The Giants are no longer playing baseball, and that’s their first offseason challenge.
It will be hard coping with sudden inactivity after amassing 107 regular-season victories and performing like a legitimate postseason contender in their Division Series setback to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I’m not saying we’re turning the page to next year,” said manager Gabe Kapler, minutes after the Giants absorbed their season-ending, 2-1 loss to the Dodgers on Thursday. “I think that’s not true. But what I’ll say is we’re excited about building on this foundation.”
That concluding sentiment of Kapler’s should define the Giants’ offseason. Virtually everybody who suited up for them this season helped pile on the ballclub’s layers of achievements, including the winningest record (107-55) in team history, San Francisco’s first National League West crown since 2012 and a single-season franchise mark of 241 home runs.
The essence of the Giants revealed itself most when they played the reigning World Series champion Dodgers, in the regular season as well as the postseason. The archrivals met 24 times, with each team winning 12.
“I think that the character of the team, indepedent of the talent of the team, really shined in our games against the Dodgers,” Kapler said. “And some of the things that we talked about when we played the last game of the season — that grittiness and that toughness and that unselfishness and some of the vision — just all came together in those games against the Dodgers.”
First baseman-outfielder Darin Ruf praised the front office, namely president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris, for putting the Giants in position to succeed.
“They know what guys to go after, like team guys, good people,” Ruf said. “That clubhouse in there is extremely special and it’s because it’s full of great people that you want to be friends with your whole life. When you take the field with them, everyone’s got your back …
“LaMonte Wade shows up in Spring Training and turns into one of the best players on the team. You have that confidence that going into next year, this whole off-season, things are going to work out. We exceeded so many expectations this year that I think the bar’s going to be raised for us going into next year … we’re not going to sneak up on anybody. But I know that the guys in that clubhouse are guys that are ready for that, too.”
Some potentially tough decisions might be among the first ones that Giants management must make this offseason. Will the club negotiate new contracts with first baseman Brandon Belt, right-hander Johnny Cueto and catcher Buster Posey? Or will it cast them aside while paying buyouts of $5 million to Cueto and $3 million to Posey? Early speculation indicates that Posey, a franchise icon, will stay; Belt, who thrived before a broken thumb ended his season prematurely, might be retained; Cueto, who grappled with health issues, is unlikely to be re-signed.
If it were up to Kapler, he’d keep them all.
“I think the unselfishness that this team showed throughout the year, the trust that they showed in one another, was second to none — better than any season that I’ve ever been a part of as a player, as a coach, in any position in baseball,” Kapler said. “I just respect the hell out of the team-first mentality. I’ve never seen it like this. This is the best I’ve ever seen. So if there’s a message, it’s continue with that and we’re going to build on this season and be better because we have that foundation in place — that foundation of trust and unselfishness.”
As for dropping the Giants’ first postseason series against the Dodgers, right-hander Logan Webb had the final word.
“This won’t be the last time we play them in the playoffs,” he said.
Chris Haft is a longtime baseball scribe who covers the Giants for The Examiner.