Liotta: There’s nothing finer than spring baseball 

I’m never sure if it’s the simple optimism that comes with a new beginning or the first glimpse of baseball uniforms against the background of freshly cut grass.

Whatever it is, the first week of spring training always brings out a euphoria in me, the kind that comes when anything’s possible, the sky’s the limit. In this case? World championship. League championship. Division title.

The fact that temperatures were in the mid-70s when pitchers and catchers reported to Scottsdale this week also helps. Being reminded that that the desert sun brings a refreshing warmth, even in February.

So why don’t I feel that optimism when my thoughts drift to the 2010 Giants? Here’s a team that overachieved a year ago to the tune of 88 victories. It put up a valiant fight in the wild card race until the final weeks of the season.

The Giants even added to the roster a few veterans — Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez — who, even though they may not scare the opponents’ dugout, look like an improvement over what the Giants had going into 2009.

Not to mention Pablo Sandoval having proved himself a bona fide, world-class hitter rather than the Panda full of potential he was a year ago.

Tim Lincecum has a brand-new, two-year deal that puts on the back burner any questions surrounding his future with the Giants.

So why do I have that nagging feeling that this team feels like a .500 club that is going to come up short despite another Cy Young caliber-type season from Lincecum and another year of hard-hit balls off Sandoval’s bat?

I remember I underestimated them a year ago. I remember thinking they were done several times before they finally cashed it in on the wild-card race. They proved me wrong time and time again.

Maybe its me.

Maybe I know too much about this team. Maybe I’ve got to start looking for holes in the L.A. Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies because it doesn’t feel like the Giants gained any ground on either one of those teams during the offseason.

(I think the Dodgers are the team the Giants have to beat to win the division. The Phillies are the team to beat to reach the World Series).
There has to be a Freddy Sanchez shoulder story in their camps. There has to be doubts about Rafael Furcal or Jimmy Rollins like I have about Edgar Renteria.

I see Russ Ortiz is pencilled into the Dodgers’ rotation. It’s a start.

The Phillies? Hmmm, its tough when I’ve got to hope Raul Ibanez being a year older and very unlikely to repeat the season he had a year ago. But I’m working on it.

With so many variables out there between now and a pennant race, let’s just enjoy the warmth of the desert sun and watch the baseball uniforms against the green grass. For now.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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