Spring brings new challenges for champions 

And so it starts again. The best season in San Francisco Giants history must be relegated to history. It is February, and baseball returns, as always bringing its pleasures and its questions.

What happens in the year after? Does Buster Posey improve, or is there such a thing as the dreaded sophomore jinx? Does Aubrey Huff take his thong and enthusiasm to another level? How does being named “one of the 25 Coolest Athletes of All Time” — ALL TIME — by GQ magazine affect Tim Lincecum?

It is time to stop carting that World Series trophy about the land, time to get down to a grind that in 2010 finally yielded the ultimate success.

Time to understand all the things that went right — Ian Kinsler’s apparent home run hitting the top of the wall at AT&T Park and bouncing backward in Game 2 of the Series — could go wrong.

Time to acknowledge there hasn’t been a repeat World Series champion since the New York Yankees of 1999 and 2000.

Pitchers and catchers report, a magic phrase. Spring training is almost here, even if spring is not, and no matter what befalls them during the long season, the Giants start 2011 as the champions of baseball. And marked men.

They will be in Arizona soon, up early, throwing easy, swinging away, getting ready, catching flies, catching our attention.

The last we saw them together, they were at City Hall among a million of their closest friends. The cheers have subsided. The work is about to begin.

No Juan Uribe — “Ooo-Reebay.” No Edgar Renteria, and what does it tell us that for a second straight year the Series MVP — it was Hideki Matsui in 2009 — is with a new team? But there’s Madison Bumgarner, who did more than  was needed. And Buster and Andres Torres, and, for a whole season Cody Ross.

With Bumgarner, Linecum, Matt Cain and the bearded one, Brian Wilson, the pitching remains brilliant. The Texas Rangers got only five runs in the final four games of the Series.

But what happens to Barry Zito, who was kept out of the postseason, and Jonathan Sanchez, who at times looked as if he could have been kept out of the postseason?

Does Aaron Rowand hang in there? Does Pat Burrell hit as he did before the World Series? Does Freddy Sanchez, after another operation on his left shoulder, finally play a full season?

And what about Pablo Sandoval and his regimen? Does the Panda stay away from second helpings, and, while he’s at it, from outside breaking balls?

The Giants properly went about signing the free agents in whom they believe and then extending the contracts of the general manager, Brian Sabean, who believes in those players, and the manager, Bruce Bochy, strategist, psychologist and overall good guy.

Spring training, they say, is as much a state of mind as a time of year, a renewal, a rebirth, a reassurance summer can’t be far behind.

This will be the 53rd spring for the Giants since they took up residence in San Francisco, but the first as champions. That statement has a very nice (World Series) ring to it.

Art Spander has been covering Bay Area sports since 1965 and also writes on www.artspander.com and www.realclearsports.com. E-mail him at typoes@aol.com.

Spring fever


15
Spring training games the Giants played at home in 2010

155,819 Total attendance for Giants home spring games in 2010, most in the Cactus League

10,388 Giants average per game attendance for spring games in 2010, second best in the Cactus League

23-12 Giants’ 2010 spring training record

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