Don't count out these Giants
San Francisco has championship pedigree going despite difficult start to 2015 season
If you're inclined to write off the San Francisco Giants two weeks into the regular season, here's some free advice from your friendly columnist:
You should know better.
Sure, there are reasons to worry. The Giants are 4-10 and in last place in the National League West as they begin a three-game homestead against the Dodgers tonight. Yes, it's early, but the Giants didn't spend a single day in last place in the entire 2014 season.
Let's count the ways they got there. First, Matt Cain and Hunter Pence are out indefinitely. Jake Peavy is also on the disabled list. With a 9.39 ERA, no less. Madison Bumgarner could be showing the aftereffects of pitching 270 innings. His ERA is 5.29, and in his last two starts, he has allowed nine earned runs in 10 innings.
Finally, Brandon Belt, Casey McGehee, Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford aren't hitting.
How's that for a worry list?
Only five teams have scored fewer runs than the Giants. Meanwhile, their starting rotation, the thing they've constructed three championship teams around, have a middle-of-the-pack 4.26 ERA.
Manager Bruce Bochy called one team meeting to urge his guys to have some fun. He also told them it was OK to be frustrated.
When nothing changed, he hoped Saturday's World Series ring ceremony might awaken his team. It did, sort of. For one day.
Maybe you're wondering why anyone is surprised by this. After all, the Giants have this weird every-other-year thing going. They haven't made the playoffs in an odd-numbered year since 2003. And in '10, '12 and '14, they won the World Series.
In the three championship seasons, they were 62 games above .500 in the regular season. In 2011 and '13, they were exactly .500.
Just so you know -- and you probably do -- the Giants don't buy this silly stuff. If you'd like to argue otherwise to Bochy, you're on your own.
And he's right. There may be reasons to doubt the Giants this season. Pablo Sandoval's departure left a significant hole in the lineup. Cain and Pence are absolutely critical to whatever the Giants are capable of accomplishing this season.
But there are way more reasons to believe in the Giants, 4-10 record and all. The Dodgers and Padres are very good baseball teams, but the Giants almost certainly will be heard from this season.
One place to begin is the overall organizational strength and confidence. These are huge deals. You will not see the Giants panic. Nor will you see anyone get fired. You will not get any crazy quotes out of the clubhouse.
Bochy will get mad a time or two, and so will his players. General manager Brian Sabean will attempt to upgrade the roster where he can. But the Giants are unshakable in their belief that they're doing things right. They know there are no guarantees, but there won't be upheaval, either.
This core group of players has won. They've performed well under pressure. Like their front office, they understand that the race is beginning. They also believe that they have the talent to win.
Once Pence and Cain return, the Giants will be whole. Posey, Belt, etc., will hit. There's also that bullpen, one of the best in the game.
Here's the other reason to believe in the Giants. When Sabean built this roster, he took care of the basics. That is, he re-signed Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong to fill out the pitching staff and acquired left fielder Nori Aoki and the third baseman McGehee for the lineup.
Sabean knew that more work might be required, and because he held onto his top young prospects, he has the ability to make more moves.
The Giants had five rookies on their postseason roster last season and have already gotten three tremendous starts from rookie right-hander Chris Heston.
In right-hander Kyle Crick, catcher Andrew Susac and shortstop Matt Duffy, Sabean has at least three young players who could either contribute in 2015 or be used to acquire a veteran.
Sabean has been doing this long enough that he's not going to be unrealistic in his expectations. He's not going to deplete his farm system unless he believes there's still a chance to win in 2015.
But that's an assessment for way down the road. The goal now is to get the team that the Giants hoped to have back on the field and see how good it is.
On the first day of Spring Training, the Giants absolutely believed they were good enough to go back to the postseason, odd-number-year jinx and all. If they can get past the injuries, they can still do that.
Until then, it would be a huge mistake to count them out. They're too talented, too resilient and have won far too many games with this group to think otherwise.