With the San Francisco Giants unable to break free from their .500 prison, people are looking for answers. The manager creates each lineup by playing “Bochy Boggle,” where he shakes the names around a plastic container in hopes of more
points runs. The defense? Dreadful. The players? Fragile. There have been some rousing moments and excellent pitching performances, as well as several losses that paint the picture of a team destined to fall short in September.
When the Giants sunk to the .500 level in the latter half of 2011, they were a team primarily comprised of veterans at positions 2-through-9 on the scorecard. With older position players showing below average range in the field and clogging up the basepaths (during those rare times when they were lucky enough to reach base), many clamoring for more in the way of energy and team speed called for the team to give its younger players a chance.
Now that the lineup is a little younger and the Giants’ record sits at 15-16, many in search of a problem beyond the obvious (they can’t field or hit for power, and they’re featuring one of the worst middle infields in baseball) are pointing in the direction of the clubhouse.
A brief, general summary of the leadership narrative:
- The Giants aren’t playing with any “spark,” because there isn’t any discernible clubhouse chemistry.
- To have clubhouse chemistry, a team needs at least one leader.
- Matt Cain is the team’s leader, but he can’t be a leader because he’s a pitcher. The leader has to be a position player, dummy.
- The position player leader should probably be a veteran, but Freddy Sanchez is hurt, Ryan Theriot hasn’t been here long or accomplished anything in San Francisco, and Aubrey Huff is Aubrey Huff.
- Buster Posey’s next in line, but he leads by example (translation: doesn’t supply the media with a lot of great quotes) and is coming off injury. Posey has too much on his plate to lead at this time, maybe later.
Next, what I’ve noticed after visiting the Giants’ clubhouse a dozen or so times this year:
- It’s pretty quiet in there after losses.
- Rap songs featuring artists like Drake, Kanye West and Rick Ross play loudly after wins.
- Not nearly as much towel-snapping as you’d think.
As someone who has spent a good deal more time covering high school sports than professional franchises like the Giants and Warriors, I don’t have the “frickin’ foggiest” what makes a strong clubhouse or locker room, as Jeff Kent might say. I’d imagine it’s 95% based on wins and losses, and the rest based on whose personalities are the strongest and whether the dominant guys on the team use their influence in a positive or negative way.
The only analysis I can put forth with any confidence is that the Giants are in transition from the Burrell/Huff era to something new, and building something new takes time.
There aren’t any blatant troublemakers or malcontents on the Giants, and they don’t need to add some sort of “veteran presence” to create a cohesive clubhouse and fill the void left by Mark DeRosa (who supplies reporters with what could be considered the best quotes of any player in the game). The Giants need to stop making errors on the field and while running the bases, figure out a way to hit for power, and find a way to acquire middle infielders with higher ceilings than Theriot and Emmanuel Burriss. Putting Brandon Belt in the No. 2 spot in the order and keeping him there every day wouldn’t hurt, either. If they find a way to win games, the clubhouse chemistry will grow organically. A new narrative would be created: the young position players banded together and built a winner. But the winning must come first.