Giants

Rookie Matt Duffy wins 2015 Willie Mac Award

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Rookie Matt Duffy wins 2015 Willie Mac Award

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Duffy will surely be announced as a Rookie of the Year finalist next month. Award season started early for the young third baseman on Friday night.

Duffy is the 2015 winner of the Willie Mac Award, given annually to the most inspirational player on the team. The award, named for Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, is voted on by players, coaches, training staff and fans. Duffy is the first rookie to win in the 35-year history of the award.

"I couldn't be more honored to have my name alongside several of the past winners tonight," Duffy said during the ceremony. "I'd like to thank the Giants organization, the coaching staff, my teammates, my family and all the coaches who taught me how to play the game the right way. They taught me that if you put in the time and the preparation, good things will come."

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After giving a short speech and taking a picture with past winners, Duffy got a big hug from his dad, Tom, who recorded the ceremony with a camcorder and lovingly spent most of his night recording his son's every move. Duffy's mom and sister are traveling in Europe right now, but his sister texted him a "wish we could be there" message early Friday. That confused Matt, who didn't know he had won the Willie Mac Award and wondered why they would want to be at a late-season game against the Rockies.

Winning came as a shock to Duffy, who listed Javier Lopez, Brandon Crawford, Tim Hudson and Jeremy Affeldt among the many players who were deserving of the honor. Why did Duffy win?

"I'm going to turn it around and give the credit to the veterans," he said. "They've made my transition so much easier when they're as welcoming as they are. It really allows you to relax and play hard and play the game the way you were taught. I don't have a family but a lot of these guys do and they spend more time with us than their families sometimes. For them to recognize me is special."

Duffy, a surprise contributor down the stretch last season, wasn’t even expected to make the club out of spring training. But the Giants had little choice after Duffy dominated the Cactus League and worked hard every day to learn how to handle third (he came up as a shortstop), first and even the outfield. He made the opening day roster and hit so well in April and May that management again had no choice but to demote the struggling Casey McGehee and give Duffy a full-time job. 

He hasn’t looked back since and has barely even taken a day off. Duffy leads the National League with 116 consecutive starts, a streak that is expected to carry into next season. The longtime National League iron man, Hunter Pence, believes Duffy’s durability has been one of his best traits.

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“He’s definitely got that grit,” Pence said. “It’s tough to do. It’s very valuable to have the ability to do that. You don’t find everyday big leaguers in the middle of the lineup very often. That’s been one of the bright spots of this year, the emergence of Matt Duffy.”

Duffy has been much more than just an everyday player, however. He’s been an everyday force. He leads the National League with 89 hits since the All-Star break and his 46 extra base hits are the most by a Giants rookie since Chili Davis had 52 in 1982. Entering play Friday, the 24-year-old had a .298 average, 12 homers, 76 RBI, 12 stolen bases and a .770 OPS. He is second among NL rookies and 11th in the National League with 4.9 wins above replacement.

Throughout, Duffy has shown the toughness that made him such a clubhouse favorite from the moment he was called up last August. He played through an ankle injury for several days when the Giants didn’t have a backup infielder and couldn’t afford another injury, and when Kenley Jansen buzzed him with a high fastball on Wednesday night, Duffy responded by smacking a single up the middle and then immediately stealing second base. 

"It's how he plays, every pitch, every at-bat, the way he runs the bases the way he plays defense," Bruce Bochy said, listing off Duffy's attributes. "He hasn't had a break in a while. He has all (his teammates') respect."

Duffy is the sixth current Giant to win the Willie Mac Award, joining Matt Cain (2009), Ryan Vogelsong (2011), Buster Posey (2012), Pence (2013) and Madison Bumgarner (2014). He watched former winners come in from an outfield gate and realize the magnitude of the award.

"As they were introducing everybody, I didn't realize the company I was in," he said. "I got to pause and think about that. It was pretty cool. I'm extremely honored."

Manny Machado is a Dodger, so Giants must be better at being the Giants

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Manny Machado is a Dodger, so Giants must be better at being the Giants

As Comrade Pavlovic explains here, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Machado is a gaudy rental that only slightly narrows the San Francisco Giants’ path to a surprise postseason berth.
 
In short, the rich got richer, and the Giants continue to mind the tax line.
 
There is, of course, no fun in that position. The A’s aren’t selling for a change, which makes the Giants seem weirdly conservative in comparison to the noisy neighbors they never seem to notice. The Warriors, who move in down the street in a couple of years, are burning money like it’s a college football pregame bonfire, which also makes the Giants look uncharacteristically thrifty.
 
But Machado is the only real jewel in the trade deadline crown (the Mets have pitcher Jacob deGrom, but nobody expects the Mets to do anything other than standard Met-ism), and not only would he find a way to beg out of any trade to San Francisco on religious grounds (he does not worship in a power-restrictive park), the Giants already have a shortstop in which they are exceedingly proud.
 
In short, the Giants weren’t in the Machado race, and they don’t look like they will be in many others, either. This is their year of stasis, in which they will either win as they are or lose as they are.
 
Indeed, the Giants are operating outside their usual shopping norms. They would need to shave salary to acquire salary, which means there will be no 2010 Summer Of Love (Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Javier Lopez, Jose Guillen). And their prospect bin is running pretty low, so they can’t toss young’uns into the wind to see what veteran difference-makers they can attract.
 
Thus, the Dodgers improving their lot is of little consequence to the Giants, save that corner of the fan base that believes the Dodgers always must be monitored. The Giants need to be more concerned about what the Diamondbacks and Rockies and Phillies and Nationals and Braves and Brewers and Cardinals do, which means there probably are too many teams to keep track of down the stretch.
 
Indeed, the simplicity of the task before the Giants is clear. Their path to salvation is through a rehabilitated Evan Longoria, and a revitalized Johnny Cueto, and a transformed Jeff Samardzija, and an offense that doesn’t regard seeing its own players on base as evidence of plague. The Giants have to be better at being the Giants, and there is no guarantee of that based on the evidence of not just the past 98 games but the 230-some-odd before that.
 
But if it helps, someone will enjoy the trade deadline. It just isn’t going to be the Giants. They are, for one of the rare times since they moved from Candlestick Park, a team likely to do almost nothing of consequence this July.
 
But maybe they can get DeMarcus Cousins to throw out the first pitch at one of the Pirates games in August. I mean, if you can’t be in the market, you might as well enjoy someone who is.

How Dodgers' trade for Manny Machado affects Giants' NL West chances

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How Dodgers' trade for Manny Machado affects Giants' NL West chances

SAN FRANCISCO — With every move they’ve made over the last nine months, the Giants have been careful to stay under the competitive balance tax, eager to jump headfirst into this offseason’s loaded free agent class. Unfortunately, they’ll now get an up-close look at the best all-around player scheduled to be available this winter. 

After weeks of rumors, and an awkward All-Star Game, shortstop Manny Machado finally was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon. The Dodgers sent five prospects to Baltimore, a package highlighted by Yusniel Diaz, an outfielder who was the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The other four prospects are not considered top-20 guys. 

There’s no sugarcoating this. The Dodgers, despite an extremely slow start, finished the first half atop the National League West, half a game ahead of the Diamondbacks and four up on the Giants. An L.A. lineup that already has eight hitters with double-digit homers added a player with 24 homers, 65 RBI and a .963 OPS at the break. Machado was far and away the best player available at the trade deadline, and he now might give the Dodgers the best position player in the division. 

Shortstop wasn’t exactly a position of need for the Dodgers. Chris Taylor has done a nice job filling in, but he’s no Machado, and the 26-year-old provides a perfect second-half fill-in for Corey Seager, who was lost earlier this year to Tommy John surgery. 

The Dodgers beat out the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Brewers and possibly a few others for Machado’s services. After hoarding top prospects for years, L.A. made its move, adding to a team that has a sense of urgency after falling in the World Series last year. Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his deal this offseason, too, and this move certainly shows the ace that there is a commitment to winning at all costs. 

Machado has just 48 at-bats against current Giants pitchers -- nearly half of those against Derek Holland, who spent his prior seasons in the American League. The Giants will get their first look at him in about a month, when they visit the Dodgers on Aug. 13. The Dodgers come back to AT&T Park for the final series of the regular season. 

Until that first meeting, where does this leave the Giants? 

Their road to a division title just got a bit steeper, and it’s unclear how they’ll counter. General manager Bobby Evans has said he’s not under orders to stay under the CBT line, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. The Giants just shipped a decent prospect to Texas to ditch Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin’s contracts, a move that was made specifically to get further away from the tax line.

Before the Machado trade, it was hard to see the Giants going away from their plan and adding a significant piece. The same holds true today. Any countermove won’t exactly have the Dodgers shaking.

Some Giants fans might take solace in the fact that the Dodgers paid a decent price in prospects to acquire Machado. But Diaz plays a position where their organization is loaded, and the unfortunate truth is that the Dodgers’ system today still is better than most. 

The Giants still would like to bolster their lineup, with a glaring need against left-handed pitching. Another bullpen arm always is helpful, although Ray Black might fill that hole internally. If the Giants do want to add, they’ll need to find a way to dump a bit more salary, and perhaps they can get creative, as they did with the Rangers deal.

They will not however, be able to go move-for-move with the team atop the division. Machado was the best player out there, and he’s now a Dodger.