This is an interesting balancing act, these 2010 Giants. And the longer the act lasts, the more important 2010 becomes in the franchise’s development.
While managing to stay afloat in the murky waters of the National League West, the calls for reinforcements have been dialing two completely different area codes — that of the battle-tested veteran in Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez and Edgar Renteria, along with that of the talented rookie, such as Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner.
The Giants can now legitimately say they’re playing in the window of opportunity labeled “now,” and they can also tell you the future is “now,” too. That’s because Brian Sabean has hidden a youth movement beneath a corps of veterans.
When the 20-year-old Bumgarner made his first start of the season last weekend, the Giants had 10 players at Bruce Bochy’s fingertips who could be in a Giants uniform 5-7 years from now.
Bumgarner joined Buster Posey (23), Pablo Sandoval (23), Matt Cain (25), Dan Runzler (25), Travis Ishikawa (26), Tim Lincecum (26), Nate Schierholtz (26), Sergio Romo (27) and Jonathan Sanchez (27) on the Giants roster, giving them 10 players aged 27 or younger.
A starting rotation consisting of a 20-year-old and three guys 25, 26 and 27 (Cain, Lincecum and Sanchez) is almost unheard of at the major league level. Meanwhile, in the field, Sandoval plays every day, with Posey now getting regular time with the trade of Bengie Molina.
It feels as if Bumgarner, Sandoval and Posey have presented the Giants with their next era of young players, making Lincecum and Cain feel like they’ve been in Giants uniforms forever. And they’re young, too.
Sabean has surrounded his stable of critical youth with a group of middle-of-the-road veterans who don’t jump out on any fantasy league page. Out of the group led by Juan Uribe (31), Jeremy Affeldt (31), Aaron Rowand (32), Freddy Sanchez (32), Barry Zito (32), Andres Torres (32), Burrell (33), Aubrey Huff (33), Renteria (34), Guillermo Mota (36), only Zito can claim any national prominence.
And the blending of these groups makes this year even more important in the evolution of Giants baseball. If the old guys can hold together long enough — and there’s no guarantee they can — and they can come through often enough, and the young guys can continue to find their legs at the major league level, a postseason run into October could have a carry-over effect that could last years.
Getting Sandoval and Posey at-bats in a pennant race, while enabling Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner to make start after start in crucial situations, can only harden them up even faster for the future.
And that can only help the Giants of 2014, 2015 and even 2016.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at email@example.com.