It’s been eight years since the Giants last hoisted a World Series title, and in the “What have you done for me lately?” world of sports, it’s understandable if fans feel increasingly disconnected from the franchise’s golden era.
Gone are Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, who embraced on the field in Kansas City following Bumgarner’s historic performance. Gone are Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy, the architect and leader of three championship squads. Gone are the others with three rings, including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval and a core four of relievers who played pivotal roles in each title run.
The only remaining links to the Giants’ World Series era are Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, a pair of All-Star-caliber players who have spent much of the 2022 season either injured and off the field or ineffective when on it.
So yes, forgive the fans who question the organization’s direction, curious spending habits or failure to produce a more compelling product. Even after a record-setting 107-win season, criticism of the front office, the manager and key players is more than fair.
Given how the Giants view themselves, criticism is expected.
Following a 4-3 loss to the Diamondbacks on Monday at Oracle Park, the Giants are 43-42 and trail the Phillies and Cardinals by 2.0 games for the third National League wild card spot. It’s hardly an exciting position to be in, especially when the Giants are only nine months removed from dethroning the Dodgers atop the division.
As the Aug. 2 trade deadline approaches, every middling team faces the same question: Buy or sell?
The Giants’ front office, which assembled this middling team, has likely been considering the question for weeks now. Should top executives Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris part with prospects to acquire proven major league talent in hopes of making a memorable second-half run to a playoff berth? Or should they trade top performers such as Carlos Rodón, Joc Pederson and Wilmer Flores with the hope to add younger players who might be key contributors on future postseason squads.
It’s easy to dream up an argument for either approach, but the unfortunate reality is it’s a shame the Giants are among the teams asking the question.
From Sabean and Bochy to Zaidi and current manager Gabe Kapler, plenty has changed. The Giants construct their roster in a different way, they deploy pitchers in a different way, they lean on hard data a lot more and gut feel a little less. But from the old regime to the new, a few things have stayed the same.
At the top of that list is an internal sense that, regardless of who is running the organization or managing the ballclub, the Giants believe they’re one of the premier franchises in Major League Baseball. The Giants see themselves not as the middling team they’ve been for much of the past six years, but as a club that should be a perennial contender for division titles and World Series championships.
Never mind the fact that payroll has shrunk in recent years. That attendance is down. That since the start of the 2017 season, the Giants are 393-400 and have made the playoffs just once.
The Giants would prefer to think of themselves among the game’s elite, even if their track record since winning their last title suggests otherwise.
So, as the All-Star break approaches and the Giants mull the pressing question every team in their position confronts, zoom out, not in. Focus less on individual players and what the Giants can gain or lose through trades, and more on what those at the highest levels of the franchise expect of the team.
When MLB and the Players Association agreed to an expanded playoff field in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it offered certain franchises a bit of a lifeline. Don’t want to spend like the Dodgers and Mets? That’s fine, because a postseason berth is still more attainable than ever before.
The expanded playoff field has also rid teams such as the Giants of the chance to punt a season and go for it next year. A club doesn’t need to be six-to-eight games over .500 at the All-Star break to be a “buyer” at the deadline because, with the new postseason format, one or two smart additions can make all the difference for a mediocre roster.
So here are the Giants, a middle-of-the-road team that is good enough to hang with anyone, but bad enough to lose to everyone, too. In past years, selling might have been the most prudent path, but an organization that wants to believe it ranks among the elite can’t give up, turn around and then ask fans to keep buying tickets.
Buy or sell? It’s too bad we have to ask. If the Giants want to give their fans reason to believe the organization is one of the best in baseball, they’ll never let a chance to make the playoffs slip away.
That’s not what elite organizations do.