Monday, April 7, 2008

Panic Early

One of my best friends in the broadcasting business is a TV news producer who deals with the relentless pressure of his job by adopting this mantra: "Panic early".

It might be time for Giants fans to line up with him.

Trust me here: I am not one of those people who see a 1-5 start to the season and conclude the team will end up losing 140 games. Over a long season, many things tend to even out.

But this year's edition of the San Francisco Giants, to put it gently, has some issues. Poor Barry Zito can't seem to keep the ball in the park. Clutch hits have been hard to find. Twice already, the Giants have watched another team's runner score from second base on an infield out (and twice already, rookie shortstop Brian Bocock has gotten picked off).

Bulldog starting pitcher Noah Lowry is on the DL. Key outfield acquisition Aaron Rowand is missing games with sore ribs. The man who may be the best shortstop ever to play the game, Omar Vizquel, is still not ready to play after knee surgery (although, to be fair, Bocock has been terrific in his place).

There's some cause for hope: young guys like Eugenio Velez and Bocock and Fred Lewis show flashes of brilliance. But more often than not, young players have to learn the hard way what it takes to be a consistent major-league player the hard way: by making mistakes.

The Giants and their fans are coming to grips with a post-Bonds world. The circus has left town, and now, in the dust left behind, the team needs to find a new path. When I say "panic early", I'm suggesting the right decision is to go with the kids. Let 'em screw up. See if they learn.

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