First the good news. With a 23-34 record just past the one third point of the 2017 MLB season the San Francisco Giants have apparently moved beyond waiting for the magic to happen.
What’s the “magic”, you ask?
The “magic” is part of the honey-coated kitty litter that ownership and management routinely feed the Giants’ fanbase in lieu of actually building a championship baseball team.
Here how the Giants’ “magic” plan works.
Older, inexpensive players are signed before each season and the fanbase is told those players can still be as good as they were that one season five years ago.
Then all you have to do is wait for the magic to happen.
Another part of the “magic” is re-signing former Giant players (also inexpensive) after they’ve either been out of baseball for a while, or they’ve flamed out with other teams. Giants fans are told how awesome it is to have them back, you know, because they used to be Giants.
Giants broadcasters and the local sports media (fully or partly owned by the Giants) happily hype the hype and pretend these players are valuable right up to the moment in mid-season when they’re released.
But in 2017, the vast amount of magic it would take to make this current Giants team talented and winning is hard to imagine. What, maybe 500 dump truck loads, something like eleventy billion pounds of pure, uncut Colombian magic?
Understand one thing. Real magic does happen in Major League Baseball every day of every baseball season. But it’s not manufactured and sold like garlic fries, or part of a team’s sleazy marketing campaign.
Actual magic is young, super-talented pitchers and hitters reaching their potential and consistently excelling. It’s not watching less-than-talented players accidentally doing something they’re rarely able to do.
Magic is amazing plays on the infield, like Twins slugging third baseman Miguel Sano starting a triple play earlier this week; or watching Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier steal hits in center field night after night.
In the past week, San Francisco has gone through the motions of dropping marginal players (like Justin Ruggiano, .571 OPS) and bringing up some of their “young” rookies from the minors.
Recently called up LF/SS Orlando Calixte, 25, has played in 719 minor league games in the Kansas City Royals and Giants farm systems. In those 2,672 at bats he has put up a .687 OPS.
Also just brought up is OF Austin Slater, 24, who was drafted by the Giants in the 8th round of the 2014 June Amateur Draft. In 300 minor league games Slater has a respectable .813 OPS but hit only 27 home runs.
There are still another three or four players on the Giants’ 25 man roster whose value going forward needs to be reassessed: OF Gorkys Hernandez, 29, has a .484 OPS in 103 at bats this season, and his reputation for excellent defense has not been in evidence; Chris Marrero, 29, who has a .381 OPS in 2017 and a career OPS of .493; and Michael Morse, 35, who is injured and after putting up a .556 OPS in 36 ABs.
The longer the Giants hold on to OF Denard Span, 33, the more he will continue to drag the offense down. Span’s dismal .712 OPS in 143 games last season is being eclipsed by his crushing .299 OBP at the plate in 2017.
Unfortunately San Francisco is paying Span $9m this season, owes him $9m in 2018, and can buy out his contract for $4m in 2019.
The direction of the San Francisco Giants is not clear at this point, but it certainly looks troubling going forward.
This is a team with deep financial commitments to a number of very bad multi-year contracts, and there will be no help coming from their bottom end farm system.
In the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ talented front office will ensure LA’s commitment to excellence. At the same time the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks are under smart, new front office leadership and their success in 2017 is not an accident.
But don’t count the San Francisco Giants out. The positive news is that the Giants have a number of factors in their favor.
First, the San Francisco ownership group actually has more financial resources than the Dodgers and the New York Yankees put together; they just have to use those resources more often and much smarter.
The 2018 and 2019 free agent cycles are both filled with a list of high end pitchers and hitters, so both will be a buyers paradise.
This franchise also has a recent history of success in not only making to the postseason but excelling once they get there. And that counts for something.
Finally, the Giants ownership group and front office can take note of a number of other successful franchises who were also in very bad shape at one time, but began remaking themselves by hiring smart people and allowing those people room to be smart. Which is the first ingredient of real baseball magic.