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Here is a link to my Tuesday column about the Giants. The full text runs below:

This is going to be critical of the Giants. Not too critical. They lead the National League West and have the best record in baseball.

Even so, Giants euphoria had surged recently. I was on television a week ago and we were talking Giants. If they did well on the homestand, just completed, were they in position to wrap up their division by the All Star break?

I almost swallowed my tongue. That’s how surprised I was by the topic. This was early June. Lots of ball to play in a long season — the season is long for a reason. So, anyway, the Giants swept the awful Mets. More euphoria. Then the Giants fell on their faces, flopped against the Nationals and Rockies. At home. Now, they’ve lost six of their last seven games. How does the euphoria feel now?

Look, the Giants are good. They almost surely will win the NL West and go to the playoffs and do well in the postseason with all that starting pitching and their new-found power. We feel all that. But they are not perfect, far from it. And we learned about them in the past week.

What did we learn?

We learned the closer doesn’t always close the deal. We’re talking about Sergio Romo. As I write this, he’s second in the league in saves with 20. That’s very good. He also has blown four saves. That’s not so good.

Romo is an emotional, excitable man. He cries a lot. He struck out Miguel Cabrera to win the World Series two years ago, Cabrera not even swinging at strike three. That is an image etched on our memories. But Romo blew saves, blew them in the ninth inning Friday and Saturday. Couldn’t get the necessary outs. This is troubling for the Giants. Is Romo becoming less effective? Is he in an emotional tailspin?

He didn’t pitch on Sunday. The other relievers loused it up, anyway. Call it a group effort. The Rockies, who had trailed all game, scored four runs in the top of the eighth, took advantage of Juan Gutierrez and Javier Lopez. Which makes you wonder about the Giants’ bullpen. Santiago Casilla is returning and that should help the Giants’ relievers.

We’ll see.

And then there’s the case of center fielder Angel Pagan. This man is essential to the Giants. He missed most of last season and, partly because of that, the Giants missed the playoffs. He is the leadoff hitter they absolutely need. You could make the case he is as important to the Giants as Buster Posey. So, this is not a “get Pagan column.”

But, it’s a “let’s think about Pagan” column.

He is a good athlete and, because of that, he often atones for his sins as a center fielder. He is not as refined as, say, the A’s Coco Crisp, a superior practitioner. And Pagan does commit sins.

On Friday night against Colorado — Romo’s first blown save of the weekend — Pagan abetted in throwing away the game. The Rockies entered the top of the ninth down 4-2. Surely the Giants would win. But Romo gave up a single to Troy Tulowitzki, the hottest hitter on Earth. Charlie Culberson ran for him.

Please stay with me here. The Rockies have a runner at first, Culberson. (I know. I just switched to present tense.) Justin Morneau singles to center. Which means the Rockies have men at first and second with nobody out. Now comes Pagan’s screw-up.

Wilin Rosario flies out to Pagan in center. Culberson tags and runs toward third base. Culberson is no concern of Pagan. Just let Culberson have the base. But Pagan wants to be heroic. Pagan tries to throw him out — which he fails to do. While this tumult is occurring at third, Morneau takes second, a base he never should have reached. He is the tying run. He now is in scoring position. He eventually will score.

Call it Pagan’s baseball sin — not his last of the weekend. You are taught in Little League to hit the cutoff man, to keep the runner at first. Pagan forgot that basic rule, forgot at the worst time.

Cut to Saturday. The Giants lead the Rockies 4-3 in the top of the ninth. Romo again. There are two out. Charlie Blackmon singles, Romo again unable to close the deal. Brandon Barnes gets a base hit to right-center. Pagan again. He runs straight across the outfield for the ball. Horrible route. He should run backwards to cut off the ball. But, he takes a chance. That silly hero thing again. The ball goes past him. Inside the park home run. Two runs score. Giants lose 5-4.

On television, Vida Blue was almost apoplectic. He said — correctly — Pagan’s job in the ninth inning was to stop that ball any way he could. No time for risks. In Little League, they teach all outfielders to think of themselves as hockey goalies in that situation. Just stop the ball. The game is on the line. Act like it. Pagan didn’t do that. Little League stuff.

You have to wonder about Pagan’s instincts as a center fielder. Crisp has better instincts. You see that every day. You file Pagan’s sins away in your mind for the postseason.

And when you think about the Giants, you don’t automatically anoint them the best team in baseball. The Nationals, who just beat the Giants three of four in San Francisco, sure haven’t anointed them. The A’s sure haven’t anointed them. And you don’t anoint the Giants World Series winners or even NL West champs.

Use caution, please. Prudence would be good. A little perspective always helps.

MORE LOWELL COHN

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

 

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Comments

7 Comments

  1. Brett

    I don’t know Lowell. It may be that things were going so well for them that they all took a collective mental break. They were still in contention to win most of those games during the last home stand. Brain farts and a relaxed attitude can happen when everything seems to be going your way. Perhaps this will be the wake up call they need to remind them that this is a long season.

    June 17th, 2014 9:24 am

  2. sf9erfan

    Giants are in a slump. It’s inevitable with a 162 game season. They aren’t getting the majority of the breaks right now while they were during their incredible run to start the season. There was little chance they were going to keep up that torrid pace. Pagan has been a solid defensive center fielder since acquired from the Mets. To question his defense because of two bad mental plays during a losing streak is ridiculous. Did he make the wrong plays? Yes. It was Pagan trying to do too much while his team has been struggling. Like you said, he was trying to be a hero. His defense while in SF has never been an issue. He’s made more than enough clutch sliding and running catches to make up for the rare error. File it away for the post season? Really? Has there been any evidence in the post season to think that? I don’t have the stats but did he make any crucial errors during the 2012 playoffs? I don’t recall. The same goes for Romo. It’s a long season. Ups and downs happen. And so do Lowell’s overreactions (but what else would you have to write about? You got me interested).

    June 17th, 2014 9:45 am

  3. Mark M

    I’m hoping these last two series were just signs of fatigue and that 3 days off over 10 will revitalize them a bit. The biggest surprise this season is their power and clutch hitting. Even still, it’s always hard to make big picture judgements of a team mid June. I certainly don’t think we have the playoffs wrapped up by any means. There is too much talent in the West

    Pagan has always been a bit inconsistent in center. He was worse with the Mets. But there is no excuse for that late mistake against the Rockies. Still, moving forward, I’m far more worried about Morse in the outfield. That dude is slow off the block and doesn’t exactly close on the ball. He’s a liability out there, far moreso than Pagan.

    June 17th, 2014 10:23 am

  4. Dr Feelgood

    This is totally off subject (sorry), but you might like to read this article by an intelligent and articulate 49er player, who is currently at odds with team mgt:

    http://mmqb.si.com/2014/06/16/vernon-davis-monday-morning-quarterback/1/?xid=nl_siextra

    June 17th, 2014 12:06 pm

  5. Johan Knaven

    June swoon??—Parallel to those great 1970’s teams that faded after two months. Two great pitchers, then you hope starters 3-5 can go a solid 6 innings. An offense powered by home runs. A thin bench. A bullpen full of trick pitches and no real fastballs, and worn out by having to go in early for starter 3-5. At least Bruce Bochy is no Charley Fox.

    June 17th, 2014 10:32 pm

  6. Matt in Newark

    I never feel comfortable unless the division lead is greater than 10 games. I remember in 1993 that the Giants led Atlanta by 10 games and still the Braves (thanks to the Padres’ fire sale of Fred McGriff to Atlanta) still caught and passed the Giants.

    That year the Giants never lost a series until late in the year when they went into a tailspin and lost eight games in a row. Burkett and Swift were on fumes, and they didn’t have any other reliable starters. Ugh . . . I know, they eventually struck gold and won two World Series since then, but I still remember. Don’t trust a lead that is less than 10 games!

    June 17th, 2014 11:58 pm

  7. Brett

    I agree with Matt. When they were 10 up on the Dodgers I could exhale a bit. Six up….not so much.

    June 18th, 2014 1:24 pm

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