‘The Giants game is starting, turn on the TV,
the City Editor says to me the other day. As I head over to the
newsroom television, he adds grimly:
They’re probably down 2-0 already.
‘The Giants game is starting, turn on the TV,” the City Editor says to me the other day. As I head over to the newsroom television, he adds grimly: “They’re probably down 2-0 already.”
Well, Robert, you were wrong. The Giants weren’t already down 2-0. And you know it, because we watched as the Royals hit a bases-clearing double with two men on to put the home team down by two runs in the top of the first.
Being a Giants fan isn’t very rewarding at the moment. And it’s not likely to get any better any time soon.
The wheels have finally come off the San Francisco brain trust’s (Brian Sabean, we’re looking at you) long-standing strategy of surrounding Barry Bonds with fair-to-middlin’ veteran talent, and praying for the best.
Bonds, who for the past decade has given San Francisco more margin for error than any other team in the league, may yet come back to save the day this season.
But that’s irrelevant. Without their superstar, the Giants have been revealed as a profoundly mediocre team. Even if he does come back at full strength, the Bonds of the past few seasons will be gone soon – either as a shell of his former self or retired.
At that point, the Giants you see today will also be the Giants you get for the foreseeable future, until drastic changes are made.
Consider that San Francisco’s top position players in their prime are Pedro Feliz and Edgardo Alfonzo. That’s the team’s core. And it’s just not a foundation on which to build.
Bonds masked so many of the Giants’ shortcomings for so long that it’s almost shocking to see how riddled with holes the team is without him. Just to take one of the less-obvious ways that Bonds helped the Giants win, he gave the team an automatic baserunner in the late innings of close games. Combined with solid late-game relief pitching (until last season, anyway), that meant lots of wins in close games – and a few pennants and near-pennants won.
Several people speculated before this season that the Giants would somehow be “better off” without Bonds. The current National League West standings prove the idiocy of that theory.
But in a way, those theorists may be right in the long run. With all their flaws exposed, the Bonds-less Giants are finally forced to face up to what they are, and what they are ain’t pretty.
Their pitching is in the bottom half of the league, their hitting isn’t much better. Their vaunted defensive upgrades haven’t translated into wins, because even the best defense can’t make up for below-average hitting and pitching.
The upshot is that for the first time since the mid-1980’s San Francisco actually has some homegrown position talent. We certainly need to see how Lance Niekro and Jason Ellison handle themselves during another couple of circuits through the league. Still, it’s been encouraging to see the first legitimate homegrown hitters in the organization since Will Clark, Robbie Thompson and Matt Williams came up 20 years ago.
Something to build on? Let’s hope so.