One day before the 4th of July, the Giants beat the Padres 7-5 at Petco Park for their fourth straight win to push them to eight games under .500. Up to that point, it was just their second four-game win streak of the season.
Understandably, optimism filled the clubhouse postgame. Manager Bruce Bochy complained about the day off his team had the next day despite it being the first break in 21 days:
“You hate to see a day off, the way we’re playing.”
Center fielder Kevin Pillar gushed about the contagious hitting up and down the Giants lineup. Left fielder Alex Dickerson, who had just recently joined the club, didn’t hold back what he thought the team could accomplish:
“As soon as I walked in, you wouldn’t know that we were having a tough season at this point. We’ve got guys with unbelievable track records. You know they’re going to get hot in the second half.”
At the time, the win streak being anything more than a mere positive footnote in a rebuilding season seemed unlikely. They were still last in their division and had the third-worst record in the National League.
But in late July, as we look at the Giants sitting at .500 and winners of 15 of their last 18 games, it might be time to take a serious look at this team being … good?
A four-game win streak is a small sample size. A month-long tear is not. They have won series against the Cardinals, Brewers, Rockies and Mets, doing it with either offensive barrages or stellar pitching performances. In the process, they have leapfrogged four teams in the National League to climb within 2-1/2 games of the second Wild Card spot. At 50-50, they are even with the Diamondbacks for second in the division.
This presents General Manager Farhan Zaidi with a conundrum, as the trade deadline nears on July 31. The Giants were presumed to be sellers. Names like Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith were supposed to be available. If they were in the American League — where they would still be six games back of a playoff spot as of Monday — perhaps that might still be the case.
But now, this team realizes they can win. Bochy, in his last season, was adamant before the year began that he wanted to go out making some noise. Why, then, would trading their ace and their closer with a playoff spot in sight and during a winning streak make any sense?
The answer: it doesn’t. When Bochy was asked recently about whether all this winning would make it harder for the Giants to trade away their pieces before the deadline, Bochy responded:
“This is why we’re here, to win. So no, this is a good thing. It’s not going to make things difficult. It makes things better and that’s what we’re here for.”
As Bochy was speaking, he had a smile on his face like he couldn’t believe he was being asked such a question. It had to be frustrating, to be managing the hottest team in baseball and people are wondering if winning is a bad thing because it will be harder to deal your trade chips for players who you won’t even get to coach.
Bochy is in win-now mode, and so should the Giants. Winning is such a fleeting and unpredictable thing in sports. Teams that are expected to win it all fall flat. Other teams come out of nowhere to contend. The Giants have done it three times in this decade, winning the World Series with teams that are unquestionably good, but did not scream “championship” on paper. All they did was sneak into the playoffs, and then Even Year Magic happened.
So with that past in mind, it is a no-brainer to keep pushing. Keep Bumgarner, Smith, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, etc. They’ve won before. They can win again. Keep hoping guys like Dickerson and Mike Yastrzemski continue to produce. For all that Bochy has done for this franchise, it would be a disservice to trade away the best players in his final season, knowing they could make a run for the playoffs.
Is that playoff hope likely? Even at this point, probably not. There are still many teams the Giants have to leapfrog, and to sustain this stretch of play for another couple of months is asking a lot.
But to give up now — when optimism is peaking and positivity is buzzing around Oracle Park for the first time in three years — is not the right move. Bochy deserves one more run. The fanbase deserves something tangible to root for. Most importantly, the players who have engineered this midseason turnaround deserve to see it through.
Eric He is a freelance writer and a USC graduate currently interning at the Southern California News Group. He has been Sharks beat writer and covered a variety of Bay Area sports teams for SFBay. His column runs every Monday.