The Giants probably aren't going to win the World Series this year.
You've heard this before. It's true, though. Even if the Giants are one of the 10 best teams in baseball, the odds are against them. If they're one of the four teams left after the Division Series, the odds are against them. Now ask yourself if you truly believe that the Giants are one of the 10 best teams in baseball. It's gonna be tough, and it's probably not going to end up the same way as last year. Or two years before that. Or four years before that.
This is a problem because we're spoiled, see. How can you find happiness in any season that doesn't end with a parade? Once you've taken a selfie atop that mountain, what's the point in walking up a hill around the corner? This is the downside to everything going right: You know that it won't go right forever, and it makes you nervous and sad.
I'll tell you how this works, then, how you can approach any Opening Day with hope and optimism, regardless of what the Giants did the season before, regardless of what they're projected to do. It's a self-help technique I've pioneered, and I call it Micro to Macro. This first session is free. Subsequent sessions will cost you $89. It will be worth it.
What is Micro to Macro? Well, I'm GLAD YOU ASKED. It's a way to enjoy any baseball season, even the bad ones. You say 2011 stunk because of Buster Posey's injury; I say there was magic in that season because Ryan Vogelsong returned from the moon to murder Dodgers. You say 2009 stunk because the Giants couldn't hit a danged thing and it felt like they were never going to win again; I say there was magic in that season because of Jonathan Sanchez's no-hitter. Even in the seasons that end early, there's something that will make you remember why you love baseball.
Those are extreme examples, too. It might be a win on a sunny Saturday afternoon that you had tickets for. It might be a walkoff homer from Hector Sanchez, a bases-clearing triple from Justin Maxwell, or Madison Bumgarner hitting a booming home run halfway up the bleachers that sticks with you. Is this the year that Bumgarner hits a pinch-hit homer? Probably. Look for the little things, the micro-moments of a long, long baseball season, and you'll never be disappointed. Pablo Sandoval came up and thrilled everyone in 2008. Randy Winn solved baseball in 2005. The Giants were going to lose this game in 2006, and then Lance Niekro got into one. Maybe that was going to be the Giants' year ...
Look for the little things, and baseball will make you happy. Sporadically happy. But happy. Once you realize that, you can get incrementally greedier and greedier. Here are 38 FanGraphs authors predicting division winners. Here are 40 Baseball Prospectus authors predicting division winners. ESPN got votes from 88 different writers. Fox had 12 writers predict things. Of those 160+ writers, do you know how many predicted the Giants would win the National League West?
Not a single one. Sam Miller had them winning the wild card. Maybe a couple others did. The rest of them are dead to me. DEAD. Of course, I picked the Giants to finish third, but still. It's the "I can make fun of my sister, but don't you dare" mentality.
So, no, the Giants probably aren't going to win the World Series this year, but you know what's not completely impossible? The Giants winning the NL West. It could happen, it really could. Maybe injuries help. Maybe surprise performances make the difference. Maybe there's a rookie who shouldn't even make the team at all this year but will finish with top-20 MVP votes. Or maybe a substantial number of Giants players will play as well as they possibly can.
Maybe Tim Lincecum comes back.
Maybe John Bowker hits 26 homers.
Maybe Joe Panik hits .350.
Maybe Brandon Belt wins the MVP.
It doesn't matter what the exact screenplay includes -- the Giants could still win the division, and it doesn't have to happen with some of the more unlikely scenarios up there. Maybe Hunter Pence, Buster Posey, Belt, Angel Pagan, Brandon Crawford, and Norichika Aoki all play really well, and the pitching is solid enough to win games. That's how the Giants can win the West.
If they get that far, maybe they can knock the Cardinals out of the playoffs again. Maybe they can have at least one thrilling postseason series win. The season will end in disappointment, most likely, but maybe they'll have that one moment.
And maybe they'll troll the damned world and win the World Series again. They won a World Series last year, and Joaquin Arias was the Opening Day second baseman.
Start with the micro, though, the idea that no matter what happens, there will be games that make you giddy, individual accomplishments that impress you, and defensive plays that you'll watch over and over again. You've already won! Baseball is so great.
Then move to the idea that the Giants could still win the division. Or, heck, maybe they can just ruin the Dodgers' season somehow. There are so many options.
Then, allow yourself to dream stupid dreams. You'd feel stupid about these stupid dreams, but the stupid dreams have actually happened before, stupid.
When you're done with that, go back to appreciating the little things about baseball. This is how you root for a team that's had everything and threatens to not have that same everything again. Madison Bumgarner is starting on Opening Day. Root for him to be ornery and nasty. Root for a Giants dinger that goes 500 feet. Then move to the next day. Forget the big picture until it's time for you to fantasize about all the cool things that can happen in it.
How do you enjoy a season that's probably going to be something of a letdown compared to last year? By enjoying baseball. There's going to be so much baseball this year. It's kind of the best.
Happy baseball, everyone.