San Francisco Giants Further Motivated to Face Aaron Choose, Yankees on Opening Day – NBC Bay Space
Giants were excited to begin a marquee series against Judge originally aired on NBC Sports Bayarea
NEW YORK — Executives at Major League Baseball’s Manhattan headquarters aren’t generally known for having a sense of humor, but the person who put the finishing touches on the 2023 schedule certainly decided to have some fun with the Giants and New York Yankees.
The organizations have long been known for being the two frontrunners for Aaron Judge’s services after he achieved the free hand. When the schedule was released last August, everyone knew Judge would be at Yankee Stadium on March 30th. The only question was what shelter it would be in there.
The Giants put on the best effort they’ve ever had for a free agent, only for Judge to decide not to come home and stay in a town that has become his home. The Giants expected that to be the case all along, and Judge himself made it clear afterwards that he never wanted to leave the Yankees.
Months after that decision, there will be no uncomfortable feelings, baseball operations president Farhan Zaidi said last week.
“I think it will be fun,” said Zaidi. “He’s the opponent now. We tried to sign him but he’s the opponent now. I think if anything it’s a little extra motivation for us and the guys in this team. I think we really have one good mood.” “We’re in our clubhouse right now and I think the guys are feeling really good with the group of players we have. I think athletes are always looking for an extra source of motivation and to make people feel like he is a player that we need and we can’t win without him I think that just gives extra motivation.
“Yankee Stadium is a great place to play, period. Being there on the opening day I think will be something special. And then dealing with a bunch of guys (we’ve been following) – a guy who was on our team last year in Carlos (Rodón), and unfortunately it doesn’t sound like he’s going to be able to pitch – but I think the fact that we were chasing some of the same guys (like the Yankees) will only provide additional motivation.”
The Giants won’t be short of that this season, but there’s an urgent need to latch onto the sources of motivation and get off to a fast start. The day before the Giants flew to New York for their opener, an email was sent out by the organization advising that tickets were still available for next Friday’s home opener.
There won’t be much excitement at Oracle Park early in the season, especially if the Giants don’t have a strong opening road trip. That would not have been the case had Judge agreed to return to Northern California.
The pursuit of the reigning American League MVP was first and foremost a baseball game. Judge told the Giants he wanted to play in midfield, and his arrival would have given the heart of the lineup its most imposing presence since Barry Bonds, while also leveling outfield defense.
But Judge would have sold tickets too. Many, many, many tickets. He would have been a game-changer at the team store, where the Giants were disappointed last season to find their former players overtaking current players in jersey sales.
The Giants made an offer of exactly the same magnitude as the nine-year, $360 million it ultimately took the Yankees to bring Judge back, and maybe one day they’ll look back — having seen where the markets of Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto ends up – and I regret not having been more aggressive. For now, they’re happy with how they turned out.
Like Judge, Michael Conforto is a West Coast guy who’s become a New York staple. The Giants brought him in to fill out their outfield, and Conforto seemed like their best positional player for most of the spring.
Zaidi said he believes rotation will be the team’s forte, with Ross Stripling set to make his debut on Sunday after Logan Webb and Alex Cobb start the season. Sean Manaea will eventually fit behind him and Taylor Rogers seems poised to be a big help after a dominant spring. Mitch Haniger will start the season in the IL but could join Conforto at the heart of the lineup as early as next Thursday.
It’s not a group built on star power, but the front office added a lot of depth, a word that was mentioned a lot at camp. Manager Gabe Kapler said it was the best starting lineup he had in his four seasons at San Francisco, and Webb marveled at how many layers of defense there are on the pitching staff. He also offered a different take on how the Giants can be successful, even if people on the outside don’t generally see it.
“I think we’re going to be very scrappy,” Webb said at the end of camp. “I think that’s a good word for the group.”
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That’s not how anyone would have described the Giants if they had signed Judge, but what’s done is done and they’ll spend the next three games figuring out how to keep MVP low and a strong lineup.
Work started early for Kapler and his staff, who lined up three right-handed starters for a lineup led by Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, with rookie shortstop Anthony Volpe looking to join them when he makes his much-anticipated debut on Thursday. It’s a series that would always be in the spotlight, and Kapler hopes his players will embrace that.
During his own playing career, he took Mike Mussina deep at the old Yankee Stadium and scored against Andy Pettitte at the new one. He knows how special this weekend will be for an organization opening the season in New York for the first time since moving to San Francisco in 1958.
“I’m really looking forward to opening in New York and having this opportunity,” said Kapler. “And more importantly, to give the players in our roster the opportunity to experience that level of intensity on the first day of the season.”
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