Jeff Samardzija walks around San Francisco and gets his share of hellos, then those friendly strangers go right on their way without lingering.
Samardzija loves that about his energetic new city, and the winning tradition of his new baseball team isn’t too bad, either.
The big right-hander was formally introduced by the Giants on Friday after reaching a $90 million, five-year deal less than a day after the club lost out on Zack Greinke.
The Giants expressed their interest in Samardzija early in the process and had already built a framework with agent Adam Katz, so the sides could move quickly once Greinke chose the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I can’t tell you the excitement I had when they came to me and I was on their radar,” Samardzija said. “Obviously, you have to play it cool, right? It’s kind of like being in high school and trying to find a homecoming date. You just don’t want to be left out there in the cold. I was like, ‘I might go to San Fran. I might think about it.’ But, really, in the back of my head, that’s where I wanted to be.”
Samardzija sounded downright giddy to have a new start back in the Bay Area, where he pitched the final three months of the 2014 season for the A’s after his trade from the Cubs.
He is ready to fill a key spot in a rotation led by 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.
“He’s like a lefty version of me,” Samardzija said, “Grumpy all the time on the mound. Swinging out of his shorts. I’m a big fan of Madison.”
He has already heard from star catcher Buster Posey and fellow pitcher Matt Cain.
Samardzija was among the worst pitchers in the AL for the Chicago White Sox, going 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA in 32 starts this year. While he had his first double-digit victory total in eight major league seasons, but said he was tipping his pitches — something he didn’t realize until late in the year.
“As much as this contract is about performance, it’s about going to the post,” Giants executive Brian Sabean said. “I think the greatest compliment we can pay Jeff is, last year under some duress, when the season didn’t go as planned, he pitches 214 innings. There’s a lot to like.”
Bottom line, the 30-year-old wants to win and put last season’s struggles behind him.
His 228 hits, 29 homers and 118 earned runs allowed all were most in the AL.
“When you’re tipping your pitches, it’s hard to have tons of success. Everyone’s got film on you, hours and hours of film from years and years,” he said. “There are people paid good money to figure out your weaknesses. Once you’re OK with that and OK with finding your own weaknesses and improving them, then you’ll be OK. Last year was great for me. Obviously on paper it wasn’t, but you learn a lot about yourself in those situations, when the last thing you want to do is go out there and grab a ball again and face Miguel Cabrera again. You do it with all your heart, and you learn a lot about yourself. I’ll never quit ever.”
When he went to rent a place following his trade to Oakland on Fourth of July 2014, he quickly realized he didn’t want to pay $7,000 a month — so he stayed in hotels for those three months.
Now, Samardzija might have the means to settle in somewhere.
“They’re all amazing hotels. I’ve seen them all, I’ve seen every corner of them, every restaurant,” he recalled. “I went to rent and $7,000 in San Fran just doesn’t quite get you what you’re looking for. It’s more of a dorm room. I love the people in San Francisco honestly. I love how people have their own thing going on in San Francisco whatever that may be, a lot of drive in this city and a lot of passion, which you can feel it. It’s palpable here.”
“Just to be a part of that in my own direction, I’m not necessarily a techie or anything like that, I’m a baseball player and that’s where I’ll go, but I also understand and see the passion in this city for whatever it is.”