Forget Tweets, Page Hits -- Giants Just Flawed Team That Can Win NL West
Back when media types made a nice living just writing about the game, rather than fighting for survival by trying to attract readers, we reached this point a great deal earlier in the spring.
It's time to come to grips with who the 2010 San Francisco Giants will be on Opening Day and, probably, throughout the summer.
Now, beat writers and others whose jobs depend completely on their ability to find kernels of news that they can hold over an open flame will continue to try to attract readers with Twitter posts about Fred Lewis trade rumors or talk of whether John Bowker or Nate Schierholtz will open in right field. We'll still have to survive a few more days as they ponder the fate of Eugenio Velez.
It's guaranteed that they're falling over one another to get the scoop on whether someone will snatch the last bullpen job away from Guillermo Mota.
In simpler times, the fate of the the final three guys battling for the 24th and 25th roster spots didn't mean anything. Well, they still don't mean anything because -- the Giants season doesn't hinge on whether they keep Velez or Lewis.
Before Twitter and Facebook was required to attract Web site page hits, the Bowker-Schierholtz story would've ended by now because they're both going to make the club. And, we all know that they're both going to play a lot. So, the news is...there isn't any news in the Bowker-Schierholtz deal. The guy who starts on Opening Day might yield to the other guy two days later.
Back in the day when we knew what was important, we were fixing to get our minds right for the long season ahead. We'd be accepting the 2010 Giants exactly as they are days from the opener.
The starting pitching will keep the team in virtually every game -- just like it did last year. The bullpen could be significantly stronger with young left-hander Dan Runzler and righty Sergio Romo in set-up roles and, in Runzler's case, being groomed for a closer's job down the line.
The potency of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies lineups shouldn't concern Giants fans. A team that can send Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and, to a lesser extent, Barry Zito to the hill each knows that they can be the Dodgers and Rockies anywhere on any day.
The defense might stink. But, those pitchers can beat the NL West's top contenders on the basis of their talent alone. When Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Zito are right -- they can make all the Giants' weaknesses inconsequential for an afternoon or an evening.
The defense might actually stink, too. There will be problems up the middle, save behind the plate where Bengie Molina's solid. Mark DeRosa's a career infielder starting at a corner outfield slot. The superior defender who leaps to mind is Schierholtz and he might not even win the right field job.
We can stop bickering over how to configure the outfield because -- it always winds up being weak defensively and without a proven power-hitter or much speed.
It's comforting to talk inside baseball and discuss how the Giants can use the hit-and-run or the sacrifice bunt to manufacture runs. Realistically, the lineup isn't built to bunt or run. It might not be the best idea to count on Rowand, Renteria, Uribe, Huff, Sandoval, Molina and the rest to give themselves up routinely or with a great deal of success.
Deal with it and move along.
The defense will make things tougher on the pitching staff, naturally.
This year's offense will produce more hits and a few more runs than last year's team did. It would be hard not to do so unless the Giants started using plastic bats in game competition. However, we have to get right with the possibility that a couple of veterans on the down side could slip. No room for Aaron Rowand or Aubrey Huff to fall off from whatever it is the Giants expect is the minimum needed to carry their weight with the stick.
The offense will help the pitching staff, of course. We'll have to see if the slightly improved attack offsets the shakey defense.
After a winter filled with rumors and theories from media types and fans posing as media types, the Giants are who they are and, in most cases, they are who we thought that they'd be. They're a flawed team that could finish below .500. And, they are a pitching-rich team that scores just enough to win 90 games and make a serious playoff run.
Not exactly an advertisement for season ticket sales, is it?
Really, though, the flow of comparisons that weigh the strengths of Lewis versus the weakness that Velez shows are meaningless. Criticism aimed at general manager Brian Sabean or the guy who got the fat contract he's never really earned are water under the Golden Gate Bridge.
Now, it's fine if folks are grinding their teeth over whether Buster Posey should go to Fresno and catch every day or stay in the big leagues because he's proven he has a big league bat. It just doesn't matter at this point because Posey's not going to play every day and, much as I want him in the big leagues now, the club's season doesn't hinge on where he plays for the first month.
If the Giants are going to make their final roster moves based on how many minor league options a guy has left, OK. I got it. If they're going to keep Posey in the minor leagues solely because they don't want his arbitration clock to start and, perhaps, pave the way for a Lincecum-like contract after his second big league season -- fine.
Minor league options and arbitration clocks are the furthest things from most fans minds -- or should be -- right about now. We're fixing to start that magical, 162-game ride. And, even if a guy is dying for the Giants to beat up the Dodgers, the guy mostly wants an entertaining, competitive group in Giants uniforms.
Giants fans got a nice surprise last summer when an apparently dreadful team in April managed to stay in the playoff race until late September. Alas, the 2010 Giants are only marginally improved over the 2009 squad and it's nonsensical to expect for much more this season than we saw last year.
Last year was pretty darned good. I've bickered about the value of 27-year-old "prospects," but I know the real future of the Giants is in Class AA or Class A ball. I dream big in the spring, so I thought about a kid outfielder breaking through. I imagined a boy shortstop unseating Edgar Renteria. It's not going to happen.
We'll each have to make little adjustments in how we think about the club in order to enjoy it fully without going bonkers tweeting and re-tweeting about how Matt Downs should be playing late-inning defense at second base.
If you need to feel like the organization's doing everything it can to win 95 games this year, you'll spend long, painful nights at AT&T Park or in front of the TV.
If you just want an entertaining, competitive team that will be in every game -- you might be on the precipice of a sweet season.
However, if you think that the difference between an NL West pennant and a 76-86 mark hinges on Velez, Mota, Eli Whiteside or Travis Ishikawa playing defense at first base late in games -- you're setting yourself up for a season-long headache.
We know who the 2010 Giants are and we need to accept it.
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