Bruce Bochy made no plans for October. He fully planned to be working.
Instead, he will be busy in the coming days and weeks with player evaluations, sit-downs with his returning coaching staff, organizational meetings and a visit to the Arizona Fall League.
The reigning World Series champions are headed home early this year after high hopes of another special postseason run.
There were devastating injuries to Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez, not to mention all the others, and an offense that couldn’t produce the clutch hit that carried this club to walkoff wins and an improbable title last fall. Pitching performances were wasted because of quiet bats.
Forget the victory parade through The City for thousands to celebrate. Not this year.
Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean discussed what went wrong Thursday and what they plan to change moving forward — those sparkly World Series rings shining from their right ring fingers as a reminder of what went oh so right only 11 months ago.
“To win 86 games is an accomplishment in itself. Because we were challenged all year,” Sabean said. “So I give all due credit to the manager, the coaching staff and the players themselves for having the right attitude, playing it out until the end. And overall, I think we’ve set a bar pretty high as to what our expectations are, which is how to conduct ourselves, our professionalism and more so this culture we’ve created — you come through the clubhouse door, you’re ready to play.”
The biggest questions facing Sabean and Bochy this winter are: What commitments will they make to ace Tim Lincecum and fellow All-Star Matt Cain? Will slugger Carlos Beltran be back? Will catcher Posey and second baseman Sanchez return to their top form come 2012?
“Our pitching’s going to get expensive, that’s the punch line and we have to take care of that first,” Sabean said.
Sabean expects left-hander Jeremy Affeldt to stay put, whether that means exercising his $5 million option or renegotiating with the reliever.
San Francisco has 13 arbitration-eligible players, and Sabean said they won’t all be tendered contracts. There are also eight potential free agents, including Beltran.
“I made it clear since I got here this is a team I will consider strongly,” said Beltran, who plans to weigh his options in free agency after joining the Giants in a July 28 trade from the New York Mets.
Sabean said the Giants will need a solid backup plan at catcher as not to overtax Posey when he returns, and perhaps a second baseman for insurance as well considering Sanchez’s injury history.
Cody Ross, last year’s NL championship series MVP, will be a free agent and would like to land a two-year contract.
“I’m definitely open to coming back if it’s a fit,” Ross said.
Sabean reiterated president Larry Baer’s recent statement that struggling $126 million pitcher Barry Zito will remain on the team rather than buying out his huge salary. -- AP
2011 in review
86-76: Giants’ record
40-41: Giants’ road record
.242: Giants’ team batting average (third-lowest in baseball)
121: Home runs hit by the Giants (sixth-fewest in the NL)
570: Runs scored by the Giants (second-fewest in baseball)
.303: Giants’ on-base percentage (second-lowest in baseball)
3.20: Giants’ team ERA (second-best in baseball)
Key offseason storylines
Outfielder Carlos Beltran, acquired prior to the trade deadline, showed he can make an impact in the Giants’ lineup in his short stint in San Francisco. The 34-year-old has said he wants to play for a contender and he’ll consider returning to the Giants. However, he’ll command a hefty salary as a free agent, and whether the Giants want to meet his contract demands remains to be seen.
Fifth starter spot
Both Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito endured forgettable 2011 seasons. The emergence of Ryan Vogelsong eased the pain somewhat, but who starts 2012 at the No. 5 spot in the rotation is one of the most intriguing questions
entering the offseason. Eric Surkamp could be an option, as well, if the Giants cut ties with Sanchez or Zito.
Shore up short
Orlando Cabrera and Miguel Tejada were disasters at shortstop this season. Youngster Brandon Crawford showed glimpses of a bright future, but overall he struggled mightily at the plate. Two high-profile free-agent shortstops will hit the market soon in the New York Mets’ Jose Reyes and Philadelphia Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins. Either would be a monumental upgrade.
The Giants have boasted one of the top bullpens in all of baseball the past three seasons, which should lead to some interesting decisions this offseason. Valuable relievers Guillermo Mota and Javier Lopez are free agents, while the Giants have a club option on lefty Jeremy Affeldt. Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla and Ramon Ramirez are all arbitration eligible, which would make the likelihood of the ’pen returning intact remote.