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A Few Reasons To Feel Good About the Giants

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Really.

Wait. Come back. Let me hug you. I'll even put some clothes on first.

This is not a post about how the Giants can get back in this thing and win this thing, this thing being -- I think -- a division or pennant or whatever. It probably won't happen, but weird comebacks sometimes do. If so, great. But this isn't a post about hope and faith.

Let's assume that the Giants spend the second half of 2013 stuck in whatever movie they're making right now. (The Abyss II? Carousel of Roster Absurdity? Kensuke: Just Happy To Be Here?).

Rob Neyer wrote Wednesday about other teams that have gone from a World Series appearance to last place. One of them was the 1998 San Diego Padres, skippered by Bruce Bochy dontcha know, and their 1999 plummet was both swift and deep -- five more losing seasons followed. Is that where the Giants are headed? Let me present a few arguments against:

1) A good young core of Posey, Crawford, Belt, Cain, and Bumgarner. Posey is Posey -- the past 365 days, he's 2nd in MLB in batting average, 3rd in slugging, and 8th in reaching base, according to High Heat Stats; MadBum is MadBum, and Cain is going to bounce back. (Unless whatever went down Wednesday -- 36 pitches in the first inning, three runs allowed, and the shortest start of his career -- has ominous injury forebodings. Everyone is denying everything. Perhaps we'll learn more in the next few days.)

Crawford has slumped after a hot start, but the trend line is positive; he's 26, getting better at the plate, and one of the best fielding shortstops in the game. Belt will never be a prototypical power first baseman, but at 25, he's not at his power peak either. It's not a core of superstars, and it would be nice if their best hitter didn't need a rest every fourth or fifth day, but it's a core a lot of teams would envy.

2) The Giants have a lot of money. Not Yankee or Dodger money, but they won't be casting off perfectly good young players because they're about to get too expensive, like the Padres did with Matt Latos. The money also means they'll be active in the free agent market; as I noted a couple months ago, that would historically be more horrible to contemplate than Aubrey Huff doing a cameo in Spring Breakers, except the team seems to have taken the lessons of Rowand and Zito to heart. You can grumble about the Pagan/Scutaro/Affeldt contracts of four, three and three years length, respectively, but with the state of the farm system and the relative low cost, those were prudent uses of cash. I don't exactly trust Brian Sabean & Co. to make great free-agent decisions, but I'm willing to see what happens, in part because...

3) They've proven quite adept at finding low-cost or cast-aside talent. This year it's Chad Gaudin (legal weirdness notwithstanding), last year it was Gregor Blanco. In 2011, Ryan Vogelsong; in 2010, Pat Burrell. You can't rebuild a roster entirely from scrap-heap parts, but the Giants find a big contributor every year in unexpected places. Insert your Jeff Francoeur jokes here. Say, don't mind if I do:



Actually, I'm not freaking out over Frenchy, no more than I freaked out over Xavier Nady last year. If Francoeur comes up (and he will) to become the starting left fielder, he's not blocking anyone. Andres Torres can cool his heels for a while. Gary Brown is not on the fast track. Everyone clamoring for a Brown call-up, please: he's been bad most of the year at Triple-A. There's nothing wrong with him spending the rest of the year there instead of scudding around Mays Field like a seagull desperate for that last garlic fry.

4) I'm not saying the Giants should tank the rest of the season, but here are the last four players they drafted with top-10 picks: Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Zack Wheeler, who I hear is going to be a good big-league pitcher some day.

5) Brian Sabean gets it. He's already focused on next year. Either that, or he just sold Tim Kawakami 45 acres on the Ross Ice Shelf. Here's the money quote (literally!):

"What we don't want to do is forsake the future for something that might be looking like a bad-penny year at this point."
Also looking like a Brad Penny year, the way things are going. So he won't forsake the future as a trade-deadline buyer, but will he be a seller? That should be interesting, especially if he thinks the team could use a creative makeover that echoes the "I am not an idiot" Matt Williams trade.

Look at what happened in Boston. After a long run of success, the team quickly bottomed out in 2012, cleaned house -- ripped out half the foundation, practically -- and rebuilt over the winter mainly through free agency. They've gotten little help from the farm system, with two top prospects, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley, getting shunted back to the minors. Now they're back in first place. It's not a perfect parallel. The Giants don't have Boston's cash, and they won't purge the roster or managerial team as fiercely.

I'm not expecting a World Series appearance in 2014, but I'm happy to bet anyone the Giants will be competitive next year.

If Matt Cain is injured, though, never mind.


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