Dalton Johnson

The Giants forever changed 25 years ago


The Giants forever changed 25 years ago

The parades, the World Series trophies, the talk of a modern-day dynasty with three championships in five years all came after. And yet, everything changed years before any of it came to be. 

Enter Dec. 8, 1992. San Francisco became Giant 25 years ago today. 

"This agreement will make Barry Bonds the best-paid player in the game," Peter Magowan, who would soon take sole possession of the team in January, said. "It is a lot of money, but there is only one Barry Bonds."

Magowan, then a Safeway CEO, and Larry Baer, who worked at CBS Television at the time, were the Giants' saviors keeping the team in San Francisco instead of moving to Tampa Bay. Their next step was crowning a king of the city, beginning a new era.

No team needed a player like Bonds more than his hometown Giants. The team was coming off a 90-loss season in 1992. Their roster fielded nine players who found time in the outfield, combining for 38 home runs. By himself, Bonds hit 34 home runs in '92 with the Pirates, winning his second National League MVP. 

It seemed like the perfect story. Bonds grew up with the Giants, his dad Bobby played seven seasons in San Francisco and Barry idolized his godfather Willie Mays (he wore No. 24 to honor the all-time great).

But even after he agreed to his record deal with the Giants, it almost never happened. 

Bonds was set sign with the Giants two days earlier at the winter meetings on Dec. 6, but current club owner at the time, Bob Lurie, refused to give him the deal. 

"You have to have control of the team to sign a ballplayer," Lurie reportedly said of Baer and Magowan. "And they don't have a team. We do not want Barry Bonds to be a San Francisco Giant at that price."

The price set the record for the largest contract in baseball history when Bonds officially put pen to paper. Bonds' six-year, $43.75 million deal beat Cal Ripken's record for total guaranteed money by more than $11 million, and his nearly $7.3 million per year edged out Ryne Sandberg's record at the time. Baer and Magowan came to an agreement with Lurie that if the purchase of the team somehow hit a snag, Lurie would not have to assume Bonds' contract and the team's newest star could essentially wind up with someone else. 

Once the team's sale became official, Bonds’ reunion with the Bay was back on. The Giants had their next Mays and were willing to take an unprecedented step that was in some ways even bigger than Bonds' record contract. The Giants received permission from Mays, allowing Bonds to continue wearing his No. 24, even though the Hall of Fame center fielder's jersey had been retired by the Giants for years. 

"It's like a boyhood dream that comes true for me. For a kid to have the opportunity to fulfill a dream of an idol," Bonds said at his news conference as he struggled holding back tears. "I was born on July 24, 1964, and I always thought that the Lord God brought you in this world and that day should be your favorite number. To have that opportunity for a great hero and to keep his name alive is an honor for me, and I want to thank the San Francisco Giants organization for talking to Willie for me and for giving me this opportunity. And especially to Willie for allowing this to happen."

However, after a public outcry, the Giants announced days later that Bonds would wear No. 25, which his father donned with the Giants. 

"With this one move, we feel we have transformed the team on the field and sent a clear message to the Northern California baseball community that the new ownership group is committed to this franchise," Magowan said when he signed Bonds.

Bonds' first season in San Francisco was his best yet to date. In 1993, Bonds set career highs across the board in games played (159), runs (129), hits (181), doubles (38), home runs (46), RBI (123), batting average (.336), on-base percentage (.458), slugging percentage (.677), OPS (1.136), OPS+ (206), total bases (365), and bWAR (9.9). He won his second straight NL MVP, and fourth straight Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards, moving the future of the Giants forward with each waggle of his bat. 

Not only did Bonds put up staggering numbers in his first season with the Giants, the results trickled throughout the entire roster. The Giants improved by 31 games, from 72-90 to 103-59, but still failed to make the playoffs in the last year before the wild card was implemented. The Braves (104-58) won the NL West by one game. 

After the Giants only saw 1,560,998 fans come to Candlestick Park in '92, fourth worst in the majors, fans flocked to the park with Bonds in the Orange and Black. The Giants' home attendance rose to 2,606,354 in Bonds' first season, placing them 10th overall. 

The '93 season was the beginning of a 15-year marriage between Bonds and the Giants -- he hit 586 home runs and won four more MVP awards after his two with the Pirates. The Giants went 1,253-1,110 (.530), won the NL West three times and won the 2002 NL pennant. 

Magowan and Baer made a splash to start their tenure in San Francisco by signing Bonds to his record-breaking deal. The team missed out on Bonds when they failed to sign him out of Serra High School in the second round on the 1982 MLB Draft. Strike two came when they chose Will Clark over Bonds in the 1985 draft, four slots ahead of where the Pirates selected Bonds. 

The new regime refused to strike out.

How seven Giants prospects performed in the 2017 Arizona Fall League


How seven Giants prospects performed in the 2017 Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League came to an end for seven Giants prospects on Thursday as the Scottsdale Scorpions (12-17-1) came up short from playing in Saturday's championship game. 

Let's take a look at how these seven names fared against some of the top young talent in all of baseball. 

The Hitters

As the Giants are linked to trade targets in center field like Billy Hamilton and Jackie Bradley Jr., a young in-house option only helped his case in the desert.

Steven Duggar likely would have seen the AT&T outfield this season, but his season was hindered by injuries, keeping him to only 44 games between three levels. With the Scorpions, Duggar took advantage of his opportunity with more at-bats. 

Duggar left Arizona with a .263/.367/.421 slash line over 20 games. The speedy lefty also stole nine bases and hit three home runs. Even if the Giants go for an experienced glove in center field this offseason and keep Duggar, the 24-year-old has also played 135 games in right field during his minor league career. 

For the second straight year, the Giants sent catcher Aramis Garcia to the AFL. And he's sure to be coming home much happier this go around with an up-and-down campaign.

Splitting time behind the plate with three other catchers, Garcia appeared in 13 games and slashed .259/.293/.333 and hit one home run. Garcia struggled to get one base with only one walk to 10 strikeouts, but showed his natural ability to drive runs in with 10 RBI. 

Rounding out the Giants' trio of bats they sent to Arizona is arguably their top prospect, but his time in the AFL was cut short. Chris Shaw only played in five games and hit .158. He dealt with a sore shoulder.

The Pitchers

The Giants sent two starting pitchers (Tyler Beede and Joan Gregorio) and two relievers (Tyler Cyr and D.J. Snelten) to the AFL. 

Pitching for the first time in nearly three months, Beede showed exactly why he's the Giants' top pitching prospect. Beede went 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in four starts, but his final three show the potential he's full of -- 14 innings pitched, three earned runs, a 1.93 ERA, 10 strikeouts and only one walk. 

Gregorio, who was suspended this season for Performance Enhancing Drugs, pitched in eight games (three starts) for Scottsdale. He left with a 1-0 record and 5.87 ERA. In Triple-A, Gregorio went 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA this year over 13 starts. The 25-year-old presents an interesting arm that can help sooner than later in the bullpen. 

Cyr's stats don't look pretty (0-1, 5.63 ERA, 8 IP), but he's catching some attention. The right-hander was named to the Fall Stars Game and is most likely to start 2018 in Triple-A after converting 18 saves at Double-A in 2017. 

Snelten, a 6-foot-7 lefty, impressed in eight appearances out of the bullpen. He didn't allow an earned run until his final outing of the fall, bringing his ERA from a perfect 0.00 to 2.25 in 12 innings pitched.

After combining for a 2.20 ERA to go with an 8-1 record between Double-A and Triple-A in 2017, Snelten is a name to know as the Giants look to find more lefties for their bullpen.

Healthy Tyler Beede shows why he's Giants' top pitching prospect


Healthy Tyler Beede shows why he's Giants' top pitching prospect

Tyler Beede had one goal in mind when he found out he would pitch in the Arizona Fall League: stay healthy. 

"That will be my big goal for the Fall League," Beede told NBC Sports Bay Area on staying healthy back in late August. 

Beede's season in Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats was cut short due to a groin injury. He stepped back on the mound in the AFL on Oct. 25 for the first time since July 19. Coming out of the gates, Beede showed rust in his debut as he allowed five earned runs and walked three in two innings pitched. 

Then, Beede found his groove and ended on a high note with his final start on Tuesday. The Giants' top pitching prospect went five innings and allowed two earned runs with no walks and one strikeout in a no decision. Beede also rolled seven ground-ball outs and threw 44 of his 71 pitches for strikes (62 percent). 

"I was hoping to be able to pitch in the Fall League, because my thought was I was missing so much time at the end of the season I would have to make it up somehow, some way, and I wanted to so I could keep my arm in a strong position to potentially pitch more innings next year," Beede said in the same previous interview.

He did exactly that with 16 innings in the desert. Beede's shortened 2017 campaign ended at 109 innings, his lowest since the six games he pitched in after the 2014 MLB Draft. 

"It's not so much about statistics out here as it is a matter of getting more innings," Beede said Tuesday to MLB.com. "I'm feeling comfortable with where I finished up, which is exciting, for sure."

In Beede's final three starts, he pitched 14 innings and allowed three earned runs -- good for a 1.93 ERA -- and struck out 10 batters to only one walk. Take away that first start coming off injury and both Beede and the Giants have plenty of reasons to be excited about statistics too.