San Francisco Giants Struck Out on Superstars, But Still Intriguing in 2023

The San Francisco Giants fascinate me going into the 2023 Major League Baseball season. (And I’ve previously written about my admiration for their manager, Gabe Kapler.)

I don’t know how often I’ll watch them playing on Pacific time (especially as I try to prize sleep and stay on a consistent routine), but a team that tried to take that big step and fell short — or should I say took a big swing and missed — is very intriguing.

Aaron Judge or Carlos Correa signing with the Giants could’ve had a significant effect on the balance of power in Major League Baseball. What would the New York Yankees be without their star, 62-home run slugger? Would the Minnesota Twins begin a downward spiral without Carlos Correa? And what if Correa signed with the New York Mets, as he clearly wanted?

In Sunday’s New York Times, James Wagner visits the Giants and looks at a roster bolstered by $175 million worth of free-agent additions including outfielders Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger, and pitchers Sean Manaea, Taylor Rogers, and Ross Stripling. All of them are good players, but not stars. And certainly not the marquee names that bring fans to the ballpark and attract media attention during Spring Training.

But maybe a deeper roster will make for a more talented team like it did for the Giants in 2021 when they won 107 games. That could matter considerably in the National League West race.

Are the Los Angeles Dodgers vulnerable after losing Trea Turner to free agency and Gavin Lux to injury, in addition to their starting pitching uncertainty? Could the Giants have provided a major challenge along with the San Diego Padres? Or are the big-spending Friars the team ready to jump past the Dodgers in the division standings?

Something else I wondered is whether or not it would hurt MLB to have another of its superstars play on the West Coast. Though I’ve never seen that sentiment expressed among baseball fans and media.

I know, East Coast bias! There are plenty of baseball fans outside the Eastern time zone. And they know how good Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels are. But how often do they watch those players in games, not just highlights? The Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. probably had the same lack of exposure during his MVP-caliber 2021 season. If Manny Machado and Juan Soto didn’t play for East Coast teams earlier in their careers, would fans also be less aware of their talents?

But it hasn’t hurt the NBA to have LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard, and the Phoenix Suns out West. So maybe I’m way off on that. (However, the NBA and its stars get a far better national push on ESPN and TNT.)

I didn’t catch my MLB.TV subscription before auto-renewing for $160, a luxury I wasn’t sure I could afford this year. So I’d better try to get my money’s worth out of that accidental investment. I might have to stay up late some nights to do so.

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