MLB teams with either long-term or recent championship success have two distinct directions to take their franchises in the off-season.
They can build on their success by aggressively analyzing and re-purposing their team to for continued success, or they can sit back and spend the capital they earned as former champions.
When the Yankees signed Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka to a seven year $155 million contract it capped a redirection of major proportions for a team historically dedicated to winning. In recent months New York spent $438 million on Tanaka, Carlos Beltran ($45m/3 years), Brian McCann ($85m/5 years), and Jacoby Ellsbury ($153m/7 years).
The moves the Yankees have made do not guarantee a first place finish and post season success-- but they certainly demonstrate ownership's commitment to winning and their dedication to achieve future championships.
As far as spending $438 million, many other successful teams have shown that you don't need to spend anywhere near that much to achieve success. But you do have to commit some significant amount of money and resources to get the job done.
The San Francisco Giants organization has obviously decided to take the other road. The direction they have chosen is all about looking back and cashing in the good will and capital earned from their 2010 and 2012 Series Championships.
After their disastrous 2013 season the Giants continued a policy of adding a series of inexpensive player reclamation projects, pretending they were doing everything they could to construct a roster geared for post season baseball. Instead of signing quality players who would actually drive the team to the 2014 playoffs.
The evidence of this permeates everything the team's front office and PR people have been putting out since the Giants 3rd place finish in the NL West last season.
Here are the current storylines the San Francisco Giants are using as a substitute for actually building a championship team:
> Promoting a "hey, anything can happen" philosophy the organization hopes fans will happily adopt, instead of wondering why the team didn't carefully analyze their needs and rebuild for success. The idea is to pretend that performing well, winning baseball games, and making the post season is a crap shoot that any team might pull off.
So why do all that work and spend all that money on quality players?
> Hoping fans and the media buy into watching a half dozen flawed players attempt to make a comeback, instead of fielding proven quality players who fill the specific roles that make up a winning team. Pushing that lame story angle has saved the ownership group a lot of money.
> More and more you hear the San Francisco's front office referencing their 2010 and 2012 World Series Championships, using up what they've banked to convince the fanbase they are still relevant.
For the Giants, looking back has become the official substitute for winning forward.
You'll often hear Manager Bruce Bochy or GM Brian Sabean say something to the effect of "Hey, if [pick one: Tim Lincecum/ Michael Morse/Ryan Vogelsong/Tim Hudson/Pablo Sandoval/Angel Pagan/Marco Scutaro, etc.] can repeat what he did in [pick a year, probably two or three years ago] then this team will be successful."
And how often have we heard the tired, "We're hoping we can catch lightning-in-a-bottle with [name virtually any current player] this season."
Hoping, crossing your fingers, pretending that fielding a winning team is a random crapshoot. Tell that to the St. Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox, the Oakland As and five or six other quality franchises in baseball who have made an art out of crafting playoff teams year after year.
San Francisco's pattern is not new, but it certainly is disappointing for a team that has the resources, but apparently not the will or the creativity, to be potential champions every year. And it's truly depressing for their dedicated fans who deserve much better.
According to ESPN, the Giants farm system rates #25 out of thirty in all of major league baseball. That's an improvement as last year it rated #26 and, in the three preceding years, #26, #23 and #20. So the farm system has been consistently poor. Unless the Giants make a miracle revival, there is little hope for the immediate future. Banking on "miracle revivals", however, is a poor bet.
Failing organization? Fans that deserve better? Tell that to the two banners hanging on the flag pole at the stadium. If you'd rather be an A's fan, and watch your GM sell off talent every offseason in order to build a team that can't even get past the ALDS, have at it. Actually, go talk to a Houston fan. Apparently, that organization is "doing things the right way" by stacking prospects and losing 100 games each year. I'll bet anyone in that fan base would gladly trade their miserable MLB product for an organization that actually does what it sets out to do: WIN.
We were all disappointed by 2013, but I don't see how replacing Zito with Hudson and adding Morse's bat to the lineup can be considered a failure. Let the games play out before you throw the season away, for crying out loud. The core of this team is still built around homegrown players. What more do you want?
By the way, how many titles have the Yankees ACTUALLY won since 2000? Exactly 1 less than the Giants. Money can't buy you everything...
I wanted to give the Giants the benefit of any remaining doubt regarding their (SF) intention to win, maybe in 2015 so I studied the recently published list of the best one-hundred major league prospects as viewed by MLB. There were two, only two, Kyle Crick in 32nd place and Edwin Escobar in 95th place. So it seems that the prospects for a winning team emerging from the Giants farm system and replacing the old fellows and has-beens now on the roster is comparatively poor. I'd say we need new management or else a dose of energetic non-support by veteran fans and new over the 2014 and 2015 seasons which would discourage management and frighten investors and, as a result, change the direction of how this team is handled. Bruce Bochy's constant glorifying the potential of the Giants also does not help the situation and his insincerity is transparent; I know, he wants to keep his job and remain on the right side of management. This team is a non-winner; it caters to ownership profits and fan-based "event ecstasy".
"Tell that to the two banners hanging on the flag pole at the stadium."
That illustrates one of my points-- the Giants organization is thrilled to have their fans still jumping up and down about 2010 and 2012. It's all about looking back because there's not much to look forward to. Other than pretending this team will be competitive in 2014.
"The core of this team is still built around homegrown players. What more do you want?"
I want the Giants to conduct competent first year amateur drafts that don't end up with the 26th rated minor league system in the Majors for the past ten years.
Wasted time on mediocre home grown players like Brett Pill who can't make it at the Major League level are what has smothered this team. Instead of spending money, management's solution is to roll the dice and hope that mediocre draft picks and veteran players might get the job done.
Draft some "home grown" players with actual talent and develop them-- that's what more I want.
"Money can't buy you everything..."
Here's where we agree:
"As far as spending $438 million, many other successful teams have shown that you don't need to spend anywhere near that much to achieve success. But you do have to commit some significant amount of money and resources to get the job done."
So the Giants exchanged Michael Morse for Andres Torres and Tim Hudson for Barry Zito, and that's what's going to turn 2014 around? The bench is terrible, the starting pitching and front line hitting is thin-- there's no depth or back-up plan. The Giants haven't spent nearly what they should to build a winning team.
Covechatter, I am guessing you and I both want the exact same thing-- winning baseball from the Giants and to make the playoffs every year. But because they won two World Series the past four season, because they proved they could be a championship franchise I also expect management and the front office to build a championship organization that will continue to win.
It may sometimes feel like articles over the past year or so repeat or overlap, but it's actually a variation on a number of themes that illustrate the overall organizational decline of the San Francisco Giants.
Since the franchise isn't failing in only one or two areas, there is an array of subjects to analyze and compare to each other. Often the same bad approaches or philosophies are common to any number of the team's problems, so they start sounding somewhat familiar.
But one aspect of your comment is a good reminder to anyone who writes about pro sports franchises (or any other subject): you can only catalog so much negativity before it gets to be too one note.
The same goes for the unbelievable number of sports blogs that simply say, "The Giants are awesome, and I'm the best Giants fan ever!" over and over again without any interesting critical thought or comment.
Having said that, for me where the Giants are and what they're doing determines what gets written. It is important to chronicle the demise of a baseball franchise that shouldn't be in decline, that should be excelling.
I want the Giants to to well in 2014, but I disagree with the decisions ownership and management has made this off-season.
I am also disappointed with how the overall franchise has evolved over the past fifteen years. The Giants are a non-analytical, old school, shoot-from-the-hip organization with outdated approaches to player drafting, trading, and development, as well as understanding how to build a 25 man roster that fills the roles required to support a winning 162 game campaign.
The idea that you get a couple of good hitters, then one or two guys to hit extra base hits, then complete the everyday line-up by slotting three or four non-run producing batters right before the pitcher is both out-dated and uncreative.
Then you hope that you win one-dimensionally with pitching.
@RDyer You're right, we both do want to see the Giants win games. But that's about where the similarities end. You're trying to reason with me about homegrown talent by bringing up Brett Pill, a guy who literally got cups of coffee in the majors? How about we talk about the homegrown talent this team revolves around; Posey, Sandoval, Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Belt, Crawford, Romo... It's because of successful drafts that produced those players that the Giants now rank in the bottom 3rd in farm systems (and I think that's a slap in the face, to be honest).
When you consistently pick near the back of the 1st round, you're not always going to get the best talent. Plain and simple. Look at the guys they picked when they were drafting in the top 10: Lincecum, Bumgarner, Posey, Wheeler... they hit on every single one of those guys. It's not so easy drafting at the bottom, but that's what happens when you WIN.
Here's one other major difference in what we want: if the Giants rebound and make another postseason run this season, I'll be celebrating it and enjoying the moment, while you are still whining that they didn't build the team the right way.
Please show me a blog that simply says "The Giants are Awesome....., etc, etc". I have never seen one (a respectable one at least). Now, do people say things like that in the comments section of two-bit sites like Bleacher Report, Rant Sports and CBS Sportsline? Sure. But the average age (and IQ) of those commenters is under 15 and should be easily disregarded.
About 25-28 teams in MLB would gladly trade their success over the last 15 years with that of the Giants. Hardly a failing franchise.
My favorite image from your comment: you celebrating and enjoying the moment when the Giants make the 2014 postseason, while I sit whining, dejected and still upset with the organization.
It's a great personal topper to your arguments: you, happy. Me, sad.
You believe the Giants have done great things with their farm system, and you also provide the front office with a specious excuse to cover them when they have poorly drafted and developed players.
I simply disagree. I respect your energy and knowledge, I know you're a great fan. I also don't wish you to be whining and miserable no matter what happens.