by Dominic Lombardi
Jason Ellison’s crucial error in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the LA Dodgers a win in their home opener might be bigger than it seems.As Giants GM Brian Sabean received criticism for signing Moises Alou and Omar Vizquel, both over the age of 38, to big money contracts, I knew that this could be the year. The first year in fifty years, and very first in San Francisco, that the Giants could win the World Series. Sure they’re old, but they’re also very experienced. They have an outfield that hit 106 homers last year, including a left fielder that has won 4 straight NL MVP awards. The infield is maybe the best defensive infield ever assembled with 15 total Gold Glove Awards. Edgardo Alfonzo slimmed down 15 pounds in the off-season and he has the best bat on the team so far (.519, 2, 6). The pitching staff is headed by Jason Schmidt, Cy Young runner-up in ’03 and ’04. Armando Benitez saved 47 games last year and only blew three, a major improvement over ’04 closers Matt Herges and Dustin Hermanson. In February, everything looked good, in February.
In March, the so-called “ageless” Barry Bonds succumbed to his age and admitted how tired he was and how he might not play until the All-Star Break. That shook the Bay Area as much as the 1988 earthquake, but at least they had Moises Alou, right?
Giants started the season with a well earned win over the hated Dodgers, and surprisingly looked like they can win without Barry. Before Moises Alou even got a hit as a Giant, he goes down with an injured calf and is on the DL. Ok, well what more could happen. Now, the players known as “second-tier” are the only chance that the Giants have to make it through one of the most important months on their schedule. They play 18 games against each of they’re division opponents in April, a big chance to gain ground in the NL West. And until the first game at Dodger Stadium, it looked like Feliz, Alfonzo, Grissom and Tucker were stepping up to the challenge.
You might ask how a simple error in the bottom of the ninth inning by a rookie in April could be the precursor for the entire season. Possibly a season of high expectations, temporary nirvana, and inevitable disappointments. Jason Ellison’s error in left field on Tuesday struck a nerve with me, and when I heard Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”, it hit me like a punch in the face. There would have been no greater satisfaction for me than for the Giants to beat the Dodgers on their home opener. But just like last October, in the same stadium, in the same inning, the Giants were once again upset.
But maybe it was just a rookie fielding mistake by a rookie outfielder. Maybe the G-men will win the division by ten games and Ellison’s error will be a mere afterthought. Or it could come down the last game, last inning, last out, last pitch. Even if Bonds and Alou come back and hit 30 homers each, that error could eliminate all of that. So hopefully Bonds and Alou come back soon and lead the Giants back to the promised land.