From all that we know, San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi is an exceedingly nice human. He smiles, says nice things, and seems to be genuinely liked.
Despite being one of the more respected baseball minds on the planet, he seems quick to deflect praise, and despite being one of the faces of modern baseball thinking, he’s vocal in his laudation and understanding of more traditional baseball mindsets.
And yet, despite that, he’s ruthless. All great competitors are.
We’ve seen it on display already in his short tenure. Chris Stratton, who many regimes would have given 15 token starts to simply because he was an organizational first-rounder, was traded right before the season. Mac Williamson was DFA’d, with Zaidi going so far as to say he hopes another team gives Williamson more of an opportunity than he’s willing to do. He sent Michael Reed packing just a few days into the season, so that Kevin Pillar could come on over.
He’ll make moves. He’ll make lots of moves. He’ll spare few feelings in the tireless quest of making the team better.
Which is great. But it’s also poignant.
Every player on the Giants roster is expendable. Every player is viewed as an asset, with their worth measured by what they can provide on the field and what they can provide on the market. Those separate-but-related valuations are endlessly pitted against each other, determining whether a player stays, or whether he goes.
The weird reality with baseball is that a player’s performance impacts his trade value more than his on-field value. If Madison Bumgarner pitches at a Cy Young level this year, he’ll be immensely in demand on the market - and, in all likelihood, the Giants will still be bad.
You can’t escape that when watching this team. You want the team to do well, even though you recognize the fleeting probability of that outcome. In order for the Giants to do well, the individual components need to do well . . . which in turns increases their trade value, which in turn increases the odds of them donning new baseball caps sometime this summer.
That’s not inherently bad. In fact, it’s not bad at all. If Evan Longoria, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, and Bumgarner built up enough value to be flipped for some foundational pieces for the next decade - not likely, but stay with me - that would be great news.
But it’s great news in the way that your kid going off to college is great news. You’re happy for them. You recognize it’s for the best. You still shed a tear and feel a bit empty inside.
It makes for a poignant viewing experience. Every time Bumgarner throws nine strikeouts or mashes a derby-level dinger, in a game the Giants lose, the odds increase that a player you’ve spent a decade rooting for will be helping another team in their crusade to win. If Panik finds that spring training groove, every opposite field double he laces will come with the reminder that the once-promising homegrown infield is likely to end up scattered across the continent.
You want the players to do good things. You root for Brandon Belt to hit towering home runs and Evan Longoria to make show-stopping dives at third base. You root for the team, and the collection of individuals that make it up. And you know what is likely to happen if they do the very things you root for.
The Giants are in good hands. As a fan, that’s worth being happy about.
But if you find the experience bittersweet, you’re not alone.