(From the 2008 San Francisco Giants: Worst Case Scenario): Barry Zito gives up a grand slam in the first inning on opening day, leading to an 0-4 April. Gary Radnich temporarily damages his voice yelling about Zito on KNBR, leading to a two-week absence while he’s replaced by Mychael Urban and Ted Robinson. Zito never recovers, finishing 9-15 with an ERA just over 5.00.
Matt Cain loses 8 of his first 12 games, causing him to take up holistic medicine and consort with psychics to rid him of the negative aura that surrounds his starts.
Wow, good thing nothing like that happened last season! And don’t forget, a Gamer would wear a foam finger, if he wasn’t already wearing a glove.
Last year’s WCS (Worst Case Scenario) for the Giants ended up being a lot closer to reality than I figured. Barry Zito finished April 0-6 (including an opening day loss on March 31 to the Dodgers), the perfect launching pad to a 10-17, 5.15 ERA disaster of a season and the most awkwardly awesome interview with Radnich which ironically occurred on the same day the stock market crashed.
Matt Cain actually ended up going 2-3 in his first twelve starts, but poor run support again led to a losing season, as Cain went 8-14 and drove an entire fanbase to “holistic medicine.” Beer IS holistic, right?
OK, maybe I’m a little too good at this pessimism stuff (although when you start a Bay Area sports blog in January of 2008, negativity kind of comes naturally). Here’s the 2009 WCS, our second annual portrayal of what will happen to the Giants if everything goes wrong, with just a pinch of realism. That means no catastrophic injuries, no team-wide staph infections, not even another TMZ report of Zito rolling with some socialite. Sites that stoop to that type of gossipy crap are a disgrace, anyway. OK, the San Francisco Giants start the 2009 season in 24 hours; let’s get our Negative Nancy on!
Tim Lincecum has a little trouble recapturing the same magic of 2008, and ends up 16-13 with a 2.96 ERA and 225 strikeouts. Great numbers to be sure, but Lincecum suffers from Matt Cain Syndrome, as the team somehow forgets how to hit when he’s on the hill. Run support gets so bad for Timmy that he stops watching the rest of his starts from the dugout after leaving games, preferring the Barry Bonds method of showering and driving home to his flat in the Marina before the end of the ninth inning.
Zito ends up getting the most run support of any Giant starter, but it’s not enough as Zito once again goes 0-for-April, leading to yet another losing season an over-5.00 ERA. After getting booed in his seventh consecutive home start Zito muses that a trade might help all parties. Immediately crickets start chirping.
Randy Johnson pitches well in the starts he makes, but after notching win No. 300 in June he shuts it down for the season to spend more time with his new great-grandson. Jonathan Sanchez struggles in his first few starts, leading the Giants to replace him in the rotation with Joe Martinez. When that doesn’t work out, Sanchez goes back to the rotation. After a few shaky starts Sanchez moves back to the bullpen. After getting moved back to the rotation, Sanchez goes on anti-depressants and loses 5 mph off his fastball. The good news is he still throws 7 mph harder than Zito.
Brian Wilson walks 13 runners in with the bases loaded, a MLB record for closers. Jeremy Affeldt pitches well enough in the set-up role to convince Bruce Bochy to utilize a closer platoon of Wilson and Affeldt, which leads to both pitchers performing worse than before. The Giants bring in the retired Armando Benitez for a private workout, which leads to a profanity-filled on-air tirade by Ralph Barbieri. Barbieri gets placed on administrative leave for the rest of the baseball season, with Ted Robinson taking his place (Tom Tolbert takes over the Amici’s ads, but everyone can tell Tolbert is talking about Pizza Hut when Tolbert espouses the greatness of the $10 “Panormous” pizza and the all-new cheese-stuffed salads).
The rest of the bullpen totally implodes and Benitez mysteriously disappears (police search Barbieri’s house for clues as to Benitez’s whereabouts, but come up empty), meaning Bochy’s stuck with the Wilson/Affeldt combo at closer. Bob Howry pitches as poorly as he did last season, which makes him one of the better relievers on the team since while Howry gets knocked around repeatedly by both righties and lefties, at least he throws strikes. Alex Hinshaw and Brandon Medders walk more guys than they strike out, and Merkin Valdez and Sergio Romo spend all year on and off the disabled list, which opens up an opportunity for Billy Sadler. Unfortunately after Sadler strikes out the side against the Dodgers in his first Major League appearance of the year, he turns to Tommy Lasorda’s luxury suite and grabs his crotch while (very audibly) yelling, “Suck it, you narcoleptic fat-ass! I got a cup full of ‘Slim Fast’ for ya! It’s in my pants!”
Sadler is suspended for the rest of the season, and Comcast turns town the volume on their on-field microphones (including the volume on Amy G.’s mic, a decision that ends up being the highlight of the 2009 season).
Let’s just put it this way: the Giants utilize eight outfielders over the course of 2009, and they combine for 32 home runs. In July Randy Winn is extended for three more years at his current salary.
Against all odds, the National League figures out that Pablo Sandoval will swing at anything. After fifteen consecutive strikeouts during which Sandoval swings at 45 straight pitches outside of the strike zone, the Giants realize the folly of resting an entire season on a 22-year-old cherubic utility man who started last season in Single-A. Sandoval gets sent back to Fresno and spends most of his time a Foster’s Freeze near the stadium, drowning his sorrows in soft serve.
Emmanuel Burriss has a similarly tough go in his first attempt at a full season in the bigs, hitting only .224 in April and getting replaced by Kevin Frandsen, who tears his ACL jumping around in the shower after learning of the promotion. Instead of bringing Burriss back to the Majors, the Giants decide to bring up Brian Bocock, who hits .178 (but turns a mean double play).
Travis Ishikawa’s struggles against lefties hurt his confidence in all aspects of his game, leading to Rich Aurilia taking over as the starting first baseman for the rest of the year starting in early May. Aurilia doesn’t do that badly, but suffers a crushing blow when the other 103 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003 get outed…and Aurilia is on that list…along with Juan Uribe. After both players serve the 14-game suspension Bud Selig handed to all of the players who tested positive in ’03 (except A-Rod, who’s serving a secret suspension as you read this), both players are released and replaced with Travis Denker and Conor Gillaspie.
After a disappointing debut for Buster Posey with the San Jose Giants and a team-leading 18 homers and 85 RBI’s from Bengie Molina, Molina is signed to a three-year, $27M extension on August 21. Edgar Renteria has exactly the same year he had last year with the Tigers. (And yes, I’m upset that in the Giants’ Worst Case Scenario I can’t make myself project anything lower for two of Brian Sabean’s main three free agents than what they did last year).
Overall: 73-89 (Fourth Place in the National League West)
Even with the new and continued failures of Brian Sabean free agents not named Bengie, it’s impossible to imagine this team wins fewer games than they did in 2008 (yes, I’m knocking on wood as I type this). Luckily the San Diego Padres are in the NL West or San Francisco would find themselves in the cellar, but even this punchless Giants squad is better than the Quadruple-A team (plus Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez) the Pads trot out there in 2009.
Veterans extended midseason: Two (Winn and Molina)
Trades made: One (Jonathan Sanchez for a 36-year-old to be named later)
Attendance: 2.5 million announced (1.75 million actual)
Casualties: Brian Sabean (fired), Bruce Bochy (fired), Billy Sadler (released), Kevin Frandsen (injured/retired), Armando Benitez (missing)