“…They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.” - Field of Dreams
Welcome to Czar’s Blog #1 of 2019.
For those new to the Czar’s Blog we started sharing our Giants tickets with our friends in 2000 when the new park was built (and we moved from our two tickets at Candlestick to four at PacBell Park – now Oracle). The Czars Blog started soon after to report on the team’s progress throughout the year and distribute our tickets. We have lived the ups and downs that included four world series, three trophies and one crushing Game six in 2002. We saw Barry Bonds hit 762, Travis Ishikawa hit a walk-off to get to the WS, Matt Cain pitch a perfect game, Lincecum throw a no-hitter and Bum walk out of the bullpen for a five-inning Game 7 save. It has been magical, and it will be this year. We have four seats 25 rows behind home plate at the most beautiful ballpark in baseball. We do not charge our friends for the tickets and we favor children (of all ages). I am the Czar and I decide who gets the tickets, typically the first one responding with a request after the blog goes out. The rules are below.
2019 – A Year of mystery with a New President of Baseball Operations, a CEO in Trouble and a Manager on the Cusp of Retirement
The major news of the off-season was the Giants recruiting the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations (Farhan Zaidi) to rebuild the team after an injury-marred and disappointing 2018 campaign. Farhan came in during the off-season, evaluated the team and didn’t make that many changes. Many of the faithful (me included) believe that is because the personnel were good and 2018 was an injury-based aberration. Farhan is a metrics and analytics guru trained by Billy Bean at the A’s who built the juggernaut now known as the Dodgers, a team (just to remind folks) that still hasn’t won it all since 1988.
Larry Baer, while the CEO and an executive with a passion for the game, the ballpark and the fans introduced unnecessary drama into the pre-season by getting into a public incident with his wife Pam not easily (or quickly) forgiven – we will probably never know what was on that phone, but my money is on children. To top it off, Bruce Bochy (in the last year of this contract) announced that he was retiring at the end of the season.
Will all this make a difference? Bochy is a steadying influence, Brian Sabean is still in the background and Farhan is showing smarts in not making moves just for doing something.
What does the team look like so far – with Spring Training still underway?
Healthy players make all the difference. Samardjiza’s shoulder is healed, Bum is throwing like the Bum of old after breaking his hand last spring, Buster’s hips are moving again, Longoria’s (.325 BA) muscle pulls are gone, Duggar and Belt’s concussions are healed (Belt, 4 spring HR’s and a .447 BA), Crawford’s legs are fresh, Longoria is looking like the Longo of old (.325 BA and a rocket arm) and Panik (.462 BA) looks like the second coming of Dwyane Johnson after working out all winter, losing weight and gaining more speed than he had before.
Will this be enough? Right now, the Giants infield is one of the best units in baseball, defensively and offensively (the pitchers love it). The issue is the outfield. The G-Men basically have two outfielders, neither a power threat – Duggar in Center and Gerardo Parra in right (a great defensive player -maybe the best arm in the majors - who started at the Snakes and has been around, but is a non-roster invitee still here, and is batting .325). Left field is a question mark unless Mac Williamson steps up and seizes the day.
The pitching is looking good with the Bum and Shark rounding into form, and Rodriquez, Pomeranz and Holland right behind them. The bullpen (contrary to some commentators) is also strong with Watson, Moronta, and Smith all looking good. Melancon, on the other hand, is being lit up this spring.
The players to watch in the last spring training games include the Panda (on the bubble because of numbers) and rookie Joe Conner (a rule 5 pick-up that would have to go back to the Dodgers if he doesn’t get in on the 25-man roster).
The bottom line is that Farhan is building a good hitting (but weak on power) - and possibly great defensive team - with solid pitching and a deep bullpen. Can the team compete in a strong division is the question?
The National League West – a Test Soon in Progress
The national sporting press picks the Giants to have a horrible season with up to 100 losses (SI) and to finish last in the NL West. However, 10 of the first 13 games (three in LA and seven at home against the Padres and the Rockies) are division games. There will be no slow start – the G-Men will be tested out of the box. The Giants can read the papers just like the rest of us and if there is motivation in being disrespected by the entire baseball establishment – the Giants have it. The home games in new Oracle Park will be especially interesting because that is where home runs go to die regardless of ballpark name so hitting and defense are important.
Now if we can just find another outfielder with pop life would be much better and we could all relax and enjoy all the new food and what is now the largest, brightest scoreboard in MLB.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!