The Giants are coming off their shortest offseason in franchise history, and everyone wants it to be perfect when they step back on the field to play games that count, with all the accessories one could imagine for a team defending its first title in 58 years.
An airplane towing obnoxious banners across the sky above Dodger Stadium. Home uniforms with the word “GIANTS” all gold and glittery on the front (I won’t lie, I might have to go ahead and buy one of those). World Series rings for everyone. Rookie of the Year trophy for Buster Posey. Nobel Peace Prizes for Kruk and Kuip. And beards, beards, beards.
That’s what this time is for. Celebration of baseball, the city’s first World Series and how different this team is from the squad that played with normal uniforms on back in June. These guys don’t look up to anyone. The day-to-day swagger will vary from palpable to overwhelming. We’ve seen good Giants teams in the past 24 years, but each season was marked with pain. Now, everything isn’t just rosy, it’s damn near euphoric.
But Giants fans are perfectionists at best, obsessive complainers at worst. The perfect 25-man roster doesn’t exist, but the loss of two bearded Giants — Cody Ross for a few weeks and Brian Wilson for an undetermined amount of time — makes the roster that much less perfect. So before a losing streak leads the Giants’ front office, manager, fans, and injured athletes to panic, I have a request: relax.
With the oft-noted fact that the Giants play 22 of their first 31 games on the road, there’s already a little tension. The Giants expected to make the playoffs every year in the early 2000’s, but this year it’s different. If one of the other teams within the division races out to some ridiculous record like 10-1, and the Giants are hanging around the 4-7, 5-6 range, the tendency around here will be to freak out. Hell, the simple prospect of Aaron Rowand starting in centerfield every day is driving some people to drink … even more than usual.
I don’t care how bad this team starts (and I strongly doubt the Giants suddenly turn into a 100-loss team without Wilson and Ross), they need to err on the side of caution. Calves and obliques are temperamental muscles. Rushing Ross back only to see him hit the DL again in May and September because his torn calf didn’t fully heal in April would be far more destructive than resting him for the entirety of April. Wilson already spent time on the DL with an oblique issue when he started his big league career; wouldn’t it be more advantageous in April, when the games carry the least amount of gravity, to figure out who exactly would be Wilson’s best replacement should he have to sit for a long period of time either this year or next?
These April games are exciting, and it’s great to see the band get back together. And all the games count in the standings equally, as they say on TV. But this Giants team is built to withstand injuries. Mark DeRosa plays 14 different positions. Starting pitchers going seven innings shouldn’t be a rarity. They now have time to figure out if Rowand’s salvageable in any way. Bruce Bochy’s main strength (besides embarrassing Don Mattingly) is juggling bullpen arms like Tim Lincecum juggles baseballs with his feet while walking on his hands … or so I’ve heard.
I’m not worried about the Giants getting impatient. If they were impatient, Tim Lincecum or Jonathan Sanchez would be pitching for some team like the Blue Jays. Clearly the champagne from last November is still affecting my mindset, but letting Ross and Wilson heal fully won’t lead to disaster. Instead, it’s going to provide the backdrop for a breakout performance or two from unexpected sources.
Unless they start the year 1-6 after their trip to Los Angeles and San Diego. Then they better tell Wilson and Ross to suck it up and get out there.