Giants

Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt

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Giants must forget the past, focus on Bochy's magic 2013 shirt

The eleventh celebration of the decade for the San Francisco Giants was surprisingly long in duration and exuberant by volume of alcohol dripping off the ceiling and trod into the clubhouse carpet. They did not act, to be sure, “like they’d been there before.”

But all history starts with the immediate, and given the circumstances, they could be forgiven for thinking that this wild-card berth felt a lot like any of their World Series.

That’s the beauty of exhaustion fueled by relief, though. Life in the minefield doesn’t seem so bad the moment you’re on the other side of danger, safe and with all your limbs where they started.

Of course, choosing to forget about the minefield immediately is another way to do it.

While the Giants players, coaches, executives and staff and ancillary family members all celebrated the Giants’ return to the postseason, proudly wore the latest MLB wear-this-under-pain-of-death giveaway, an industrial strength gray T-shirt that said “BACK TO OCTOBER,” Bruce Bochy sat in his office wearing a weary smile and his own beer-sozzled shirt -- one that proudly read “2013 SPRING TRAINING” in red and gold letters that looked like he’d bought it at an Iowa State rummage sale.

“I wore it the other day against Colorado,” he said almost sheepishly as he basked in the mutant-green glow of Sunday’s 7-1 win over the Los Angeles Scullys, and the upcoming Wednesday do-or-golf play-in game in New York. “And I’ve been wearing it ever since.”

Hey, anyone can wear a new freebie, but only the most skilled people in closest contact with the occult can feel the magic in an old, generic, off-brand freebie from the bottom of the locker.

Bochy had watched Matt Moore make his job easy Sunday, just as he had watched Ty Blach do the same thing a day ago, and Madison Bumgarner the day before that, and Johnny Cueto the day before that. He watched hit follow hit as a belated and refreshing change, and nine multiple-run innings in the last 32, after 10 in the previous 90. He watched Sergio Romo bolt down a seemingly rusted-out bullpen.

He watched, frankly, 2012 compressed into four desperate days. And he remembered how it felt to be the master of his surroundings again.

“It’s hard to think of what the hardest one was,” he said when asked if making the play-in game Wednesday against the Mets was the toughest hill his platoon has had to climb. “But all the fighting we had to do to survive, all the struggles, knowing we couldn’t afford to lose any of these games . . . I guess they just needed to feel their backs against the wall.”

No, the Giants didn’t save their best for last in sweeping the Dodgers during Vin-A-Palooza. They actually used their best in the first 90 games of the season, and all the math shows it. These last four wins (including the last game against Colorado) were, in fact, their first and only four-game win streak of the second half.

You know who had more? Every other team, save San Diego and Miami.

On the other hand, they failed to become the first team ever to have the best record before the All-Star Break and the worst after it – they passed Minnesota, Philadelphia and the Padres in the last week. So they blew that narrative, too.

Which brings us to the resident sage, Grandmaster Sabes. The general manager emeritus, Brian Sabean, stood in the hallway, away from the damp and musty madness, and looked at the season as he had never had the luxury to do before – from afar.

“You know what people don’t get?” he said, priming exactly the kind of rhetorical question he used to loathe when they were being asked of him. “They don’t get the power of the grind, and how hard it gets. They don’t get how the longer you’re in it, a season is actually one long game, that yesterday’s game affects today’s game and today’s game affects tomorrow’s game. It’s like life. Eventually, the past doesn’t matter.”

Especially when the past was as bad as the last two months.

“It was kind of weird the way we could never get any traction in the second half until right at the end,” catcher Buster Posey said. “We’d win a big one, and the next day we couldn’t do a thing. We’d win a couple but we couldn’t get the third one to build off.

“That’s why this is different than two years ago (when the Giants had to go to Pittsburgh to beat the Pirates in a play-in game behind Bumgarner). That time, we knew we were pretty much in it for the last week. This time, it came down to the end, and so that was different. I guess we’ll see if that was better or worse.”

Actually, it can’t be better than winning it all, but it could tie, which the Giants would cheerfully take.

Mostly, though, we will now see if the Giants can ignore the first half, which was full of false positives, the second half, which was full of frightening negatives, and even the last four games, when they did everything they wanted to do whenever they wanted. They even have to forget 2010, 2012 and 2014, because history doesn’t get them past Noah Syndergaard or the Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals or the Fightin’ Scullys of whatever the American League tosses out in the World Series. Only the actual baseball does that.

They need, in short, to forget all of the past – except, of course, the improbable spring training of 2013, when nothing much happened of note except that elves, pixies and sprites combined to make one magic t-shirt and threw it in Bruce Bochy’s travel bag – perhaps for just this eventuality.

Offseason can be tense on other side of Giancarlo Stanton rumors

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USATI

Offseason can be tense on other side of Giancarlo Stanton rumors

SAN FRANCISCO — Just around dinner time on Monday, Tyler Beede got a call he had been waiting for. General manager Bobby Evans informed Beede, the Giants’ top pitching prospect, that he was being added to the 40-man roster, a significant step toward making his big league debut. Earlier that day, however, Beede’s phone brought him some unwanted news. 

Like most Giants fans, Beede woke up to a report out of South Florida that he was one of several names the Giants and Marlins had discussed in Giancarlo Stanton trade talks. For fans or team employees, it would be painful to give up a Beede or a Chris Shaw or a Joe Panik, but images of Stanton taking aim at the Coke bottle at AT&T Park would soon wash away most concerns. 

For players, the reality this time of year is much different. The Giants are the only organization that all of the rumored pieces have ever known. Panik is a New Yorker, but he and his wife have grown to love San Francisco. Beede and Shaw have spent years dreaming of debuting at AT&T Park and playing in front of sellout crowds. That makes the Hot Stove Season a particularly tense time of year. 

“I try to be a guy who doesn’t look those kinds of things up too frequently, but obviously I’m a normal guy, so I tend to dig into it a little bit more and see what’s going on and see what people are saying,” Beede said on this week’s Giants Insider Podcast. “It’s funny. I don't really know how to handle it. It’s my third year going through the trade deadline and trade talk. I’ve just go to keep telling myself it’s a realistic possibility and not to be shocked if anything were to come out or a trade were to be made.”

The rumor mill is nothing new for these players. Panik acknowledged several times during the season that he could be the odd man out. Shaw actually already once thought he got traded to Florida. For a few minutes at the 2016 deadline, Twitter had him as a key piece in the Matt Moore deal. The outfielder came out of a hotel bathroom right after the deadline to see two teammates staring at him in disbelief as Twitter rumors flew. 

Five minutes later, he got a call from Bobby Evans. “You’re still a Giant,” Evans told him. “Don’t take your jersey off.”

“It’s a little tense for sure,” Shaw said earlier this year. “It’s not something you can try to predict. You can have a feeling but that means nothing.”

Evans has always communicated to players and their agents that they can reach out any time they have a question or concern about what they might be hearing, but when it comes to getting on the phone himself, he treats the trade deadline and offseason differently. There’s more urgency to clear the air in July when players might have to take at-bats or throw pitches with rumors weighing on their minds. In the offseason, Evans will wait to reach out until deals are closer to being agreed upon. He tries not to worry as much about “hot stove banter,” he said. 

“In the offseason I think it’s a little less of an issue because a lot of things get thrown out there that don’t have validity,” he said. “We certainly don’t try to respond to every single rumor with an update because there are new rumors every hour, so it’s hard to keep up. A lot more names are mentioned this time of year.”

Players try to find different ways to get away from it all. Every year, several Giants prospects talk of playing golf during the trade deadline to stay away from MLB Network and their phones. For veterans, it’s often easiest to just take offseason vacations, and Panik planned to visit Europe with his wife. 

Beede has a somewhat unique distraction as rumors trickle out. He’s getting married on Saturday, which along with the holiday, has kept him busy all week. Still, he knows the rumors will be out there. 

“After a couple of days I start to just understand that (my) name is going to be in rumors or there may be things that people say or speculate,” he said. “(If) Bobby tells me something, or my agent says something, then I can start to maybe engage in it a little bit more. But as of right now, I’m just trying to go about my preparation and I’ll continue to enjoy being a San Francisco Giant.”

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

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AP

Projection system loves Giancarlo Stanton at AT&T Park

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have made a habit in recent winters of “kicking the tires,” so to speak, on as many free agents as possible. General manager Bobby Evans is committed to being thorough, but at times there is probably no need. 

Hitters have made no secret of the fact that they prefer friendlier confines, and if you’re a power hitter, you’re going to ask Evans for a significantly larger check to play 81 of your games at the harshest power park in the majors. That’s what makes Giancarlo Stanton, readily available via trade, so intriguing. But would Stanton be fully immune to the realities of AT&T Park?

The numbers, at least in a small sample, suggest he would. Stanton has played 27 games in San Francisco and taken 108 at-bats. He has nine homers, 11 doubles and a triple. His .676 slugging percentage at AT&T Park isn’t far off his mark at Coors Field (.714), and his 1.048 OPS is higher than his OPS during the 2017 season, when he hit 59 homers. 

The damage has been done in limited time, but the Giants clearly believe it’s fully sustainable, and a recent study done by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski backs that up. Szymborski ran his ZiPS projection system to estimate Stanton’s stats over the next 10 years for a variety of suitors. The numbers in orange and black are overwhelming. 

The projections have Stanton at 46.2 WAR over the next 10 seasons, including 7.1 in 2018 and 6.8 in 2019, the two seasons the organization should be focused on given Madison Bumgarner’s contract situation. ZiPS projects Stanton at 46 homers next season if he plays for the Giants, followed by 43, 42, 39, 35 over the following four years. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Belt led the Giants in homers each of the last two seasons and he has 35 total during that span. 

Any sort of projection system needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt, especially with a player who has had injury issues in the past. But ZiPS believes Stanton -- who plays in a huge park already -- is a rarity, the kind of power hitter who can keep crushing well into his 30’s and put up huge numbers even if he is limited by the realities of getting older and getting hurt. Szymborski’s projections have Stanton playing just 102 games in 2025, but he’s still projected to hit 23 homers, 20 doubles and post an OPS+ of 121. Even in the 10th year of the projections, ZiPS has Stanton down for 16 homers. 

There are no sure things in this game, but as Evans continues to chase a blockbuster deal, he can be confident that Stanton is one player who should be able to provide power for years to come, no matter what AT&T Park does to hold hitters down.