Giants

Giants fan first knew about Bryce Harper meeting with team in free agency

Giants fan first knew about Bryce Harper meeting with team in free agency

SAN FRANCISCO — Giants fans have been waiting all winter for news that team executives had finally set up a meeting with Bryce Harper. Confirmation finally came Wednesday, but a full day earlier, the scoop quietly came from … a Giants fan.

Ronny Cobb, a lifelong Giants fan and former season ticket holder, was the first to connect the Giants and Harper this week, although it took a while for anyone to notice. Word that the Giants were in on Harper came from a reporter in New Jersey at 4:50 a.m. Wednesday morning.

By 8:42 a.m., NBC Sports Bay Area had reported that Harper met with Larry Baer, Farhan Zaidi and Bruce Bochy this week. 

But more than 24 hours earlier, Cobb had figured this out for himself. How?

He ran into Baer late Monday night while strolling through the Bellagio in Las Vegas in search of a late-night snack. 

As Cobb explained it, he took a trip from Sacramento for a weekend vacation. In search of dessert, he saw someone that looked familiar. 

“I think that might be the Giants’ CEO, I’m going to approach him,” Cobb told his friend, Candace. 

Baer started chuckling when Cobb approached and asked, and he shook Cobb’s hand. Baer was wearing a World Series ring, of course. Cobb thanked Baer for all he had done for Giants fans and asked to take a photo. He told Baer that he was able to send his dad to a World Series game, and Baer thanked him for his loyalty to the Giants.

“(He mentioned) how they will be back to prominence soon,” Cobb recalled. 

Cobb knew right away what that might mean. The Super Bowl was over and Baer certainly wasn’t there for the fashion convention that had taken over town. Cobb exchanged “Harper-to-the-Giants?” texts with his friends all day Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning, the rest of the baseball world caught on. 

[RELATED: Bryce Harper's social media posts indicate he loves San Francisco]

Cobb, an East Bay native who has since moved to Sacramento, said this is the second coolest thing to happen to him during his time as a Giants fan, which stretches back to the Candlestick Days. 

“Chasing down Robby Thompson’s car for an autograph after a game has to be up there too,” he said. “My dad nudged me to the front as fans surrounded his car leaving the parking lot. Him waiting to sign my silly roll-up hat stuck with me forever.”

Giants Mailbag: What will starting lineup be vs. Dodgers on Opening Day?

Giants Mailbag: What will starting lineup be vs. Dodgers on Opening Day?

The Giants have had a quiet offseason, and they, unfortunately, chose the wrong day to finally make a bit of news.

On Thursday morning the team announced that left-hander Drew Smyly signed a one-year deal that essentially puts him in the rotation right now, and that two coaches had been added to complete the staff. The addition of Alyssa Nakken was a historic one and should have gotten a lot more attention around the game, but most of the baseball world spent yesterday digging through old videos and photos of Astros players looking for buzzers or wires. 

Here on this corner of the internet, we don't need to do that. The focus is on the Giants, so here's another version of the Friday mailbag, with plenty of good questions from my Instagram followers ... 

What systems are the Giants using to cheat and why isn't it successful? -- wolfmanzack

Thank you, sir, for getting into the good stuff right away. 

The Giants hit 48 homers at home in 2017, the year when most of this stuff allegedly happened. If they were cheating, they were even worse at it than they were at trying to score runs the old fashioned way. There's not much for Giants fans to be excited about these days, but at least you know your team was so bad at Oracle Park that there's no possible way they were cheating? 

Side note: I've spent a lot of time with video replay guys over the years and got to know the previous regime pretty well. It's insane how detailed their camera setup is and how much they're able to look at by clicking a few keys before and during games. MLB shouldn't be all that surprised that the Astros and possibly others started to weaponize the technology. 

Who will be our starting lineup on Opening Day? -- kitkat_kitty

First I'll ask who starts for the Dodgers that day, Walker Buehler or Clayton Kershaw? The outfield will look different against lefties and righties.

Assuming it's Kershaw, I'll go with Cueto, Posey, Belt, Dubon, Crawford, Longoria, Slater, Yastrzemski and An Outfielder To Be Named Later Who Probably Isn't Nicholas Castellanos. 

Will we get a good outfielder? -- conmantheman99

Well, Yaz will probably be in center. Other than that ... 

I know the Giants are still working on some things and they're cautiously optimistic, but short of a surprise strike for Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna, they're going young. They really go want to give one of these internal guys 300 at-bats to see what he can do. The early favorite for that role seems to be Jaylin Davis. 

Why don't the Giants move Posey to first base? -- carlosroman4

Despite the dip in numbers, Posey is still pretty valuable with what he brings defensively and by calling a game. I've never really bought the idea that he would start hitting homers again if he was the first baseman -- it's more than a decade of wear and tear that's taken the power out of his body, and that's not coming back -- and I don't think the Giants do, either. There's not a lot of "Buster to first" talk from this new regime. 

(What's the) reason for adding Nakken to the big league coaching staff? -- j.t._.hollis

In the initial press release, Gabe Kapler said Alyssa Nakken and Mark Hallberg would help promote a winning culture in the clubhouse, but more than anything, this is a support role. There's a lot that goes into day-to-day operations, and the Giants are using some of their vast resources to make sure that there are plenty of helping hands in the clubhouse, the batting cage and on the field. 

Maybe that means Nakken and Hallberg will throw BP or help get the field set up for drills. Maybe they'll be doing advanced scouting one day, or talking to a struggling player. Maybe they'll be hitting grounders to Mauricio Dubon and Brandon Crawford. We'll see how it all shakes out, but it's clear that Kapler wants collaboration and a lot of diverse voices in the room, and he wants that room to be more energetic from the first hour of spring training. 

And honestly, it doesn't really matter what Nakken's ultimate role is. This is a big moment for baseball and should be celebrated. She's more than qualified to be working in a clubhouse and plenty of other women are, too. Someone needed to get the ball rolling. Good for Kapler and the Giants for recognizing that and giving a strong candidate her big break. 

What prospects will we see this year considering a projected 71 win season? -- davidhammondbrownphotography

Projections aside, you'll certainly see Davis early on and possibly Chris Shaw, if you still count them as prospects. I wouldn't be surprised to see Joey Bart by May or June, and I think Sean Hjelle will get a shot in the rotation in the second half. Heliot Ramos is young, but he's on path for a September call-up, at the very least. 

You might also see someone we haven't heard of yet if the Giants are right about Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly and manage to Pomeranz one of those guys elsewhere. 

What's happening with the closer role? -- jacksonirwin

If the season started today, I think Tony Watson would probably pitch the ninth. Shaun Anderson has good stuff and he really seems eager to embrace the ninth inning, so he's probably your best bet right now to lead this team in saves, but experience usually wins out in March.

When Bochy comes back to manage Boston, does he have to give the farewell gifts back? -- rkwagner15

Can we take a moment to acknowledge the unfortunate timing of this scandal? If all of this happened in January of 2021, Bochy would almost certainly be interested in the Astros, Mets and Red Sox and he likely would get one of those jobs. The Astros drafted him, and there isn't a better fit out there for a team that has a loaded roster but desperately needs some stability and leadership. 

But Bochy has always been committed to taking a year off, spending time with his family, recharging his batteries and then seeing how he feels about retirement. He won't come back for any of these jobs in 2020, which makes the timing a bit of a bummer because he really does deserve another shot to manage in the postseason. 

As for the gifts, most of that wine was guzzled on long flights back from losing road trips. In all seriousness, Bochy was well aware of what that farewell tour meant and I think that's part of the reason he didn't want to make a big deal of all this. He knew he might get the itch again and that could be awkward after six months of being showered with love, but opposing teams were eager to honor him, so there wasn't much to be done. 

Will their rotation be stronger this year than last? I think so. -- jesseaflora

Well, they have 207 2/3 Madison Bumgarner innings to fill, but I actually agree with you. A healthy Johnny Cueto should be able to fill that void, and Tyler Beede and Logan Webb should be better than they were as rookies. The bar (last season's work from Drew Pomeranz and Derek Holland) that Gausman, Smyly and Tyler Anderson need to clear isn't all that high. 

The Giants were 13th in the NL with a 4.77 starters' ERA last season. Even without Bumgarner, they should be better than that. 

Farhan said last year that they would act like contenders until they weren't. Same this year? -- abwrites

His main rallying cry last year was actually that the Giants would try to be competitive as deep into the season as possible and win as many games as possible, and he's said the same thing this offseason. 

The Giants are realistic about what they are right now. They know they're not contenders, but they still want to be on the fringes of the race as long as possible and I don't think you'll see many -- if any -- decisions made by Kapler that scream "these dudes are tanking." The roster isn't very good so the team won't be good, but this isn't a race to the No. 1 pick by any means. 

What do you think the Giants record will be next year? -- scottboy_707

They went 77-85 last year, but as mentioned in a previous mailbag, there's no way they're going 13-3 in extra innings again or 38-16 in one-run games. The win total will drop just by regression in those two areas, and the roster also lost Bumgarner, Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt and others. 

At the same time, Kapler isn't going to be nearly as committed to struggling veterans and the Giants are going to use more platoons and openers and other methods to try to find small edges. That will help, and I really do sense that the younger players on the roster are energized by the changes and have a lot to prove. Throw it all together and right now I'd probably put them around 75 wins. 

How can one change the Giants' culture while Posey, Craw, Belt and Longo are there? -- velowhiz

I've written a fair amount about culture and energy this offseason and will continue to do so, but I wouldn't really blame it on any of the core players. Collectively, it got stale in the clubhouse, but all of those individuals are good clubhouse guys who show up and do their work every day. 

The culture is going to change because there's a new manager, a new GM, 12 new coaches and a collection of new players and prospects. Will it be better? We'll see, but it certainly will be different, and the organization certainly needed a jolt. 

[RELATED: Joey Bart named second-best catching prospect]

Niners or Packers? -- kfitz023

Niners, and I don't think it's all that close.

From the 2010, 12 and 14 teams, who do you think will make the Hall of Fame? -- bensalvi23

Love this question, and it's one we'll be talking about a lot as more of these guys retire. Bochy is a lock, but it's going to be complicated for some of his players. 

Posey seems like an easy answer, but he actually only has 1,380 hits and 140 homers. He's won every award you could think of and his career WAR (he's currently at 42.1) should ultimately compare favorably with currently HOF catchers, but I think he needs to do some compiling of raw statistics to swing some voters. Tim Lincecum was a shooting star but falls well short of the current standard for starting pitchers. 

I think Bumgarner will have a shot, because a lot of Hall voters love to reward big-game pitchers, but he has some work to do, too. He only has 119 wins, and while the days of 300-game winners or even 200-game winners are probably gone, he could use another 40-50 on the resume and a couple more All-Star appearances. Those things matter when a lot of older voters fill out their ballots, and Bumgarner and Posey will need to add some late-career stats to those early accomplishments. As much as they mean to the Bay Area, most of the voters are from other regions and won't be swayed by nostalgia when they get their ballots and start digging into the final stats these guys put up. 

Does the Pillar move symbolize a full-time starting role for Duggar? -- jackson._.dann

I haven't sensed that Duggar is at the top of the chart in center field, in part because the Giants just aren't sure if he can stay healthy. He's their best defensive center fielder, but he has a lot of work to do at the plate and the Giants want to see him get much better on the bases. Duggar is only 26, so there's no reason why he can't break out this season, but right now he's not headed for a full-time role. 

[RELATED: Giants' Bart named baseball's second-best catching prospect]

Which stadium other than Oracle has the best food! -- matt_twenty1

We talking press box or full stadium? Most of any beat writer's meals during the season take place in the media dining room and Oracle probably falls somewhere near the middle of the pack (there are a lot of nights where the main course is a suspicious-looking kind of fish). 

I think Philadelphia has the best press box food in the NL and it's easy to find a cheesesteak if you wander into the concourse, so they're near the top for me. The Padres have some really good concession stands and the Diamondbacks are better than you'd expect (in the NL West, the Rockies food is boring and Dodger Stadium's selections suck). 

The team that stands out though is the Mets. There's Shake Shack, obviously, and that gives them a huge edge. There's also a Fuku chicken stand for good spicy chicken sandwiches, and the general concession stands have the best chicken tenders in the league. The Mets are perennially a mess, but at least they got their tenders right. 

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Giants add Alyssa Nakken to Gabe Kapler's 13-person coaching staff

Gabe Kapler spent most of his first month with the Giants interviewing candidates for his ideal coaching staff.

When the final pieces were put into place Thursday afternoon, it became even more clear that the Giants are going with a group that's unlike anything the game has seen before. 

The organization announced that Mark Hallberg and Alyssa Nakken are joining Kapler's staff as Major League Assistant Coaches, giving the Giants 13 coaches in all, including Nakken, who is the first woman to hold a coaching position on a big-league staff. In a statement, Kapler said Hallberg and Nakken will "focus their talents on helping to build a winning culture in the clubhouse."

"In every organization, environment affects performance, and baseball clubhouses are no different," Kapler said. "That's why in addition to assisting the rest of the coaching staff on the field, Mark and Alyssa will focus on fostering a clubhouse culture that promotes high performance through, among other attributes, a deep sense of collaboration and team."

Long before Kapler arrived, Giants officials had grown concerned about the energy in a clubhouse that has suffered through three straight losing seasons. The Giants plan to make that a focus in spring training, and they're using their resources toward that end. You are only allowed to have seven uniformed coaches in the dugout, but there is no limit on how many you can pay in general, or how many can work with players between games.

The two new hires give the Giants 12 big league coaches who were not on Bruce Bochy's staff. The lone holdover is Ron Wotus, who will remain as third-base coach. 

Nakken played softball at Sacramento State, worked at USF, and got degrees from both schools. She joined the Giants as an intern in 2014 and has done work related to the amateur draft and player development. 

[RELATED: Richardson, Ortiz join Gabe Kapler's staff]

Hallberg was the manager in Salem-Keizer in 2019 and was their fundamentals coach in 2018. He played his college ball at Florida State with Buster Posey and was a ninth-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2007. The 34-year-old played in the minors for five seasons before becoming a coach in the Cape Cod League.