Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Continuing Saga of Giants' Fundamental Problems by Ed Stern.

Marty; When we talk of fundamental problems we are talking of management decisions which can significantly affect the team’s prospects in the future. The Giants have been successful, to a great extent, these past three or four years pursuing a plan whereby they stock their club with veteran players, either through trades or free agency. These are not impact players but are. for the most part, players of known ability who, when put together with a team which has Barry Bonds playing the predominant role he now plays, has managed to make the playoffs and, in one instance, came very close to winning the Series.

During these years their pitching has been adequate to meet the demands a winning team makes. Nen has been a fairly reliable closer and when he left the scene Worrell unexpectedly, stepped up and performed well, closing games. Schmidt, stolen from the Pirates in one of Sabean’s coups, became one of the games outstanding starters.

For many years , the farm system has emphasized drafting pitchers. Position players who are capable of performing at a high major league level have been a rare, well-nigh, non-existent commodity on their minor league clubs. The Will Clarks, the Jack Clarks, surfaced many years ago and haven’t been seen since. Despite the emphasis on drafting pitchers, there have been remarkably few pitchers coming through the farm system who have been successful at the major league level. Williams is one who comes immediately to mind. the other one, unfortunately, happens to be Nathan, inexplicably traded for a catcher who wasn’t needed.

Click below for Ed’s analysis of the current problems of the Giants!

When one looks at the rosters of other clubs, however, one sees the emergence of many young players coming through the farm systems of these teams. It is one of the reasons there appears to be such a level of parity these days, with many clubs in the running for a prominent place in the playoff season. Young ball players, in addition, performing at a high level, come a great deal cheaper than the type of player the Giants have been attracting.

The need for a well-run farm system, interestingly enough, may be seen by the problems the wealthy, money-is-no-object, Yankees are having today. The Yankees have pitching problems. Their farm system hasn’t been sending up talented pitchers, or, for that matter, talented position players, once one gets past Soriano. This may largely be due to the Yankees poor drafting position, year after year, as a result of their high standing at the end of the season. It is not the result of an unwillingness to spend money.

The Yankees failed in their attempt to get Johnson from the D’backs. They did not have enough attractive players in their farm system to entice Arizona. Since Johnson’s salary demands were so astronomical, clubs with talent which might have proven attractive to Arizona, were not in a position to assume Johnson’s salary. The Yankees, alone, were. But they didn’t have the young players needed to make the deal. The Yankees compensate for this, of course,by going into the open market and paying whatever the market demands for impact players.

The Giants, who believe their financial resources are limited, have, on occasion, given up a more attractive drafting position because the higher the draft position, the more they have to pay the chosen player as a signing bonus. This reflects the value the place on their farm system.

Their neighbor across the bay, the A’s, would be a good object lesson for the Giants to examine. The A’s have developed a productive farm system, which regularly brings up very talented players. They have one now, in Crosby. It has enabled them to divest themselves of established stars, Tejada, Giambi, for example, perhaps Zito at the end of this year, and receive in exchange high draft choices. As recently pointed out here, they had four draft choices before the Giants drafted in the 70th spot. Notable is that their payroll is about 20 million dollars less than the Giants. The A’s, however, even without great financial resources, certainly less than the Giants, with their every day sell out ball park, have signed Chavez to a six-year, 66 million dollar contract. This is a player,perhaps a franchise player, they could not afford to lose and maintain credibility. They haven’t lost him.

The Giants have to change the way they have been doing business. They have to enter the new world of baseball. which in some ways resembles the old world. Start developing young players, build a farm system which accomplishes this; it can be done. It has been done. Branch Rickey did it years ago, with limited financial means.

Which brings us, once again, to their present predicament, which, in large part, is a result of the short-sighted manner in which they have been operating.

Williams is probably through for the year. This creates a tremendous problem for a pitching staff which, with Williams, left a great deal to be desired. Their problems existed before Williams surgery. They shouldn’t use the absence of Williams as an excuse for their inevitable failure this year. They didn’t have much going for them before Williams was hurt.

They have a difficult situation at third base. Alfonzo is in the second year of an 8 million dollar a year contract which runs through 2006. Alou would like to play Feliz at third base. In a moment of unintended revelation recently, he mentioned, when discussing his desire to give Feliz more playing time, that he had a “third baseman under contract”, namely, Alfonzo. This is a reflection of his frustration. How does a manager sit down a player who is being paid 8 million dollars a year to play third base, without thoroughly discrediting the management which brought him aboard? The answer has been, that he can’t do it. Yet the team is probably a better team with Feliz playing third.

Further fuel is added to the problem by recalling that there were many who thought the Alfonzo signing was a big mistake at the time it was done. His record the previous two years did not inspire much confidence, certainly not enough to justify the contact they signed him to. They would have been much better off if they had a Chavez lurking in a farm system. Or is that too obvious?

The team needs a shortstop. They need an outfielder to replace Grissom, who appears to be feeling his age. They need pitching desperately. Alou is talking of going to a four man rotation. He is thinking of starting Walker. This is a meaure of their desperation. It is a team in the process of disintegration. It may become ugly.

A word has to be said about the Snow Renaissance. Since coming off the DL he has hit at about the .350 level with a frequent long ball. Hitting in front of Barry does wonders. It is unfortunate that only one player at a time can do this. Nevertheless, Snow is hitting better since the All Star break than he has ever hit. One wonders, even with the Bonds element considered, what took him so long. Snow may have achieved an attractive new contract this coming year. Before the recent revival, he was a sure choice of being turned loose at year’s end.

The death watch may not be pleasant for long-standing Giant fans. We have to continue watching Rueter pitch. He may even be around next year. with, as the morning paper observed, his ERA, since July 1, of 5.29, righthanders hitting .290 against him, while lefties are hitting .312.

If it gets bad enough, perhaps it will ultimately lead to better times. Management should give it thought. This isn’t working.