I am a dyed-in-the-wool Giants fan. I love our pitchers and putting money into the assets we already have. We won our first World Series in 56 years with them. But I miss the sluggers. I miss Chili Davis, "Hac Man" (Jeffrey Leonard), Ellis Burks, Reggie Sanders and most recently Cody Ross. Any hope that one of these ilk is on the way or should I be satisfied with the slashers-and-gap hitters who can't hit one into the drink?
-- Mike G., Santa Rosa, Calif.
You know the lyrics to "Bye Bye Baby" verbatim, right? Don't be embarrassed to admit it. So do I. Though the Giants may never lead the National League in home runs as long as they play in AT&T Park, they're not totally bereft of power. Reaching 30 homers remains possible for Pablo Sandoval. Based on his rookie season, Buster Posey could consistently hit at least 20 homers a year. Should Aubrey Huff rebound, he'll be good for about 25 homers. Don't count out Brandon Belt as a power threat. The same goes for catching prospect Hector Sanchez, who homered nine times in 177 at-bats for La Guaira in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason. And Brett Pill proved last September that he can clear the fences. Whether he can do so consistently, or whether he'll even receive the opportunity to try, are different issues.
A handful of Minor Leaguers appear to have some pop: Tommy Joseph, who hit 22 homers at Class A San Jose last year; Chris Dominguez, a non-roster invitee to big league camp; Roger Kieschnick, who amassed 16 homers for Richmond in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League; and Adam Duvall, who's 23 but compiled a .912 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) with Class A Augusta. Francisco Peguero looks as if he should possess power, but hasn't displayed much.
Hopefully you can answer a question that has been nagging a longtime Giants fan. What year were the Croix De Candlestick buttons first given out?
-- Phil H., Indianapolis
Short answer: 1983. Long answer: The Croix was part of the Giants' "Hang in There" marketing theme for the '83 season. Fans earned the popular pin by staying for the duration of an extra-inning night game at good old Candlestick Park. The Croix helped the brilliant Pat Gallagher, whose official title was vice president of business operations, usher the Giants to their second consecutive Major League Baseball Marketing Award for Special Projects. The Giants distributed commemorative Croix at the 1984 All-Star Game, which was held at Candlestick, and during the 2008 celebration of the franchise's 50 years in San Francisco.
Have a question about the Giants?
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Ryan Theriot has recorded some impressive numbers during his career. Does he still have the capability to produce, say, 20 to 30 steals, a little power and some consistent hitting to the point where he's the starting shortstop?
-- Obrey B., Redlands, Calif.
Theriot himself probably would answer your question affirmatively. His age (32) indicates that he appears capable of reclaiming his top form and earning 500 or more plate appearances. His declining statistics suggest otherwise. He surged slightly last year, but the upgrade wasn't substantial. Since 2008, when Theriot hit .307, he has posted yearly batting averages of .284, .270 and .271. His annual OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) for the corresponding period was .745, .712, .633 and .662. And he stole four bases last year after accumulating 20 or more thefts in each of the previous four seasons. That said, I believe Theriot can help the Giants, particularly when they face a challenging left-handed starting pitcher who compels manager Bruce Bochy to bench shortstop Brandon Crawford, a left-handed batter. Theriot also provides depth at second base, a consideration given Freddy Sanchez's injury history.
Since the A's are getting rid of most of their players, will the Giants be able to make a trade for catcher Kurt Suzuki and play Posey mostly at first?
-- Kirk W., Castro Valley, Calif.
That's doubtful. The Giants suddenly have become a catching-rich organization. Switch-hitting Sanchez, who batted .339 this offseason in the Venezuelan Winter League, is almost Major League-ready. Prospects Joseph and Andrew Susac will only improve. Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside remain capable veteran backups. Suzuki is a fine player, but right now, the Giants don't need him.
I was looking at the 40-man roster and considered who could make the 25-man Opening Day roster off of that. From what I gathered, Conor Gillaspie, Pill and Justin Christian will be fighting for one of the last spots. Do any of these guys have options left? If they don't make the team, can they still be retained?
-- Michael C., Salinas, Calif.
All have Minor League options remaining, so the Giants don't have to worry about trying to sneak any of them through waivers. I believe that Pill has the best chance among this trio of sticking with the club, because the Giants might need an extra right-handed bat. Gillaspie seems to have matured and is primed for the competition. Despite Christian's admirable perseverance, envisioning him on the Opening Day squad is difficult.
I know Aaron Rowand signed with the Marlins, but I haven't heard anything regarding his contract status with the Giants. Are the Giants paying Rowand the $12 million he's due for 2012 or are the Marlins chipping in some money?
-- Riley M., Santa Rosa, Calif.
The Giants are on the hook for the entire amount. That partly accounted for their inability to pursue even second-tier free-agent hitters.
What do you hear on the Matt Cain talks?
-- Harry G., Helendale, Calif.
Mostly static, because general manager Brian Sabean doesn't telegraph his intentions, and Cain likes to keep everybody guessing. But I expect Cain and the Giants to make a deal during Spring Training.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.