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Can this Giants team join the 1985 Giants, who lost 100 games?

September 19,2017 17:14

No Giants team before or since has reached 100 losses, even when they were based in New York, but the 2017 Giants have a shot. They are 58-93 with 11 games left, starting with Tuesday night's series opener against the Colorado Rockies ...

On a shivery Sunday afternoon in October 1985, the San Francisco Giants dropped an 8-7 game to the Atlanta Braves to end the season with 100 losses.
A few thousand fans from the announced crowd of 14,537 stuck around Candlestick Park to hear a local radio celebrity announce the winning ticket in a Fan Appreciation Day car giveaway. But first, he launched into a lengthy rant about the team as the early-fall afternoon grew windier and colder.
Had the fans been allowed to carry bottles into the park, he would have become acquainted with them, up close and personally.
No Giants team before or since has reached 100 losses, even when they were based in New York, but the 2017 Giants have a shot. They are 58-93 with 11 games left, starting with Tuesday night’s series opener against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park.

More by Henry Schulman

This will be remembered as a trying season for the Giants, regardless of whether they hit the magic number of 100. There is no practical difference if they lose 99, but 100 is a scarlet number that would make them even more infamous and talked about for decades, especially when another season like this unfolds.
“It follows you around,” said Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow, who started 28 games for the ’85 Giants and finished with an 8-11 record.
Fellow starter Bill Laskey, whom the Giants mercifully traded to Montreal in August 1985, recalled a year of ineptitude on the field matched only by the toxicity of a clubhouse filled with strong personalities who did not get along.
“Nothing we did was right,” Laskey said, “and when we did do something right, something outweighed it to make it wrong.”
Giants watchers naturally wonder about comparisons between the 1985 and 2017 teams, but those can be tricky.
The eras produced different styles of baseball. Speed and pitching were the hallmarks of the 1980s. Now it’s all about the home run.
The 2017 collapse is more surprising because the Giants reached the playoffs as recently as last year and still have players who were part of World Series championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The 1985 Giants had been in a free fall. In fact, the 1984 team lost 96 games, costing legendary manager Frank Robinson his job.
Like this year’s team, the ’85 Giants were filled with experienced players with good track records, including right fielder Chili Davis, left fielder Jeffrey Leonard, second baseman Manny Trillo and quality pitchers such as Krukow, Laskey, Atlee Hammaker, Vida Blue and Greg “Moon Man” Minton.
But the managers could not have been more different.
Photo: John O'Hara, San Francisco Chronicle

The Giants infielders would join the meeting on the mound after a walk. (the Giants would lose on April 22, 1986 (the Giants were on their way to losing 100 games in the 1985 season)
The Giants infielders would join the meeting on the mound after a...

Bruce Bochy has guided the Giants to three titles and is destined for the Hall of Fame. Then-general manager Tom Haller handed the 1985 team to a rookie manager, longtime Giants player and coach Jim Davenport, a kindly Alabaman whose biggest fault was being too nice. Davenport would return to the organization and remain a valued instructor until his death in 2016.
Newly installed general manager Al Rosen fired Davenport in September because he wanted to give his handpicked skipper for 1986, Roger Craig, an 18-game head start.
Another major difference: The 2017 Giants generally get along, in contrast to 1985. Many players on that sinking ship hated one another.
“It was just atrocious in the clubhouse,” Laskey said. “There wasn’t any kind of togetherness.”
Players sniped at one another for misplays on the field and constantly sparred. Laskey recalled a fight between outfielder Dan Gladden and Leonard during batting practice that spilled into the clubhouse as Laskey was on the training table being stretched before pitching. Laskey said the rest of the night was a “war.”
The 1985 and 2017 teams share one important trait. Neither could score runs. The ’85 team had the worst offense in the majors, with a stunningly low .233 batting average, .299 on-base percentage and .348 slugging average.
“We didn’t hit anything, and in that respect I felt so bad for Jim Davenport,” said Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Bob Brenly, the Giants’ starting catcher in 1985.
“I remember Davvy in those postgame media (scrums) saying, ‘Well, we lost another ballgame, but we’re going to be all right because Jeffrey’s gonna hit, Chili’s gonna hit, Danny’s gonna hit, Bobby’s gonna hit,’ and bless his heart, we didn’t hit all season long.”
How bad was the offense? The team lost 100 games despite the pitching staff owning the eighth-best earned-run average in the majors, 3.61.
“I didn’t know this at the time,” Brenly said, “but I think we probably would have been better served to play some kids and concede that this is not going where we want it to go. Everybody was trying to win to preserve their jobs. In the meantime, it just spiraled completely out of control.”
Haller, the GM, had made changes after the 96-loss 1984 season, including a blockbuster trade that sent Jack “The Ripper” Clark to the St. Louis Cardinals for a package that included pitcher Dave LaPoint, first baseman David Green and a young shortstop nobody had heard of named Jose Gonzalez.
Green was supposed to be the big “get,” a 24-year-old slugger whose true age always was in question, with home run power and a fantastic arm. But Green hit five homers in 1985 and was out of the majors two years later.
The jewel of the deal proved to be Gonzalez, who changed his name to Jose Uribe and played a huge part in two Giants playoff teams, including the 1989 National League champion that lost to the A’s in the Earthquake World Series.
Brenly said the club left spring training with “misplaced optimism” that management had made enough upgrades over the year before to improve. Krukow was not convinced.
“I didn’t think we had done enough,” he said. “I didn’t think defensively we were a good team, and being a pitcher that’s one thing I was acutely aware of. I never worried about the offense. I thought the team would score enough runs.
“As it turned out, offensively, we never really put it together that year. We didn’t hit like that team should have.”
Photo: Eric Risberg, AP

Two women take shelter from the cold with a sleeping bag on the upper deck of Candlestick Park in San Francisco, July 9, 1985. This season, the Giants have moved most of their games to midday because too few fans were willing to brave the cold summer nights at the park. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Two women take shelter from the cold with a sleeping bag on the...

The next year they did, under the new manager Craig and his “Humm Baby” spirit. Rosen and Craig gave the 1986 team another huge jolt by installing two rookies into the starting lineup. First baseman Will “The Thrill” Clark and second baseman Robby Thompson became big-time players.
The 1986 Giants were better from the get-go as the younger players coalesced with veterans who had better years, such as Krukow, who won 20 games. They finished 83-79, a 21-game improvement over 1985, presaging a division championship in 1987.
That progression should offer hope for depressed fans now. The 2018 Giants might not have a Clark and Thompson emerging from the farm, but they have a core that includes good players such as Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford, and a front office that seems committed to more changes than its forebears made before the 1985 season.
“You could look at this year’s team going into spring training and say, ‘They’ve got a chance to be good,’” Brenly said. “I don’t think maybe you had the same feeling looking at the 1985 Giants.”
Henry Schulman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: hschulman@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @hankschulman
The road to 100
A comparison of the 1985 Giants, managed by Jim Davenport (56-88) and Roger Craig (6-12), and Bruce Bochy’s 2017 Giants:
 

1985

2017*

Record

62-100

58-93

Rank in MLB

24th of 26

30th of 30

Batting average

.233 (26th)

.247 (23rd)

Earned-run average

3.61 (8th)

4.59 (17th)

Runs scored

556

569

Runs allowed

674

692

Longest winning streak

4

6

Longest losing streak

10

7

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