Giants

Farhan Zaidi, Gabe Kapler in full support of Buster Posey's decision

Farhan Zaidi, Gabe Kapler in full support of Buster Posey's decision

The Zoom call that was set up for Buster Posey on Friday morning included dozens of reporters, but also several senior Giants executives, members of the ownership group, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler. A few minutes in, another participant joined.

Zaidi pulled his young son out of his crib and said that, on his first birthday, he wanted to participate. The two then displayed a message for Posey, who had announced a few minutes earlier that he was opting out of the 2020 season to care for twin girls the Poseys are adopting. 

The decision is the right one, and while it puts the Giants in a roster bind two weeks from their opener, Zaidi and Kapler showed 100 percent support for Posey and his decision. This was in part because of the faith Posey has shown in both men over the last two years. 

"We want to congratulate you and your family and say we wholeheartedly support your decision," Zaidi said. "People may not know this, but Buster was incredibly supportive of me in my first season. I had a lot of conversations with him and he made the transition for me a lot easier. I never had a chance to publicly thank him for that, and I want to do that now. I know I speak on behalf of a lot of people in the Giants family when I say I support you and we're really going to miss you."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Posey was the lone player to show up to Kapler's press conference in November, one that got contentious at times, and spoke up in support of the new manager at the time. Kapler brought that up Friday.

"He just is supportive and thoughtful and caring," Kapler said. "It's an absolute honor to be able to return that support and say I think Buster is making an incredible and thoughtful decision for his family and the one that makes the most sense. I'm proud to be on this call listening and supporting today."

Kapler has two children of his own, and both fathers said they were in touch with Posey in recent weeks as he wrestled with the decision. Zaidi praised Posey for keeping the team in the loop, and said he would take any contributions Posey has off the field over the next two months, although the Giants want him to take as much time as he needs to care for his two new daughters and the rest of his family. 

Posey was instrumental this spring in helping Kapler get buy-in from the clubhouse, and he spoke up on a Zoom call last week and urged teammates to take the coronavirus seriously. That set an early tone for the Giants, and no matter how this season goes, there's little doubt they'll welcome Posey back with open arms next season. 

[RELATED: What Posey decision means for Joey Bart]

Posey plans to return in 2021 and help Zaidi and Kapler continue to build. For now, though, he will take care of his family knowing the Giants have his back. 

"I ultimately would still make the same decision no matter whether I had the support or not, but it's certainly nice to have the leaders of the organization back me in my decision," he said. 

Giants return to Oracle Park with more than 10,000 cutouts in stands

Giants return to Oracle Park with more than 10,000 cutouts in stands

Giants closer Trevor Gott lost control of a 96 mph fastball in the ninth inning Tuesday night and watched from the mound as it sailed over catcher Tyler Heineman's glove and hit the backstop. Back in the broadcast booth at Oracle Park, Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper chuckled.

"President Bush didn't even flinch," Krukow cracked. 

The ball hit the net about five feet from cutouts of the late President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara, who were longtime Houston residents. This is what baseball looks like in 2020, a year with no fans. 

The cutout programs have become popular with MLB clubs, and at every stop on the three-city road trip, the Giants saw plenty of them. The Dodgers are filling up their lower deck and outfield bleachers, with cutouts of celebrity Dodger fans getting prime seats behind the plate. The Rockies filled the first three rows behind the plate with cutouts of former Rockies players and creepy mascot Dinger. 

The Astros took an odd and random approach, filling two sections right behind the plate but leaving the second through fifth rows open in an adjacent section that was clearly visible on TV broadcasts. They filled one section down the right-field line, a couple of rows behind the dugout, the Crawford Boxes in left field and two sections right behind the home bullpen. The rest of the park was mostly empty. 

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

It was all a little confusing, especially for players who have plenty of time before and during games to look around. 

"I don't really understand what they're trying to do. They have random sections in the outfield empty and then they have random sections completely full, and then they didn't fill up behind home plate," outfielder Austin Slater said. "And then the Rockies only went with ex-players and they had like 10 or 15 Todd Heltons in there, which was kind of odd. I think the way that we're doing it is probably the best, just fill up as much of the stadium as possible, starting with behind home plate and go from there."

That's what the Giants are doing at Oracle Park, with the help of a fan base that remains passionate even in what so far is another losing season. When the Giants return home tonight, they will see 5,459 additional cutouts that were installed earlier this week, bringing the total to 10,205. 

The lower deck is pretty much completely filled behind the plate and down both lines, with cutouts spilling over into other sections, too. Another round of installations is happening Monday and Tuesday, with the Giants approaching 13,000 cutouts that have been installed or requested thus far.

[RELATED: Battle of Bay takes on extra meaning this year]

It took some getting used to, but players are on board with the program, with both Slater and outfielder Hunter Pence recently saying that they do help when you're standing on the field in an otherwise empty park. 

"Psychologically it does help to have the cardboard cutouts, as many as we do," Pence said. "For whatever reason, just knowing that the fans are excited to see themselves as a foul ball goes that way or whatever is the case, you feel kind of the spirit of the people."

Battle of the Bay has extra meaning for Giants, A's in short season

Battle of the Bay has extra meaning for Giants, A's in short season

Trevor Cahill knows all about the Battle of the Bay. The right-hander was drafted by the A's in 2006, made it to the big leagues three years later, and spent three seasons in Oakland before getting dealt. In 2018 he returned to the A's for 20 more starts, including a solid one in a win over the Giants. 

This time around, Cahill is on the other side of the rivalry. It won't be the same without fans jawing at their Bay Area counterparts, and Cahill, after his Giants debut Wednesday, recalled how intense some of those matchups used to be. 

"When I came up with the A's the Giants series was a big one," he said. "You could feel that excitement because my rookie year we weren't in a playoff race, so that was the matchup every year. Oakland fans always came out. It was exciting."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The first three of six matchups will be played at Oracle Park this weekend, with more than 10,000 cutouts in the stands instead of fans. But in an odd way, the games might be more meaningful than ever. 

Because of the shortened season, the Battle of the Bay makes up 10 percent of each side's schedule, the equivalent of 16 games in a normal year. These matchups will go a long way toward deciding each team's fate, and right now they're headed in different directions. 

The A's enter with the best record in the American League (13-6) and a four-game lead in the AL West. At 8-12, the Giants are last in the NL West after a 3-7 road trip. They need a quick turnaround to keep hope alive of grabbing a spot in the expanded playoffs. 

The Giants are at least set up well from a starting standpoint, with Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb. But they'll face Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea, getting a close-up look at what is perhaps the biggest difference for the two organizations in the coming years. 

The A's built their lineup around the Matts -- Chapman and Olson -- and as good as those two are, the Giants don't have to squint too much to picture a day when perhaps Marco Luciano, Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos and Hunter Bishop can give them a similar homegrown blend. But the starting staffs are wildly different, with the A's boasting a young and super-talented group.

Montas, acquired in a trade with then-Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, is 27 and a Cy Young candidate. Luzardo, 22, is one of the game's most exciting prospects. Manaea is off to a brutal start, but the 28-year-old has a track record of big league success already. Left-hander A.J. Puk, another top prospect, will join the group if he can ever stay healthy.

[RELATED: Slater, Solano's injuries expose Giants' offense in road loss]

The Giants have Webb, 23, locked into their long-term rotation, and he's off to a good start, but Gausman will be a free agent at the end of the year and Cueto at the end of 2021. The rest of their mix consists of Cahill, Tyler Anderson, Drew Smyly and Jeff Samardzija, with the latter two currently on the injured list. There's a decent chance none of those four are around next season. 

The Giants have Sean Hjelle, Seth Corry, Tristan Beck and others on the way, and they drafted Kyle Harrison and Nick Swiney in June, with hopes that both are top-end starters. For now, though, they're piecing the rotation together, often a day at a time. 

It's the biggest difference between the two sides right now, but this weekend it might not matter. Webb has thrown well all year and Gausman and Cueto are coming off their best starts. Gabe Kapler will need all three to step up this weekend because the pitching on the other side looks tough, and the Giants can't afford to give up any more ground.