The captain of the San Francisco Giants – this is a captain with a big C, a roughly sewn black ribbon – has been announced for duty this season on a precious cargo boat. He wore a captain’s white hat with a black and orange trim, tossed his wares to the left, and finally stood on a shimmering emerald green.
“He’s a complete bozo at the club,” left-hand pitcher Alex Wood said of captain Brandon Belt, whose dishonest humor spilled over into the pitch on opening day. The belt came out of the left field corner, in Oracle Park, standing behind a high-speed boat that was being towed by a truck along the third base stalls. He threw the baseballs into the crowd, then jumped in, took one for himself, and threw the first ceremonial field to manager Gabi Koppler.
“They wanted me to catch him from the beginning,” said Shorty Brandon Crawford. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to popularize it the way it already is.’
Crawford is 35 years old, one year older than Belt, but is about a month behind him in terms of service. Their debut took place in early 2011, when the Giants were the reigning world champions and soon helped the team win two more titles. Now Belt and Crawford are old defenders who lead a team of giants that set a franchise record with 107 wins last season before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in an exciting Division series.
After a weekend in Washington, the Giants started the season 11-5. Modernized as a modern competitor – data-savvy, coaching skills, not afraid to challenge the convention in their style of play – the Giants are stronger by maintaining the two pillars of the glory years.
“We had a lot of models that were amazing to us,” Belt said, naming pitchers Matt Cain and Javier Lopez and supporter Buster Posey, who retired last fall, among his early mentors. “And I think a lot of them were the reason we won the World Series then because we had great leadership. Now Crowe and I can help these young guys and be leaders like the guys we used to watch. And that ‘s fun for me.” .
Belt called himself Captain Larnaca. In September last year, when the Giants landed in Chicago over a weekend series with the Cubans, he instructed his teammates to stay seated until their captain left the plane.
“I’m just going for a bit of a shock price,” he said. “They never heard anyone say that. I mean, it’s just ridiculous. ”
The next day, on Wrigley Field, in Belt’s closet, his T-shirt was taped “C”, courtesy of his teammate Evan Longoria. Belt put it on Dugut – again like Gugun – but Kepler offered to leave him for the game. The belt is back, the Giants have won, and the now recorded “C” is part of the Belt legend. Some teammates wear it on a T-shirt in his honor.
“Nothing surprises me about Belter,” said Outfield Stephen Dugar. “He is unbelievable, man. The boy takes nine sticks during a spring workout, goes out and lights a fire in the world. And he did it last year as well. “An incredible player, an incredible person.”
Belt missed most of his spring training due to a knee injury, but returned on opening day and hit the .345 in the first three series of the Giants. He prospered under Kepler and his extended coaching staff. Entering the game on Sunday, he dropped 0.584 from 2020 onwards. Only two strikers, San Diego Fernando Tati Jr. and Atlanta Ronald Acuna Jr., had a better slang percentage with at least 500 plates appearing during that period.
2022 MLB Season
The season, which was dubious, is suddenly approaching at full speed.
Belt, who was on a 2-on-5 triple Sunday afternoon in the Giants’ 12-3 win over the Nationals, had fewer pitches to kick out of the strike zone, which helped explain, but said he also benefited from the coaching staff’s constant reassurance. . The self-confidence that maintained his disciplined plate approach helped him avoid a long fall – and ended the so-called belt wars, a debate among fans about its value.
“Essentially, some people in San Francisco liked Brandon very much, while others liked it this way: ‘Man, you have to step out of the zone a little bit to try to run this jog,'” Kepler said. “But we believe this is a really, really great offensive profile like he’s. So we wanted him to know that we value Brandon Belt exactly as he is, without improvement. And I think that post released him a little bit.”
Kepler, who took over at Bruce Boch in November 2019, had a more difficult problem with Crawford, who was having his worst season. A platoon of giants in several positions and Crawford, who struck .228 in 2019, seemed uncertain about continuing his day-to-day role.
But after playing well in the reduced season of 2020, he fully recovered last year, winning the Golden Glove and finishing fourth in the National League Most Valuable Player Award. Crawford, who struck .298 with 24 homers, called it his best season.
“I do not think my protection has diminished as much as some saber-rattling have said,” Crawford said.
The Giants give Crawford the right to change their pitch – sometimes just to the bench coach, Kai Correa – if he sees something that deviates from the previous game script. But getting new ideas is crucial under Kepler and Farhan Zaid, president of the baseball operations team. Crawford understands that sport must develop.
“It has changed on many levels – from the pitch celebration to how the lineup and list are drawn, through analytics and the like,” he said. “But I think change, at any given time, is generally quite good. If the celebration on the pitch will further enhance the game, perhaps to a younger audience, it is perfect.
“To give someone a chance because their analytics were really good at juveniles – and maybe in years past, they would have gone unnoticed because they weren’t predictable enough – it’s also good for the game. So I think in general, it’s good to see where the game is going. “
However, in some cases, the Giants have moved the game forward in a way that irritates their opponents. Leading by six runs in the Ninth Inning in Washington on Friday, Tairo Estrada attempted to steal a second base when the Nationals did not detain him. Crawford came out on the pitch and after Estrada was thrown out trying to score a goal, the veteran shouted the national team shortstop Alcide Escobar’s dugout.
“They did something we thought was not necessary,” said United national team manager Dave Martinez. It echoed Padres sentiments a week ago when Dugar stole the base and Mauricio Dubon took the single with nine runs in the sixth.
Most of baseball unofficial code of conduct must be observed, Belt said, for sportsmanship. But there is a difference between showbotting and just playing, he added – and the giants are just playing.
“I take a lot of unwritten rules and I like them,” Belt said. “But I agree with the logic that Capi is talking about here: we do not do this out of disrespect for other teams. We do this to win games. And I know some of the other guys don’t seem to like it, but we try to dig deep into the bushes, forcing the boys to throw more playgrounds so they can’t use them for the next two days. “It’s not just about going out and showing people.”
Crawford said the Giants actually have more respect for their opponents by continuing to try to score. He says this is the message they need to hear: “We see that you guys are potentially running a few runs that could radically change the way we approach our bushes during the game and the rest of the series.”
This is common sense, even if it hurts the feelings of other teams. In any case, the Giants will not apologize for their competition. They thrive again, and Belt and Crawford admire another crew on another wave – and a veteran (self-proclaimed) captain.
“There really is no place I would rather be in than San Francisco,” Belt said. “I’m more passionate about the organization now than I ever was.”