The captain of the San Francisco Giants – a captain with a large C, crudely fabricated with strips of black tape – has been reported to work this season in a boat carrying a valuable cargo. He wore a white captain’s hat with a black and orange trim, and threw his cargo to the right side and laid the ground, at last, on a shimmering emerald green.
“He’s a complete pozzo in the club,” left bowler Alex Wood said of Captain Brandon Bildt, whose sense of humor spilled onto the field on opening day. The belt emerged from the left field corner, in Oracle Park, standing in the back of a truck-pulled speedboat along the third base stands. He threw baseballs to the crowd, then jumped out, grabbed one for himself, and fired the first ceremonial pitch for manager Gabe Kapler.
“They originally wanted me to catch her,” Shortstop Brandon Crawford said. I thought, ‘I’m not going to promote this any more than it already is. “
Crawford is 35, one year older than the Bilt but about a month behind him in service time. They debuted in early 2011, when the Giants were the world champions, and soon helped the team win two more titles. Now, Bildt and Crawford are old guards, leading the Giants team that set a franchise record with 107 victories last season before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a thrilling class streak.
After a weekend sweep in Washington, the Giants started the season 11-5. Reformed as a modern contender – expert in data, heavy on training, unafraid to challenge tradition in their style of play – the Giants have become stronger by retaining two factors in their glory years.
“We had a lot of models to look forward to, and they were great for us,” Bildt said. “And I think a lot of these guys are the reason we won the world championship at the time, because we had that great leadership. Now Crowe and I are able to help these guys and be leaders like these guys we were looking forward to before. And that’s fun for me.”
Belt appointed himself captain of the lark. Last September, when the Giants landed in Chicago for a weekend series with the Cubs, he instructed his teammates to stay in their seats until their captain had left the plane.
“Just going to get a little shocked,” he said. “They’ve never heard anyone say that. I mean, that’s just so ridiculous.”
In Bilt’s locker at Wrigley Field the next day, his jersey had a “C” tag, courtesy of teammate Evan Longoria. He wore the belt to the bunker – again, just like an idiot – but Kapler suggested he leave it in the game. The belt came along, the Giants won, and now the taped letter “C” is part of the bilt legend. Some of his colleagues wear it over a shirt in his honor.
“Nothing surprises me with Belter,” said defensive player Stephen Duggar. “He’s unbelievable, man. Guy gets nine bats in spring training, and he goes out and lights the world. And he did that last year too. Unbelievable player, incredible person.”
Bildt missed most of the spring training with a knee injury but gave up on opening day and hit .345 in his first three series for the Giants. It has thrived under the leadership of Kapler and his extended coaching staff. Entering Sunday’s game, he’d hit 0.584 since 2020. Only two players, San Diego’s Fernando Tates Jr. and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr., were better in that period with at least 500 games.
2022 MLB Season
The season that was in doubt became suddenly on high alert.
Bildt, who was 2-5 with a triple on Sunday afternoon in the Giants’ 12-3 win over the Nationals, chased fewer pitches outside the strike zone, which helped explain the increase, but said he also benefited from the coaching staff’s continued reassurance. . Confidence in maintaining his disciplined style in the plates helped him survive a long slump — and put an end to the so-called Belt Wars, a debate among fans about its value.
“Basically, some people in San Francisco really liked Brandon and some were like, ‘Hey man, you should get out of the area a little bit more to try to drive this run,’” Kapler said. Just as it is. So we wanted him to know that we appreciate Brandon Bilt just as he is, without any improvements. And I think that message freed him up a bit.”
Kapler, who took over as Bruce Bushey in November 2019, had a more complex problem with Crawford, who was coming off his worst season. Giants platoon in several locations, and Crawford, who hit 0.228 in 2019, looked uncertain if he would continue in the daily role.
But after playing well in the short 2020 season, he fully re-established himself last year, winning the Golden Glove and finishing fourth in the vote for the National League Player of the Year award. Crawford, who scored 0.298 with 24 home runs, called it his best season.
“I don’t think my defense has really gone down as much as some of the sounding gauges were saying, but going back to the Gold Glove caliber defense has been great, and proving people wrong is always good,” Crawford said.
Giants give Crawford leeway to adjust their court alignment – sometimes with just one look at their bench coach, Kai Correa – if he sees something deviating from his pre-game script. But embracing new ideas is critical under Kapler and Farhan Zaidi, the team’s chief of baseball operations. Crawford understands that the sport must evolve.
“It has changed on so many levels — from celebration in the field to how rosters and rosters are put together, through analytics and things like that,” he said. “But I think change, throughout the course of anything, is generally a good thing. If partying on the field grows the game more maybe for a younger audience, that’s great.
“If someone had the opportunity because their analyzes were really good in young kids – and maybe in years past, they’d be ignored because they weren’t predictable enough – and that’s good for the game too. So I think, in general, it’s good to see where the game is going “.
In some cases, the Giants pushed the match forward in ways that infuriated their opponents. On Friday in Washington, with a six-game lead in the ninth inning, Cero Estrada attempted to steal second base when the citizens weren’t holding him. Crawford singled out on the field, and after Estrada was sent off in an attempt to score, veteran national team player Alcides Escobar shouted at the dugout giants.
“They did some things that we felt were gratuitous,” said Dave Martinez, director of Nationals. This echoed Padres’ sentiment the previous week, when Duggar stole a base and Mauricio Dupont sought a nine-stroke single for sixth.
Bildt said most baseball’s casual code of conduct should be maintained for the sake of sportsmanship. But, he added, there is a difference between boating and simply playing the game – and the giants just play.
“I get a lot of unwritten rules, and I love the way it is,” Bilt said. “But I agree with the logic Kap is talking about here: We’re not doing this to be disrespectful to other teams. We’re doing this to try to win matches, period. I know it doesn’t feel like it for some of the other players, but we’re trying to go deeper into the game, and make Players are throwing in more pitches, so they probably won’t be able to use them for the next couple of days. It’s not just about going out and showing people.”
Crawford said the Giants have in fact shown more respect for their opponents by continuing to try to score. This, he said, is the message they should hear: “We can see you guys lay some potential hits, which could fundamentally change the way we approach the rules of the game for the rest of the game and the rest of the series.”
It’s common sense even if it hurts the feelings of other teams. In any case, the Giants will not apologize for the way they competed. They’re booming again, and Bilt and Crawford are happy to ride another wave with a different crew—and a veteran (self-proclaimed) captain.
“There’s no better place to be than San Francisco,” Bildt said. “I am more passionate about the organization now than ever before.”