Joe Panik calls end of Giants tenure 'tough moment' of his MLB career

Joe Panik calls end of Giants tenure 'tough moment' of his MLB career

The rebuild of the Giants organization over the past 20 months has been swift, with a new front office taking over, a new manager in place, and plenty of Forever Giants wearing new colors. 

Over time, fans have somewhat gotten used to the culture of change, but last August, most of the championship crew was still in place, which made the decision to DFA Joe Panik so hard for so many people to take. August 6 was an emotional day at Oracle Park, and in a Zoom interview with NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez, Panik said it was "probably the toughest moment" of his career and called the move a "gut punch."

"That conversation with Boch -- Boch has meant so much to me in my career," Panik said. "I remember walking into my first spring training at 21 years old and meeting Boch in 2012. He's the only manager I've known, all that stuff. That was a very, very tough conversation."

Panik was having a down year at the plate and the Giants had just traded for Mauricio Dubon and Scooter Gennett, a veteran they were eager to take a look at. Bochy was emotional when he met with reporters after the move, saying it was one of the more difficult conversations of his lengthy career. 

"It's always tough when you see one of your guys go," Bochy said that day. 

As hard as in early August, Panik said he's now in a good place, in large part because of what happened next. Panik, who grew up and lives in upstate New York, signed with the Mets and saw immediate improvement, hitting .273 the rest of the way and raising his OPS more than 100 points. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Panik told Gutierrez he was fortunate to end up back home, and he has continued to build on that late run in New York. After signing with the Blue Jays as a non-roster invitee, he went 8-for-21 with a couple of spring homers. As the sport was shutting down because of COVID-19, Panik was added to Toronto's 40-man roster, a sure sign that he's in their Opening Day plans. Whenever play resumes, he'll supplement what is perhaps the most exciting group of young position players in the league. 

[RELATED: What did Bochy do with farewell tour gifts?]

"I would love to have played 10, 12, 15 years in San Francisco, but sometimes you need to hit the reset button," Panik said. "For me, coming back to New York, I hit the reset button with a fresh start."

Giants scout compared Mark McGwire to better Dave Kingman as prospect

Giants scout compared Mark McGwire to better Dave Kingman as prospect

It was clear when watching Mark McGwire at USC that he was set for stardom in the big leagues. McGwire was an eighth-round pick in high school but then dominated for the Trojans. 

When Giants scout George Genovese saw McGwire play in March of 1984, he was blown away.

"This boy has outstanding power," Genovese wrote in his official scouting report. "... I feel he will be a good power hitter as he makes good contact and hits to all field with power. He is a tough out at the plate and it takes a good curve ball or excellent pitch to get him out." 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

As's Matt Kelly notes, Genovese even saw a better version of a former No. 1 overall pick -- Dave Kingman -- in a young McGwire.

"As much power and better contact at the plate than Dave Kingman," Genovese wrote.

McGwire wound up hitting .387 with 32 home runs, 20 doubles and 80 RBI at USC in 1984. And the Giants had a chance to select McGwire with the No. 9 pick in the '84 MLB Draft. Instead, they took outfielder Alan Cockrell, who had nine at-bats in his MLB career and never played for San Francisco.

[RELATED: Why Baer believes 2020 MLB Draft requires 'better scouting']

The A's grabbed McGwire one pick later at No. 10 overall, and he became an instant star. The powerful first baseman hit a then-rookie record 49 homers for the A's in 1987 on his way to winning AL Rookie of the Year. 

McGwire finished his career with 583 long balls. Kingman, who started his career with the Giants and ended it with the A's, hit 442. And Cockrell had two career hits ... none went over the fence.

Giants coaches believe players can get ready for shortened MLB season

Giants coaches believe players can get ready for shortened MLB season

For a few weeks now players have been eyeing the first week of July, hopeful that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association find a compromise that gets the game back on the field sometime around the time fireworks are scheduled to go off.

But every day that passes without a deal is one less day for the staff to potentially get players ready. At some point, that might lead to tension as teams look at the calendar, but for now the Giants still believe they have plenty of time to prepare for a shortened season. 

On last week's "Chalk Talk at Home," pitching coach Andrew Bailey and hitting coach Donnie Ecker said they're confident that Spring Training 2.0 can get their players ready in about three weeks. 

"I think it depends on where these guys are coming in," Bailey said. "I think we can do it in the three-week timespan. We may not be seeing a full workload, 100 pitches or whatever you see. I think that we still have to do some buildup there, but we can definitely get guys ready in that timeframe and be a little bit cautious with back-to-backs and different things and monitor (them). Ideally, the longer the better, for sure, on the pitching side of things."

Ecker said the hitting coaches -- himself, Justin Viele and Dustin Lind -- are looking at a similar timeframe, although they do have more wiggle room. 

"I think we need a lot less time from a physiological standpoint than pitchers do," he said. "The three week (schedule) is kind of a sweet spot for us to get enough live at-bats in."

While it takes some work to get your timing down, the Giants should have more than enough time to get their lineup ready. Buster Posey has often gone into a season with just a couple dozen at-bats under his belt, and the veteran-filled lineup is full of players who won't need much more than that if they're able to play games in their second spring. Pitching machines are so advanced these days that players are able to take unlimited hacks against machine-thrown breaking balls or 100 mph fastballs. Many of the team's veterans have posted clips on Instagram where they're hitting off machines at home. 

It's a bit more complicated for pitchers, but Bailey said he is starting to get calls from players who live in areas that have opened up to the point that you can throw live BP sessions and simulated games against hitters. The analytics staff put together a questionnaire that allows the Giants to track and log throwing programs on a daily basis. 

[RELATED: How would Giants feel playing in front of no fans?]

Bailey is leaning on over-communicating, and the message from the staff has been to over-prepare if possible. Ideally, the Giants would like their pitchers to come in more stretched out than they normally would, giving them flexibility when games start. 

"We'll just get creative with our staff, our usage and make sure that their workloads are okay and healthy," Bailey said. "I think obviously winning is at the forefront of everybody's mind, but keeping our players healthy for 2020 is a priority of ours as well."

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]