First, the bad news:
Jeff Samardzija will be out for three weeks to a month per Bochy.— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) March 23, 2018
Now, the worse news:
Madison Bumgarner will have pins put in his hand tomorrow, says he hopes to have them taken out in 4-to-6 weeks. Can’t throw with the pins, so he’ll build back up after that. pic.twitter.com/Np3qACuW6v— Kerry Crowley (@KO_Crowley) March 23, 2018
The Giants just lost the only two starting pitchers they had planned to count on and the season hasn’t even started yet. Johnny Cueto is a huge question mark, and the rest of the rotation was intentionally neglected in the offseason to create a Hunger Games situation or simply be a reason for them to focus on bolstering the offseason.
We’d better hope that offense plan works, because it’s the only thing standing between us and changing the channel or finding a new hobby for the next 6 months. So far, the results seem decent. The Giants have scored the second-most runs in Spring Training (both leagues) and the hitters we and the Giants expect to be good are, in fact, good.
But we just had the experience of a Giants team that missed Madison Bumgarner for half a season: the team was extremely bad and Jeff Samardzija was their best part for a good chunk of his absence. The Giants no longer have the luxury of a slightly below league average pitcher being their rotation ace failsafe.
The situation might seem beyond compare for some of you, but I’m reminded of two distinct situations from semi-recent Bay Area Sports history:
1997 - The 49ers lose Steve Young and Jerry Rice in Week 1
The Buccaneers announced their arrival as a real professional sports team by not only beating the 49ers 13-6, but by beating the holy hell out of the 49ers and depriving them of its best receiver for basically the entire season. Hard to tell if Steve Young was ever quite right after suffering a concussion in the opener, but it’sthe NFL, so, we’ve all been encouraged to not think about that part too much.But these Niners recovered to go 13-3.
2004 - The San Francisco Giants are basically just Bonds & Schmidt
The season ended on an historically awful note, sure, but the only reason the Giants contended until the last weekend of the season was because Barry Bonds played better than 136% of the league and Jason Schmidt was the 5th-best pitcher in the sport. Seriously, look at the lineup around Bonds. Look at the rotation around Schmidt. It’s hard to imagine it working as a unit. But it did. I mean, thanks to Bonds and Schmidt and some lucky breaks with the bullpen.
Both examples demonstrate really tough situations working out okay in the end. One the result of freak accidents, the other because
Sabean: In a word: No. If we had signed Guerrero or [Gary] Sheffield, we would have been without [Jim] Brower, [Scott] Eyre, [Matt] Herges, [Dustin] Hermanson, [Brett] Tomko, [A.J.] Pierzynski, [Pedro] Feliz, [J.T.] Snow, [Jeffrey] Hammonds, [Dustan] Mohr and [Michael] Tucker–obviously not being able to field a competitive team, especially from an experience standpoint, given our level of spending.
So, history shows us that the Giants can get through this. They’re going to have to do it without Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Schmidt, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and, of course, Barry Bonds, but it’s not impossible.
If I have to imagine how the Giants stay in contention at all, the first idea is that Johnny Cueto pitches more like his 2016 self than his 2017 version. Posey stays Posey at least until Bumgarner comes back, McCutchen holds onto 90% of his 2017 rates. Longoria gets no worse. Brandon Belt avoids the disabled list until at least July. Brandon Crawford gets no worse. Joe Panik is the leadoff hitter. Austin Jackson and Hunter Pence hang around their career numbers and not their most recent terrible seasons. The Giants turn Sam Dyson’s contract into a starter. Derek Holland, Chris Stratton, and Ty Blach are league average.
That feels like a team that doesn’t get buried in the first month of the season. I might be wrong about all of this, but that notion feels a lot better than being right about what losing Madison Bumgarner for half the season looks like.