SAN FRANCISCO – It was an off day at the bay.
The kind of day – 57 degrees and drizzling rain – when only the die-hard fans head to the ball game.
The problem for the Giants is that there are no longer enough die-hard fans to fill Oracle Park for an Opening Day game on Friday afternoon.
Do not get me wrong; it was a great crowd. The lower shell was filled with engaged and optimistic fans.
And it was a good timeout, aside from the weather, the cost of concessions, the lack of star players, and the Giants losing 3-1.
But there weren’t 40,711 butts in the seats—a sold-out crowd, as the Giants announced in the 7th inning.
I’m not naive enough to buy that.
Some old-fashioned journalists say that the upper deck was three-quarters full of the mosaic with a lot of green seats between the black and orange. On the Giants’ official website, there were plenty of seats available on the first pitch.
Maybe the Giants sold all those tickets. Maybe not.
Anyway, Giants fans made it clear Friday that they are not naive enough to buy what the team is selling.
Perhaps team CEO Larry Baer should try again to explain to all of us why this team’s off-season was, in fact, a good one.
Friday’s crowd was the smallest for a Giants Opening Day at Pac Bell/SBC/AT&T/Oracle Park, which speaks volumes.
Eliminating the pandemic and strike-affected seasons, Friday marked the worst opening day since 1978, when the Giants opened the season at Candlestick Park in front of 36,131 fans.
However, what could one have expected? The Giants failed to sign big-ticket free agents this offseason after numerous promises from the front office that this was the year such a signing would occur.
But Aaron Judge said no, and the Giants hesitated to sign Carlos Correa.
At the same time, the Giants have failed to extend Logan Webb – the best player on the team (and perhaps the only player worthy of an extension).
Oh, and they still seem to be a .500 baseball team looking to get lucky in a few games over 162.
A good organization strengthens its customer base. The Giants seem to only want to make theirs worse.
So it’s telling that the two biggest ovations during the opening day pregame festivities didn’t come for Webb and Brandon Crawford, but rather Sergio Romo and Matt Duffy.
The Romo cheer was deserved, as the recently retired Giants legend took to the microphone and declared, “Play ball!”
But Duffie? Serious?
No doubt he’s a great guy, but he only played 253 games for the Giants and was an average player in the league during that two-season span.
Duffy hit 16 homers in a Giants uniform, but he had a fat cat that he posted pictures of on social media (rest in peace, Skeeter), so he’s a fan favorite; a #ForeverGiant.
I give credit to the current Giants for this: unlike the other team in the Bay, they have made huge investments in the organization’s infrastructure, presumably in an effort to win more games. But having robot mowers, numerous assistant coaches and an excellent training complex in Arizona doesn’t draw casual fans.
And I’m not sure Oracle Park is another draw. It is a timeless building but it is showing its age and so expensive to visit.
The irony is that this is a great year to fall in love with baseball again. The new rules provide a significantly better television and baseball experience. Friday’s game was played in a neat two hours and 23 minutes. The game is more fun in this compressed format.
But rules aren’t worth the price of admission, and the one-day draw of pomp and circumstance could only do so much on Friday.
What is the reason for casual Giants fans to come out and see their team at the old ball game?
This team has David Villar as the third batter. He’s an up and coming player, but he’s currently in five percent of Yahoo’s fantasy baseball leagues. So yeah, he’s not exactly Shohei Ohtani.
The Giants have good starting pitchers, but are lucky to throw half a game these days. Even when they cast well, they all seem to have been bitten by the snake that Matt Cain got hold of so many years ago.
And I’m sorry, but no one goes to a ball game because they’ve heard the team has a good bullpen.
I suppose the $1 cheaper Coors Light is nice (only $9, now!), and the new “6E” stadium Wi-Fi is a perk, but that’s just so fans can quickly Google “Who is Blake Sabol?”
It all comes down to the fact that if the Giants aren’t going to field star players, they’re going to need some new fan favorites. They miss that too.
This team would kill for a Matt Duffy type.
And apart from adopting a chubby pet, winning games with some flair is the only way to create cult heroes.
But after an offseason to forget, the Giants played a home opener not worth remembering.
Perhaps the mood will change in the 80 games to come.
But if they don’t, the Friday crowd will be the biggest of the season.
And it was not as good as advertised.