It’s been said before but cannot be said enough: None of this matters. Baseball is good for economies, it’s good for ballplayers, it’s good for appreciative fans who need distractions and diversions and something to look forward to.
With a reported total of about 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States and the number only going to swell, when Major League Baseball returns to fields and your TV and radio dials is meaningless compared with how you and your family are feeling. The players who are in position to feel a particular bit of baseball misfortune cannot compare to the people whose misfortunes involve a lost life.
With those caveats, there is space to wonder about what a missed baseball season would look like for the Giants for the same reasons there is space to wonder about sports all the time: It gives people a break from reality.
Under the rosiest of outlooks, MLB could begin in early June. Under the gloomiest of views, COVID-19 could wipe out the season entirely. The Players Association recently agreed to a deal that guaranteed service time and some income for the 2020 season in fear that the season would never start.
The Giants would be less hurt than most if this worst-case scenario were realized, with Jeff Samardzija, Hunter Pence, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly the most significant to-be free agents. Which Giant in particular would be hardest hit by a 2020 without a pitch? Here are KNBR’s lead candidates:
Three World Series rings, six All-Star Games. A reputation as one of the greatest defensive catchers. An NL MVP and four Silver Sluggers.
Yet, cumulative stats that can’t compare (yet) to the Hall of Famers he would join.
Just six catchers who have played in the last 50 years have been allowed into Cooperstown — Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Gary Carter, Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and the just-elected Ted Simmons — all of whom have superior total numbers than Posey. Simmons snuck in with 248 home runs, and the next-least is Rodriguez with 311. Posey, who has 12 the last two seasons, has 140 dingers for his career.
It’s a snippet, but one that holds true for many countable offensive stats. Of that group, the fewest hits belongs to Bench, at 2,048. Posey, at 1,380, is nearly 700 behind the trailer.
Posey’s Hall argument will entail being a consummate winner before being a compiler, and there is still time to compile. But how much? He just turned 33, is coming off a particularly down season and could stand to miss an entire year at a time when catchers often take plunges because of the wear and tear.
He was having a bounce-back spring and will tell you he feels healthier than he has in years. But if his Year-33 season is erased, his Hall case would take a large hit.
Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval
Let’s link these two because that’s how they would want it, anyway.
Pence is about to be 37 and rode the comeback season of his life to a reunion with his beloved Giants. Yet, because of his advanced age and because of the injury risk, he was still looking for suitors well into free agency, taking $3 million from San Francisco and a one-year deal.
At this stage in his career and with the back he’s lugging around, he won’t be able to get another multi-year deal. Would a team still be waiting for him with a guaranteed contract in 2021?
The questions are similar for Sandoval, still recovering from Tommy John surgery and on a minor league deal. The game already was trending younger and faster, and Panda will turn 34 in August.
Would Pence or Sandoval get another at-bat in front of a roaring Oracle Park crowd without baseball in 2020? In front of any major league crowd?
Pence’s projected platoon partner realized just what kind of season 2020 could be.
“I’m fully aware of how important it is and the kind of opportunity I have,” Dickerson told KNBR before spring training began.
The left fielder debuted in 2015, yet has appeared in just 163 games due to a multitude of injuries that led to his exit from the Padres and Farhan Zaidi taking a chance. Dickerson showed flashes of a real major league bat last season, but also could not stay on the field.
He was enjoying a camp in which he was just about guaranteed an Opening Day spot to begin a crossroads season, where he could either establish himself as a major leaguer or provide more proof that his body wouldn’t allow him to do so. Instead, there is a possibility the world will not allow him to do so.
The best story of camp may have barely lasted a chapter.
The 33-year-old who spent his last three seasons in South Korea returned as a curious Zaidi flier, who then put balls in orbit.
In 32 plate appearances, the first baseman and left fielder slashed .429/.469/1.000 with three homers, emerging as an unlikely option for Opening Day. If there is a second spring training, his timing undoubtedly would be hurt, and with it his odds of forcing his way onto a roster that isn’t built for him. If there is no 2020 season, how would the bat look a year later?
The bright side for Ruf is this poor timing comes with better timing: His wife is due in April, which is part of the reason he returned to the United States in the first place.