The Giants Are Bubbling
11:27 AM EDT on June 20, 2023
People across the baseball world awoke this morning and said in unison, "Ohtani, Schmotani. What's with those Giants?"
Actually, that didn't happen. Nobody said that. Among the bigger stories of the day even besides baseball's Nikola Jokic, there is Luis Arraez attempting to become the first player in the modern era to have a 5-for-4 night at the plate, Joey Votto returning to the Reds in time to power the perpetual backyard clunker into first place in the NL Central, and Aaron Judge being either a week away or four weeks away or stuck in the Titanic doom sub, depending on whatever explanation Yankees manager Aaron Boone feels like providing on that day. There is even the looming possibility that either the NL or AL Central could finish the season with no teams with winning records, but that's a specially bile-flavored treat for our newslettroises, so give us money to get the lowdown on that lowdown.
But the Giants? What? How? Why? And seriously, why? This was a team that was so monumentally devoid of interesting people a year ago that their final win-loss record may as well have been Meh-Feh. Their best player was starting pitcher Logan Webb, and after that it was a conga line of the aged, platoon players, and aging platoon players. They finished 81-81, their attendance was its lowest since the new ballpark arose 23 years earlier, and fans couldn't decide if they cared whether anyone was traded, fired, or shot into space. Seemed like a tragic waste of rocket fuel, all things considered.
That didn't seem to be changing much in 2023, either, until brainiac-in-charge Farhan Zaidi decided that waiting for the farm system to bear fruit had run its course and decided to bring up the young'uns ready or not. They have now won eight straight after last night's 7-4 extra-inning victory over the hot blob of inertia that is San Diego, have zoomed past the expired-date-on-carton Los Angeles Dodgers, and are within a weekend series of catching Arizona (what?) for the division lead.
If this makes sense to you, you're a liar. In fact, you may be a liar anyway, but that's between you and your lawyer. The Giants, though, have finished their four-year stretch as Grandma's tattered quilt in human form and are for the moment anyway invested in relative children like 24-year-old catcher Patrick Bailey, 24-year-old infielder Casey Schmitt, 21-year-old center fielder Luis Matos, and pitchers like Sean Hjelle, Keaton Winn, and Tristan Beck. Not that any of these guys are going to reinvent the Giants, but the team's persistent default—31-year-old journeyman everything—seems finally to have passed.
This season is a hot mess for legacy teams, which is of benefit to teams like the Giants whose highest paid player is Joc Pederson, the very definition of journeyman anything. They are eighth in runs and seventh in homers with an offense led by LaMonte Wade Jr., and they are the quintessential walks-and-strikeouts pitching staff dominated statistically by Logan Webb. They are, in short, successfully anonymous and anonymously successful. Or maybe this is just the afterglow of sweeping the Dodgers in Los Angeles, something the Giants hadn’t done since their championship 2012 and something that certain Giants would almost prefer to going back to the Series. Trust this: Fans are unhinged for different reasons in different cities, and this is the Giants' fans' great white whale.
The caveat here, as it always is, looms large. The Dodgers, losers of 10 of the last 14, can't stay this bad (unless they do), the Padres, Mets, and Phillies may actually just be bad despite all that dry-roasted money, and lord only knows how the Cardinals haven't started scapegoating manager Oliver Marmol and general manager John Mozeliak. Maybe a few of those teams get healthier and better. Maybe Miami and Arizona return to their usual flight path. The season is not even half-old.
But the key in San Francisco is that the Giants seem half-young. They're not, actually; the hitters' average age is down a year, but the pitchers are a year older. But they have new names, which is enough to erase the brackish taste of their 2022 nothingburger. They have corrected the thing that chased fans away only a year after winning 107 games, which was issuing forth a roster devoid of effervescence. They saw that 2021 was the aberration rather than 2022, and they did … well, something. And something always beats the alternative.