Following Thursday’s loss — an 18-2 drubbing at the hands of the division rival Arizona Diamondbacks — the San Francisco Giants found themselves sitting eight games under .500 through the seasons first 50 games, at 21-29.
They also find themselves at a crossroads, a franchise debating whether or not to pull the trigger on a full-blown, tear down rebuild, or try and salvage the final season of manager Bruce Bochy’s illustrious career.
An inept offense, a depleted farm system, and discord in the front office have put the Giants in a precarious situation. A team rife with veterans but lacking in both wins and production, San Francisco looks like a franchise in disarray. What started as a season of hope and positivity has quickly unraveled, the byproduct of which is a toxic blend of both controversy and disappointment. And it all started before the first pitch on Opening Day.
A Season Of Drama And Disappointment
Team president and CEO Larry Baer was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons back in March. He became the center of controversy after a video surfaced of him engaging in a physical altercation with his wife Pamela. The backlash of this incident resulted in Baer taking a leave of absence from the team.
The dysfunction of the directionless franchise doesn’t end there. Farhan Zaidi, a former executive for the Giants bitter rival Los Angeles Dodgers, took over as the leader of the front office this offseason. The Dodgers have had a stranglehold on the division for the past couple of years. Zaidi was brought in with the hope that he would help usher the Giants into the new analytics-driven age of baseball.
The lack of offseason moves and public squashing of Madison Bumgarner trade rumors leads one to believe that, at this point, nothing has been made official about the current and future direction of the team. So much so that pitcher Derek Holland – who was recently demoted to the bullpen after early season struggles as a starter – publicly admonished the franchise.
Fake it until you make it
The Giants placed the left-hander on the 10-day injured list after he was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his left index finger. After undergoing an MRI, the Giants’ medical staff documented the issue, and Holland went on record with what he called “a fake injury.” Holland had posted an underwhelming 5.34 ERA through his first six starts. Both the medical staff and team brass alluded to Holland’s injured finger as a potential contributor to his early struggles.
Unhappy with the club’s decision to move him into a relief role, Holland criticized the Giants front office and expressed disappointment in his decision to fake an injury. He said he felt healthy enough to play “We keep changing a lot of things,” Holland said. “I did a fake injury, I’m not happy about that. But at the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever they ask me to do.”
Bochy and Zaidi’s predecessors, Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans, created a culture within the Giants organization that encouraged open communication in the clubhouse. Current and former players have praised Bochy for his approach over the years. As it pertains to this particular instance, Holland was quick to clarify that his frustration was a result of decisions being made by Zaidi and the front office, and not by his manager.
Inner turmoil always has a negative effect on a major league clubhouse. But it is certainly only one of many issues that are plaguing this team and contributing to their poor performance to date. The Giants expensive and aging roster is not living up to expectations thus far.
Not So Young And Restless
Though it seems as if starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner has regained some of the form that made him a postseason legend and one of baseball’s best workhorse pitchers, it would appear as if his best days are behind him. And the Giants are putting on their poker face as to whether he is available to be dealt before the trade deadline. Future Hall of Famer Buster Posey can’t stay on the field. Joe Panik’s production at the plate has all but disappeared. And the only spark this team is producing is often coming from the play of a guy who was left for dead by the Boston Red Sox and picked up from the bargain bin by his former team; Pablo Sandoval. Collectively, the offense ranks at or near the bottom in almost every relevant offensive category, including batting average and total runs scored.
The pitching staff is also a bit of a mess. Outside of Bumgarner, the Giants starting rotation has been inconsistent at best. Jeff Samardzija has looked like, well, Jeff Samardzija. Derek Rodriguez, despite his promising rookie season last year, still looks like a young pitcher finding his way in the major leagues. And one of the lone offseason acquisitions made by Zaidi, starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz, is 1-5 and has an ERA over 6.00. The lone bright spot has been the team’s bullpen, which has fared much better than the starting rotation. But the Giants are unlikely to right the ship without stronger performances from their starting rotation.
Is it time to pull the trigger on the rebuild?
A beautiful ballpark nestled in the piers of San Francisco coupled with a loyal fan base and tradition of winning should keep the seats filled in the short term while fans hope the front office figures out how to change their fortunes. But with trouble no longer just looming, but on the near horizon, is it time for the Giants to pull the trigger on a full-scale rebuild, and strip the team down for the sake of replenishing the farm system? The next few weeks should be telling in terms where this team is going…and what they are even thinking at this point.