The San Francisco Giants have certainly had a different type of season than they’re used to. The team that prided itself on winning records with big homeruns and big players has suddenly turned into the complete opposite. But that’s not to say that the clubhouse atmosphere has been a negative one this season.
For veteran Aaron Rowand, who has been on winning teams with a clubhouse full of veterans, and on teams similar to the 2008 Giants, there are tremendous differences between the clubhouse atmosphere. But every team always shares a common goal, which is winning ballgames.
“Veterans know what to do when it comes to preparation for games and such, but on a younger team, it’s up to the old guys to show the young guys how to prepare themselves, what they should and shouldn’t do at this level,” said Rowand.
That’s not to say that having a young team is necessarily a bad thing. Rowand thinks having young players also bring excitement to the team and for the fans. “Young players bring energy. We’re all trying to win everyday, and consistency is the most important part.”
Giants’s rookie middle infielder Emmanuel Burriss also stressed the importance of consistency. He has had what he describes as a “rollercoaster season” that’s full of “ups and downs” and thinks he still has a lot to work on.
“There’s a certain amount of consistency that you need up here [in the majors],” said Burriss. “It’s something I want to improve on in order to help the team as a whole be more consistent. It’s something I will work on in my entire career.”
Also in a season where there have been more call-ups and sent-downs amongst rookies and other players than in recent seasons, seeing new faces and watching old ones go has been a unique experience for Burriss.
“It’s growing pains,” said Burriss. “The more rookies there are, the more mistakes get made. We learn from each other’s mistakes. We’re like brothers here … Once somebody makes a mistake, everybody hears about it.”
The Giants currently have a few players who have experienced the “yo-yo” effect (being called up to the majors and sent back down to the majors more than once in a season). One of them is reliever Jack Taschner, who was one of the young guys himself not so long ago, but has now taken the role of mentoring young arms who come through the clubhouse this season.
“It’s tough, but when you get sent down, you just have to look at the circumstances and look to change the things that you did wrong,” said Taschner. “We all experience that, except for superfreaks like Matt [Cain] and Tim [Lincecum] [who have been called up once and stayed].”
According to Taschner, this season has been a big audition for young players. “A lot of young guys have the opportunity to show what they can do and show that they belong here. Some guys will be around, some won’t.”
Rowand also thinks this season was about seeing who will best fill in the holes and gaps that the Giants have. “We’re trying to see who can compete at this level and see what they are capable of. It’s all part of the game, and that’s what’s beautiful about it.”
For those who have been experiencing being in the bigs the entire season for the first time, it was a complete adjustment as to where they were a season ago.
“The game is faster up here, and mistakes have to be minimized,” said rookie outfielder Fred Lewis, who is spending his first full season in the majors this year. “Guys can really hit here.”
Burriss was called up around the midseason point and has been in a Giants uniform ever since, but that hasn’t made things any easier for him at this level.
“It’s a big change [playing in the majors as opposed to the minors],” Burris said. “Everyday you’re playing against the best competition so you have to be on top of your game.”
Successes and failures are both maximized, so for a rookie like Burriss, it’s tough to bounce back after making some mistakes. “Making an error definitely puts pressure on yourself. It feels like everybody’s looking at you, and you’ll definitely hear about it.”
However, for other young players, there isn’t much of a difference between playing in the minors and majors. Closer and All-Star Brian Wilson looked at his first full season as a Giant no differently than he looked at any of his seasons in minor league ball.
“It’s the same game for me, personally,” said Wilson. “There are just as many successes and failures here as there are in the minors.”
But that is not to discredit the hard work every player puts in at the major league level. “It’s a great honor to be called up, but it’s the same game and same mindset,” said Wilson.
Another believer in the mentality game is Rowand. Other than guiding the young players through all the technicalities that come with being a professional baseball player, Rowand believes it’s important to stay positive and to have young players believe in themselves positively as well.
“This game is more mental than physical,” said Rowand. “Whoever is being consistent positively with their mentality and outlook and approach will be winners.”
As for the upcoming offseason and the 2009 season, the Giants aren’t looking too far ahead yet.
“We just hope to finish this season on a strong note and use it as a stepping stone for next season,” said Rowand. “We all understand the game and the business of baseball, but we just have to try to focus on playing the game.”
By Sara Kwan
Photo courtesy of Femme Fan