S.F. would default to a known, losing formula should they sign Giancarlo Stanton.

By Andrew J. Pridgen

The San Francisco Giants claim they drew an almost-capacity 3.3 million to AT&T park last season. Bullshit.

Yes, they may have sold that many tickets to Salesforce c-level blazer-and-jeans seat-fillers, but that, in no way, reflects the actual crowd in attendance.

Every Giants game I tuned into (all four) featured a sea of empty green seats. One game, just for fun, I watched until the bitter, meager final out just to see if the seagulls would circle so they could settle in and take advantage of the free wi-fis. Nope, nothing. Not even the old salty rats of the coastal sky had any interest.

About five seasons ago, the Giants instituted a kind of surge pricing component on their tickets, putting a higher face value on games with teams of import coming to town, which also, perhaps inadvertently, dictated the after-market value—especially during their dynastic run in the first half of this decade. Ahh, let’s pause to remember the early teens: A recovering economy, a surge in young talent entering the workforce, and no Nazis—starting with the commander-in-chief—clogging your social media feed.

Now it’s all in shambles, including the Giants, which last year decided to win just 64 games, a total you’d have to go back to the 1900 New York Giants’ campaign (60-78) to best (worst?)

Point being, by August, the aftermarket was flooded with tickets that had swung dramatically in the opposite direction of face. The average lower box at AT&T for a weeknight, regardless of the opponent, could be had for around $7. Weekends, under $20 could get you 15 rows up behind the dugout.

So the final attendance numbers aren’t really applicable. It’s like when I got a C- in my Western Civ survey course my first quarter of college. I was registered for class, I told my parents I went to class. But the end result spoke more to my empty seat than anything.

I suppose the Giants should make some kind of off-season acquisition to keep the season ticket holders (especially the corporate kind) from jumping off the listing ship.

But they should stay away from the splashy free-agent signing and instead focus on the rebuild. The pitching staff is in shambles with a trio of All-Star caliber arms past their pitching primes with no run support to back them and only crumpled hot dog wrappers coming out of the bullpen. Future HOF’er Buster Posey is no longer as fresh-faced as he looks; he’s heading into his 10th season behind the dish, and though he’s only 30, his real baseball age puts him around the time Johnny Bench started tagging everything with Krylon.

Ordinarily affable supporting cast members like Brandon Belt, Hunter Pence, Denard Span and Brandon Crawford, might be better off taking their skill sets and mentor tendencies to clubs in the hunt. Manager Bruce Bochy, fresh off a pair of “minor” heart surgeries (is there such a thing?) during consecutive seasons has not had a breather as a skipper since Bill Clinton’s first term.

It’s a team beyond the verge of burnout and running on fumes into their second-straight season of collapse.

In the early ‘90s, the Giants’ current ownership group saved the team from moving to St. Petersburg by taking a huge gamble by promising a privately funded shorefront stadium then backed it up by signing favorite son Barry Bonds in what in 1992 was the biggest contract ($43 million) ever.

The gamble paid off, mostly. Bonds brought a winning flavor, the ballpark was coined a gem because that’s what you call new ballparks and the right field fence was close enough to the ever-rising waterline that Bonds himself christened the waters of the Bay with ball after ball.

It was an exciting moment for the ball club and for the Bay Area writ large. No longer were the 49ers the team of record, no longer were the Giants affable also-rans. It all came to a head in the fall of 2002, when this same moribund organization came seven outs and one managerial misstep from hoisting the Commissioner’s’ Trophy.

The Bondsean Giants era never returned to October prominence after that, and the park which had been tailored to the greatest hitter of his generation, if not all time, was outed shortly thereafter as a pitchers’ safe haven.

So the Giants adjusted accordingly and started to draft young, live arms. Out of that crop came Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The prior two are now retired, some would argue years before their time due to massive production numbers in their early- mid-twenties. Bumgarner, after an injury-plagued 2017 season, is entering into a giant contract campaign. Likely, the Giants will not have the desire to lock him up for his second (third?) act. Whether he sticks it out for the duration, Bumgarner will, like most esteemed Giants’ alum, have a safe gig with the club when he retires.

Since Bonds was forced into retirement a decade ago, the Giants have rolled through two dozen left fielders, never finding one who could quite stack up. It’s like breaking up with someone, imagining the promises of a new day, and then realizing after hundreds of failed Tinder attempts, that you actually had something special.

The itch from the fans and the front office is to once more get an imposing presence at the plate and someone who can trot out to left and stand there with swagger, smiling at fans, hands on hips, ready to be adored. Stanton seems to foot that bill and then some. But it’d be a sign of a team merely chasing, not trying to contend.

Mistakes are OK the first time: Dating the wrong person, buying a classic car to restore, quitting a good job for the one that “pays more/with more opportunity” and ordering bottle service in the Vegas club (it’s always Grey Goose) while wearing your shiny shirt. You live, you learn, you grow to know better. And hopefully, you don’t repeat it.

…Which is why the Giants’ flirtation with Stanton is so confounding. Right now, the reigning NL MVP (remember: Bonds was Stanton’s hitting coach in 2015 and they’re friends/cohorts. Bonds is now back with the Giants as a hitting consultant) would make a literal splash in San Francisco, though it would cost the Giants the only remaining young talent they possess including second baseman Joe Panik, top outfielder prospect Chris Shaw and pitcher Tyler Beede, the latter are the second-, and third-ranked prospects in San Francisco’s system and Shaw especially could be the answer at left (just as Adam Duvall once was before the Giants traded him to the Reds for the rental of Mike Leake—remember him?—in 2015.)

Along with giving up the only real prospects in what has suddenly become an anemic farm (S.F. is currently ranked 26 out of 30 teams), the Giants would commit to paying most of the $250 million left on the Kit Kat savage’s contract—a deal that, like Bonds before him, could preclude the front office from pursuing other top-line talent for most of the next decade.

Stanton’s preferred destination is Los Angeles. The Dodgers have a surfeit of young, Latino prospects who would play well literally and figuratively in South Florida and GM Farhan Zaidi has the intellectual and actual capital to pull off the trade. If the Giants are simply in the Stanton sweepstakes to prevent yet another top-shelf talent from appearing on the opposite side of the scorecard, well, that’s something. The Dodgers are already a club in full and Stanton would likely add to the chemistry. In L.A., he’s the new Ferrari in their garage full of Porsches. The Giants, on the other hand, are baseball’s version of a Craigslist room to share and have already learned that relying on one man doesn’t bring championships.

…Blowing it up and being patient will.

 

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