In March, optimism is supposed to waft through the air as if it were pollen. Even if you don’t want to inhale it, the optimism dust travels through your nasal cavity, through your sinuses, and into your lungs. After enough optimism, you eventually sneeze out something like, "Hey, you know, if Zito is the Zito of old, and Rowand hits 35 homers, this team could have a shot!" It takes more than a single Kleenex to get that sort of thing clean.
But that wasn’t going around these parts in March. No, no, no sir. There might have been one or two crazy optimists around, but the most you could get out of them would be a vague appeal to "you never know"-isms. The bar for a successful 2008 Giants season had nothing to do with contending. My hopes for the Giants were: a) just one of the semi-prospects establishing themselves, and b) Lincecum and Cain remaining healthy and effective. It was a two-part hope, and neither was particularly unrealistic. Most of y’all probably had a similar set of goals for the team.
Around July, though, it became clear that I was going to get what I wanted. Fred Lewis looked as if he could be a starting corner outfielder for a good team, and Cain and Lincecum were healthy and effective. Heck, Lincecum was blowing away the already optimistic expectations that were set for him. So both of my preseason goals were met! Hooray! Hoo…ray?
Then why, July Grant asked himself as a single tear rolled down his check, did I feel so unfulfilled? Expectations were low, but expectations were met. The Giants were on a righteous path of proper rebuilding. What was my problem? It was hard to single out just one thing. Omar Vizquel was playing every day while the only shortstop prospect in the system rotted on the bench, even though the prospect in question had little business above AA. The Giants went into March with two youngsters who we hoped could establish themselves at the second base position. One was broken, and one failed in his initial trial. If Rich Aurilia wasn’t in the lineup against a left-hander, there was a cavernous hole at both third and first base – which is just a heartbreaking qualifier to type – and there wasn’t anything promising in the upper levels of the system.
I had set the bar too low. If you expect your dog to chew up your wallet, but you also hope that he’ll leave one of your credit cards intact in its stool, don’t expect to do cartwheels when you’re picking out the credit card to rinse off. I was watching a team that lost more than it won, and after a few months of that, it was wearing on me.
So let’s all look back to August 14th, 2008: The Day of Magic. Jose Castillo was gone. Travis Ishikawa was up. It doesn’t sound like much, but after said Day of Magic:
- Emmanuel Burriss hit .366/.458/.437.
- Pablo Sandoval hit .345/.357/.490.
- Travis Ishikawa hit .274/.337/.432 (not great, but stay with me…).
- Eugenio Velez hit .330/.357/.477.
- Nate Schierholtz hit .320/.370/.493.
- Sergio Romo allowed eight baserunners in 17 innings without allowing a run.
- The Giants were 22-19.
Am I cherry-picking my end points by starting with Jose Castillo’s day of reckoning? Yes. Yes, I am. But I’m not trying to say that all of the above players are going to be great short-term options – you can poke holes in almost all of the above numbers if you really want to be a jerk. Not enough walks, not enough power, et cetera, et cetera. The Day of Magic only explains why my mood improved so much toward the end of the season. Young players were playing, and young players were raking. The Giants weren’t great, but they were winning more than they were losing.
This, combined with my original hopes for the season, made me feel like writing a sentence. There was no stopping the sentence, even if it seemed crazy delusional or if it seemed like I was trying to make lemonade out of the sweaty boxer shorts of Chet Lemon. And that sentence is this: The 2008 Giants season was a successful season for a rebuilding team to have.
Comment starter: Do you agree or disagree with the sentence?