Giants 2010: The Right Choice For Opening Day
(originally written 4/5/10)
The starting RF job was Nate Schierholtz’ to lose. Did he lose it? That’s arbitrary. Yet when the San Francisco Giants open their 53rd season tonight at Houston, John “Take A Bow”-ker will be under the retracted roof at Minute Maid Park. Not Schierholtz, unless Bowker has a nightmare about spiders and smashes up a glass table as ol’ Glenallen Hill used to do.
It’s hard to argue the decision; Bowker tore it up this spring as he memorably did during his 2008 MLB introduction. Think back— the guy had Giants fans collectively asking “Barry Who?” for a month or so. Then he, as could be expected, hit a wall. Not the brick one that will shadow him in AT&T’s right field; a metaphoric one. And since he lacked gray hairs, nagging injuries, or a bloated contract, management saw no reason to continue playing him. Bowker slipped off the Giants radar…until March 2010.
So yes, it’s hard to argue the decision, but it’s equally hard to not feel for Schierholtz. I was an advocate of rooting Nate in right field this year, sink or swim. KNBR’s Bob Fitzgerald, who argues so rationally that—if he were nuts—he could convince Giants fans that bringing back A.J. Pierzynski would make sense, echoed this sentiment. Schierholtz is no slugger, nor does he pretend to be, but he can hit and has defensive skillz. Perhaps if we still had Bonds, Kent, Burks, Snow, etc. combining for over 100 bombs annually, Bruce Bochy could afford to sneak a .280 doubles hitter in what is traditionally a “power position”.
But we don’t, so he’s decided he can’t.
Keep in mind, though, that Schierholtz has been a very good pinch-hitter in his brief career. Having him on the bench late in games need not be demotive from a team standpoint. This division has some top-flight late relief from the right side (Heath Bell, Jon Broxton, Huston Street), and the Giants’ lineup, even with Bowker, still leans slightly to the right—which Schierholtz could help counter.
We’re used to young Giant players losing jobs/playing time to overpaid old fogeys (Bonds, Grissom, Rowand, Roberts, Winn, Durham, etc.). We’re not used to them losing jobs to other young players. Gotta admit, it’s a little refreshing! If I were Bowker, though, I’d spend at least 10-12 hours per homestand learning the quirks of the Willie Mays Wall, the archways, and Triples Alley. Randy Winn raised the AT&T outfield defense bar very high during his 4 ½ years there, meaning Bowker would have to trot around the bases a lot for us fans to accept much less.
THE MAGIC BEGINS:
April 5-7 @ the new-look Houston Astros. The Killer B’s are but a distant memory—Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio are long retired, and Lance Berkman is hurt—but any lineup with Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence (a career .838 slugger vs. the Giants at Minute Maid), ex-Giant Pedro Feliz (who had some of his best games in Houston) not to mention Kaz Matsui (known for homering on each of the first three Opening Days of his career) isn’t to be taken lightly.
Roy Oswalt gets his eighth Opening Day nod in a row—the Astros are 2-5 in the first seven; Oswalt 2-3 personally—against Cy Lincecum. Next, Barry Zito and his gawful striped sox take on last year’s winningest Astro, fellow lefty Wandy Rodriguez. Two burly righties in Game 3 of the series—Matt Cain vs. ex-Phillie Brett Myers in the daytime.