Giants find diet to their liking

Originally Published: June 1, 2004
By Ray Ratto | Special to ESPN.com

It's probably not that big a deal where you live, but in San Francisco, where the sporting alternative is waiting for the next reminder that the 49ers are planning to relive the glory days right before Bill Walsh was hired, the Giants have been cured.

They have won 10 consecutive games, going into Tuesday's expected Chuck Wepnering of the profoundly inert Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. They are back over .500. They are a game and a half behind the Dodgers and Padres, co-leaders of the National League Silly.

They can see again, praise the Lord, hallelujah, can the church say "Amen?"

Well, the church can do that if it wishes, but it would be better served taking a knee and acknowledging the folks who did the schedule, because for all the analysis, all the examination, all the rafts of praise and love and "How could we have ever doubteds," the central fact is this:

The Giants got fat by eating fatty foods.

Or, for you dietary sensitives, the Giants got out of the Southeastern Conference and toured the Missouri Valley.

Jason Schmidt
Getty ImagesGiants ace Jason Schmidt has allowed just 39 hits in 63 innings.

This winning streak, one of the seven longest since the team left New York, has put people who two weeks ago were in a mood to string up everyone on the Giant payroll from a wrought-iron shower rod in a mood to worship Brian Sabean as a genius, Felipe Alou as a wizard, Jason Schmidt as Pedro Martinez, and Barry Bonds as Barry Bonds.

But let's be honest here and just say it. They played the three worst teams in the National League, they still have seven more games against the divisional bottom-feeders, and they don't see a non-terrible team again for 10 more days.

Now you can say all you want about all the things the Giants have done, but there are two inescapable truths here:

A, they weren't as horrible as they let on early.

And Two, they are getting to work out the kinks against the most pliable possible opposition.

Put another way, Bob Brenly, the manager of the Low-Slung Scaly Things, described his team as being ensnared in, get this, "a vortex of horses---." And his team is not particularly worse than Colorado or Tampa Bay, the next two teams on the Giants' Hostess Snack Cakes diet, and arguably better than Montreal, the team that essentially started San Francisco's resurrection.

In other words, we're not talking vortex here, we're talking wormhole. The Giants went in as one thing --- injured, underachieving, miserable --- and came out as something entirely different --- better than the Brewers and Pirates.

Hey, small steps before big ones, children.

We mention this only because in our exciting world of fevered instant analysis and searches for enduring trends as useful as the interval between today's game and tomorrow's, we must still be mindful of the sheer power and might of playing the weak and infirm.

You see, while we focus inexorably on the top of the table, where all the good teams (or the bad ones playing good at the time) reside, there is something enduring and negatively powerful about the lousy ones. Theirs is the tide that raises all the other boats, the teams every league needs so we can tell who the good teams must exploit, choke, and destroy to get to the postseason.

After all, if you've heard, "They're the teams you have to beat" once, you've heard it too often.

But it's true, it's true, and the Giants are simply the latest proof of the medicinal power of the wretched, and the strength of the pedestal upon which everyone else stands.

Of course, these quick fixes don't normally endure. The Giants aren't out of the woods, or even out of the bog in the middle of the woods. As of Tuesday morning, they stood ninth in the National League, which gets you nothing, and if they have aspirations to be something more than the least crummy team in the NL West, they'll have to keep grinding away at the soft touches before anyone should truly believe in them. After all, they went 100-62 a year ago, and they were savaged all winter for face-planting the playoffs.

Eventually, they will have to face real teams again -- the Red Sox, Dodgers (with an asterisk) and the A's between the 18th and July 4, so we'll get to see the true value of momentum.

But after that 16-game stretch against the upright and ambulatory, they return to The Wormhole, and 13 more against the Rockies and Diamondbacks, and then 11 more against the same two mopes in September. At this rate, the Giants may be cured for good whether they want to be or not.

And then they can pretend they really were good all along. At least, that's the way it usually works.

Ray Ratto is a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle and a regular contributor to ESPN.com