Barry Zito

Opening Day – We Knew it was Coming

Yesterday morning I took my bike out and cruised around the city, early enough so I wouldn’t miss the Giants face the Dodgers on Opening Day.

I had baseball on the brain, and I found myself riding along the Embarcadero to AT&T Park. Once I got there, I rolled around the perimeter before turning around and heading back to the Golden Gate Bridge. As I circled around and watched fans take BP through the screen in the right field wall, a sad thought popped in my head:

Is the rest of the NL West going to run circles around the Giants this year?

The sad thing about yesterday’s 5-0 loss was how close it followed the script most fans have predicted all spring. While the Giants have an ancient, anemic offense, a shaky defense and an unproven bullpen, these are qualities that usually bear themselves out over 162 games. One would think that even with their deficiencies, the Giants are going to score 10 runs or more at least a couple times in 2008 and play a few error-free games along the way. So going into yesterday’s contest I tried not to expect a loss. After all, it’s baseball. Even the Devil Rays…um…I mean the Rays, find a way to notch 60 wins per season.

Even after seeing the Giants opening day lineup (more on that shortly), when Dave Roberts led off the game with a single off a mysteriously out of sorts Brad Penny, I had high hopes. Then Bruce Bochy decided to use the first opportunity to do what he’s been talking about ever since the A.B. (After Bonds) Era started, as Boch decided to hit and run with Rich Aurilia. Aurilia swung and missed at a high and tight fastball, and Russell Martin easily threw out Roberts at second. Ouch.

Here were other things worth noticing during an opening day loss where the only surprising thing was how closely the game mirrored every Giants fans’ worst expectations:

– The 2008 San Francisco Giants Opening Day Lineup (age in parentheses):

1. Dave Roberts (35)
2. Rich Aurilia (36)
3. Randy Winn (33)
4. Bengie Molina (33)
5. Ray Durham (36)
6. Aaron Rowand (30)
7. Jose Castillo (27)
8. Brian Bocock (23)
9. Barry Zito (29)

So the only guys under 30 worthy enough to start on Opening Day were a guy who couldn’t hang on with either the Pirates or the Marlins (Castillo), a Single-A shortstop who will be back in the minor leagues once the Giants’ 40-year-old shortstop is healthy (Bocock), and a criminally overpriced left-handed pitcher who might not throw as hard as Kirk Reuter (Zito, the Giants’ version of Alex Smith).

– Instead of his actual record of 11-13 last year, Mike Krukow mistakenly said that Zito went 11-3 while reciting his 2007 pitching line. Krukow’s either lost a step or he’s REALLY optimistic about the past, if that’s possible.

– Jeff Kent’s first inning home run might have been the most easily predictable of any I’ve ever seen. Not a good sign that Kent’s hamstring injury would have normally kept him out for a week if the Dodgers weren’t playing the Giants. At least he’s not bitter or anything.

– Brad Penny looked like he was still pitching in Spring Training, but he still breezed through the Giants like they were the Fresno Grizzlies. Wait, the Grizzlies recently beat the Giants in a Spring Training exhibition. I’m confused.

– I didn’t care when Rowand overthrew two cutoff guys, or how Bocock collided with Dave Roberts on a flyball and got picked off in the eighth inning when the Giants were down five runs. This season isn’t about playing mistake-free baseball, it’s about pushing the action and taking a few risks. And playing Eugenio Velez, Fred Lewis, Raj Davis, Dan Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz.

– The Giants made one good move towards getting younger this week, designating Steve Kline for assignment and keeping Merkin Valdez and Erick Threets. If either of those pitchers (Valdez especially, given the hype in previous years) went elsewhere and succeeded it would have been even tougher to watch Kline and his hangover face shuffling in from the bullpen every night in the seventh inning.

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