Giants’ Barry Bonds curse continues: 17th straight Opening Day with different LF starter
The San Francisco Giants took the field for the first time in the 2023 MLB regular-season on Thursday. Once again, they had a different starting left fielder.
With rookie Blake Sabol making his MLB debut in left field, the Giants continued a 17-year streak of starting a different player at that position. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that ties the Giants for the second-longest such streak in MLB history.
The only streaks to match the Giants' run of chaos: the St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles in left field from 1937 to 1955 and the San Diego Padres in left field from 2005 to 2021. That Padres streak was snapped by Jurickson Profar's repeat performance last season.
Blake Sabol in LF for the Giants, which means:
Most consecutive Opening Days starting a different player (no repeaters) at any particular position, since 1900:
1937-55 Browns/O's LF: 19
2007-23 Giants LF: 17 **
2005-21 Padres LF: 17
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) March 30, 2023
It's a bit curious that all three streaks are in left field, but it makes sense given how often teams shuffle players through the least defensively valuable outfield spot.
The fun of the Giants' streak is who started it. From 1993 to 2007, the team had one player start all but one Opening Day in left: Barry Bonds. You might be familiar with what happened after 2007, with Bonds hitting free agency and somehow not finding a team despite hitting 276/.480/.565 with 28 homers and an MLB-leading 132 walks the previous season.
Since watching Bonds leave, the Giants have filled left field with a collection of aging veterans and younger, unestablished players, with mixed results.
Here's the whole group, with why they weren't starting the next season.
Giants' Opening Day left fielders since Barry Bonds
2007: Barry Bonds (left in free agency, never played in MLB again)
2008: Dave Roberts (retired the next year)
2009: Fred Lewis (traded next offseason)
2010: Mark DeRosa (benched next year)
2011: Pat Burrell (retired the next year)
2012: Aubrey Huff (option declined, never played in MLB again)
2013: Andrés Torres (left in free agency, never played in MLB again)
2014: Michael Morse (left in free agency)
2015: Nori Aoki (option declined, left in free agency)
2016: Ángel Pagán (left in free agency, never played in MLB again)
2017: Jarrett Parker (released next year)
2018: Hunter Pence (left in free agency)
2019: Connor Joe (DFA'd eight games later)
2020: Alex Dickerson (didn't start Opening Day next season)
2021: Austin Slater (didn't start Opening Day next season)
2022: Joc Pederson (left in free agency)
2023: Blake Sabol (TBD)
Sabol, who also plays catcher and right field, saw his campaign to potentially end the streak with another start next year get off to a muted start Thursday, as he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout against Gerrit Cole before being substituted out. The Giants eventually lost 5-0.
The 25-year-old hit .284/.363/.497 between Double-A and Triple-A last season in the Pittsburgh Pirates' system and was traded to the Giants after being selected in the Rule 5 draft. He is not in the team's top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline.