First, let me say that this off-season has been unlike ANY that I (or any of my fellow die hard fan-friends, for that matter) have ever experienced. In fact, I don’t think that many would argue that it felt like much of an off-season at all.
While the Orange faithful recovered from their November hangover, the trophy began its trek around the state and across the country to NY and the hall of fame. A mediocre football year for our local teams kept the euphoria of the Giants year buzzing. The relief that the team was able to hang on to 95% of its championship roster, helped everyone begin to savor the prospect of a repeat. And then…. Spring came!
By the time last September’s success began to materialize, my typically critical view of Boche’s (and the front office’s) decisions began to evaporate. Obviously, this crazy formula of youthful trust and the plugging and playing and shifting of key guys, turned out to be one of two things, depending on who was asked…
The Dodger and A’s fan will quickly tell you what a stroke of luck it was for the Giants to trip and stumble into their good fortune, at just the right time.
While the notable Baseball writers, commentators, veterans and Giants fans (bandwagon or life-long) will tell you what a remarkable accomplishment it was to beat the Braves who were on such a roll they may have overtaken the Phillies for the NL East, had the season lasted a week longer. Then, they beat the National League’s eventual Cy Young award winner (Roy Halladay) TWICE. And then they rolled through an INCREDIBALLY hot Ranger team in only 5 games, beating yet another one of the game’s best pitchers (Cliff Lee) TWICE!
Lucky??? I really felt sorry for fans that couldn’t just suck it up and “Say, Hey! Nice job, San Francisco… You earned it.”
And let me say here and now, on opening day 2011… It’s time for the naysayers to eat their words while they watch our 2011 Giants put any thoughts of luck out of their minds while they humbly work their way through the season and strive for another amazing run.
When the 2010 September call-ups were announced last year, my last critical opinion was not to question why Darren Ford, a .251 hitter for double-A Richmond, would be called up… but rather… why Brandon Belt, a .352 overall minor league star, would not? And the answer became clear. Ford’s speed on the base pads was certainly valuable, no question. But while Belt’s bat would have been nice.. our eventual September battle to clinch the division (on the season’s last day, no less) would mean that Brandon would spend a lot of that month on the bench waiting for a situational at-bat that a left-handed Huff would no-doubt take anyway.
Meanwhile, there was no certainty that Huff would return in 2011 and if Belt was going to make a 2011 debut, he was going to need more work. So they wasted no time getting him into the fall league under the instruction of one of the best first baseman I’ve ever seen play, J.T. Snow. If Huff had not returned, Belt’s rise to the big club would have been eminent.
As it turned out, Huff did sign a 2-year deal to return to the Giants and when they went to Scottsdale this year, it was apparent that Mr. Belt would get plenty of time in Fresno to hone his craft. But to everyone’s delight, Belt did NOT take that news with complacency. He hit .282 in 70 at-bats this spring with 3 homers and 2 steals. Writers could not leave him alone. Fans with fresh memory of Buster Posey sitting there in Fresno when he could have done SO much to help the club, were starting to pressure anyone who would listen, NOT to let one of our best hitters (on a club continually criticized for its lack of pure offense) to sit idle.
The decision was made.
Just as our highest paid player (Barry Zito) was left off the post-season roster to make way for a bright, up-and-coming star, Madison Bumgarner… It appears the team has decided to move another highly paid player (Aubrey Huff) to a somewhat foreign position (right field), in order to afford the 1st base slot to Brandon Belt on opening day. And for the first time in lord knows how many years…. I’m perfectly in agreement with our opening day roster. Obviously, we’d all like to see a healthier bearded Wilson warming up in the 8th today but I think Boche will find an adequate bearded replacement, should it be needed.
On the other hand, with the likes of Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner starting things off… followed by the likes of Posey, Huff and Belt in the center of our line up, maybe a closer wont be so necessary after all??
The sun is out. The grass is cut. An amazing new logo will be painted behind home plate. Let’s play!
(photo credit: “aganorange”)