I’ve been distracted from the baseball off-season by work, by holiday travels, and now by the 49ers. But the Yankees big splash this weekend reminds us that there are big moves still to be made and rosters can change dramatically in the final month before pitchers and catchers have to report (hello February 18th).
In that vein, let’s look at the Giants and 2012. In 2010, it looked like the Giants had not done a whole lot to improve the offense (Aburey Huff? Mark DeRosa? The return of Benji Molina?), and yet there was a part of me that kept saying “what if?” What if Huff played like he did in 2008? (He did). What if Mark DeRosa’s wrist was healthy and he could be a solid bat playing all over the field? (He wasn’t). What if Benji got hurt in the first week of the season and they HAD to use Buster? (He didn’t so they traded him). What if the pitching was even better than 2009? (It was).
So, what are the “what if’s” for 2012? Thanks for asking! Here you go…
- What if Buster Posey is healthy, able to play the whole season, and establishes himself as a truly elite player? In many ways, most of which are foolish, this is truly the heart of the Giants’ off-season strategy. And this is really two what-if’s in one: health is obviously huge, but we still have never seen a full season of major league baseball from Buster. No one knows what that looks like. Let’s hope it looks pretty awesome.
- What if the contract situations of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain work out like Albert Pujols’ did? Before Adam Wainwright hurt himself, the big concern in St. Louis all winter last year was that the unresolved nature of the Pujols’ contract situation would be a distraction for the team throughout the season. All it did was produce a Championship. The reality is that the Giants may not be able to resolve both Cain and Lincecum’s situations before the season starts. Let’s hope that if that’s true it works out like it did for St. Louis (minus the big contract with the Angels part of that scenario).
- What if Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval are the second coming of Kent and Bonds? Which raises another fun question: which one is Bonds and which one is Kent? That aside, it’s also fascinating to note that we have never seen good-Pablo teamed with healthy-Buster in the middle of the order. Pablo got hurt early this year, and then Buster went down. At the end of 2010, while Buster was winning the ROY Pablo was sucking it up all over the place. We’ve never really seen them together at the height of their powers. They could be a dynamic middle of the order duo (like Bonds/Kent, Manny/Papi, etc) but we just don’t know yet. Let’s hope we get the chance to see them together for all of 2012!
- What if Brandon Belt puts it all together? If he does, the Giants will have a 3-4-5 triumvirate of offensive prowess. Belt from the left, getting on base and hitting for power, Posey from the right, spoiling pitches and going the other way with authority, and Pablo, from both sides, hitting balls an inch off the ground 400 feet. That would be fun to watch! Let’s hope BB can step it up.
- What if Melky Cabrera has a career year as he shoots for a big contract? I still like the Sanchez for Cabrera deal. I still think Melky has a lot to play for in 2012, he’s young, and he was a highly touted prospect who the Yankees were not willing to part with for a period of time. Maybe he’s got some late-bloomer-Alex-Smith in him. Let’s hope Melky goes off by the bay in 2012.
- What if Brandon Crawford finds some magic hitting beans? I get legitimately excited about the Giants potential offense in 2012 until I get around the short stop position. I’ve professed my hope for, and despair of, Brandon before, but if can just summon some league averageness and keep it alive for a season we’ll know the magic is back. Let’s hope BC goes all-Andres-Torres on us next season.
- What if Ryan Vogelsong really is a good pitcher? I love the Vogelsong story and I’m glad he’s back for the next two seasons. Dude deserves it. But there’s a voice in my head questioning his ability to repeat that performance. Let’s hope this turns out to be a “my-bad-for-ever-thinking-that” what-if.
- What if Brian Wilson’s declining numbers are just the by-product of never being fully healthy and not a sign of things to come? His declining strike out and rising walk rates are classic warning signs of a pitcher whose stuff is evaporating. There is a big part of me that’s deeply concerned about this. There’s a smaller part of me that is hoping the injury problems in Spring Training and at the end of the season are the culprits and that everything will return to normal next year. Either way the dude sure has kept a low profile this winter. Let’s hope that small part of me is right.
- What if Madison Bumgarner is actually the ace of this staff? This is my favorite what-if because I think I’m be right. We all love Timmy and Cainer, but MadBum is on his way to surpassing them and 2012 might be the season he proves it. Lets hope I’m right and it’s more because of Maddy’s greatness and not because the other two are struggling.
- What if the Giants strike gold with Angel Villalona? He’s still not in the US and he might not be for a while. He could also be at Spring Training. He may not be in the bigs soon but what if somehow this ends up with Angel hitting bombs at that giant glove in left field? How do you tell that story? It’s a total long shot, but so were so many other things in that 2010 World Series run. Let’s hope Angel is innocent, ok, and ready to play some baseball.
- What if the Giants can pull mid-season magic out of their hat again? Who knows what this might look like. Maybe Gary Brown comes up early and goes nuts. Maybe Joe Panik turns out to be the answer at shortstop. Maybe Pat Burrell comes out of retirement? I mean who knows? Alex Smith is playing for the Super Bowl next Sunday and Aaron Rodgers is going to watch that on his couch. Anything is possible in this mad, mad world. Lets hope for something completely unexpected.
- Finally, what if the Larry Baer in place of Bill Neukom move turns out to be much ado over nothing? It doesn’t feel like much ado over nothing, but it could be. Baer seems like a schmoozy-PR guy and Neukom always struck me as a tough decision maker who doesn’t like to lose. You tell me who you want in charge of your organization? I’ll take Bill and his bow-tie every time. But maybe it’s not a big deal at all. Let’s hope Baer has something more than what we’ve seen so far.
Well there you go…12 “What If’s” for 2012. What else would include on this list?