SAN FRANCISCO -- It's heard often these days from fans whom Giants general manager Brian Sabean once termed "the lunatic fringe" -- negative people who believe anything less than a World Series title means utter disgrace -- that this year's club is already an also-ran. Etched in glove leather. Same old team. Creaky senior citizens. Doomed.
The Giants' 2006 season was riddled with key injuries -- Barry Bonds didn't play in 31 games, Moises Alou missed 43, closer Armando Benitez missed 4 1/2 months, pitcher Matt Morris lost 15 games and catcher Mike Matheny's concussion proved a career-ender -- and those players who were healthy didn't fare very well: The bullpen's 4.77 ERA was second worst in the National League, ace Jason Schmidt struggled (11-9) and the team's .259 batting average was 13th overall. A perfect recipe for that disappointing third-place finish in the National League West. With Spring Training near, however, we'll soon discover whether optimism or pessimism will be the season's overriding emotion. With that in mind, let's analyze what the offseason acquisitions mean and how they'll mesh with the returning veterans, like No. 25. Bonds will be 43 on July 24, yet he had a full winter to lose weight, prepare for his chase of Hank Aaron's all-time homer mark of 755 (Bonds needs 22 to pass), build muscle to protect his knees and maintain his batting reflexes. "I'm older, so the workouts were not as intense, but they were still pretty intense," said Bonds, noting he's been running on a regular basis. "We worked really hard, and I feel good and leaned out a bit." Bonds says he's never been late to Spring Training in Scottsdale, Ariz., and he plans to be in town when regulars report on Feb. 19. Pitchers and catchers report on Valentine's Day. The 21-year veteran likes the newcomers -- Barry Zito, Dave Roberts, Rich Aurilia, Bengie Molina, Ryan Klesko and skipper Bruce Bochy -- and believes the team will be a winning one. "We're more versatile and have a good manager for this style of team," said Bonds. "I've watched Bochy's style, and he's a perfect fit for a team with speed and a little bit of power. "[Roberts] creates a lot of havoc on the basepaths, Klesko's a power hitter and I have a lot of respect for Aurilia, who's versatile. The young pitchers are more established now, and we can only be better with Zito. And Morris is going to drive them even more." Bonds replied, "No way," when asked if he planned on playing in fewer games than the 130 he appeared in last season. No guarantees, of course, but Bonds stated that if he's lucky and doesn't have nagging problems or a serious injury, he'll have a successful season.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.