For years we have admired and appreciated the enthusiasm and loyalty of our fans.
This season I was awestruck.
No team in baseball has what we have. Not even close.
As we dropped in the standings after our World Series Championship season, you stuck with us. Game after game, you fired up grills in the parking lots. You wore your Panda and Giraffe hats, your Angel halos, your Gamer Babe T-shirts. You brought your gloves and your babies, your blankets and your scorecards. You showed up in such great numbers on the road that sometimes it seemed that every game was a home game.
And even during the roughest stretches, you brought such energy and optimism that our players - your players - poured everything they had onto the field. The day we were mathematically eliminated from contention, Brandon Belt hit a walk-off single in extra innings that had his teammates mobbing him on the field as if the pennant hung in the balance. Three nights earlier, Giants newcomer Yusmeiro Petit came within one pitch of a perfect game - a gritty, electrifying performance that pulled all of us out of our seats. In Los Angeles a week later, we took three of four from the first-place Dodgers behind Hunter Pence's jaw-dropping five home runs and 12 RBIs.
I could not have been prouder of how our team faced the setbacks and disappointments of this long and difficult year. There isn't a more competitive, hard-working and close-knit collection of players in the game.
To the end, they were driven and focused. They pulled together. They played, as Tim Lincecum said, "with a purpose every game regardless of the standings.'' That purpose in the final weeks: Preparing themselves for 2014.
The same has been true for the front office and coaching staff. The baseball operations department -- coaches, scouts, administrators - is already examining what we could have done differently and what we can learn moving forward. Was there a way to mitigate the impact of losing our leadoff hitter for 84 games, our fifth starter for 69 games, two key relievers for a combined 113 games and our All-Star third-baseman for two different stints on the DL? Could we have rushed minor-leaguers onto the roster to plug those holes without compromising their long-term development? Was there a better way to support players fatigued from shortened off-seasons two of the last three years and, for some, a shortened spring training?
We are fortunate to have fans who understand the complexities of a baseball season. To field a contender year after year, an organization has to fill immediate needs while developing young players through the farm system. General manager Brian Sabean and his staff do a superb job at both. They have acquired key players through trade and free agency. And no staff has been smarter or more consistent in preparing prospects for the Major Leagues. We have more homegrown players on our roster than almost any team in the Major Leagues: Posey, Cain, Bumgarner, Romo, Lincecum, Sandoval, Crawford, and Belt. And there are more in the pipeline: This season our seven minor-league teams finished No. 1 among all MLB teams in overall winning percentage.
We're thrilled that Hunter Pence will be a San Francisco Giant for the next five years, keeping together a strong, young core of players that includes All-Stars Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval. And we're working hard to keep Tim Lincecum and Javier Lopez.
I won't pretend our road will be easy in 2014. The competition in the NL West is as formidable as it has ever been. In response to our two World Championships, our division opponents have stocked their rosters. As vigorously as we're working to bolster our lineup for next year - filling spots in our starting rotation and the outfield in particular - we won't change who we are. Giants' baseball is team baseball, look-into-each-other's-eyes baseball. We'll battle our division rivals inning-by-inning, game-by-game, with the smartest manager in baseball, Bruce Bochy, calling the shots.
We have one goal: To contend for the championship every single year. Your energy and loyalty are integral to that goal. Hunter perfectly captured the unusual, powerful relationship between our players and our fans in accepting his Willie Mac Award. "I'm not going to say you're the best fans in the world. You're more than that. You're a part of the heart and soul of this team."
Again, thank you. We will keep you posted about moves and signings during the off-season. And we'll see you at Giants gatherings during the winter and on February 1 at Fanfest to kick off a new season, a new start.
Laurence M. Baer
President & CEO