LOS ANGELES – So, Barry Bonds is in shape and ready to play, yet he's no longer in a San Francisco Giants uniform. That means the Giants' rebuild and Giants' unity and Giants' future is today, which, honestly, looks a lot like the Giants' past, only without the increased security and nettlesome clubhouse crowds.
On our national holiday for hardball optimism (both justified and misguided), the Giants had exhausted most of theirs 30 pitches in, when it became clear Barry Zito was the same guy from last season, the one who appears destined to earn his $126 million in 82 mph increments.
Around their ace (their term), the Giants played the same kind of ball they played in spring training and last season before that, meaning they lost another game in all the little corners in which good teams win. We're not even sure if the Los Angeles Dodgers are a good team yet, not with Andruw Jones lugging a few extra pounds and third base manned by a nice player who hadn't ever played a Triple-A game and Jeff Kent turning 40 and Esteban Loaiza holding down the fifth-starter spot, but the Giants had them covered there.
For the 56,000 who showed up and had no one to abuse (Dave Roberts is in left field, and you're simply not allowed to boo Dave Roberts), they were treated to the deliciousness of a tidy Dodgers win, 5-0, and an incredibly ragged Giants ballclub. You suppose the only way it could have been better for the locals was to have had Bonds here to harass.
Instead, owner Peter Magowan grimly wandered the grounds pre-game with a black Giants cap clutched in his left hand, general manager Brian Sabean looked only a little less glum and manager Bruce Bochy was left to explain it all afterward.
"I know a lot's said, with spring training and sure we lose the first game, but we're not going to dwell on this," he said. "There's too much baseball left."
The immediate result is the first of more than a few shutouts. On Monday, the Giants were held to five singles, no extra-base hits, not a single ball hit as far as the warning track. One very comfortable opposing starter was followed by many comfortable relievers.
Just last week, Magowan had told Bay Area reporters, "With Barry Bonds gone, this is clearly the beginning of a new era for the Giants."
He promised a "younger, faster, more energetic ballclub."
He wasn't referring to Zito's fastball, which was neither younger, faster nor more energetic, which is a problem, because the Giants are going to have to pitch and defend like few teams in history if they are to win a reasonable number of games.
Zito was going to be associated with that, and has the better part of six years left to jump in, but so far season two brings the same nagging themes of season one. The Dodgers did not respect his fastball, hardly ever looked fooled on the curveball or changeup, and swung-and-missed at only a few of Zito's 87 pitches. Given Zito's one strikeout, that's a lot of balls in play, and a lot more ways for the aging Giants to give up a run, or a base and then a run.
Finally, after pitching with only a little more velocity last season but routinely denying it was an issue, Zito expressed some concern for the well-being of his fastball. He claimed he was healthy, insisting both his shoulder and elbow were sound. He also said he'd identified an area or two where he could adjust his mechanics, maybe buy a few inches here and there. Zito hardly was the picture of panic, but when you're topping out at 84, that can't be comfortable. Wait until some of the league's better lineups get a load of that.
In fact, Zito said he'd like to get back into the 88- to 90-mph range.
"I'm sure it's just a small tweak away," he said. "I think last year is when it started to drop a little bit. The health is there. Shoulder feels good. Elbow feels good. It's gotta be something in the delivery that's not clicking on all cylinders."
Meantime, around him, the Giants had an interesting afternoon, including:
• A light collision involving rookie shortstop Brian Bocock and Roberts that left Roberts on his knees, his glove flung into left field.
• A dropped popup by second baseman Ray Durham, leading to a run.
• A couple wild pitches.
• A passed ball.
• Two missed cutoff men by center fielder Aaron Rowand.
• A man (OK, the rookie Bocock) getting picked off first in the eighth inning, in a five-run deficit.
• A few unnerving moments leading into the bottom of the eighth, in which the Giants appeared content to go it without a left fielder. (Which, come to think of it, would have been a suitable tribute to the man who was supposed to have been holding the franchise back.)
Afterward, Zito, the last Barry standing, was asked if he didn't hunger for the days when he wasn't so concerned with his stuff, when it was about standing on a mound and knowing exactly what was going to come out of his arm.
His eyes narrowed.
"I was me today," he said.
And they were them.