The Giants in 2015 have done all they need to do. Everything
good from here on out is like that unopened pack of gum you found in your jeans
pocket after it went through the wash: A delicious, elastic surprise, faintly
redolent of fabric softener, all wadded up into one jawbreaking bolus.
Bizarre year, crazy team, and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyable. If the Giants were still 0-for-SF in world championships, I would be writing a different line, of course, full of curses.
Yes, I'm spoiled. I'd love a back-to-back, in-your-face-Dodgers, yawn-another-parade World Series win this year. I don't need one.
What I do need as a Giants fan, the Giants have amply provided this year.
First and foremost, competitiveness. Imagine it's March 25, 2015. Matt Cain is throwing well in Scottsdale, Angel Pagan is in the best shape of his life, and Tim Hudson hasn't yet turned 40. If you knew that as of August 21, Hunter Pence would have missed more than half the year, Joe Panik would go down with a back injury, Pagan would be the worst regular in baseball, Cain would miss half the... Christ almighty, do I need to keep going?
The Dodgers have Koufax and Drysdale redux, they have Yasiel Freakin' Puig, they absolutely fleeced the Padres in the off-season, and Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford are actually good this year. Yet the Giants are running right behind them, stepping on the heels of their sneakers and giving them annoying flat tires. So awesome.
Second, the Giants have learned good things. Matt Duffy is
the highest standard possible of Duffyness; all others are merely Duffy-ish. Live it, love it, learn it.
That's the big one. But wait, there's more! Chris Heston looks like he'll provide back-end rotation depth for a while... Kelby Tomlinson might be a good slap-and-dash bench guy, perhaps even with some center-field potential... The next bullpen generation is getting comfortable... Bochy is more at ease with Brandon Belt in left field on occasion, crucial to keep Buster Posey feeling his freshest (and for taking advantage of a backup catcher who's a legitimate hitter)... The team gets a chance to sell Mike Leake on sticking around in 2016 and beyond, although at what price is ripe for debate.
They're well set-up for 2016, with -- as of this writing -- the best catcher in baseball, the best shortstop in baseball, and the best second baseman in the National League. (Also: Brandon Belt is a top-five first baseman, and Duffy is the sixth-best third baseman in baseball, despite having 75 to 100 fewer plate appearance than most others who qualify.)
Not all those guys will sustain. There will be regression. There will be injuries. And on paper, the Dodgers will keep getting better. They've got two of baseball's top-five prospects waiting.
But raise your hand if you worry about the Giants falling off a cliff in the next couple years. Nope. Part of that optimism is the front office's transaction work this year.
That's the third thing I've needed as a fan: Nothing stupid. Hamstring aside, Mike Leake was a solid pickup. The Giants lost High-A pitcher Keury Mella, a top prospect, and slugger-without-a-position Adam Duvall, but no one saw the deal as an overpay. And if the Giants persuade Leake to stay past 2015, as they've done with so many free agents to be, it should go down as an excellent trade.
The past few years, the moves have all been so damn
sensible, like walking shoes for a 50-year-old dad. As I wrote here, the Giants
know their own farm system -- whom to trade, whom to keep -- better than any of
their division rivals, measured by WAR of players who stayed and players who
were traded away.
That was in late 2012. I have a feeling the Giants have put a vast gulf between them and the rest of the NL West, what with so much homegrown contribution since then.
It's been a dream season, in this sense: The Giants are right there, making games count, making fans show up and pay attention, they've remained flexible in the face of injury, and they haven't sold the future down the river. A smart retooling of the starting rotation -- Bumgarner, Cain, Leake, Heston, one more free agent, and perhaps Vogelsong again as insurance? -- and another outfield bat, and they should be good to go in 2016.
Yes, I did list Matt Cain as the second starter behind Bumgarner. I think his struggles the past month or so are from essentially pitching with a new elbow. When the bone chips were removed a year ago, he admitted he hadn't had full extension of the elbow since high school. Now he does. His problems, I'm guessing, are a "feel" thing. The rest of this year is his extended spring training. Will we ever see Peak Cain, 2009-2012, again? It's more sensible to say he should be a solid contributor next year, and leave it at that.
I'm all about sensible these days. Very thankful, a little spoiled, sure, but not greedy. As fans go these days, I could be a lot worse. A pennant race right in front me, and bright skies on the distant horizon.