Game Point:

With the World Baseball Classic coming to an end, spring training just starting and opening day only about a month away, I got to thinking: “Everyone else is making their baseball predictions. So why can’t I?” Well, here it goes…The San Francisco Giants will make the playoffs. There, save this issue, write down my words, heck, I’ll even say it in front of a tape recorder. No matter what, I stand behind my opinion.

First of all, Barry Bonds is back and healthy for a full year. Last season, the Giants had a disappointing record of 75-87 and finished in third place in the N.L. West. A major factor as to why the Giants had a losing record had to do with the fact that Bonds only played 14 games last season. Due to an injury to his leg that required surgery and rehabilitation, this was the first time in Bonds’ career where he missed a significant amount of time. Insert Bonds into the Giants’ lineup, and he automatically makes everyone better.

Although people argue over him being a liability in left field, Bonds is a major asset to the lineup because of his high walk totals, which help create RBI opportunities for hitters batting behind him. When he’s not being intentionally walked, Bonds always has a chance to smack one out of the park. As long as Bonds plays about 120 games and takes his usual days off, the Giants will automatically be a contender.

Pitching was a major issue as well. Veterans Brett Tomko and Kirk Reuter were both disappointments last season and neither could hold up in the rotation, eventually being sent to the bullpen. Closer Armando Benitez missed significant time due to injury, and the bullpen didn’t do its job in relief. Ace Jason Schmidt missed some time and couldn’t regain his old form.

Arguably, the biggest acquisition was that of starting pitcher Matt Morris. He’s a dependable eight-year veteran of the St. Louis Cardinals who brings over 101 career wins and a 3.62 career ERA. Morris will be the reliable number two starter in the rotation that the Giants have been coveting for a while. Morris will reunite with catcher Mike Matheny from their playing days in St. Louis, and he will also benefit from playing in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Schmidt will be healthy for a full year, and will hope to regain his All-Star form from two seasons ago. Matt Cain, the former first-round pick and promising youngster, will be in the rotation for a full year after sparking life into the rotation late last year. Relief pitchers Steve Kline and former Giant Tim Worrell were brought in to bring veteran leadership and stability to a bullpen that was shaky and inconsistent at times.

The infield and outfield got boosts as well. Third baseman Edgardo Alfonzo was traded to the Angels for 41-year-old outfielder Steve Finley. Critics may argue that Finley’s acquisition gives the Giants one of the oldest outfields in the league, meaning the outfield will be more prone to injuries, but he is known for his health, clutch hitting and superior defense. He automatically improves the bench by being the primary backup to Bonds, Moises Alou and Randy Winn. With the departures of first baseman J.T. Snow and Alfonzo, first baseman Lance Niekro and third baseman Pedro Feliz will finally get a chance to fully showcase their talents.

Overall, the Giants did everything right in the off season, but the success of the team reflects Bonds’ health. If he’s healthy, the Giants have a legitimate shot at winning the division. The problem is the rest of the team has to do its job of remaining healthy and helping Bonds, because no matter how good he is, he can’t do it all alone.