Los Angeles

Even Year or Not, Giants Not Accustomed to Being Favorites

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The San Francisco Giants and their calendar-worshiping fans are reunited Thursday for their annual meeting, that peculiar mixing of work with being gawked at by the see-and-be-seen crowd.

This is made even better by the first visit of the best Los Angeles Dodger caricature ever –- a spectacularly moneyed, horrendously injured and television-resistant team that could win 105 games in secret or never be healthy and give manager Dave Roberts the kind of migraines that don’t fit in the overhead bin. It’s Christmas with beer -– which, if you think about it, is actually a redundancy.

But let’s be truthful here. Baseball folks do not dig the Opening Day thing at all. They do have the good sense not to snap angry about it the way the normally calm and rational Arizona manager Chip Hale did, but they definitely find it a mild but required irritant. They would much prefer Game Two, or in this case, Game Five.

But it is a duty dance that must be done, and in a year such as this, when the Giants are considered ahead of time as having one of the sport’s elite rosters, it must be done with particular delicacy. The Giants were not in the conversation of teams that “should” in 2010, 2012 or even 2014; they had too many alleged flaws, question marks and wishful thinkings to be included on the VIP list.

This, though, is a team that is built to be just that, and weirdly, after three games, that talk has only been ratcheted forward. They bludgeoned the Milwaukee Brewers on Day One, smothered them with pitching on Day Two, and introduced the nation to the baffling conundrum of Jeff Samardzija on Day Three.

And frankly, the other 159 will fall right in line with one of those three scenarii, because every team’s season is just like Golden State’s, where the only thing to guard against is the debate about whether the ’16 Giants are better than the ’27 Yankees before the All-Star Break and the New York Times Sunday Magazine takeout on Charlie Johnson in long-distance repose.

Hubris being deservedly punishable by relentless and withering embarrassment, after all.

This Giants season, of course, won’t go like that because players slump and get hurt and their true and essential fan base is built on years of looking for the soiled Kleenex in the fitted cap. The Giants fan affixes him- and herself to a generational agony fetish that recent history mocks, but you can’t break the habits of a lifetime.

It will, however, be interesting to see how that fan base deals with being compared to the Warriors’ seasons, as well as the notion that this might be the best offensive team they have assembled since the cartoony 2000 team that scored a Tex Avery-ish 925 runs. The team built on pitching, the team that spent a zilliotrillion dollars on pitching, the team that will hypermonitor its ageless and yet aging bullpen –- this may actually be the first team in which Bruce Bochy can mass-produce his lineup card.

And already we are ranging into Warrior/predestination territory, which means that health, the great unknown in every season, will rear its own massive skull again this year. Just plain because.

Which is probably as it should be. Warrior fans got a hand ride in 2015 and may get another in 2016 as a karmic tradeoff for watching decades of unremitting filth produced by venal owners and mentally and/or physically underapportioned basketball operations. Giants fans have been on relative scholarship for nearly a quarter-century now, and even if this season goes completely and utterly port-a-potty, they still have zero allowable complaints, and if you happen upon one who does so despite repeated warnings, you are not only allowed but ordered to brain them with an empty beer stein.

Because how else should you begin a baseball season that promises so much, including heights of euphoria, bouts of impotent rage and in at least a few instances, stein-created skull knots?

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