Spring Training review

Thus endeth the oddest Cactus League the Giants have ever participated in. The announcers kept saying bizarre things like "the defending champs" and "World Series winners" when referring to the Giants, and there were hardly any roster battles of note. Usually spring training is filled with vicious competitions for a couple of lineup or rotation spots -- fights between common sense and the idea that 50 spring at-bats can divine any sort of useful information -- and announcers saying things like "not the defending champs" and "certainly not World Series winners" when referring to the Giants. The biggest questions at the start of spring training:

  1. Is Brandon Belt going to make the team even though the lineup seems set, he only has a few at-bats above AA for an organization that isn’t known for rushing hitters, and it will cost the team a year of free agency if they don’t put him in AAA for a couple of weeks?
  2. Can the team stay healthy?
  3. Is Miguel Tejada okay defensively at short?
  4. Is Pablo Sandoval’s "best shape of his life" story a crock, just like all the rest?
  5. Is the distraction caused by people asking if Brian Wilson is a distraction distracting?
  6. Barry Zito’s new mustache?

To which the answers came:

  1. No.
  2. No.
  3. No.
  4. No.
  5. No.
  6. No.

There were two roster battles. The first was Ishikawa vs. Schierholtz, which was like Swiss Army knife with all of the tools removed except for the tweezers vs. Swiss Army knife with most of the tools remaining, including the tweezers. The second was Mota vs. the field for the last spot in the bullpen. Because of injuries to Cody Ross and Brian Wilson, there will be no closure to these turgid battles. The answer will linger in front of us, just out of reach, as we search for resolution and meaning.

The only real story of the spring, and it was kind of a big one, was that the Giants are actually capable of having injury problems. Ross and Wilson being unavailable for the start of the season is almost as much injury adversity as the team had to deal with all of last year. Really, there will never be another team like the 2010 Giants, which used every injury to their advantage.

Starter Injury Replacement Result
Mark DeRosa Pat Burrell (eventually) Improved play, World Series victory
Aaron Rowand Andres Torres Improved play, World Series victory
Edgar Renteria Juan Uribe Improved play, World Series victory
Todd Wellemeyer Madison Bumgarner Improved play, World Series victory
Jeremy Affeldt Javier Lopez Improved play, World Series victory

 

It was really remarkable, and that kind of luck can't continue. The Giants have a little bit of depth in the outfield and bullpen, so they can hold out for a couple of weeks, but the injuries this spring are a reminder that it’s just a little rare to have a season free of major health concerns. Matt Cain’s whimpering elbow isn’t a big story anymore, but it still worries me far more than the Ross/Wilson combo. The drop-off from Ross to Schierholtz or Wilson to Romo isn’t that big of a deal. The drop-off from Cain to Ryan Vogelsong is like the drop-off from Cal Ripken to Billy Ripken. And if that seems like I’m comparing Cain to Cal Ripken, Orioles fans, I don’t mean to offend. They’re equally as great. Neither of them have allowed an earned run in postseason play. Let’s not bicker over who is more awesome, though it’s clear that Cain is.

That’s it. That’s the spring. Ever since Tejada signed, it’s been a waiting game. It’s basically the same team that ended the season, right down to the former-All-Star-with-declining-range carousel at short. While it was nice that the Giants started the spring hot, it meant little. It’s always been about waiting, waiting, waiting for real baseball to start. It’s almost here.

Almost here. Almost here, dang it. I just wish that there were a pointless three-game series against geographical rivals to whet the appetite.

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