The old-school San Francisco Giants have forever adopted a veteran-laden approach to winning during the Brian Sabean era, but 2014 has served as a tipping point, severing a formerly successful strategy for something that could boast even bigger dividends in the future. Raging pessimism has taken over the left side of the Bay Area, where the Giants have taken a temporary back seat to the surging Oakland Athletics, but San Francisco hasn’t packed it in for this particular version of MLB‘s annual marathon. At least, not if guys like Matt Duffy have anything to say about it.
The Giants’ 5-1 win over the defunct New York Mets on Friday night was all about veteran journeyman Ryan Vogelsong, who pitched a complete game two-hitter. But the new foundation of GM Sabean’s mantra moving forward is embedded in the club’s farm system, one of which ESPN’s Keith Law frequently ranks as one of the worst of its kind in all of baseball.
It’s true the Giants lack a certain type of depth that other more prominent player-development franchises flaunt, but Sabean alluded to something SF fans aren’t accustomed to after the team’s decision not to make a bolstering move at the trade deadline.
“I’ve done this a long time,” Sabean said to Bay Area News Group reporters. “I’m pleased to say I think we might even be deeper than we thought” [in reference to the club’s farm system].
Sabean and his advisory board turned that sentiment into action before Friday’s first pitch, recalling Duffy and Jarrett Parker from double-A Richmond a day after several big name players changed uniforms. The Giants stood pat—as they should have—but somehow improved their team in the process.
Scrap-heap pickup Dan Uggla was never going to be the Giants’ answer at second base. The three-time All-Star lacked confidence and ability, a reality the Giants’ former veteran-happy brass knew from the onset. The same could have been said for outfielder Tyler Colvin, who provided so-called depth when the Giants were actually healthy.
Parker, a stop-gap until the return of left-handed power-hitter Brandon Belt, will likely be optioned back soon, but Duffy is going to have his chances. The Giants like what they’ve seen from rookie Joe Panik, although the club isn’t ready to hand over the reins quite yet. Duffy was leading all qualifying Eastern League hitters with a .332 average in 367 at-bats in 2014. The former 18th-round pick wasn’t supposed to be here during a pennant race, but he is. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI in his Giants debut, also turning a rally-killing double play in the sixth inning.
The Giants haven’t done this before. San Francisco’s tight-chested GM has the best poker face in the sport, dubbing his moves a result of uncertainty surrounding how “good” his team actually is. But Sabean did something much wiser while downplaying the Giants’ struggles to members of the media. The pressure of needing to perform as a result of a blockbuster, much like the duo of big deals the A’s pulled off this summer, don’t exist in San Francisco.
It would be idiotic to state there aren’t expectations in the City by the Bay in the wake of a losing season following two titles in three years. The fan base flaunting the longest active sellout streak in American professional sports wants another winner. Sabean knows this, and he took strides toward it happening yet again this fall, even if it doesn’t yield can’t-lose headlines.