Home World SF Giants fan feelings mixed before Aaron Judge’s Oracle Park visit

SF Giants fan feelings mixed before Aaron Judge’s Oracle Park visit


SAN FRANCISCO — When Aaron Judge digs his cleats into Oracle Park’s right-handed batter’s box Friday, his first time playing in San Francisco in his major-league career, a collective thought will rattle through the minds of thousands in attendance.

What if?

It’s a question that’s been posed several times in recent years. With Judge’s visit to Oracle Park following Bryce Harper and Shohei Ohtani’s respective visits, Giants fans have been reminded of the team’s recent run of shortcomings in free agency, left to ponder when an elite talent will flock to San Francisco.

“We’re always in on the big guys, but we never sign them,” said fan Miles Hurd, 25. “We never end up with the big guys. We always end up going after second-tier free agents. We don’t really sign the big studs.”

Judge’s decision to pick New York over San Francisco after a now-infamous report suggested he was leaning toward the Giants didn’t unfold in a bubble. Rather, the Northern California native spurning the Giants was one of several instances where they couldn’t lure a superstar to the Bay.

They were finalists to sign Harper, who elected to sign with the Phillies. They missed out on Ohtani twice — first when he came to the United States, second this past offseason when he signed with the Dodgers for $700 million. Going back a decade, Jon Lester picked the Cubs over the Giants. The Giants did agree with Carlos Correa on a mega deal after missing out on Judge, but Correa never played in San Francisco after failing a physical.

The last time the Giants signed a superstar batter in his prime, then, remains Barry Bonds in 1993.

“The Giants have attempted to get a lot of guys in the last 10 years, and they rarely get them because they’re trying to match other teams,” said fan Randy Gilzean, 64. “With Ohtani this year, they knew it was $700 million, so offer $725 million. They matched it, but they didn’t beat it. You have to go out and beat it.”

“I think we need to sign a few (big names), at least one big guy so we could sell out this place again and get everybody excited,” said fan Steve Silva, 43.

That lack of a box office draw has played a part in the team’s diminished attendance coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2000 to 2019, the ballpark averaged about 3.2 million fans per year. In 2022 and 2023, Oracle Park’s first two full seasons operating at full capacity since the COVID-19 pandemic, yearly attendance has been roughly 2.5 million.

Context is necessary in this equation. The Giants went 160-164 in ‘22 and ‘23, and mediocre teams don’t draw like winners; a superstar’s impact would’ve likely only gone so far.

There’s also the role of the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount of people working from home has skyrocketed. The Bay Area, despite seeing recent improvements, saw its job market take a massive hit last year. Cost of living, whether it be rent, gas, or utilities, is a factor, too.

“Them not having Aaron Judge definitely makes it less of a draw to come to the park,” Hurd said. “When you think about coming to the park, you’re thinking, ‘Am I going to have a good time? Is it going to be fun?’ If you think they’re going to win, it’s probably going to be a lot more fun. You’d be a lot more likely to come to the game if you’ve got that big-name guy.”

The Giants may not boast a true generational talent, but this past offseason, the front office brought in the likes of Matt Chapman, Jorge Soler, Blake Snell, Jordan Hicks and Jung Hoo Lee. Even with Lee’s season over, the Giants are fielding their most talented — and, by extension, most watchable — roster in years.

Despite an early lull, the Giants have won 10 of their last 13 games, most victories coming in dramatic fashion. They’re currently one game above .500 and own a wild card spot, and their combination of thrilling wins and fun players is, once again, making Oracle Park the place to be.

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