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The Giants Face a Big Challenge: How to Become Relevant in 2014

This is the week that the San Francisco Giants were eliminated from the 2013 race for the National League West title. Soon they will also be eliminated from the NL Wild Card chase– both the Giants and the New York Mets were recently 17 games out in the NL Wild Card standings.

Hangin' out with the Mr. Met mascot. That's the kind of company the 2012 World Champions are keeping these days.

So we're officially free to start seriously considering San Francisco's 2014 MLB season which kicks off in six months and three weeks– on Monday March 31, 2014 in Arizona.

And there is every reason to believe the Giants can regroup and come back next year with a strong, contending team.

But before we dive into the good news about this team's future, there is one very large elephant that needs to be put on the table (followed by repeatedly pounding the table with our fists). Only then we can freely get into what this team needs to do, and speculation about what they will do.

The 2013 San Francisco Giants are 66-80, 20 games out of first place in the NL West. Their offense is 26th out of 30 MLB teams in runs scored with 556. To contrast, the Boston Red Sox lead all of baseball with 766 runs– 210 runs more than the Giants. San Francisco is 29th overall in home runs with 89.

Giants pitchers are 21st of 30 MLB teams in ERA (4.05) and 20th in WHIP (1.32).

My point here is, what happened in 2013 wasn't a fluke. It wasn't a series of bad breaks that could easily have gone the other way. It wasn't an unlucky inning here or there that made all the difference between a good season and a failed season. This was a global, catastrophic, season-long implosion of stinky poo.

Sometimes it's hard to see the harsh realities. The Giants organization is in the business of being all positive all the time, so don't look there for anything other than the date of next fan giveaway day.

Same goes for the local broadcasters, who continue to sing the praises of Ryan Vogelsong (3-5, 1.62 WHIP, 5.82 ERA), or repeat for the 26th time that Tim Lincecum has finally turned it all around (9-13, 1.33 WHIP, 4.40 ERA). And I realize that's part of their job and I respect that.

But to understand the depth of the 2013 morass, we might start looking at the numbers and the statistical trending on our own. That way we might begin to fully understand how the Giants came to be 20 games out of first place. And that's our starting place to examine exactly where this team needs to go over the next six months to become relevant once again in the National League.

Let's begin with some breaking news: the retooling of the 2013 San Francisco Giants isn't just about getting a power hitter and a starter.

Sure, both the offense and starting pitching need serious help, but there's also a series of systemic problems within the organization that have to be addressed: the inability to make major trades, the lack of position players being produced in the minor leagues, the "cross-your-fingers" strategy of signing cheap marginal players and giving them critical roles.

All of which can be fixed, both short term and long term. And all of which I believe will be fixed.

Over the next couple of months The Giants Cove will conduct a four-way breakdown of what the renewed and retooled San Francisco Giants should look like:

> Offense. Scoring runs has been undervalued and neglected by the front office for years. There is no reason for this team not to have power hitters. Period.     

> Starting pitching, which has long been the key to Giants success, is now sitting in the front yard up on blocks and getting old and rusty.

> The bullpen. If management really believes a solid pen is the key to winning, why did they allow the 2013 bullpen to fall apart?

> Outfield and infield defense. We all agree that excellent defense is important. But even the best gloves in the game can't begin to replace the lack of a serious offense. Sometimes you have to choose one or the other. 

As we get closer to the 2014 season let's also agree to one very spiritually important commitment: there will be no whining about the Los Angeles Dodgers and their deep pockets. The San Francisco Giants are in the top 10 teams with the highest MLB team revenue, so their pockets are more than deep enough to get the job done if the desire is there.

Trust me. The San Francisco Giants' 2014 season will be all about success, not excuses.

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