Giants fans knew 2020 was going to be different when the calendar flipped from 2019. After all, Bruce Bochy retired as manager effective at the end of the 2019 season, a position he had held since 2007. His tenure included three World Series championships in a five-year span (2010, 2012, 2014).
In stepped Gabe Kapler, a somewhat controversial hire immediately following his firing after two seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and a 161-163 record.
And then the COVID-19 pandemic threw a few more curveballs at the Giants.
While the Giants did have their fourth straight losing season, their 29-31 mark in the shortened season not only left them a tiebreaker short of making the playoffs, it also provided a glimmer of hope for 2021 and beyond.
Here are the top five stories from 2020:
1 Kapler had already raised eyebrows and the concern of Giants fans with some of the hires to his coaching staff. But one made history. On Jan. 16, Alyssa Nakken was hired by the Giants as a major-league assistant coach. It made Nakken, a three-time all-conference first baseman at Sacramento State, the first woman to be on a major-league staff. The No. 92 jersey Nakken wore on July 23 for the Opening Day game against the Los Angeles Dodgers was sent to the Hall of Fame. Nakken had previously been in the Giants’ front office and was actually interviewing Kapler when Kapler became interested in adding her to his staff.
Buster out, Bart in
2 One quirk arising in the pandemic was players opting out of playing due to health concerns for themselves and their family. Catcher Buster Posey, the Giants’ best player, decided to opt out just two weeks before Opening Day. It was a blow for the young team and their unquestioned leader, who along with his wife had adopted twin girls who were born prematurely. But when one door closes, another opens. Top prospect Joey Bart, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, was called up about three weeks into the season and settled into the starting role. Bart struggled offensively, but showed the promise the Giants are expecting.
3 With his famous last name — at least in baseball circles — Mike Yastrzemski will always be known as the other Yaz. Grandfather Carl Yastrzemski is in baseball’s Hall of Fame following a 23-year career with the Boston Red Sox. But the younger Yaz is making a name for himself with the Giants, albeit a little later in life than his granddad. During a season in which he turned 30, Yastrzemski hit .297 with 10 homers and 35 RBIs while leading the National League with four triples in 54 games. He finished eighth in the NL Most Valuable Player voting. Being able to play all three outfield positions makes him a key as the Giants continue rebuilding.
A legend retires
4 Hunter Pence never finished in the top 10 of NL MVP voting during his eight seasons with the Giants, but there might not have been a more valuable person in their clubhouse during their last two World Series runs. Pence had an awkward approach to hitting and seemed to will the most out of his talent as he patrolled right field at Oracle Park. His true value was motivational. Pence earned the nickname “The Reverend” for his oratory explosions that lit a fire under his teammates, especially when the Giants faced and won six elimination games in 2012. All of that made him a fan favorite, including his “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant in 2014.
Fight to the finish
5 The Giants have a history of playing in an impactful final game of the regular season, whether it be the 1954 “Shot Heard ’Round the World” by Bobby Thomson in a tiebreaker against the Dodgers or Joe Morgan’s seventh-inning blast to eliminate the Dodgers from the playoffs in 1982. In 2020, it was bittersweet. After losing the first two games of the series to the San Diego Padres, the Giants entered the finale knowing they needed a win to make the playoffs. The Padres took a 5-1 lead, but Brandon Crawford’s two-run homer and Wilmer Flores’ solo shot pulled the Giants within 5-4. However, that was the Giants’ last hit and the season was over.