The end of October marked the end to one of the most improbable World Series championship teams in recent memory. I am referring to the 2010 recently dethroned San Francisco Giants. The 2010 Giants made, without a doubt, one of the greatest runs in recent Bay Area sports history. They defied every critic and “expert” by breezing through the playoffs on the backs of dominant young pitching and clutch hitting. We San Franciscans have not experienced such spectacular sports wonder since the likes of the Forty Niners of the ’80s. The battery of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice was replaced with Tim Lincecum to Buster Posey, and at long last, San Francisco sports had returned to greatness, at least to a certain extent.
And then came the 2011 season. Everything that could go wrong, did. This year’s Miguel Tejada was supposed to be last year’s Aubrey Huff. Instead, neither of them was worth the roster spot. Jonathan Sanchez was supposed to progress into the lights-out lefty we saw glimpses of last year. Instead, when he wasn’t hurt, our crown jewel Rookie of the Year, Posey, was supposed to anchor the heart of our lineup. Instead, he received a career-threatening injury before the All-Star break that left a dark cloud over the organization for the rest of the season. All of this is on top of a laundry list of injuries and disappointing performances (looking at you Andres Torres and Cody Ross). But alas, not all hope is lost. Despite a very depressing 2011 campaign, the Giants, with the right moves, could be poised to make a strong run in 2012. Not convinced? Well here’s a handy list of things the Giants could do to increase their chances of a return to postseason glory.
- Obey the requests of Carlos Beltran. Although many Giants fans dished out criticism early and often to the high-priced Beltran, he did produce. The power surge he experienced at the end of the season won the Giants multiple games and might have led them right into the playoffs had the rest of the team gotten its act together sooner. Despite his admitted dislike for hitting at AT&T park, Beltran said he would consider staying in the city by the bay if the Giants made a serious move to acquire a reliable leadoff hitter and catalyst. The Giants struggled with their leadoff platoon last year, and, as one might expect, it affected the rest of the lineup considerably. Regardless of Beltran, this should be a number-one priority for the Giants. The fact that it would help lock down one of the most productive bats in the lineup is just the icing on top.
- Respect your young players. Last year, the Giants received quite a bit of criticism for the way they handled their young players, particularly Brandon Belt. The Giants dragged him out of the minors, only to bench him at the slightest sign of struggle for an abysmal Huff. By the end of the season, Belt looked as if he wasn’t thrilled with the role he was playing, and why would he be? He was brought up to be an everyday starter at first base, and, instead, only got sparse playing time, and mostly in left field. The Giants have a surprising amount of solid young players, Belt included, that need to be handled with care. They key to their future lies in their farm system, and they would be wise to protect these young players and their delicate egos.
- A short leash for the veterans. Hey guys, I don’t know if you heard, but Huff had a really bad season. I don’t want to turn this into a Huff-bashing party, but how many ground ball outs to second base is enough? Same goes for the likes of (insert aging Dominican short stop name here). I don’t mind a veteran or two in the lineup, and I certainly appreciate their presence in the club house, but the key to the Giants’ success, now and in the future, is going to be their young players. The sooner they realize this, the sooner they can get back to competitive form.
- Lock down the pitching.This last one is self-explanatory. For a team that was historically bad on offense, the Giants pitching kept them in the playoff hunt until the final weeks. Although the hitting should be better next season with the return of some injured players, it looks to be another year where the Giants pitching staff will need to hold teams under four runs, for the most part, if they want to win games. Management needs to make sure we can retain all of our pitchers and, more importantly, gain some depth at the starter position.The Giants will face a tough road to glory in 2012 with the arrival of a young and powerful Diamondbacks team and the overall strength of the National League, but with a few of the right moves, look for the G-men to make a strong push for redemption.