Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Baseball's Continuing Season,Rebuilding the Team by Ed Stern

October no longer marks the end of the baseball season. The intervening months, November to April, when play begins, are devoted to filling those positions which ownership feels need strengthening. Weaknesses are perceived and the hunt, designed to overcome such weaknesses, begins. It begins however, for the most part, for those teams which have the financial ability to attract free agents without concern respecting budget. The prime example is the Evil Empire, also known as the Yankees, although there are a few other teams in a similar position. This season, the period between the end of the post season and the beginning of play in 2004, is not played on a level playing field. A handful of teams play this “rebuilding for the coming year” game with an overwhelming advantage. They have the financial resources to bid for so-called franchise players without regard to the ultimate price. They have the money to outbid most of the other teams for the mid-level talent needed to fill out the roster. This might not seem a fair fight, but, as Jack Kennedy once said, “Who said life is fair?.”

As an example of this, by no means the only example one can come up with, one need only consider the money the Yankees are investing in their bullpen. They have signed Tom Gordan, are looking to sign Paul Quantrill. Together with those already signed, Hammond, Karsay and Rivera, their bullpen will be paid nearly twenty-three million dollars. In addition, they are looking to re-sign the left handers Gabe White and Felix Heredia.

There are some clubs whose entire payroll is not much more than the Yankees bullpen is being paid.

To some extent, baseball always has had similar problems. The St. Louis Browns never was able to field a ball club able to compete with the richer clubs. For years, in the thirties, the Brooklyn Dodgers or the Washington Senators couldn’t come up with a competitive team. As a result, they left Brooklyn and Washington. Teams such as the Cardinals managed to compete because they had ownership which outthought, since they couldn’t outspend, the other teams. Example, Branch Rickey, who put together a farm system which constantly brought up talented young players. However, this was in the days before free agency changed all the rules and television money hadn’t reared it’s ugly head.

Is there anything that can be done to level the playing field to some extent? Free agency and television money is here to stay. Players with talent will continue to demand and rightfully receive millions in pay. They are the product which produces the television dollars and the sell out games at Pac Bell.

The one realistic hope is that smart ownership and general managers, just as Branch Rickey in the past, will compensate for the disparity in what they can afford to pay for talent. The A’s are as good an example as any. The Giants, although in a stronger position financially than the A’s, are saddled with the necessity to pay for their ball park, the only one in the majors not financed with tax dollars. Beane and Sabean make a difference. Along the same line, and one might as well call it what it is, a not very bright management, an inability to judge talent, produces disasters among teams which have the money to spend but don’t know how to spend it. Prime example, the Mets. This helps level the playing field.

This is the way the game is played these days and there is no point in decrying it. It is still more fun than trying to figure out how we are going to disentangle ourselves from Iraq.

Which brings us to the Giants. In the Chronicle today the headline read,”With rivals like these, who needs Guerrero?”.

It was pointed out that the Giants’ division, already weak, has been additionally weakened by the movement of players, such as Schilling, to teams outside the division and the Giants, having filled their catching hole, have thereby strengthened themselves. It concludes that the Giants have a lock on the year 2004 up to the playoffs; that in the post season they can look forward to the type of disappointment they are rapidly becoming accustomed to.

However, one might answer the question posed above, be it rhetorical or not, differently. The six hundred pound gorilla facing the team is the projected loss of Bonds in two years, either to the American League, an already announced move by Barry, or to the simple ravages of age.

We know the Sabean philosophy, win it now and worry about next year after we win it this year. However, that philosophy worked during the years that Bonds was there to provide the tremendous leadership only a player as great as Barry could provide. In two years there will not simply be the need to surround Bonds with enough players of sufficient ability to guarantee a winning team. There will not be a Bonds to surround. This team will need to be rebuilt. This is the time to start that process.

Guerrero may not be the answer. They may not have the means to acquire him. Sheffield, even if available, and there is some talk now that the Yankees are having second thoughts about Sheffield because of his desire for a multiple year contract, would not be a long term answer, He is 37 years old and if he persists in his demand for multiple years, the Giants would have the same objections the Yankees are having.

Sabean’s task is, therefore, defined. It is a harder task than it has been. He has to continue with his “win it now” posture but keep in mind where he is going to be two years from now,

As for the Giants having a lock on 2004’s regular season, it is a reflection on just how weak that division is. This is a team which has no idea who is going to play first base or right field for them, or who is going to be the fourth and fifth starter in the rotation. And yet, it is reasonable to assume that Sabean will come up with players of sufficient ability to fill those roles and, indeed, make them a “lock”.

Before April, and it is to be hoped, sooner rather than later, we shall have a better idea where Sabean is coming from.


1 marty { 12.03.03 at 4:01 pm }

Are you confident that Rob Nen will be healthy next season? Would you spend the money to bring Tim Worrell back? Barry Bonds has lost so much foot speed in left, wouldn’t it make sense to go after Mike Cameron in center, so he could cover two thirds of the outfield (and some of right too)? Dustin Hermanson and Kevin Correia make me nervous if they are my fourth and fifth starters.
Miguel Tejada’s market has changed because of the uncertainty surrounding A Rod and Nomar. If Nomar came to the Angels and A Rod to Boston, there goes Tejada’s ace in the hole team(Anaheim). I think Tejada would rather play in SF than Baltimore, his other pursuer. With Kaz Matsui coming from Japan to most likely a West Coast team (Seattle?), Tejada may take another look at the A’s. It’s not much hope for A’s fans but a heckuva lot better than it looked one month ago about the prospect of Tejada coming back.
How about Eddie Guardado for the Giants or the A’s? He is a Stockton native and a durable closer. Don’t think the Twins will resign him and they have until Sunday to offer arbitration or lose the right to talk with him until May 1st, so he may become a hot commodity if the Twins back off.
Red Sox make me laugh calling the Yankees the Evil Empire, they are just as culpable now in adding to the “I’ll buy a pennant with money frenzy”.
Good article, Ed, thanks,

2 Anonymous { 12.03.03 at 7:27 pm }

Great article. It is like an hourly thing right now as the Yanks sign everyone in sight. I guess there will always be the haves and havenots. It will be interesting to see how far the Red Sox go in trying to keep pace with their greatest rival.

Marty, I have had the same thoughts about the Miguel situation. Everyone has been so quiet about him. I look for Nomar to go to Anaheim, Manny to Texas for Arod and Matsui to the Mariners. Then, Miguel has his choice of the Orioles, Mets, maybe the Dodgers and Giants, and the A’s. Where would he really like to go at that point? I don’t think the Giants. Certainly not the Mets with the brutal NY press. Let’s hope that Billy has enough money to entice him to stay where he is loved and where he is comfortable.

What is your take on this Foukle stuff? Looks like the A’s are hoping the Red Sox bid themselves up and he goes there. Or we offer him arbitration and sign him for 1 year instead of a 4 year contract which makes no sense.

Any thoughts on a catcher?

I feel like a big trade or signing for the A’s will break soon. Dye for LoDuca? Miguel returning? What a great puzzle it all is.

3 glenpark { 12.03.03 at 9:28 pm }

My interest in all the Hot Stove talk comes from the big wave MLB gaves us all last season. August and September were terrific, but October was just off the charts. The playoffs and WS were just outstanding.

You are correct to decry the economic disparity among franchises, but it is worth looking at places like Sacramento, where a highly entertaining franchise sells out a gorgeous riverfront ballpark-and there are many similar -baseball is truly fighting back from its myriad problems.

As to building block players — people say Preston Wilson is available in trade, and Carlos Beltran is a wonderful player entering his last contract year. Cameron is a fabulous centerfielder –but has big holes in his swing – and why would Seattle let him go? Jose Guillen is a great fielder and an aggressive hitter with a compact dynamic swing — I sure hope he does not leave the Bay Area.

Matsui seems a good fit in Seattle, but we really know very little about him. Is he another Ichiro, or another Shinjo?

Foulke is to me the best player still unsigned. Sheffield and Guerrero have the name, but their number and terms don’t really work. Foulke is different — he is in great physical shape, his control and concentration top notch, and he seems to be a great team mate. He has come along way since his break in at Candlestick. It would make the A’s season if they can get him, even if only a one year arbitration.

I actually would hate to see him go to Boston ( after that idiotic stunt their players pulled against Lilly in Game Three, and the Lowe antics after game five). And he is not going to NYY. Atlanta has Smoltz, Phila has Wagner, so maybe there is a chance he will stay if he turns away from the Boston soap opera.

As for Miguel, wow, keeping him in Green and Gold would be a dream come true.

4 Ed { 12.04.03 at 9:57 am }

Marty: Sabean is probably having sleepless nights trying to put together a team. His major problem is pitching. Somehow he’ll find a first baseman and right fielder. It isn’t easy coming up with a couple of starters in addition to being concerned about Nen. I wonder if he is haunted by the thought that he gave up a twenty game winner and today has absolutely nothing to show in return.

5 marty { 12.04.03 at 10:57 am }

Yankees decide on Javier Vasquez from Montreal instead of Bartolo Colon, so where does Colon end up? Maybe he’ll reconsider Chicago White Sox offer of 36 million before he is pitching for less in Texas. Nick Johnson can play, but Vasquez will help NY if Frank Robinson’s habit of letting him throw 140 pitches in a game for Montreal hasn’t effected him for the future. Yankees are cornering the market on relievers. Paul Quantrill did the right thing turning down Dodgers option for 3 mil and then signing for 6 mil with the Yankees. He knew the market, good advice from someone. Doesn’t it seem like NY and Boston are in their own league and try to outdo each other every day. Boston names Francona manager, Yanks get Vasquez, now Boston will put the pressure on Foulke to sign, if not him then Everyday Eddie Guardado could be a Red Sox by next week. Meanwhile Miguel waits patiently for the A Rod-Nomar-Manny soap opera to play out. If Foulke chooses Boston, the A’s have the dough for Miguel, even though they have mentally cut him loose. Now if they could just find a taker for Jermaine Dye. It wouldn’t hurt to give Bobby Crosby a few more AAA games especially if Miguel came back, Crosby could be heir to third base when we start the Chavez watch this season.

6 Anonymous { 12.04.03 at 11:17 am }

So now it’s a real possbility the A’s may get Foulke OR Tejada back? From a practical standpoint, it would seem that Foulke is still the way to go, considering the number of one-run games the A’s had last year, not to mention the fact that the A’s pretty much have planned for life after Miguel for some time……….HOWEVER one must consider the intangible benefit/morale boost to the team, the fans, and even the local media if Miguel DID actually return. This would shut up a lot of A’s naysayers and boost ticket sales for next year…….It appears that the Boston/NY battle has really stirred up the free agent market to say the least, is it possible that Mr. Schott would consider bumping up the payroll if getting BOTH Tejada and Foulke back were not too far out of range? -Rob

7 Anonymous { 12.04.03 at 11:29 am }

Is Mr Schott going to give all A’s fans a big Christmas present by signing Miguel? He has to be reading and hearing everything that is being said. He cannot let the Yanks and Bosox take everyone. The morale of the fans and the team members will be given such a huge boost. The heart and soul of the A’s coming back after everyone thought all was lost? Mr. Schott, that is the only gift I want for Christmas.

8 Anonymous { 12.04.03 at 11:32 am }

I think the A’s are saving their pennies for Chavez rather than Tejada so even if Foulke goes to Boston my fear is Miggy is gone anyway.

Even more disturbing is that I think Texas could enter the Tejada sweepstakes if the ARod/Manny trade comes off. Then all 3 AL West competitors would be candidates to sign Miggy.

Regardless, I believe Foulke to close out tight games, is crucial to the A’s 04 success as our offense even with Tejada will be mediocre again next season.

Marty, still can’t believe BB can’t package a AAA pitcher with Dye to off that salary.
I said on another site that your beloved Dodgers are looking for RH power and corner outfielders and have offered LaDuca to get it done. The A’s need a catcher. Seems like a match especially if the Dodgers send K. Brown packing, they might could use a young starter as well.

Reno Bill

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