Giants Talk: Where Is The Youth Movement in San Francisco?

Rael EnteenCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2008

They call this a youth movement?

Our starting shortstop will turn 41 by the time he returns to the lineup after knee surgery in May.

The projected cleanup hitter and catcher?

Bengie Molina is 33, which amounts to 45 in catcher years (don’t ask for my formula).

The other infielders, Ray Durham and Rich Aurilia, are both 36 and, needless to say, have seen better days.

The starting outfielders combined are almost a century old.

How can this be considered a youth movement?

The whole reasoning behind shoving Barry Bonds out of the picture, an insult to a man who made this franchise relevant since the mid-1990's, was that it made room for a "youth movement" that would make the Giants contenders a few years down the road, once these "youngsters" develop.

As it stands now, the only thing the Giants’ youngsters will develop is crotch-grabbing and seed-spitting techniques while they’re watching from the bench as aging, overpaid veterans send San Franciscans into a deep depression.

I understand we’re paying Durham a ton of money; too much, they say, to make him a pinch-hitter.

The same arguments can be made for Aurilia and Dave Roberts, too, but, as hard as it may seem, let’s forget about money for a second and think about contention.

As far as our long-term contention is concerned, starting Aurilia, Durham, and Roberts will only stunt the Giants’ already stagnant progression because the prospects are stuck behing them on the depth chart.

I understand our prospects do not get the same recognition from Baseball America as some of the position players in other systems, but any Giants fan has to be a little excited about Kevin Frandsen, Nate Schierholtz, Fred Lewis, Rajai Davis, and Eugenio Velez.

Davis and Lewis are hardly even young anymore, but showed flashes of brilliance at the end of last year and, at age 27, are hitting their baseball prime.

Neither will get a chance to start, though, because the Giants, who felt that the Barry Zito signing wasn’t embarrassing enough for the franchise, had to go out and overpay a 30-year old outfielder coming off a career year in a notorious hitter's park.

Now the Giants are stuck with the $60-million man Aaron Rowand, Roberts and Randy Winn, whose combined age is 98.

So, the Giants, who were lambasted during the Bonds years for consistently trotting out the oldest team in the majors, are basically doing the same thing under the false pretenses of a new youth movement.

On the other hand, an outfield of Lewis, Schierholtz and Davis is only 78. Sure, giving up the veteran outfield for the youngsters would waste millions and maybe a win here and there, but since the Giants are the hands-down favorite to finish last in the NL West, why not give the youngsters a chance?

The worst that could happen is we lose a couple more games or we find out these guys are not Major League outfielders and focus the energy on developing other youngsters.

Sticking with the seniors is only holding the Giants back from truly progressing towards contention.

It would be one thing if the seniors were limited to the outfield while the infield was stocked with prospects, but the geniuses in the Giants front office are making the exact same mistake in the infield.

I love Omar Vizquel; he’s the only senior Giant I can root for and anyone who saw his speech at Barry Bonds day over the summer knows what a great person and teammate he is.

That being said, I’m happy that he will be sidelined to open the season. At least it opens up a spot for Frandsen to play, and, if we’re lucky, Velez might get a shot as well.

Frandsen might not amount to much more than an average infielder over the course of his career, but early reports on Velez say he could be the Giants’ version of Jose Reyes.

He has enough stolen bases in Arizona for a felony charge and his speed and hustle is exactly what the Giants need atop their lineup to succeed with a small-ball philosophy, but with constant reports and rumors of the Giants interest in the White Sox’s Joe Crede, Velez’s path to a starting job could hit another speed bump.    

This is absurd, especially when you consider that Velez is already 25.

If not now, when will this guy get his chance?

If Vizquel's option is not picked up next year, the Giants will probably re-sign Royce Clayton and Shawon Dunston rather than give a youngster a shot.

When will the Giants learn that aging veterans, especially without Bonds’ fear-inducing bat in the middle of the lineup, will not translate to success in the standings?

There is plenty of evidence around the league of teams developing their prospects in order to become contenders rather than overpay for free agents.

For every Yankee team comprised of the 2000 All-Star lineup, there is a Brewers or Indians team contending with homegrown talent.

No one thought of the Brewers as contenders before last year and in this league, anything can happen.

With some dedication to the youngsters, the Giants could be surprising the rest of the field in the talent-ridden NL West sooner than we might expect.

If the team continues on its current perilous path, ten years from now we will look back with fondness at Pedro Feliz, the best position player the Giants managed to produce since the Barry Bonds era.