First, it's spring, and a young man's fancy turns inevitably to Baseball. The Giants collapsed in August last year in an epically pathetic demonstration of inept and incompetent offense. The formula they rode to the championship in 2010 was great pitching and JUST enough offense to make it hold up - but in 2011, they were exposed, and their offensive numbers were well below the previous year's. This left them with great pitching, wasted, as there was simply NO offense.
The off-season saw four major changes. The team moved Andres Torres, a likable but ultimately flawed outfielder and Jonathan Sanchez, a tremendously gifted left-handed starter who was an irredeemable head case. So far, so good. Then they added Angel Pagan, a veteran outfielder with speed and a lifetime .280 average, and Melky Cabrera, who had a breakthrough 200-hit season last year. And with Freddy Sanchez apparently unable to play a full season at second, Ryan Theriot provides a competent and reliable backup.
They didn't acquire a middle of the lineup RBI threat, mostly because power-hitters don't want to play half their games in AT&T park, where home runs go to die quietly. But the Giants have some kids with potential - Buster Posey is back, Brandon Belt and Brett Pill look likely to make the roster, and despite his disastrous season last year, Aubrey Huff may be able to demonstrate that, even at 36, he's just not ready to hang 'em up.
This is the formula, especially playing in the cavernous AT&T Park. Great pitching - and Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner and Voglesong constitute the best staff in the Division, if not the League - and as close to four runs per game as possible. Of course, one can never predict injuries and luck, and hope springs eternal when every team has the same record, but there is no National League team better constructed to win it all than the Giants. They just have to find a way to make the playoffs, and I'll take their chances.
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We're told that Peyton Manning is a GREAT quarterback, and if you plug him into a team that has most of the pieces in place, his leadership, brilliance and precision passing will get you over the hump and into the Super Bowl. The only question, we're reminded over and over, is his health. Can he throw with the same velocity and accuracy? Can he soak up some big hits and stay in the game? Can you surround him with the above average receivers that can get open so he can throw to them?
These seem to me to be the wrong questions. They are all based on the assumption that Peyton Manning is a GREAT, elite quarterback. But IS he? He did something in Indianapolis that has never been done before in the NFL. He created and built a unique offense, specifically structured around his reads at the line of scrimmage. He, along with the team management, assembled the personnel and provided the instruction to operate an offense like no other in recent memory. He would come up under center, look at the defense, and call out a complex and elaborate set of adjustments. All the players, from the Offensive Line to the Ends and Backs had to understand and be able to adjust to instant changes to their responsibilities on EVERY play.
Was it successful? Absolutely. Why don't other teams do it? Because it's HARD. When Peyton joins a new team, they won't have five years history developing the abilities required for this kind of offensive scheme. In fact, they won't have five minutes with it. If he has to quarterback a more conventional offense, even if he makes those great and perceptive reads at the line, how great will he really be? I guess the question is, was it Peyton that was great, or was it Peyton plus this utterly unprecedented offensive game plan that generated the success? My concern would be that removed from his carefully developed special tactics, he's an aging, somewhat above average pocket passer with greatly restricted mobility and some serious injury liability.
There might be some teams he'd make better, but I just don't see how he makes them THAT MUCH better.