SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Melky Cabrera is the last reportee to arrive in Giants camp, which means that most of the other reasons why the Giants frustrated their fans so much in 2011 are already working toward a sunnier 2012.
This comes as a relief of sort for pitching coach Dave Righetti, who spent an awful lot of his energy last year monitoring for fires from his burdened pitching staff.
Thats not unusual, he lied a bit. Thats been a part of the thing since 2005 or so. The park we play in, the production we got, youre always looking to see if the pitchers are getting frustrated and maybe losing some of the focus they should have.
That much is true; since the end of 2004, the Giants have ranked 29th, 24th, 29th, 29th, 26th, 17th and 29th in run production. And the pitching has operated in a somewhat stark contrast; 17th, 22nd, 9th, 17th, 2nd, first and second in ERA.
But there was a difference in 2011. The Giants had just tasted glory, and had the headlight-sized rings to show for it. But injuries and stunning underproduction from the healthy caused them to score a hideous 570 runs, the ninth-worst in franchise history and the second-lowest in the 162-game era, while the pitchers allowed 578, the third-best in the 162-game era.
It went deeper than that. They were also 120th (out of 129 years) in on-base percentage, 124th in batting average, and 107th in OPS, 96th in walks drawn and third in strikeouts endured. The phrase profoundly inert leaps to mind.
Thus, knowing how good they could be, and how little help they were getting, the pitchers could have become spectacularly petulant. But with the exception of a few dugout snaps, they did not.
Timmy (Lincecum) had one, just a quick one, but the next day he was knocking on my door and apologizing, and he apologized to the team, too, Righetti said. I didnt tell him to, either. He just did it. There were a couple of others I remember, but mostly they were professionals about it.
That the strains could be managed as well as they were could be made a credit to Righetti, but as he typically does, he throws his hands back as though he was in the lead car of a roller coaster heading from the drop.
Hey, theres only so much you can do, he said. They either have that in them, or they dont. I mean, you can tell them, Hey, if youre gonna complain, you better not forget to cover a base, or back up a throw, or Nothing says you cant get a hit and help yourself now and then. I mean, Livan (Hernandez) saved himself a lot that way when he was here.
But ultimately, theres only so much you can do. Either they understand that theyre part of the team, or they dont, and these guys do. And I think it was that way even before we won the World Series.
The Series, though, is what both calmed and could have exacerbated the issue. Winning brings teams closer, and the frustrations of not winning again can tear them apart. Perhaps the knowledge that the injuries could not have been worse if theyd been hand-selected by the Rockies and Diamondbacks helped the pitchers understand the futility of protest.
But other than Pablo Sandoval, the offensive malaise among those who remained healthy was profound. Thus, Righetti did say he monitored a bit more closely, between what they did, how they stood and what they said.
You knew they were getting asked about it all the time, and that made it tougher, he said. Theyd have to figure out if they said I did my job, would that be taken the wrong way? Are you allowed to say that? Or did they have to say, I have to do better next time out, and then you hope they dont start pressing too much?
Plus, the year that (Bob) Gibson had his 1.12 ERA, he lost nine games or something. You think he didnt snap a few times?
Well, yes, Gibson did have that 1.12 ERA in 1968, and he was 22-9, and he could snap with the best players ever. But the Cardinals finished with 97 wins, finished seventh in runs scored, and reached the seventh game of the World Series. These Giants didnt reach the first game of the divisional playoffs.
Different era, maybe, Righetti said with a shrug. Back then, it was a rougher time all the way around, and youd get on a guy a lot harder than you do now. But you can get guys to start complaining and really turn it into a problem. I was proud that these guys pitched better than they did in 2010, and didnt complain about their results.
There is, though, the knowledge that they may have to do it again in 2012. After all, low runs, high angst is among the chapter headings in Bill Neukoms underpublished book, The Giants Way, available in no Giants dugout stores, Barnes and Nobles or anywhere else whatsoever.
In other words, complaining does not change the conditions under which the Giants pitchers will toil this time as opposed to last. They are who they keep saying they are, and its up to the pitching staff to endure what must be endured.
Unless they want to develop a batting champion among them in their spare time.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.