Monday, March 10, 2008


For our final game yesterday we returned to Scottsdale Stadium to watch the Giants take on the defending National League Champion Colorado Rockies. Last season, of course, the Rox put together an incredible late-season run (going 14-1 after September 16th) before getting swept in the World Series by the Boston Red Sox. The Rockies have what the Giants don't: young stud hitters or solid veteran power at almost every position around the diamond. Still, Sports Weekly doubts that Colorado can duplicate last year's surprising success. In their pre-Spring Training preview issue, analyst Paul White predicts that "Nothing can be as good as last September and October, and it won't be. The Rockies contend all year, but the pitching isn't good enough to get them into the playoffs."

Regardless, I don't know a single Giants fan that wouldn't trade the Rockies lineup for our own.

Sunday's game drove home the point that the Giants will have to get good pitching for a full 9 innings to have any chance to win games this year. The Orange and Black simply does not have the ability to score runs in bunches. On Sunday, they got good pitching for about 5.5 innings, and that allowed the Rockies to cruise to a 10-2 drubbing of the Giants.

Starter Pat Misch did his part, facing just the minimum number of hitters through three strong innings of work. He faltered a bit after getting the leadoff batter in the 4th. Misch walked Scott Podsednik who stole 2nd, and then scored on 3rd baseman Jeff Baker's single. Misch's line was 3 1/3 innings, two walks, one hit.

The not-so-good pitching began when Keiichi Yabu relieved Misch. Yabu immediately allowed two back-to-back singles, which hung another earned run on Misch. Yabu lucked out when he walked the next batter on a wild pitch, which then bounced off the backstop right to Yabu covering the plate. Yabu grabbed the ball, reached down and tagged out Yorvit Torrealba sliding into home for the second out of the inning. Torrealba lay on the ground for a moment after getting tagged out grinning in disbelief -- a feeling shared by all of us who watched the play unfold. Yabu got out of the inning when he got Clint Barmes to pop out to shortstop.

Yabu went back in to pitch the 5th and promptly plunked the first batter, Jayson Nix. Pitcher Franklin Morales moved Nix to second on perfect bunt and Willy Tavares drove him in with a single. Catcher Eliezer Alfonzo gunned down Tavares trying to steal second, and then Yabu closed out his day by getting Scott Podsednik to fly out to center. 3-1 Rockies.

The Giants pitching went from bad to much worse when AA pitcher Victor Santos came in and gave up 4 runs on 3 hits (1 double), two walks and a wild pitch. Ecccch. Osiris Matos came in to clean up Santos' mess, balked in another run but then struck out Scott Podsednik to stop the madness.

The Good Pitching returned with closer Brian Wilson going 1-2-3 in the 7th. Steve Kline followed him and wasn't too sharp, allowing 2 runs on 2 hits. His cause wasn't helped by an error from shortstop Emmanuel Burriss. Flamethrowing Lefty Erick Threets was much better in the 9th, striking out the side in order.

Kline is being well paid as a Giants Lefty reliever, but Misch and Threets (and possibly Jonathan Sanchez) all look like they could -- and perhaps ought to -- take Kline's roster spot away.

As for the Giants offense -- there just wasn't much "there" there. Though they scored the first run of the game on Kevin Frandsen's triple + Aaron Rowand's base hit in the first inning to take the lead 1-0, the Giants would get just two more hits for the rest of the game -- one a solo home run by Clay Timpner in the 9th. That ain't gonna get it done.

The Giants are going to have to hit more than that... and pitch much better if they're going to win ballgames this year.

Speaking of wins, our poll question this year was: how many wins will the 2008 Giants get? The general consensus among Giants fans is that the 2008 model Giants won't win too many. Here's what our Spring Training crew predicts:

Giants Wins in 2008:

David: 60
Craig: 70
Denny: 72
Bill: 75
Rich: 81
Kevin: 81

In other words, David thinks the Giants will lose over 100 games. Craig, Denny and Bill say they'll be well under .500. Kevin and I are the cockeyed optimists of the bunch, saying that if things break right for the Giants, the Giants will break even.

Regardless of the team's prospects, we had another great Spring Training trip. The weather and the ballparks were gorgeous (temperatures averaged in the mid to high 70s). We played some ball and generally had a great long weekend.

At our final game we even had a scout up in our row behind home plate:

This guy (with a Coach bag!) tracked every pitch thrown by Giants starter Pat Misch. This led to speculation among our crew that perhaps he was a White Sox scout looking at Misch as part of a possible deal for White Sox 3rd baseman Joe Crede. There's no question that Crede would probably add some much needed pop to the light hitting Giants lineup. However, most in the Giants Blogosphere feel that getting Crede is really just, er, spitting into the wind and that it doesn't make sense to give up anything of value to get him, as getting him won't significantly change the Giants fortunes this year.

Another truth about Spring Training is that Arizona -- even in early March -- is just really super warm and dry for a bunch of Bay Area visitors to take for extended periods. After the game on Sunday, we were all really hot and parched. Even hydrating like crazy only helps a little bit. I mean, it's great to visit (especially in March for baseball), but I don't know how people live down there year round, especially in summer. On our way back to the hotel to head for the airport, we found this weird little piece of public art: a "misting fountain" that casts cooling spray up from a horseshoe-shaped stone pit. It was a nice find, and we hung out there and cooled down after a long hot Spring Training day. Pictured below are Denny, Craig and Bill cooling off:

Our crew's final Spring record was an even 1-1-1 (.500). Which is much better than the Giants current Spring record of 3-9 (.250 - worst in the NL). Bottom line, the Giants have not played well so far this spring. However, if the Giants record were the reverse at 9-3 I can just hear the remarks of "well, it's only Spring Training" and whatnot. What does it all mean? Exactly nothing, at this point. I could make a big deal of pointing out that last year the Arizona Diamondbacks made the playoffs with just the 14th best offense in the majors and by winning 32 one-run games. But then, I am a bona fide cockeyed optimist.

What is certain is this -- we will be back next year. And the Dodgers still suck.