The Giants are now officially in second place, only by a half game today, but it’s still NOT first place. How long will this last? It’s hard to tell, but my guess it’s going to be a roller coaster season from here on out.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Think about it — good, competitive baseball to watch for the rest of the season; still plenty of time for great plays and tight pitching match-ups; a season that will have enough stress in it to keep us all watching and talking about it to the end. That sounds pretty fun to me!
I usually don’t get too excited about how the team is doing until well after the All Star Break in mid-July. There is so much that can happen towards the end of the season that it’s not worth the stress. Look at the record books and see how many teams have come from behind to overtake the assumed division or league winners, just because of that late push in September. Baseball’s like that — one team surges ahead and the competing team has a slump. It’s all about peaking at the right time, having unsung heroes who come through at the end of the season, and some luck. The right time to peak is mid September, going into October. We’re a long way from there.
Of course, when your team has a great run and is in first place by 9 games early in the season, it deserves notice. But it’s also a little unnerving, because there’s plenty of baseball left and a lot can happen. Other teams can have a winning streak, injuries can cripple a team’s line-up, and unexpected / unwanted slumps may run through a team. For the Giants, a recent illness went through the clubhouse with a flurry and affected many of the players. It’s hard to tell if that’s what the current slump is all about, but hopefully the team will rebound soon.
But still, nothing to get too worried about. Yet.
I have a friend who works at my local coffee shop. His nickname is Shadow, and he’s a Blue Jays fan. Most years, our conversation turns fairly quickly to how he wants the A’s to stop winning, or how great it is that the Yankees lost last night. So if his team isn’t doing well, he’s glad to see that Toronto’s competitors aren’t doing well either.
In the first weeks after Opening Day in years past, Shadow’s expressed concern that one of ‘his’ pitchers isn’t doing well, or how the team was beaten by the hated Yankees. He doesn’t know all the players, and with new ones added every year it’s a little hard to keep up — I’ve had that problem in years past myself — but he does know where they stand. This year, he’s been very happy until the last couple of days, when the Jays have started a downward slide and are flirting with second place.
Shadow started following baseball in college, when he had a crush on Tom from Canada. Tom was a Blue Jays fan. So it was natural that Shadow became a Jays fan too. But he never played baseball, and doesn’t watch it enough to know the finer points of the game, so looking at the standings is the main way he tracks his team. It’s easier to get worried about a team’s chances when that’s all you’ve got.
But still, it’s not the All Star break yet so neither of us are worried. In second place, we know that our teams have room to move, hopefully in an upwards direction. Like a good race horse, we both want them to come down the home stretch and sprint to the finish at least a nose ahead of the competition. When a team has been in first, especially for an extended period of time, they know they can win. They’ve done it before. Just like in life, learning to handle adversity and bounce back when needed makes you stronger in the end.
So being in second place may not be that much of a problem after all. There’s a goal to shoot for, and a lot of exciting games left to make it happen. The teams are developing character and practicing resiliency, and hopefully keeping those pesky injuries to a minimum.
A problem with being in second place? Maybe not. But ask me again in mid August how I’m feeling.