Heading into the 2011 season, the Giants had an unholy amount of momentum, coming off the team's first-ever World Series championship in San Francisco.
But they also had an unholy amount of expectations placed on a team that overachieved the previous year.
Andrew Baggarly, who recently left the San Jose Mercury-News to work at our NBC brother-from-another-mother blog Giants Talk, wrote about the lack of momentum for the Giants in 2012.
"This spring, the Giants are moving from Showtime to go time," Baggarly wrote on Tuesday. "No more reality TV crews. No more talk of defending their title. No momentum to carry over. They must generate it anew."
Baggarly's spot-on: the Giants are a totally different team than the loose, fun -- ahem -- band of misfits that rolled off a title and into Spring Training expecting to defend said title.
There are concerns about the offense. There are fears about Buster Posey's recovery. There are worries about the future of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. There could be issues with Brian Wilson's arm.
In short, there are lots of flaws with the Giants roster and no shiny Commissioner's Trophy to deflect the attention.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? Perhaps not. The team certainly needs key contributions from youngsters Brandon Belt and Posey, and Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy need trades for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan to pay off, if they want to justify not pursuing someone like Carlos Beltran this offseason.
But the difference is that this year, no one expects the Giants to defend the NFC West and compete for the World Series.
There are expectations of a playoff run, of course. And missing out on the playoffs would be a disappointment. It always is for baseball teams, though; only a few truly mediocre franchises hold out zero hope for a playoff run when spring starts getting its eternal hope flowing.
Instead, it's entirely possible that this Giants team -- still a very similar group to the one that went all the way -- could enter the 2012 season looser than it did last year.
At the end of April 2011, the Giants were a mediocre 13-13 and had scored two or less runs a whopping 10 times. They pressed, they struggled at the plate and they scored as many runs (96) as they allowed.
The flaws were inherent. Those same flaws might show up early in 2012, depending on how certain players recover, grow and transition. But it could be accepted as something closer to "meeting expectations," rather than "falling woefully short."