic beans to grow another and climb back to their castle. The team that wins the race to the top will be but a steward, a caretaker of the Giants’ throne. Oakland, we hope it’s you--but only for one year.
We’ll be back in 2014.