In arguably the greatest baseball movie of all-time, Bull Durham, Kevin Costner explained an important lesson to Tim Robbins: In the game of baseball, clichés are king. During spring training, manager Bruce Bochey has likely uttered an all-time favorite cliché to his team, “pitching and defense wins championships.” If the Giants have any chance of challenging the Dodgers this year, they shouldn’t be counting on their bats to carry them. Instead, it will come down to their ability to keep scores low, lower and lowest.
Fortunately, Giants fans should be pleased to know they have an absolute horse in Tim Lincecum to lead their staff. Lincecum could easily pass for a 19 year old and probably still catches grief when he attempts to buy a can of tobacco at the corner store. Yet, as he proved last season, Lincecum possesses a filthy array of pitches that routinely make a fool out of the best hitters in baseball. Sure, his small frame and unorthodox motion call into question his long term durability, but for now, fans can only enjoy the ride.Not only do the Giants feature a Cy Young winner as their ace, they will also trot out the likes of Matt Cain and Randy “the big unit” Johnson to the mound every five days. Cain is still relatively young and was the victim of terrible run support last season. He’s a power pitcher and even a power hitter.
Johnson comes to San Francisco with an intimidating glare and an even more intimidating haircut. That is of course, if he reverts back to his Seattle Mariner Mullet days. Johnson will also bring a competitive attitude to the clubhouse along with a menacing left-handed fastball.
Speaking of competitive attitudes, perhaps the addition of Big Unit Johnson will light a fire under the $128,000,000 man, Barry Zito. It was no secret that Zito was a bust by the Bay in ’08, but let’s hope that his recent rendezvous with Paris Hilton has centered his chi enough to be effective again. It has been said that the emergence of Lincecum as the Giants’ poster boy will take some of the pressure off Zito; I’m not exactly buying that theory, but I do expect to see a marked improvement in 2009.
As noted earlier, the Giants’ offense is nothing to write home about. Fortunately, they have dipped into their farm system and have some productive players ready for the upcoming season. The talk of the spring has been of young Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval terrorized pitchers all over the minors last year, and he’s ready for an encore performance on the big stage.
At shortstop, the Giants have brought in veteran Edgar Rentaria. He will team up with Emmanuel Burris to make up a very dependable double play combo. The cleanup hitter will again be Bengie Molina- certainly no Barry Bonds, but Bengie always seems to get the job done.
One big question mark in the Giants offensive lineup will be Fred Lewis out in left field. He has the athletic ability and the makeup of a future all-star; Giants’ GM Brian Sabean hopes he comes into his own sooner than later.
I for one am a believer that pitching and defense really does win championships. For that reason alone, I look for the Giants to make a solid run at the Wild Card spot in the NL West. Fending off division rivals Arizona and LA will be no easy task, but the Giants’ pitching will give them a good chance to win every time they take the field.