SAN FRANCISCO — Open the door into the San Francisco Giants clubhouse and you’ll see the World Series championship years painted high on the wall.
The left side of the hallway is a picture of their recent three World Series trophies, 2010, 2012 and 2014, with pictures of all their Hall of Famers on the right side.
Keep walking inside, and everywhere you look are reminders that until recently, was the greatest team in baseball, the only franchise with three championship titles this decade.
They even have the heart of that championship core still playing in uniform, with manager Bruce Bochy, catcher Buster Posey, starting pitcher, Madison Bumgarner shortstop Brandon Crawford and infielder Pablo Sandoval combining for 18 World Series rings.
Now, all the Giants have these days, are memories.
The Giants are in last place in the National League West, 17-23, at the one-quarter mark of the season are on pace to finish 68-94, which would be their most losses in a three-year span in proud franchise’s 137-year history.
“This,’’ Bochy tells USA TODAY Sports, “is not the way I wanted to go out.
“I have a deep appreciation for what these players have done, and I feel indebted to them, because they’ve accomplished so much this decade with the championships.
“But these last couple of years has been difficult. Losing is not easy, trust me, especially when you’re used to getting to the postseason.’’
Bochy, eight victories shy of joining John McGraw as the only manager to win 1,000 games with the Giants, announced this spring that this will be his final season of his Hall of Fame career.
And it will be the first time in more than a decade since his arrival since to San Francisco in 2007 that the team will start a genuine rebuild, beginning this with trading Bumgarner.
“It’s going to be sad, especially trading a guy like that,’’ Sandoval said. “There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s out of our control. It’s a game, but it’s also a business.’’
And business shows that their loyal fanbase is well-aware their golden era behind them, with attendance down a major-league worst 6,011 fans a game, a total of 114,205 for their first 19 home games.
The Giants will soon be stripped down like an airplane for parts, with Bumgarner serving as the prime piece the Giants will use to bring back at least a top five prospect in a team’s organization. Veteran relievers Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and perhaps Mark Melancon, who make up perhaps the finest bullpen in the National League, will be on the trade block, too. First baseman Brandon Belt, third baseman Evan Longoria and Crawford will also be available, but they are all signed through 2021 with large salaries and no-trade clauses, making their departures unlikely.
The Giants are really caught in no-man’s land in today’s game of massive rebuilds, still owing $339 million to Belt, Johnny Cueto, Longoria, Jeff Samardzija, Crawford and Posey. They’ll need to capitalize on Bumgarner and their bullpen to kick-start the process.
“I’m good with whatever the plan is,’’ Bochy said in the quiet of his office, “but the tough part is knowing this is my last year. If you’re in a rebuilding situation, that can be a fun challenge if you’re there for the rebuild. But I’m not going to be here.
“So, what would make me feel better would be to get the winning culture back here in San Francisco.
“But it’s a little difficult where we are now.’’
This is a franchise built to win now, trading for Longoria, signing Cueto and Samardzija, and willing to spend about $300 million to acquire a premier power bat. They executed a trade with the Miami Marlins before the 2018 season for outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, assume $265 million of his contract, only for him to veto the deal and go to the Yankees. They offered $310 million to free-agent Bryce Harper in February, only to be spurned for the Phillies.
They now are left with a merry-go-round of outfielders trying piecemeal an offense that has scored the third-fewest runs in the National League, with the second-worst slugging and on-base percentage, ahead of only the hapless Miami Marlins.
They’ve employed 11 different outfielders the first six weeks of the season, and have made 22 roster moves alone in May. The frustration continues to build with veteran starter Derek Holland, perhaps speaking for a number of his teammates, lashing out at the team’s front office.
“To be honest,’’ Holland said, “I have no idea what they’re doing. And I don’t mean that by (Bochy) and them. It’s more the front office. We keep changing things.’’
Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ president of baseball operations, vehemently disagreed with Holland’s accusation that he was also placed on the injured list with a phony injury two weeks ago. The Giants sent MRI results and documentation to Major League Baseball after receiving an inquiry for proof. Still, he understands the anger in the clubhouse.
“There’s a lot of frustration right now,’’ Zaidi said. “We’re not playing as well as we’d like. I think our fans are frustrated. As a front office, we’re frustrated.
“I understand it. I’m as frustrated as anybody. I want to establish a culture of accountability where people are looking in the mirror and asking what they can do better. That’s the attitude we adopted in the front office, understanding that the results we’ve had so far are unacceptable.”
The traditional Giants might even start employing a reliever on occasion to open games for the first time in franchise history. The starting rotation is yielding an 8.10 ERA the past 15 games, with the starters lasting five or fewer innings in all but two of the games not started by Bumgarner. The Giants have been outscored 42-5 in the first inning alone.
“Our goal has got to be to bring our bullpen more into play because that’s a clear strength of our team,” Zaidi said. “So whether it means going to the ’pen early, or going to the ’pen at the beginning of the game, our relievers have to be a big part of our formula of success.’’
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Still, no matter what their strategy, if the Giants going to have any chance to accelerate their rebuilding process, they badly need Bumgarner, 2-4, 3.88 ERA, to pitch brilliantly these final two months before the July 31 trade deadline. He may not have the arsenal of the days when he produced a 4-0 record and 0.25 ERA in his five World Series appearances, but he’s still one of the most fierce pitchers in baseball. The Giants need to convince contenders that he can still have a dramatic impact in a pennant stretch. Several contenders have already begun scouting his last few starts to gauge his value.
Bumgarner has eight teams on his no-trade list — all contenders — to increase his bargaining position once he is traded. He can not be traded to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves without his permission.
“It’s pretty well explanatory,’’ Bumgarner said Sunday of his strategy.’’
Yet, the no-trade clauses also present a problem for the Giants. Virtually every veteran on the team is protected by a full no-trade clause, or at least a partial one, with Samardzija having a whopping 22 teams on his no-trade list. Melancon has a full no-trade clause.
“It would be tough to see this thing broken up,’’ Melancon said. “We got a special group here.’’
Still, there’s no reason to keep the bullpen intact if you’re not winning games, and it will be only a matter of time before the pitchers will start departing.
“It would definitely suck to leave these guys,’’ said closer Will Smith, who’s 10-for-10 in save opportunities, “but it’s a business. We’ve all pretty much been traded. So, it’s not anything new to us. We’d just hate to see it happen.’’
Yet, when you’re a veteran team going nowhere, and a new front office that wants to rebuild, the days of their carpools soon will be coming to an end.
“You try not to think about it,’’ Samardzija said, “but it does get distracting. You hear from all angles, so you don’t know what’s true or not. Everybody understands the state of the team will determine what happens.
“At least if you’re traded, you’re wanted right? And usually it means it’s a contender that trades for you.’’
Back in the day, it was the Giants who happened to be that perennial contender, vying for another World Series run.
Now, they’re seeing life on the other side of the baseball world, and it hurts.
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