Greek Giant

I was very much looking forward to yesterday’s game against the Rays. The Giants had just celebrated a lopsided win in St. Petersburg the day before and were playing for a series win on the road, which would have been their first of the year. Blake Snell was scheduled to make his second start and I had all kinds of positive exciting feelings as I sat down to watch.


Instead the Giants made a mess out of this game.

EDITOR”S NOTE: THIS is going to get ugly.

Let me begin with Blake Snell. I am a big Snell fan. He is, despite his flaws (lack of command, failing to finish off hitters early in counts, prone to walks, a bit unpredictable) kind of an old-school pitcher who does not over-think his approach to pitching and when he is on, as a dominant lefty with big-game credentials and playoff experience. I see him as a more powerful Madison Bumgarner without the command or a slightly less dominant Randy Johnson. He could be an awesome pitcher on any given day and yet his first two starts for the Giants have been less than impressive. Yesterday’s performance was a big disappointment for many reasons. We are now into Mid-April and I would expect any Major League pitcher to be close to mid-season form with his stamina and his pitching arsenal. Blake Snell is not. Yesterday is line of four innings pitched, six hits allowed, seven runs in with four strikeouts and two walks. I saw great stuff with a fastball up around 97 and a sharp slider. His curveball was not as good, often ending up off the zone. The Rays were looking for his slider in many at bats and had a very patient approach to Snell who is notorious for his lack of command.

For a big-time pitcher coming off a Cy Young season I expect better. And, quite frankly, what the hell has Snell been doing all these months when he was not signed? Was he working out, getting into shape, preparing to pitch well from the beginning when he was signed? OR! Was he simply not doing all those things and then waiting to see how the market played out? Ok, I know BIG LEAGUE pitching is not easy to replicate on your own without a basic Spring Training but yesterday’s start stunk! His first star was not much better. Snell may get ahead of hitters 0-2 then he will miss badly with three pitches to get a 3-2 count before he retires the hitter. Or he may fall behind a hitter. Or the Giants defense might not play well behind him. Whatever the case, things are not going well for Snell as a Giant so far.

It’s not only Blake Snell who stunk, by the way Giants fans. In watching the game I sat two markedly different teams with polar opposite approaches to baseball and energy levels. The Giants have the tenth highest payroll in the Major Leagues at $197,716,192 Million. That’s not small change and the Giants, for all their flaws, are not a cheap team trying to get by on TV revenue. They are actually spending serious money and trying to compete, unlike about a third of the teams in MLB. The Rays, by contrast, the perpetual over-achievers, have a payroll of $98,523,712 million. Their payroll is 27th in MLB! Yet this Rays team plays better baseball than the Giants.

Yesterday, the Rays were athletic, aggressive, smart at the plate and were mostly sound fundamentally. There was a play in the bottom of the third inning, a slow roller to Matt Chapman that had to be fielded cleanly and wasn’t Because Chapman double-clutched on a routiner the Rays runner, who was busting it down the line, beat the throw. He then stole second base and scored a blooper off the bat with two outs. At the time the game was 3-1 Rays and the Giants were still in it. That run made it 4-1 and the Rays would go on to score three more in the bottom of the fourth inning to chase Snell. The game would end 9-4 Rays and the Giants were left with another road series loss, an ugly game and a record of 6-10.

If you watch the Giants the collective energy on the team is non-plussed at best, dreary at worst. Watch the Rays, Watch their at bats, Watch their defensive play and you see two teams with totally different energy levels, levels of enthusiasm, athleticism, hustle and execution. The Rays are coached and developed very smartly (despite their propensity for using relievers to start games). Their offensive and defensive approaches are sound. The Rays develop players who fundamentally solid for the most part and they play well collectively because they were developed together for the most part.

The Giants could not be more different. The Giants are team with at least four players in the line up (Yaz, Flores, Murphy and Fitzgerald) would likely not even make a spot on the Rays roster or the roster of at least 20 of MLB’s teams. In the addition of Matt Chapman the Giants acquired a player whose best seasons are behind him because he was the best they could do since Casey Schmitt and Marco Luciano have not developed into starting Major League players. Nick Ahmed has had a fine career but he is another scrap heap emergency pickup. And Blake Snell? Well, he with so much promise and pedigree was signed to a bargain-level two year contract with an opt out in year two. This means that if he pitches well as a Giant then he will likely go to another team with a bigger offer in 2025. The Giants have now become a team of transients, with some good acquisitions and some bad ones. No longer do they have a core of homegrown players who are productive or promising that the fans can identify with and that have blossomed together in the Giants system. The Giants are team with no identity built by a GM who appears to have no plan, long-term and a very spotty draft record at best. It’s not going well and I do not see things getting better very soon. In fact we could say that the Giants have been run as a team always reacting, improvising, and trying to find emergency fill-ins. Not once under the Zaidi regime have I ever had the sense that the Giants were on a steady course with a long-term view towards building a championship team. Not in the draft department. Not in development. Not in the hiring of Gabe Kapler. It appears the Giants are being run almost as a kind of social experiment and that experiment is failing badly.

Yes, it is early in the year and the Giants could play better but what about next season? What is on the horizon to get excited about?