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Down in Scottsdale, BoMel and Matty are bringing back that old feeling



We’re back from Scottsdale already, and I’m late dropping y’all a postcard!

My bad.

(Jock Blog early digression: Last time you sent anyone a postcard? Stamp, and everything? Be real — before 2000?)

Had I dropped the line, the old standby — “Weather is great; wish you were here” — would have been the platitude du jour. The weather was great, indeed, and it made for quite the Old Town tableau — the green, green grass of baseball set against those cloudless Arizona February skies. 

It was almost enough to make you forget 79 wins and the fact that the Giants’ Cactus League opener lineup was nothing but names from the 79-win mafia.

That’s a cheap shot, but what did you expect from this slice of cyberspace?

In fairness, the most intriguing three names of camp — new Korean acquisition and alleged contact machine Jung Hoo Lee, new designated hitter and baseball punisher Jorge Soler and broad-backed, wide-shouldered, glove-questionable young shortstop Marco Luciano — did not play opening weekend.

And as of the scribbling of this JB, Soler debuted Monday in Scottsdale, cranked out a couple of knocks and an RBI, and headed for the sauna. So, progress.

But the “wish you were here” part of the postcard would have been true, also. Just as Bruce Springsteen told us it’s hard to be a saint in the city; it’s equally hard to be a cynic in the spring.

Especially because the most important names we encountered down there will not hit any home runs, steal any bags or throw any two-strike changeups.

The most important names were Bob Melvin and Matt Williams.

That’s not to slight Pat Burrell and Bryan Price. The new hitting coach and the new pitching coach, both with outrageously solid Bay Area bona fides, will be a large part of the Giants’ hoped-for new look in 2024.

But Melvin and Williams — we’re talking Humm Baby vibes, sports fans.

Last summer, the Giants emblazoned those two words — ‘’HUMM BABY’’ — across the right field wall at Oracle. They commemorated the passing of the Humm Baby himself, revolutionary Giants manager Roger Craig (1985-1992 with the black and orange).

Melvin and Williams have now brought those words and their spirit into the dugout.

This is no small thing.

The same way Roger Craig took over a 100-loss 1985 season and turned the next four seasons into a Giants renaissance — fueled by split-fingers, squeeze bunts, great attitudes, competitive fire and, oh yeah, Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell — is the same way Melvin and Williams can begin to change the standard in San Francisco.

Gabe Kapler and his staff had their style, and in 2021, buoyed by veteran surges from Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, it added up to a whopping 107 wins. But 2022 and 2023 showed that miracle year to be more lightning in a bottle than hard-wired electricity.

Melvin and Williams are different. There is a strictness, an accountability. Yes, those words “old school” make a new generation want to roll eyes and drop an “OK, boomer” on the whole situation. But baseball is the sort of grind that demands respect, and a code of competitiveness in the clubhouse on a daily basis. As Tim Flannery used to like to tell us, there are two kinds of ballplayers: those that are humble, and those that are about to be.

Wearing the black and orange is a thing, and Williams embraces it like few others. He told us he bleeds it. Melvin dropped a nine-word gem on us about his third base coach: “He is all baseball, and he is all Giants.”

I get it. Williams waxing poetic about the joys of watching Robby Thompson and the late Jose Uribe turn two will not help the 2024 Giants get a runner home from third with less than two outs. But leadership and tone matter, as I was just saying to the current manager of the Texas Rangers.

Already, after the Giants laid an egg in their Cactus League opener, Melvin did not hold back in telling the writers he saw a lot of stuff he didn’t like. Tone-setting already. The kid outta Menlo Park has 1,517 big-league wins, after all. That’s 25th all time, and if the Giants have a decent year and win 83 games, he can pass Tommy Lasorda and move into 23rd. Insert smiley emoji here, sports fans.

Point is, our two-day sojourn to Scottsdale Stadium left me buoyed by the new leadership, Players win games, yes. There’s a reason Melvin’s win total in Oakland ranged from 97 in a great year to 68 in a brutal year. And someone like fire-breathing Matt Chapman, still on the market, can help Melvin do better than the 81.5 projected win total I see listed in Vegas.

I think the right guys are in the dugout.

Spikes high, sports fans. Let’s watch them work.