On this trip, the Giants tallied a record of four wins and one defeat. Though, since the loss to the As was by an exponent of runs, the G Men may or may not have been outscored.
Regardless. Maybe even irregardless, if we must get our double negatives on. Spring Training is the only time that baseball can be about more than wins and losses.
It is a time to reacquaint yourself with loveable and portly veterans like Deivi Cruz and Edgardo Alfonzo. To look into the eyes of relief pitchers like Matt Herges and Wayne Franklin and see a ricocheting cave of home runs. And most of all, it is a time to check out all the quasi-rookies fighting like desert fauna to somehow make the squad.
Brian Dallimore appeared outstanding, above all else. He doesnt mash the ball. He looks and runs like an out-of-work personal trainer. Male pattern baldness makes him resemble a 43-year-old. But during every at-bat, he was balanced, locked in. He went deep into counts, fouling off the wickedness of Jake Peavy and other imposing hurlers. And he came through in the faux-clutch, floating base hits up the middle, over the shortstop, and past the reach of the first baseman.
He is a smart ballplayer who knows the limit of his ability and plays within it, filling roles, getting the necessary done. If a utility roster-spot opens up, hes the guy, especially since he looked competent in the infield, where he is more versatile than other possibilities like
Lance Niekro. Ignore this kids official lineage. He is most likely the love child of a former major leaguer and a grizzly. He is huge for an infielder, at 63 215, but more than that, he plays baseball like a bear, as if, on ground balls, he were trying to swat salmon from a river with his ungainly glove. Using his lumber-chop swing, he has mashed Cactus League pitching, driving heat out of the ballpark the other way.
But wheres he gonna play? Anybody with less range than Deivi Cruz is a liability. And in the Show, everyone can hit heat. How will he fare against the sinister sliders of the NL West? Niekro is younger, more endowed, and has a higher ceiling than Dallimore, but he wouldnt fit as well into the bench the Giants are in the process of assembling.
Tony Torcato can hit. Man this kid swings the bat. We all know this, of course. Both his minor- and big-league averages surpass .300. He looked great this week, especially in the comeback win against the White Sox, when he spurred the rally with a beautiful opposite-field line drive in the late innings. And he had a superior at-bat against Chris Hammond, recently acquired by the Padres. Hammond threw an absolute filthy change-up that made Torcato look like a reincarnation of Charlie Hayes. But with two strikes, the hurler went with the pitch again, and Torcato mashed it off the right-field wall.
His defense, like Niekro, makes him a liability. During the last game, we were sitting within earshot of the dugout, and when the White Sox loaded the bases in extra innings, Ron Wotus was trying to position the infielders. Everybody came in on the grass. Everybody except Torcato, who was gazing into the Arizona sky and probably thinking, If theres anything fluffier than a cloud, I dont want to know it.
Wotus and the other coaches proceeded to yell at Torcato until he snapped back to earth. Then they mocked him, his defense, and his intelligence so openly, even Felipe chuckled. It is never good when the administration collectively defines you as a meathead. Or maybe it is, maybe it means hes on the club, despite deficiencies. Irregardless
The possibility of total physical and mental collapse became quite real as the week wore on.
We had played too much table tennis at a bar called Patties. We had imbibed too much Bud Light during the day games. And we had definitely over-enjoyed the Scottsdale scene. By the penultimate night, we were wallowing in our own proverbial crapulence, and wed ended up at a bar called Dos Gringos where it was raining heavily. The bar was open-roofed and many leveled, and although wed thought our seats to be sheltered, soon enough our shirts and hair dripped with water. There was nothing left to do but play air hockey against regulars who understood the angles of the strange game better than we could ever imagine.
But somehow, I managed to beat a local, stay on the table, and run through my troupe of friends with Dallimore-esque line drives up the middle.
It was a fitting end to the week, because like the Giants, it was filled with winning. That is, until my sloth-friend Wyrwich went to shake my hand and instead slapped me in the ear, knocking all hearing from my head and sending me into a sensory tilt that meant, at last, it was time to call this trip to an end.
The ride back to San Francisco the next day was an eleven-hour blur of my cousin weaving through traffic, a jaunt broken only by a stop at a Santa Clarita In-and-Out that had been taken over, long before our arrival, by nervous and chirping teenagers.
Which brings us to the upcoming season. We Giants fans are nervous and chirping. The entire trip was clouded by the presence of Bonds, though he was nowhere to be seen. His comments about missing the season became a periphery of rumor and doubt, and dread. One that nearly invaded all we saw.
But listen: Omar Vizquel looked brilliant. Mike Matheny regal. Michael Tucker zany. Kirk Rueter perfect. Deivi Cruz boyish. And Pedro Feliz ready.
And so it seems with the season. Bonds struggles will always be the Giants struggles too. But as fans, we can enjoy the core of accomplished players we are again blessed with, we can look for the winning ways of the past eight years to continue, and we can hope that the 2005 team will produce enough success to draw our attention away from the loathsome periphery, until, when Big Poppa does return, we will marvel at the brevity of his absence, at the talent he is now surrounded with, at the chance we have this year, revealed to those watching this spring, at an honest to god championship.
Because this may be one of the last chances for a while.
Wed like to welcome you all to the fabulous National League West We got something old and something new for you all tonight Put your hands together for Jason Schmidt, Moises Alou, and the fabulous 2005 San Francisco Giants
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Tim Denevi is a raving Giants fan who can't decide if he would rather have Mike Aldrete or Marvin Biz-nard pinch-hitting with the game on the line. E-mail him with your opinion on any issue at email@example.com
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