Are we ever going to get a player who hits .300-plus with 30 or more home runs and 100 RBIs?
-- Zephan P., San Francisco
Zephan, you must be stricken by the seven-year itch. The last Giant to put together these numbers was Barry Bonds in 2004 (.362, 45 homers, 101 RBIs).
The Giants have three players younger than 25 who could conceivably reach these levels. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, 24, actually came close in 2009 (.330, 25, 90) and appears to have regained the skill he maintained that year. Catcher Buster Posey, 24, might not have 30-homer power, but given that he's entering his first full season, defining his limits would be foolish. First baseman-outfielder Brandon Belt, who turns 23 on Wednesday, looks like a budding Will Clark, who flirted with .300-30-100 four times as a Giant (.308, 35, 91 in 1987; .282, 29, 109 in 1988; .333, 23, 111 in 1989; and .301, 29, 116 in 1991).
It's worth noting that Aubrey Huff has recorded this statistical combination twice (.311, 34, 107 in 2003 with Tampa Bay and .304, 32, 108 in 2008 with Baltimore). He'd have to improve a wee bit upon his 2010 numbers (.290, 26, 86) to hit this plateau as a Giant.
As a longtime fan of the Giants, I am trying to understand why they did so well in the postseason and dominated teams that were supposed to have better personnel. I can remember when the Giants had five future Hall of Famers yet never won a World Series. Last year's Giants were led by castoffs, and their offense was very average. What was in them that made this happen last year, and can they do it again?
-- Dave C., Fresno, Calif.
Most of the Giants' lineups of the 1960s and early 1970s were definitely superior to the lineup of the 2010 bunch. But remember, pitching most directly influences a team's success. There's no need to review the excellence of the Giants' World Series-winning pitching staff, is there? By contrast, those fabulous Willie Mays-Willie McCovey-Orlando Cepeda clubs rarely had more than Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry to offer much of a pitching complement. When Mike McCormick won the Cy Young Award in 1967, injuries had limited Marichal to a 14-10 record.
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Over the years I've received a variety of answers when I asked Giants from that era why they didn't win another pennant or two. Mays cited the aforementioned lack of pitching depth. Hal Lanier and Jim Davenport lamented the team's incomplete grasp of fundamentals, which generated too many 3-2 and 2-1 losses.
McCovey said that the Giants were always one player short.
A position player or a pitcher?
"Both," McCovey said, indicating that the Giants were perenially lacking in one facet or another. Indeed, it seemed as though there was always one team, whether it was the Dodgers or Cardinals, that was just a little stronger overall than San Francisco.
Considering the 2010 postseason in retrospect, maybe Philadelphia wasn't as superior as we so-called "experts" thought. The Giants didn't just outplay the Phillies; they made them look old. And though it's easy to say now, anybody who picked the Rangers to beat the Giants in the World Series was simply flat-out wrong. But pitching primarily accounted for the difference.
Thus, if Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson and their counterparts remain effective, the Giants have a chance -- emphasis on chance -- to repeat last year's glory.
I can't see Barry Zito going anywhere. He's not necessarily worth what the Giants are paying him, but he is certainly worth more than the Giants would get for him in a trade. That said, if the Giants pulled a Bengie Molina and traded Zito suddenly, what would the team's realistic options be (assuming the trade does not net them a Major League starter in return)?
-- Matt R., Vallejo, Calif.
I'm assuming "realistic options" means "What might the Giants get in return for Zito?" Answer: Not much, and that's no reflection on Zito. You've almost answered your own question. Young, cheap talent is baseball's most valuable commodity, with the possible exception of pitching. Oddly, established players rarely bring a handsome return in the trade market (why else do we rarely see "blockbuster" trades anymore?) unless the team acquiring a veteran has a desperate need for him. Even then, the "cost" might not be much more than an above-average Minor League prospect. Example: Second baseman Ray Durham for outfielder Darren Ford and left-hander Steve Hammond in 2008.
Zito's a pitcher, but he's neither young nor inexpensive. I'd therefore expect him to fetch a lukewarm prospect or two in a deal. But an actual Zito deal is highly unlikely.
Is it possible that the Giants would go after Albert Pujols, either through trade this season or free agency in the offseason? In the event of a trade, they could give the Cardinals Zito, maybe an outfielder or two like Nate Schierholtz and Aaron Rowand, and a couple of prospects. Is this likely?
-- Eddie E., Bakersfield, Calif.
Respectfully, no. Any team hoping to acquire Pujols would have to part with a combination of proven Major Leaguers and top Minor League prospects. The Cardinals wouldn't want just any Major League performers, either. They'd prefer players who aren't yet eligible for salary arbitration and are thus economical -- for example, Posey or Madison Bumgarner. Despite their assets, players of the Zito-Schierholtz-Rowand ilk won't cut it.
Why is the national media so intent on labeling the Giants' World Series run as a fluke, and merely just another team that got hot at the right time? They went 18-8 in September and beat arguably three of the best rotations and teams in baseball en route to a beautiful and deserving 2010 title. I hate to beat a dead horse, but is an East Coast bias to blame yet again?
-- Evan K., San Francisco
Let's put it this way, as I mentioned in a blog item I wrote last month: Through May 29, the "Sunday MLB on TBS" schedule does not include the Giants at all. However, TBS will show the Red Sox and Yankees three times apiece; the Braves, Phillies, Rangers and Blue Jays twice each; and the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets and Tigers once.
Gee, what do the Braves, Phillies and Rangers have in common?
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.