ESPN released their latest round of MLB Future Power Rankings on Monday, and they're always good for a little conversation around the ol' water cooler. Which reminds me that the McCovey Chronicles water cooler is filthy and needs to be cleaned. The break-room fridge is nasty, too. Y'all a bunch of pigs.
Regardless, pretend that the water cooler isn't filthy and we can sit around it, sip our refreshing water, and talk about these rankings. They're based on the team's finances, minor league system, major league roster, management, and contract flexibility, so the Giants aren't going to look as awful as they do in the straight organizational rankings that look only at the farm system.
Here's how the NL West shakes out:
1. Dodgers (#2 overall)
2. Giants (#13 overall)
3. Padres (#21 overall)
4. Rockies (#26 overall)
5. Diamondbacks (#29 overall)
The Dodgers probably are going to be exceptionally annoying for a good, long while. But at least there are some sketchy situations around the rest of the division.
The Giants get strong marks for their current roster, with Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford all being in their primes, or close to it. The supporting pieces are dandy, when right/healthy, and when the Giants need to spend, they spend. Usually on their own players, but don't delve into the fine print. They have a deep baseball operations staff that's widely respected. They ranked in the top ten in current rosters, finances, and management, and they were in the top half of teams on payroll flexibility/mobility.
They just don't have a farm system worth a dang, which hurt the equally weighted categories. If I had to choose which category I'm okay ranking at the bottom, it's the farm, if only because faring well in the other categories suggests it's a temporary stay down there.
Of course, they've done these rankings before, in 2012, 2013, and 2014, and at no point did they say "hey this team will probably win three World Series when it's all said and done" or "this is a clear dynasty, just watch," and because this is the Internet, we get to make fun of that. As if you didn't actively hate the 2014 Giants for several months out of last season. Predicting baseball next month is hard -- projecting it five years from now is something you do to spark conversation, not to make yourself look good.
That doesn't mean we still can't wince/laugh at this from 2012:
The World Series Game 6 collapse may hang on the Rangers for the rest of their lives, but it had no bearing on this piece of conventional wisdom: Texas is already viewed as a superpower that will continue to be an elite team long after Tony Romo is finished as the quarterback of the Cowboys.
Yee-ouch. I would have agreed back then. Still ... yee-ouch. That one stings.
If there's a takeaway from this ranking, it's that the Giants are at something of a crossroads. Posey and Bumgarner are still young, they have a stable supporting cast, the Giants have money to fill in the gaps around them, and the baseball operations team has proven themselves to be wily and resourceful. However, there aren't any All-Stars coming up from the farm, so the organization will need to avoid injuries, keep spending, and be even more wily and more resourceful than they have been if things start to sour with any of the current players.
That's about right. Optipessimistic about the next few years, I am. Just waiting for more data to roll in. The Giants will keep thrilling us, unless they stumble and roll down a very rocky hill, which is possible for any team. Don't take my word for it. Look at the top 10 teams in these rankings when 2012 started.
5. Red Sox
6. Blue Jays
Or, when translating to 2015-ese:
4. Stupid Cardinals
5. Doin' fine
6. Still stumbling
7. Doin' fine
8. A mess
9. A much bigger mess
10. A mess inside of a mess, built atop Mt. Mess by the grand mess lords of messylvania
While I probably would have had minor quibbles with some of those specific rankings, it's not like they were obvious mistakes back then. They made sense. They were arrived at through consensus. It's just that baseball is the sporting equivalent of what happens when inexperienced people pick mushrooms they find in the wild. Sometimes they're delicacies, true treats. Sometimes they will set your brain on fire and make you think your consciousness is forever locked in a swirling sea of abstract confusion. And sometimes you will throw up and die. The difference is that baseball is like that for experienced people, too. This stupid sport ...
The Giants don't look like they're set up as well as other teams in the league, but they're not scraping the bottom, either. The wrinkled fingers of baseball could drag them down to the underworld or vault them to the heavens to perfect their dark trolling arts. They should be okay, unless they aren't.
We expected no less.