Well, the good news is I am in beautiful, sunny Scottsdale, Arizona. It is exactly 6 days until pitchers and catchers report and exactly a week from today will be the first workout. So we are that much closer to the return of baseball. Always a special time in my life….probably yours too, or why else would you be reading this?
The bad news is; that it is absolutely pouring here in Scottsdale. I arrived on Wednesday and the temperature upon touchdown at Sky Harbor Airport was 82 degrees. Then 80 on Thursday, 75 on Friday and 70 yesterday. It is predicted to be 63 today, then dropping all the way down to 59 by Tuesday. I know that is downright balmy to those of you from cold weather climates, but that is 11 degrees below average temperature for Phoenix at this time of year. Yes, it’s true. The average temperature in Phoenix, Arizona in February is 70. I don’t know what it is, but whenever I come here, I seem to inspire weather that is either 10 degrees higher than normal or 10 degrees lower than normal.
The really bad news is that I started to write this post to complain that rain was in the forecast for the first workout on the 15th. Luckily, when I just checked accuweather.com, they have taken rain out of the forecast. Let’s just hope it stays that way. Over the past three days, rain has been in and out of the forecast for next Sunday several times. It’s always disappointing when you wait for something for so long and then it gets spoiled by the weather. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
The real question, rain or shine, is what kind of team will be showing up in Scottsdale when the Giants come to town (“it’s by, by baby”….sorry I couldn’t resist). The pitching is pretty well set. So we know who will be here on the 15th. Is Lowry healthy and can he contribute? Can the Big Ugly hold it together for one more year and win 15 games or so? How about Jonathan Sanchez? Can he finally get over his inconsistency and be the force that his raw ability seems to suggest? Will Matt Cain finally get some run support and find the strike zone more consistently this year? The walks have just been killing him. Can Timmy Lincecum repeat or perhaps even improve on last year’s Cy Young season? How about the (hopefully) new and improved bullpen? Will Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry help the pen cut down on all the wins they cost the starting rotation in the 6th through 8th innings? Good questions all.
It is rumored that the Giants made an offer to Joe Crede. Can that guy stay healthy for just 1 year? Rich Aurillia has been offered a minor league contract with an invite to the Major League camp. I like Richie as a utility infielder and a little right handed pop off the bench. The question is can Bruce (I Love My Veterans) Bochy leave him on the bench, where he should be, or will he make him a starter the first time a youngster falters……as I would fully expect him to do? The Manny Ramirez rumors continue to circle around out there like a flock of buzzards. I love his bat, but boy would his defense kill our poor pitchers. You guys think Bonds was bad in his last couple of years. I don’t expect it to happen. The Dodgers will cave and give him the house.
How about our youngsters? Will they actually get playing time FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR this year? Can Fred Lewis continue his development with the bat and glove or was last year a fluke? Will Pablo Sandoval continue to be a stud with the bat and do an acceptable job on defense? Will the Giants find a position for him to play? Is this the year that Kevin Frandsen finds a place to play regularly. Will management give him a chance to show whether or not his Arizona Fall League performances were the exception or the norm? Can Giants management find a few at bats for Nate Schierholtz or will his ABs get taken by Dave Roberts?
As with the last few seasons, there are lots and lots of questions going into the spring. I am probably in the minority, in that I am a patient fan. I would like to see the Giants not make ANY of the rumored moves involving veteran position players. I like the pitching moves that the Giants have made and the Giants’ Minor League system is stacked with pitchers who are not quite ready but should be studs. BUT, I would just as soon play the young position players this season. It is time to see if Fred Lewis, Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Frandsen, Nate Schierholtz, Manny Burriss and Eugenio Velez can contribute as Major League players/starters. They aren’t getting any younger! If the likes of Roberts, Crede, Aurilia and Uribe take the at bats and innings away from our youngsters, we will still be guessing as to what they can do in the big leagues (or will lose them completely if removed from the 40 man roster). And the problem is, I know, deep down in my heart……..that if the veterans are on the roster………Bruce Bochy WILL play them. He can’t help himself. And that’s too bad, because the good teams have a young nucleus of starters and have grizzled veterans coming off the bench…..not the other way around.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the Giants are vastly superior to where they were at this time last year. I think they are maybe one year away from serious contention. But, absent acquiring a HUGE bat, I don’t see them having a real good chance of going to the top this year. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Doesn’t mean I am not hoping that everything clicks and the Giants win the division and go deep into the playoffs. Hope springs eternal in the spring. At least in baseball it does. But you can’t let hope cloud your judgment.
I think the wise move is to play all the youngsters so you can sort the wheat from the chaff. Make a final determination of who is and who isn’t starter and backup material. Then next off-season, you can cut loose the deadwood and have a real good idea of exactly the type of team you have. None of this “oh, we are going to play Sandoval at 3B, or 1B, or catcher depending on who we sign”. Then you can go out and fill the holes via trade or fee-agency…….but at least you will KNOW where the holes are. Right now, you really don’t know……and you didn’t last year…..or the year before……..or the year before….and you still won’t know next spring if all the playing time is taken up by washed up or even soon to be washed up veterans.
Well, I started out to write a 3 paragraph post about the weather, before I got up on my soapbox. But, what better is there to do on a rainy Sunday morning between both baseball and football season? I feel about the baseball season like that old Mervyn’s commercial………open, open, open, open……..