Giants

Bullpen blows Belt's two-homer game in Giants' loss to Padres

Bullpen blows Belt's two-homer game in Giants' loss to Padres

SAN DIEGO — The thing about Madison Bumgarner leading the team in home runs is that Madison Bumgarner will let you know that he leads the team in home runs. 

“That was my main objective today,” Brandon Belt said. “Passing him.”

Belt did, hitting his first career grand slam and a solo shot two innings later. He’s tied for the major league lead with three homers, and when Bumgarner walked up in the clubhouse late Friday night, two overflowing bags of definitely-not-store-bought jerky in his hands, Belt pointed out that the tables had turned. 

“That’s okay,” Bumgarner said slowly. “I play tomorrow.”

The moment was a reminder of how much has gone right for the Giants this week. Bumgarner was outstanding on Sunday and Belt looks poised for a career year. Others up and down the roster have gotten off to hot starts or contributed with big moments. 

But the only number that matters thus far is eight. It’s the number of leads the pitching staff has blown, and it’s led to a 1-4 start. On Friday, Belt’s slam got Matt Cain off the hook. George Kontos, who had thrown better than any reliever over the past two weeks, gave it right back. The Giants fell 7-6 to the rebuilding Padres. 

“We were going to have a 1-4 stretch at some point,” Belt said. “It just happened to happen early.”

There’s much more than a grain of truth in that. Every team has a run like this, but this team — coming off a second half and postseason of blown leads — would have preferred any other start to the season. It’s not so much that the Giants are blowing leads. It’s that it seems contagious. Kontos entered having struck out nine of the previous 10 batters he had faced. He got through the heart of a dangerous Diamondbacks lineup on Tuesday, earning a look in the seventh inning Friday. It went off the rails quickly. 

Travis Jankowski walked and Wil Myers hit a single up the middle. Yangervis Solarte got a cutter that wasn’t far enough in on his hands, and he blasted it to right-center. The Padres had the lead, and they would tack on an insurance run that became important when Belt blasted his third homer of the year to dead center. 

“I felt fine,” Kontos said. “I just didn’t do a good job of executing pitches.”

It seems there’s no right answer for Bruce Bochy at the moment, but he hid any displeasure, saying this in a bullpen in transition, and roles will become clear. 

“It’s early. It’s the first week,” Bochy said. “We’ll get it figured out and they’ll settle into roles they’re comfortable in. This is a process. Ideally, you have it set up. We like to think we do. But this was a hiccup. George left a lot of pitches up and they took advantage.”

Cain did the same, giving up four runs in 4 1/3, including two homers to young center fielder Manny Margo. Again, execution mistakes, the theme of the young season. 

“I wasn’t as sharp as I need to be,” Cain said. 

Cain fell behind early to young right-hander Luis Perdomo, who fired 96 mph sinkers at the knees for five innings. In the sixth, he loaded the bases ahead of Belt. A slider hung at the knees and Belt crushed it. 

“My goal right now is not to guess,” Belt said. “I just want to see the ball. I feel if I can do that, my hands will go. That’s what I did there.”

It was an impressive swing, one that brought Bumgarner sauntering over an hour after the final out. Given the early schedule, the ace should have been preparing to put an exclamation point on a hot start. Instead, they're hoping he can salvage the week. 

Giants' Evan Longoria expresses displeasure with slow MLB free agency

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USATSI

Giants' Evan Longoria expresses displeasure with slow MLB free agency

Despite playing 11 years of Major League Baseball, Giants third baseman Evan Longoria has never gone through free agency. He signed a six-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008, and then a 10-year extension with the club in 2012.

What he's witnessing this offseason, it's safe to say he isn't looking forward to the day he has to partake in the process.

Longoria took to Instagram to share his displeasure, writing the following: 

We are less then a month from the start of spring and once again some of our games biggest starts remain unsigned. Such a shame. It’s seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team. And as players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again.

What Longoria is arguing is a lot of common sense that baseball fans need to understand. Let's look at the following point: "As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? It’s not your money, it’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of. Bottom line, fans should want the best players and product on the field for their team." 

He's not wrong. 

The money either goes to players, making them millionaires, or owners, making them billionaires. Who are we watching on the field? It's quite simple. 

Sure, it might be fun to play armchair GM, but fans should want the best and most entertaining product on the field. We can understand why teams rebuild, but that doesn't mean we have to get to this point. Every team can afford a Bryce Harper or a Manny Machado.

The best game is the most competitive game, and that's what players want. Fans should be nodding their head in agreement. 

What's most interesting from Longoria is the fact that he's calling out the system and calling for players to fight back. The Collective Bargaining Agreement ends at the end of the 2021 season. If anger increases from players, negotiations could get quite awkward. 

Joey Bart named Giants' best defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline

Joey Bart named Giants' best defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline

Giants top prospect Joey Bart is known for his bat. The No. 2 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft hit 13 home runs in his first 51 minor league games, which is only three behind Evan Longoria's team lead on the big-league club. 

Don't forget about his defense though. Bart, the top catching prospect in baseball, has also been named the Giants' top defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline of MLB.com.

He has improved markedly since high school, when scouts wondered if he could stay at catcher, enhancing his agility and receiving and improving the accuracy of his strong arm.

The fact that scouts once questioned Bart's future at the position and now his defense is being praised, as it pertains to the Giants' farm system, says a lot. On the 20/80 scouting scale, MLB Pipeline rates Bart's defense as a 55 and his arm as a 60. 

At Georgia Tech, Bart was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2018. He also called pitches, a task that manager Danny Hall didn't even let two-time Gold Glove winner Matt Wieters do when he was a Yellow Jacket. 

In his final college season, Bart had a .992 fielding percentage and threw out 12 of 21 stolen base attempts. After joining the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (Short-Season Class A), Bart's fielding percentage dropped to .983 after allowing six passed balls and five errors. He did, however, gun down 15 of the 21 runners trying to swipe a bag on him.

Bart's bat will most likely always be ahead of his glove. The fact that he's seen as such a well-rounded prospect, though, is an added bonus to the player the Giants hope can lead them back to the top in the near future.