San Francisco – 2021 The San Francisco Giants are the best kind of great team:
At the start of the season, in the early days of spring training in Arizona, the concept of the Giants making the playoffs was a distant fantasy to the most minded and optimistic San Francisco fan.
Now, with 18 games to play, they are playing – with over half of the final month of the regular season playing, they have secured a spot in the post-season.
The Giants are the first team in baseball to stamp their tickets for October, and it was only fitting that they beat the Padres—a division rival and so many teams around baseball, including myself—initially called the “Super Team.” “Was judged as to the weather – on Monday night, to it.
How, exactly, did the Giants do this?
After all, these giants aren’t the best team money can buy. Most of their payroll, the tenth-highest in baseball, is tied at four out of five players signed in San Francisco under the previous front-office regime.
They have a team that costs 60 percent of their blue-clad rivals. His rivals wearing brown clothes are also spending more than him.
Yet both see platooning, bullpening and downright old veterans in the standings.
What is that all about?
After all, giants don’t even have the best pitchers.
His bullpen has been strong, no doubt, but there are no big names or superstars out there – his two best receivers are a submarine tosser and a man who only throws a pitch but is not Mariano Rivera.
The team is currently dealing with only three starting pitchers. Luckily the trio has been strong this season, with young Logan Webb – dropped from the rotation at the start of the year – becoming this team’s ace over the past few weeks. But two out of every five games are bullpened, including Monday’s clinch.
And the Giants hitters aren’t going to sell too many jerseys outside of San Francisco. There is no Fernando Tatis Jr. on the roster.
But may I interest you in Lamonte Wade Jr.?
It’s a viable conversation these days. I couldn’t tell you who Lamonte Wade Jr. was in April.
And who did you expect Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt and Buster Posey to drink from the fountain of youth this season? This season was going to be about the aging and exiting phase of that trio. He even seemed surprised by his success. But both Crawford and Posey have flirted with the MVP candidacy, while Belt — the team’s new self-appointed captain — has been the model hitter every veteran teammate emulates. Plus, he finally hit 20 homers this season.
Every night, the Giants’ lineup is different – tailor-made for the opposing team to stir, stir and mash. By the time you figure out who is in the diamonds and batting order, San Francisco is usually ahead in the game.
So, seriously, how did this all happen?
Well, baseball in 2021 is a simple game, really: Hit home runs and don’t allow the other team to hit homers.
It’s all about the long ball, baby.
Whether by design or by accident, the legends of 2021 are the masters of the modern game.
The Giants — yes, the San Francisco Giants, who play in a ballpark that’s so punitive for power hitters that he’s run the greatest power hitter ever for taking performance-enhancing drugs — won the Nationals in home runs this season. Lead the league.
All this, while allowing for the second fewest dingers.
There are countless complications surrounding the simple formula – strikeouts, walks, actually playing the defense, maybe a single every now and then – but the Giants never forgot what wins a baseball game today. They have lived up to the plan and are playing in October.
But crafting that plan required clear thinking from the front office, led by Farhan Zaidi, who found a way to assemble the team in the first place a year — maybe two — ahead of time. Zaidi handled the toughest rebuilding in the sport in 2018, a team plagued by “bad” contracts and a non-existent farming system. He spent his first season working without a general manager, doing important work at the start of a rebuild.
But before the free-agent money was freed up and before the organization’s now-wanted minor-league prospects were up for the show, Zaidi put the Giants in the playoffs.
This season’s success also required a steady hand from manager Gabe Kapler and his ever-increasing coaching staff. During the last six months of the regular season, the Giants – like any team – have suffered moments that have tested their worth. They have found a way out almost every time. Kapler’s commitment to Zaidi’s vision, his own analytical approach, and his stoic nature were exactly what this charming and ever-changing mix of personalities needed.
Of course, the priorities were number 1 to 40 players.
And beyond being hit and stopped by homers, the Giants also showed gumption and heart and wisdom that fit this old team, but not completely this inexperienced.
This resulted in the Giants getting better and more good – Monday’s clincher was their eighth consecutive win – while the inevitable bad moments never seemed to spiral into an uncontrollable place.
The Giants found so many ways to win this season that we didn’t have viable explanations. At a certain point, success was framed as “magic”.
Sure, it was Homers In and Homers Out, but it’s no fun.
No, artificial insensitivity – that’s the real hallmark of a great team.
And while no one expected that from San Francisco this season — even when the calendar flipped to September, the concept seemed a little ridiculous — that’s the reality. It is now inevitable.
Monday’s celebrations on the field and at the Technicolor Club House earned a lot of money just because of this.
The only question now is how far this team can go in its early stages in the history of the franchise.
There’s still a lot of baseball left to play — and more festivities, perhaps, to come — but the Giants face at least one more game in October with their win on Monday.
I have a feeling this won’t be his last.