Column: Sitting on the top of the Bay? Giants have a lot of work to do

Giants pitcher Sean Manaea walks back to the mound after giving up a home run to Washington's Riley Adams on Wednesday.
Giants pitcher Sean Manaea walks back to the mound after giving up a home run to Washington’s Riley Adams on Wednesday. The announced attendance at San Francisco’s Oracle Park was 21,283.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

The crowds were sparse and muted, the atmosphere less than festive, the players household names in very few households in the San Francisco Bay Area. The home team was down 5-0 in the first inning on Monday, 8-0 in the third inning on Wednesday.

Oakland? Nope.

With the Oakland Athletics declaring their intent to move to Las Vegas, this could be a moment for the entire Bay Area to embrace the San Francisco Giants. The timing is not good. The A’s are willfully and shamefully dreadful, but the Giants so far are uninspiring and mediocre.

The “we never rebuild” Giants were pummeled twice within three days by the rebuilding Washington Nationals. Six weeks into the season, the Giants are six games behind the first-place Dodgers in the National League West, one game ahead of the last-place Colorado Rockies.


The right thing to do is for Oakland A’s to stay in the city of Oakland and open up the team for bidding for an owner who wants to keep the team there.

April 21, 2023

The Giants are not moving, at least. The A’s say they are, and there is no shortage of opinions around here as to why. Lew Wolff, the A’s former managing partner, pointed the finger at the Giants’ longtime president.

“If we move out of California, it’s because of Larry Baer,” Wolff told The Times.

Baer declined to respond. Wolff had wanted to move the A’s to San Jose, and San Jose had wanted the A’s.

Baer represented a Giants ownership group that refused to yield its territorial rights to that city, citing revenues from fans and businesses there that it used to help cover the privately financed ballpark in San Francisco. Bud Selig, then the league commissioner, did not lobby the Giants to yield.

The A’s have had a decade since the San Jose option vanished, with no ballpark to show for it in either Oakland or Las Vegas.

The A’s grandly announced three weeks ago they planned to buy one site in Las Vegas. This week, they pivoted to another site. Both would depend on public funding, with A’s owner John Fisher coming off as less of a deal maker and more of a guy walking around Las Vegas wearing a sandwich board reading: “My major league team can be yours for hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”

With no deal in place, A’s fans have taken up collections for folks sitting in camera range at a game and wearing a T-shirt that says “SELL” or “FISHER OUT.” When the A’s return to Oakland on Friday, fans plan to set up cardboard cutouts of Fisher in the stadium parking lot, then invite fellow disgruntled fans to hurl tomatoes at the cutouts.


The pitch: “Throwing rotten produce is one of the world’s oldest forms of expression.”

The tomatoes remain atop the hamburgers at Oracle Park, still beautiful 23 years after the Dodgers’ Kevin Elster baptized the place by hitting three home runs in the first game here.

The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, then won a franchise-record 107 games in 2021. That season appears more of an outlier with each passing day; the Giants otherwise have not posted a winning record since 2016.

Dodgers' Mookie Betts, right, steals second base ahead of the tag of Giants' Brandon Crawford on Oct. 14, 2021.
Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, fielding a throw in the 2021 playoffs against the Dodgers, is the only remaining player on the roster from San Francisco’s three World Series championship teams last decade.
(Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

In 2018, the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi away from the Dodgers, to develop a new generation of champions while managing the transition from the likes of Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt.

“It was never going to be a shock-and-awe rebuild,” Zaidi said.

The Giants’ ownership never wanted to rebuild, and Zaidi said he was on board.

“Philosophically, I don’t really believe in the full teardown, because baseball is unpredictable and you can get surprising performances from everywhere,” he said. “That’s obviously what we got in ‘21. I think every team has a chance to have a season like that every year.

“When you pull the plug, you’re kind of eliminating a little bit of that. It can create a more comfortable narrative — ‘Hey, we’re rebuilding and we’re going to be under .500 for a few years!’ — but it’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re not going to try to compete, it’s pretty easy to do.”


The Giants wooed Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa last winter. They settled for a collection of veterans: outfielders Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger, and pitchers Sean Manaea, Taylor Rogers and Ross Stripling. All five thus far have performed below league average.

“It’s our expectation to make a run at the playoffs every year,” Zaidi said. “You want to get to a point where that is the sustained equilibrium and not even have the question of ‘Should we tear it down?’”

This is what every team wants to do, and it is much easier said than done. What the Dodgers have done over the last decade is remarkable.

Zaidi cited three prospects whom he hopes will impact the Giants this season: infielder Casey Schmitt, who homered in his debut Tuesday, catcher Patrick Bailey and pitcher Kyle Harrison.

In the meantime, the Giants are short on winning and star power. The Giants once sold out 537 consecutive games, a streak that extended into 2017. They never have announced a crowd below 20,000 here.

A 5-year-old Brandon Crawford is shown on Sept. 27, 1992 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
A 5-year-old Brandon Crawford, shown on Sept. 27, 1992, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, looks forlorn at the prospect of the Giants moving to Florida. Today the Giants shortstop says he doesn’t want to see the Athletics leave Oakland.
(San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images )

In their last seven midweek games, they have sold as few as 20,203 tickets, and no more than 23,397. Tickets for this week’s games were available on resale sites for as little as $1.

“We’ve never seen the disparity between weekends and weeknights that we’re seeing now,” Baer said.

Baer attributed the disparity to a city hard hit by vacancies in offices, the rise of remote work, and the collapse of the latest tech bubble.

“Downtown has been so slow to recover,” Baer said. “We’re a downtown ballpark.”

The fans seated behind home plate Wednesday wore an assortment of Giants jerseys, with the names a tribute to the distinguished history of the franchise: Barry Bonds and Posey; Will Clark and Willie Mays; Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum.

There were plenty of Crawford jerseys, in honor of the shortstop who is the last player remaining from the World Series championship teams. However, Crawford is on the injured list, and I saw no one wearing a jersey with the name of a player on the active roster. The next bobblehead the Giants give out will feature the team mascot, a seal.

Crawford stands out in Bay Area baseball lore for more than his play. When he was 5, he was photographed looking forlorn, his cap backwards and arms crossed, at what he thought would be the last game he would see in San Francisco. The Giants had announced a move to Florida, before local investors rescued the team, signed Bonds and built Oracle Park.


Former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is hoping his Dodger Stadium gondola project will become a reality, but his proposal is meeting stiff resistance.

May 1, 2023

Crawford does not believe the A’s moving to Las Vegas would be a positive for the Bay Area, even though the Giants would have the region all to themselves.

“The Bay Area likes being able to have two teams to root for,” Crawford said. “As a kid, I liked the A’s too. I was Giants No. 1, but especially after moving out to the East Bay, I was able to get to a lot of A’s games also. It was actually a little bit easier. BART went right to the stadium.

“I enjoyed watching the A’s growing up. I feel like there’s more of a rivalry now with fans, where they don’t like both. As a kid, I did.

“Would it potentially mean more fans for us? I guess. But I always enjoyed the Battle of the Bay.”

That’s fun. Battles for taxpayer dollars and a .500 record, not so much.