Here are different things you might overhear in Scottsdale on Wednesday, February 17.
"Matt, how was your offseason, buddy?"
"Well, it was okay, but I can't say I have anything to report. Ha ha."
"I don't get it."
"Good seeing you, Andrew."
Here is something you won't see: baseball games. It's the future, so you might seem some Periscopes or Snapchats or Quinks or Jabsteps of some pitchers warming up, and that will be great. But it's funny how forward a lot of us look to pitchers and catchers reporting, considering nothing really happens.
You're excited, though, right? I'm excited. Today's morning question is a simple one. Please fill in the blank.
This is the most optimistic I've felt about the Giants entering a season since _____.
You can fill in the blank with "last year, I guess, because I'm just not optimistic about them this year." You can fill in the blank with "2010, because I thought Mark DeRosa was the missing piece, and I was right." There are no right answers. At least, not right now. In eight months, there will be exactly one right answer, and all of your words will seem silly. But I'll start.
This is the most optimistic I've felt about the Giants entering a season since 2000. That winter, I would drive up to 3rd and King with friends when we had nothing better to do. We would just drive around the park. Get out and get as close as we could. What was it going to be like? Couldn't imagine. But I couldn't look away. Maybe that spirit of wonder and awe was infectious, and that was the real reason for the optimism.
But, no, it was based in logic and reason, too. Barry Bonds was on the team. Jeff Kent kept getting better. Ellis Burks rounded out the middle of the order nicely, and they were going to get offensive contributions from shortstop and maybe even catcher. The rotation was young and promising, or maybe just competent enough in all the right ways. The bench was perfectly constructed. They were going to finish with the best record in baseball.
Then Kevin Elster stuck his wet finger in our ear. How would the Giants adapt to a hitter's paradise like Pacific Bell Park? The early returns weren't good. They were a game under .500 by the middle of June, and it took a mini-surge to get that far. I questioned everything I thought I knew about baseball, but I still had faith. And then the Giants finished with the best record in baseball.
The Giants probably won't finish with the best record in baseball this season. They probably won't finish with the best record in the National League, and there's a strong chance they won't even finish with the best record in the National League West. But I have the same feeling about the team before the season starts. Start ranking the players you're worried about, from most worried to least worried. Matt Cain might be at the top. He's followed by Angel Pagan. Maybe Jake Peavy comes after that.
But then you really have to start digging deep. Are you worried about Johnny Cueto? Sure, that was a rough finish to his season, but he was excellent for years before that, and the statistical projections suggest he helps the Giants substantially. Are you worried about Jeff Samardzija? He wasn't good last year, but the White Sox foisted a new pitch and a bunk defense on him, so there's reason for optimism there, too.
Down the roster, one by one, you can make cases why different players might not do as well as expected, but you're playing devil's advocate each time. This is a deep roster. We have seen deep rosters get sucked into baseball's garbage disposal over and over again, so don't mistake this for arrogance. Just the kind of cautious optimism that baseball allows you to have and absolutely nothing more than that.
I'm more optimistic about this roster than I've been since any preseason roster since 2000. However, I was more excited at the start of 2011 than I was at the start of 2010. My internal projection for the 2014 season was, "probably won't be awful." Preseason feelings don't mean a whole lot.
We can talk about our feelings, though. Come, talk about your feelings.
This is the most optimistic you've felt about the Giants entering a season since ...