This is how much Farhan Zaidi has me under his spell:
I still think the Giants can go deep in October without Brandon Belt.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m pro-Belt. And I’m hugely bummed he is out. Old school listeners will remember my then-futile attempts to defend Belt on the air back in 2011. (2011! Before TikTok!) Back then, the idea of a homegrown, power-hitting first baseman had me in my Willie McCovey/Will Clark feels. Anti-Belt listeners thought Belt was more Skip James than The Thrill. We tussled. And the Belt Wars didn’t end until 2021.
Now, he’s out. Fractured bone near the thumb. Worst possible timing. Guy has — factually speaking — been one of the best hitters in MLB in the last two months. Since he came off the IL and led the Giants to one of those epic 2021 “Win of the Year!” wins on Aug. 5 in Arizona, his 18 home runs are second in MLB, and his 1.085 OPS is fourth in MLB.
Taking those power numbers off a baseball team on Sept. 28 is usually a death knell.
But you must not have seen Farhan Zaidi’s 2021 Giants.
These guys have redefined my concept of death knells.
For Farhan’s Giants, it’s more like a “depth knell.”
When Zaidi told us, way back in November 2018, that his philosophy could best be summed as “no move too small”, we had no idea that those words would translate into LaMonte Wade, Jr. and Wilmer Flores and Tommy LaStella and Darin Ruf and anyone else who wants to step in and fill the Belt void.
Those four guys — and oh yeah, a guy named Kris Bryant — are all options to play first base in Belt’s absence. Every one of those names has been a productive hitter in 2021, thanks to the Sultans of Selective Aggression, hitting coaches Donnie Ecker and Justin Viele.
The Giants are deeper than Dostoevsky. They are the Mariana Trench of rosters.
That’s what must be so maddening to the Dodgers. LA is on pace to win 104-105 games this year, making good on their preseason hype, *and it won’t be enough to catch the Giants* — a Giants team that has seen significant injuries to Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Alex Dickerson, Darin Ruf, Tommy La Stella, Johnny Cueto, Alex Wood and Jake McGee. And that’s just a starter set.
Yes, the Dodgers have had huge injury issues as well, but that’s a team with a $250 million payroll. Two hundred and fifty million! Somewhere, Joe Lacob smiles and tips his cap.
I know Dodgers fans who are infuriated by the relentless Giants, and they will be further infuriated by the Giants’ finishing kick without Belt. Farhan’s entire philosophy of ditching traditional lineups for platoon-heavy depth, and even more critically for finding players even-keeled enough to buy in to sharing at-bats, makes the Belt injury — while disappointing — sustainable.
That’s how bonkers the 2021 Giants are. Take one of the best hitters in the entire game, put him on the shelf three days shy of October, and the expectation remains: 106-107 wins, an NL West title, and a can-do attitude.
Let the Farhan Magic Show continue. Now coming to an October near you.