One strategy the Giants will employ this season to try to mitigate the effects of yet another deep postseason run in 2014: More legroom.
The Giants have traditionally chartered flights for road trips through carriers like United or Delta. But this season, general manager Brian Sabean said Friday, they are contracting with a private air carrier that offers “retrofitted” planes with 90 first-class seats, hoping to make the constant travel more comfortable for their players.
Sabean said the Giants have studied the travel issue and found that West Coast teams can accrue some 55,000 to 60,000 travel miles over the course of the season, nearly three times as many as some Midwest teams. Those miles often would be covered on nights after day games or on off-days meant to provide opportunities for rest.
Traditional chartered flights offered plenty of seats but only about 20 with the space of first class. Sabean said available first-class seats would often be offered to players with the most service time or with injuries – especially during last year’s playoffs.
“But if you start with (6-foot-5 Madison) Bumgarner, his size, having a row doesn’t do anything,” Sabean said. “He’s still going to be a pretzel trying to get some sleep or relax.”
So the Giants will change planes hoping to “save some wear and tear” on players, Sabean said. And though not prompted solely by the 2014 World Series run, the Giants made the switch fully cognizant that they are coming off of their third short offseason in five years – and that the first two World Series encores did not fare so well.
The Giants, of course, won championships in 2010 and 2012 only to miss the postseason altogether the following season, leading some fans to half-jokingly hypothesize the team only succeeds in even-numbered years. It’s an idea that players shrug off, along with the notion of World Series hangovers factoring into results of 2011 and 2013.
“We’re lucky that we’ve had the experience of ’11 and ’13,” catcher Buster Posey said Friday. “I can honestly say that these guys that have been here, there hasn’t been complacency before, even though the results weren’t what we wanted them to be. That’s not something that will be an issue.”
Personally, Posey said he gave himself an extra two weeks to rest following the 2014 World Series before starting offseason workouts – something he did not do in 2011 or 2013 – hoping it will “pay dividends later in the year.” The Giants intend to catch Posey as often as possible and reiterated Friday there have been no discussions about a position change for their franchise catcher.
Bumgarner, on the other hand, said he changed nothing about his offseason regimen even after logging 270 innings in 2014 including the regular season and playoffs. Asked Friday how his arm is feeling, the laconic left-hander said: “Feels just like an arm.”
While he admitted after Game 7 of the World Series to being “a little tired,” Bumgarner said Friday he meant he “was more mentally tired than anything,” and he had “plenty of time” to recover. “I feel great after the offseason,” he said, “and feel ready to go.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said he gave players some space this winter – “Short offseason, I like to give these guys a break from me” – but with FanFest bringing them together this weekend, he had begun mulling over his 2015 lineup. Gone are third baseman Pablo Sandoval and left fielder Michael Morse, replaced by Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki. But the loss of power, Bochy said, has given way to a “very flexible lineup.”
Bochy said he doesn’t “have anything etched in stone” but sketched out a lineup where Angel Pagan leads off, followed by Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, McGehee, Aoki and Brandon Crawford. Bochy said he could tweak that against left-handed pitchers but pointed out that left-handed batters Aoki and Crawford both hit left-handed pitching better than right-handers last season.
Of the new additions, McGehee and Aoki, Posey said, “Having caught against them the past several years, they’re both really tough outs. For pitchers and catchers, those aren’t the kind of guys you want coming up with a guy on third and less than two outs because you know you’re not going to get a strikeout. I think they’ll be really good for us.”
Along with his offensive numbers, Sandoval was a sparkplug in the clubhouse, and Posey said it will be “up to us to recognize when we need to pick up the energy.” Bochy said he has faith in a largely constant roster to know the necessary measures for avoiding another disappointing odd-numbered year.
“I look at the leadership on this club, Pence, Posey, these guys are professional; they’re hungry players,” Bochy said. “Great teams, great players, never think they’ve arrived. They continue to try to improve, and we’re the same.”