Let’s get this out of the way: I adore San Francisco, always have. And I hate LA. Lest you think this is just team spirit talking, my feelings about the two cities have nothing to do with the Giants or the Dodgers. They come from my own lived experiences. I grew up in Marin County, maybe 15-20 miles north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. I went to San Francisco all the time with family and friends. My father commuted to work there, and I worked in his office (580 Market St.) for one summer while I was in college. My brother and my sister have both lived and worked there; my brother still lives there now, and so do my aunt and uncle.
MrLefty and I began our honeymoon in San Francisco in 1983 and have spent many of our anniversaries since in the City. We go there at least 4-5 times a year for Giants games or Warriors games or concerts or theater. We’ve been to many great restaurants, walked around everywhere, did all the touristy things and the local things. While there are certain blocks I’d stay away from, especially at night, and I’d prefer not to park a car on the street, I’ve never felt unsafe there, especially compared to…see below.
In 1986, I was admitted to the University of Southern California to pursue my Ph.D. I can assure you that our young married finances did not stretch to a USC education, but they had generous support for graduate students, and they offered me a full ride. So we moved to LA in August, 1986, and lived there until August, 1990, when I got my first professor job and we happily escaped Southern California. We hated living in LA almost from the first moment. It was spread out and took forever to drive anywhere–especially if you hit bad traffic, which seemed to be 24/7. It was expensive, and the grad school stipend I thought was so lavish barely made a dent in our bills. We had to take out student loans and get side jobs to get by. The last couple of years, we lived in a rental house in a relatively nice neighborhood in Pasadena with a picture window in the living room that looked out at the San Gabriel Mountains…which you couldn’t see for at least half the year because they were shrouded in smog. Even in that “nice” neighborhood, we were regularly awakened at night by police helicopters looking for suspects. USC itself, while a lovely campus, was in a terrible neighborhood in downtown LA. It was scary to drive on the surface streets from the freeway to the campus, they had 24-hour security guarding the entrances, and we were warned not to walk anywhere on or off campus alone at night and to expect our cars to be broken into in the campus garages.
In short, it was four years of bad air, lousy commutes, high living costs, and never, ever feeling safe. After we moved back up north, I joked that the only things I missed were the weather and the LA Times.
I will say this, though: After moving back to Northern California from LA, we have continued visiting the area regularly because MrLefty’s folks live in Long Beach. We were just there before Thanksgiving and will be back again right after Christmas. We even bought timeshare in Newport Coast, an Orange County beach community, so we vacation there sometimes. We have remarked that the LA/Orange County area is a lot nicer if you have the money to enjoy it, which we certainly did not when we were in grad school. The same, of course, is true for the San Francisco Bay Area or any large metropolitan area.
I bring up all this to observe that I’m calling BS on the odd narrative that San Francisco is a dystopian hellhole while LA is paradise somehow and that’s why that New Dodger Who Can Rot chose them over us. Nonsense. That guy–and he can rot, so I’m not saying his name–picked the Dodgers because, in this order, (1) the Dodgers are a better team right now (2) marketing and (3) comfort because he’s already lived in Orange County for six years (and presumably would rather not move, but good luck with that commute–it’s awful).
The Guy Who Does Want to Play in San Francisco
With this week’s nonsense in mind, it was flat-out refreshing to see the Giants’ new outfielder, Jung Hoo Lee, positively gush in his introductory press conference about how much he loves San Francisco and is looking forward to living there. His mother, who plans to live here with her son to support him during his first year, has, according to her husband, “always wanted to come to San Francisco.” Jung Hoo told Laura Britt on Giants Talk that having lived in Seoul, he’s looking forward to seeing the Bay and the ocean everyday. He made an introductory speech in English and told Laura that his goal is to learn English well enough that he can do interviews without a translator.
Lee’s agent, Scott Boras, attended the press conference, and he had thoughts about the weird San Francisco narrative. This was in a John Shea article in the Chronicle.
“There are issues including homelessness near the ballpark in San Diego, in downtown L.A. To identify that only with San Francisco is really unfair. In any of the major cities, we’ve got issues. Chicago, New York, wherever. The players’ major focus is the structure of the organization and winning and competing. The biggest issue the Giants have is the fact that the Dodgers are getting better. Players want to know if they come here, will they be able to compete with the Dodgers? And now Arizona. That’s the real major question that San Francisco has to answer.”
If anyone has his finger on the pulse of what free agents want, it would be Boras, and he has no reason to spare our feelings on this matter. Now, I’m sure there are players who don’t want to play in California, period, for a variety of reasons–wanting to be closer to family on the East Coast (or in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean), cultural/political issues (San Francisco is both quirky and extremely progressive, and that’s not everyone’s cup of tea), high taxes/cost of living, etc. But with all due respect to Buster Posey, the Giants’ free agent problem is not a “San Francisco problem.” It’s a Giants’ problem. As Scott Ostler put it in a Chronicle column:
On a non-political level, the Giants’ comments come off as a lame excuse for losing too many potential free-agent adds. It’s unlikely that the players whom the Giants have had a legitimate shot at signing…rejected San Francisco because of the crime and the grime. More likely, they rebuffed the Giants because there’s no here here.
The Giants under the banner of Zaidi are a lackluster, boring squad built to aspire to .500 ball.
But let’s focus on the positive. Lee is here. He chose the Giants and seems happy about it, and he’s delightful.
In my “letter to Santa” a couple weeks ago, I asked for three things, in this order:
- a really good starting pitcher
- a legitimate and reliable centerfielder
- a new hitter
OK, #2 is checked off, so thanks for that, Santa. Farhan Zaidi, at Lee’s press conference, said that the plan is for Lee to be the everyday centerfielder. And we no longer have a platooning lunatic as the manager, either. As for #1, the Giants are still in there battling for Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but I have very little hope they will actually land him. There’s just too much competition from big-spending glamor franchises. I don’t know if the Dodgers are still in that mix after trading for Tyler Glasnow and Manuel Margot and their combined $35 mil salaries, but the Mets and Yankees both want Yamamoto, and I just believe he’s going to a New York team–either to join countryman Kodai Senga on the Mets or to join the loaded Yankees.
Here’s another money quote from Boras, pun intended:
“This is a Goliath division,” Boras said. “San Francisco has to be a Goliath to compete in it.”
Translation: If the Giants want Boras clients, they need to pay/overpay for them, like they apparently did for Lee and like they tried to do for Carlos Correa last year. Boras will happily matchmake if the money is there. Boras represents Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery–two pitchers who would be really nice additions to the Giants’ rotation–and Matt Chapman and Cody Bellinger (see #3 on my list). Of those four, the best fits would seem to be Snell, who’s from the Pacific Northwest (so cold/fog won’t freak him out) and has been pitching on the West Coast already, and Chapman, who’s played in the Bay Area and for Bob Melvin before (as has Snell, of course). Bellinger has more upside as a hitting addition than Chapman does, but it just seems unlikely that the Giants will go after Bellinger, having landed Lee.
I would like to see the Giants sign one top free agent pitcher and trade for another one. Corbin Burnes would be at the top of my list because of his Bay Area connection (played at St. Mary’s), but it’s unclear whether the Brewers really plan to trade him before this season. But everyone has their price, and Zaidi should get out of his comfort zone and make a big offer for him.
So a week which started so badly–That Guy’s deal was announced right after I published last week–ended happily with Lee’s charming and upbeat introduction. The Lees are going to Chase Center to see the Warriors tonight–Lee is reportedly a big Steph Curry fan–and I hope they have a great time. San Francisco at Christmastime is lovely. It’s not perfect, like any big city, but it’s still pretty darn special. And it’s ours.
Sing it, Tony! Lefty out.