Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Hope Springs Eternal, Even For The Giants

Marty: Shortly after the season began I followed the trend of many
others, including yourself, in predicting where teams would find
themselves at baseball year’s end. I restricted myself. however, to
discussing solely the fortunes of the Giants rather than the entire
major league world since my interest in keeping in touch is mainly
with the San Francisco team. In rather foolhardy fashion, I
concluded that the Giants were a miserable collection of over age
position players, with the only ray of hope being the pitching
staff. I even called for a public apology from management for
fielding a team that was destined to finish at the bottom of the heap.
Click below for more of Ed’s article.

They have now played fifteen games. Today is the start of the
process where one begins to point out that the initial dire
prediction was off base, that the team isn’t nearly as bad as was
described and there is still hope for an entertaining season. It is
true that fifteen games does not a season make, that it is equally
foolhardy to jump to conclusions based on such limited evidence.
Nevertheless, these few games may provide a reasonable basis for
drawing attention to significant factors which were mentioned in the
earlier prediction.
At the earlier examination of the team’s personnel I concluded that
an obvious weak spot in the lineup was at third base. Feliz’
performance last year didn’t inspire any confidence in his ability to
hold down third base in a commendable fashion. His on-base average
was in the low .200s. It is at .229 today. Additionally, his
fielding has suffered. Even at this early date, it has become clear
that the team is a great deal stronger with Aurillia playing third
and Klesko at first. The downside is that Aurillia has been the
designated replacement when one of the infielders has to be replaced
for one reason or another. The solution is to get rid of Feliz if
the Giants continue to feel the need to have four first basemen on
the roster. Easier said than done.
Feliz has limited trade value. They would have to accept the fact
that only by releasing Feliz or keeping him sitting on the bench,
while collecting his not inconsequential salary for a couple of
years, can they field the team that should be running out on the
field every day.
The team’s strength rests in it’s starting pitching. Zito, Cain and
Lowry would make any playoff team formidable, not that we are today
foreseeing the Giants in that role. In the playoffs three
outstanding pitchers can be the recipe for success. During the long
162 game season, if all three remain healthy, the Giants could remain
in contention until October. It is true that Lowry has yet to prove
that he can consistently reach the high performance level that he had
displayed more than occasionally last year and during these few games
played since April. It is assumed here that he will do so.

The bullpen, as has been evident since spring training, is a work in

progress. The primary hurdle to overcome is still the uncertain
ability of their professed closer to hold a one run lead in the ninth.
Benitez may feel self-satisfied with his performance to date but many
of us remain skeptical. He has yet to be asked to hold a one run
lead. On two occasions he came into the game, including
yesterday’s, with a three run cushion. Yesterday he managed to escape
with a save after walking two men and putting the winning run at the
plate with two out. In a previous game he gave up two runs before
getting the third out. One of these day he will be asked to hold a
one run lead. Until then, the jury is out.
One encouraging feature in their relative success to date is that
Bonds appears to be in better health than he was all of last year.
He is running better on the base paths although he continues to allow
balls to drop in front of him that an ordinary left fielder would put
away. His OBA continues to be in the higher realms, he is being
walked frequently and getting enough hits to remain above .300.

An unsettling thought, that is not being mentioned prominently in the

press these days, is the result of the very recent recalling of the
Grand Jury to hear evidence from a former member of the trainer’s
staff, apparently intended to buttress the anticipated testimony of
Bonds’s former girl friend, that Bonds admitted to her that he was
taking steroids. It doesn’t appear that the authorities have given
up on their effort to hold Bonds responsible for some of the charges
that have surfaced. If there is an indictment and a trial during
the season Bonds usefulness thereafter is questionable. The Giants,
without Bonds in the lineup, are going nowhere but down.
Roberts and Vizquel have not been getting on base with the regularity
that has been expected of them. They haven’t been setting the stage
for the number three, four and five hitters, who have been doing
their job, to drive in runs. This has been a major factor in the
low run production and consequent shutouts that they have suffered.
Roberts should come out of his slump, but Vizquel may be showing the
effects of advancing years on his batting eye, even as his fielding
remains at a high level. Winn looks dispirited, perhaps from being
reduced to hitting ninth. It is evidenced by his .217 average,
although the reason given for his place in the order is that Bochy
wants a reliable hitter hitting in front of the pitcher. This would
seem to leave Feliz out of that spot.
One cannot ask more of the heart of the order. Aurillia is hitting
among the league leaders, Durham is backing up Bonds more than
adequately and playing a great second base, Klesko, on the few
occasions he has been given the chance to play, has added power to
the lineup. There will come a time, sooner, it is hoped, than later
that Bochy bites the bullet and plays his best team.
So much for fifteen days into the new year. It promises to be an
interesting season—if Bonds can continue to elude the prosecutors.
I am no longer calling for public apologies.


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