Note: This post is written by site contributor Ted Bauer. You can check out his work at A Price Above Bip Roberts, which is one of the great blog names around.
I associate the San Francisco Giants with failure, and not just because of the 2002 World Series, which transpired when I was a senior in college (honestly, because of that latter fact, my memories of said World Series are hazy and vague at best).
No; the issue is deeper than that. See, last April, I went out to San Francisco to visit a girl. I was about six months removed from breaking up with a girl I had been dating 2 years, and I figured the time might be prime to move on. Being based on the East Coast, I didn’t expect anything to tangibly happen with this San Francisco girl, besides perhaps a no-strings-attached, “Who’s better, Sabean or Beane?” style roll in the hay.
Unfortunately, the first night I was out in NorCal, at around 2am during an 80s Night at some bar, I looked over and saw her making out with another guy.
I had three nights left in town.
On the final night, I attended a Giants game (vs. the Mets, my dad’s favorite team). It was cool to be at Pac Bell, or whatever the hell it’s called now, but it was lame because Bonds didn’t homer – and why else would an East Coast brotha really want to retell stories of his time at Pac Bell? Also, I wore a Mets hat, and these drunken early 20somethings behind me started screaming obscenities at me around the top of the 2nd; it didn’t subside until the 7th.
(As a side note, Bonds homered the next day, while I was on a plane. Goddamn it).
For all these reasons, though, I was pretty hard on the Giants earlier this season in my own blog, when they were playing like absolute turds and Barry Zito seemed likely to enter the pantheon of biggest “Large Contract Busts” ever.
Flash forward a bit, and I’ve softened my view: the Giants, as of Friday afternoon, are winners of eight straight, including two sweeps of teams that will likely be their main contenders in the NL West (sorry, San Diego), Arizona and LA.
I’ll spare you a broad analysis of what the Giants are doing right, but to keep it simple, it comes back to pitching: San Fran barely averages 3-4 runs a game, but their bullpen has been solid, after getting shelled by Colorado about a week and a half ago, and their starters aren’t half bad, either. Matt Morris, who most people likely forgot was still alive let alone playing competitive baseball this side of Hong Kong, is 3-0; Matt Cain, the hyped young starter, has a pedestrian 1-1 record but also carries a 1.55 ERA; Armando Benitez, who single-handedly caused my dad to break our TV on two separate occasions during my life while with the Mets, has 7 saves; Zito has rebounded to look strong at 2-2.
Overall, the team’s 3.21 ERA is third in the National League.
This is good news for a bunch of people. Dave Righetti, who was my favorite Yankee when I first started following baseball (every time I went to this one restaurant in New York, I ordered the meatloaf dish that was somehow named after his July 4th no-hitter), deserves more attention as a top-flight pitching coach / future managerial contender. Brian Sabean, who’s been overshadowed by Billy Beane in the Bay Area for much of the last decade yet has 1 pennant to his zero, also deserves a season of renown for his personal legacy.
And of course, the man that San Francisco swells around (no, not Russ Ortiz), Mr. Bonds. See, the greatest thing about Bonds right now is that as long as other storylines around the Giants – the development of their pitching, them being better than the As – dominate the headlines, he can approach Hammerin’ Hank quietly. Granted, once he gets to 750 or so, it’s over; all hell breaks loose, and Buck and McCarver are out there every day. But, for now, he can do it in relative peace, which is a term he probably hasn’t heard in the same sentence as his name without the words “disturbing the” for quite some time.
Here’s another, final, thought on the Giants of ’07: the All-Star Game Paradigm. In ’03, the White Sox hosted the Midsummer Classic; two years later they won the World Series. In ’04, Minute Maid Park was the site; the next year the Astros got swept in that same World Series. In ’06, it was PNC Park in Pittsburgh; I hate the Pirates, but if they can win 79 games, I wouldn’t rule them out in the NL Central. My point, however loosely, is thus: when you host the All-Star Game, within 1-2 years, you’re relevant in the grand scheme of things. Looks like the Giants might be a tad ahead of schedule.
Well, at least this one in particular sure does. I originally posted this story at MLB FanHouse where I chose to link to the video, so as not to frighten those with virgin ears. Therefore you have been warned. The following video contains explicit lyrics (and somewhat discomforting content). In other words, it’s NSFW:
Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.
San Francisco Giants (76-85, 3rd in the NL West) +4 games
Get Crunked: Barry Bonds this Spring has looked better than he has in either of the past two seasons — which is good considering he cost around $15 mil. Barry Zito is one of the most consistent starters in all of baseball. Matt Cain appears to be a star on the rise, getting into a serious groove in the 2nd half of the season last year. Bengie Molina is one of the finer defensive catchers in the game, and quite underrated offensively.
Party Foul: This team is old. Very old. From Omar Vizquel to Rich Aurilia, to Ray Durham, Matt Morris, and Ryan Klesko, it’s a group of has-beens. The question is whether or not these guys have one more year left in them. Aside from Bonds, there isn’t any pop in the lineup. Oh yeah, and did I mention, they’re old.
What’d my GM do: All talk regarding the off-season begins and ends with the Barry’s. For just over $15 million, Bonds was retained, which is quite a hefty mark, but lets face it, he’s a crowd draw. Barry Zito was signed unexpectedly to a monstrous 7 year $126 million deal, in which the Giants severely overpaid, but did what they had to do to maintain respectability for the next few years. Moises Alou, Mike Stanton, Shea Hillenbrand, and of course Jason Schmidt departed, and they were all key parts of the team last year. I thought the Bengie Molina and Russ Ortiz signings were good deals, but they probably overpaid for Zito, Dave Roberts, and Rich Aurilia.
Lay it on me Straight: It’s a total wild card team. Even though they’re projected to perform poorly, I think the staff will be solid enough to win games, led by Zito and Cain, and rounded out with Russ Ortiz who will be surprisingly useful. The lineup will struggle to score runs, but I believe Bonds will hit 30+ dingers to lead them. It’s not a stellar Giants team of ’02, but it’s not as bad as it’s been the past two years. Oh yeah, I think Armando Benitez will bounce back to have an awesome year, allowing the Giants to win an additional 7-8 games they had blown in past years.
So where my boys gonna finish right now: Probably 3rd in the division, around .500, behind the superior Padres and Dodgers, and just ahead of Arizona.
Can we be better than that: Yes, they can be slightly above .500 and challenge for the division. Conversely, if these old guys blow and/or get hurt (like Bonds, Benitez) they can finish in Colorado territory. Their performance this year is the most questionable in the division.