Brian Sabean had himself a real pitching, hitting and fielding problem on his team last year, which is the short answer as to what went irretrievably south for his San Francisco Giants.
So, what brilliant plan did the Giants' general manager snap together with his two World Series ring fingers?
Apply a fresh coat of the same problem pitchers, hitters and fielders to the same old problem, because, of course, he did.
"I think Sabean has always showed a lot of trust in us," reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "We've won two World Series in three years. You can only say it's lucky so many times.
"Even though we had that hiccup last year, he believes in this team."
Sabean is hedging the China Basin house on 2013 being nothing worse than just that: a 162-game hiccup, a breather between world championship runs.
If he's right, he gets to be called the Best General Manager on North American Soil. If he's wrong, the Dodgers will have Giants fans vomiting in their mouths for another October, and all the minty rinse in the world won't wash that flavor down.
Here's all that Sabean is asking the paying customers to believe.
He wants you to believe newly re-signed pitcher Tim Lincecum, no recent relation to the former Cy Young winner by the same name, will reinvent himself as a $33 million, slow-stuff starter on the back end of the rotation.
And, newly re-signed pitcher Ryan Vogelsong will come back from a gauze-covered season to stay healthy and rediscover the nuanced sides of the strike zone.
And, that the newly re-signed Affeldt will stop getting hurt long enough to be an effective bullpen specialist all over again.
And, that power ball ace Matt Cain will remember how to throw that speedball by you again in ways he did just half the time last season.
And, that just-added Tim Hudson is more than a cheaper version of Barry Zito, the one struggling pitcher the Giants did not bring back this year.
And, that third baseman Pablo Sandoval will magically fit into skinny jeans for the first time since day care, but not so skinny that he can't rake it at the plate.
And, that Brandon Belt isn't just a one-half season wonder at the plate.
And, that an offense that averaged 3.88 runs per game in 2013 would realize that math doesn't work when the pitching staff spots the other team 4.00 runs per day. Or, vice versa.
And, that said offense will grasp the notion that, even if the pitching escapes its 2013 hole as the third-worst staff in the National League, more runs must be scored because there simply is no way to win a 0-0 game.
And, that one of the worst fielding defenses since the Johnnie LeMaster era would relearn how to properly master the art of playing catch.
And, that the climb back up to 94 regular-season wins (circa 2012) comes as easy as the slide on down to 76 regular-season wins (circa 2013).
And that, no, catcher Buster Posey can't do it all by himself, so stop asking.
And, just on principle, that the Dodgers would go take an unsolicited flying leap from their current perch as the defending division champs.
Same exact parts, totally different expectations. Because, why not?
Just do Sabean this one thing: don't pull a hamstring making that stretch of faith; he's had it up to here dealing with injuries.
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