The Giant ride is over

Don’t look now, Giants fans, but that roadkill on the side of the Major League Baseball highway is all that’s left of your team at the end of the Barry Bonds ride into the record books.

A 21-year-old phenom pitcher, a 39-year-old future Hall of Fame shortstop and a couple of scraps of fringe talent. That’s all that’s left on the Giants’ potential 25-man roster after 11 free agents said their goodbyes Sunday.

And all we have to show for our 14-year joy ride is one agonizing trip to the World Series, a couple of painful stops in the playoffs and a whole lot of sightseeing as one record after another fell at Bonds’ feet.

I admit it was great fun while we were on it, but now that it’s over, the whole thing feels kind of hollow.

So where do the Giants and their fans go from here?

The front-office people says they’ve learned their lesson, that building a team around aging veterans is not the way to go. Their baseball people say they want to get younger and healthier, which sounds fine for a team with players. Unfortunately, the Giants don’t have many.

To be honest right now, in terms of proven major league talent, the Giants look like the worst team in baseball. Matt Cain and Omar Vizquel and 23 roster spots to fill. The Kansas City Royals have more than that going for them.

At the moment, the Giants have “Help Wanted” signs out for a first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, left fielder, right fielder, catcher, a starting pitcher, a closer and some bullpen help. With no help in sight.

If the Giants were to play a game today, check out who would play the field for the Giants:

They’d have Lance Niekro at first, Kevin Frandsen at second, Vizquel at short and nobody we’ve heard of at third. Randy Winn would play center field with Jason Ellison in left and Todd Linden in right. Oh, yeah, and Eliezer Alfonzo would catch.

A team with this kind of everyday lineup would struggle to win 50 games. And there isn’t a minor league prospect this side of a 16-year-old bonus baby from the Dominican Republic who’s going to help.

Young players, you say?

Linden may have shown a touch of progress this season, but .274 with two homers is not much to crow about.

Frandsen hit a whopping .215 as a rookie, Ellison has played himself off this team twice and Niekro has played him out of a starting job twice. No help here.

Win with pitching, you say?

The Giants’ starting rotationconsists of Cain, Noah Lowry (coming off a disappointing season), Matt Morris (coming off an even more disappointing season), Jonathan Sanchez (a dud down the stretch) and Brad Hennessey (who couldn’t get anybody out the last month of the season).

I realize the Giants have some $40 million to spend to upgrade this disaster, but their owner says they’re not going to sign a big-time free agent. What does that leave? Four or five more Mark Sweeneys?

Who’s going to bat third?

Who’s going to bat fourth?

I’m afraid to keep asking questions because the answers are pretty painful. In fact, there’s a good chance that the next 12 months may be the most painful year ever to be a Giants fan.

That’s what we get for being distracted by Bonds and all those home runs. Maybe its what we deserve.

WHILE I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION: Magowan fires the first volley: Barry will not be the center of the 2007 Giants. Bonds responds by saying he’d be happy to stay home next year. Welcome to Chapter 1 of the Giants’ negotiations with Barry Bonds. It should only get uglier from here.

Tim Liotta hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).

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