Bumgarner out, Puig in.
What are we doing here?
If rumors are to believed, the Giants, the same team that let Madison Bumgarner walk out the door last fall, may make a major push for the right-handed thump and theater of former villain Yasiel Puig, the Dodger we all loved to boo.
And while I am fully aware of the transactional nature of the business we call baseball; and while I am fully aware that Bumgarner left of his own volition; and while I am fully aware that power is a good thing for a powerless Giants lineup; and while I am fully aware that a shortened 60-game season with no fans means all bets are off; and while I am fully aware that Puig could be a DH for this bizarre DH-in-the-National League world … I have two words about Puig to the Giants:
I say this for several reasons, and yes, emotion-based fandom is one of them.
If I can’t, as a lifelong Giants fan, say “no” to Puig in black and orange, what kind of fun is there left in the world? Is everything supposed to be emotionless, a spreadsheet? I don’t want to endorse that kind of world. I like historic rivalries, and Puig’s role as the primary villain of the Bumgarner years made him fun to dislike. After all, Bumgarner might have done a positive thing or two for the franchise. Least we can do is honor his legacy.
Recall, if you will, how you felt about Jeff Kent the Dodger. Or Brett Butler the Dodger. Or Brian Wilson the Dodger. Or Jason Schmidt the Dodger — had he not been injured in L.A. the whole time. You feel me?
But in the newfangled world of metrics, I understand that childish things like emotion-based fandom is out. It’s extremely uncool to fanboy Bum and fanboy dislike Puig in today’s world. You must look at logic and the numbers and only logic and the numbers to make your arguments today. OK, let’s play that game:
— The Giants told us that they did not re-sign Kevin Pillar because he would be “blocking” the playing time of their young outfielders, primarily Mike Yastrzemski (whom I like, but is not that young), Jaylin Davis, Austin Slater and Steven Duggar. They then went and signed Hunter Pence, which seemed counterintuitive. But they told us Pence was only here for platoons. Plus, he’s Hunter Pence and would undoubtedly be a positive force in the clubhouse. So, we let that slide.
So how would signing Puig make sense in that Pillar/Pence thinking? I smell inconsistency. I might mention that Pillar was a pillar of integrity and toughness when he was here, playing 156 games (161 total, including Toronto) and winning the prestigious Willie Mac Award on a vote of his teammates, but Willie Mac Awards don’t mean much to the spreadsheet crowd.
— Puig hit 24 home runs last year and had an OPS+ of 100; Pillar hit 21 HRs last year and had an OPS+ of 89. Edge to Puig, but not by much, sports fans. Moreover, Pillar actually had better offensive numbers in San Francisco than on the road, and you hear that about as often as you heard Bum say to Puig: “Hey, wanna go to dinner after the game?”
— OK, so Pillar is gone. Water under the bridge. I still smell inconsistency, but you say no, dude — it’s about the DH, idiot. OK, fine. The DH is a wild card, I will grant you. But if the Giants are about giving their young players time to build for the team of the 2020s, what exactly is the problem with giving Joey Bart those right-handed DH at-bats? Seems like a perfect scenario to me: crazy season, empty yard, no expectations. Too soon? Buster Posey had 631 minor-league at-bats before the call-up. Bart has logged 517.
And if you don’t like that, you can give your right-handed DH at-bats to Pence, who crushed left-handed pitching last year, with an OPS over 1.000. Plus, I’ve heard once or twice that Pence might be a positive influence on a clubhouse of young players and not the kind of guy who might have been chewed out by Indians manager Terry Francona for not running out a ground ball. Not that I know anyone who got chewed out by Indians manager Terry Francona for not running out a ground ball, especially someone whose name rhymes with “Masiel Queeg.”
You will note that Puig remains on the market, mysteriously.
— If you say no to the DH and want him in the outfield, which of course runs counter to the Giants’ stated goal of not “blocking” young outfielders, you can take a gander at Puig’s advanced defensive metrics. They are not good.
And if you want to stay on your advanced metrics, Pillar had a higher WAR than Puig. But, bygones.
But you know what? The heck with metrics. This is about doing what’s right, and that’s honoring the spirit of the franchise and the fan base. Puig is not the love child of Willie Mays and Jack Clark; he is not the difference between a parade down Market Street and a last-place finish. He’s a productive bat with an inconsistent clubhouse presence. The Giants are looking to build a nucleus here, to learn how to play the game the right way, the winning way. Puig doesn’t fit that.
And save the “49ers signed Richard Sherman” takes. Two things: 1. Sherman never did anything on the field other than give his all at all times as a Seahawk and create a relentlessly winning culture for the hated Seattle club; 2. Football and baseball are entirely different emotional experiences as a fan.
Ballplayers are with us every day. They become part of our sports family. There are no “Buster Hugs” in football, a much more violent and mercenary sport. Geez, baseball is the kind of sport where fans get into Matt Duffy’s cat, for heaven’s sake.
Is it that difficult to want a Giants season without Puig in the same uniform Bumgarner and Bochy and McCovey wore? I don’t think so. It’s not that difficult.