I suppose those two words could mean a number of different things depending on your perspective, but from a baseball point of view, it means your team is getting younger.
Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to mean.
So imagine my surprise, disgust, disappointment, anger, nausea, amazement, etc. when I tuned in to the Giants’ opening-day game last week to see a lineup that looked almost exactly like last year’s lineup, only a year older and without a cloud of steroids lingering in the air. After a brutal 2007 season in which he inexplicably got a contract extension, General Manager Brian Sabean had the audacity to say things like “We need to be a winning team as soon as possible. Having said that, we need to do more with younger players.” Apparently his definition of ‘younger players’ means anyone who qualifies for the early bird special at Denny’s, because his Giants – and make no mistake about it, he’s making the decisions – rolled out the OLDEST opening-day lineup in the National League last Monday. At an average age of just over 31-years-old, los Gigantes joined the Astros and Reds as the three NL teams who helped the Senior Circuit live up to its nickname, with each team’s lineup averaging over 30-years-old. But don’t expect college sports editors at Rice University in Houston and whatever junior college there is in Cincinnati to trot out similar – albeit not nearly as informative – columns about their withering lineups. See, both of these teams at least have sort of legitimate reasons to join the 30 Club (not to be confused with the considerably cooler 50 Club).
The Astros lineup features a trio of 30-something-year-old hitters (Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada) who are still capable of hitting Major League pitching. Plus, Houston rolls out a lineup card that leads off with 25-year-old speedster Michael Bourn and 24-year-old star-in-the-making Hunter Pence, a duo that Giants fans would cut off their left arms for. Houston, you don’t have a problem, at least until you take a look at your pitching staff. Then there are the Reds, whose average age is skewed in large part because they start 38-year-olds Ken Griffey, Jr. and Scott Hatteberg. Both are still plenty worthy of starting jobs, and while Hatteberg figures to decline some this season, he gets the benefit of the doubt as he somehow remains a heartthrob for female A’s fans, which has to count for something. Unlike the Giants, the Reds have a chance of contending this season, and their lineup will get exponentially younger and better assuming new manager Dusty Baker (feel free to take a moment and laugh at the Reds’ stupidity) ever figures things out and starts uber-prospects Jay Bruce and Joey Votto.
Baker’s old team is going absolutely nowhere, and even worse, they don’t seem to know it. Sabean and his cronies seem to think fans are too stupid to understand a rebuilding process, but they’ve made a huge miscalculation. By starting the likes of 35-year-old Dave Roberts (.331 on-base percentage last season), 36-year-old Rich Aurilia (.672 OPS last season) and 36-year-old Ray Durham (hit .218 last season), the Giants are not only ensuring a 100-loss season, they’re also destroying any chance they have of being decent any time soon.
A cynic would say that the Giants don’t have any young position players capable of starring in the majors yet, but that really shouldn’t matter. Unless Matt Cain or Tim Lincecum is starting, this team is entirely unwatchable. Why not plug in Freddy Lewis (27), Rajai Davis (27), Nate Schierholtz (24), Dan Ortmeier (26) and Eugenio Velez (25) every day just to see what they can do? Best-case scenario: You find a few future starters. Worst-case scenario: You’re still bad, but at least now you’re younger and you can figure out how to adjust the “rebuilding process.” It’s time to go out with the old and in with the new. After all, anything’s got to be better than this.