Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Plea From A True Fan

As you have probably noticed, I am a die hard San Francisco Giants fan. They are the one franchise in all of sports (sorry Niners) that I feel truly connected to on an emotional level.

Anyone who knows me knows that the one and only time I cried over a sporting event was game six of the 2002 World Series. Five run lead with eight outs to go. Russ Ortiz on cruise control. Thanks Dusty.

Honestly just thinking about it makes me well up from time to time.

Anyway, I'm getting off track.

Fast forward to 2008 and my how far my Giants have fallen. Gone are the days when opposing teams would have to account for the force of nature that was Barry Bonds. He always made them a legit threat, no matter how bad they seemed to be.

Unfortunately the comfort zone that having Barry around created, led to a philosophy of building with older players to win now, instead of keeping an eye on the future and acquiring young talent to step in when the time came.

Sure they've developed an impressive array of pitching prospects lately, but as Matt Cain's 7-16 record with a 3.65 ERA in 2007 showed, you have to be able to score runs.

To hammer home just how bad they are this year, in a recent fantasy baseball article they posed the question, "Does the 'offense' make every Giant unownable?"

While I still think Cain and uber-sensation Tim Lincecum have value, the question is a legitimate one.

Luckily for the Giants they have the perfect opportunity in front of them to get their young guys regular playing time. "Prospects" like Kevin Frandsen, Dan Ortmeier, Fred Lewis and Nate Shierholtz have been held back long enough by the win-now attitude.

Except for the most dilusional of fans, no one expects them to be any good, what better time could their be to find out what they have in terms of young position players?

But instead of that they insist on hanging onto aging vets like Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, all three of whom I like and respect as ball players, but this is not their time and should not be their team.

Consider that as prospects go, none of the guys the Giants have are all that young. Frandsen, who projects as a part-time third and second baseman by manager Bruce Bochy, is 25 years old.

Lewis, who has flashed his impressive set of tools on a number of occasions only to get sent back to the minors, is 27 and out of options. He'll be backing up Roberts in left and Randy Winn in right.

Shierholtz is 24 and because he still has options figures to be the odd man out and be sent back to Triple-A despite being arguably the most talented of the bunch.

Add in speedsters Eugenio Velez (25) and Rajai Davis (27) and you have a group of guys with skills but no place to play with the team set up as it is right now.

Non-roster invitee Brian Bocock (23) looks like he might get some early season playing time, but will be replaced by 40-something Omar Vizquel as soon as the veteran shortstop gets healthy.

Only Ortmeier (26) is assured of regular playing time as the team's starting first baseman heading into the season.

Look around the big leagues right now and you see an overflow of young talent getting the opportunity to play, and that's no fluke.

More and more organizations are realizing that the young guys can contribute to a winner and if nothing else can be served better in many cases by getting their feet wet at the highest level.

What could it possibly hurt for the Giants to go young all over the field and find out once and for all if this group of guys can play in the big leagues and be solid regulars?

If I were running things my opening day lineup would look like this:

C - Bengie Molina
1B - Dan Ortmeier
2B - Kevin Frandsen
SS - Omar Vizquel (if healthy)
3B - Eugenio Velez
LF - Fred Lewis
CF - Aaron Rowand
RF - Randy Winn

Sure, that lineup squeezes out guys like Durham, Aurilia and Roberts, but in order to move forward and build for a future without Barry, I feel it's necessary to start now.

That lineup would at least showcase some speed and playmaking ability with Velez and Lewis both above-average runners and base stealers. Something Bochy and the Giants front office have been promising since it was decided Barry would not be back.

Everyone in baseball knows the Giants are going to be one of the least exciting teams in baseball in 2008. The least they could do is give their fans a reason to be hopeful and play the young guys.

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