Sports Corner

The outlook for the Giants’ 2023 season

Photo: Luke Zhang

So the Giants struck out trying to sign free agent outfield star Aaron Judge, who decided to remain a Yankee. They balked at their multiyear deal with shortstop Carlos Correa over concerns about his ankle.

And when veteran free agents Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, and Carlos Rodon stole away to other teams, critics wondered if San Francisco had anyone left on base.

Questions lingered through the off-season. Could the Giants bounce back from an underwhelming 81-81 season in 2022 and regain the form that won a franchise record 107 games the previous year. Will they play the brand of baseball exciting enough to draw their legion of fans through the Oracle Park turnstiles all summer?

Logan Webb spoke of the team’s collective sentiments during a spring training interview. “We look back to the 2010, ’12 and ’14 teams,” said the Giants’ pitching ace. “We want to start our own that.”

It should be noted that when the Giants won those World Series titles a decade ago, they were the underdogs in virtually every post-season series they played. The same is true for the 2023 edition. None of the oddsmakers are picking them to win the NL West; only a handful have them even making the playoffs.

Lacking a marque player, the face of the franchise is a group photo. To the existing cast of position players, General Manager Farhan Zaidi signed a pair of power-hitting free agents, Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto, both of whom pack impressive resumes, but suffered through injury-plagued seasons in 2022. They join the likes of Mike Yastrzemski Joc Pederson and Austin Slater to complete the Giants’ outfield corps, with LaMonte Wade Jr. moving mostly to first base.

Wade is one of several Giants who will need to bounce back from subpar offensive production in 2022. Nicknamed “Late Night LaMonte” for his many clutch hits in 2021, he was mired in injuries for much of last season, and his magic vanished. Like many of his teammates, Wade did extra training during the winter to try to turn back the clock to its previous setting. Said manager Gabe Kapler, “LaMone had a very focused, very driven offseason. He did all the right things without a lot of fanfare.”

For this year’s team to enjoy success, one thing is certain. They’ll need to clean up their glove work. Far too many times last year, a critical fielding lapse at a crucial moment turned a potential win into a heart-breaking loss. According to shortstop Brandon Crawford, the new MLB rule prohibiting exaggerated defensive shifts could help in that regard. “It should be better for double plays, I think,” said the glue of the Giants’ infield. “With the shift, you got some ground balls that became tough to turn where maybe in the past, if the guys were playing straight up, we turned it pretty easily.”

Many of the costly errors occurred late in games, putting added strain on the relief corps, which had been the best in baseball in 2021 and fell to among the worst in 2022. To the crew of carryovers, Zaidi added veterans Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson. Rogers is the twin brother of fellow Giants reliever Tyler Rogers. Although they might be difficult to tell apart when they’re signing autographs before the game, there’ll be no mistaking them on the mound. Tyler’s right-handed submarine delivery is already familiar to Giants fans, whereas Taylor is a lefty with a three-quarters motion. One can easily foresee one of the siblings relieving the other in late innings, en route to closer Camilo Doval.

There should be fewer concerns about the Giants’ starting pitching staff. Even with Rodon’s departure, it’s one of the deepest in the game. If Webb, Alex Cobb, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood weren’t enough, Zaidi added veterans Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling to the rotation. Joey Bart is the front-runner as starting catcher, but he’s not a lock.

Above all, according to Webb, what the 2023 Giants might need most is to “change the culture. Maybe we got a bit too complacent last year. We didn’t always bring our best level of energy to the ballpark,” he said. “This year, we want to have only good vibrations and positive thoughts in our clubhouse.”

No doubt, their fans will be happy if they do.

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