So I showed up in the clubhouse this morning after being away for almost a month. I stopped in the players’ dining room to get my morning cup of coffee. Three of the “clubbies” – the men who take care of the players’ uniforms, food, equipment, everything — were cleaning up from breakfast.
I asked how spring camp was going so far.
“Best in a long time,” one said. All three clubbies had been around for many years.
“This team,” he said, “something special about them.”
“Don’t you think that every spring?” I asked.
“I haven’t seen this since 2002,” he said.
All three talked about a sense of maturity and confidence they saw in clubhouse. The young guys who came up together in the minor-leagues – Lincecum, Cain, Romo, Sandoval, etc. – had now had time to mesh as big-leaguers. And among the biggest stars, there was no jockeying for power, no ego-driven attempts to establish their importance.
“Do you know which player has been with the Giants longest?” one clubbie asked me.
I thought about it. No Randy Winn. No Rich Aurilia. Barry Zito?
“Matt Cain,” he said. “Four-and-a-half years.”
I wondered what that meant for a club — to have an entire roster of guys who were fairly new to the team. In the clubhouse, Aubrey Huff was sitting in front of his locker after workouts, reading a magazine. Did he, as a veteran player new to the Giants this spring, think the relative newness of the players have an impact on team chemistry?
“I think so,” he said. “I’ve been on teams where you walk into a clubhouse and it just doesn’t feel right. I walked in here and everyone’s ragging on each other. Everybody here seems to dish it out. And everybody takes it.”
In other words, everyone seems on pretty much equal footing.
“You look at a guy like Lincecum,” Huff said. “He doesn’t have that ‘I’m in the paper everyday’ attitude. There are a lot of guys who are self-promoters, but he hasn’t let anything go to his head. So that sets a tone right there.
“I’m a big believer in chemistry. Sure, you can spend $300 million and probably win. But for most teams, chemistry is one of the things you have to have in order to win.”
That’s the buzz from here. Yes, it’s spring. All this optimism might be nothing more than a byproduct of 82-degree weather and a 14-6 record.
But when the clubbies are waxing poetic, you can’t help but wonder.