For a decade, the Giants have been Buster Posey’s team. For a shortened season, the Giants will be figuring out what they are without the star catcher.
In the wake of Posey opting out to care for his family’s newly adopted twins, there will be a leadership void that needs filling in a clubhouse that is literally more distant than ever before. Being a leader in a time of limited close contact is more of a challenge, as is being a leader when a player is a part-time player. And the 2020 Giants are filled with part-time players, platoons up and down the lineup.
Except, perhaps, for Evan Longoria. Mike Yastrzemski also figures to get a lot of time, but the only lefty option behind Longoria is Pablo Sandoval. The 34-year-old is a rare constant on a team of variables, and he knows the weight will be heavier than usual.
“Personally, I will continue to do the same things that I have done to be a part of the leadership group on this team,” Longoria said on a Zoom call Monday, his first public comments of camp 2.0. “I think we have plenty of guys that have been around here that are leaders in different areas of the group, so not all of that responsibility is going to fall on me, and for that I’m happy. I can only do so much, and we’ll all I think lean on each other to help out.”
Longoria already has been guiding Joey Bart, riding the young catcher good-naturedly “because I think he has the potential to be a special player.” Some ribbing can coexist with a pandemic, and Longoria soon will be able to lead more by example than words.
The Giants will flip-flop righty and lefty options at catcher, first base, second base and each outfield position. If Brandon Crawford performs at the plate, he would get a lot of time, but Mauricio Dubon will get some shortstop starts. Sandoval could give Longoria a breather, as could Zach Green, though he would be better positioned if he weren’t a righty bat.
The three-time All-Star has not played like one for the Giants, but he’s coming off a bounce-back .254/.325/.437 season and is one of the many projects to have fully bought in to the new-look coaching regime.
“He’s going to play often. He’s going to get a ton of starts, a ton of reps, like he always does,” Gabe Kapler said. “There might be an opportunity or two for us to get him off of his feet. For the most part, Longo is going to be a leader on the field. He’s going to be a leader in the lineup, and he’s going to be a leader in the clubhouse.”
Longoria said he is happy for Posey, is looking forward to welcoming back the team’s leader next season, but he did not share the same reservations about playing. He has not seen his wife and kids for almost two weeks and, if he were to have chosen not to play, it would have been more related to frustration at MLB owners for their handling of the back-and-forth negotiations to return to the field.
But he did return, to a team that he knows has little outside expectations. Anything can happen in 60 games, a sample size that lets the less-talented teams dream.
“We know that we just have to get hot,” said Longoria, who referenced the mixing and matching the Giants will have to do. “We have to put together a good month and a half, two months, and just kind of get on a roll early and feed off of that.
“There is a ton of belief that that could happen. I think everybody, every team has that optimism, and that’s the uniqueness of this season.”