"...adversity breeds character, and character wins ballgames in September and October."
I waited to write something this week. Mainly because it's been uncomfortable until now to sit at a desk. Sad I know. The other reason is simple... it's a lot easier to write stuff about a team on an absolute roll; a team that looked World Series-bound and like a team of destiny. I see people Twittering about "This reminds me of '93" or "This feels a little like 2000" or "Man, we have better pitching now than we did in '02".
It sure easy to gush like a schoolgirl when the team wins 20 of 25 games, and Buster Posey looks like the next coming of an blessed love child between Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter. It's easy to gush like a schoolgirl when Andy Torres is hitting 410 foot home runs every 3 days.
This is why you hold off. I learned my lesson about that. You can be excited all you want about what you see. You can text and Twitter all you want about how much ass we're kicking, but the season is too long, and this team is too imperfect to declare too many things before the 140 game mark.
Take this for example. I said this back on April 9th:
"Renteria really looks like a beast among boys out there right now and appears to be the same player who had a .330 season for the Braves in '07."
I also praised Aaron Rowand at the time, and said he looked like a .270 hitter... a compliment when it comes to him.
Why did I bring up these things that make me look stupid? Because things were going swimmingly back on April 9th, just like they were before we faced Yabalda Jimenez on our way to Atlanta.
And you know what? I'm glad we got our asses kicked in ATL. I'm also glad that it happened in 95 degree heat and 60% humidity. I'm glad we faced Atlanta's best pitchers, on the road, in as hostile and uncomfortable an environment as Atlanta's notoriously, horrendously lame fans could provide.
The simple reason is that adversity breeds character, and character wins ballgames in September and October.
No one can say that this team has lacked scrapiness or resolve-- especially compared to the disaster last season. Remember that? Remember when a 2-0 deficit in the 7th inning meant game over? We don't have that problem anymore.
Every team loses 2-0 to Timmy Hudson from time to time. Hell, the Yankees got shut out by James Shields on August 1st 3-0. The same James Shields that allowed 6 dongs to Toronto on Saturday. It happens. That's baseball.
What you need to be concerned about are patterns that seem to revolve like an a bad Cyndi Lauper cassette playing on an auto-reverse tape deck.
What really concerns me? Not the offense as a whole. It will slump from time to time. There are individual pieces that have to be worrisome:
1) Pablo Sandoval
Every time we think "The big bat we've been looking for" gets a hit, we think he may finally be snapping out of it. He isn't. He won't. I'm not being negative, I'm being realistic. Pablo Sandoval is a little kid that gets too excited at the plate to do anything productive. I've said it before and I will say it again... and I'm dead serious. He needs medication, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. There are a lot of things out there that will allow him to slow his mind down and become more cerebral, without taking away his goofy personality. I'm not as concerned about his weight as others are. "It's 80% mental and 40% physical." (Little Giants quote...)
2) Bruce Bochy
I've been on the "Fire Bochy" train for a couple months now, and I'm not getting off. The man is a bumbling fool and continues to both bewilder and enrage all fans that know their ass from a hole in the ground.
The newest twist to the Bochy saga is an unconscionable 13 man pitching staff, complete with Denny Bautista... who has been dispatched correctly...
...it was for TODD WELLEMEYER! WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?
Who is calling the shots here? Anyone with a brain knows two things: 1) Wellemeyer sucks and 2) a 13 man pitching staff with a 4 man bench is asinine.
Even worse than having the likes of Bautista and Wellemeyer on our team is Bochy inexplicably giving up on games before they're over, conceding them, and bringing in Denny or Welley.
Case and point, Wednesday August 4th in Colorado, the Ubaldo gem.
After Madison Bumgarner gave up the 2-run HR to Carlos Gonzalez, Bochy brought in Bautista. The game was still within striking distance at 4-0. Bautista promptly hit Melvin Mora, threw a wild pitch, then hit Chris Iannetta before intentionally walking Barmes. He got lucky, and got out the inning.
Instead of removing the shaky/retarded Bautista for the 6th, Big Head left him in the game... a game that was now only a 4-1 deficit. And we all know how that ended... back to back dongs to CarGo and Tulo. Game over.
Sunday in Atlanta with Derek Lowe on the mound. It was hot, Lowe's sinker was sinking, and with Sanchez on the mound, we were going to have to score runs to win.
As we had Bad Sanchez on the mound instead of Good Sanchez, a reliever was needed from our 8 man bullpen. And who trots out to the mound? Todd Freakin Wellemeyer.
We know how it went. 4 straight singles. Then Santiago Casilla and Aubrey Huff managed to combine for 3 solid outs to keep the game within striking distance.
Now that we've established the two recent bonehead moves by Bochy in regard to the bullpen, it doesn't hurt to mention that we basically have 3 guys on the bench on any given day. Oh, Renteria's banged up? Oh Uribe's hamstring is tender? Oh, so we really have 3 guys on the bench? Our two right-handed options off the bench are Whiteside and Rowand or Rowand and Renteria, and our only left hander is Schierholtz when Ishikawa plays?
I'm exasperated just talking about this. DFA Wellemyer immediately and eat the $400k he's due. You signed him to a low-risk high reward $1MM deal. It didn't work out. Dump his ass and bring up someone else. Rohlinger, Pill, Belt, Ford, I don't care. Bring up another body, and do it now. Morons.
3) Freddy Sanchez
Sanchy has struggled mightily for nearly 6 weeks now. He hasn't been Rowand bad, but he's been fairly worthless at the plate for awhile. Despite this fact, the Gyros were still able to score more runs than anyone in the Majors for July, an incredible feat for a team with a scuffling 2nd place hitter.
He's only had 3 doubles since June 18th, scored only 13 runs in July, and has seen his average drop from .279 to .258 since the all-star break. Freddy's .315 OBP% and .638 OPS are disturbing as well.
We know the guy can hit. He won a batting title, and we saw Sanchy have a stellar June. It's a deep slump, and I think he needs to sacrifice a chicken or an Aaron Rowand or something to bust out of it. The lineup is simply less effective when Freddy is not up at the top setting the table for Aubrey and Buster.
Other than those things, I would say that this team is pretty solid. And it's a fact that they own the Major's best record since July 5th (22-9). And hey, I make it sound a lot worse than it really is for a reason. These issues need to be resolved and addressed in order for this team to compete on all cylinders for a playoff spot.
Not only that, but it was great to see a potential playoff foe like Atlanta on top of their respective game. Now you know what you're up against in October boys. Go and get it.
And hey, Jonathan Sanchez is down. He is not only down, but he's throwing down guarantees.
"We're going to play San Diego, and we're going to beat them three times," Sanchez said. "If we get to first place, we're not going to look back. We are definitely going to make the playoffs."
I dig brother. I dig.