Did the San Francisco Giants go all out to sign Pablo Sandoval? Is the current squad capable of competing on even ground with Los Angeles and San Diego, even though both of those teams have been radically transformed from last season? Is there a concerted effort on the part of Brian Sabean to monitor and manipulate all transactions based on one premise only: Stay under the Competitive Balance Tax?
These and other questions are bandied about seemingly every day in the comments section below Around the Foghorn posts. No single component of writing about the Giants piques my interest more than the ongoing dialogue being conducted in the comments section, by a group of stalwart Giants fans who manage to cover a broad range sophisticated topics, many of them well out of my ken.
I get to skim along afterwards, like a magnet being dragged along at a construction site after the work is done, glomming on to both the shards of criticism and the pearls of wisdom in the process.
It’s not just that there are “pearls of wisdom” dispensed, but complete dissertations on subjects of which all Giants fans should have a working knowledge. Take that of “redundancy at every position,” for instance, a term introduced by reader Waiting4Godot. Without remotely comprehending its meaning, I initially dismissed it as something negative that could not apply to the Orange and Black.
Doesn’t redundant mean useless or unnecessary?
The Boy Scouts simply say, Be prepared.
It can mean that, but it is also an engineering term which is defined as “the inclusion of that which is not strictly necessary to functioning, in case of failure in other components.” Here is the way Waiting4Godot explained it,
“We [Giants] actually have decent redundancy in the sense of being able to rest players to keep them productive throughout a long season. I don’t think we can easily afford to have Brandon Belt and Angel Pagan out for two months, but Susac can rest Posey who can rest Belt. And Ishikawa can rest Belt, and Joaquin Arias can rest Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Casey McGehee.
Jul 6, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Joe Panik (12) hits an RBI double during the third inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
And Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa can rest the outfield positions, so we can spread the playing time around without losing serious offense for too long. Bochy seems to be a master at platooning positions successfully and preventing players from becoming exhausted and nonproductive.”
Waiting4Godot went on to remind us that even before Belt, Pagan and Cain went down, Marco Scutaro was already lost for the season. Additionally, like many in a similar position when overworked, Buster Posey’s offense tends to dip at stretches and the Giants don’t win. He concluded by adding,
“However, barring the big injury this year, the squad looks balanced enough to rest guys so they don’t get hurt in the first place. And maybe their bats will be fresher in July and August as well if they get some days off. And even a significant injury–if it’s only one–seems more manageable than last year, because how do you bridge the loss of Scutaro, Belt, Pagan, and Cain (and Timmy?) and hope to win? So my thought was that we have a balanced squad with adequate redundancy even if our rotation might need an upgrade somewhere along the line.”
First of all it’s amazing that fans would want to do so in the first place, but to take the time to go into so much detail is vastly surpassing excellent. Second there are many salient points that explain not only how the Giants were able to win last season, but why they are set up again in a similar manner, this season.
What I might do is interject a couple of cautionary disclaimers, that in no way detract from what Waiting4Godot has written. If that one injury were to be to either Posey or Madison Bumgarner, then all bets are off. Second, all teams place emphasis on having backups for position players, so that is nothing new. Finally, we are only talking about the lineup, not the rotation.
What the Giants practice under Bochy’s management, is an unselfish approach to a team sport often categorized as being individual in nature. Giants players check their egos at the door and that makes the whole concept of “redundancy at every position” possible in the first place.
What could happen, were Bochy to feel it were applicable, is that four or even five outfielders, if Ishikawa’s name is in the mix, could be rotated through center and left fields, and that a similar arrangement could be incorporated between four players splitting catcher and first base, so that regulars who need rest, get it, and players who need to stay sharp, have that opportunity.
I left Hunter Pence out of the equation because this is not an issue of ego; this is merely good policy. Pence is such a driving force that Bochy is more than happy to accommodate his right fielder’s desire to play every inning of every game. Who could argue with that?
In Los Angeles last season, there was an abundance of talent and help in the outfield, and yet there was weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, and an early departure from the Show. The Giants managed to overcome adversity and achieve yet a third title in five years.
Injuries, inconsistency and personal problems are always going to abound over 162 games. How teams respond to these issues not only says much about the character of a club, it often determines the level of success attainable. No one can dispute the Giants’ ability to accomplish incredible things with a balance of talent, perseverance and cohesive camaraderie.
Top that off with a substantial quantity of positional redundancy and it’s a wrap.