As the sun finally set on the Giants’ defense of their first Bay Area world championship, another clock started ticking.
There can be no more delay. There can be no more if Brandon Belt develops, and Aubrey Huff rebounds or buts connected to Barry Zito’s contract. The Giants need to prove to Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain that there will be legitimate run support in their future.
Otherwise, the future of both aces may not be in the Bay Area.
This is not a slap at the franchise or the area. This is simply common sense.
No pitcher wants to spend their career needing to pitch a shutout in order to win a game. And with the Giants this year, even an effort that good didn’t feel like it would be enough.
Lincecum finished 13-14 in a season in which he posted a 2.74 ERA — almost a quarter-run better than his career ERA in a career that has already earned him a pair of NL Cy Young Awards.
Cain finished 12-11 in a season in which he posted a 2.88 ERA — just shy of a half-run better than his career average.
Getting .500 results for a year that should rank among the best in their career does not bode well for long-term career planning. Want those guys to stick around? Surround them with big sticks.
The Giants scored fewer runs in 2011 than any other team in the National League. The pathetic Padres, the anemic Astros and the perennially terrible Pirates all outscored them.
As 2011 wore on, when an opponent scored a run on the Giants, it began to feel like a death sentence. That run would suck the life out of AT&T Park. One run.
Sure, there are signs that things could be better next year. The return of a healthy Buster Posey — whether he plays catcher or not. Pablo Sandoval rekindled his raking reputation and figures to be a force again next year.
Even the Brandons look like they might stick — Belt and Crawford. Throw in Jeff Keppinger and the Giants have the makings of a young team on the rise.
Unfortunately, they come up at least one, maybe two major league hitting threats shy of scaring their opposition.
They need a leadoff hitter who can manufacture runs when hits are scarce, and ignite things when hits are plentiful.And they need at least one bona fide slugger who forces managers to manage around his bat.
Unfortunately for the Giants in 2011, the closest they have to that kind of hitter is still Barry Bonds. And Bonds has been out of baseball for four years.
It’s amazing how time flies when the clock is ticking.
Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.