For years, Yankees-Giants was the original Subway Series. The Yankees played in Washington Heights and then the Bronx, while the Giants owned Harlem’s Polo Grounds. Forget the Dodgers. Flatbush, Brooklyn might as well have been another country. For context, the Giants and Yankees played each other in the World Series five times before Brooklyn joined the rivalry.
Cue the Giants (and Dodgers) moving to California in 1958 and New York baseball lost a piece of its soul. The 1962 World Series and a 2002 Barry Bonds moonshot aside, the Yankees and San Francisco Giants rarely play one another.
But now, the script is flipped. Aaron Judge spurned his childhood favorite San Francisco to stay with the Yankees in free agency. The Giants, after later backing out of a deal with Carlos Correa, turned to a former Mets star.
And as we’ve stated, all MLB teams play each other this year. This means the Giants get to face the man who rejected them in his own house, and on Opening Day! They’ll then host the Mets in April and visit them in July.
The question remains: Will the San Francisco Giants slay their former New York foe and subsequent replacement, or is their large-sounding name a misnomer?
Greatest Addition: Michael Conforto. San Francisco needed an impact bat regardless of adding Judge or Correa. Conforto brings his sweet left-handed swing to the Bay on a two-year, $36 million deal. Not bad for someone who missed all of 2022 recovering from shoulder surgery.
We know this Giants team can hit. San Francisco ranked 11th in runs scored and 12th in home runs despite batting just .234 as a team. Michael Conforto makes them better, especially with the Dodgers not looking as invincible this season. But that’s another story.
Greatest Loss: Carlos Rodon. He was a bona fide ace for the Giants last year and did it all with just two pitches. Adding more fuel to the rivalry fire, he signed with the same Yankees who convinced Judge to stay on the East Coast. This is the same man who led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) and only pitched 178 frames on the year.
The Giants ranked 13th in MLB last year with a 3.85 ERA. Subtract Rodon’s numbers, and they would have tied Minnesota for 19th with a 3.98 mark. Logan Webb is a solid young ace and Sean Manaea is due a bounce-back year, but neither can replace Rodon.
Greatest Strength: Player development. We’ll see how it fares with longtime executive Brian Sabean out of the building (and back in Yankee Stadium), but San Francisco has always developed young players well. They turned former Yankees utility infielder Thairo Estrada into an everyday player and third baseman David Villar hit 27 home runs with a 1.022 OPS in the minors last year.
The story now is if president Farhan Zaidi can keep the farm system operating at the same high standard. Not only is Sabean gone, but so is his GM successor Scott Harris. And especially after missing out on not one but two big free agents, the Giants will need the youth to come through on the field.
Greatest Weakness: Skittish ownership. The San Francisco Giants have gotten so used to their player development pipeline hitting that they were almost never key players for big-name free agents up until this year. Winning three World Series in five years with almost entirely homegrown talent must have that effect.
Forget the whole Aaron Judge saga. San Francisco backed out of a $350 million deal with Carlos Correa over injury concerns, and then signed Mitch Haniger for $43.5 million over three years. Yes, that’s a big difference in money, but Haniger has also played in over 100 games just twice in his career. Even if Correa’s ankle explodes in five years, will he really be so unproductive the rest of the way that Haniger is worth more of a risk? Or even Conforto?
Management chickened out, plain and simple. And now, they have to hope manager Gabe Kapler can rally the scrappy Giants past the Dodgers in the standings.
Are the Giants a New York rival again? They sure are, but maybe not so much for the Mets. Conforto could make the Mets regret not extending him when they had the chance, but he also hasn’t played in a year. Save for adopting the old New York Giants’ logo as their own, the Mets don’t have a ton of skin in the game.
The Yankees, on the other hand, will be villains in the Bay for a decade. The Giants could have made a statement by signing Judge and having him face his former team on Opening Day. Instead, he’s a Yankee for life and will be booed mercilessly at Oracle Park starting next year. Moreover, he’s a constant reminder of what was ultimately a colossal failure of an offseason.
And now, we get to see that frustration play out on the field. In the Bronx. On Opening Day. Buckle up.
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