The Giants are going to be in the World Series. And then, just as in 2002, they’ll lose to the Los Angeles Angels.
That’s the prediction from Sports Illustrated, which is rarely correct in such a thing, but why be concerned about accuracy, unless it’s with Tim Lincecum’s fastball.
Albert Pujols, the new Angel, is on the front of SI’s baseball issue, perhaps destined to fall victim to the magazine’s historic cover jinx, although with his salary, he could probably buy his way out.
The Angels in the Series makes sense, if anything in baseball ever makes sense, what with Pujols at $240 million and pitcher C.J. Wilson for $77.5 million, joining a team already of high pay and high skills. The Giants? Hmmm.
“The big key, obviously,” an anonymous scout tells Sports Illustrated, “is Buster Posey.” No kidding.
We didn’t need a scout to make that observation. Has there been any other issue this spring? Well, there is Freddy Sanchez’s slow-healing surgically repaired right shoulder and signing Matt Cain to a long-term contract.
When Buster’s ankle was shattered in that home-plate collision in May at AT&T Park, the Giants were shattered.
Especially with Aubrey Huff having a bad year (normal year?), Sanchez then departing and virtually no one except Pablo Sandoval unable to do much except hit into double plays or strike out.
As Sports Illustrated points out, and this is very correct, the Giants in 2011 ranked last in the National League in runs scored, 3.5 per game, and that figure shrunk to 2.7 a game Aug. 11-18 when San Francisco disappeared from what had been a pennant race with Arizona.
“The big concern,” according to the scout advising SI, “is the top of their order. They need a table setter. ... Melky Cabrera has been on fire in spring training ... but I’m not sure he’s the impact bat the Giants need. ... They need a comeback year from Aubrey Huff. He played uninspired last year, and he hasn’t looked much better in camp.”
Not exactly revelations from the inner sanctum. They know what they don’t have, hitting. They know what they do, pitching, pitching, pitching.
It’s Lincecum, Cain — if these were the 1948 Braves we would rhythmically say, “and pray for rain” — then Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and, fate and fastball perhaps coming together, Barry Zito. Not bad.
If and when the Giants have a lead in the eighth and ninth, enter Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson. If and when. Any reason to bring in a closer when you’re down 2-1?
So, there is considerable pessimism when the scout sizes up the Giants, and yet there is the belief they will win the pennant, a baffling sort of overview, maybe based on what transpired in 2010 when San Francisco was shut out numerous times and not only reached the World Series, but won it.
Presumably we know what the pitchers, Posey and Panda will do. We don’t know about Brandon Crawford at short or with his quite worrisome spring (.179 average) what center fielder Angel Pagan might do as leadoff.
So many questions, except Sports Illustrated is giving us one answer: Giants win the pennant. Hard to figure, but easy to accept.
Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.