Not Quite Enough

Yesterday afternoon Joey Bart came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with one out. The Giants were down 5-4, desperately needing at least one run to prolong the game, 2 runs to win the game and head off for a postseason series in Los Angeles.

It was a poetic, potentially beautiful moment. After all, Giant‘s Franchise Icon Buster Posey, who plays the same position as Bart, skipped the season. Fans immediately clammored for Bart to take his place. The team was very hesitant but ultimately went for it. And when they went for it, they went all in. Bart was pretty much the main catcher once he arrived.

There were ups and downs. There was tremendous exit velocity, and opposite field power, and plenty of flashes of #2-overall-pick talent.

But there were also rookie mistakes, and the inability to get on the same page with Johnny Cueto, and most of all a general sense of being overmatched by big league pitching.

But all the ups and downs would have been long forgotten if Bart sent a majestic home run into the empty bleachers to tie the biggest game of the year.

But Joey Bart saw just three pitches, missed two of them, and very quickly went back to the dugout, striking out in the most definitive way possible: good morning, good afternoon, good night on three 99 mph fastballs.

In so many ways it was a moment that captured this bizarre little season perfectly. It was fun. There was a lot to be excited about. But this team still has a ways to go to be ready for big time competition and Joey Bart is the embodiment of this truth.

I will spend some time in future posts reviewing the season, the highs and lows, why we should be excited about the future, why we shouldn’t be too bummed at how this season went (preview: we’re in a pandemic, and did you really want to watch this bullpen try to protect a lead against the Dodgers with everything on the line? Ok, I did too, but it probably would have been horrible).

But for now, I leave you with one final thought/question. How would this have been different if Buster Posey was around this year?

Please be clear: in no way am I questioning Posey’s decision. I think he did the right thing, and I think his decision is quite admirable and should be honored.

But from a purely baseball perspective, how many games better would the Giants have been with Posey around? I am convinced that even with this middling pithing staff, Posey gets them to the “magical” 32 win mark.

How might his presence have calmed a chaotic staff? How would his mentorship have shaped Bart’s experience? Would Bart even have been there?

We’ll never know, but it’s an interesting thought experiment.

I’m not bummed with how it all went down. In the pantheon of Giants’ disappointment, I don’t think this even makes the top 10.

But the mission is clear: get some pitchers and pray for Buster’s return!

7 Days…

And just like that we are in the final week of the season. As we said last week: it’s been weird.

As expected, it’s going to be a wild final week for Major League Baseball. Unlike the American League, where there are some seeding positions still up in the air, but it’s pretty clear who the best 8 teams are, the National League is WIDE open.

Right now the Marlins (that’s right, the MARLINS) are the 5th seed. They could also not make the postseason depending on how this week shakes out. Meanwhile, the Rockies seem buried under a pile of mediocre teams, but a hot week could see them leap the field and sneak in. It’s that crazy.

What does this all mean for the Giants? Well, they are very much in the mix and will be at home all week.

Quick side note, the Giants road/home splits this year are fascinating and troubling. On the one hand, dramatic road/home splits in a year like this are not surprising. In a pandemic it makes a lot of sense that a team would be better at home than on the road. On the other hand, in such a short season can we even read into any of this? On a third hand, seeing the Giants recover a dominant home presence has been a passion of this blog for several years, so we are pleased in a strange way.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of this phenomenon is that the Giants have scored so many more runs at home. For years, Giants fans have longed for road trips because that’s where the bats seemed to come to life. This year it’s the total flip. Their offense has been disappearing on the road.

They’ve scored 5.5 runs per game at home, and 4.5 on the road (a number aided by the fact that they just put up 14 in Oakland yesterday).

Now, look at MLB standings and you will see that only elite teams are good on the road (with the exception of the MARLINS who are the only team with a winning record on the road and not at home). Outside of that, it’s the Dodgers, White Sox, and Rays with nice road records, and those are the 3 best in baseball this year (record-wise).

The Giants are not in bad company per se, but it’s been weird to see them crush the ball at home and then the offense disappears when they leave SF.

Now, to the question of the day: can they actually make the postseason?

Let’s look at some schedules:

  • Miami Marlins: 7 games left, 4 against the Braves and 3 against the Yankees. On paper, that’s a tough week. The Braves series should be really tough. The Braves will want to clinch the division and start to set things up for the tournament. But the Yankees may or may not be super motivated. They are in, it’s just a matter of positioning at this point. Either way, we are Braves and Yankees fans this week.
  • Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are currently in as the 7th seed. They close out the season with 4 games agains the Nationals and then 3 against the Rays. The Rays may or may not be motivated in those games. They’ve clinched the division, but may be fighting for top seed in the AL. I’m not sure how much of a big deal that it is, but either way the Phillies end the season on the road for 7 games against teams with talent. It might be backwards race to the finish line for second place in the East. Either way, keep an eye on both the Phillies and Marlins this week!
  • St. Louis Cardinals/Cincinnati Reds/Milwaukee Brewers: I include them all here because they are in the same division. One of these teams is going to finish second, get an automatic bid, and not really be competing against the Giants. Currently, that team would be St. Louis and they start the week against the very bad Royals, and then play the Brewers. So, in many ways it would be great if they could have a strong week, pull away from the pack and beat down on the Brewers this weekend. The Brewers start their week with the Reds before facing the Cardinals. The Reds end their season against the very good Twins (who might not be motivated this weekend…they are close to first in the division but if that’s decided by Thursday they might coast). Bottom line: root for the Cardinals, hope the Brewers split their series with the Reds, and then both the Brewers and Reds get bulldozed in the final weekend.
  • The Mets and Rockies are behind the Giants and have an outside chance at the tournament. The Rockies play 4 with the Giants to start the week, so the Giants hold a lot of their fate in their own hands. If they throttle the Rockies, not only do they improve their own position but they will knock out a competitor in the meanwhile. The Mets play Tampa (an elite team) and then Nationals (bad record, but talented as we said) so it seems they have the longest of odds.

While that outlines our rooting interests for the week, the challenge for the Giants themselves is quite simple: they have to win games. As things have shaped up the magic number in my mind to get into the postseason has been 32 wins. For about a month I’ve had this sense. The Giants currently have 26 wins, and 8 games left. A 6-2 week is not out of the question, BUT they have to get them agains the pesky Rockies and the Padres who have dominated them so far this year.

The best way forward would certainly be to sweep the Rockies, keep the pressure on everyone else, and then hope for the best against the Padres (who may also be coasting this weekend with their postseason positioning locked up).

But, baseball is weird, and this week will undoubtedly provide a number of ups and downs as we wrap up an already weird season.

Weird Week, Weird Season, Weird World

I feel like this is all my fault. Which is probably how every fan feels when things start to go a little wrong. Last week I gushed about how fun the 2020 Giants are, and “isn’t this great this little engine that might be?!”

And then this week was not so fun.

Although, it started out pretty fun. (One of the weird features of the year of COVID is that a week feels like a month and a month feels like a year, so it is important to remember some good things happened this week/month…haha).

All the way back on Monday the 7th the Giants’ defeated Zach Gallen (who set a record for most starts NOT allowing more than 3 runs to begin a career) and completed a dominating season series against the Snakes from Arizona.

They backed that up with two spirited wins against the suddenly surging Seattle Mariners, and all we could think about was how good the offense is and potentially being a lock for the 7th seed in the postseason tournament. I will even admit to thinking about second place in the NL West. The Giants were 5.5 games back of San Diego as they head south on Wednesday, but they also had 7 games left against the Padres. Going, say, 5-2 would eliminate half the lead and then if they got some help, it was not out of the realm of possibility.

But then, everything literally went south. The Giants got battered by the Padres, the offense disappeared, and any sort of momentum was completely derailed by the positive-false-positive COVID test that wiped out Friday and Saturday.

Which was a jolting reminder that the world is not right and this season was, and always was going to be, a bit of a mess, and get-a-hold-of-yourself-man, thinking about second place in the NL West!

Furthermore, Kevin Gausman is hurt, and this is really bad news for a pitching staff that was a weakness to begin with.

So, for a week that started off golden and gave birth to grandiose dreams, we are now back to the point of simply hoping for the best/that these guys can just hold on long enough to get a crack at the Dodgers in the first round.

The Giants have some days off this week, which is a blessing, and could help them recuperate a bit. Drew Smyly returned and looked awesome, which would be a huge add if he can throw like that over the final two weeks.

The reality remains, for all the fun and good vibes, the Giants are still, very much, behind the Padres and Dodgers in terms of talent and those are just two teams in their own division.

The rebuild is definitely not over because they have found some offense.

This is a critical week: only 11 games left, 5 this week all on the road (although 3 are in Oakland), against a decent team (Seattle) and a very good team (Oakland). If they want to feel a bit more secure going into the final week of this weird season, they will need to pull out some big wins during this stretch.

Two-Thirds

Well, we are 41 games into this strange, short, 60 game mini-season. One of the great mysteries of 2020 is how teams are going to evaluate what happens this year. 60 games is not nothing, but it is also a far cry from the normal 162 games worth of data points. In addition, the minor leagues are not happening in the same way, which makes everything even more difficult.

So, for example, does Farman Zaidi and the Giants’ brain trust look at the first 41 games of 2020 and say: this team is good, and it is getting better every day. More specifically, do they look at Brandon Belt, who is on fire right now, and say: we fixed him! Or do they say: this worked out well, let’s trade him while his value is high?

Then there’s the issue of how other teams will value these games. Back to the Belt example: do they see this as a short season fluke, so no thanks to the $17.5 million price tag? Or do they see the opportunity to get a cost-controlled first basemen for a year?

Those are questions for another day, so back to our present moment: what do we make of the Giants so far? I’ve delved into this a bit in the last few weeks, but today I have a very important announcement to make:

Who cares how “good” this team. This team is fun.

Which, all things considered, is about all we could ask for from 2020. Is this team perfect? Nope. Is this team dominant? Not really. Do I worry a lot about the state of the pitching, especially the bullpen? Oh yes, yes indeed.

But they are so fun.

And really, that was my one great concern about the “new” Giants. That any joy and fun would get buried underneath all the analysis and data. Nope, this team is fun.

A short list of fun things:

  • Brandon Belt playing with big time Swag is fun

Trade Deadline And Other Thoughts

Well, the 2020 trade deadline, such as it is, has come and gone and the Giants did basically nothing. In fact, most of the beat writers spent the day tweeting about former Giants who moved around (most immediately Derek Rodriguez, but also Kevin Pillar, Josh Osich, and others).

Now, on the one hand, doing basically nothing doesn’t mean a lot, especially this year. This was always going to be tricky given the COVID constraints on the season. How are teams supposed to know what to do after 30 games and with only 30 games left?

The Padres went all in on this deadline, and that makes sense (something I hope to explore soon because it is an interesting comp with the Giants).

But most teams are in much murkier waters.

As we said last week, the Giants might be good?! They certainly have some good things going on right now, and a stable of exciting young players on the way. While they could add more good players (FOR SURE) there isn’t a compelling reason to bet the farm on the players that were most readily available.

And so, it sure seems like they are going to give it a good go with what they have and see how it plays out.

On the other hand, you have to think that there were some opportunities to exploit. The Padres, once again, are a great example. They got Mike Clevinger, a young, relatively cheap, stud of a pitcher who they will have for next season as well. And they got him because he was an idiot regarding the COVID policy.

I’m not trying to make any sort of point there, other than to say weirdness creates weird opportunities, and the Padres took advantage.

But weirdness also makes it hard to get stuff done, which I totally get at many levels.

I don’t think we can pass too much judgment on the Giants or make any declarations (Zaidi will NEVER do anything big). The big moves are coming, at some point, now was not the time to force the issue.

But you do have to wonder.


So, for the final month we have basically this same team, with a slightly easier schedule, competing for either the 7th or 8th seeds and a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.

This also allows the Giants a little while longer to evaluate guys like Kevin Gausman and decide if he’s worth keeping into the future.

And it mostly (and this is my point of today’s article) allows Giants’ fans to appreciate a few players a little bit more.

Evan Longoria is a very good major league baseball player who, in his 30s, has struggled with injuries. But, let me reiterate, he is a good player. And Giants’ fans have not had the opportunity to appreciate that fully until now.

The data driven nature of today’s baseball has squelched some of the personality out of the game. But there are still some gems and maybe the biggest gem of all is Johnny Cueto. He’s an artist and we need to appreciate him more.

Brandon Belt is eternally frustrating and I get all the reasons why he’s been hard to watch for many people. But the base line skills for a dominant modern player have always been there, and maybe, in 2020 bizarro world, we are finally getting to see what a lineup with a good Brandon Belt looks like. (It looks pretty good.)


Giants treaded water this week: 3-3, but the first game of the week may turn out to be the game of the year. They Giants came back several times and finally walked it off in the 11th

Then they dropped 3 in a row, then won 2 nice ball games to end the week.

And now, on to the final 24 games. The Giants are a half game out of the final playoff spot. If nothing else, can 2020 please give us a Giants-Dodgers playoff series, short and strange as it may be? That’s what I’m rooting for!


Added after original post: a couple of clarifying tweets:

Half-Way Through The Bizarrest Of Seasons

It’s been a minute!

Let me begin by saying my silence in this space has been due to a variety of factors, not the least of which was/is this question: “why are we even playing baseball right now?”

When MLB started to ramp up in July I said to myself: “Self. Don’t get excited. This is a bastardized season that may not even get off the ground or finished. People are sick and dying. You have plenty of other things to worry about. Move on.”

And so it was with great reluctance that I half-heartedly kept my eye on things as the season launched. The Giants got off to a bad start. Several teams got COVID. It seemed like all my concerns were valid and my lack of interest rewarded.

And yet…they kept playing games. And teams got better (health wise), and the games kept coming, and then the Giants started to win.

And so here we are: 30 games into a 60 game weirdo season, and I have to humbly admit: I kind of like it.

Sure, it helps that the Giants have won 6 in a row, but even before this week I felt like it was time to start writing again once we made it to the half-way mark. And here we are.

Let me summarize where we’ve been and where I think this is going. First, some themes from the early games:

  • Bad veterans: the Giants’ old regime players (Belt, Crawford, Longoria, Panda, Pence, Samardzija, and Cueto) did not got off to great starts. Buster Posey opted out. It seemed pretty damning to watch the old core struggle so much.
  • Bad bullpen: there are some arms in this bullpen that are pretty exciting (Selman for closer in 2020), don’t get me wrong, but this has been a struggle all season, and old’ Gabe Kapler’s managing of the pen certainly fit all the inherited narratives about him.
  • Weak starting pitching: my early season assessment was that Farhan Zaidi seems to have a great eye for position players, but the lack of pitching, especially starting pitching was alarming.
  • Ok offense: Mike Yazstremski, Donovan Solano, and many others have been revelations. It feels like the Giants can score 5 runs in any game, which is not something we’ve been able to say for years.

It really felt like this was just going to be an exercise for the Giants and then we’d all move on. But now, a full 30 games in, some things have changed.

  • The veterans: Samardzija was hurt and is on the injured list where he might stay for the rest of the year. Pence is gone (sad to see, but makes sense). Cueto and Longoria have been totally solid. Crawford and Panda are waking up and looking much better. And, maybe the biggest news of all: Brandon Belt is looking like a stud right now. He has always been super streaky and can get hurt just by looking in the wrong direction, but there’s no reason to assume this is flukey. He got a later start than everyone else, and sure seems to be in form now.
  • Bad bullpen: Yes, the bullpen has had some spectacular mess ups. Yes, I do not trust Kapler in this area one bit. BUT, there are some very intriguing arms and everyone is still very much learning and figuring out who is trustworthy right now. Plus…
  • Improving Starting Pitching: This is huge. (A) Good starting pitching makes any bullpen look better, and (B) we are starting to see that Zaidi may know what he is doing here too! Right now Cueto and Logan Webb look solid. Kevin Gausman looks like an ace when he can locate his nasty stuff. Tyler Anderson is doing a fantastic vintage-Kirk Reuter impression. I have always loved Trevor Cahill and he is rounding into form after an early season injury. AND, the Giants best starting pitcher early on was Drew Smyly. Who knows where he fits once he is ready to return! All of this to say: the rotation suddenly looks like a place of strength, maybe the strongest “unit” of the team.
  • Really ok offense: Let’s get real. The platoons are working. With the call up of Joey Bart there isn’t a major hole in the lineup. Wilmer Flores looks like a steal. This is a team that doesn’t have a true masher in the middle of the lineup, but 1-9 can give a good at bat and make solid contact in any count or situation.

Conclusions and Forecast: The Giants are a couple of blown saves away from being 17-13. You can’t get those back though, so 14-16 is still a pretty great achievement. Keep in mind that the Giants first 30 games were brutal, arguably the hardest schedule in all of baseball. So, things are looking up.

This is clearly still a work in progress. Even 60 games is not enough to make a true assessment of where the franchise is at.

But recent success aside, the thing that has been true from day 1 of this season is that this team is interesting. There are a lot of intriguing pieces here and every day that passes the franchise is less stuck with some of the old and bloated contracts.

At some point Farhan is going to make (need to make) a signature move. I have no idea what that should be. This off-season’s free agent list is certainly uninspiring. But, for the first time in a while, it is possible to see the future and the future is relatively bright.

Now, what will happen the rest of the way? Who knows, of course, but the primary reason for hope, for me, is that this cadre of starting pitchers is looking very solid. There is no true ace…yet. But the Giants have five healthy guys (and 6 total) that are suddenly very trustworthy, and that fact makes everything else about the game a little bit easier.

There are bullpen concerns. There are defensive concerns. There are managerial concerns.

But the end of the story is that it will be interesting. No question about that. And that’s about all we can ask for in this crazy time.

Goodbye Madison

The bad news: Madison Bumgarner signed a long-term contract with a division rival.

The good news: that rival was not the Los Angeles Dodgers.

( was actually kind of looking forward to Bumgarner donning the Twins uniform next year. That seemed random and innocuous enough.)

But, on to Phoenix he goes. Some thoughts:

  1. As I have written many, many times, teams do not win year after year into infinity. It is the very rare franchise that pulls off a 1990’s Braves/21st century Patriots sort of run that seemingly never ends. But it does end. Even the Yankees have to rebuild from time-to-time. Which is to say: treasure the good moments. Always respond to a championship season with a deep well of gratitude. If you are a Giants fan you should have nothing but gratefulness in your heart for all Madison Bumgarner did from 2009-2019.
  2. It’s ok to feel things about him being somewhere else. Some are feeling angry at the Giants ownership/front office. Some are feeling angry at Madison. That’s all fine and part of being a fan. But it can also miss a couple of important realities, and that what we will talk about in the rest of this post.

Reality #1: The Giants are rebuilding. Or maybe a better way of saying it is that the Giants are transforming.

What once was an insular culture that rewarded loyalty and was willing to pay for past success, is now fully into the rational era of paying only for current value.

What this means is the next time the Giants discover an Aubrey Huff and turn a 1 year, $3 million dollar contract into an all-star/championship player, they will not reward him retroactively with a 2 year, $22 million contract. They will pay him what they value him for or they will let him go.

And this will create a tension with a fan base that falls deeply in love with its players, especially those players who are slightly colorful and help the team win.

Grant Brisbee said it well in his article on the Bumgarner non-signing:

would Bumgarner have been as valuable as a pitcher who made $16 million, perhaps? Or what if they could get similar production for $13 million? What about even less? We looked at a bunch of low-cost Kevin Gausman types, including the actual Kevin Gausman, and maybe one of them will perform as well as Bumgarner next year. My guess is that one of them will do just that, and a team will win the pitching lottery. The Giants are looking for those values in a beep-boop-beep robot voice because value is the way to win, and winning is the real way to sustainability.

Quick aside: what Grant described is the whole ballgame now, and it is an approach many Giants fans have wanted for a while. Why sink money into Mark Melancon’s, and even dare I say Matt Cain’s, when there are other ways to get similar production, ways that create deeper more complete teams?

Why? Because we love Matt Cain. Like it or not, the days of rewarding Matt Cain’s are over.

Reality #2: There’s a really good chance Madison Bumgarner did not want to be in San Francisco anymore. He’s never had a manager not named Bruce Bochy. Now that Boch is gone, might as well start fresh somewhere else, right? There’s also the issue of how the team reacted to his dirt-bike accident, and the lack of negotiations on a long term contract.

There’s also the not-so-small issue of state taxes:

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Bumgarner never seemed like a guy who loved California so much that he’d be willing to pay a bit more to the government just for the right to be here. (This is becoming a thing in all major sports, btw).

Second aside: no professional athlete at Madison Bumgarner’s level is ever “underpaid” in the grand scheme of the universe. That being said, Madison may go down as the most underpaid baseball player of all time. He just finished a very team friendly deal, a deal that allowed the Giants to sign or keep many good players along the way.

Put another way, Bumganer just signed basically the same deal at Jeff Samardzija. It’s not anywhere close to what Matt Cain, Johnny Cueto, or Barry Zito got from the Giants. It’s not as much per year as what Tim Lincecum got from the Giants. He’ll be making roughly half of what Clayton Kershaw makes next year.

We may never know the exact reason, but it does seem like was not just about a ruthless front office moving on from a franchise icon. I think Madison wanted to go as much as anything else.

Which brings us back to the transformation of the Giants. So far this off-season, the front office has bought another team’s 2019 first round draft pick (thank you Angels), and accumulated 4 top picks in the 2020 draft (I believe it’s 4 of the first 85 picks, which in baseball is a very good haul).

In terms of rebuilding, Farhan is doing everything right, and you will see the Giants skyrocketing up the list of top farm systems in the very near future. This is no guarantee that it translates to success, it just means the process is pretty solid, especially considering this process has not included a “blockbuster” type deal where the team dumps “stars” for a load of prospects.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this approach is very different, that the Gabe Kapler hire still rankles many people, and that 2020 is most likely going to involve quite a bit of losing.

I have had my quibbles with how the process is going, the main one being, at some point they need to do something definitive. As solid as the process has been, it feels like a lot of throwing pasta against the wall to see what sticks. We still don’t have a definitive sense of what kind of player this Front Office really likes, what kind of team they want to be, other than some vaguely A’s/Dodger’s clone.

I believe that’s part of the reason why fans are struggling. That sense of definition may come soon enough with the emergence of Joey Bart and others, but for now it all feels too nebulous, and the only solid things to hold on to continue to float away.

A Lot of Catching Up To Do!

Well, I guess a few things have happened in the past couple months!

We’ve said goodbye to Bruce Bochy (and maybe Madison Bumgarner too), watched the Dodgers blow it again, and witnessed the Washington Nationals ascend the mountain top for the first time.

And, oh look, the Giants have a new General and Field Manager. And a lot of people are quite upset about it.

I have thoughts. Let’s get right to the heart of the issue: Gabe Kapler’s (and, to be fair, Farhan Zaidi’s) poor handling of sexual assault allegations against their players when they were with the Dodgers.

Let me offer a few quotes from the local writers regarding this issue:

From Baggs:

It cannot be understated that the Giants front office is a workplace still reeling from CEO Larry Baer’s video-captured altercation in March in which he wrestled for control of a phone and knocked his wife, Pam, to the ground in a public square. Baer returned to his former role and corner office, with a somewhat muted public presence, following a three-month suspension from Major League Baseball.

Not everyone in the organization was happy to have Baer back. You can bet not everyone in the organization is happy about Kapler, either.

Here’s the thing: whether you believe that Kapler should be exonerated or you believe his past actions are disqualifying, Zaidi knew hiring him would leave a great many of you pissed off. And he decided it was worth it.

What’s more, the Giants decided it was worth it.

From Grant:

The Giants could have chosen almost anyone, from Hensley Meulens to Mike Scioscia to, I don’t know, Casey McGehee, who would have taken the brunt of whatever managerial criticism came up. The front office would have taken the criticism for choosing the players and the manager would have taken the criticism for motivating and deploying them. This is the natural order of things.

Instead, the Giants chose the one guy who can’t be separated from the front office. There is no Kapler without Zaidi, no scenario in which he becomes the manager with anyone else in charge, so the manager’s successes or failures will become the president of baseball operations’ successes or failures.

Which means Zaidi has to be pretty damned sure about this. Pretty, pretty, pretty damned sure about this. That’s a pool of 7.7 billion people to choose from, and approximately one who could blow up on him like an ink pack in a bank robbery.

And finally, from Marcus:

Why Kapler at all? 

Especially now. He’s basically a .500 manager with two years of experience. The Phillies went .500 this season despite adding Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto to what was already an 80-win team. The data shows Kapler just might not be ready as a manager. But he wasn’t even on the market long enough to collect his first unemployment check. 

Add on to that a sexual assault scandal and he figured to be an especially untouchable hire for a Bay Area franchise. Four years ago, while with the Dodgers, Kapler — along with Zaidi — mishandled allegations made against Dodgers minor-leaguers. Kapler was director of player development at the time, in 2015, and Zaidi was the Dodgers general manager. They offered a mea culpa on Wednesday, concessions made after finally looking into their actions a couple of weeks ago. But why would they put themselves in position to have to prostrate before the fan base?

This is Zaidi’s doing. This is how much he believes in Kapler. Better yet, this is how much Zaidi believes in himself, his eye for talent and his vision for the Giants. He picked arguably the most tainted hire of this bunch, overlooked candidates he acknowledged were worthy of the job. Kapler is his guy. This was a Farhan Flex.

That alone offers significant insight into the future of the Giants.

And now my take. One of the side effects, it seems, of the new, brainy, data-driven front office movement in baseball is a lack of humanity. This post-season, rather than celebrating two incredible baseball teams, a lot of of the headlines surrounded the bad behavior the Houston Astros (poster-children for the new-age team).

And that has only continued now in the offseason.

I’m not trying to reduce this to a “nerds don’t get people” simplistic view of complicated issues, but there is a risk with this new perspective (and it’s not limited to baseball). The more we value and view people as numbers, the harder time we seem to have with human interactions and the truth that they can be very messy.

Some have validly complained that the brand of baseball being played today is boring (flattened by the uniformity of data), and it’s a valid complaint, but a deeper problem is the lack of emotional intelligence and the decline of the value of humanity.

So, there’s that!

And then there’s the issue that Gabe Kapler might not be a very good manager. Dave Roberts beat him out for the Dodgers job a few years ago and while Dave seems like a really good dude, several of his poor decisions are responsible for the Dodgers inability to end the season with a win.

Kapler seems to have suffered from too much information and a lack of ability to inspire human beings with all his magical data.

I was not super excited when the Giants hired Bruce Bochy. It seemed to be a very uninspired hire. As baseball was moving into the future, the Giants were hiring a relic of the past.

It turned out ok, and in large part because Bochy is a genius with people (and bullpens).

Now they’ve finally made the cutting edge type of hire I longer for 12 years ago, and I’m not excited about it. The moral baggage is certainly part of that, but Kapler had an eventful two years in Philly and not for good reasons.

The Giants always seemed to be interested in getting someone who had previous managing experience who needed a new opportunity to make the next step. There is a long history of guys making this type of jump, Bruce Bochy being exhibit A.

The difference to me is that Bochy had MANY years of experience. He had seen bad teams, good teams, losing seasons, a world series, great players and MVPs, and a bunch of scrubs.

Kapler hasn’t seen much of anything at this point. Other than looking like he could still play, there’s not much impressive in resume.

All year long we’ve been waiting for Farhan Zaidi to make a signature move. Would it be signing Bryce Haper? (No). Would it be trading Madison Bumgarner? (It wasn’t).

This is it. Hiring Gabe Kapler. Undoubtedly many other moves are going to be made. There’s a bullpen to reconstruct after all. And some starting pitchers to find. And the question about how to move on from an aging core.

But if you were looking for a move that revealed the deep soul of Zaidi and what he wants the Giants to be moving forward, you now have it, and it’s the chiseled chin of Gabe Kapler.

I hope it works out, but I am not inspired.

One More Month

On to September! The Giants are more or less out of the Wild Card Race, and this final month will be about evaluating some guys for the future and saying goodbye to some all-time greats (I’m not crying, you’re crying).

Quick interlude: an amazing 3 paragraphs from that Pablo article:

But it might have gone unappreciated just how perfect the Kung Fu Panda was for the Giants in this particular time and, especially, for this particular place. For all the bitching, kvetching, whining and gnashing over the utter unfairness of the hitting dimensions of this 20-year-old ballpark, there are only two hitters who truly have mastered the art of hitting here.

One was Barry Bonds. The other is Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval is a .305/.355/.484 career hitter here at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Those are all far better marks than his .261/.314/.422 career slash line on the road. His batting average here is one point better than Jeff Kent’s. His 582 hits in this ballpark are second only to Buster Posey, with 643.

Now, let’s go back and review the trade deadline for a moment.

For the most part it is hard to argue with the approach. The Giants:

  1. Some how unloaded Mark Melancon’s contract. While they still have a good deal of money tied up in a handful of players, take a look at the Cot’s page and it no longer appears as daunting. It cannot be underestimated how important this move was!
  2. Acquired two players who could be important to future winning teams in Mauricio Dubon (who is with the big-league team now) and Jaylin Davis (who will likely be there soon).
  3. Did not trade Madison Bumgarner which feels really good and definitely keeps open the possibility he is around next year and beyond.
  4. Did part with Joe Panik, a move that has been hotly debated by Giants’ twitter for the past month.
  5. Did not trade Will Smith, arguably their most valuable asset.

What are my thoughts about this? Well, Farhan accomplished what we thought he would try to accomplish: creating more salary flexibility, acquiring players who would help future teams, but not trading everyone thereby throwing in the towel on the 2019 season.

Some fans are mad because the bullpen breakup has weakened the team, but this is a team that has over achieved all year long, they were likely to regress anyway.

If anything, I’m a little disappointed the Giants did not trade Will Smith. For a while the hot rumor was that it was going to take Smith to get Dubon from the Brewers. Instead, Farhan got him for Drew Pomeranz, which is like walking into a Tesla dealership and walking out only 10 grand lighter. Borderline robbery.

I’m not sure what else they could have gotten for Smith, maybe no one was willing to pay the price the Giants were asking, but it feels like a miss to me.

Nonetheless, this has turned out to be a very fun season, even if it is going to end up as a text book mediocre team.

Here are the top three positive developments (followed by a couple of concerns for the future):

  1. The Giants are interesting. They might not be good yet, but I’ll take interesting over the last 2 years any day.
  2. The Giants have promising young players: Logan Webb, Mauricio Dubon, Mike Yastrzemski, and many others are bringing a hope that we haven’t had for a few years.
  3. The Giants have a 20 home run hitter (congrats Kevin Pillar), and could have as many as 4! While that might not seem that impressive, the sign of a good team in 2019-2020 is a team that has several 20 home run players.

Concerns:

  1. The team still has a core of expensive players who have not been very good. In particular Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey, while all useful in their own ways (mainly defense) are no longer worth the money they are being paid. I’m not say these guys are washed up, need to be traded, etc, but it’s an issue. Belt might crack the 20 hr barrier and that’s nice, but he is simply not hitting like a $15 million first basemen. I love Buster Posey with a passion, but he will likely miss double digit home runs for the second straight season, an alarming trend. This is not to mention the money owed to Cueto and Samardzija and Longoria and a possible Bumgarner extension. None of this spells doom, but some of these guys will need to have a career renaissance or be moved on from before things really turn around.
  2. While I appreciate all the moves Farhan has made there is still no Cody Bellinger/Christian Yellich type player in sight. Obviously these guy don’t grow on trees, but for the Giants to truly compete in the present game, they are going to need an impressive middle of the order hitter. Maybe this is Heliot Ramos or Joey Bart, but until the Giants find that guy they are going to be a step behind everyone else.
  3. Which leads us to the final concern. I really hope Logan Webb will be good, but the Giants have yet to find the starting pitchers who will help lead the team into the future. The resurgence of Samardzija is great, the return of Cueto will help, and I’ll be the first in line for a Bumgarner extension. But the team needs to find some cheap, young guys who can help.

Trade Deadline Drama!

Happy Friday Giants’ fans. The team just enjoyed it’s first day off in quite some time, and now gets to play a few games on the road while the front office decides the fate of the roster. Should be an exciting week.

I am about to head out for two weeks of vacation, so I won’t be able to say much about the happenings (whatever they might be ) until well after the fact. So, let’s talk about the crossroads the Giants stand at today.

The great debate in Giants-world on the old-twitter machine has focused on whether the Giants should go for it or not. The thinking goes: why punt on this fantastic turn of events. Stand pat, or even “buy,” and see if this magic translates into a Wild Card Run.

There are nostalgic reasons for this. It’s Bochy’s last season. It might be one last time for Bumgarner and Posey, et al, to get a shot, together, at the World Series. It would be good times!

There are pragmatic reasons. While building for the future is prudent, attendance is way down, the Warriors are moving down the street, football is about to start, and everyone is going to forget about the Giants unless they start winning again.

Finally, there’s the “no-one-knows-what-tomorrow-may-bring” mentality, which argues that no one knows what tomorrow may bring. All you know is you have a shot at 2019. GO FOR IT and figure out 2020 when you get there.

On the other side of this debate is the reality that the Giants are stuck in long-term contract purgatory. They have an aging core that probably is not going to get better in the next few years. Their farm system is improving, but a lot of the talent is in the lower levels and still developing. And finally, the Giants have assets that other teams covet: CASH THAT ISH IN!

I understand and resonate with elements of both sides of this debate, but both sides fail to understand a couple of critical realities about our new Giants Wizard Farhan Zaidi.

Critical Reality Number 1: Farhan cares about one thing only, and that is the constant improvement of the Giants roster and system. This means that on any given day, or week, or season, he is evaluating moves based on that fact.

Now, I know what you are thinking, this is the mission of every executive. Yes, and no. What I am trying to say is Farhan does not think in binary, “do-I-buy-or-sell, categories. He evaluates every move by “do we get better.” Some moves help the Giants gets better now, and some moves help them get better in the long-term.

What this means is: he might keep Bumgarner, he might trade Will Smith for someone who can plug right into the starting rotation/lineup, he might flip Jeff Samardzija for financial flexible, and he might trade Sam Dyson for a prospect.

In other words he might do everything, or nothing, or some combination. And it won’t stop ever.

This is the significant difference from the previous regime. Now, this is not meant to disparage Brian Sabean and co. Dude build a winning team from 1997-2005 around a Super Star, and then built a 3 time champion after that. That is a serious resume.

But it was, in general, a more static approach to roster building. While successful in its time, it doesn’t quite work like that anymore.

Critical Reality Number 2: Because of Farhan’s approach it is entirely the team gets better for the final two months of 2019 and into the future. This will require some shrewd maneuvering, a little luck, and, likely, an unpopular move or two. And it’s also more likely that his moves benefit the 2020 Giants and beyond.

But the bottom line is it is time for Giants’ fans to leave behind static, binary thinking. That’s now how Farhan operates, and if you really want to follow along you’ll have to let that kind of thinking go.