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.

Q&A: Damon Minor on Giants' Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, Aramis Garcia

Q&A: Damon Minor on Giants' Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, Aramis Garcia

For the past two seasons — either in Triple-A Sacramento or the Arizona Fall League — Damon Minor has worked with the Giants prospects trio of Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw and Aramis Garcia. In 2018, Minor saw all three of them as the River Cats’ hitting coach before each player made their major league debuts in San Francisco. 

NBC Sports Bay Area recently spoke to Minor, as the former Giants first baseman assessed each hitter’s development at the plate.

NBCS Bay Area: You’ve worked with Steven Duggar the last two years (13 games in 2017, 78 in 2018). He obviously made a big impression on the Giants this past season. What were his biggest improvements the last two years at the plate? 

Minor: I think it was just the adjustments to the leagues. He had to adjust to Triple-A pitching with guys who can command the ball better, and learning the strike zone. Obviously when he went up to the big leagues, it was another challenge for him to learn, and Alonzo [Powell] and Schuey did a good job of honing in on him really knowing the strike zone, and staying in the strike zone.

It was just unfortunate that he got hurt because he was starting to break through with it. 

[RELATED: Why Giants assistant hitting coach sent Steven Duggar film of Nick Markakis]

Ideally, you’d want him as your long-term lead-off hitter. Can he be that guy for the Giants? 

The best thing about Duggar is that I think with his ability, he can lead off, he can go to the 2-hole or 3-hole depending on how hot he gets, he can drop down to hit in front of the pitcher, too. He learned how to hit a little bit in front of the pitcher, so that flexibility that you give a manager, that’s really, really good for him.

Does Chris Shaw have some of the best natural power you’ve seen? 

Yes. He has someone of the best natural power there comes from the left side. I was fortunate enough to play with some guys who had that power. It was good for him to go up and see what the big leagues are about.

Just like Duggar did, he just has to make those adjustments and be more of a hitter to be able to get to his power. I think with time, and as young as he is, he will [make adjustments].

[RELATED: Chris Shaw showed potential, needs more time at Triple-A]

Are there any keys you see to Shaw unlocking that power by becoming more of a pure hitter first? 

First, it comes down to getting at-bats. And then just knowing the strike zone. It’s not really a swing issues. Little tweaks here and there. It’s more timing. If you have time to recognize the pitch more often, you’ll be more consistent and on time and ready. Your swing will take care of itself, and you’ll hone in on the pitches you want to hit.

For someone like Chris Shaw, what’s the toughest part mentally after struggling right away in the majors as a top prospect? 

It happens as a young player. You go up there, and everything’s a little bigger. You got a bigger crowd, it’s the big leagues, and you’ve been striving to get there through the minor leagues. When you do, it is a bigger picture.

You just have to learn how to control the emotions and not let things get overly big for you. For him, he’s a tough kid. He’s from Boston. He’s a hockey player. The best thing about Chris Shaw is that he’s gonna find a way to figure things out. He’s not stubborn, and he’s gonna make changes accordingly to have success in the big leagues.

What was your first impression of Aramis Garcia once he made it to Triple-A? 

I was fortunate enough to work with Aramis in the Fall League when I was there last year. I’ve been seeing him work his way up from Double-A to up here the last couple weeks before he was called up. The main thing with him was not only his bat, but being a catcher and being a guy to handle a pitching staff. I think that was the most impressive thing.

It just so happens he’s a pretty good hitter as far as staying through the field, being able to drive the ball the other way, and he’s learning to pull the ball a little better. He has a really good high ceiling. 

[RELATED: Aramis Garcia flashes power, opens eyes in September]

He looks like someone who could at least a backup in the bigs sooner than later. 

And it took him a little bit of time. He’s a little bit older at 25, turning 26. But that happens with players. He stuck with it, and he’s been more aggressive. You see it as a hitting coach and what he does behind the plate. I’m happy for him. 

Going from Sacramento to AT&T Park, do you think there’s a swing or mental adjustment for players? 

Fortunately, the Sacramento field actually plays to the tendency of AT&T. It’s got some shadows to it. It’s deep in center field like AT&T, and when the sun goes down, the ball doesn’t carry. It plays fairly fair. But obviously just like anywhere, you still gotta hit and do your damage on the road, like Colorado. In the PCL, it’s Las Vegas and different places like that.

There is a different mindset [to AT&T Park], but the thing is, if you keep your mindset of going up there and staying with your plan, things will take care of itself. If you put too much pressure on yourself — I was fortunate enough to play there, and you crush some balls, and I’m not fast enough to run around even in Triples Alley. There was only one guy that made that place look small, and that was Barry [Bonds]. 

MLB rumors: How Dodgers' Dave Roberts could replace Giants' Bruce Bochy

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AP

MLB rumors: How Dodgers' Dave Roberts could replace Giants' Bruce Bochy

The Giants already made one drastic change to their franchise this offseason in hiring Farhan Zaidi away from the Los Angeles Dodgers as their new president of baseball operations. Another year from now, could they add another prominent figure from their archrival?

According to FanCred's Jon Heyman, the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts appeared close to a multiyear contract extension a week ago, but they now sit at a standstill, unable to come to an agreement. Roberts is said to be on vacation overseas, per Heyman, and the sides “remain far apart."

Los Angeles picked up Roberts’ $1.1 million option for 2019, meaning he’s under contract for next season, but not beyond. If the sides can't come to an agreement on an extension, Roberts essentially will enter next season as a lame-duck manager.

How do the Giants figure into this, you ask? Well, they just might have a managerial opening in one year’s time.

Bruce Bochy is entering the final year of his contract, and while the Giants have experienced plenty of success under the future Hall of Fame manager, there is plenty of reason to believe this will be Bochy’s last season in orange and black.

If 2019 indeed is Bochy’s final season with the Giants, could Roberts be the front-runner to replace him, provided he and the Dodgers don’t reach an extension? In many ways, it would be a logical pairing.

Zaidi obviously is familiar with Roberts, having served as general manager of the Dodgers since the beginning of the 2015 season. Roberts was hired as manager the following year, and Los Angeles has won the National League West in every season since, ultimately losing in the World Series each of the last two years.

Giants fans should be familiar with Roberts as well, and not just because of the last few years. The Dodgers manager spent the final two seasons of his 10-year playing career in San Francisco, batting .252 and stealing 36 bases in 166 games for the orange and black. He also played three seasons in Los Angeles and two in San Diego.

There’s still plenty of time for Roberts and the Dodgers to come to an agreement on an extension, but if for whatever reason they don’t, he could find another home within NL West a year from now.