Giants

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff

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USATSI

Why Giants mentioned Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole in explaining new staff

SAN DIEGO -- When you hear the words "player development," you think of 19-year-olds learning on back fields at the minor league facility in Scottsdale, or a roving hitting instructor spending time making swing changes with prospects Joey Bart or Heliot Ramos, or a coach teaching a Logan Webb or Sean Hjelle a new pitch. 

But when Giants manager Gabe Kapler talks about player development -- and he does so often -- he's also thinking about guys like Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Kapler said this week that there's "not much I feel more strongly about" than players continuing to develop at the big league level, and that played a huge role as he hired a young staff that will ideally bring an innovative approach.

"There's evidence all over the place in Major League Baseball about players who reinvent themselves or take major steps forward and reestablish their value at the Major League level," Kapler said this week at the MLB Winter Meetings. 

The Giants are building for the future, but they also believe they can squeeze much more out of the existing core. And when Bart and Ramos are veterans one day, they want those guys to continue to find new levels, too. As he talked about player development at the big league level, Kapler pivoted and told a story about Bryce Harper, who already had more than 900 games under his belt when he joined Kapler's Phillies last season. 

"Bryce Harper, I think, was influenced heavily by Paco Figueroa, our first base and outfield coach, mostly just because Paco was not concerned about approaching Bryce," Kapler said. "He recognized that Bryce Harper wanted to be coached and wanted to develop, and he was willing to approach. Bryce recognized that so much so that at the end of the year when we were doing our exit meetings, Bryce recognized that Paco had been influential in his career and helped him become a better outfielder and baserunner."

Harper was worth negative-26 Defensive Runs Saved in 2018 according to Fangraphs -- just about the only blemish on his résumé as a free agent -- but was plus-9 in his first season in Philadelphia, a massive improvement. The Giants were actually intent on going that path long before Kapler arrived. When they offered Harper $310 million last year, their existing analytics and coaching staffs had ideas about how they could get more out of Harper defensively with positioning changes. 

Harper's not the only example the Giants will use to sell their vision to veteran players. General manager Scott Harris mentioned Gerrit Cole as another who found new ways to add to his game. 

"Look at the strides he made the last two seasons and now he signed the largest free-agent contract (for a pitcher) in the history of the game," Harris said. "You look at the strides he made when he first burst onto the scene for the Pirates and what he did in Houston. Their coaching staff was largely responsible for the development he saw at the Major League level."

The Astros' staff has gotten a lot of credit for turning Cole into the pitcher the Pirates were expecting when they took him first overall in 2011. Cole had a 3.50 ERA in Pittsburgh and a 2.68 ERA in Houston, where his strikeout rate jumped from 8.4 per nine innings to 13.1. He was worth 15.4 WAR in five seasons with the Pirates and then skyrocketed to 13.4 in two seasons in Houston. 

[RELATED: Kershaw believes Dodgers signing MadBum would be 'great']

Kapler and Harris are not walking into an organization that has a Harper or Cole, but they believe their new coaching staff and player-development methods can get the most out of existing talent. That'll be a focus in spring training, and the conversations have already begun with some veterans. Kapler, who mentioned J.D. Martinez as another example of late-career adjustments, said he has spoken to Posey multiple times since getting hired. 

"I think that a lot of established successful Major Leaguers want to get better and sometimes they don't know how," Kapler said. "In some cases, it's because coaches haven't approached them because they don't want to break something that's working well, but I think those days are gone and I think players crave having coaches approach them and ask them to make changes."

Dodgers getting Astros' titles still wouldn't match Giants' decade

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Dodgers getting Astros' titles still wouldn't match Giants' decade

The outrage continues in Tinseltown.

As the fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal continues, many have called into question the Astros’ 2017 World Series title, a thrilling seven-game series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With the championship appearing to be tainted by Houston’s systematic tracking of pitching signals, the Los Angeles city council unanimously passed a resolution last week urging Major League Baseball to rescind the victory from the Astros and award it to the runner-up Dodgers. The resolution also included the 2018 World Series, which the Dodgers lost to the Boston Red Sox in five games. Boston remains under investigation for similar allegations.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred pushed back on the idea, pointing to the MLB’s history with not altering the past.

“Whatever the impact of the sign stealing was, it could have changed who was in the World Series,” Manfred said earlier this week on Fox Business’ “Mornings with Maria." “It’s absolutely unclear that the Dodgers would have been the World Series champion. I think there's a long tradition in baseball of not trying to change what happened. I think the answer from our perspective is to be transparent about what the investigation showed and let our fans make their own decision about what happened.”

Followers of the Giants’ archrival definitely made up their own minds, as they flocked to Dodgers FanFest on Saturday.

Pantone 294, one of the Dodgers’ fan groups, also has organized an outing to the Los Angeles Angels’ home opener against the Astros. The group’s website wants LA fans to flock to Anaheim and “support the team that's playing the game we all know and love the right way!”

Even if by Manfred pulled a complete 180 and decided to not only take away championships from both Houston and Boston, but award them to the Dodgers, they’d still have fewer rings than the Giants have won over the past 30 years.

Nothing got the fans in LA more fired up than watching the Giants bring home three World Series titles over a five-year stretch, firmly cementing them as the NL West's team of the decade.

We all know this isn’t emblematic of every Dodgers fan, as many have voiced their opinion that being awarded two championships doesn't mean anything after the fact, especially when everyone watched them get obliterated by the Red Sox in five games and only score one run in Game 7 against the Astros in 2017.

No matter how many signs might have been stolen, only scoring one run in a World Series game isn't going to get you a win in almost every situation.

Some players, including third baseman Justin Turner, made it clear they aren't interested in receiving a ring that doesn't feel earned.

Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling, however, is cheering on fans choosing to waste their time and money heckling Houston.

“I like it,” Stripling said (h/t Los Angeles Times). “The Dodger fans are fired up. If they want to do their part, and they think that is what it is, then kudos to them. Go do it.

“I know that they’re passionate, and they wanted a championship as much as we did. Obviously, they have still got some fire in their belly to go fight for us.”

[RELATED: Mailbag: Will Beede, Webb be with Giants come Opening Day?]

While the official punishments likely are over for the Astros, it appears they still will be living rent-free in many Dodger fans’ heads all season long.

Meanwhile, Giants fans can sit back and enjoy three, controversy-free World Series trophies residing inside Oracle Park.

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

MLB rumors: Former Giants GM Bobby Evans interviewed for Astros job

A little over a year after he was fired, former Giants general manager Bobby Evans could land on his feet.

Evans interviewed for the open Houston Astros general manager position, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal reported Saturday, citing sources.

Evans spent four seasons as the general manager of the Giants before being reassigned within the organization at the end of the 2018 season. Including the 2019 season, Evans has spent the last 26 seasons in San Francisco.

The Astros are in need of a new GM and manager after Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch were fired in the fallout from the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked baseball in recent weeks.

Houston is tainted at the moment, but Evans would be inheriting a roster that still possesses the talent to compete for a World Series, with or without trash cans.

While serving as assistant general manager for the Giants, Evans helped lead to the team to World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. But his tenure as GM wasn't as successful. A lot of the moves Evans made, including the signings of Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span, didn't lead to the desired results.

[RELATED: Evans' dismissal hard on Giants players]

With Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris at the helm of the Giants, it makes sense for Evans to consider outside opportunities, even if the Astros are the black eye of baseball.

Both Evans and the Astros need second chances, so this could be the perfect marriage if the two sides can come to an agreement.