Oracle Park Sep 30, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants during the third inning at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have tried time and time again to land the big fish in free agency.

They tried with Aaron Judge, nearly had Carlos Correa under contract, and even offered Shohei Ohtani everything that the Los Angeles Dodgers did to the two-way superstar, according to president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. After missing out on Ohtani, the Giants turned their attention to Korean superstar Jung Ho Lee, who signed a six-year, $113 million deal with the ballclub, per multiple reports Tuesday.

So, what gives? Why are the Giants having a hard time attracting star-free agents despite the money being the same?

Well, there’s a perception problem with the city. That’s according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Fox Sports, who cited comments from former Giants’ player and current member of their executive board Buster Posey in a recent appearance on Foul Territory.

“The Giants problem from everything we’ve heard and from everything Buster Posey told (Andrew) Baggarly of The Athletic last night, they’ve got a geography problem, or a city problem — I guess I would say,” Rosenthal said“Players, for whatever reason, have a negative perception of San Francisco right now. Not all players, of course. Jung Ho Lee didn’t have one, but they’re running into this; Posey said that.”

Well, for whatever reason, it is quite clear to Posey and Rosenthal this is happening. And perhaps the right-wing fear-mongering that paints out the Bay Area as some hell hole continues to get through to prospective free agents.

Republican-leaning voters are far more scared to visit San Francisco right now than Democrats, a Gallup poll found earlier this year. And that’s by design, as right-wing talking points have made those who have never visited the city afraid to visit. According to the August poll, 74% of the surveyed individuals identified as Democrats or Democrat-leaning Independents believe San Francisco is a safe place to live in or visit. However, only 32% of the surveyed Republicans and Republican-leaning voters share the same opinion.

“Clearly, the city has changed since the pandemic,” said Rosenthal. “And it’s made the city emptier than it was, perhaps. People talk about crime and all these things. I don’t have statistics. I don’t know for sure what’s going on there, but that perception exists, as Posey said, fairly or unfairly.”

Here’s an excerpt of what Posey told The Athletic:

“Something I think is noteworthy, something that unfortunately keeps popping up from players and even the players’ wives is there’s a bit of an uneasiness with the city itself, as far as the state of the city, with crime, with drugs,” Posey said. “Whether that’s all completely fair or not, perception is reality. It’s a frustrating cycle, I think, and not just with baseball. Baseball is secondary to life and the important things in life. But as far as a free-agent pursuit goes, I have seen that it does affect things.”

According to Posey, it affected the Giants’ pursuit of Ohtani.

“They’re battling that, right now,” Rosenthal said of the public perception of The Bay Area. “They’re also battling a team like the Dodgers, who, yes, have been more successful. So, there’s a lot going on. And the teams in California always have the state tax issue as well; California state tax is among the highest in the country.”

That didn’t exactly deter Ohtani and Freddie Freeman from signing with the Dodgers in free agency. Nor did it prevent Mookie Betts or Mike Trout from signing record-setting contract extensions with the Los Angeles-based MLB teams.

“When you’re a free agent, and you’re looking against the Giants — and I don’t know — pick a team,” added Rosenthal. “If you’ve got reservations and are worried about state tax, and the team pursuing you is in a non-state tax state like Texas or Florida, these things come into it. A lot of factors come into a player’s mind in free agency, and right now, the Giants are trying to battle that perception.”

The Giants’ struggle to attract stars raises questions about the power of perception in shaping free-agent decisions and the broader impact of political polarization on the sports landscape. And Rosenthal is merely mirroring what was told to one of his colleagues. But the perception exists because of right-wing media outlets, whether we want to call a spade a spade or not.

[Foul Territory]

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.