I don’t think I’m alone when I say that the past month of my life has consisted of checking off calendar boxes before bed every night, counting down the days until March 29, 2018.
Opening Day has been why I’ve dragged myself out of bed every morning since I returned to campus after spring break. School and work and all other real life responsibilities have been piling up and I’m so ready to fall into the Baseball Season Routine and have something to look forward to nearly every day again. Hockey season was a huge let down for me, (stupid Islanders,) but the Giants actually improved this offseason, so things are looking up right? Right?!
Jeff Samardzija. Strained Pectoral.
Line drive comebacker. Off the hand. Fractured Pinkie. Surgery. No Madison Bumgarner ’til June. June.
Before I go into my whole ‘We need to stay positive!’ speech, I’m going to be honest. The second we got the news that Bumgarner would be out for a while (too long), I was ready to wave the white flag. How can they go through another year Bumgarner-less for multiple months? On top of not having Samardzija to start?
But after the initial shock and anger faded, and I came to terms with the resulting depression, I realized that while this really does suck, they aren’t dead yet. How can they be? The season hasn’t even started. I know a lot of people are going to write this off to my typical annoying optimism, but I think we have a few good reasons to stay positive. And I will present those to reasons to you in the form a fun little list.
1. Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria
These are the guys. The two huge deals of the off-season. I keep reading people saying that we can’t put all our faith into these two players. They aren’t going to totally restore our roster like everyone seems to think. To that I say: No duh. Of course they’re not going to make all of our problems magically disappear. And with all the hits our pitching staff has taken, (I’m writing this like an hour after the Fernandez and Melancon news broke,) offense seems to be the least of our problems. But what we can’t do is totally ignore the fact that these guys are still a tremendous improvement from last season when offense was a huge part of the issue. These guys take the pressure off Posey, Belt, and Crawford to generate most of the offense. Longoria adds yet another gold glove to the infield, and on top of his bat, McCutchen is a huge upgrade in outfield defense. They’re not the fix-all, but the improvement is still incredible, and not something that should be so easily forgotten.
2. Chris Stratton
I’ve been excited about watching this guy pitch since he made a few starts last season, and he certainly has lived up to expectations this spring. Looking at his numbers from Spring Training certainly does not tell the whole story. For anyone who’s been paying attention (that I’ve spoken to), we all seem to be in agreement that he can be a real competitor on the major league roster this season. His curveball and slider have been extremely effective mixed in with his fastball, and he’s projected nothing less than the confidence of a big leaguer. Even before Bumgarner and Samardzija went down, Stratton was a serious part of the conversation for the rotation. The pressure is on, but I’m quite confident in his ability to impress and be consistent heading into the season.
(Disclaimer: I say all of this without knowing — and possibly in spite of — what happens in tonight’s game. No matter what, he is a positive to look forward to and I won’t change my mind.)
3. Potential in the Bullpen
From the time I’ve started writing this, the Giants lost two of their possible relievers to injury. While Melancon’s injury is very unclear and hopefully won’t be too serious, Fernandez’s UCL sprain seems to be a lot more worrying. However, I will not be deterred from my original optimism. Josh Osich alone has performed well enough to make me feel better about our relief pitching from last year. He’s been almost entirely lights out this spring. Rather than falling behind in the count against nearly every batter, he’s demonstrated exceptional command and has actually been throwing strikes.
Hunter Strickland is also someone that got caught in the downfall of last season, making some of us forget how good he actually can be. With a new slider added to his arsenal, he’s already set himself up for improvement. Tony Watson may not have had the best spring, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way he’s not going to get back on track. DJ Snelten had been making a pretty compelling case to at least be considered as an addition to the bullpen up until his ugly inning last night. But one bad inning doesn’t mean he doesn’t have potential. Pierce Johnson, Andrew Suarez, and Roberto Gomez are all guys who performed well during spring training and give us options in relief pitching. Derek Law. Tyler Beede. They haven’t overly impressed, but we know they have the stuff. I refuse to give up hope in any of them.
4. Steven Duggar and Mac Williamson
I know Mac Williamson isn’t going to be on the Opening Day roster, but with the Spring he’s had, we can’t forget about him. He changed his swing in the off-season, and man has it shown. Even with the small sample size, his offense was something to talk about, hitting .318 with four homeruns. With the sudden help needed for the pitching staff, there wasn’t going to be room on the roster for him come Opening Day, but I have a feeling his time in Sacramento isn’t going to be too lengthy. Steven Duggar is another guy everyone has been waiting to see and he certainly didn’t disappoint. His defense in centerfield is far improved from what we saw in Span the past couple of years, which is a breath of fresh air for everyone. His offense hasn’t been as great as Mac’s but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. He’s had a few big hits this spring, and I am so excited to see what he does this year, whenever it might be that he gets his shot.
5. Derek Holland (Kermit the Frog?)
If you really need something to pump you up for this season, go take a look at Derek Holland’s Twitter. Seeing him call out some negative and overtly rude fans the other day was enough to make the Bumgarner news not sting so bad. Holland didn’t have a great season last year with the White Sox, and I wasn’t really expecting him to make a splash with the Giants this spring, but he surprised me (and a few others too, I believe). Pitching aside, what makes me most excited about Holland is his attitude. He seems damn motivated to have a comeback year this season, both as an individual and for the team as a whole. I understand that his pitching is what’s going to make the real difference, but we have to keep in mind how far a good mindset can go. If Holland is looking to prove people wrong, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with. He’s ready to prove himself and help do his part in keeping this team afloat while we wait for our big guys to get healthy.
Not to mention it’s really hilarious to watch people kiss up to him after he calls them out on their crap.
6. Last, and most important, IT’S NOT 2017 ANYMORE!
I know it looks bad right now, guys. I get it. After last year, everyone is desperate to erase that horror from their memory. The players are too. We’ve heard them say it. No one wants a repeat of the struggles 2017 brought the Giants. We saw the initiative taken by the front office in the off-season and we were — or at least I was — feeling good up until last Friday. We can’t control injuries. They happen, unfortunately. But they don’t totally undo all of the improvements that were made. They don’t undo the motivation of the players who really don’t want to lose anymore. For things to be as bad as they were last season, everything has to totally fall apart, and I just don’t see that happening again, (don’t worry, I’m knocking on wood as I write this.)
Aside from everything I mentioned before, let’s look at it this way: Belt is back, healthy, and he looks like he’s ready to take another shot at the career season he missed out on last year. Crawford has had the offseason with his family to recollect himself from that miserable year, both on the field and personally. Both of them are expecting new additions to their family (Congrats, guys!), which is always uplifting, and it usually shows on the field. Joe Panik looks stellar, to the shock of no one. Hunter Pence has heated up after a slow start. Buster Posey is Buster freakin’ Posey, and Johnny Cueto looks to be on track to return to his old self. Not to mention Ty Blach has given us no reason not to believe in him, and it’s always fun to watch him go up against Kershaw and the Dodgers.
I’m just saying. Things may not be ideal, but they’ve been worse. This is what we’ve been waiting for since the blown save on Opening Day last season. Don’t give up on it before it starts. Positivity can go a long way, for both your mental health and the sake of others. Have some faith and do your part (refer back to Do Your Part. Have Some Heart. for reference).
And I know it didn’t quite work out for us last time, but let’s not forget…
It is an even year.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to Opening Day! #BeatLA