by DrLefty

Extra, Extra! Giants Get Their First Win!

I didn’t see much of last night’s game. I’m still in San Diego County (heading to the airport to fly home later this morning), and last night Lefty Jr. did a gig (she’s a singer/songwriter) at a local brewery. She was opening for a musician friend who was launching her album and did a five-song set. When it got booked, I was already scheduled to be here for her Thursday birthday, so I changed my flight to stay the extra night and see the show. She did great!

But I heard/saw the last couple of innings and went back over the highlights, and wow–am I a happy Giants fan this morning. Hitting. SO. MUCH. HITTING. HARD hitting. Defense. Pitching–and as Baggs noted in his gamer, last night’s group of pitchers were all homegrown (Harrison, Roupp, Tyler Rogers, Walker)–and because they had a nice cushion, they didn’t even need their homegrown closer.

I know it’s just two games and they’re 1-1. I’m not getting carried away (yet). But I was optimistic before the season started about the pitching and the improved defense and dubious that the lineup/offense was going to be much–average at best, I thought. Average hitting with excellent pitching and defense can take you a long way. Just ask the 2010-2012-2014 Giants. What if it was above average, though? I’m not talking Dodgers/Braves-level offense–let’s not get crazy here–but Lee looks legit. Chapman looks dialed in. Conforto looks like he wants his next contract. What if the pieces actually all fit and this turns out to be a 90+ win team?

I enjoyed both of these Giants-produced videos. This one is about Jung Hoo Lee’s first spring training. I was completely charmed by him at his press conference, and I liked what I saw in this video–he’s friendly, outgoing, and confident. I think my favorite thing is a little snippet right in the middle where he and Luis Matos are having a little conversation, joking around in English. I had a vision of those two guys side by side in the outfield for years to come. This second one is about the Giants’ rotation, and I thought it was well done and gave me some insight, not just about the individual pitchers but the new pitching coaches, how the pitchers view each other, and how central Patrick Bailey is to all of it.

On the latest Giants Talk, Alex Pavlovic was saying that this might be the first season since 2017 that fans were actually excited about before it started. OK, we know how 2017 turned out, but before that year, we had high hopes. The 2016 team was a playoff team, and all they needed was to shore up their bullpen, which they did by signing free agent closer Mark Melancon to a big contract(!). In contrast, the 2021 season, while magical, came out of nowhere. There was not much that happened in the offseason that tipped you off that this was about to be something special.

So now we’re somewhere in the middle. After five straight lackluster offseasons, Farhan Zaidi and ownership actually brought some A-listers into the mix. No dumpsters involved!  So we have trust issues (the 2022 and 2023 seasons) meeting hope (Bob Melvin and the new cast of characters). It’s way too soon to tell how it will all go, but for the first time in awhile, I have anticipation and enthusiasm about the coming season of Giants baseball. It’s a good feeling, and I’ve missed it.

 

Opening Day Reflections

March 28, 2019 was the first game of the Farhan Zaidi Era. It was also Lefty Jr’s 25th birthday and during my spring break, so we took a long weekend trip to San Diego to celebrate the birthday and attend the first two games. I prioritized attending that opener because I knew there was a good chance it would be the last one started by Madison Bumgarner.

Five years ago today, I wrote about that experience.  It was not a great one. While Bumgarner pitched well enough to win, the Giants lost 2-0, and “lackluster” doesn’t begin to describe it. The Giants didn’t score a run in 2019 until Evan Longoria hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of Game 2; until that moment, I was convinced that not only would they go 0-162 that year, but they would not score a single run. (They actually did win Game 3 of that four-game series behind Dereck Rodriguez–remember him?)

March 28, 2024 was Lefty Jr’s 30th birthday. She now lives in north San Diego County, and I was planning to visit for her birthday, since it’s (again) spring break for me. She asked if we could go to the game as we did five years ago, so of course I got us tickets.

View from our seats (Sec 110), March 28, 2024

We were adjacent to the visitors’ dugout, so there were some friendly faces around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greek Giant already hit the highs and lows of the game. It was kind of a scattered experience for me because (a) Lefty Jr’s attention span wandered and she was chatting me up at points and (b) when I got up before the third inning to take a quick restroom break, she asked me to “grab her a beer,” and with over 44,000 fans in the park and huge lines for everything, that little outing cost me an inning and a half of the game. (It was her birthday or I would have told her to grab her own beer!)

So funny story, I missed Michael Conforto‘s double during the bathroom/beer run. Then, with two outs in the top of the ninth, the Padres fans all rose to their feet while we Giants fans sat in sullen silence…so we missed seeing Conforto’s home run. I hear he had a good game(!).

So the high points for me:

  • Logan Webb looked great, really sharp. I guess we really didn’t need to worry about his rough spring. While Padres’ starter Yu Darvish was also very good–both pitchers left the games with a lead and neither ended up getting the win–the Giants’ lineup didn’t seem too overwhelmed by him after first-inning jitters.
  • It was fun to see Jung Hoo Lee’s debut and first hit, even if he did pull a “Mike Yastrzemski” by promptly getting picked off. (It was also 2019 when Yaz made his debut, got his first hit, and overran first base in his excitement, getting tagged out while his wife cringed in the stands.)
  • I enjoyed seeing a sacrifice bunt (put down by Patrick Bailey) to move runners to second and third; both later scored, so it paid off strategically. It immediately struck me how long it had been since I’d seen the Giants do that. Gabe Kapler would never, it seems like.
  • There was some good defense, most notably a nice running catch down the right field line by Yaz in the second inning and a sharp Thairo Estrada-to-Bailey throw/tag that nailed a runner at the plate.
  • LHP Erik Miller‘s MLB debut, a scoreless clean inning in the bottom of the eighth, was terrific. I have more to say about Miller and others below.

 

Logan Webb’s third straight Opening Day start, March 28, 2024

Jung Hoo Lee’s first major league at-bat, March 28, 2024

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unlike Opening Day 2019, I didn’t come away from the game with a feeling of hopelessness or anger. (I was angry, as I wrote in that column five years ago today, because the starting outfield on Opening Day was Michael Reed, Steven Duggar, and Connor Joe–and Reed and Joe had just been fished out of dumpsters the previous week. Neither of them lasted two weeks as Giants.) At least there’s nothing like that this year. The roster is made up of legit major leaguers*, my next topic.

*I don’t think anyone bit at my second trivia question yesterday, which was “Who was the Opening Day right fielder in 2020?” The answer was “Senator” Joe McCarthy. I think he only lasted a week or two on the big club, too.

OK, that’s a lot of news for one day, but it’s that time of year. I’ll end this with one final photo and congratulate Bob Melvin on his first day and now his first WIN (Friday night) as Giants manager.

Bob Melvin delivering the lineup card before his first game as Giants manager, March 28, 2024

 

The Padres fans booed the living crap out of him, which surprised me a little bit, but not that much on reflection. He arrived with great fanfare from the A’s before the 2022 season and managed the Padres to a playoff berth and a first-round upset win over the Dodgers before they lost to the Phillies in the NLCS. In 2023, despite a stacked and expensive roster, the Padres missed the playoffs and barely made it to .500. Then within weeks Melvin skipped town to the division rival Giants. I guess I can’t blame the fans too much for not having fond memories.

We’ll see how the rest of the weekend goes. Lots of rain in the forecast. IF there’s a game tonight, it will be at 4:15 p.m. at Petco Park with Jordan Hicks facing Dylan Cease. Lefty out.