San Francisco Giants: State of the Franchise
When you're a diehard fan, it becomes very easy for your rational judgment to get clouded—especially if your team is doing very well.
This was the case for fans of the San Francisco Giants, a team that had a good measure of success from 1997-2004, winning three division titles and appearing in the World Series in 2002.
Times have changed since then, and it hasn't been pretty.
It all started to come to apart back in 2005—and this was even before all the controversy surrounding Barry Bonds had even begun. Coming off a 2004 season where the Giants were very close to stealing the division from the rival Dodgers, fans had reason to be optimistic for the coming year.
Their starting rotation looked solid, they finally had a legitimate closer—or so they thought—and spent money when they had to. That season would mark the end of a philosophy of acquiring veterans past the apex of their careers and hoping for the best—or so we thought.
But someone forgot to tell ownership and the front office. In a way, they had little to no choice for going that route, as their farm system was left barren by some of the trades made in previous years by GM Brian Sabean (who can ever forget the trade that got them A.J. Pierzynski?).
Now the youth movement has started, and the fans are no doubt feeling some of the strain of watching a young team go through growing pains.
But how does the team look right now? Well, let's look through the team by position:
There is some promise in Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen, and John Bowker, and they'll no doubt be better after some time to develop. However, overpaid veterans such as Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham are eating into their playing time, and should not be brought back.
Omar Vizquel might be on his swan song, as his sorry batting average may indicate, but he is still as sharp with the glove as ever. There is also Travis Denker, who gets some time every so often and is pretty solid with the stick—but I am waiting for the arrival of Angel Villalona, the much-ballyhooed prospect from the Dominican Republic.
Bengie Molina is solid behind the plate, but Sabean is right in saying that he won't last forever. They made a smart choice in drafting Buster Posey from Florida State. In the next year or so, it's time for the kids to take over and let them take their lumps.
This one is a bit more complex because of the pieces that are there right now.
Aaron Rowand has proven himself worthy of the contract he received and has also been a major leader in the clubhouse. Fred Lewis is a great young player who is finally getting a chance to consistently show what he can do. Lewis also possesses great speed, so he may have relegated Dave Roberts to bit-player duty.
Randy Winn is very consistent, but recent rumors (according to ESPN) regarding the Braves inquiring about Winn make his situation a bit more interesting. Plus, he is currently blocking the way for either Bowker to move to the outfield, or for the Giants to bring up Nate Schierholtz for good.
In either case, the Giants are in a good position should they decide to deal Winn.
Since I want to keep this article in a positive timbre, I pledge to limit my Zito-bashing on this one.
The Giants' starters have to become the backbone of this team since the offense is lacking in firepower. I am a big fan of having Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain be the big workhorses of the rotation as they will give opposing hitters fits—and Lincecum is already doing that.
Jonathan Sanchez has been a pleasant surprise this year after being primarily a reliever last season, and proved he can be dominant by no-hitting the Tigers for five innings the other day. The wild card here regarding Noah Lowry is whether he can fully recover from his arm troubles—because when he is right, he can be a tough customer and is really quite serviceable as a middle-of-the-rotation guy.
The big question is: Who do they make their fifth starter? I personally have been a Kevin Correia supporter since his first few years in the Big Leagues and think he would be good in the fifth spot—but of course you do have that $126 million elephant in the room (sorry, couldn't resist that one).
Other than those questions, the starting rotation looks alright and it seems they have found their solution at closer with Brian Wilson (not having the name Armando Benitez automatically signals improvement).
I don't think things are as dire as some of the pundits have made them out to be, but there is definitely some improvement that needs to be made. This lineup needs one big bat in there—because if Molina is your cleanup hitter, your lineup needs some sock in it.
One name to watch is Mark Teixeira, currently with the Braves. He's a legitimate star who's still in his prime, and I think he would be a great fit with the Giants and give them the cleanup threat that they desperately need. Trouble is, he will likely command a lot of money, and there is already talk that the Braves won't re-sign him after this season.
After watching the way Zito pitched today against the Tigers, I hesitate to say he's done, but he's not getting any better. His stats in the month of June are actually worse than April, even with the one win to his credit (a 9.00 ERA doesn't cut it). If there is any way to get rid of that monstrosity of a contract, the Giants should do so, because somewhere out there Scott Boras is probably snickering (and should probably get Agent of the Year for that sweetheart deal).
These may seem like minor moves, and they won't automatically guarantee that the Giants will be contenders right away—but at least they'll be much more intriguing to watch. Given their current state, anything is an improvement right now.
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