The 2022 San Francisco Giants won as many games as they lost. We said of them “so it goes” as many times as “there they go.” Room temperature. No seasoning. A test pattern. A DVD instead of a Blu-ray. A cool breeze on a hot day — and a high pollen count. Rain in a drought — on your wedding day.
And yet, it wasn’t bittersweet, because the only aspect of the team that a reasonable person might find bitter is the record coming off of last year’s 107 wins. Carlos Rodon, Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Thairo Estrada, some of Joc Pederson’s performance, the emergence of David Villar, and the J.D. Davis trade are all components that tilt the scale in favor of sweet.
At the same time, last season’s flukiness was laid bare. The Giants had one last great season from their last crop of star prospects in 2021, and outside Villar and some little flashes from Joey Bart, the bareness of the farm system in the star department got exposed as the 2022 major league roster struggled with injuries and age.
And the Dodgers won more games than a year ago. The Mets got better. The Padres got better. The Phillies got better. The Braves fortified their position. The schedule changed so that although the Giants face the Dodgers and Padres five fewer times a piece, they now have to face the best of the AL every year, too. The rules changed for next year, limiting shifts — the only area of defensive measures where the Giants weren’t the worst team — and mandating the pace, potentially hurting their best reliever, Camilo Doval.
Combined with the addition of the universal DH this year, Farhan Zaidi’s modeling that’s kept him on the cutting edge has taken on water. He’s running with the pack now trying to find the next statistical edge in lieu of talent.
The Giants have a lot of work to do in the offseason... even though the history of free agency suggests that the top of the market players don’t want to come to San Francisco. And there’s no help coming from the farm in the next year or two.
Zaidi doesn’t believe that other top prospects such as shortstop Marco Luciano, outfielder Luis Matos and others in lower levels of the system will be having much of an impact even next season.
All that suggests there’s a lot more reason to be bummed out about the 2022 season than anything else. A numbness that washes out any bitterness and makes it difficult to remember what was sweet.
But as an irrational Baseball fan, the beauty of the game is that it can make you feel all kinds of ways in a single game, even in a single moment. If the Astros take out the Dodgers, let’s say, I’ll be so happy for Dusty Baker, so happy about the Dodgers losing, and so upset that those Astros players get to strut again.
On this week’s episode of the McCovey Chroncast, friend of the site Roger Munter returned to talk about the Giants’ farm system. You should listen to it because he provides news that inspires optimism. I also asked him to describe the team’s development year in one word. I wanted to do the same for this post, but even in the absolute whateverness of 81-81, my mind still wandered to extremes on either side of that blahness. Jon Miller discovering Wordle. Zack Littell. Tommy Pham slapping the season out of the Giants. Camilo Doval’s sinker.
And so it only makes sense to me to describe this season with all the words I can think of when I sift through the memories of the 2022 season.
All the words it was not
This season was not gratifying, satisfying, disturbing, phony, grift-y, tank-y, goofy, or fun. Nor was it miserable, useless, pointless, successful, promising, inspiring.
It was clear the Giants tried, they had a system in place that helped them some of the time, but the adjustment in what the fan base had been sold — this is the smartest front office ever assembled, with a brain trust that can outsmart the league through margin moves, matchups, and sequencing — with the reality — these are very smart and committed people running a baseball team, but baseball teams still need talent to be competitive. The Giants aren’t untalented, but by comparison to their peers, they are sorely lacking.
All the words it was
Failure — 107 wins last year to this? People can try to contextualize 81-81 all they want: last year’s record is the only one that matters.
Disappointing — See above.
Revelatory — The championship era is over! For real this time! The front office is only as sharp as its talent!
Rebuild — Barren systems aren’t rebuilt overnight, and 2020 was a missed development year. If last year never happened, this year would look like a shining success. 75-87, 29-31, 81-81. Yeah, baby, I’m believing! Just two more years until they’re the Orioles!
Desultory — “lacking a plan, purpose, or enthusiasm.” Running back last year’s team and hoping that the Padres would collapse late in the season to give them a shot at the third Wild Card is a plan, technically, but I don’t think it’s an enthusiastic one, and the margin moves they had to make to cover for Heliot Ramos’s flop year (again: listen to this week’s Chroncast) certainly appeared to be more like a lack of a plan than an actual plan.
Mediocre — this might be the fairest assessment. It was objectively neither bad nor good, and in my calmer moments as a fan, I can agree to this one. But even a second more of thought about the year can surge me past this quality midpoint in either direction, so, here are some more words off the top of my head:
What word(s) would you use to describe this season?