Here is a link to my Thursday column about the Giants and Jeff Samardzija. The text runs below. And I hope this works:

Impossible to get down on the Giants. Best sports franchise in the Bay Area — with the Warriors closing on them fast. Best general manager in the Bay Area, Brian Sabean (whatever his new title is) — with the Warriors’ Bob Myers closing on him fast. But it’s fair to ask questions. Like this one:

Hey, Giants, what gives with your starting pitching?

Or this one:

Hey, Giants, are you putting together a championship rotation?

Because for them it’s a championship rotation or nothing. The Giants aren’t in this thing to be good losers, to almost be contenders, to put a brave face on things like another baseball team we know well. The Giants are in it to win, to be the champs. With their lineup they should be the champs again and again. That’s if they get the correct five starting pitchers.

Basic stuff.

That brings us to Jeff Samardzija, whom the Giants just signed for five years at a reported tab of $90 million. One hefty tab. It’s not your problem or mine what the Giants pay a hurler. (Don’t you love that old-fashioned word?) But it’s fair to wonder about Samardzija’s ability to contribute and to elevate a staff that frankly needs elevation.

In a conference call about Samardzija, general manager Bobby Evans said: “This guy is a horse. Even in tough times, and what they were doing in Chicago (White Sox) last year, he still put 200-plus innings on the board. His numbers may have been affected by (being in the) third place he’s pitched in in two years. There may be some mechanical adjustments he needs to make.

“You look at his track record. You look at the presence he brings on the mound. You look at back-to-back-to-back 200-inning seasons and you realize he’s a force to be reckoned with. That’s the reason we targeted him. That’s the reason why we focused on him as one of our top priorities.”

Sounds impressive. Evans is a good baseball GM and a good guy. But a few points slam you in the puss after considering Evans’ comments. 1) Samardzija throws a lot of innings — that means he is bullpen friendly. 2) The Giants need to fix Samardzija’s delivery.

Oh, doctor.

Let’s start with in-the-puss point No. 1. Sure, Samardzija throws lots of innings and is a horse — that’s a good thing; you wouldn’t want a Chihuahua. But are they good innings? Relevant question.

He has a career losing record — 47-61. Hasn’t had a winning season since 2011. Certainly, his losing record must mean something. He is a power pitcher without a reliable off-speed pitch. Which means — boing!!! — hitters can time him.
On the positive side — there is a positive side — AT&T Park is a pitcher’s paradise. And the Giants infield, the best-fielding infield in baseball, is a pitcher’s heaven. Samardzija will benefit from all this — anyone would.

And then there’s in-the-puss point No. 2. The Giants need to adjust Samardzija’s mechanics. They admit it. That means something’s wrong with his mechanics. That means — excuse me for being blunt — he’s a project. A $90 million project. Of course, he will benefit from throwing to Buster Posey. And his pitching coach will be Dave Righetti, the best in the business and a local treasure. You already know that. But, Samardzija is still a project.

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I’m counting here and I come up with two projects in the rotation. Matt Cain being the other one, Cain who hasn’t mattered the past two seasons. Cain may become Juan Marichal. Or not. He needs to prove he’s found his release point, arm slot, whatever you want to call it, after surgery. That he is the pitcher the Giants are paying for.
I’m counting here and 40 percent of the Giants’ projected rotation is projects. Is that how you build a championship staff? The question is warranted because the Giants have misjudged in the past. I guess this falls on Sabean, although it feels downright creepy questioning him. He’s THAT good. But he never put together the right starting rotation last season and the Giants didn’t make the playoffs. And he misjudged on giving Tim Lincecum a contract extension, even though we all love Timmy.

The Giants need a No. 2 starter. If they got Zack Greinke, they would have had a 1A and a 1B starter. Madison Bumgarner and Greinke and start printing those World Series tickets right now. But a No. 2 would work.

They don’t have a No. 2.
They have an ace in MadBum and then they drop off to a bunch of 3’s, 4’s and 5’s. Middle-of-the-rotation and back-of-the-rotation guys. There are the two projects plus Jake Peavy and Chris Heston. Not scary enough. Just not good enough.

The winter meetings are on right now. Things could happen soon. Or things could happen before players report to spring training. Expect the Giants to get one more pitcher — a No. 2 or bust.

Because right now they have a gap at No. 2. An unsightly gap in the extreme.

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