Giant Fans Down to Two Choices: Swallow the Kool-Aid or Hit the Panic Button

Here’s what I would love to do: as we start the 2014 season, happily join the vast majority of San Francisco Giants fans who (for reasons unknown) believe this team has a chance to compete and make the playoffs in October.

You know. Take a big gulp of that orange liquid the Giants are selling, get all excited and say stuff like, “Cool, we got Timmy locked up for two years!”. Or, “Vogey’s back—how sweet is that?”.

Or, “The Giants really have a chance if Huddy, B-Craw, and BumRod have a good year…”.

Here’s where I find myself right now: my projections throughout this off-season about the Giants likely finishing in third place are starting to look like the crazy ramblings of a wild-eyed optimist on experimental happy drugs from Pfizer.

If the San Diego Padres or Colorado Rockies, or (yikes!!) both, take it up a few notches in 2014 this could be the ugliest season we’re seen at AT&T Park since that four year disaster known as 2005-2008.

For those fans whose history of the San Francisco Giants started in October 2010, here are the records San Francisco’s ownership and management put together during those four long years:

2005:  75-87                         2007:  71-91
2006:  76-85                         2008:  72-90

And now? The closer we get to the start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season the more the San Francisco Giants are looking exactly like the team they are:

> Players re-signed or extended only because they’re fan favorites, not because they can perform. Their nicknames and that one great year they had in 2009 are way more important than their OPS or WHIP over the past three years.

> Older players signed to multi-year contracts whose athletic abilities are fading.

> On a team with little offense, two of the Giants’ most talented Giant hitters, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt, have yet to have their contracts extended. Sandoval will be a free agent at the end of the season, and Belt is going through his arbitration cycle on the way to free agency.

And of all the fan-pandering, short-sighted things the front office has done, not signing Sandoval and Belt to contract extensions may be the worst.

While the Atlanta Braves and a number of other forward-looking teams recently wrapped up their best young players with multi-year contracts that avoided arbitration and free agency for a lot less money, what has the Giants’ front office been doing?

Hyping stories about Sandoval’s weight and about Belt not really proving himself yet in order to drive down the contract prices for both players.

And so far the Giants front office has been successful. The fans, the media, and even a number of players have completely bought into the “Pablo’s too fat” story-line.

So let’s see if I have this straight: the most productive hitter on the team and the best power hitter on the team, and one of the most talented hitters in the National League may not be worth signing because of his weight?

You mean that weight he’s had pretty much throughout his six year career with his career .827 OPS? Averaging 20 home runs and 89 RBI a year?

But in the player personality-obsessed environment of AT&T Park, the Giants have made Sandoval’s weight seem like a make-or-break issue.

Same for the front office’s storyline about Brandon Belt: “Belt hasn’t really proven himself yet”.

Except that in Belt’s three year career his OPS has increased dramatically each season:
2012, .718 OPS in 63 games; 2013, .781 OPS in 145 games; 2014, .841 OPS in 150 games.

Here’s hoping the San Francisco Giants get both Sandoval and Belt extended with multi-year contracts before Opening Day. Not for 2014, which increasingly looks like another lost season, but for 2015 and beyond.

Damn… I just spilt the Kool-Aid on the panic button and now nothing works.

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