My math stinks. Everytime I try and add up the 2007 Giants, the answer comes up short of the team that finished last season, a team that finished below .500 for the second straight year. And pretty much stunk up the joint the last two months of the season.
Here’s how I see it. From last year’s 75-86 rip-roaring roster, the Giants subtracted Jason Schmidt, Moises Alou, Steve Finley, Mike Stanton and Shea Hillenbrand. It’s where you look at the offseason additions where it all gets fuzzy.
Barry Zito takes over Jason Schmidt’s spot at the top of the rotation, but the numbers over the previous four seasons say Schmidt was better. So it will be a big step up for Zito to make this switch a positive.
Where Zito gets big points is in attitude. There were always rumblings around the Giants’ clubhouse that Schmidt didn’t want the ball in big situations. Zito takes the ball every time, and takes his lumps when he has to. A big plus.
The addition of centerfielder Dave Roberts brings stolen bases and a legitimate leadoff hitter.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a general manager in baseball who would trade Roberts straight up for Moise Alou. Put this in the minus category.
Ryan Klesko arrives in Finley’s spot. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never mistaken Klesko for Finley, who was a joy to watch in center field last year no matter how old he was. Another minus.
A midseason addition last year, Stanton was the only guy who offered an ounce of confidence in the closer’s role. Now if there’s a Giants fan out there who says the return of Armando Benitez to that spot is a positive, a spirited argument figures to ensue.
It’s hard to describe how ugly it got with Benitez last year. It’s going to be awfully difficult for him to win over the crowd this season. At a minimum, this is a psychological minus.
And then there is the return of Rich Aurilia, who put together a respectible season for the Cincinnati Reds last year.
And while Hillenbrand did nothing to endear himself to Giants fans, Aurilia has really been nothing more than a fill-in player the last few years. Only some roster moves last year pushed him into a semi-regular role.
I’ll rate this one as a push.
Free-agent catcher Benjie Molina does present an upgrade from the team that finished last year, but don’t forget how important Mike Matheny was to the Giants before his injury and subsequent retirement.
It’s hard to describe this evolutionas positive.
Not much in the way of new names and faces to give Giants fans that warm feeling of impending success that usually falls over spring training, is it? I’m figuring the Giants to be penciling in big improvements for guys already in the organization as the key to becoming contenders again.
Matt Cain has to take the next step toward being a big-time pitcher in the majors. Noah Lowery and Matt Morris have to recover their stuff pre-2006. And maybe, as the long shot of long shots, Russ Ortiz, has enough left in the tank to become an effective (and yes, slow-working) fifth starter.
And a big factor could be Brian Wilson, who turns 25 next month and posted a 2-3 mark with a 5.40 ERA in 31 appearances with the Giants last year. Wilson is the in-house competition to Benitez for the closer’s job, so keep your fingers crossed.
And that’s the worst part of it — I’ve found doing math with my fingers crossed really stinks.
Tim Liotta hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).
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