Cruel Fate Taunts the Giants Yet Again

(or, We Come not to Praise Livan Hernandez, but to Bury Him)

by Richard Booroojian, EEEEEE! Contributing Editor

The sad fate of a San Francisco Giants fan is that even the best of times come with punishment in the end.

Let's look back, shall we, at the following interesting prognostication, written after the end of the 2000 baseball season regarding your San Francisco Giants:

"It's hard to look at the Giants as they are currently configured and see a World Series team in the making, especially since Barry Bonds does indeed seem determined to prove his critics right when they say he can't produce in the postseason.... The Giants are now established enough to regularly compete for a division title for at least the next few seasons, but there is almost nothing that has happened over the last four years that would reasonably suggest that they will ever go any further than that. There will always be a hotter team, a better team, a luckier team, and that team will always be matched up against the Giants in the first round and the Giants will always lose. It seems inevitable. It has been inevitable."

This insightful and bitter rant, written by yours truly after the stinging disappointment of the four-game stumble against the Mets in October 2000, proved to be spectacularly mistaken, as most of my rants usually are. From August 19, when the clown prince of the Giants' rotation, Livan Hernandez, shut out former Giants court jester Julian Tavarez and the Florida Marlins to rescue their dying playoff hopes, through to the seventh inning of Game 6 of the 2002 World Series, the Giants, unbelievably, became a hotter team, a better team, a luckier team than any other in baseball. For two glorious months, it had never been so wonderful to be a Giants fan. Never.

Then, of course, reality reasserted itself and the Anaheim Angels suddenly became the hotter, better, luckier team, leaving the Giants and their fans with what is probably the most galling, saddening collapse by any team in World Series history. True, one really can't graciously complain about how things worked out; the 2002 Giants season (and especially the postseason) was a wonderful ride and a fine reward to Giants fans for their many years of suffering. The fact that the championship for which we have all yearned was so close we could taste it, only to be maliciously yanked away by the Cruel Fates whom we have always known hate us, does not take away from the wonderful ride we did get to experience. As far as years go for Giant fans, 2002 was one of the great ones.

Still, how can it be denied that the last 12 innings of 2002 are further proof that the San Francisco Giants will never, ever win a World Series in my lifetime? I would love to quote this and laugh at myself in a future EEEEEE! recap, but I suspect we all know that I'll never have to.

The 2002 Season in Perspective

Beyond the joys of a thrilling postseason run, the 2002 Giants also continued an ongoing run of success unmatched since the start of divisional play. The team's 95 regular-season wins (tied for fourth highest in San Francisco Giants history) led to a sixth consecutive winning season, their longest such streak of winning seasons since a 14-year streak that commenced with their arrival in San Francisco in 1958 was snapped in 1972. Since 1997 the Giants have gone 547-425, a .563 winning percentage. That's the highest winning percentage over a six-year stretch since the three M's anchored the team from 1962-67. It's also been since 1967 since the Giants had won at least 90 games in three consecutive seasons. Love Brian Sabean or hate him, love Barry Bonds or revile him, love Dusty Baker or disdain him, but clearly these gentlemen did a lot of things right over the last six years.

The Giants finished second in the NL West, the sixth straight year that the team finished either first or second in the Western division. Here is something to wrap your mind around: this hasn't happened for the Giants since a nine-year run from 1917 through 1925. Only one other team, the 1972-79 Reds, has ever had a longer such run in the NL West. There is also the always pleasurable experience of finishing ahead of the Dodgers; this is the sixth consecutive year for that as well. Previously that hadn't happened since before the start of World War II.

Finally, the Giants' excellent playoff run went a ways towards rehabilitating the team's admittedly poor postseason record since their move west. The Giants' record in official postseason games (i.e., not including the three-game playoff against the Dodgers in 1962 or the Wild Card playoff in 1998) is now 22-29, a .431 win percentage that looks better when you consider that it was .353 prior to this season. We will leave it to others to make the obvious observation that 51 postseason games is a pretty thin yield for 45 years of baseball in San Francisco.

We also note with some glee that after three different occasions in which the concept of the Wild Card bit the Giants in the ass (specifically 1997 and 2000, in which the Wild Card entrant dumped them out of the playoffs, and 1998, when they lost that Wild Card playoff game to the Cubs), this year's magic wouldn't have been possible had it not been for the Wild Card. Traditionalists will just have to deal with it.

Finally, a word about Barry Bonds. To say we are happy he re-upped with the Giants through to the end of his career should not be any surprise. What was a surprise is that he somehow managed to top his monumental 2001 season with an even better one in 2002, and then he added on one of the better sustained postseason performances in history (take that, oh foolish prognosticator of the year 2000). The Giants are now 840-715, a .540 win percentage, in the Barry Bonds era. It's pretty hard to imagine them being even a .500 team over that period of time without him, and it's getting to the point where you would have to at least ponder the concept that he is the best overall player in Giants history.

Nine Games To Remember

This is where I would usually begin a lengthy recap of the season just ended, reliving all the peaks and valleys that had occurred. For those three of you out there who get off on that stuff, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but no recap follows. I don't want to agonize over those valleys again this year.

However, a few regular season games did stand out as particularly memorable. Obviously, almost all of the postseason games will stay with us for years, but since the details of those will be easy to track down in the future, let's instead recall some of what came before.

The Envelopes, Please...

In any successful season, there are a number of individual accomplishments to celebrate. The 2002 sason is, of course, no exception. However, there is also the little matter of one Giant who, both in the regular season and the postseason, made things more complicated than they should have been, and fairness dictates that we recognize that too. This we will do, with all the evenhandedness and dignity that one has rightfully come to expect from this author in these season retrospectives.

A Closing Thought

Here is something you can drop into future conversations as living proof that the Baseball Gods really, truly do hate the San Francisco Giants. (Be warned, however, that people will look at you strangely when you mention this insight, or at least they have to me.)

Starting in 1935, it was a firm fact that the National League champion would host the extra World Series game in even numbered years and the American League champion would get that advantage in odd years. Naturally, the San Francisco Giants historically would only make it into the postseason in odd-numbered years. Those years included 1971, 1987, 1989 and what should have been a playoff team in 1993.

The one exception to this was in 1962, when the San Francisco Giants did indeed have the home field advantage against the Yankees in that year's World Series. The Baseball Gods countered this by delivering torrential rains prior to what was supposed to be Game 6 of that Series, and as we all remember, the Giants lost Game 7 when a Willie Mays double down the right-field line in the bottom of the ninth was slowed up enough by the resulting wet grass that Roger Maris was able to track it down and keep Matty Alou from scoring from first. Alou was then stranded at third when Willie McCovey lined out to end the game. Thus, even the home-field advantage that year was twisted and perverted so as to deal maximum damage to the Giants' franchise.

Now, the even/odd trend held true all the way through until the strike of 1994, which cancelled that year's World Series, so that once the Series was resumed in 1995, the National League got the home-field advantage that it would have had in 1994. From that point on, of course, the Giants best results have come in even-numbered years. We refer to the 2000 club, which had the NL's best regular-season record, and, of course, this year's entry. (We'll leave the "just happy to be here" 1997 team out of this discussion, as the Baseball Gods had other devices, including the pitching mound, on hand to bedevil them that time around.) It is likely that the Giants would have had a much better chance of winning the Series this year had they had the home-field advantage. The Angels outside of Anaheim were not nearly as impressive, except of course when Livan Hernandez was pitching.

And that is the final piece of proof in my mind why we will never see a World Series Championship banner raised in San Francisco. Be it earthquakes or typhoons or the evil Donald Fehr, the Baseball Gods are always planning ahead and looking to use any and all available means to counter the Giants' hopes and dreams for a championship team. The second half of the 2002 season was a wonderful thing to experience and behold, and yet we were left with empty, aching hearts and a wistful yearning for just eight more outs. The Giants and their fans are always left with the empty, aching hearts and wistful yearnings for things that were not meant to be.

Not even the so-called curse of the Angels was strong enough to out-trump ours. The sad fate of a San Francisco Giants fan is that even the best of times come with punishment in the end. The Cruel Fates let us believe our moment had finally arrived, and they are laughing at us now. It was a glorious season, and there are a lot of wonderful memories that we will always have of it. But the pain will always be there too.

Richard Booroojian blames himself for Game 6, because he was just too damned happy before the start of the seventh inning, and of course such happiness can never be allowed to transpire. With a heavy heart, he has turned back to his financial consulting practice after being shamefully distracted from it for large chunks of October.

Richard Booroojian blames himself for Game 6, because he was just too damned happy before the start of the seventh inning, and of course such happiness can never be allowed to transpire. With a heavy heart, he has turned back to his financial consulting practice after being shamefully distracted from it for large chunks of October.

Copyright ©2002 by Richard Booroojian

Last updated 12/29/02
Gregg Pearlman,

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