Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Adding Benitez, How Do the Giants look? by Ed Stern

Marty; Nothing is more heartwarming to a committed fan, on a cold, end of autumn day, than to pick up the morning paper and discover that your team has made a major move to buttress it’s chances for a successful 2005 season. The prospective signing of Benitez is such a move.

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At the close of the 2004 season the Giants had certain needs which cried out to be addressed. Ever since Nen became unavailable the team had been struggling to get by with a pitcher, in the ninth inning, who, in his past, had been either a not too successful starter, a set-up man or simply someone out of the bullpen, with none of the traditional positive attributes which today’s game demands. The lack of a closer who could walk out in the ninth inning and shut the other team down, more than anything else, was the reason why they were unsuccessful post season, or failed to get that far.

Benitez should solve that particular problem. He is the traditional successful closer, throwing hard. Over the years he has consistently had a favorable, more than two to one, ratio in strike outs and walks. Giants fans may remember him as the pitcher who allowed J.T.Snow to hit one out of the park in a tough post-season game but that unfortunate moment can happen to the best of them. He had a tremendous last half year in 2004.

Adding Benitez has positive fallouts. The bullpen, which looked unattractive when the closer was missing, now appears much stronger. Herges is where he belongs, Eyre and Brower can contemplate not being overworked. Another left hander is needed but that is not an impossible task. The starting rotation has much about which to be encouraged. They have five starters, Schmidt, Tomko, Williams, Lowry and Rueter. Schmidt, Tomko and Williams have each given strong evidence. in the past, of being capable of eating up innings. Lowry, last year’s strong performing rookie, has also had games in which he has gone the distance or into the late innings.

The ability of starters to pitch into the late innings cannot be overrated. Consider the Mets reluctance to re-sign Leiter. It enables the bullpen to perform without the stress of relieving a five inning pitcher on a regular basis. A bullpen can be worn out as a result. The Giants’ were last year. Rueter is the one weak link in the rotation. He is, at best, a six inning pitcher and for most of 2004 he wasn’t at his best. There is little reason to hope he will be better this coming season. However, there are a few young pitchers who might step up. Cain, who is in demand whenever the Giants talk trade or Foppert, if he has recovered from injury, come to mind. Cain had an elbow injury, fresh out of high school, and missed half a season, but has apparently recovered.

The strength of the team may very well be in the pitching. Williams and Lowry are youngsters with limited track records but great potential. Tomko had a tremendous second half and if he can continue to pitch up to that standard will complement Schmidt, one of the best pitchers around. This is a a staff with great promise. Benitez rounds it out.

It takes a brave person though, to go out on a limb, making predictions of future performance for any pitcher. It is safe to say, however, that the Giants have probably done as well as could have been done in meeting their closer needs this off- season.

This is the second positive move by management. The first was the signing of Vizquel. These moves will cost them over the next three years but they were essential if the team was serious about competing at the highest level. Vizquel and Benitez have shown, in the past, that they can be vital components of a winning team.

There remain problems. The most obvious need is for an outfielder who can play the outfield in a tough fielder’s park and hit well enough to enable Bonds to get a few more times at bat. Jermaine Dye could meet those requirements. They may, however, be getting close to their eighty million dollar budget figure, which could stand in the way.

They are also presented with a dilemma which they aren’t talking about, perhaps because it is unpleasant to face. They have a player, Alfonzo, who has been playing third base for them these past two years. He still has two years remaining on a four year contract, at eight million dollars a year. They apparently, and with good reason, would far prefer to be playing Feliz at third base. How to make Alfonzo disappear, without paying him the sixteen million dollars he has coming to him, is going to test all of Sabean’s ingenuity.

No other team is going to bail out Sabean, who made an unfortunate decision when he signed Alfonzo. This isn’t an eight million dollar a year player and never was. It is complicated, for Sabean, by the emergence of Feliz as one of the few position players in recent years who had progressed through the Giants farm system, and is now ready to play at a productive major league level. There is talk of trading Feliz. This would be a difficult move for Sabean to contemplate. The only solution which might relieve him of the embarrassment inherent in this situation is if he could be included in a trade for an outfielder who would meet the team’s needs. This is probably a long shot.

It is going to remain interesting until spring training commences although with the moves the Giants have made already it might not be unreasonable to anticipate that Sabean may resolve his problems quicker than expected. It’s going to take some magic. however, to come up with a third base solution.



1 marty { 11.30.04 at 6:11 pm }

Feliz might be traded for an outfielder because no one really wants to take on the Alfonzo contract. The Dodgers might lose Beltre, Milton Bradley is a walking 148 of the penal code, and their pitching isn’t so hot. San Diego looks just as much in disarray as LA is right now. No one wants Klesko, Giles, or Nevin and they are the big three the Padres would like to move. If the Giants made a play for Giles they might be able to get him.
I think the Giants are the prohibitive favorite to win the division even if they don’t get rid of Alfonzo, Durham, Pierzynski or Feliz and just end up going with what they have. Reality says that one must go and I’m betting on Durham or Alfonzo.

2 Anonymous { 11.30.04 at 9:24 pm }

Marty; It is nice contemplating Alfonzo leaving but I don’t think it’s going to happen. The Giants won’t want to pick up part of his salary and that’s probably the only way it can be accomplished. You have been as down on Durham as I have been accused of underrating Rueter. Durham was a productive player for most of last year. His fielding at times was erratic but at other times was close to sensational. He gives them some speed which they are lacking. They are probably stuck with Pierzynski for another year, one of Sabean’s less than brilliant moves. It sounds as tho it’s Feliz who is going to to be moved which is unfortunate, unless they can make a profitable trade involving him.

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