Previous 4-10 Giants squads were mostly dreadful

Giants fans of a certain age, the age where hair turns gray or thins, joints ache and eyesight fails, might feel nauseous.

They’re the ones who heard that the current Giants (4-10) matched the team’s worst 14-game record since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958 — a mark previously logged by the 1980, ’83, ’85 and 2000 clubs — and wondered, “Are they really that bad?”

Long memories can be a curse for experienced Giants fans. The 1980, ’83 and ’85 squads ranged from mediocre (’83) to bad (’80) to horrible (’85, the lone 100-loss season in Giants history).

The mere suggestion that the defending World Series champions could in any way be as dreadful as these teams is enough to prompt nightmares of Buster Posey metamorphosing into Milt May or Madison Bumgarner transforming into Phil Nastu.

The outlier in that foursome, of course, is the 2000 club. That bunch recovered from its slow start to win the West division with a National League-best 97-65 record. That should serve as a lesson. Anybody dismissing this year’s Giants as failures with 148 games remaining does so at his or her own risk.

But fans who watched those other three teams perform (that’s using the term loosely) and emerged with their love for baseball intact must be praying that this year won’t become an early ’80s revival.

For the uninitiated, here’s a synopsis of the hopelessness those 4-10 teams of the ’80s evoked. You young ‘uns have no idea: These days, it’s fashionable to be a Giants fan. Back then, people actually laughed at you if you rooted for the Giants.

Here’s why:

1980
Eventual finish: 75-86, fifth place NL West
Most games over .500: 2
Most games under .500: 11
Saving grace: This was one of the greatest moments in Giants history, but it got overlooked in such a crappy year. On June 29, Willie McCovey, who announced his retirement a few days earlier, lashed a pinch-hit double to break a ninth-inning tie and give the Giants a walkoff victory over the Dodgers. The mighty knight had risen to slay the evil dragon one last time.
But it was usually like this: The Giants were five games out of first place on Aug. 14. Twelve losses in 13 games to start September dashed any wild postseason dreams. The Giants scored 32 runs in that stretch, which included three consecutive shutout defeats.

1983
Eventual finish: 79-83, fifth place NL West
Most games over .500: 6
Most games under .500: 10
Saving grace: Atlee Hammaker, whose 2.25 ERA was the NL’s best, allowed as many as four earned runs only four times in 23 starts.
But it was usually like this: The Giants scored 13 runs on Opening Day, demonstrating their formidable offensive potential. Just one problem: San Diego scored 16.

1985
Eventual finish: 62-100, siXth place NL West
Most games over .500: 1
Most games under .500: 39
Saving grace: A 4-3 walkoff win on Opening Day. The 161 games that followed were mostly futile. These guys finished 33 games out of first place!
But it was usually like this: Through June 4, the Giants owned an admirable 2.42 team ERA. Yet they were a day away from taking up permanent residency in last place, due to their .216 team batting average and their scoring rate — a shade less than three runs per game.

Chris Haft

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