San Francisco Giants: Keys to '09 Success: Sandoval, Frandsen, & Renteria

Andy BenschSenior Writer IJanuary 16, 2009

For years, Giants fans, including the one and only "Rally Pumpkin," have been treated to competitive baseball. And this past season was a celebration of the franchise's first 50 seasons of baseball in San Francisco ('58-'08).

However, something very important about those 50 years wasn't lost amongst the younger generation of Giants fans, their team has won zero championships in that span.

Perhaps even the carry-over fans who followed the team when they were the New York Giants and have continued to follow the team, are uneasy about the team's rather empty trophy case.  

Yes, the San Francisco faithful has been treated to numerous division titles, pennant races, and world series appearances but in 50 years they have yet to win the whole thing. 

Even with one of the league's best players of all-time for 15 seasons in Barry Bonds, the Giants weren't able to win the world series. Now, the 2009 season will be the second without the former slugger but most fans agree that it should be the third or fourth season without Bonds.  

The All-Time Home-Run King was primarily kept around to put butts in the seats when the Giants team was not in contention. From 2005-2007, Barry Bonds was still the center-piece of a team that would have needed the Bonds of 2001 (when he hit 73 hrs) just to be competitive. 

But since they had a Bonds over the age of 40, San Francisco missed the playoffs all three years in that span. The Giants ended up failing to reach the playoffs in Bonds' last four seasons with the team.

Finally, as of 2008, Bonds is gone. And as of 2009, the man who let Barry Bonds run his franchise, (former Giants President Peter Magowan) is gone. New leadership and an influx of young talent has things looking up in San Francisco.

To the contrary of one of my articles earlier in the often season which stated that the Giants needed to "sign CC Sabathia, avoid signing Edgar Renteria and trade Randy Winn" in order to make the playoffs, I feel that this team can still make the post-season.

Even without signing any marquee free-agent, the Giants' lineup will be undoubtedly improved from 2008. Young players such as Pablo Sandoval, Fred Lewis, Emmanuel Burris, and Eugenio Velez will be much stronger with the experience gained from last season.

As well as a couple of additions to the lineup this season that will help get things turned around. Those additions would be the return Kevin Frandsen and the acquisition of free-agent shortstop Edgar Renteria.

The additions of Frandsen and Renteria to go along with the rookie who made the biggest impact last season (Pablo Sandoval) will be the key players in 2009. The level of play that these three players are able to sustain throughout the season is going to be what makes or breaks the Giants' season.

Everyone who follows baseball knows that the Giants have a strong nucleus of young pitching talent. From this past year's Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, to Matt Cain to all-star closer Brian Wilson, the Giants' pitching will definitely be amongst the tops of the league in 2009.

Especially with the additions of reliever Jeremy Affeldt and future hall-of-famer Randy Johnson.

Their outfield is pretty much set in stone. San Francisco has a solid group of outfielders, not great but above average. Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn will patrol the vast out-field grass of AT&T Park and each one of them will put up the amount offense one would expect from each of them.

But over the past few seasons, the infield has been suspect in San Francisco. Numerous players such as Pedro Feliz, Edgardo Alfonzo, Rich Aurilia, Omar Vizquel, Ray Durham, Lance Niekro, Jose Castillo, Jose Vizcaino, and Travis Ishikawa have made up the team's infield. Needless to say, none of these players are difference makers.

Which is why the fate of the 2009 season falls on the three infielders that San Francisco will have available in 09' that they didn't have (for the most part) in 2008. Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Frandsen, and Edgar Renteria will all be on the field for San Francisco, and their play is going to be vital to the Giants' success.

And Giants fans should have tremendous confidence in each of these three to have stellar seasons. 

Kevin Frandsen missed all of 2008 when he tore his Achilles tendon but before his injury was penciled in to beat out incumbent second baseman Ray Durham for a starting spot on the Giants infield. 

In his last two months of play against professional pitchers (August-September 2007) Frandsen hit .340 and was extremely discipline at the plate. His ability to handle the bat and play clean defense at either second or third base could prove to be huge for San Francisco.

Pablo Sandoval took the Giants and their fans by storm in the second half of 2008, the young energetic infielder became an instant fan-favorite, garnering the nickname "little-money" to go along with Giants catcher Bengie Molina whose nickname is "big-money."

Sandoval hit .345 with 3 hrs and 24rbi in 41 games with the Giants and showed his versatility on defense playing catcher, first base and third base. His powerful swing gave Giants fans hope that he could be the next power-hitting cleanup hitter in San Francisco.

Edgar Renteria had a down year with the Detroit Tigers this past-season but the soon to be 32-year-old short-stop will be returning to the league (NL) that he has thrived in for numerous seasons. 

He is only one year removed from hitting over .330 with the Atlanta Braves and can still put up solid power numbers for an aging short-stop. If he can have a bounce back year, the Giants may be able to make a run in their division because the national league west is so wide open especially with the departure of Matt Holliday from Colorado.

The Padres are also cleaning shop by cutting payroll, the Dodgers may not have Manny Ramirez back and the Diamond-backs lost Randy Johnson. The door is open for the Giants to make a run and it is going to be up to their new and improved infield to get it done.