The MLB postseason is heating up and NL Central was officially eliminated after the Atlanta Braves defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in four games. Milwaukee had the pitch but her offense was always a red flag and it eventually came back to bite her in the NLDS. With the teams remaining, the San Francisco Giants are the surprise of the season that still has a chance to win it all. They took a very interesting approach to their rebuilding and unfortunately the Chicago Cubs missed their chance to replicate their approach.
As we all know, the Giants had their incredible track, winning three World Series from 2010 to 2014. They were dominant and had built a dynasty. However, they have only made one postseason appearance since 2014 – and that came back in 2016. Of course, Cubs fans love to know how this particular run for San Francisco ended.
The Giants have had four consecutive loss campaigns as they headed into 2021, so it’s safe to say that this season has been a shock to most as they finished with the best record in baseball at 107-55. How they got to this point is fascinating.
Bruce Bochy, manager for 13 seasons, finally announced his retirement after the 2019 season and Gabe Kapler took over in 2020. Kapler spent two seasons as manager of the Phillies, where he went 161-163 before being fired. He was 29-31 in his first season in San Francisco and now this picture-perfect sophomore season.
Not only does Kapler’s success seem to come out of nowhere, but the Giants have chosen to build around their time-honored veterans. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford are three names that have been with the Giants all along, and just when everyone thought it was time for the trio to move on, they decided to build around them. Not only has that core been the foundation for great success, but they have all reinvigorated careers on the bay and have another World Series in their sights.
To add to the veteran core, Evan Longoria was another final leadership role, finishing in 2021 with his highest OPS (.833) since 2014 when he was with the Rays. Not only did Longoria have a career year, Crawford also had the best offensive season of his career at 0.298 with an OPS of 0.895 and Posey above 0.300 for the first time since 2017.
The Giants chose to stick to their core when it seemed like the road came to an end and they were given new life. The Cubs faced a similar decision and headed in an entirely different direction.
Jed Hoyer and his front office had a choice. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant were at the crossroads of their careers. The Cubs could have chosen to build around them or start over and look for a new championship core. Hoyer decided to swap them away and build the pipeline in a lost season. We have seen how Baez and Bryant have benefited from the new environment, and that organization has to hope that their absences can be made up.
While I’m not saying what Hoyer did wasn’t the right move, we see the Giants core revitalized itself when all hope was lost. The trust in her was the best thing for the organization and it paid off. Sure, the pitching was sensational and young starts like Lamonte Wade Jr. took this team to the next level, but the seasoned leadership with championship experience was invaluable to build on.
The hope is that Hoyer can find a core that combines leadership skills with championship DNA, and that’s a risk he took in making these trades. I’m not saying these guys can’t come back, but the relationship would have to be rebuilt a lot if it happened. There’s a lot of uncertainty in Chicago right now, but in the meantime, we can look forward to a Giants team that nobody thought would be here.