Grant Cohn: San Francisco Giants dynasty is over
The Giants had a good run, but it’s over.
They seemed to think the end would never come, seemed to think they were one elite closer away from winning the World Series. They got their closer - signed Mark Melancon this offseason - and now they’re in last place in the NL West. Their record is 5-9.
Their record is not a fluke. The Giants are not a good team. They will not make the postseason this year.
This is the end of their dynasty.
Let’s talk about why. Since 2014, the last time the Giants won the World Series, the front office has misjudged the roster, starting with third base. General Manager Bobby Evans let Pablo Sandoval sign with the Boston Red Sox in 2015 and never replaced him. The Giants’ current third baseman is Eduardo Nunez, a mediocrity. Not an impact hitter like Sandoval used to be.
But Nunez is Babe Ruth compared to the Giants leftfielders. This season’s starter was Jarrett Parker, a 28-year-old career minor leaguer, who was hitting .143 before he ran into the outfield wall and broke his right clavicle. Now, the leftfielder is Chris Marrero, and he’s hitting .154. Which means the Giants have no leftfielder. Inexcusable.
At some point since 2014, the Giants should have signed an impact hitter to play left field. Or any position. Every good team in the National League has at least one impact hitter in its lineup, and the Giants simply do not.
The Colorado Rockies, who are in first place and just took three out of four from the Giants at AT&T Park, have Nolan Arenado. He hit 41 home runs and knocked in 133 RBI last season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have Paul Goldschmidt - 24 home runs and 95 RBI in 2016.
The L.A. Dodgers have Justin Turner - 27 home runs and 90 RBI in 2016.
And that’s just in the National League West, the Giants’ division. There’s more.
The Chicago Cubs have Kris Bryant - 39 home runs and 102 RBI in 2016.
The Cincinnati Reds have Joey Votto - 29 home runs and 97 RBI in 2016. They also have Adam Duvall, who hit 33 home runs last season and used to be with the Giants before they traded him in 2015 for starting pitcher Mike Leake, who isn’t on the team anymore - he left after two months. Duvall should be the Giants’ starting leftfielder but they traded him before he emerged as an impact hitter. Another critical misjudgment from the front office.
The Washington Nationals have Bryce Harper - 24 home runs and 86 RBI in 2016.
And the New York Mets have Yoenis Cespedes - 31 home runs and 86 RBI in 2016.
Who do the Giants have? Please tell me. Who is their impact hitter?
Not Buster Posey. He used to be an impact hitter, but hasn’t hit 20 home runs in a season since 2014. Last season, he hit only 14. He mostly hits singles and doubles now.
Not Hunter Pence. Another singles and doubles hitter. Plus, he’s old - 34 - and he gets hurt a lot.
Not Brandon Belt. He’s the team’s best home-run hitter, but he hit only 17 last season and he never has hit more than 18 in a season.
Not Brandon Crawford. He may be the Giants’ best player and he’s a marvelous fielder, but he should bat seventh in a good lineup. He hit 12 home runs last season.
The Giants don’t have an impact hitter. They have bupkis. There is no hitter in the Giants lineup an opposing pitcher needs to fear - no Barry Bonds, no Jeff Kent, no Willie Mays, no Willie McCovey, no Orlando Cepeda.
The Giants could have had Cespedes - he was a free agent in 2016. But the Giants decided they needed a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher and a leadoff hitter more than a power hitter. So, the team signed Jeff Samardzija and Denard Span for $121 million, and the Mets signed Cespedes for $110 million.
Cespedes is a tremendous success in New York. Samardzija and Span are horrible disappointments. Span has been on the decline since 2014 - he’s 33. The Giants need to replace him. And Samardzija, who has no wins and three losses this season, is an even bigger bust.
His problem? He gets excited and throws all of his pitches too hard. He overthrows, which causes the ball to lose movement. His breaking pitches hardly break and his fastball doesn’t sink or do anything unpredictable. The ball is locked in a narrow track, like a bobsled or a luge. Samardzija grooves his pitches right over the plate and gets crushed. Through three starts, he has given up four home runs this season. He gave up 49 the past two seasons combined.
The Giants have to pay Samardzija $18 million per season through 2020 and probably can’t afford to sign an impact hitter while he’s on the payroll. Until he’s gone, the Giants are stuck with an aging lineup that can’t hit. So in a sense, Samardzija is their biggest impact player, a bad impact.
For the Giants, this is the end.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.