Giants

Giants Year in Review: 'Disappointing' is probably not strong enough

Giants Year in Review: 'Disappointing' is probably not strong enough

SAN FRANCISCO — This is my sixth year using quotes to drive a “year in review" piece. The other years, even the previous odd years, tended to be mostly humorous and light. 

This year was dark. So very, very dark. 

There were highlights, of course, the occasional funny moment or walk-off or retirement ceremony. But the truth is, the vibe in the clubhouse very much mirrored the vibe on the field. When you’re a $200 million roster flirting with 100 losses, it’s hard to have too much fun, and the Giants certainly never appeared to be doing so. 

Will it be better next year? We’ll see. For now, strap in, maybe mix a strong drink, and take a trip back through memory lane in the words of players and coaches...

“For us in the dugout, we’re just kind of shaking our heads. It’s not supposed to be that easy. He kind of makes it look easy, but there’s a method to his madness. See what I did there? Mad-ness. He works at it. He takes it seriously.” Buster Posey, after Madison Bumgarner hit two homers on Opening Day. 

“I just laughed. You expect him to get one every once in a while. You don’t expect him to get two the first day. There’s not much you can say. I just laughed. It’s pretty cool to watch a pitcher do that.”Brandon Belt, on Opening Day. 

“That’s okay. I play tomorrow.”Bumgarner, before his second start, after Belt pointed out that he led the Majors with three homers. 

“Goodness. He looks really young.”Posey to Matt Cain, as Christian Arroyo took his first at-bat. 

“She didn’t believe me. It took a solid five minutes for her to believe me. She kept going, ‘You’re lying.’”Arroyo, recalling how he told his mom he got the call to the big leagues. 

“I looked up and saw the ump waving and I was like, ‘I’ve got to slow down. I tried to slow down and take it all in.”Arroyo, on his first homer. 

“I’m cutting down on my swing.”Bumgarner, after coming up 15 feet short of hitting the scoreboard at Petco Park. 

“It looked like a gunslinger, like Josey Wales coming out of a bar. I was two-thirds of the way down the dugout rail and these two (Royals fans) kept yelling ‘Give us Bumgarner! Give us Bumgarner! As soon as we went ahead and we knew he was coming out, these guys were yelling it again: ‘Give us Bumgarner!’ I turned around and yelled, ‘You’re getting him now mother——————!’”Tim Flannery, recalling Bumgarner’s Game 7 performance before the lefty returned to Kansas City in April. 

"I was amazing. I had one Defensive Run Saved.”Belt, looking back fondly on his one day in left field in 2016. 

“He had that ‘Thou shall not walk’ going in that at-bat.”Bruce Bochy, after Hunter Pence swung at a series of pitches at eye-level before hitting a walk-off sac fly. 

“Off days are the freaking worst for all of us and have been for years, but we don't get many and when we do guys do things they might be missing out on.”Dave Righetti, after Bumgarner crashed a dirt bike outside Denver. 

“I was actually being pretty safe the whole time. It was just a freak deal. We were on the way out, almost back to the truck … I wish I had some kind of cool story that it was some kind of crazy wreck. It wasn’t anything spectacular. It’s terrible. It’s obviously not my intention when I set out to enjoy the off day. I realize it’s definitely not the most responsible decision I’ve made. It sucks not being out here with the guys.”Bumgarner, after his injury. 

“I think they’re just having fun with me.”Bochy on May 10, after the Giants ended a streak of 133 straight losses when trailing after eight. They took the lead in the top of the ninth and then nearly blew it. 

“That’s dad-strength.”Posey, after hitting a 431-foot walk-off homer in the 17th inning. 

“It’s pole vaulting over mouse turds.” Bochy, shooting down the Mark Melancon “clubhouse chemistry” story. 

“We’re talking about stretching. Stretching.”Melancon, channeling Allen Iverson after that story came out.

“I was like, ‘Bro, it’s a homer — just jog.’” Eduardo Nuñez to Mac Williamson after Williamson homered off Wade Davis and nearly ran Nuñez and his tight hamstring down on the bases. 

“Obviously I’ve left the ball over the plate a couple of times to him and he’s taken advantage of that. It was mostly to go inside and obviously I got it in a little bit too far. I didn’t expect that (fight) but it’s part of the game and that’s what he decided to do.”Hunter Strickland, after the fight with Bryce Harper. 

“It’s so in the past, it’s not even relevant anymore. They won the World Series that year. I don’t think he should even be thinking about what happened in the first round. He should be thinking about wearing that ring home every single night. I don’t know why he did it or what he did it for, but I guess it happens. You never want to get suspended or anything like that, but sometimes you’ve got to go and get him. You can’t hesitate. You either go to first base or you go after him. And I decided to go after him.” Harper, after the fight. 

“It looks bad … You have two guys that probably don’t care for each other much.” Bochy, on Strickland. 

"Samardzija saw blood a little bit, I thought. I’m very thankful for Mikey Mo.”Harper, on Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse colliding. 

"I was just trying to get in there to break everything up. We lost the game, that's what's most important.”Morse, saying he was fine after the fight. He wouldn’t play again. 

“He already shows power but yet he’s very young. He can run. As he matures into his body and continues to mature into his body, we feel we may have something special.” John Barr, after drafting Heliot Ramos. It appears he was right. 

“Can he take BP? Put him in the last group. I’ll put him in the lineup tomorrow.”Bochy, after meeting Ramos. 

“I faced him last night and got a hit and a pop-up.”Ryder Jones, explaining that he prepared for his debut against Jacob deGrom by facing a digital version on PlayStation. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me. I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.” Denard Span, after walk-off in the 14th inning. Birds had circled him in center field for a couple hours. 

“I thought they were going to walk me. As soon as Span got to second base, I was like, fuuuuu …”Nuñez, after a walk-off hit. The winning run was already on third when Span stole second base in front of Nuñez. 

“I learned my lesson. I made a lot of mistakes.” Pablo Sandoval, on his original exit from San Francisco. 

"I didn't think he had it in him.”Bumgarner, after Blach hit a homer to dead center at AT&T Park. 

“Yeah, unless I get a season-ending injury or something.” Belt, when Hensley Meulens told him in early August that he would shatter his career high in homers. 

“He’s been through this before, so it’s obvious there are some concerns there.”Bochy, after Belt suffered a concussion on Aug. 4. He wouldn’t play again. 

“It does get under my skin after a while. In six starts, it’s been Jekyll and Hyde.” Matt Moore, after a bad start in early May. 

“You don’t deserve anything really that good after something like that. That’s piss poor.”Moore, after the Giants took a lead and then he walked the leadoff hitter on four pitches to start the next inning. The Giants lost. 

“I always pictured myself here.” Moore, after his option was picked up in late September. He was traded on Dec. 15. 

“That guy may have the best arm I’ve ever seen. That’s Bo Jackson arm stuff right there. That was that good. That was Bo good. I’ve always thought Shawon Dunston and Bo Jackson. Shawon Dunston on the infield, Bo Jackson on the outfield. And I think Moncrief is among that group. It’s incredible.”Joe Maddon, after Carlos Moncrief made a couple of incredible throws against the Cubs. 

"We'll give Stratton a shot to show what he can do.”Bochy, putting Chris Stratton in the rotation on August 3. He had a 2.42 ERA over his final nine starts. 

“All you can hope for is an opportunity and you go out there and make the most of it.”Stratton, after dominating the Nationals. 

“He’s made a really big statement, I think, if you look at his body of work. Just watching him pound the strike zone, he’s got two good breaking balls and a changeup. He’s locating well and he finished up on a good note tonight. It’s nice to have a young man like this come up and make some noise, where he wants to be in the rotation next year. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but he certainly did his part.”Bochy, after Stratton’s final start. 

“Yes, yes, 100 percent (on purpose) — because I’ve already been talking smack.”Posey, after he stole his fifth base and then watched Crawford steal a base a few minutes later. They go back and forth. 

“It wasn’t just a little inside. The same guy — I’ll say it, he’s an idiot.” Bochy, after Hector Neris drilled Posey. 

“I enjoy the human element of the game. I’m not an advocate for the stupid electronic strike zone. I don’t even like replay. I wish we could get back to the way we used to play. We won’t, but that’s just my opinion.” Bumgarner, on robot umps. 

“He’s a pleasure to have on the club. His energy, his enthusiasm, the talent. He brings a lot of experience into every game. It’s allowed me to rest Buster more and he’s a threat up there. It’s been fun to have him here.” Bochy on Nick Hundley, who signed a one-year deal in December. 

“Just F it. It’s late, I’m hitting third, I was like, ‘Is this a real game?’”Span, on his attitude before having a huge night in a game that started at 10:50 p.m. 

“I’ll say this, I was lucky and fortunate to have played with and managed Tony Gwynn. He had some great series, but I don’t recall him having a series like this ... Everything (Panik) hit, he hit on the barrel and found holes. When he didn’t, he hit it out (of the park) or hit a gapper. It was quite a display of hitting. It did remind me of Tony.” Bochy, after Joe Panik had 12 hits in three games at Coors Field. 

“I think it’s good for the club to know, hey, he’s back. This is the kind of ball we can play.” Bochy, after Bumgarner dominated the Dodgers on Sept. 23. 

"This weekend will definitely be my last time putting on a Giants uniform, and I can't see myself going anywhere else to play with another team. This organization has meant so much to me and so much to my family. It's something that's dear to my heart. I'm just grateful that it's been a part of my life. I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed it so much. I feel like that's what makes this a little easier. I started in 2002 getting picked up by the Giants and I know that's the way I'm going to go out. I can't picture myself putting a different uniform on.”Cain, announcing his retirement. 

“He’s a special person and one of the better Giants to ever put on this uniform. He gave us the best he had every time … he’s had an unbelievable career, and I’m just happy to have been a part of it.”Bumgarner, on Cain. 

“Guys were crying in the dugout. That’s how much they care about the guy.”Bochy, after Cain’s final start. 

“I’m more than satisfied. I was kind of surprised to get that far into the game. I’m pretty proud of being able to go out there and throw five innings today, but that honestly was the excitement of the fans and my teammates pushing me along. That didn’t have anything to do with me. I was riding their wave.” Cain, after his final start. 

“He can manage if he wants. Honestly, I haven’t done too well.”Bochy, joking about what Cain would do for the final game of the season. 

“We were going to have a 1-4 stretch at some point. It just happened to happen early.” Belt, after the fifth game of the season. 

“It just, you know, looks bad when it happens (the first week). It’s really early. There are a lot of games left. There’s no reason to hit the panic button.”Bumgarner, after the sixth game. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either. It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.” Bochy, after the Giants got off to a 6-13 start. 

“We have everything we need in this room. Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”Samardzija, when asked in late April if Giants were panicking. 

“To do that is one of those special moments that can change a season. It was electric ... Morsey being Morsey.” Pence, after Morse hit a big homer April 26. 

“We’ve got to get this offense going. It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.” Bochy, after the Giants scored eight runs in four games against the Dodgers. (Turns out it was not a better offense.)

“April showers bring May flowers.”Pence, after hitting a homer off Clayton Kershaw in a win on May 1.

“When you’re having some success that certainly helps your personality. We’re not getting giddy out there. We dug ourselves a hole (but) every day you’ve got to come out with your best game. You’ve got to believe the worm is going to turn and it has, but we’ve got our hands full the next couple of days.” Bochy, on May 15 with the Giants riding high after the 17-inning win. 

“Well … I mean, we’ll have to search.” Bochy, when asked if there were any positives to take from an awful series against the Nationals. 

“They’re men out there. They’re men. They know where they’re at. We’ve had meetings.” Bochy, after a loss in Philadelphia in early June. 

“You’ve got to flush it.”Blach, after a bad loss in the middle of June.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have. When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around.” Belt, when the Giants lost their 50th game on June 24. 

“You try to fix the hole in the dam and put your finger in it, and another one opens.”Bochy, at the end of the first half. 

“It’s incredible the support we’ve had. This season couldn’t have gone worse. I don’t think any of us could have seen it unraveling the way it has. It’s been a tough go and the one constant has been the support. We can’t thank (the fans) enough. We appreciate it. We’re disappointed we’re not in a better place for our fans.”Bochy, after the sellout streak ended in late July. 

“This is something new for pretty much everybody here.”Panik, at the end of July, discussing all the losing. 

“We’re not doing a lot.”Bochy, after the Giants scored 10 runs on a five-game trip in August. 

“I don’t really have words for it. Disappointing’ is probably not strong enough.”Posey, after the Giants took over the worst record in baseball on Sept. 5. 

“Right now he’s letting everybody know that this is unacceptable and this is not how the Giants play and this is not how this organization won three world championships, so let’s go.” Duane Kuiper, after cameras caught Eli Whiteside yelling at players in the dugout during loss No. 91. 

“We need to spend some time thinking about what it is specifically for us to help the Giants win more baseball games and get back to where we all want to be. We’re all confident and we know how much ability is in this clubhouse, but at the same time, we’ve got to execute on the field. All of us as players have to play better next year.” Posey, after the final game. 

“We have some work to do, there’s no sugar-coating this. You lose 98 games, you’ve got a lot of things to fix. Forget the injuries. You look at the numbers on both sides and we’ve got to get better, especially in our division. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll be relentless, all of us. We talked to the players. We know what’s ahead of us.”Bochy, after the final game.

Brandon Crawford flies under the radar but not to fellow NL All-Stars

Brandon Crawford flies under the radar but not to fellow NL All-Stars

Fans voted Giants shortshop Brandon Crawford an MLB All-Star Game starter for the first time in his career this year. And if you ask some of his NL teammates, the honor comes as no surprise. 

"It's great because his skill set goes unnoticed," Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado told NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez in Washington D.C. at All-Star media day. "Especially in San Francisco, where it's so hard to hit -- I mean, really hard to hit -- and especially for a lefty because the field's so big. He's extremely underrated, and I don't think he gets the credit he deserves, especially [playing at AT&T Park]. I think a lot of fans don't really get to see him, but he's a great player."

Crawford is in the midst of the best season in his eight-year career. The 31-year-old batting .292 with a .363 on-base percentage and .825 OPS. All three marks are career highs, and he has 10 homers and 39 RBI to boot. 

"He's amazing," Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt said. "He's one of the best in the game at shortstop, and his defense is as good as anyone's out there. But as we've seen, he can hit, too. I think a lot of people forget about his hitting, but he's been hitting third and fourth in the order plenty. He's a clutch player, too."

Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez will be Crawford's double-play partner in the NL starting lineup. He told Gutierrez he's looking forward to potentially turning two alongside a player he's heard so much about in his career. 

"We were just in San Francisco, and all we heard is about Crawford," Baez said. "The way he plays short, the way he gets to every ball. He's so good. Playing with him now and starting with him in the All-Star Game is really exciting." 

 

Crawford and his fellow All-Stars will take the field in the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. 

 

Brandon Crawford remains everyday force for injury-riddled Giants

Brandon Crawford remains everyday force for injury-riddled Giants

SAN FRANCISCO —  The Giants played 17 consecutive games in the middle of June, traveling to Washington D.C., Miami and Los Angeles before returning home for a seven-game homestand. Brandon Crawford went the distance in nine of the 10 road games — including a 16-inning marathon — and pinch-hit in the other one. When the rest of the Giants headed back to AT&T Park after the trip, Crawford flew to Phoenix for the birth of his fourth child, Bryson Ryder. Then it was back to San Francisco, where he played all 38 innings in a four-game series with the Padres.

The Giants were off after the final game of that series, and it seemed like a perfect chance for the shortstop to finally catch his breath. But that’s not part of his schedule these days.

Crawford’s three older children spent much of Bryson’s birth at the family’s Scottsdale home, so he took a Sunday night flight back to Phoenix to see them and spend more time with his newborn and his wife, Jalynne. On Monday night, less than 24 hours after landing, he was on a flight back to San Francisco. The next day, Crawford had three hits against the Rockies and scored the winning run in the eighth. 

As he ran through the itinerary last week, Crawford shrugged. 

“That’s what I’m supposed to do, go out and be an everyday shortstop,” Crawford said. “But my main job is being a dad.”

Certainly, it is the job, and Crawford is compensated well to wear two hats. The Giants gave the hometown star a six-year, $75 million contract three years ago, and halfway through, he has lived up to expectations. But while much of the focus is on his Gold Glove-caliber defense or career-best offensive numbers, Crawford’s most important trait might be one shown off by that June stretch.

At 31 years old, Crawford started 88 of 98 first-half games and entered five more as a substitute, making a daily impact for a team that placed 14 different players on the disabled list in the first half. There have been just five games this season in which Crawford has not made an appearance, and he spent three of those on the paternity list. 

This is nothing new. Over the last five seasons, Crawford ranks second among Major League shortstops with 5,765 innings played. Among National League shortstops, only Freddy Galvis has made more starts and played more innings than Crawford the past three seasons, a time frame that includes his entry into his 30s. 

It’s easy to forget how important that durability is for a Giants organization that relies on Crawford’s defense up the middle and hasn’t had a suitable backup for most of his time in the big leagues. It’s so easy, in fact, that manager Bruce Bochy often does. Bochy is strict about off days for his starters, especially on the infield, where the players to the left and right of Crawford currently are on the DL, the first baseman has dealt with fluke injuries for years, and the catcher had a cortisone injection after Sunday’s game. But the shortstop is on a set-it-and-forget-it plan.

“You kind of forget about him sometimes because you’re so used to putting him in the lineup and you do forget that he needs a break sometimes,” Bochy said. “I know there are times I’ve worn him down, but it’s so important to have him out there, and not just with what he does with his offense. The defense itself will win games for you.”

This year, the bat has fully caught up, as Crawford is hitting .292 with 10 homers, 39 RBI and a .825 OPS. He was the hottest hitter in the game for a stretch, batting .412 in May. His defense remains elite, too, and Crawford looks headed for a fourth consecutive Gold Glove Award. Fans across the country noticed. Crawford earned his first All-Star start by garnering 3,212,103 votes, nearly 1.5 million more than runner-up Addison Russell. 

Crawford said it will be a bit more special to be in Washington D.C., this week as the starter. It also will be the culmination of years of meticulous body management, allowing Crawford -- listed at 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds -- to remain a star at an age when many shortstops are forced to move off the position. 

“It’s pretty amazing,” Giants senior director of athletic training Dave Groeschner said. “He’s a pretty big guy for a shortstop, and he’s got a big frame. But he’s a really good athlete and he’s strong. He knows his body and what he needs in terms of treatment each day. He has that feel of what he needs to do each day, whether that’s stretching or soft-tissue work or work in the weight room. He knows he’s going to get aches and pains, and he tries to get ahead of it.”

Crawford has been on the disabled list only once in his career, missing 14 games last year with a strained groin. But he’s with Groeschner and his staff on a daily basis. Over the last two weeks alone, Crawford has received treatment on his oblique, hamstring, knees, triceps, neck and forearm. For parts of the last week, he wore a sleeve on his throwing arm to keep his forearm and elbow loose. Earlier this season, Crawford often could be seen with ice bags on his calves, which acted up every time he would sprint, an every-inning occurrence for a player in the middle of the field. 

To combat the wear and tear of playing shortstop, along with the effects of aging, Crawford tries to focus on the details, targeting a different part of his body every series while working with strength coach Carl Kochan. He now does additional core work after a couple of oblique scares, one of which demonstrates the luck involved in durability. Crawford strained his oblique in 2013, but it happened during the final game of the season. He felt similar tightness two years later and pulled himself before it got worse, missing five games but avoiding the lengthy shutdown associated with oblique strains. 

Crawford’s shoulder acted up in 2014 so he now does extra rotator cuff and scapula exercises. Bochy made sure Crawford had a few extra days off before his spring debut this February, and at times, the staff will track the number of throws he makes in the offseason. 

“I probably always took that stuff for granted (earlier in my career) because my shoulder always felt fine and I never had any problems,” Crawford said. “But it was bugging me in 2014, and that’s when I was like, ‘OK, maybe I do need to stay on that stuff a little bit more.’ "

There have been other subtle changes. Crawford has joined Buster Posey and Brandon Belt in skipping on-field batting practice a few times a month to conserve energy. If the Giants have a long homestand, or Crawford feels comfortable with a visiting park’s infield, he’ll pick a day in the middle of the series where he doesn’t take pre-game grounders, focusing instead on maintenance with the training staff and Kochan, who broke in with the San Jose Giants in 2009 on the same day Crawford arrived there. The two train together three to four times per week at the Giants’ Scottsdale facility throughout the offseason. 

Asked how Crawford has so consistently stayed on the field, Kochan smiled.

“He’s a baseball player, plain and simple,” he said. “This is what he was born to do.”

Bochy echoed that sentiment, comparing Crawford to Cal Ripken Jr. and Derek Jeter, two players who could handle the rigors of shortstop on a daily basis. Those two, soon to be together in the Hall of Fame, learned there are limits to what the body will allow. Ripken moved to third base when he was 36. Jeter played shortstop until he was 40, but was a defensive liability late in his career. The clock always is ticking on a shortstop. 

“There was talk early on about the way Brandon is built,” Bochy said. “He’s a big guy, and some said eventually he would have to go to third base. I think people projected that about this point of his career. But he’s so agile and so acrobatic. He still gets up on those diving balls and bounces up like he did five, six years ago. I’m looking at him as being the shortstop here for the next five years or more.”

Crawford will be a few months shy of 35 when his current contract expires, and the Giants are confident he’ll spend the entire deal in the middle of the field. They doubled down on that confidence last December, acquiring Evan Longoria to play third base through 2022. 

That leaves shortstop to Crawford at a time when his peers are leading a youth movement. His backup at the All-Star Game, Trevor Story, is 25. The American League shortstops — Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor and Jean Segura — are 26, 24, and 28, respectively. 

“It’s not something I like to think about a whole lot, but yeah, it’s something I’ve definitely noticed,” Crawford said, laughing. 

Crawford will be the veteran of the group this week. He will be in Washington D.C. with his four children, none older than 5, playing the part of busy dad before and after he digs into the box at Nationals Park for his first All-Star start. In his eighth big league season, Crawford is better than he has ever been, giving his manager a luxury he doesn’t always have with others. 

Bochy will show up at the Coliseum on Friday and pencil Crawford in at shortstop, and he’ll do so again and again throughout the second half, through aches and pains and dives and dirt stains. Crawford said he isn’t sure how long all this will last. He hasn’t thought about the big picture much, but it doesn’t appear he’s ready to slow down anytime soon. 

“I’ve been a shortstop my whole career, and that’s where I’ve trained to be my entire career,” he said. “I’ll do it as long as I can. As long as someone is willing to sign me, I’ll come out and play.”