Bruce Bochy

How to fix Giants in nine serious, not-so-serious steps this offseason

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AP

How to fix Giants in nine serious, not-so-serious steps this offseason

The Giants are at one of their occasional low ebbs, and since they haven’t had many of them in the last quarter-century, they might seem a bit confused as to how to proceed this offseason, even though they've had 2 1/2 seasons of freefall to figure the ins and outs.

So, here we are, facing another winter of their discontent, with lots of things to do and not a wide window in which to do them. Here, then, is their immediate future.

Hire the ops person already

Deliberation is fine if you’re on the Supreme Court. Here, it looks like you’re meeting junkies. Hire the baseball operations person and get going. The season isn’t going to delay itself for your benefit.

Oh, and the secrecy didn’t actually help you that much. The Giants always have been a chatty organization, and to suddenly get all Patriot-y doesn’t work in this town. You gotta be what you gotta be.

Don't get free agent stupid, except ...

That was the plan in kicking the rebuild down the road last year, and that clearly didn’t work. But waiting for the farm system to deliver replacements in bulk, one signing wouldn’t hurt, which is why they might consider ...

Time-sharing Bryce Harper

We also made this one of the A’s action items, and this would be a defensive signing to keep the A’s from having what they want while they have the advantage, but maybe the Giants doing a deal with the Angels or Mariners in which Harper plays only the home games for each team would keep the A’s out of the loop and even help one of their more modest competitors.

Look, the A’s aren’t leaving and they can’t be ignored, so stepping on their feet out of spite isn’t a bad play right now.

Figure out the Posey issue

Buster Posey needs more physical monitoring than he wants, and Bruce Bochy always had been solicitous of his catcher's physical condition. Posey started at first base 30 times in 2017, his last healthy year, and 37 in 2015. So if the issue is using Posey as the best catcher or upgrading from Nick Hundley, choose B. There aren’t any sub-30 free agent catchers, but you only need to fill in a gap until Joey Bart is ready -- which is no earlier than 2020.

Oh, and as hilarious as this would be to Brian Sabean, getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia probably is contraindicated.

Be in on everything and everyone

The Giants have suffered from AT&T Park being a hard place to attract hitters, and if the outfield dimensions can’t be changed and moving home plate 15 feet is out of the question (and really, why should it be out of the question?), wearing out cell phones and waving money is how you change the narrative. And as far as money goes, maybe fewer donations to dodgy political groups would save some cash that can be applied to the Verizon bill.

Oh, and don’t treat sunk costs as shackles. If buyouts must happen, then so be it.

Figure out where the market is going, not where it is

Everyone is hot for relievers, and the Giants need them, but bullpenning already is being criticized for absurd game-time lengths in the postseason (average game time, 3:52) and increasing the chances that managers’ moves go bad, so I’m guessing it might end up as a fad rather than an enduring truth.

In short, if you must load up on relievers to fill a need, don’t make bullpenning the staple of your pitching strategy. The Giants probably will have a new manager in a year anyway, and by then, something else will come along. Get there first.

Speaking of which, treat Bochy properly

He's earned nothing but the respect and honor of the organization, so if this is the last year of the manager's tenure, it should be done with his approval and with appreciation for services rendered. None of that corporate got-a-job-to-do-no-time-for-ceremony soullessness here.

Oh, and a statue of Bochy and Brian Sabean would be nice -- next to the one of Hank Greenwald that better be in the works.

Oh yeah, invest in booze

See above.

And, finally, don't talk about rings

For purposes of future-looking, those World Series championships happened forever ago. Teams focused on yesterday don’t like the look of tomorrow, and the Giants already have been that team long enough.

Madison Bumgarner doesn't think Friday was his last start for Giants

Madison Bumgarner doesn't think Friday was his last start for Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Just before the All-Star break, Giants coaches sat down and mapped out their second-half rotation. They have known for months that they could push Madison Bumgarner back to this final series if it gave them a leg up in the NL West race. 

This team, of course, is nowhere near contention. It's been that way for a while. But the Giants still pushed Bumgarner back two days, giving him a big stage for his final start of the season and the opportunity to all but knock the Dodgers out of contention in the division. 

That the offense didn't deliver was no surprise. But it was a bit when Bumgarner made it through just six, allowing three runs, and two coming on a big Justin Turner homer with a runner on and the game tied. This, a 3-1 loss, was not the way he hoped to end his 2018 season. 

Bumgarner’s year started with perhaps the sharpest spring of his career. A line drive back to the mound shattered dreams of a career season, and in 21 starts, he posted a 3.26 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Bumgarner went 6-7, striking out 109 and walking 43 in 129 2/3 innings. He said he was mostly happy with the season.

"There are a few starts in September I would like to be able to go back and do again, but you can't do that," he said. "But I dunno ... I'd like to have a full one (complete game)."

For the first time since 2013, Bumgarner will head home for the winter without a complete game. He had a run of three consecutive seasons where he threw four of them, but times have changed. 

Bumgarner’s numbers are still good, and for the most part he still looks the part of an ace. But there are occasionally chinks in the armor. He has had a diminished strikeout rate in his second straight injury-marred season and has not consistently gotten as deep into games as he used to. 

Still, his reputation was built on big games, and he hasn’t pitched in one since the 2016 postseason. That’s why this night stood as a disappointment. 

The Rockies did their part, beating the Nationals earlier in the night to set the stage for Bumgarner, who could have nudged the Dodgers two games out with two to play. Bumgarner had just two clean innings out of six, allowing three earned on seven hits and a walk.

His biggest mistake was jarring.

With a runner on and one out in the sixth, he threw Turner a fastball that came in at just 90 mph and cut right through the center of the plate. Turner blasted it to left-center, breaking a tie as Bumgarner turned slowly and watched the ball soar. Bumgarner was trying to throw a fastball up-and-in, a pitch he has had a lot of success with against Turner.

"It didn't get in as much as I would like," he said. "I've thrown him that pitch quite a few times. He's a good hitter, made an adjustment and got to it."

An inning later, Bumgarner was off to the winter, and this will not be the type of postseason any star wants to deal with. There’s no way around it. Bumgarner, with one year left on his deal, is a struggling organization’s best trade chip, and perhaps the best pitching option available to contenders this offseason. The Giants do not want to trade Bumgarner, and he does not want to go, but the new head of baseball operations may walk through the door, look at a roster that was embarrassingly outmanned Friday, and determine that it’s the only way forward. 

Bumgarner said he gave no thought to the possibility of this being his last game in orange and black. His manager said the same. 

"Not at all," Bruce Bochy said. "He's signed through next year. That's how I look at it, that he's going to be here next year and hopefully longer."

Bruce Bochy not worried that he'll be a 'lame duck' manager in 2019

Bruce Bochy not worried that he'll be a 'lame duck' manager in 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — In the ninth inning of an ugly loss to the Padres on Monday, the camera panned over to Giants manager Bruce Bochy. He was scowling at the home plate umpire after a call he didn’t agree with. 

You can see, then, why Bochy laughed Tuesday when asked if he has ever lost the competitive fire in the dugout. 

“You ask a couple of guys last night who were in the dugout,” he said, smiling. “If I did (lose my fire) I wouldn’t be here. I would not be here. I love what I’m doing and want to be back and have another shot at the postseason.”

Of the three most visible faces on the baseball side of the organization, Bochy is the only one not undergoing changes. General manager Bobby Evans was let go Monday and vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean will soon start interviewing candidates to take the baseball ops slot that reports directly to ownership. 

The manager, though, is under contract, and on Monday, team president and CEO Larry Baer said Bochy will be back. That was relayed to Bochy from Baer and Sabean. In turn, Bochy told the two that he’s not at all concerned about the fact that he’s going into the last year of his contract and there have been no extension talks. He does not consider himself a lame duck.

“I don’t want them to have that on their plate either, and I’ve told them that,” Bochy said. “I’m signed and I’m good right now. Let’s just concentrate on what we need to do and that’s make this team better. I have zero concerns about (my contract).”

Next season will be Bochy’s 13th with the Giants. He spent a dozen years in San Diego and only went through one GM change, and in his first dozen years here, it has been the same. Even with the one change here, there was no drama. Evans was promoted to take Sabean’s job in 2015. Now, Evans is gone, and Bochy will have to work with a new head of baseball operations. This person may eventually want their own handpicked manager, but for at least a year, Bochy will be the choice. He said he’s not at all concerned about how a new partnership may work. His focus is on the field.

“My job is to make it work,” he said.