We have breaking news. The San Francisco Giants’ historically catastrophic 98-loss 2017 season wasn’t simply about wins and losses.
And that disastrous 2017 season was also not about the lame fairy tale being promoted by San Francisco’s less than talented front office:
“Hey, the entire 25-man roster just had a random bad luck season. They’ll be back to winning next year!”
Let’s take a look at what actually happened.
Duck and Cover
In 2017 several 300-pound chickens came home to roost at AT&T Park, complete with massive egg-laying and the predictable amount of poop:
> First, the Giants’ record didn’t just get bad in 2017. Over the past three seasons this team has a 235-251 record, a mediocre .484 winning percentage.
And they have gotten progressively worse since 2015. The Giants’ winning percentage over the past two seasons is .466 (151-173)
From the 2016 All Star break through this season, San Francisco has a dismal 94-140 record— dropping down to a .402 winning percentage.
Which dovetails nicely with their 2017 winning percentage of .395.
So why has this been an increasingly floundering franchise for the last three years?
The bottom of the pile 2017 season was the logical final landing place for the Giants after years of neglecting their farm system, after habitually mediocre first year player drafting, and after investing in too many long-term player contracts.
But the most damaging decision San Francisco’s front office made over the last seven years was to create a franchise model that substituted product marketing and player branding for embracing the game’s information revolution and cutting-edge strategies.
Which brings us to 300-pound chicken #2:
> Advanced metrics really took mainstream hold in the early 2000s, when the analytic revolution went into high gear thanks to the Oakland As and Tampa Bay Rays.
Burdened by the diehard “old school” mentality so beloved by Giants’ executive Brian Sabean, San Francisco ignored the analytic revolution but managed to get away with it for several years. Remember those World Series titles?
Instead of going with science, Sabean and current General Manager Bobby Evans have become baseball “flat earthers”, resistant to change and actively hostile to MLB analytics.
While both Evans and Sabean give the appropriate PR lip-service when questioned about advanced analytics, they still believe it’s all about them fancy computers trying to run their game.
San Francisco had two possible roads to take as the calamitous 2017 campaign unfolded. Let’s briefly explore each:
Road #1 – The Smart Play
The Giants front office management and ownership group could have committed to significantly changing their backward front office culture. Hire smart, savvy people to assess and reboot the entire disheveled franchise and bring it into the 21st century.
No half measures, no hanging on to fan favorites, no more running a multi-billion dollar organization via the eye-test and subjective old school hunches.
Remember, a team that won their Division this season, the Washington Nationals, and a team that won an AL Wild Card slot, the New York Yankees, just fired their managers because they felt significant change was needed at the top.
Road #2 – Distract Giants Fans and the Local Media with Shiny Objects, Call it “Change”
Adopt bait and switch tactics, create distractions for the fanbase, pretend this team’s “core” is “solid” (because you still owe so many of them money), and make superficial coaching changes that won’t make any significant difference.
Starting pitcher Matt Moore (174.1 IP, 5.52 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 148 SO, 67 BB) will get 32 starts next year. Sell the fans on RP Sam Dyson (38 IP, 36 hits allowed, 4.03 ERA, 1.42 WHIP) being the pitching find of the year.
Pitching coaches Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner have just been fired (no, wait, they were just reassigned). Hitting coach Hensley Meulens is being promoted to bench coach, and former bench coach Ron Wotus is out (no, wait, he was just demoted to third base coach).
Now, let’s hire some quality replacements…
Everyone Who Wants to Join the Giants, Raise Your Hands!
As we noted in a recent article, Giants Executive Vice President Brian Sabean recently gave an interview where he generously shared his opinion that talented MLB free agent hitters feel it would be foolish to play in San Francisco (because of California’s taxes and a deep outfield).
“…let’s face it,” Sabean noted helpfully, “how many free agents are going to come here? They’re not.”
Now we can add other categories of MLB talent who don’t want anything to do with this former championship franchise.
On October 19, 2017 Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed Red Sox hitting coach Chili Davis, one of the premier batting instructors in the game.
Evans publicly announced San Francisco wanted Davis to be their new hitting coach.
On October 26th Chili Davis signed with the Chicago Cubs.
At about the same time, GM Evans interviewed Tampa Bay pitching coach Jim Hickey. The Giants also let it be known they wanted Hickey to be their new pitching coach.
On October 26th Hickey signed with the Chicago Cubs.
Welcome to the 2018 MLB season
So how will the Giants do in the 57 games they’ll play next season against:
— the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers (already a young and wildly talented team with two or three more players ready to be brought up from LA’s outstanding farm system next season);
— the 87-win Colorado Rockies who were 1st in the National League with 824 RS (SF scored 639), with manager Bud Black who has so far solved the Rockies pitching issues.
The popular assessment is that the San Francisco Giants are merely “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic”. Which isn’t remotely correct, because that would at least look better.
No, the Giants are sitting on those very deck chairs, phoning ahead to book passage on the Hindenburg as soon as the Titanic docks.