Yoo-Hoo! Over Here! Hello! 

The 2006 Giants are trying hard to make us think about the future. I don't blame them. If I weren't a clinically obsessed Giants fan, I'd regard this home-stretch flameout as a harbinger of dark days ahead, indeed, and I'd strongly think twice about re-upping my season tickets.

Today, the 2007 schedule was unveiled. Open at home against San Diego and L.A., host Toronto and the Yankees but visit Boston as part of the interleague (something seems wrong with that -- no Devil Rays or Baltimore at all?). All but six games in September are against NL West teams, with the final weekend at Dodger Stadium.

What better way to distract fans about to give up hope than by dangling next year's schedule, complete with scratch-and-sniff scents of spring outfield grass and garlic fries? April? Dodgers? Hot dogs? Bleachers? Matt Cain? Where do I sign?

Speaking of which, here's my first stab at the 2007 opening day lineup:

SS Omar Vizquel
RF Todd Linden
CF Randy Winn
LF Barry Bonds
3B Not Pedro Feliz
1B Not Shea Hillenbrand
C Eliezer Alfonzo
2B Kevin Frandsen
P Matt Cain

Replace the Nots with Mark Teixiera and, um, David Wright, and the Giants will have a fighting chance next year. Replace them with Mark Sweeney and Pedro Feliz, and we might as well start looking forward to the 2008 schedule.

More handwaving to keep fans from the jaws of despondency is the decision to allow the SF Chronicle to interview 16-year-old Dominican Angel Villalona, who just signed with the team for $2.1 million. He's in Arizona for a month-long training camp, and according to John Shea he's "the youngest by far." On-site officials weren't enthused about the interview, but apparently it went forward "with a gentle nudge from the front office."

I won't be surprised if the Giants try to re-sign Bonds for next year in snappy fashion. Yes, the All-Star Game is in town next summer, but face it: this team needs to do all it can to keep wavering ticket holders from jumping ship over the winter. With Barry on board by World Series time, the losses of Schmidt, Feliz and other familiar names in subsequent weeks won't shock the fair-weather fans quite as much.

I also predict this winter we'll see a shift in PR strategy, as the team pitches stories about its young promising pitchers and tries to make them more available to the press (as it just did with Villalona). Lincecum, Sanchez, Cain, Wilson: look for more pillowy-soft profiles of these kids, leading to a weird split marketing message for next year's team that somehow encompasses youth and innocence and promise as well as the lurid spectacle of the creepy, cynical and really old Barry Bonds chasing a home run record most people don't want him to break.

Possible Slogans:

Barry and the Babes
What Were the 1980s Like, Mr. Bonds?
You Damn Kids Get the F#@* Off My Recliner!
25 Players, 24 Tricycles, 1 Armored Escalade
Not Everyone Gets a Personal Masseuse Hired by the Team
Giants Idol 2: Home Run Drag King

What do you think next year's slogan should be? Or if you like, take a crack at the '07 opening day lineup.


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