Latin Link: Hispanic Giants have found their hearts in San Francisco
Many major league teams have been busy tooling up this winter, despite the rather soft free-agent market. The Toronto Blue Jays got a lot better via the trade route. Teams with unlimited funds, like the Los Angeles Angels and their neighbors to the north, the Dodgers, hauled in the biggest prizes. And the San Francisco Giants strategy? If it ain’t broken, don’t try to fix it.
The world champions from the “City By The Bay” will head into next season with their entire club in tact. They are a group that gets it done without employing any of the game’s top stars, with the exception of their talented catcher, Buster Posey. The Giants can be best described as “grinders,” Posey included, with a perfect chemistry of blue-collar players led by their no-frills manager, Bruce Bochy.
A major ingredient in the mix, second baseman Marco Scutaro, will perform at AT&T Park for three more years after signing a deal worth $15 million. The Venezuelan veteran, who will finally own a ring after 11 respectable seasons in the big leagues, represents a large Latino flock of players that fans embraced as warmly as Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal in the old days. A quiet athlete but with a sharp wit, Scutaro had a quick answer when reminded that he’ll be 40 years old when his contract ends.
“Omar Vizquel played until he was 55,” he quipped, poking fun at his countryman.
Center fielder Angel Pagan, a scrappy Puerto Rican who irritated the opposition in the postseason with his trademark salute, was uncharacteristically humble after inking a new, four-year, $40 million pact.
“I understand that I have a big responsibility now,” admits Pagan, 31. “I intend to give the Giants and the fans everything I’ve got.”
Pagan will be joined by Hunter Pence and most likely Gregor Blanco in the San Francisco outfield, just like the final part of last year. But former Giant favorite Andres Torres recently agreed to a $2 million dollar contract, and slugger Francisco Peguero, 24, will also get a shot in spring camp.
One of the teams most loveable characters, Pablo Sandoval, kept his weight down and his energy up last season, and I don’t have to remind folks of his clutch performance as World Series MVP. The Kung Fu Panda will be a Giant for at least two more years, and Dominican super-sub Joaquin Arias will still be around to back up the left side of the infield.
It’s not likely that the Giants will have any Hispanic starting pitchers emerge in 2013, unless Yusmeiro Petit occasionally gets an emergency call. But the bullpen will, once again, be punctuated with Latino pride. Jeremy Affeldt, happy with his new deal, will be the lone “gringo” of significant importance among stoppers Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Jose Mijares and Santiago Casilla, 32, who has a fresh new agreement.
Almost half of the Giants’ 40-man roster are of Latino descent, and the team’s accomplishments have made many players celebrities here in the U.S. and, especially, at home. Sandoval, for example, was a judge in the recent Miss Universe pageant. Manager Bochy has always run a loose ship and expects the team to police themselves. This policy leads me to discuss Romo’s embarrassing tirade on New Year’s day at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Sergio, who I respect, but who can be a loose cannon at times, was detained by officials due to identification issues. Being a bit hungover, he was less than cordial, an incident he now regrets.
“I would like to sincerely apologize for the recent events in Las Vegas,” said Sergio in a club-released statement that has been seen all over the world.
“I love and respect the Giants, my teammates and our fans, and promise to conduct myself in the future in the San Francisco Giants Way.”
Boys will be boys, right? The main thing is that the “Giant’s Way” was put to the test and it worked. Bochy’s close-knit group has a unique, yet simple recipe for success. Role models, as Romo has learned, are important, because it defines who you are.
It’s not rocket science, amigos. The blueprint is to work hard, have fun and be accountable. And the Giants definitely have got it together.