I like to use 2008 as a demarcation line for a couple of different reasons. First, I'm strangely obsessed with Jose Castillo. I study him like Raymond Babbitt and "Who's on First?" One of these days I'll unlock the riddle; one of these days I'll realize there is no riddle. Jose Castillo.
The second is that it's the first year without Barry Bonds in the lineup. It was tough to separate the contributions of a .999 OBP from the rest of the lineup, making it hard to tell how successful the roster construction really was.
And in 2008, here were the presumptive starters:
C - Molina
1B - Aurilia
2B - Durham
SS - Vizquel
3B - Castillo
LF - Roberts
CF - Rowand
RF - Winn
I didn't want to put Bocock up there because the Giants weren't expecting him to start on Opening Day. The Giants couldn't account for freaky things happening, like a 41-year-old players getting injured, so they were caught completely unawares.
That's a lineup we can -- and did -- look at and say, well, that collection is going to be awful. Vizquel was coming off a miserable year, as was Durham and Dave Roberts. Molina had a sub-.300 OBP. Rich Aurilia was horrible the prior year. Jose Castillo was Jose Castillo. Three-quarters of the lineup was coming off an absolutely miserable year. That's an amazing way to start the season, especially when you think that Rowand was one of the potential bright spots.
That lineup stunk. There was no way it wasn't going to stink. It irritates me today to look at that lineup and think that people who are paid to construct major league rosters studied that bunch and said, "Well, can't improve on that."
Here were the presumptive starters for 2011:
Posey - C
Sanchez - 2B
Tejada - SS
Sandoval - 3B
Torres - OF/1B (pick four)
You don't need to justify Posey and Sandoval, of course. Freddy Sanchez earned our respect, with the caveat that he'd need a decent backup because he was fragile. Mike Fontenot was an acceptable contingency plan.
Burrell's signing was considered a financial coup. No one was arguing that Ross should be non-tendered because, hey, hero. Also, his average year is pretty darn okay. Torres was awesome last year, both at the plate and on the field. Belt was the new Posey, but longer.
I didn't think Huff would crater. Oh, it was in the back of my mind, sure.
My biggest fear is that if Huff craters and goes down a dark, Randy Winn career path where he just can’t hit at all, there’s no way that Bruce Bochy will recognize it in time. There’s a perfectly plausible scenario in which Brandon Belt is hitting .370/.450/.640 in Fresno through July, and Aubrey Huff is hitting .189/.265/.302, Detroit-style, for game after game after game after game.
Whoops! Belt hit .320/.461/.528 in the minors this year. I was way off.
But while I knew that Huff wasn't going to be All-Star caliber again, I was hoping that he'd settle in at a perfectly acceptable middle ground. After his stellar year, that wasn't crazy talk -- it's not like he had some fluky .480 BABIP in 2010. He was an awesome hitter with a great approach just a couple hundred days ago. Predicting that he would be overpaid relative to his production as a first baseman: okay. Predicting that he'd be a disaster even if he were a slick-fielding second baseman: overly cynical jibberish.
Tejada was likely to be bad. His OPS+ last year was 92. I thought that would dip a bit. It went down to 66. Good gravy.
Loooooooooooong point short: The worst part about this season is that it's a little intellectually dishonest to blame this year all on Sabean. Injuries took out over a quarter of the players up there. The thin tendrils of suck grabbed the rest with the exception of Pablo Sandoval, who was actually one of the biggest question marks entering the season.
Having a scapegoat is fun. I like pretending I'm smarter than the people in the front office. This year, though, it looked like the lineup was going to be just fine. Turns out, every single one of those players is hurt, stinky, or Pablo, who was also hurt. That's the worst part about this year, other than the losing and disappointment and losing: the blame goes towards the fates or the players themselves.
I don't like blaming the fates or bad luck. Makes me feel like a weenie.
I don't like blaming the players. I like most of them. As much as I hate watching them struggle, I'm sure they're having a worse time of it.
I sort of enjoy blaming Bochy for playing Rowand too much, and for burying Belt for the first five months of the season, but that's not the reason the Giants stink. Maybe 10% of it, if that.
This is why I have to crumble the blame into a poisonous little ball and hide it in my subconscious. I approved of the plan this past offseason. I didn't even mind Tejada that much, considering the alternatives (though I regret not whining more about not getting J.J. Hardy). Turns out it was a crappy plan because the crappy hitters have been crappy, crappy, and crappy. Also, poopy. But that's in hindsight.
This is also why I have such loathing for Orlando Cabrera -- there was absolutely no question that he was going to be awful. Called it! See! See! That only goes so far, though. This season needs a better scapegoat, and we aren't going to get one.