We might not know the definition of Larry Baer’s “next gen GM” phrase, but it implies there will be a change in the team’s philosophy. That doesn’t mean there will be a drastic change in the way the Giants market themselves or explain what they’re doing, and that’s important to remember as the Giants are about to undergo their first total rebuild of the 21st century. The efforts of this “next gen GM” will surely be spun as anything but a rebuild.
However, it’s worth noting that rebuilds aren’t inherently scary — the Giants weren’t going to get better doing things the same way and the ill-at-ease feeling most people have is tied to players currently on the team —it’s just that they create uncertainty, and that is certainly a scary prospect.
But these are the San Francisco Giants. They’re the fourth-most valuable team in Major League Baseball. They have the resources and commitment to winning quickly. Ownership and the fan base might not have the stomach for a lengthy reorganization, but that doesn’t mean the new front office overlord has to avoid a rebuild.
The Giants got where they are today by spending money. The two biggest examples of this are Barry Bonds’ record contract they offered before the 1993 season and the money they invested in AT&T Park. If they’re not goin to get Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and/or Patrick Corbin, then they can use that money in other ways. They don’t even have to use it on acquiring bad contracts on other teams. They can invest in their minor league system, international scouting and development, and just plain ol’ innovation.
Sure, rebuilds take time. The average for these analytics-based tear-downs seems to be in the range of 3-5 years, unless you’re the Reds or the Rays, in which case they’re seemingly perpetual. But even in those two examples, the Rays are clearly having to reinvent themselves every year because of a list of restrictions that grows and grows before each season — they’re doing what they can to survive. The Reds are, perhaps, mismanaged. Your mileage may vary on the progress the Pirates and Tigers have made.
But Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, Houston, and New York (the Yankees — lol Mets) have all made their rebuilds stick. I would’ve included Toronto in there, but Mark Shapiro is more of a hatchet man than an innovator. Philadelphia could be in this group — they certainly have a lot of talent on their roster — but for now let’s say they’re a maybe.
The Yankees, like the Dodgers, sort of rebuilt themselves without having to be bad for very long — that’s something the Giants wish they could do, only the Giants have trailed behind both of those organizations for decades when it comes to international scouting and overall prospect development.
And then there are the A’s, who are more like the Rays, and both of these teams should probably be in this group. Both teams could’ve sustained their success longer with more resources. The Giants have the resources.
In the history of the Giants franchise, the team has never strung together losing seasons for longer than four years at a time. Here they are:
1899: 60-90 (.400)
1900: 60-78 (.435)
1901: 52-85 (.380)
1902: 48-88 (.353)
1974: 72-90 (.444)
1975: 80-81 (.497)
1976: 74-88 (.457)
1977: 75-87 (.463)
2005: 75-87 (.463)
2006: 76-85 (.472)
2007: 71-91 (.438)
2008: 72-90 (.444)
For one of professional sports’ oldest franchises, that’s a remarkably great run. That makes the Giants extraordinary. Obviously, what happened 100 years ago isn’t applicable to today, but success is in the franchise’s DNA. Giants fans have been raised with some degree of expectation. Even those teams in the seventies and eighties were in the shadow of Willie Mays glory days. The 21st century team is already living in this decade’s shadow.
It took a lot of hard work and smart people to turn around the direction of the franchise, and the Giants have done it, traditionally, pretty quickly. Basically the time it takes to get an undergraduate degree at some colleges.
There have been a few other times when the team has hit some rough patches:
1983: 79-83 (.488)
1984: 66-96 (.407)
1994: 55-60 (.478)
1995: 67-77 (.465)
1996: 68-94 (.420)
2017: 64-98 (.395)
2018: 73-89 (.451)
And there are other single bad seasons or pair of bad seasons, but for the most part, we’re living in one of the bad stretches of baseball in team history, and that’s because we can see the trend line plunging rapidly and there’s nothing on the horizon that suggests it’ll improve. All a rebuild is going to do is improve the chances of a rebound.
A sharp overlord who hires a sharp GM can tweak and revamp the Giants quickly thanks to all that sweet, sweet money the Giants have. They can absolutely spend their way out of this situation. “Win and develop” was Larry Baer’s mantra during his press tour before this last road trip and before Evans’ dismissal, and while the Giants have certainly placed a greater emphasis on the former, you have to expect the next person(s) to inhabit the front office will put as much or even more of their focus on the latter.
We can’t know how far behind the Giants are in terms of advanced statistical analysis, health and nutrition, and player development — if we base it on the organization’s consecutive losing records from top to bottom, then yeah, they’re the worst team in the industry. But the Giants still manage to find hidden gems and they seem able to adapt fairly quickly — it was Sabean and a lot of these same people who found a new direction in the post-Bonds era, after all, and they really committed to the new direction of pitching and defense once they decided on it. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but you don’t have to shoot the dog.
If you knew the Giants could compete for a playoff spot in 2021, would you buy in? I get it. You just want to enjoy baseball played by your favorite team that’s made up of players you like; and the Giants do not care what we think about how they choose to spend their money, but just as a thought experiment, is a rebuild all that bad if you’ve already been through rough patches with this team?
Finally, and in conclusion, the incoming front office personnel should throw all the money available to them at their rebuild to get it done as fast as humanly possible.