There was only way for San Francisco Giants GM Bobby Evans to go. And that’s exactly what he did, which ended with his pink slip on Monday.
“This is the circus…Everyone is trying to not say goodbye.”
That’s what Russell Hammond told William Miller in Almost Famous when he traded out the band-aids for a case of Heineken. And that’s the situation Bobby Evans walked into when he took over the GM role for the San Francisco Giants from Brian Sabean. The party had already been raging, was about to end, and yet he couldn’t make anyone say goodbye.
When Evans took over, the Giants were coming off their third World Series in five years. #EvenYear. You may remember that. It was something of a miracle, as they were only an 88-win team that snuck in via the wildcard. But thanks to Madison Bumgarner, with a dash of all of the Nationals, Mike Matheney, and Ned Yost throwing their own vomit in their face, the Giants had the parade.
And that parade puts a hell of a gloss on a team that was already in decline, and only further entrenched it. But who cares when you’re covered in confetti? Starting the next season, the Giants has Buster Posey at catcher. Brandon Belt at first, Brandon Crawford at short, and Hunter Pence in right. And all were making serious money.
The bigger problem for Evans was that when he took over, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum had already turned into dust. Which meant whatever spare money was left had to be thrown at the rotation, which led to players like Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson, at a combined age of “Mummy,” taking a combined 40 starts. Whatever magic Ryan Vogelsong found by the Bay ran out as well.
There wasn’t much left over for the pen, and the Giants actually won one more game in ’15 than they did in ’14. But there was no parachute of a wildcard spot thanks to the Pirates and Cubs that season.
And the problems only got bigger from there. Posey, Crawford, Belt, and Pence only got older. The kids who were supposed to add some vigor to the lineup flattened out, like Joe Panik and Matt Duffy. What money was left was thrown at the holes in the rotation with Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, who actually were the glue that got the Giants to another wildcard spot.
But again, the pen was something Evans didn’t have the money or the luck to solve. Santiago Casilla went from closer to haunted house ornament by September. Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, Josh Osich, Javier Lopez tried to fix any break in the dam by shoving their face directly into it. The last six weeks of the season saw Bruce Bochy racing to see if he could warm up pitchers before he got to the mound, culminating in a collapse in Game 4 against the Cubs that saw five different relievers cough up a four runs (as a Cubs fan I’m contractually obligated to mention this).
And again, there was nowhere for Evans to go. The lineup was what it was. The system had been stripped for pieces during the glory days. There was an attempt to solve all at once with the signing of Mark Melancon. And then he got hurt.
Everyone got older. Bumgarner and Cueto got hurt the past two seasons. The reserves were tapped. There was nowhere to turn.
Evans didn’t really have a lot of options. Three rings means everyone gets paid and everyone gets to stay until a date of their choosing, even if they’d like to move Posey to first permanently and cash in on whatever they can with Belt. It’s too late for that now. Posey, Belt, Crawford, Cueto, Bumgarner, Samardzija account for $107 million by themselves next year, and there’s the small matter of Bumgarner going UFA after that. Given his reputation, could they ever let him walk? Given his injuries the past two years, could they even move him if they wanted to?
There were two last desperation heaves, bringing in Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, who somehow didn’t go humpty-dumpty patrolling right field at AT&T. But they were more of the same, aging stars sinking in a game that skews younger and younger.
Whatever draft picks Evans made, they’re years away from helping. Stephen Duggar and Andrew Suarez are all that’s marked on the big roster.
But this was always how it was going to be. Three rings means everyone gets to stay at the party as long as they want. Because as long as they’re there, the memories are too. It’s why the Giants haven’t embarked on a full rebuild. There are tickets to sell after all, nostalgia to cash in on, while the Dodgers spend more and produce more through their own system.
It might not get better for a while. The Padres are sitting atop what might soon be a gushing oil well. The Rockies at least have one of the more solid rotations in the league.
And the Giants will only get older. But hey, remember #EvenYear?