Welcome to Czar’s blog #1 of 2018
Opening Day is this Thursday in LA
Opening day. You have only to say the words and you feel the shutters thrown wide, the room air out, the light pour in. In baseball, no other day is so pure with possibility. No scores yet, no losses, no blame or disappointment. No hangover, at least until the game's over.
The world is a strange and dangerous place these days, with chaos and storms on every horizon. Let’s put all that behind us and focus on real life – which is baseball.
The season is about to begin, the Czar is back for another year with updated blog technology and the first pitch is almost here.
The 2017 Giants – Requiem for a Season not meant to be
There is not much to say about 2017. The G-Men finished 64 and 98, last in the NL West with their worst record in 32 years. The year was marked by injuries, a motorcycle accident involving Bumgarner, meltdowns and injuries and generally bad karma. Our consolation was three world series victories in the previous seven years (2010, 2012 and 2014) and the Dodgers going down to the Astros in the 2017 world series.
The Off-Season and Spring Training
The G-Men went against the conventional “go young” movement and instead opted for experienced offensive players who could bring power, runs and defense right away. Evan Longoria from Tampa Bay was signed for third base (after losing Matt Duffy in Marlins trade last year), Andrew McCutchen from the Pirates came in to play right field and Austin Jackson From the Tribe will play Center Field. McCutchen and Longoria were the veteran mainstays of the teams they left and are veterans with HOF credentials. Both are hitting the cover off the ball in spring training. Both are, however, over 30 (which qualifies them for a wheelchair in baseball years).
The test this year will be experience over youth (although the G-Men have young players). This team is built, offensively anyway, to win now. Think about it, there are potentially six HOF players on the team - - four on the field, Posey, Crawford (my HOF pick), Longoria and McCutchen, one more on the mound (Bumgarner) and one in the dugout (Bochy).
The Giants picked up pitchers Tony Watson (relief) from the Dodgers and Derek Holland (starter) from the White Sox. Not a lot to say about that except that Holland will be starting and Watson is needed to shore up the bullpen until Will Smith (finally) returns from Tommy John. This spring has shown that Sam Dyson is reverting to his old “hit me” style, Strickland seems to have found another pitch to back up his blazing fastball and Law (thank God) is back in the minors.
The goal was to stay the course, add power and defense and look to compete in the very tough NL West (where the Dodgers sit at the top lording it over everyone else behind some guy called Kershaw) with healthy pitching behind Bumgarner, Cueto and the Shark,.
The plan included a lot of coaching changes: Rags is out at pitching coach, Wotus now resides at third base, and Meulens is now next to Bochy on the bench (maybe being groomed for bigger things). Bochy is still the man though, even though the G-Men announced today they are adding Dusty Baker (much beloved) as a special advisor. Every Giants fan loves that move; Dusty is as much a part of the Giants family as Will Clark, Willy Mays, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Barry Bonds and the other Giants greats. He will bring stability and smarts. It’s a great move.
The original plan looked good based on spring training games - - until last week anyway. The Giants are competitive and have good talent at almost all positions.
Spring Training Disasters
Last week was not good. Samardjiza strained a pec muscle and is out for 3 to 4 weeks. Then Bum got hit on the hand deflecting a line drive, broke his pinky and is out until early June at the earliest. The young guys must now pick up the slack. Ty Blach starts the season against the Dodgers on Thursday (he is good against the Dodgers and won against Kershaw last year). Let’s see what a rotation of Blach, Cueto, Stratton and Holland looks like.
Can the Giants compete in the division? Most of MLB says no, the Giants are cooked because of the injuries. I say not so fast. The season hasn’t even started yet and I loved what Longoria said about the injuries “well, that just means we have to turn on the offense and out hit everyone.” That is a good attitude from a player that make it happen!
Nothing is wrong with playing with a chip on your shoulder, and the Giants have a big one this year. If they get through April and May playing .500 ball or better and then get the senior starters back (especially Bum), this could be a really good year. The fact the Dodgers and the Snakes are coming into AT&T thinking that the G-Men are pushovers may lead to some early season surprises (before the horses come back).
What does the line-up look like?
There are a lot of tough decisions still to be made. If the G-men carry 13 pitchers (which will probably be the case because without Bum and Shark the bullpen will be very busy), that means 12 position players.
Locks are McCutchen, Jackson and Pence in the outfield, Belt, Panik, Crawford and Longoria in the infield and Posey and Hundley behind the dish. That’s nine players. Blanco (playing out of his mind this spring) and Duggar (the Giants best minor league prospect, who can play and should make the team if the world were fair) are the back-up outfielders and the Panda (who looks great, has lost weight and is being paid by the Red Sox) and Tomlinson are the back-ups at the infield positions.
I count 13 players for 12 positions. Who will be the odd man out? Probably Duggar but stranger things have happened.
Let’s play ball!! – last exhibition games this week and home opening day on April 3rd. Meanwhile we open on the road against, who else, the Dodgers. That is somehow right.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!