Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Sabean's Headaches, What the Doctor Prescribes by Ed Stern

Marty: Out of state this past week and therefore no opportunity to see any of the interesting games. Pieced together what happened by reading the box scores. It is now 80 games into the season and time to take a close look at beginning of the season thoughts respecting Giants’ prospects and how they have panned out. The team had a remarkable early run but even while that was taking place there were expressed concerns, namely, was the left side of the infield a winning combination, how would the bullpen hold up with Nen out for the year, what were they going to do with Bernard and Rivera, two losers, in the outfield, could they possibly overcome the loss of a proven winning pitcher with the potential to win 20 games and the ability to win in clutch situations, how would the rotation work with two unproven rookies throwing and Moss being less than impressive during spring training, was Durham a reliable fielder at 2nd, would Grissom give them everyday, reliable, hitting in center. Some of these concerns have been answered. Grissom has done a great job, his hitting has been more than acceptable, he had a great run leading off when Durham was hurt, Durham has been more than adequate fielding his position, leading one to wonder why the A’s thought there was a need to DH him last year. Durham is the best leadoff man the team has had in years, hitting consistently over .300. Worrell, whose best spot in the bullpen is as a setup man, has filled the closer spot far better than was expected of him. The bullpen is still somewhat shaky, particularly with Rodriguez erratic and undependable in tight moments. The outfield problems, so apparent as the season started, turned out to be as bad or worse than predicted. Rivera is gone, Bernard is on the DL and might as well be gone, the team is playing Feliz in the outfield accompanied by two unimpressive players from the minors. Cruz, after a good start, has fallen off drastically, hurting the team in clutch situations over and over again. Today was an example. It would have been a different game had he not hit into a double play, home to first, with the bases loaded and none out in the second inning. There is no way Alou can sit him down for a while because there is no one available to play right field in his place. This leaves us with the pitching rotation and the left side of the infield to consider. From the very beginning of the season it has been clear, at least to this observer, that the combination of Aurilia and Alfonzo was not equal to the task. Aurilia simply is not the player he was a few years ago. It was always his hitting that kept him in the game. He has limited range. His hitting has fallen off the past two years, he leaves far too many men on base, hits into far too many double plays. Perez is a major league shortstop and it appears that Alou may be coming to the obvious conclusion. Sit Aurilia down and turn the job over to Perez. Alfonzo is the more difficult problem. Sabean has signed him to a 4 year contract for something in the neighborhood of 26 million dollars. Shades of Marvin Bernard! Yesterday Alou said that he would sit Alfonzo down for a short time and let Feliz play third, but that Alfonzo was his third baseman. It is difficult to believe that this would be his decision if he didn’t have the spectre of that contract hanging over his head– or is it Sabean’s head it is hanging over. Sabean’s decision to sign Alfonzo to that contract, in the face of his record the past two years with the Mets,when he could only drive in 50 runs a year playing regularly, is going to haunt the team for four years. How do you sit down a player making twenty-six million dollars? On the other hand, how long can one go along with a third baseman who is hitting a weak .220 and gives little indication that it is going to get better. Feliz has been given a chance to play this year. He still swings at too many bad pitches but, despite this, is hitting a long ball and hitting in the clutch. Roberto Clemente swung at bad pitches also. Feliz should be playing regularly and this is what is undoubtedly causing Sabean sleepless nights. To compound Sabean’s sleeping problems there is the Ortiz for Moss trade, possibly the worst trade the Giants have made since the day, many years ago, when they gave St.Louis a high class first baseman for a left handed pitcher who lasted about one year with the team. Ortiz is a proven winner. He has been flirting with a twenty game win season for a few years and this year the flirtation is going to end up in a marriage. He has been a pitcher one could throw out there in a game that had to be won and reasonably expect a respectable effort. Think back to the sixth game of the World Series. In exchange for him they received a pitcher who has no idea where the ball is going to end up once it leaves his hand. Too often, it ends up four hundred feet away in the stands, or someplace between outfielders, in the gap. Alou has said recently that Moss is going to miss his next turn but then he is back in the rotation. Once again, the Sabean factor? When this trade was announced, before spring training, it was met with a sense of disbelief, followed by dispair. The explanation, that it was being done in order to save the money that Ortiz, a winner, would expect to receive in a new salary, made it even worse. This team sells out every game. Are they so desperate for money that they have to give away a winning starter and, moreover, give him to Atlanta, a team the Giants may very likely face in the playoffs? Moss didn’t show, in the short time with Atlanta, that he was going to turn into a class act. He was described as “effectively wild”. It quickly became clear with the Giants that while he was wild he was not effective. His performance in his last start, against LA, was the culmination of a progressive inability to throw strikes. Against LA, in a game that was important, he completely lost it. The likelihood of his ever finding it is remote. The Giants need to come up with another starting pitcher. Unfortunately, Ainsworth is probably lost for the year. Sabean needs to go into the free agent market for pitching and outfield help. The pitching may not be available at any price, but, if it is, it is going to cost what they saved when they gave away Ortiz. One cannot talk about the rotation without talking about Jerome Williams. The other night this twenty one year old, against a good ball club, the A’s, threw a seven hitter for his first, not his last, major league shutout. He allowed just one runner to reach second base and needed just 96 pitches- 73 strikes- in an incredible exhibition of control. In the final three innings 28 of his 31 pitches were strikes. He didn’t throw a ball in the 9th inning. I hope Moss was watching. The importance of that first pitch being a strike cannot be overstated. Williams is the real thing and the team is fortunate that he came along sooner than expected. If Ainsworth hadn’t gone down he would probably be coming to the team, to start in Moss’ place, now. Unfortunately, with Ainsworth gone, they need a fifth starter. After all of the above, one has to say that this is a good ballclub. It starts with Bonds and picks up with Santiago, Durham, Grissom, yes,Perez, who should be playing, Snow, Gallarraga, Schmidt, a dominant pitcher, as good as any these days, a fine manager and a winning attitude. They are going to have to fight off Arizona, the two big pitchers waiting in the wings. LA simply cannot hit. The rest of the year is going to be a dog fight. It will be fun.


1 Anonymous { 06.30.03 at 12:32 pm }

super analysis-same comment as for the A’s.

Juan Gonzalez would fill the bill if he wants to get out of Texas. Texas is not going to play him much the rest of the year. He could really help.

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