Play Ball! Savvy Giants have enough for one last hurrah

The baseball season opens Monday, and you better take a good look at your Saaaaan Francisco Giants. This very well may be the end of the line for the two-time Champs as we’ve know them in recent years.

The Giants are so long in the tooth, they read the stories in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Nine of their 13 pitchers have turned 30 or will soon. Ditto their four outfielders. By current industry standards, that qualifies as ancient. Candles and flowers are not allowed in their clubhouse.

So the season at Third and King comes down to this: Health and starting pitching. Or maybe it’s starting pitching and health. Either way, they’ll have to have both in a competitive National League, which has four, possibly five World Series contenders.

Never mind the standings for a while. Pay attention to the disabled list. If you see the names of Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Pence or Buster Posey there, you know the ex-Champs are in trouble, even year or no even year.

AND NOW THAT OTHER TEAM …: The Athletics enter the season with an all-or-nothin’ offense, Sonny Gray & The Pretenders for a rotation, a sieve-like defense, 90-plus-loss potential and one of the lowest payrolls in the big leagues again.

But A’s fans won’t want to miss the Gray fleece blanket giveaway on Sept. 5. Because after the best player on the team is dealt a few weeks earlier, that won’t be the only time they’ll get fleeced this season.

THE LIST: Ten Ballsy predictions for the baseball season ahead:

This time the Giants will bludgeon their way to the top. From one through eight, no National League line-up has more tough outs …

Yet so few balls will be hit into McCovey Cove, it will be renamed Kuiper Korner instead.

Newcomer Johnny Cueto will be worth the money. Jeff Samardzija, not so much.

After some early struggles, Matt Duffy will order his cat Skeeter to put on weight again.

In their annual fire sale, the A’s will trade Billy (Country Breakfast) Butler for a Cock-a-Doodle Cafe gift certificate and a player to be named later.

A’s operations genius Billy Beane will also trade Gray to Los Angeles before the deadline, partly because he’s buddies with Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, partly because the Dodgers have prospects galore and partly to stick it to the Giants, of course.

Not all will be boredom at Coliseum, though, as long as Billy (Burn, Baby) Burns is in the lineup.

The division winners: Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers in the American League, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs and Giants in the N.L.

The Giants will meet Chicago in the NCLS, where the cuddly Cubbies remember they’re still, well, the Cubs until further notice.

That will make for a Blue Jays-Giants World Series. Put the over-under at 12 runs and 3 1/2 hours.

SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY: Seems like Kevin Durant got inside the Warriors’ heads even before the first playoff game.

While the higher-ups have done their best to quiet the free agent talk, the players are well aware of the possibilities. In particular, that goes for Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, who almost certainly would be dumped to make way for Durant and his megacontract.

The chatter has had an effect on Barnes, whose production per minute has declined almost across the board this season. Now Andrew Bogut has begun to hear footsteps. The big Aussie advertises that he wants back with the Warriors and will even do so at a bargain price, hardly the kind of thing that should be on his mind in advance of the playoffs.

“Haven’t discussed [with management],” Bogut said of his future the other day. “Who knows? This league’s a funny league. Like I said, if those moves that are rumored happen, there’ll be a few of us that are gone. The way we can probably nip that in the bud is win another championship and they’re forced to bring us back, they’re stuck with us for longer.”

Yet the more clutter that Barnes and Bogut have inside their heads, the less likely the Warriors are to repeat. And all the more reason to pursue Durant at their expense.

NO BUCKIN’ BRONCOS: Now that we don’t have to hear about that deadline to move Colin Kaepernick and his $11.9-million salary any longer — thank you, Touchdown Jesus! — we’ll find out how badly the 49ers’ quarterback wants out of Santa Clara.

The Denver Broncos are the only team interested in Kaepernick at the moment, but they can’t afford him because of salary cap limitations. That means the Niners will have to negotiate a lesser deal, except that the QB doesn’t have to accept a pay cut unless he wants one.

Ultimately, Kaepernick will have to choose between coach Chip Kelly, general manager Trent Baalke and a last-place team or coach Gary Kubiak, president John Elway and the defending Super Bowl champs. Which is no decision at all until you realize the guy has never been very good at audibles.

JUST SAYIN’: Kudos to 36-year-old Joe Thornton, who ranked fifth among NHL scorers at the start of the weekend. But if Jumbo Joe really wants to do something out of the ordinary, he’ll get it done in the playoffs for a change.

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