Test Your Mettle 

Four and eleven. Four and eleven. That's a winning percentage of .267, and it's where the 2000 Giants stood after two weeks. One and six is worse, percentage-wise, but at these early stages it's statistically insignificant.

Don't get me wrong, and heavens forfend, don't call me Pollyanna. This team is no match for the 2000 squad, with Bonds, Kent and Burks as its big three. (Burks only played in 122 games that year but OPS'ed 1.025.) Our current squadron may not challenge the modern-era record of fewest home runs hit - if you're allergic to clicking through, it's three -- but it's obvious that run-scoring will be a problem all year.

That leaves us with a test of mettle. What can you handle? You bitch and moan, but unless you turn back the clock to October 2003 and crush Brian Sabean's cell phone just before he calls Terry Ryan in Minnesota, we have to root for the team in front of us.

So: what do you want? A quick fix? Is this the team's last best chance in a long while to do some damage because it has Barry Bonds? Would you approve a trade that involves, say, Noah Lowry or Jonathan Sanchez, to bring back a short-term power source, say, Richie Sexson or Pat Burrell? If this team spent the entire year in the cellar because Brian Sabean refused to trade young pitchers for quick offensive fixes, would you stop going to games? Would you hesitate to re-up your season tickets? (For the record, I answer respectively "No, but I might skip a few" and "Definitely not.")

We often deride the team brass for their marketing ploys, but it's legitimate to ask how much fan support the team would lose by being thoroughly wretched for a full season. This is not St. Louis; we have entertainment options. We can go hiking on a brilliant blue Saturday instead of eating garlic fries and being assaulted by stoopid boombastic sound effects. Bruce Jenkins, bless his crusty old soul, was right about at least one thing this year: a slow start and the Giants fickle fan base will start to waver. It may have started already.

Fickle followers or not, at some point a team has to face the inevitable. With the handoff from Montana to Young and even for a short while to Jerry, er, Freddy, um, Jeff Garcia, we thought good times for the 49ers would never stop rolling. Oh, but they did. Except for 2001-2002 (known to geologists as The Mariucci Protrusion), the team has had losing years since 1998.

With another week as bad as this first one, it may be time for the Giants to embrace the abyss and hope it is neither deep nor wide. An abyss-lite, if you will. Abyssito. Abyssette. One truly stinkeroo year, and with luck next year the young pitchers are so damn good the Barryless team is back in contention. (Extremely questionable, but that's for another post.)

That may in fact be management's plan sotto voce. For marketing purposes, they would never come out and admit it. Yesterday I expressed hope that Sabean wouldn't hit the panic button, but the panic may be all ours because management might have already resigned itself to rebuild on the sly if the current configuration doesn't work.


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