Liotta: Time for Giants to go young

With the 2008 All-Star Game tucked safely into the history books, the Giants officially go back on the clock in their quest to rebuild the club into a championship contender.

Don’t get me wrong, the first half of 2008 rates an unqualified success in the long-term view simply due to the emergence of Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez.

Lincecum has proven himself an All-Star and looks like he can be a staff ace for a long time to come. For Lincecum to be 11-2 on a team that is otherwise 29-53 is simply amazing. Imagine if this team were good.

Sanchez, while still a work in progress, has thrown himself right into the center of the club’s longrange plans, too. He’s still learning, but it feels like he’s at the beginning of a career that is going to be in the top three of a team’s rotation for quite some time.

So, for the Giants to be able to plan around a pitching trifecta of Lincecum, Sanchez and Matt Cain (and not necessarily in that order) gives them a terrific start.

The future of the other 22 positions on the roster, however, is not so clear.

The Giants have to dedicate themselves to 2009 and beyond for the 67 games they are facing coming out of the All-Star break. Playing eight gritty, grizzled veterans every night is no longer an option. Of course, a team can’t just throw eight inexperienced rookies out there every night, either. So the Giants’ lineup has to be a mixture from now on.

Now there’s no reason Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina and Randy Winn can’t be penciled into the Giants’ lineup for the next few years. And Rich Aurilia, Ray Durham and Omar Vizquel have earned the right to fade nicely into the Giants’ sunset.

It’s just that these guys have to share more playing time, and Bruce Bochy, Brian Sabean and the Giants’ front office must grit their teeth and endure what comes out of the long-range approach.

From here on, whenever a Giants game goes into the books as final, the only questions worth answering will be whether John Bowker, Fred Lewis, Emmanuel Burriss, Jose Castillo, Eugenio Velez and the rest of the young guys have taken a step closer toward cementing their place in the team’s long-range plans.

Don’t forget how much fun AT&T Park was when the Giants were at the top of the NL West: the electricity night after night thanks to guys like David Bell, Benito Santiago, Reggie Sanders, Jeff Kent and that Bonds guy.

Rebuilding that atmosphere is worth any number of forgettable losses the rest of this season that are caused by inexperienced guys coming up short.

Who’s in? Who’s out? Come the offseason, that’s all Giants fans will want to know.

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

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