Column: San Francisco Giants hope youngsters bridge passion gap with fans

Aug 18, 2023, 1:30 PM

Heliot Ramos #12 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated by Patrick Bailey #14 after he scored...

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: Heliot Ramos #12 of the San Francisco Giants is congratulated by Patrick Bailey #14 after he scored against the Tampa Bay Rays in the seventh inning at Oracle Park on August 15, 2023 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Major League Baseball season is rapidly approaching the Labor Day quarter poll and the San Francisco Giants are holding on to a Wild Card spot in what could be a seven-team race for three spots.

But there’s nearly as much discontent in orange-and-black fan land as there is excitement.

A good chunk of the fan base feels betrayed, first by the Giants’ inability to land a major star last winter, and then again at this year’s trade deadline by the club’s failure to acquire stretch-run reinforcements for an offense that has gone cold. Add in the fact that the Giants cling to an analytics-based formula based on exploiting situational matchups, and you end up with a product that seems…impersonal and Moneyball West.

What’s the solution? Homegrown talent.

Or so the club hopes.

In 1986, when the Giants were trying to re-invent a franchise that had become a shivering caricature of itself, the team adopted the slogan, “Ya Gotta Like These Kids.” What made the slogan work was “these kids,” especially Will Clark and Robby Thompson. Under skipper Roger Craig, the Giants turned things around quickly enough to win a division title in ’87, with a trip to the Bay Bridge World Series in 1989.

And home-grown players made the foundation of the Bruce Bochy-led clubs that won three World Series between 2010 and 2014. Fans appreciate getting emotionally attached to watching young players grow and develop, and such players are less expensive. It only works, however, if the home-grown players are good enough to keep your team competitive.

Patrick Bailey has been excellent this year. Marco Luciano finally made his debut before injuring his hamstring. Luis Matos made it to the big club while Blake Sabol is a surprisingly useful addition. Ryan Walker has pitched very well, but Casey Schmitt and David Villar couldn’t hold down jobs.

And hey, that’s baseball. But the only way the Giants’ current cost-conscious model succeeds in producing a competitive team that connects with fans is if the club can produce home-grown major league stars.

That is, of course, unless the Giants can sign Shohei Ohtani this off-season. Much more likely though would be Ohtani signing with the Dodgers, which would only ratchet up the frustrations so many Giant fans feel over the current state of things.

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