There's comfort in the familiar, but familiar isn't all that interesting. The Giants and A's, who squared off in their first two games of Cactus League action Tuesday and Wednesday, make that quite clear.
The 2015 Giants are much like the 2014 Giants. Just as the 2011 Giants were much like the 2010 Giants, and the 2013 Giants were much like the 2012 Giants.
What do you remember about the 2011 and 2013 Giants? That they didn't make the playoffs? Sure, that comes to mind. How could it not? You were beaten over the head with it last fall as the 2014 Giants stormed through October, the whole even-year thing serving as a crutch on which every media outlet leaned.
But come on, now. What do you really remember about those teams? Buster Posey got hurt in 2011. Matt Cain was brutal in 2013. That's about it, right? And that's the point. That's the fear as 2015 gets underway, with essentially the same cast that brought the West Bay the highest of baseball highs in 2014. Things certainly can't get any better. We've pretty much seen all of these guys at their best. So they're almost bound to get worse.
(Parenthetical digression: Is that even a thing, West Bay? Why not? East Bay is. Another example of Peninsula elitism? Discuss.)
This isn't to say a handful of Giants can't and won't get better individually, mind you. You'd like to think Brandon Belt has a healthy, breakout season in him. You'd like to think Joe Panik is still just scratching the surface. You'd like to think that, at some point, Hunter Strickland will STOP GIVING UP LOUD HOME RUNS EVERY SINGLE TIME HE COMES INTO A GAME and start using that triple-digit heater for good, not evil.
But can the Giants, collectively, be very interesting at this point? We've seen the best the act has to offer, and it's this act is the same act as last year's. Oh, Nori Aoki is a nice little curiosity. Tracking how many times I misspell Casey McGheheeehee's last name will be fun. But interesting? Not seeing it.
Over on the East Bay side of things, though … now THAT's interesting. Nothing familiar about the Green and Gold other than the method by which Billy Beane deconstructs a largely successful squad every year out of what sometimes seems sheer boredom.
It's like he's a GM version of Crash Davis, only it's not strikeouts that are fascist. It's All-Stars. Let's go get some no-names. It's more democratic.
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).