San Francisco Giants' GM Brian Sabean opted to readopt a familiar strategy in compiling his second World Series defense team in three seasons.
The Giants retained all pivotal difference-makers from last season's championship team. It's a honeymoon tactic that failed in 2011 when reigning MVP Buster Posey busted an ankle in a home-plate collision with Marlins reject Scott Cousins, virtually ending the team's chances of repeating as world champs.
Nobody could have predicted the devastation that Posey would suffer that season, just like hardly anyone could have honestly guessed that he'd bounce back to mount the most impressive offensive performance demonstrated by a catcher since Mike Piazza (.324 average, 38 home runs, 113 RBI) in 2000.
Baseball season is always an entirely unpredictable, arduous journey. There's no doubt that the Giants' brain trust was naive in granting contracts to had-been players in the 2010 offseason, like Aubrey Huff (two years, $22 million) and Cody Ross (one year, $6.3 million), but plummeting productivity at exponential rates couldn't have been foreseen for those players.
Still, it happened.
The Giants achieved their most prominent offseason duties over the winter, re-signing all key contributors that played enormous roles in San Francisco's second title triumph in three seasons.
Catalyst center fielder Angel Pagan earned a four-year, $40 million contract and second-baseman Marco Scutaro netted a deal worth $20 million over three seasons.
In addition, Sabean granted new contracts to most of the Giants' arbitration-eligible players. The bullpen has been a staple of the Giants' perennial success, giving Sabean undeniable incentive to grant new contracts to free agent Jeremy Affeldt and other pivotal components, like Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo.
Familiarity isn't always a good thing, though.
The Giants will welcome back former flash-in-the-pan outfielder Andres Torres in 2013, who amassed an outrageously unpredictable season in 2010 (.268 average, 16 home runs, 63 RBI), and isn't likely to rekindle that kind of success next season.
He'll complement Gregor Blanco in left field on opening day, another unpredictable success story, barring impressive spring training performances from potential future studs, like highly touted prospect Gary Brown.
The fact that the Giants were relatively inactive throughout the offseason, in terms of bolstering a roster entirely void of a substantial power threat, indicates that the team maintains a deadlocked player-salary ceiling.
The influx of revenue generated from winning two world championships in three seasons was sufficient enough to boost team salary expectations well beyond $150 million for the 2013 season. The Giants digressed though, opting to readopt the "honeymoon" approach in hoping lightning strikes twice.
It's an unfortunate dichotomy for the Giants, who aren't likely to repeat as World Champions in 2013, especially given that a National League team hasn't accomplished that feat since 1975 when the Big Red Machine beat the Red Sox in a thrilling seven-game series.
It's not that the Giants won't contend, though. They boast arguably the best pitching staff in baseball, bullpen included. All five starting pitchers from last season's title team will return—a rotation that features front-line talent, anchored by Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA, 193 strikeouts).
But, Giants fans shouldn't expect Posey to hit .336 again, and Scutaro likely won't continue his vicious rampage. The man who coined the nickname "blockbuster" mounted a .362 average in 61 regular-season games with the Giants in 2012, but his career average sits at .276.
Players often need to overachieve to uplift their teams to the pinnacle of championship glory. It happened for the Giants in 2010 and history repeated itself in similar fashion in 2012. It’s not plausible that the same cast can duplicate last season’s majestic run to the platform of champions, but it’s also not impossible.
The Dodgers are undoubtedly the only team in the NL West standing between the Giants and another opportunity to shock the baseball world in October.
In an offseason where the Giants opted for the status quo, another familiarity has risen. Nobody is going to dub them as the favorites to hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy when the final pitch of the 2013 season is thrown.
And just maybe, that’s exactly how the Giants want it to be.
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