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Ladies and gentlemen, your 2007 Giants

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Thank goodness a season must be played, because on paper, these 2007 Giants look like a team that’s gonna get somebody fired. It’s very easy to imagine five years from now looking back at this team and saying it was obvious it would be awful.

In fact, it’s not difficult right now. The other day, I was reading a national sports publication, which featured 14 veteran baseball writers making their 2007 predictions.

For the National League pennant winner, six teams were offered up. For NL West champs, three teams. Wild-card winner? Six. For the NL team most likely to surprise, the experts offered up six teams as possibilities. And the Giants were not mentioned once.

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Now while I realize how often the experts prove themselves correct, it may be a good thing they’re ignoring the Giants. However, it does show there’s a near-unanimous feeling that these Giants have no chance. And that’s sad, because the roster is filled with solid guys worth rooting for.

These Giants are hoping to squeeze one more year out of Barry Bonds, now a 42-year-old at least three years past his prime. Forget indictments or legal troubles, Bonds has to be at 100-to-1 odds to be a force in 2007. Heck, at his age, he might be 10-to-1 to make it through the season healthy. And, if by chance, he does get going, who’s going to pitch to him?

Now, I’m not going to name names, but these Giants have more holes than one of those alibis offered when somebody tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

These Giants have as a first baseman, a position manned by the likes of Albert Pujols, Carlos Delgado and Ryan Howard by teams considered contenders, a really nice guy who has not opened a season as a starter since 2003.

At third base, where players such as David Wright, Miguel Cabrera and Aramis Ramirez will play for clubs in the opposing dugouts, these Giants boast a free agent they re-signed after all 29 teams passed without so much as an offer.

And in right field, usually a key hitter in any lineup, these Giants boast a wonderful guy coming off one of the most enemic .262 seasons of all time. It seemed like he went weeks last year without hitting a ball hard.

In fact, there’s not a single place in the field where these Giants look improved over the team that finished 76-85 last year. It seems unlikely their second baseman, at age 36, will duplicate his best year as a pro. Their 39-year-old shortstop has been a joy to watch, but can we reasonably expect more from him than we got last year?

These Giants boast a starting rotation with an ace who is acclimating to new surroundings, an up-and-coming phenom, two guys coming off horrible years and a reclamation project who is at best a roll of the dice.

And, as if it’s possible, these Giants have a bullpen that on paper looks like the worst part of the roster.

While there have been very few moves made the last few years that I have disagreed with, the sin these Giants are paying for in 2007 is the fact that, as an organization, they haven’t produced so much as a single productive position player from their minor-league system since Matt Williams. And Pedro Feliz has not proven himself good enough.

So next week the Giants embark on a 162-game ride that figures to challenge manager Bruce Bochy and keep general manager Brian Sabean on the phone looking for help. And Giants fans are crossing their fingers, wishing for the unlikely possibility that from out of this underwhelming mix of players, some magic may be conjured, the kind of magic that rewards the sports fan.

If anybody can hold off Father Time another year, it’s Barry Bonds. Barry Zito is a force if he gets some run support. Matt Cain has all the talent in the world. Noah Lowry has a great fighting spirit. Todd Linden had a nice spring. Bengie Molina is a nice addition. And maybe that bullpen will manage to pitch its way into some momentum.

On paper, it looks like these Giants are a losing proposition. I’m predicting they finish last in the NL West. And after the season, some undeserving souls will be fired.

Yet, after all this, in spite of what my head thinks, I’ll be rooting my eyeballs out for that magic to carry these Giants, which is why, thankfully, there’s a seasonto be played.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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