Giants gear up hoping to make another playoff run
Aubrey Huff walked away from AT&T Park after a thrilling
victory parade last fall on a championship high. He was a World
Series winner in his first postseason after an 11-year wait to
finally get there.
The first baseman made it clear entering the winter that he
wanted to come back to the Giants – and his wish was for the San
Francisco brass to bring back as many of his teammates as possible
for the chance at another playoff run in 2011.
A self-described bunch of castoffs and misfits somehow pulled
off the improbable and won a long-awaited title for the Giants, the
franchise’s first since moving West in 1958 and first overall since
the New York Giants won in ’54.
Now, just as Huff had hoped, this club looks nearly identical to
how it ended that remarkable run in five games over the AL champion
Texas Rangers. The main new addition: durable shortstop Miguel
Tejada replacing World Series MVP Edgar Renteria. Utility infielder
Juan Uribe departed to the rival Dodgers.
”I was hoping in the offseason they’d bring as many people back
as they could,” Huff said. ”For me, you win it all, let’s try to
defend it. Why go out there and change a whole lot? I can
understand making a couple moves maybe. Let’s keep it intact and
see what happens.”
Repeating is far from easy.
The Giants captured their first NL West crown since 2003 on the
season’s final day after missing chances to clinch in the two
previous games against the San Diego Padres.
Then, they not only eliminated the Atlanta Braves and retiring
manager Bobby Cox but stunned the favored Philadelphia Phillies in
six games to reach the organization’s first World Series since
This group was able to do something the other great Giants teams
hadn’t in the Bay Area – not Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie
McCovey, Juan Marichal and Orlando Cepeda, or home run king Barry
”It’s awesome. I’m thrilled almost everyone came back,” right
fielder Cody Ross said. ”Why not (do it again)?”
The Giants had the pitching with ace Tim Lincecum leading the
way after his career-worst, five-start skid in August, and enough
timely hitting and defense to get by a rotation as dominant as
Philadelphia’s featuring Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole
”We know what’s at stake. We did put a stake in the ground here
and we want to defend this championship. To say last year was a
fluke, that’s the last thing these players want,” manager Bruce
Bochy said. ”They’re a very talented ballclub. We need to improve
in some areas on the field. …
”We probably do have a target on our back but that’s a good
thing,” he added. ”Let’s go out and defend this
The Giants are counting on a comeback season from slimmed-down
slugger Pablo Sandoval, who is determined to rebound from a tough
year. After the season, Bochy and GM Brian Sabean made it clear the
Kung Fu Panda would have to shape up to keep his job at third base.
He did just that.
Several key contributors Sabean acquired along the way last
season will be around for the entire year this time, not to mention
that the Giants get a full season from reigning Rookie of the Year
catcher Buster Posey after he was called up in late May and went on
to hit 18 home runs.
Pat Burrell joined San Francisco in early June after signing a
minor league deal following his release by Tampa Bay. He re-signed
this year for a bargain $1 million to get another chance in this
Then, there’s Ross, the unlikely postseason hero claimed off
waivers from Florida on Aug. 22.
”It’s going to be nice to have them all for a full year,”
Ross is back on a $6.3 million, one-year contract ready to
resume where he left off as NL championship series MVP. He drove in
10 runs during the playoffs, two in the World Series.
Relievers Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez also came aboard
”Obviously we’re not going to be as much underdogs as we were
last year. Going into the last series I think people thought San
Diego still might be able to pull it out,” Ross said. ”Obviously
in the division series the Braves were favored and then the
Phillies, then the Rangers. We were the underdog pretty much the
whole time. I doubt if that’s going to be the case this year but we
can still have that chip on our shoulder that people are trying to
take a run at us and we have to defend. We’re all on board with
Sandoval and pitcher Barry Zito probably have the most to
Sandoval showed up at spring training down about 30 pounds to a
fit 240 after a rigorous offseason workout regimen. The
free-swinging slugger batted .268 with just 13 home runs and 63
RBIs in his second full season in the big leagues only a year after
he was among the last players left off the All-Star team.
Sandoval committed 13 errors and grounded into an NL-high 26
double plays. He played in only six of the Giants’ postseason
games, including one appearance in the five-game World Series win
Zito didn’t play at all. The left-hander was left off the roster
for all three postseason rounds, and now the 2002 AL Cy Young Award
winner is eager for a fresh start in year 5 of his $126 million,
Zito finished 9-14 and failed to reach 10 wins for the first
time since his rookie season in 2000. His 4.15 ERA was the
fourth-highest of his career. He went 1-8 with a 6.72 ERA over his
last 11 outings and 10 starts and only had one victory in his last
15 appearances. The stretch included a career-worst nine-game
losing streak from July 21 to Sept. 14.
The way No. 3 starter Matt Cain sees it, last season is now
history – the ups and the downs. This one will be scrutinized: A
camera crew will be following the club closely for a television
series about the reigning champs.
”I think we’ve got to in a way carry some of the stuff we did
last year with us but I think we’ve also got to wipe the slate
clean,” Cain said. ”A lot of teams are different and we’ll
definitely be a different team this year with a lot of the same
guys and we’ll have to start over as well.”
Even Huff has a fresh approach after receiving a new $22
million, two-year contract this winter. He announced early in
spring training he was retiring the red rally thong that he
believes helped him in 2010. He hit .290 with a team-leading 26
home runs and 86 RBIs while playing in 157 games, then batted .268
with one homer and eight RBIs in the postseason.
”Just play baseball this year and try to keep the antics at
home,” Huff said, noting the notorious undergarment is back at his
house in Florida.
Bochy, for one, will appreciate that focus while also
acknowledging it’s the variety of personalities on his club that
makes things click so well.
”I think when you get a taste of it the way they did you’re
going to have it even more,” Bochy said. ”You realize how much
fun it was and how much the fans appreciated what happened. That
makes you even want to do it again more.”