San Francisco Giants Still Smilin': 6 Reasons Not to Panic over Slow Start
It wasn't exactly how the faithful would've drawn it up, with ace Tim Lincecum struggling in the blustery, cold conditions, but a win is a win is a win as the saying goes.
The Freak needed 115 pitches to get through five innings and record an out in the sixth before exiting stage left, but the offense—spearheaded by Buster Posey and Aaron Rowand—came roaring back to pick up their two-time Cy Young winner.
Brian Wilson emphatically shook off the offseason/injury rust and finished the night with a flourish, striking out the side in the ninth.
The Bearded One's patented celebration sent some 41,000 (plus change) home happy, except for those unfortunate souls wearing Bum blue.
Despite the good cheer engendered by a thrilling victory over a rival, the orange-and-black seem to have given their fans reason to worry in the early going of the 2011 campaign.
The boys' defense has been shaky to say the least, the pitching hasn't been as dominant as many remember it and the bats have sputtered out of the blocks.
The club is 5-6 while mired in fourth place and hasn't seemed at all like the one that earned those 2010 World Series rings.
So naturally (and comically), the speculation and hand wringing has begun in earnest.
How quickly we forget.
Let's Start with the Obvious...
Pick your cliche—it's a sprint not a marathon, the season is a 162-game grind, championships aren't won in April, blah, blah, blah.
You've heard them a thousand times and for good reason.
They're true...if not literally, than figuratively.
San Francisco is only 11 games deep into the campaign; that's less than seven percent complete. Way too early to fret unless you happen to be the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees, where each losing streak is grounds for apocalyptic premonitions.
This is Northern California. We're supposed to be mellow, remember?
So settle down.
The Early Going Has Been Rough, But What Did You Expect?
Any Giants fan who jumped aboard the bandwagon before September probably gets a little nauseous when he or she glances at that picture.
Petco Park has been a horrifying torture chamber for San Francisco in recent years, and 2010 was no different.
In a year the franchise was the last man standing, Commissioner's Trophy in hand, the Gents still couldn't break even against the San Diego Padres in their home yard, dropping five of nine games in SD.
In the process, they scored an anemic 26 runs, with 20 coming in three of the victories.
Got that? Six runs in the other six games.
And Dodger Stadium hasn't been a waltz in a park, either.
So a 2-4 trip through Southern California really isn't all that bad. Sure, you'd like to take more than one from the Bums in a four-game series, but sometimes the universe doesn't cooperate.
Rome Wasn't Built in a Day, Neither Are Division Leads
Baseball is a wonderful analogy to the real world because very little happens overnight; almost everything takes time and patience.
You don't win a few games and suddenly find a nice cushion between your team and the rest of the pack.
Series sweeps of three or four games are rare, which means even the worst teams generally win at least once when given three (or more) swipes at the ring.
Unsurprisingly, the Rox are playing well and winning often, i.e. their start was pretty much the antithesis of San Francisco's.
And Colorado has a whopping four-game lead on los Gigantes in the loss column.
With 151 games to play.
Regular Season Has Been Anything but Thus Far
We all knew the 2010 World Series championship would be a distraction for a while.
There was the novelty of beginning the season with a target on the Giants' collective back.
Additionally, all the presentations (including Buster Posey's National League Rookie of the Year presentation) were on the radar and bound to keep a few eyes off the prize.
Nobody could've foreseen the absurd Bryan Stow beating which left the Santa Cruz EMT with swelling on the brain and in an ongoing, medically-induced coma.
When an innocent person gets jumped from behind and stomped senseless by a couple of cowardly, parking lot gangsters, it should give everyone pause.
But when the impetus behind the violence was a jersey donned in your support, it's bound to be disquieting.
That's not to say the Gents are thinking about Bryan in the batter's box or field, but baseball requires a mental focus that extends beyond the first and last outs for most players.
I'd bet San Francisco is just now starting to get its 2011 legs under it.
The 2010 Postseason Giants Were Scalding, That Can't Last for 162 Games
A lot of people have called the Giants lucky in the wake of the 2010 Fall Classic. Those people are correct in one aspect—San Francisco was lucky it got hot at the right time (like all champions).
Nobody, I repeat, nobody stays hot for a full season. Furthermore, few teams start the season aflame; it happens every so often, but it's not the rule.
Look around Major League Baseball and you'll see that the six division leaders have lost either two or three games.
Everyone else in baseball has lost at least four and the vast majority have five or more L's...just like the Sucka Free.
But you really don't want that team to show up right now.
You want it to emerge in September so it has a chance of coasting through November.
For now, let's enjoy the torture.
It worked out pretty well last time around the bend.
Most Importantly, the Players Are Still Having Fun
I can personally vouch for that fact.
When I was down on the field watching the Giants skip through their pregame routine, the only thing that frequently rose above the snapping of the flags was the sound of good-natured ribbing and ensuing laughter.
Mike Fontenot, Mark DeRosa, Eli Whiteside and Nate Schierholtz were all having a grand ol' time as the last BP group while the pitching staff was out in left field raising a ruckus with the fans and each other.
Sergio Romo, in particular, was his high-energy self while engaging the faithful, and Barry Zito looked to be having a ball shagging flies.
Even managing general partner Bill Neukom seemed in good spirits as we exchanged hellos in the tunnel (sadly, he was out of rings to hand out by the time our paths crossed so I didn't get one).
Translation: This is still a loose bunch that very much enjoys each other's company—I'm not sure I saw a single sour face in the bunch, no small trick considering the gale-force winds and dropping mercury.
If the players aren't pressing, that's the surest sign that everything is everything. Even if it's not ideal.
Have No Fear, the Wins Will Come
It's early, the season is long and it's just now finding its rhythm.
The San Francisco Giants weren't a barn-storming force of nature for most of the 2010 season, and though the team looks better on paper in 2011, chances are there will be many lulls over the course of 162 games yet again.
The offense is improving and will continue to do so. Cody Ross should return from the disabled list in the near future, Andres Torres doesn't sound like he's too far away and the slope of Brandon Belt's learning curve will lessen as the rookie figures things out at the dish.
All of that will help.
Nevertheless, the Gents are built around the superlative pitching staff—when it falters, chances are the team will stumble as well.
That's just the reality and it's a pretty rosy one, all things considered.
So enjoy the ride—bumps and all.