Barber: Madison Bumgarner’s still a Giant, and Bruce Bochy gets the credit
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has stumbled onto an ingenious formula for endearing oneself to a new fan base.
Step One: Take over a flailing Major League Baseball franchise and drop numerous hints that no one on the roster is safe.
Step Two: Recede into silence as the trade deadline approaches, fueling speculation that the team’s heroes will be swapped for teenagers.
Step Three: Don’t do it.
Zaidi swung a number of deals Wednesday, trading half of the Giants’ relief corps for a trainload of prospects, and even a bona fide major leaguer. But he did not trade closer Will Smith. More important to the hearts and minds of San Franciscans, he didn’t trade World Series hero Madison Bumgarner.
All around the big leagues, other executives performed similar acts of restraint. The Brewers didn’t trade Christian Yelich. The Angels didn’t trade Mike Trout. The Nationals didn’t trade Max Scherzer. The executives running those teams aren’t getting huge credit for the non-moves. Meanwhile, Frisco might be planning a parade to bless Zaidi for keeping the band together — or at least retaining the lead singer.
Really, we should be celebrating Bruce Bochy, who has provided Bay Area sports fans at least one more gift in his 13th and final season managing the Giants.
Zaidi said as much on a Wednesday afternoon conference call when I asked him whether he has been surprised by the resurgence of the Giants, who were 34-46 on June 27 but had gone 20-7 since then.
“When I look at the individual players that have contributed, whether it was our analytics department or our pro scouting department or a tip that came in from someone else, there was a reason why we felt that these guys could contribute in the way that they have,” Zaidi replied. “So in a way, I think none of the individual stories are a huge surprise. But I think the collective — the way it’s come together, and the way Boch has brought this group of players together, I think that’s kind of more the bigger story.”
Zaidi was right. The exec gets props for the way he has retooled the Giants. I love his throw-it-against-the-wall approach to roster building, and it would be hard to argue that this team isn’t significantly better than it was when he got here. It’s certainly more exciting.
But let’s be real. As clever as Zaidi was in acquiring some of the drivers of the Giants’ recent success, he couldn’t have known that Alex Dickerson would collect six home runs and 23 RBIs in his first 88 at-bats, or that Donovan Solano would hit .333 with his new team, or that 34-year-old Stephen Vogt would post an OPS of .905 after sitting out the entire 2018 season.
These were nice, unforeseen outcomes. Give Zaidi credit for presenting the opportunities, but please don’t consider this an exact science.
Also, don’t for one minute believe that Zaidi wouldn’t have traded Bumgarner if the right bargain had presented itself. I’m not privy to the conversations he had on his red phone, but I guarantee he listened to any and all offers — he all but admitted this — and would have pounced on one of them if it made sense.