SAN FRANCISCO -- Defeat has evolved into a familiar companion for the Giants during the past year and a half. Sometimes it almost seemed like an inevitability.One thing that losing will not become, the Giants insist as Spring Training approaches, is a habit.Until recently, the Giants were most closely associated
SAN FRANCISCO -- Defeat has evolved into a familiar companion for the Giants during the past year and a half. Sometimes it almost seemed like an inevitability.
One thing that losing will not become, the Giants insist as Spring Training approaches, is a habit.
Until recently, the Giants were most closely associated with losing's polar opposite: winning. Capturing World Series titles in 2010, '12 and '14 created an impression, an expectancy, that no matter what happens, the Giants should win -- if not a championship, then at least a large percentage of games.
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This attitude remained almost tangible even as losses began to mount. After another early-season defeat last year, left-hander Madison Bumgarner, the team's living, breathing talisman of triumph, was asked why he believed the ballclub soon would end its collective slump.
"We're the San Francisco Giants," Bumgarner simply said.
Since the 2016 All-Star break, which they entered with baseball's best record, the Giants own the Major Leagues' worst mark at 94-140. That's sufficient reason, an increasing number of pundits believe, for the Giants to trash whatever made them successful and rebuild -- a word that has remained absent from the franchise's vocabulary ever since owner Horace Stoneham collected power hitters suited to swat balls out of New York's Polo Grounds.
In an increasingly hip-hop world, the Giants have maintained the persistence described in a 1938 song, as if they were throwbacks to Stoneham's heyday: "Pick Yourself Up," which has been covered by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Diana Krall, among others ("Pick yourself up/dust yourself off/start all over again").
The Giants are starting all over, but they're not starting from scratch.
Some teams might resort to a five-year plan or a sequence of similar length geared toward steadily building a winner. The Giants don't do things gradually. This is the team that began the offseason pursuing reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton and Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani.
The memory of finishing last in the NL West last year, behind the NL champion Dodgers and Wild Card qualifiers Arizona and Colorado, doesn't daunt the Giants.
"There is a plan to put ourselves in a position to compete in our division," general manager Bobby Evans said. "That's our plan, our annual plan. We're not apologizing for trying to win."
Certainly, their trio of World Series conquests resulted directly from what's usually an incubation process: drafting first-rounders Timothy Lincecum (2006), Bumgarner ('07) and Buster Posey ('08). Each of them made their Major League debut by the end of their second professional season, however.
That reflects the mindset of an operation that wants to win now. The Giants' key offseason acquisitions also convey that attitude.
San Francisco's new faces are weathered by experience and success. Third baseman Evan Longoria finished among the top 20 in American League MVP voting six times in 10 seasons with the Rays. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen won the NL MVP Award in 2013 and was named an All-Star five times in nine seasons with the Pirates. Outfielder Austin Jackson has played in the postseason during five of his eight years in the Majors.
"It's like any year. We're dependent on good health," Evans said. "But we're also pleased about the additions to our lineup. We think they'll lengthen the lineup."
They'll join a projected lineup that includes All-Stars at five other positions (first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford, left fielder Hunter Pence and catcher Posey). When the aforementioned players start along with pitchers Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samardzija, the Giants' lineup will consist entirely of All-Stars, except for Jackson.
"There'll be no automatic outs in that lineup," Evans said, "at this point."
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.