I say this as someone who was a massive proponent of the San Francisco Giants decision to hire Farhan Zaidi, a massive proponent of their decision to continue employing him, a massive proponent of their public desire to retain him, a massive proponent of how the team handled this offseason, and a massive proponent of the thought that the Giants are gonna be pretty good, actually.
So, to recap: I think the Giants are run by smart people who have done smart things. I think they should keep employing those smart people who will continue doing smart things.
Now, with that said. Deep breath.
Monday was perhaps the biggest point against the front office in the four and a half years since Zaidi was hired. And it’s probably not a day that the critics of the front office will forget anytime soon.
On the surface it was just another loss, 7-3 to the Houston Astros. The fact that it was their fourth straight loss probably didn’t help matters.
Ironically, the bright spots in this game came largely courtesy of good Zaidi moves. Offseason signing Ross Stripling had easily his best start of the year, giving up just two runs in five innings, while fellow offseason addition Taylor Rogers threw 0.2 scoreless innings. Tristan Beck, someone Zaidi traded a bloated contract of the old regime for, pitched 1.1 scoreless innings. The pitching struggles came primarily courtesy of Sean Hjelle, a second-round pick from the Bobby Evans era, who gave up five runs in one inning.
The offense was similar. Joc Pederson, someone Zaidi controversially opted to give the qualifying offer to, hit a home run. So did LaMonte Wade Jr., the player Zaidi craftily acquired and then chose to keep over franchise legend Brandon Belt. No one else did much of anything. David Villar, a holdover from the old braintrust, hit 0-4 with two strikeouts. Brandon Crawford didn’t play, after landing on the Injured List.
But those points won’t be strong enough. Stripling was merely decent, which won’t convince any skeptics, especially since it lowered his ERA down to ... uhh ... 6.10. Which is better than Rogers’ mark of 6.52! And almost as good as Beck’s mark of 6.00!
Brett Wisely, the team’s first choice of depth despite the fact that he entered the season with five games in AAA, went hitless, running his season mark to 1-20. Blake Sabol, the Rule 5 acquisition that they decided to give a mask to and throw behind the plate when he showed up on the first day of school with a center field glove, looked lost defensively.
These criticisms may or may not be fair, but when a team falls to 11-17, these are the directions the fingers get pointed.
But the real point against the Giants came from a different Giants acquisition: Mauricio Dubón.
Dubón was one of Zaidi’s earliest acquisitions, as the Giants traded for him during the 2019 season. A lifelong Giants fan with just two career games under his belt, he made his debut for the team that year, and played for them on-and-off until 2022.
Then, with the lovable and smiling youngster not yet having cracked the position player rotation full time, the Giants shipped him to the Astros due to an active roster crunch. Based on the limited time they gave him, it seemed he might not last long with a team as good as the Astros.
Instead he became a regular in Houston, won a championship with former Giants manager Dusty Baker, and entered 2023 as a core part of their roster. After playing all over the diamond with the Giants, Dubón has played exclusively at his drafted position of second base with the Astros this season. He had a 19-game hitting streak already this year. After failing to reach base on Opening Day, he’s reached base safely in all 23 games he’s played in since.
The Giants don’t necessarily need that. Their best position player has been second baseman Thairo Estrada, whose OPS is .142 points higher than Dubón’s.
But try telling that to the Giants fan pissed off that their team is printing millions by the hour in their real estate investments while fielding a team that’s six games below .500 a month into the season.
Try telling them that after Dubón led off the first inning with a single, stole second, and scored the first run of the game on a single.
Try telling them that after Dubón hit a two-out RBI single in the fifth inning to tie the game 2-2.
Try telling them that after Dubón came up to bat in the seventh inning with the game still tied 2-2 and broke the tie with an RBI double and later scored, kickstarting the five-run inning that decided the game.
And above all else, try telling that after Dubón — a player known for his unending kindness, positivity, and good vibes — chose merciless violence in the clubhouse after the game.
.@brianmctaggart: "With the amount of injuries they have, frankly, the Giants could probably use you right now. Does that add to it?— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) May 2, 2023
Dubón: "Thank God they don't. Thank God they don't. I'm good here. I'm good here. It's been a family and I'm enjoying every moment."
Mauricio Dubón was fired up to get three hits against his former team. pic.twitter.com/E4p36X5vf9— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) May 2, 2023
Don’t kill the messenger here, but the Giants braintrust has received plenty of criticism from fans for treating players like emotionless chess pieces. Be it trading for Matt Beaty on Opening Day after seemingly telling Bryce Johnson he’d make the roster, or not re-signing sentimental favorites, or opting for choosing diamonds in the rough over shelling out dough to retain All-Stars, or dumping players like Connor Joe before fans ever knew his name, they’ve developed a reputation for treating players as spreadsheet pawns, to be moved around as strategy dictates, and only as strategy dictates.
So when Dubón — truly the nicest person in Major League Baseball — says “I was not treated the right way over there,” it opens a few eyes. Or causes a few eyes that were already opened to shake the heads attached to them.
I feel compelled to repeat that this is just the perception of one segment of the fanbase, egged on by this game. There are holes in the logic. Players who didn’t receive a lot of playing time always feel irrationally spurned and, when asked about being treated poorly, Dubón even mentioned the playing time specifically. Other players have spoken glowingly about how the organization treated them — Stripling noted that part of his interest in the Giants came from how highly Kevin Gausman spoke of them, and Gausman is the poster child for ex-Giants who could feel hurt by how the franchise treated them.
And that five-run rally by the Astros? The hits were 79.8, 71.6, 66.3, and 69.4 miles per hour. The game didn’t need to go so poorly. It didn’t need to go poorly at all.
But it did. And when the games go poorly, the narratives follow. And tonight’s narrative is crystal clear.