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03/31/08 5:18 PM ET
Giants shrug off low expectations
Players say last-place predictions can be motivational
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- If the Giants were a Broadway play, they would have closed up shop before Opening Night. The Giants have been universally condemned by professional prognosticators, picked to finish last in the National League West by Sports Illustrated, ESPN and numerous other news outlets. Dozens of columnists have branded their lineup as the worst in the Major Leagues. It's an unusual position for the Giants, who were typically regarded as contenders or even favorites during left fielder Barry Bonds' 15-year tenure with the club. The Giants, as everyone knows by now, announced last September that they would not re-sign Bonds, who remains a free agent. Predictably, none of the Giants cares at all about their lowly status among baseball's cognoscenti. "Half those guys never touched a field a day in their lives," left-hander Jack Taschner said. "That's OK with us," left fielder Dave Roberts said. "It's up to us to prove them wrong. Are we going to lay back and prove everyone right, or play with a chip on our shoulder? We'll have our chance." The Giants already have held at least one team meeting in which they discussed -- and dismissed -- being called a laughingstock. Manager Bruce Bochy hinted Monday that he might use this as a motivational tool. "As the year goes, even tomorrow, these are things that we'll talk about," Bochy said. "Today, I don't think they're thinking about anything that's being said about them. On Opening Day, I think everybody's optimistic and they feel great about being out here." Infielder Rich Aurilia, for one, relishes being an underdog. "Any time there are high expectations or you're picked to win, the more pressure and tension is put on you," he said. "I've been on teams like that before here. It's kind of nice, because the worst you can do is surprise people." Center fielder Aaron Rowand recalled his 2005 season with the Chicago White Sox, who he said were widely viewed as a third- or fourth-place club but proceeded to win the World Series. "And we had a terrible Spring Training," Rowand said, referring to the Giants' 9-23 exhibition record. "Funny how that works."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.