Every team has one player that will change everything for their franchise. For the San Francisco Giants, that’s Pablo Sandoval.
Also known as the Panda Bear, Sandoval broke onto the scene last season as a prized prospect with a questionable defensive background. He’s shifted between first, third and catcher, and has done so reasonably. But honestly, nobody cares.
He’s a slugger, and that’s why he gets the cool nickname.
In his first full season, only a year removed from his debut, Sandoval is leading the Giants into seemingly the first season in which San Francisco will be competing for the pennant without Barry Bonds. Only Sandoval makes this possible.
(Remember, the Giants tried it on pitching alone in 2008. It didn’t work.)
Because of Sandoval (.330 average, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, .943 OPS in 2009), and his projected improvement, there’s a lot of hope pinning on the Panda Bear. So long as he continues to hit well, coupled with the Giants’ stellar pitching, the National League West is within grasp.
The problem is, everything from there is a bonus.
The measuring stick is, and seemingly always will be, the Steinbrenner nine. If the Giants can’t match up well with the New York Yankees, they’re just pretenders like the rest of the bottom dwellers in Major League Baseball. They might as well call ‘em the San Francisco Royals. Seriously.
So what does the future of the Giants look like, if the future of the Giants is limited to two to three stars? Not so bad actually.
There’s quite a few baseball theories out there, particularly about how to win championships. One of them, held by Red Sox general manager and vice president Theo Epstein, is that if you build your team to get to the playoffs every year, you’re bound to make the World Series. And obviously, your chances increase to win the whole thing. This after the Sox went to two World Series in the last six years and won the damn thing both times.
So if the Giants are built to win the pennant every year, they’re inevitably built to win the Fall Classic at one point. The only thing standing in their way is the NL West. More on that tomorrow.