In journalism school, they strongly recommend to anyone with designs on ascending to the rank of columnist to grow comfortable with, and adept at, writing strong, declarative opening paragraphs.
(Actually, they don't use the phrase “opening paragraphs.” They call them “ledes,” but that always confused me. I assumed it was short for “lead paragraphs,” and it bothered me to no end that journalism professors were encouraging the misspelling of “lead.” As if there would be some confusion between an introductory paragraph and a paragraph constructed of soft, malleable and heavy post-construction metal. So there.)
The point was this: Let the reader know exactly where you stand, right away.
So here you go: The Giants will go as far as their starting rotation takes them.
Right about now you're probably thinking two things:
1) Not exactly an earth-shattering declaration, big fella. The Giants have been heavily dependent on their rotation since Mr. Bonds took his leave.
2) Spell it however you want. It took you three paragraphs to get to the lede.
OK, fine. Busted on both counts. Let me make it up to you … a whole NINE 'graphs in:
The Giants' starting rotation will take them a lot — a lot — further than pretty much everyone expects. As in, winning the National League West and snapping the every-other-year playoff drought that gets such a ridiculous amount of attention.
That's right. I'm calling an NL West flag for the Giants … and leading the way will be graybeards Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy and Ryan Vogelsong, along with a surprise season from one Timothy Lincecum.
How's THAT for a bold declaration? Mock me all you want, but I made an even-more-absurd-at-the-time declaration during spring training 2010 — the Giants will win it all — and that seemed to work out pretty well.
Understand that this year's bold prediction ends with the playoff appearance. No calling a crown this time. The age of the aforementioned trio of fossils, not to mention the insane workload of Madison Bumgarner last year, will preclude anything more than a quick ass-kicking at the hands of the revenge-minded Washington Nationals in the divisional round.
But everyone counting out the Giants because everyone in the rotation after Bumgarner is a huge question mark is forgetting a few very significant factors.
That Hudson and Peavy, in particular, looked worn out in October, and especially in the World Series, is all anybody seems to remember. Forgotten is that Hudson was an All-Star last year, and that without Peavy, the Giants don't even sniff October. They know how to pitch, they were embarrassed by what happened late last fall, and you can be damn sure they're hell-bent on leaving something more favorable by which to remember them when they ride off into the sunset. Hudson and Peavy likely will be making that ride after this season.
Vogelsong is an intensely prideful man, too, and if you don't think Lincecum is, in a perverse way, digging that nobody expects squat from him this year, you're wrong.
The doubters are also discounting the bullpen. Yeah, they're coming to the end collectively, but they've got one more good run left in them. They wouldn't be back en masse if they didn't.
Or are you still doubting the acumen of Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy and their officers? Shame on you.
Don't underestimate will when it comes to anyone associated with this organization. They've proven over and over that theirs is stronger than most, and they'll do it one more time by shocking the so-called experts with another crazy-fun year for their fans.
Mychael Urban has been covering Bay Area sports for 25 years and has worked for MLB.com, Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and KNBR (680 AM).