Baseball's Giants get advice from a football coach

© Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Art Spander

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants brought in Herman Edwards on Thursday. To talk, not play.

Herm is a football man. Presumably he can help with third and short yardage calls. Also with focus.

This is the new age of sports, analytics. Willie Mays didn’t worry about launch angles or anything but hitting and fielding, but it’s different now. You don’t want to overlook anything.

Including advice from a football coach who, coming of age in Seaside and attending Monterey High, grew up a Giants fan. That’s the San Francisco Giants, the baseball team.

The New York Giants football team? They also have a connection with Edwards, if not the type those Giants wish to recall.

In November 1978, the New York Giants only needed a kneel-down play to hold a lead against the Philadelphia Eagles. But quarterback Joe Pisarcik botched a handoff, the ball was grabbed by Philly defensive back Herman Edwards and returned for the winning touchdown.

That seems to be the second most notable achievement in the career of Edwards, now coaching Arizona State, which in Tempe is maybe 10 miles form the San Francisco Giants' spring training complex in Scottsdale.

Edwards is best known for his comment in 2002 when he was coaching the New York Jets and was asked after a one-sided loss about motivation. “You play to win the game,” he insisted.

Everyone’s seen that video dozens of times, including Hunter Pence, back again with the baseball Giants. Not long after Edwards was introduced, Pence asked, “Why do you play the game?” Yes, a room full or laughter.

Which is exactly what new Giants manager Gabe Kapler wishes. Kapler has plans for frequent speakers, the ones in the mornings — like Edwards on Thursday — light and humorous.

As former Cubs manager Joe Maddon, now with the Angels, would play Bruce Springsteen songs over the public address system at the team’s spring headquarters in Mesa. Different and interesting.

Anything that works, certainly, but better to have a pitcher like Stephen Strasburg and a hitter like Mike Trout.

Kapler doesn’t disagree. That’s why the Giants kept Pablo Sandoval and brought in Pence. “They are very good baseball players,” said Kapler.

Good players create good teams. You play to win the game, but over the last three seasons the Giants lost more games than they won — many more. The Dodgers are loaded. The Diamondbacks are strong. The Giants?

Well, there was was Herm Edwards.

Other than Pablo, Pence, Buster Posey, Evan Longoria and the two Brandons, Belt and Crawford, the Giants are young and impressionable. A losing streak could rattle the kids.

So bring in a man who specializes in assisting kids, who helps them learn and mature, Edwards. As the line goes, it can’t hurt.

Kapler was in charge of the Phillies the previous two seasons — Joe Girardi is now at Philly, proving those baseball people, indeed, are nomads — and this Saturday, Kapler manages his first game for the Giants.

It’s an exhibition, but the results will be recorded. And it’s against an organization for which Kapler once worked, the Dodgers. Nice way to start.

“Yes, absolutely the game has personal meaning to me,” said Kapler about the opener. “There’s a lot on the line.”

For the players, the manager and team president Farhan Zaidi, whose decision it was to hire Kapler. We’re told never to put much faith in the results of exhibition games, especially the early ones, but certainly the the Giants want to make an impression.

Season ticket sales are down at Oracle Park. The excitement the Giants built with their three World Series titles has ebbed. San Francisco the baseball town became San Francisco the Warriors' town and once more, as it was in the 1980s, the 49ers' town.

For Kapler it’s all a matter of process, not promise. The plan is to dot the I’s and cross the T’s, and with a break or two you’ll have people crossing the plate.

We know why they play the game. We don’t know how they’ll play it.

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