It saddens me to say that one of the three reasons you should watch the San Francisco Giants – I mean, even if you’re not at all a fan of the team — is not related to Tim Lincecum.
Two years ago, it might have been. Then, Lincecum was coming off a season in which he went 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA, easily the worst of his glorious career. But Lincecum’s now endured three straight subpar seasons, making just one postseason start in 2012, and none at all in 2014. And yet somehow the Giants still managed to win the World Series in both years. Which just goes to show (again) how little difference one player, however well-paid, can make.
This season, Lincecum is once again slated for the Giants’ starting rotation. But we’re beyond the point of expecting some sort of comeback. And if Lincecum’s not pitching well, you probably won’t want to watch him.
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Fortunately, there are good reasons to watch the Giants in 2015…
1. Can they do it again?
No, not win the World Series again. That’s too tall an order. But can they even reach the playoffs again? There’s been talk about a dynasty (or as the British would say, a "dynasty"). But this requires an entirely new definition of that word, since the Giants followed up their championships in both 2010 and ’12 with non-playoff seasons. To be considered a real dynasty, you gotta play great baseball at least two years in a row, right? At this point, the Giants might lay claim to being a great organization, with tremendous stability in the front office and in the dugout. But they’ve not yet been a great team for more than a whole year.
Which might even seem irrelevant these days. With so much player turnover, even if the Giants had been in the playoffs in each of the past five years, how many of the players would have been there for all of it?
Actually, more than I would have guessed. Only two hitters: Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval. But three-fifths of the starting rotation – Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and of course Lincecum – remained intact, and key relievers Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez were still around, too. So I think the Giants would have easily qualified as a true dynasty. You know. If they’d actually won something in 2011 and ‘13. If they win this year, though, we can talk again.
2. Buster Posey and Hunter Pence
Sure, you might think Madison’s Bumgarner’s the Most Interesting Man in the Universe. Maybe! But it’ll take more than one tremendous October to convince me. Especially considering that Bumgarner’s just sitting on his keester, four games out of five. When he works out of the bullpen on his throw day? Then we can talk. For now, I’m sticking with Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Posey, because he’s one of the two or three best players in the National League; and Pence, because he’s a creature sent from another planet to learn more about the strange ways in which earthlings entertain ourselves.
This is obvious, right? But Pence’s alien intellect is so highly developed, he deflects suspicion by admitting – supposedly as a sort of joke – that he’s different from the rest of us:
So you’ll want to watch Pence before he gets beamed back up to the mother ship. And you’ll want to watch Posey before he stops being the cutest, aw-shucksiest player in the majors.
3. They’re the Giants.
Okay, so that’s not exactly new news. Nor is this a new argument, as I said essentially the same thing about the Dodgers. But the Giants, at least when they’re playing well, are just a delightful team to follow. They’ve got two great broadcasters in the radio booth, and two great ones in the television booth. They play in a lovely ballpark, and sport beautiful uniforms. Even though I feel no sentimental or even intellectual attachment to the Giants, I probably watch them more than any other team. Purely because of the aural and visual esthetics.
San Francisco Giants
2014 record: 88-74
Playoffs: Won World Series (4-3) over Kansas City Royals
2015 projected record: 82-80
Key additions: 3B Casey McGehee, OF Nori Aoki
Key subtractions: 3B Pablo Sandoval, 1B/OF Michael Morse, IF Marco Scutaro