Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Foolhardy, but Irresistible January Predictions by Ed Stern

Marty: This is the loneliest time of year for baseball fans; spring training is a few weeks away, we have been putting up with NFL nonsense since the free agency free-for-all ended, and, in reality, there is very little to write about. Overcoming this problem, Bruce Jenkins, in this morning’s press, came up with an entertaining, “predicted order of finish, dead-of-winter version” of the Western Division, National League race.
The Rockies, of course, are dead last, Arizona fourth, the Padres third, LA second and the Giants lead the pack. A dyed in- the- wool, Giants fan couldn’t have done better. There is one small caveat to this prediction. It assumes a healthy Bonds, healthy enough to play in at least 120 games, with no diminution in the skill level.

He points out that “this wasn’t much of a unit (team) without Bonds”. This demonstrates the respect that knowledgeable observers have for Bonds’s ability to dominate a game, when healthy. There is no player who comes to mind about whom this could be said, namely, that such player could take a mediocre club and, solely by his presence, turn it into a winner.

An immediate question arises. Is this team, without Bonds, as bad as predicted? The answer may depend upon the performance of two young, starting pitchers, Lowry and, in particular, Cain. If Lowry pitches into late innings consistently, having in mind Alou’s predilection for removing those showing any sign of weakness, and if Cain rewards all those predicting Hall of Fame talent, this club could conceivably compete in a meaningful fashion with the rest of this weak division.

It would be playing with the ancient outfielders, Alou and Finley and the youngster, in Giants’ terms, Winn. If Alou and Finley have one more year in which they play back to their all-star level, and Winn demonstrates that last year’s second half performance was not an aberration, it might not be an unpleasant time at SBC park. The pitching, assuming the above, could make it enjoyable. It has been many years since the Giants gave us the pleasure of watching a young pitcher with an unlimited future.

The infield remains, at best, questionable. First base may be a disaster. The Giants may rue the day they allowed Snow to excape to the Red Sox. He is not the player he was a few years ago, although his fielding will convert the Sox pitchers into adherants. He may no longer be able to hit the fences, but he is a patient hitter and his on-base percentage is respectable. Sweeney, at his best, isn’t the player Snow is today. If they are depending on Niekro, it may be a very frustrating year.

This brings us, once again, to Bonds. It cannot be comforting to read about his withdrawal from the international tournament. Nothing Bonds ever says can be taken as gospel. Everything he proclaims must be measured against the certainty that he is speaking from self- interest. He was never expected to do more than DH in the March extravaganza. His statement that he owes it to his fans to get in the best shape possible, that this obligation forcloses his playing in March, even as a DH, was late in coming. It raises doubts concerning the lingering effects of knee surgery, despite his assertions that his rehab is going well.

There is no guaranty that Bonds will be in the April opening lineup. If he is not, Mr. Jenkins will need to consider revising his predicted finish. If Bonds is capable of playing up to his 2004 ability, his prediction may be a well considered one.

As for the Dodgers, the comment that “Colletti hasn’t done a thing to make the Dodgers intimidating” is open to question, although “intimidating” may be too strong a word. He certainly has made the Dodgers a better team than they were last year. Furcal and Garciaparra are proven winning players. Throw out Furcal’s previous batting average at Dodger Stadium, on which Jenkins places so much emphasis.
The few games that a visiting team plays at the home of an out of division rival is not a true indication of how a player will do over eighty three games.

The Dodgers major concern is not dissimilar to the Giants’ Bonds problem. LA needs a healthy Gagne. Baez was a wise Colletti move, but a healthy Gagne turns every LA game into an eight inning affair. If Gagne is healthy, they will give the Giants a run for the money, even if Bonds is available. If the young Giants pitchers have typical young pitchers’ problems, the Giants will have the same difficulty, respecting the rotation, in 2006, that they had in 2005.

When all is said and done, thanks to Bruce Jenkins for giving us something to write about. Making predictions in January about an upcoming baseball season, as no one knows better than Mr. Jenkins, is a foolhardy exercise. Nevertheless, it is the sort of exercise true fans persist in indulging in, hoping that no one recalls in July what was predicted in January.

As for his comments respecting the other three teams, let’s leave that for another day. There isn’t much to be said for them, although Arizona may provide some surprises. His desire to remove Colorado and the Florida franchises from the baseball picture is one few will argue with.



1 Anonymous { 01.26.06 at 1:18 am }

It’s always so fun to read Ed’s posts. They’re always so thoughtful and considered with a splendid vocabulary to boot. Thanks for the wonderful writing.


You must log in to post a comment.