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Giants thinking about moving in the fences

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Over at The Athletic, Andrew Baggarly and Eno Sarris have a story about how the San Francisco Giants are considering that which was once inconceivable: moving in the fences at Oracle Park.

The park, designed during the 1990s offensive boom, and thus intended to be both expansive and beautiful, is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game. Partially because of the huge right-center field and partially because of the weather. It’s also worth noting that the dimensions didn’t seem all that bad when a god like Barry Bonds was hitting titanic homers there but his retirement, plus the Giants’ failure to develop solid power hitters, has made its cavernous place seem even more cavernous.

The impetus, though, is just as much practicality as home run friendliness. Oracle Park is one of the only parks with on-field bullpens remaining in the game (Tropicana Field and the Oakland Coliseum are the others). Having pitchers mounds in areas where fielder’s range is less than ideal, and has caused injury in the past. The Giants are thinking about taking some of that acreage in right center and moving the bullpens out there.

It’s good that they have more reason to do this than just boosting offense, because baseball has a fairly sketchy history of such moves. Teams who are bad and who move the fences in tend to just see their opposition hit more homers because, well, you still need good players. An opposite example is one of my favorite ones. In 1990, the Cleveland Indians acquired speedster Alex Cole, who swiped 40 bases in only 63 games. Inspired to become the next Whitey Herzog Cardinals, the Indians moved their fences way back and planned to be all about triples and stolen bases and all of that, with Cole as the center of it all. The next year Cole stole only 27 bases and was caught a hefty 17 times, a young Albert Belle was the only guy on the team to hit more than 11 homers and the Indians lost 105 games. And so it goes.

Here’s hoping the Giants have better luck with their alterations.

 

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.