After over a decade of devotion to the orange and black, I’ve compiled a laundry list of letdowns including, but not limited to, a Game Six blowup that cost the team a World Series, shelling out $127 million to a southpaw softballer past his prime and — how could I forget — a six-year playoff drought leading up to this season.
There’s no secret that the post-Bonds era has been an uphill battle out of mediocrity. But coming off a season where the playoffs were within reach, I’m predicting that this is the year it finally comes together. And trust me, I’m not just preaching with the fortuitous optimism that took hold of Giants nation last summer.
By saying that it will come together, I don’t mean a World Series ring, even though San Francisco does have the starting pitching to go deep into October. Am I then proposing a National League West crown? It’s possible, but I think there’s another team in line to take the pennant. So what does that leave for the G-men? Let’s take a closer look.
Ask any pro baseball junkie and they will tell you that this year’s NL West is a three horse race. First out of the starting gates is the L.A. Dodgers, the reigning champs that almost touched 100 wins last season but did little to improve their stock in the offseason. Sorry free agents, any divorce with millions of dollars at stake is bound to have repercussions.
Regardless, the Dodgers return one of the best offenses in the bigs, highlighted by a trio of outfielders that do work at the dish. But outside of Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, do the boys in blue have enough weapons to get it done?
On the hill, Los Angeles has the ninth inning on lock, but they lack the starting pitching to compliment Jonathan Broxton on the back end. I expect a breakout year from left-hander Clayton Kershaw, but have my reservations on Chad Billingsley after last year’s second-half struggles and subsequent bullpen demotion. Vicente Padilla as the opening day starter? Red flag.
After such a critical review of “Mannywood 2010,” I know that I’m going to need some good reasons to replace the Dodgers at the top. As much as I’d like to slide the Giants into this slot, I’m giving it to the Colorado Rockies for their balance accross the board.
With Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and a returning Jeff Francis, the Rocks have three quality starters to get the ball to a respectable bullpen. As far as hitting, Jim Tracy’s squad boasts a Matt Kemp in the making with outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, a man who torched the second half last year ahead of emerging superstar Troy Tulowitzki. Third baseman Ian Stewart could end up with 30 home runs this as an everyday starter, and infielders Melvin Mora and Jason Giambi offer quality hitters from both sides off the bench.
Though the Giants edge the Rockies with one of the strongest staffs in all of baseball, the free agent bats they picked up simply won’t be enough to take the division. Both utility man Mark DeRosa and second baseman Freddy Sanchez are coming off injuries, and while Aubrey Huff should infuse some power into the S.F. lineup, his defense at first base is suspect. All things considered, the offense isn’t markedly improved, but teamed with a nasty starting five — emphasis on five if Madison Bumgarner gets called up — the Gigantes have the tools to reach 90 wins and secure the NL Wild Card.