SAN FRANCISCO -- How do you turn a $170 million team full of guys with multiple rings into an underdog? Turns out it's pretty easy. You just have to fall really, really far behind in the standings.
Nobody saw this coming from the Giants, who have won 12 of 14 to sneak back into the thick of the Wild Card race just a few weeks after it was reasonable to start scouting the top of the 2020 draft. The turn was sudden, and the clubhouse is certainly enjoying it.
"It's a lot of fun when everybody is writing you off," catcher Stephen Vogt said after Wednesday's sweep-clinching win. "It's a lot of fun when you're the underdog. I think we have a really good team here and we're showing it."
There remain some questions about how sustainable this is but that's not the biggest issue facing the Giants right now. Farhan Zaidi has been waiting for this trade deadline sale since he got the job, and he all of a sudden finds himself faced with difficult questions. Can he really break up the bullpen and trade Madison Bumgarner when the team has a shot to make the postseason?
Only Zaidi knows the true answer. As fans wait, players do, too. They're well aware of the possibilities and players have quietly been discussing Zaidi's choice for a couple of weeks. They're trying to prove that they're worth a real shot in August and September.
"With the value that's been put on prospects and young guys these days, a lot of times these front offices aren't looking to sell, you know, but they're definitely leaning towards that side of things, is what it seems like," starter Jeff Samardzija said. "When you go out, the coaches, the front office, they're all watching the games. Win or lose they're paying attention to how it's going and how you're playing. When you go out and play like the way we have -- even in our losses we've been right there and been close -- I think that says a lot.
"They definitely see that. They're smart. They understand how (the team is playing) right now. I don't know what (the front office's) plan is, but if we keep going and doing what we're supposed to as a team, I think it'll be pretty interesting come a month or two."
The expectation throughout much of the organization is that this will still be a sale of some sort, with a balancing act after the July 31 deadline. The Giants may trade from their bullpen to bolster a needy farm system, then add reinforcements from a surprisingly strong Triple-A roster. They could deal Bumgarner and turn that spot over to Dereck Rodriguez, or try to find a cheap alternative from a team that's selling everything that's not nailed down.
The odds are low, even with this winning streak, that the Giants will be intact on August 1, and players know it. But maybe that doesn't really matter. It's a confident group, one that won't throw in the towel if the deadline goes as we all expected all along.
"I don't think we ever had a doubt about the talent we had in the clubhouse," shortstop Brandon Crawford said, "And that we could win some games and surprise people and get to the postseason."