The inevitable article was posted yesterday, “MLB teams that may face scary scenarios,” by MLB’s lead writer Zachary D Rymer, in which the San Francisco Giants were prominently featured. The author states that the Giants, among others, “haven’t put their best-laid plans into action, forcing us to talk about how screwed they might be.”
Giants fans can now rest assured that someone will once more explain how ridiculous it is to expect that the Orange and Black will compete in 2015. They “lost” Pablo Sandoval, failed to lure Yasmany Tomas, Jon Lester, or Chase Headley into the fold, and are still in need of a left fielder as well as, many believe, a front-line starting pitcher such as James Shields.
It would hardly seem worthwhile for San Francisco to even bother trotting a team out onto the diamond, they are is such sad shape. Said no true Giants fan-ever. There is always a segment which clamors for the earth-shaking move, but most recognize that Brian Sabean’s style is far more low-key.
Begin with the mandate that all championship teams must upgrade rather than rely on the same model that was featured the previous year, despite any success that may have been achieved. Especially considering how extensive the remakes have been on both the LA Dodgers and San Diego Padres, the author makes the point that the Giants will face an even tougher task than that which existed before the retooling began.
What has to be a consideration is the fact that the Giants entered the postseason tied for the worst record in the tournament with the Kansas City Royals at 88 wins, but that they did so over the course of a season riddled with injuries to key personnel. Angel Pagan, defensive captain and offensive catalyst missed 66 games, including the entire postseason.
May 21, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain (18) delivers a pitch during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Brandon Belt missed 101 games, still not at full capacity when the postseason began, and Matt Cain, known as the Horse for his steady track record, was lost for the season in July after accumulating a total of two victories for his 2014 efforts. Add to this list Michael Morse, who suffered an oblique strain on September 2, and saw only minimal action in the National League Championship Series and the World Series as a Designated Hitter and a pinch-hitter off the bench.
By itself the fact that the team gets at least three of these four players back at the start of spring training, with all indications that they will be at full strength, is not enough to tip the scales in favor of calling the process an upgrade.
Whereas Matt Cain and Angel Pagan back full-time do not constitute an upgrade, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
The fact remains that there will be a new slate of injuries that will surface to create havoc in an otherwise sea of tranquility. Says so in the manual.
Signing Jake Peavy was a sound move because of the energy he imparts to his fielders on the diamond and the fact that he is back in the National League and being handled by his first manager in the bigs, Bruce Bochy. Likewise the retaining of team-player Sergio Romo allows the killer bullpen to remain intact, but still does not constitute an “upgrade,” just a maintaining of the successful status quo.
Which brings up Casey McGehee, obtained Friday from the Marlins for Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo, whose job is merely to replace the legendary Pablo Sandoval. Short of putting up Mike Schmidt-like numbers, McGehee faces an uphill climb in any effort to make fans forget the charismatic Panda, but he can create a solid fan base by simply playing good defense, hustling, and making solid contact with his bat.
McGehee does not have to carry the team because that’s not the way the Giants are constructed. The lineup relies on a team approach which emphasizes the basics: being patient at the plate, advancing runners, hitting for contact rather than power, and excelling at two-strike, two-out situations.
If one guy does not get it done, the assumption is that the next guy will. It’s a mind-set which makes it OK to give it your best and fail, because the next guy has your back. This allows players to relax, wait for their pitch, and follow through consistently enough that they glommed onto the term “chemistry” a long time ago.
Brian Sabean is still scouring both leagues and all points beyond to find a more substantial left fielder than Gregor Blanco or Juan Perez, and there is still hope that a front-line pitcher such as James Shiels will still enter the picture.
However, when all is said and done, long-time Giants fans who have watched the Orange and Black under Bruce Bochy, remain more confidant than those who “talk about how screwed they might be.” There is more to upgrading a team than swapping eight or ten players for an equal number of like candidates to improve one’s team.
There is the ultimate commitment on the part of those players who have joined together, to take what resources they have, and get it done. The richest payroll in baseball has had nothing on the Giants up until this point because the games are still played on the diamond, and not in the coffers. Paper only goes so far in terms of accountability; it’s what happens on the field that counts.
Three rings in five years makes a pretty bold statement that Brian Sabean is on the right course.