Wednesday, December 31, 2008

YIKES! The Hype Monster Slouches Towards the San Francisco Giants

This is pretty much a worst-case scenario developing right before our very eyes. The San Francisco Giants have addressed two of their lesser needs - bridging the gap between the dynamic rotation and Brian Wilson as well as acquiring a veteran shortstop who is an offensive upgrade over Omar Vizquel. However, the most glaring void remains - one of Major League Baseball's most anemic offenses has not significantly improved.

Obviously, Edgar Renteria is a step in the right direction, but he's a small and aging step.

The bigger problem is Randy Johnson. And his Cy Youngs. And his quest for 300 victories. And the seats he will put in seats. And the national spotlight he brings.

Already, Fox Sports' MLB home page has a feature running on the Orange and Black. Dayn Perry has posted a feature column on playoff aspirations (ouch). I appreciate Mr. Perry's efforts, but suggesting SF has a problem at second base and should pursue Orland Hudson proves he hasn't given the team close scrutiny.

With all due respect to O-Dog, when I wanted the Giants to sign him it was because I thought Emanuel Burriss could hold it down at short. Second base? Done and done. Hudson's redundant and more expensive at that.

Ditto his suggestion that my man Freddie Lewis can't hit enough by positional standards. Lewis flashed some surprising power and had no problem hitting Triples Alley. Will he hit 40 bombs? No, probably never. But he's got a special combination of speed and power that I'll take over a guy like Adam Dunn.

What's so damn special about 40+ taters and 200+ strikeouts? No thanks (unless of course the Giants sign him, in which case, woohoo). I'll take a low-flying Freddie Lewis every day o' the week.

Furthermore, who says the hitting bar for left field is that high? There are some flashy names at the position, but, outside of Happy Manny and Matt Holliday, the numbers won't blow your skirt up.

But back to Randy Johnson and the stir his new contract is creating. Besides Fox, the San Jose Merc has crashed the party, too.

So it's not even January and already the Giants have become a trendy dark horse in the National League West.

By signing a 45-year-old pitcher who could just as easily throw 30 innings and break down as he could turn in 200 fantastic innings.

Am I the only one who sees a problem with this picture?

The San Francisco Giants offense has gotten marginally better by replacing Omar Vizquel with Edgar Renteria. That's it. The team will see what another year of maturity will do for youngsters like Burriss, Lewis, Pablo Sandoval, and Travis Ishikawa. They can pencil in another good if unspectacular year from Randy Winn and from Aaron Rowand.

Then there's Benjie Molina.

Maybe he has another incredible year like last year, maybe he doesn't. Chances that he improves are very slim, which means the offense could easily tread water or decline. Think of how many huge hits Big Money had for SF in 2008. Can we really expect him to replicate that? As a catcher who's another year older?

I'm not so sure. I love the guy and I wouldn't hold it against him for a second, but I've gotta be realistic.

To be perfectly honest, part of this talk can be partially explained by the fact that the NL West was weak last year and the top teams have only gotten worse. Maybe it goes away once the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks start the offseason wheels turning.

But what if it doesn't? What if the Bums and Snakes only make meager moves while losing studs like Adam Dunn, Manny Ramirez (just puked a little), Orlando Hudson, Derek Lowe, the Big Unit, and Brad Penny (even though I personally know he's garbage)?

San Francisco would head into 2009 under the weight of insane expectations. Sure, a rotation that features Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Randy Johnson, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito should be expected to contend with even a below-average offense. Especially with what should be a strong bullpen and dominant closer.

Unfortunately, below-average would be a huge improvement from the 2008 Giant offense, which was absolutely awful.

Edgar Renteria is not huge improvement. Nor is one year of maturity on any of the names mentioned.

So what happens when reality sets in on a young roster? What happens when those young bats start pressing at the plate and in the field? What happens when the younger half of the rotation realizes the margin for error is even slimmer than the razor-thin 2008 version?

Young players don't often respond well to close and continuous scrutiny.

The San Francisco Giants could be contenders in the NL West next year if everything breaks right.

I'd consider a blanket being thrown over the murmuring of national buzz just such a break.

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