I want to take it back to the Candlestick days for a second, but first I want to make sure that I'm not playing up the myth of the small-market Giants too much. Even while at Candlestick, the Giants signed the best player in baseball away from the Pirates for the biggest contract in baseball history, and the Pirates haven't been over .500 since. Those are real problems.
But there was a time when the Giants were forgotten in the shadow of the Niners, when they played in a pit, and when they looked at the Dodgers with legitimate envy. I remember watching a weekday night game on TV in the late '90s where Russ Ortiz started. Maybe Livan Hernandez. They all sort of melt together at this point. Whomever it was took a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
I was sort of obsessed with no-hitters, especially the fact that the Giants hadn't had one since I was born. The camera zoomed out, and there were, oh, 10,000 people in the stands. I made up my mind that if the no-hitter went into the sixth, I was going to get in the car and go. It would have been a crime to have a no-hitter pitched before so few.
The no-hitter didn't happen. Livan Hernandez or Russ Ortiz, remember. But I remember being embarrassed. I understood why the stadium was empty; it was a night where the fog and wind were literally walking up and macing people. Literally. But I was still embarrassed. Here was a major-league baseball team -- a contending one at that -- and only a few thousand people were going to be there to watch a no-hitter.
The Dodgers were throwing untold millions at Kevin Brown, and the Giants were playing in a crater and wearing Chico's Bail Bonds jerseys. We knew of the new park, but we didn't know exactly how everything would change. The only reason there weren't tarps in the upper deck for weeknight games was because they'd blow away.
That's still in my mind. That's still in a lot of our minds. The Giants/Dodgers rivalry wasn't always the Yankees/Red Sox of the West Coast. There were years where it was more like Yankees/Rays. So when there's news of the Dodgers selling for $2 billion, there's a here-we-go-again twitch that goes along with it. The Giants are comfortable with the sellouts and the panda-hat sales; the Dodgers have a bunch of rookie owners who want to throw money into the air and do an alpha-owner peacock dance to let Los Angeles know that they're serious about winning. They aren't having these conversations:
So tell me about this Loney fellow.
He's … okay, I guess. He keeps quiet. Doesn't do much. Rarely gets wasted and crashes his Maserati into a bunch of cars. You know, he's around. He sort of hits. Kind of.
Sounds great. Don't need a $100 million contract to replace him.
/crosses name off list
So if you're a little scared about the state of the NL West, you're probably right to be. Don't forget that the Padres are going to get something like $75 million per year for their new TV deal. Add up the $100,000 that they probably get from tickets every year, and they'll be much better off.
But it's never going back to the Candlestick days. Let's all take a moment to stop freaking out about the new, rich, powerful, and rich Dodgers owners who will waste little time doing rich, powerful, and rich things, and remember that the Giants are still in a good spot. Relevant. New park. Recent history of success. Rabid fan base.
The Red Sox/Yankees comparison isn't a bad one, because as you had the Yankees spending completely insane amounts of money -- sometimes up to ten times as much as the lowest payroll in the game -- you also had the Red Sox spending plenty. No one was complaining about the Red Sox being cheap. And that's all I want. I don't expect the Giants to match the new Dodgers' owners dollar for dollar. I just don't want them to be cheap. And to be fair, that's not a good way to describe a team spending well over $100 million on payroll.
That should be enough to win. That should be enough to keep the favorite players around. If your problem is that it's going to be spent wrong, well, that's a different conversation. All I know is that the Giants aren't back where they were. I'll save the freaking out for the next Dave Roberts or Matt Morris.
Though matching the 2014 Dodgers dollar for dollar would probably be pretty cool. And I'd wager not impossible. I mean, it'd be cool if that's what you're into, Giants. Try it. Maybe you'll like it.