Kuip: Judge or not, Giants need to fill their superstar void


SAN FRANCISCO -- You could make a strong argument that if you asked Bay Area sports fans to name the current face of the Giants franchise, the broadcasters would be right at the top alongside Brandon Crawford. That's a sign of a special connection between Kruk and Kuip and their fan base, but Duane Kuiper is hoping the situation is different next season.

"As long as I've been here there's always been at least one guy that somebody would say, 'I want to go see that guy and I want to see that team.' If you put that together, then you're going to put more people in the seats," Kuiper said on Thursday's Giants Talk podcast. "It's nobody's fault but they really (didn't have) that guy last year. Buster (Posey) in his last year, he still was that guy. 

"Yeah, I think it's important that you get a 'that guy.' If a team is a .500 team, people (will) go, 'Do I want to see a .500 team?' Well, it pushes them a little forward to want to go if there's a 'that guy' in that lineup, and in all honesty I think we would all like to see two of 'that guy,' not just one."

After 15 years of Barry Bonds, the Giants transitioned to a young group led by Posey and Tim Lincecum, two of the most accomplished and popular players in franchise history. Lincecum was a special case, though. Few MLB pitchers in recent history have carried the kind of rockstar status that he had just about right away, and Kuiper said the key is for the next Giants draw to be a position player like Bonds or Posey. 

"You might come back after a road trip and if your pitcher like Lincecum is 'that guy,' he might only pitch once and you've got a seven-game homestand," Kuiper said. "That guy really has to be a position player and just a guy that has so much value that you don't want to miss his at-bats."

Kuiper pointed out that the lost minor league season in 2020 set the Giants back because it prevented some of their top prospects from developing more quickly and becoming household names, but they now have a chance to strike on the free agent market and have vowed to try and go big. 

While the shortstop class includes four All-Star talents, the biggest superstar on this year's market is Aaron Judge, the Linden native who was just named American League MVP. From a ticket sales, merchandise and fan interest perspective, Judge is light years ahead of the rest of this free agent class.  

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The Yankees are viewed as the favorite to sign Judge, their longtime star, but the Giants are widely viewed as the biggest outside threat, and Judge certainly has captured the attention of a fan base eager for the next Giants star. Kuiper said that ultimately, though, this chase will come down to a familiar factor. 

"I think Giants fans feel like because Judge was a Giants fan, and because he grew up in the valley that that gives them an edge over everybody else. Yeah, you can look at that, but the bottom line is money is going to be the edge to wherever he signs," Kuiper said. "If the money is close then you start to think, yeah, you know what, the Giants very much have a good shot of landing this guy.

"But he's got to want to come here and he has been really quiet. Even his agent has been quiet. Maybe that'll change once the Winter Meetings start, but you kind of end up just going in circles with this thing."

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