LOS GATOS, CA (Not Scottsdale, AZ, where Keith should be) - The off-season: now that's more like it! There's nothing like the signing of $126 million left-handed starting pitcher who's currently doinking Haylie Duff to rile me out of my journalistic slumber.
I'm back and blindly if not hopelessly optimistic. I feel like one of those drunk guys who hoop and holler at passing cars on "Taxicab Confessions."
I love the effort General Manager Brian Sabean to revitalize the image of the franchise and I've bought into the team's PR machine hook, line and sinker. As a 34-year-old male who's watched this team since I've breathed out of my nose, I've reserved the right. But, as any Giants fan with a memory, I have plenty of reservations. No one who has watched Giants baseball can go into the 2007 season without a tinge of nervous nausea and anticipation of heartbreak.
Regardless and to wit, here are the keys of a successful Giants season (which doesn't include my good luck ritual of standing behind my coffee table or couch during the late innings):
One: Armando Benitez is gone. Traded. Released. Whatever, but don't talk to me about "Who else would be your closer?" crap because the guy is a mookie stick -- as in poo, ca-ca and doody. Anybody and I mean right down to resuscitating Gary Lavelle, Greg Minton, Scott Garrelts, or Jeff Brantley, is better than this clown show. I -- meaning, literally me -- will close out the ninth with more strikes and receive less boos than Benitez. At least I'd be more convincing with my delivery than when Tom Cruise played catch with his son in "War of the Worlds." Other than me, take a page out of the Red Sox's playbook by turning young phenom Tim Lincecum into a 2007 version of Jonathan Papelbon. Have him close this year, start him next. Done. Let Benitez infect another franchise with his balky legs and even worse work ethic. If all else fails, consider bringing in Isabella Soprano of HBO's "Cathouse" to close out the ninth inning and completely screw up the opposition. Or lose the "up" and she'd really get the hitters off kilter.
Two: Everyone whose name surrounds "Bonds" on the line-up card kills. I didn't say "Produces." I said "Kills."
Three: The middle relief carries a solid load. Zito can breeze through seven innings without breaking a sweat, but he can also get bombed for 10 runs in two-plus innings. If disaster strikes, new manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti will grab the bullpen phone with more urgency than a 12-year-old girl does to vote on "American Idol." (By the way, LaKisha wins going away. I mean, come on!!! She's incredible.) This question-mark riddled group of relievers must and positively bring resiliency and focus to the mound. Granted, those attributes should be givens but it's amazing how many relief pitchers take the ball with no philosophy in mind (SEE: Armando Benitez).
Four: Pedro Feliz doesn't swing at pitches that looks like my three year-old's first unwitting attempt at throwing a slider. The pitchers that Feliz is facing are paid millions to throw strikes. Swing at the strikes. When a conventioneer goes to Vegas, does he immediately give in to the hooker with visible stretch marks, smoker-stained teeth and fat rolls? The seasoned ones don't, or so I hear. That outside slider he bites on every time is the Major League equivalent to the D-List Vegas escort. Since breaking into the Bigs in 2000, isn't it time that Feliz looks like a Major League hitter, and for goddsakes, stop trying to pull every single pitch into 6-4-3's!? And what's with my second mentioning of the world's oldest profession? My wife's going to be thrilled with this column.
Five: Hit the weights, run the track, and eat your vitamins. This team is still old and can break down at any given second. It's clear that they need to remain healthy and, if they do, the cream will rise to the top of the division. Stay healthy by any means necessary and when George Mitchell's not looking.
Are my five keys too much to ask? Probably. When you read them from your couch, though, they're so easy to imagine! You can envision it and absorb it all into your version of reality.
The month of March and the first game of Spring Training will do that to you. I guess that's why they play real games in April through October.
Keith Larson writes for SFDugout.com because he's lived and died with the Giants since 1972. He welcomes all words of praise and insult at email@example.com, but mentioning anything having to do with Game 6 is to be done with extreme caution.
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