Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

No Joy in Mudville; or in SBC Park either by Ed Stern

Marty; There is an understandable reason why you have heard nothing from me since the conclusion of the playoffs. For the past three years this page has consisted of the musings of one who purports to write solely from the vantage point of a fan. This means that no particular insight is arrived at after speaking to players, coaches or management. No inside information is available to the average fan, and that means this writer. We depend on the press, local and, to some extent, national for our information. And very little has been written about our Giants.

Great to hear from Ed. His perspective is the most intuitive look at the Giants available to baseball fans in the country.


Since the season ended we have been aware that the Mets have opened the pursestrings, signing impact players right and left; that the Marlins have decided to sell off all of their productive players in an effort to compensate for the fact that their fans won’t come out to their ballpark no matter how winning the team’s efforts are; that the Cubs refuse to concede that there is another ball team in Chicago and continue in the attempt to upgrade their club.

There are other stories, of course. The A’s outbid the Giants for the services of Loaiza, for instance; one of the few instances in which the Giants have been mentioned. It is unremarkable that, search as one will, one can find little mention of acivity on the part of Sabean’s club. The simple answer is that there has been no instance of meaningful movement to bolster the team.

Attention was paid in the press, momentarily, to the departure of Eyre to the Cubs. Since Eyre was one of the premium left-handed relief pitchers in the game, his loss could hardly be considered a positive move. Allowing the A’s to outbid them for Loaiza may very well turn out to be a wise move, since the A’s may discover that there is a reason why Loaiza has had only one outstanding year in an eleven year major league career.

In searching for the reason there has been such a dearth of news respecting our team one might possibly conclude that
Sabean has put together such a strong collection of talent that there was no need to look elsewhere for improvement.

In testing the reasonableness of such conclusion a good, hard, look at the personnel is in order. Starting with the catcher and working our way around to left field, Metheny can catch for a team which has pretensions to win it all. He is acknowledged to be as accomplished a catcher in working with his pitchers as there is in the game. In addition, he is recognized as the active player most likely to succeed as a manager once his playing days are over. His hitting won’t bring Johnny Bench to mind but he shows improvement as the years go by. Last year he had the best batting average with men in scoring position of any catcher playing.

At first base, it was noted this morning that the Giants have said farewell to J.T.Snow. Snow had seen his best days, being incapable of hitting the fence, but he played as good a first base as anyone. In his place the Giants announced this morning that they have signed first baseman/outfielder Mark Sweeney. Unfortunately, Sweeney, in his ten years or so in the majors, has never been good enough to secure a full time position. The motivation for signing him apparently was the result of their outfield problems. Sweeney, during his less than impressive career, has played in the outfield as well as first base. More about the aging outfield shortly.

When left handed pitchers face them, they are depending on the right-handed hitting Niekro. Niekro, however, has a slow bat. It is questionable whether he will be capable of hitting successfully at this level.

At second, Durham, if he succeeds in remaining healthy, is capable of being a member of a winning team. He hits well, and is athletic enough to field his position more than adequately, although he has a few moments in the field which cause one a certain amount of despair.

At short is one of the great shortstops of this era, Vizquel. It is sad that he is well along in years, that he is playing for the Giants in the twilight of his career. His hitting the last third of the year fell off significantly. It isn’t going to improve in 2006.

At third we expect to see a combination of Alfonzo and Feliz.
Alfonzo is in his fourth and last year as a Giant. He will pick up his last eight million dollar salary and wave goodbye, thanking Sabean for making a mediocre player a rich man. Feliz, who will get most of the playing time, has yet to show that he has the discipline at bat to hit adequately. The strike zone is a foreign concept to him.

In right field, Alou is part of the aged ball club. He had difficulty staying healthy in 2005. How productive he will be in 2006 is up for grabs.

In center, Winn was traded in mid-season to the Giants. He had a great second half, leading off. This far exceeded any predictions one could reasonably have made. Whether this was simply an aberration is still to be seen.

Left field; what remains to be said about the Bonds situation?
If anyone knows what to expect from Barry it is being kept very quiet. Bonds has agreed to play in the international extravaganza in March but only on condition that he is the DH. That won’t fly in the National League where they still play baseball the way it was supposed to be played, with a nine man rather than a ten man team. His physical condition remains a mystery to the fans– and perhaps to management as well. The number of games he will play in 2006 is open to idle speculation.

The thought of Sweeney, playing in place of Alou or Bonds when one or the other is out of the lineup, is laughable. If this is the measure of the team, they are in worse shape than is thought here. Further, where is the fifth outfielder? There will be days when neither Bonds or Alou will drag their weary bodies out there.

Leaving the pitching aside, this team continues to be built around Bonds. The difference now is that we are looking at a player who had trouble walking off the field in the few games he played last year. He couldn’t run. His play in the field permitted balls to drop in front of him a journeyman fielder would have easily put away. From what we now are permitted to know there is no way we can assume the Bonds of a few years ago.

As for the pitching, they need at least two starters in the rotation. This assumes that their youngsters, Cain and Lowry, and particularly Cain, live up to their promise. Particularly Cain because Cain is the possible saviour. Lowry is a fourth starter if he is pitching in a decent rotation. In any event, the two additional starters haven’t been identified. If they are successful in acquiring Morris it will be a step in the right direction.

Leaving the uncertainties of the pitching aside for the moment, this team, if Bonds cannot play in at least 125 games at something approximating the Bonds of a while back, will be a boring spectacle to watch. It is true that they are playing in the worst division in the game. There is little likelihood that they will be the best team in the worst division. There will come a time when playing in the most attractive ball park in either league will not be enough. The fans won’t come out to watch a bad club.

A last word. The game has changed and not for the better. We are seeing the relegation of a number of teams in small area communities to a perpetual inability to compete on a meaningful level. The Mets are a prime example of how changes are affecting the competitive nature of the game.

The Mets have made it clear that they are unconcerned about the amount of money they spend in grabbing up impact players. They are playing in the same league as Steinbrenner now. In Yankee fashion, they have acquired a TV network with a huge audience. This is where the money is. In order to attract viewers they need to put a winning team on the screen The cost of doing so pales in consideration of the return they receive from their TV investment. They will spend whatever it takes to accomplish this. This will soon leave a significant number of clubs without any chance of ever competing for the top spots.

As we have said before, it is foolhardy to make predictions before spring training begins. It is probably equally preumptuous to make them after spring training. Ten days before the playoffs makes more sense– and then we remember the Phillies of bygone years.



1 Anonymous { 12.09.05 at 8:58 am }

Ed great article about the Giants chances in 2006.
To me Bonds and Matt Cain are the keys but I cannot overlook the bull pen. Benitez is reliable but injury prone. Tim Worrell and Steve Kline are 7th inning men at best. I think the bull pen will provide many anxious moments especially with Alou going to the pen five times per game.
Matt Moris would certainly help but he is no longer the pitcher of past years. I think Jarrod Washburn would be a better choice.
I think the Padres are on the right track and will be the favorites going into the spring.
Are the Dodgers still in the league? LA is getting ready for 2007 and an above .500 season in ’06 will be a major step.
Pitching is still the name of the game, let’s see how this staff shapes up after the dust settles in January.
I’m coming home from Florida today. As is typical with trips to vacation spots, the weather finally got nice the morning I’m leaving.
California will be a welcome sight tonight.

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