Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Giants: The Outlook for 2006/2007 by Ed Stern

Marty; When a team loses 14 out of it’s latest 16 games, when five of those games, in six tries, are lost to the likes of Cleveland and Kansas City, it should be clear to management that changes of a drastic nature are called for. Good teams never suffer such a dismal stretch. Apparently, Sabean has now figured this out.

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Before the team started down it’s most recent road, as early as two weeks into the season, it became evident to some observers that there were serious problems which hadn’t been addressed by the winter moves which had been made. The clearest shortcomings were in the pitching, both bullpen and rotation.

The one significant addition to the pitching, Benitez, quickly became lost for the year with an injury which may have been due, in part, to a lack of condition. This, once again, made the need for a closer evident. This still remains to be overcome, although Walker holds out some hope for the remainder of this year.

It should have been self-evident, however, early on, that both the rotation and the bullpen left much to be desired in addition to the need for a closer. Respecting the starters, Schmidt immediately let observers know that he was not prepared to perform up to the standards which made him one of the best pitchers in the majors for a number of years.
While he is showing some signs of returning to his previous high levels, it still remains to be seen whether he can accomplish this in the near future.

Tomko and Lowry have yet to show the consistency one would like to see in a rotation on a team which has visions of contending. Rueter’s performance last night, six innings, six hits, four walks, two strikeouts, and five earned runs is, unfortunately, what one might expect, more often than not, from an exceedingly overrated pitcher. The fifth spot has been filled, intermittently, by a 42 year old pitcher who has bounced around the majors for fourteen years with little distinction. This doesn’t add up to starting pitching to be proud of.

According to the report in the morning press, They have called up Foppert to fill the fifth spot. They have also let Snow know that Niekro will now get a chance to show whether he can hit right handed pitching. This is a small step in the right direction. Snow has no future on this team.
Grissom has already been replaced by Ellison. They have said that they will not recall Todd Linden from Fresno, despite the very good year he is having, because they wish him to play regularly in anticipation of bringing him up next year. Alou also said that Linden would remain in Fresno because bringing him up would require removing an outfielder from the roster. There is an answer to that. Grissom has already, for all intents and purposes, been removed. Thank him for his past efforts on behalf of the club, pay him off, and wish him well.

This would not provide Linden with the playing time they would like him to have. This raises the Alfonzo/Feliz issue.
There was a story the other day in the Chronicle that there was a rumor that the Mets were interested in Alfonzo. This appears to be wishful thinking of the highest order. The Mets have a young third baseman who hits over three hundred with power. Alfonzo, to date, has hit two home runs. Parenthetically, Snow has also hit two home runs, to date. These are the power positions in the infield. Any wonder the team has it’s present record?

Alfonzo should be a thing of the past. He has a contract which runs through 2006. If the only way to trade him is to pick up a piece of his eight million dollar deal for 2006 so be it. Bite the bullet. Play Feliz at third. It is still an uncertainty whether Feliz, as an every day player, will hit well enough. He needs to be a much more disciplined hitter than he has shown. He has performed well enough,however, to deserve the chance.

This would open up an outfield position for Linden. Assuming Bonds returns and plays with customary skill, they are playing two forty year olds, Alou and Bonds. Linden can get plenty of playing time while one or another of the ancients rests.

Grissom, Snow, Alfonzo (it is to be hoped), and lastly Rueter
should be gone. Vizquel and Alou can play out their contracts. Even at their well respected ages they are talented enough to be productive until retirement becomes inevitable.

All of the above can be accomplished without much difficulty, with the exception of the Alfonzo situation. One Alfonzo option, if it comes to that, is simply release him and pay the price a bad signing decision demands.

This returns us to the pitching problems. For the sake of discussion, assume that Benitez returns. Assume, further, that he is an effective closer. The team needs two starters in addition to Schmidt, Tomko and Lowry. The latter three require further assumptions, namely, that Schmidt returns to his former prominence and that Tomko and Lowry are winners. If any of the above assumptions are ill-warranted there will be additional difficulties which have to be met.

The bullpen is a work in transition. Is Hawkins a set-up man who can be depended on? There is nothing in his performance this year which should lead to an optimistic answer. Walker may be capable of filling that spot if the need arises. Eyre should be retained. Munter and Taschner are relative unknowns. There is no way to predict what the bullpen will look like at the start of 2006. Sabean has his task set out for him.

It is probably unrealistic to expect each of the uncertainties noted to be sucessfully overcome. The year 2006 may be a year in transition; year 2007 may be the year to look forward to. The big unknown is the free agency market this coming winter. How many, if any, franchise players are going to be available. If available, are the Giants willing to pay the price, having in mind that Bonds money must soon come to an end?

One final thought. The Giants are a club with diverse minority interest comprising the ownership. This places them at a significant disadvantage in today’s baseball world.
Whatever one thinks of Steinbrenner, for example, this is a man with a single-minded desire to win at all costs and the means to accomplish this end. There are more than a few such owners. In competing for franchise players, or even lesser lights, the Giants may not be in a financial position to meet demands which the Steinbrenners do not think twice about. This should reinforce the acceptance of the need to develop a farm system which is capable of producing young players who can succeed at the majors’ level. It is encouraging that the team has, in Niekro and Ellison, brought up two players who may make an impact on the team’s fortunes. It has been a long time since that could be said.

The team may be more interesting to watch in coming days.
With the pitching problems, however, it is unlikely that they are going to be winning much of the time. Over the next sixteen days, however, they may be capable of winning more than twice. That is something to look forward to, although there was a certain bizarre attraction in watching the disaster unfold.



1 marty { 06.13.05 at 1:07 pm }

I saw most of the Giants games this week. They were never in any of the losses because the starting pitching put them in a hole virtually from the first inning.
The changes made today are merely cosmetic. Foppert may give them some additional innings but what I saw from him in Arizona in March was hardly encouraging. Alfonzo most likely will go on the DL, he pulled up halfway down the line yesterday and looks injured.
Feliz will move to third and more than likely Linden is coming up. Linden has a long swing and probably won’t be the long range answer for the team.
There can’t be any dramatic moves with this team until you know the status of Bonds and that won’t be known for at least another month.
Durham should be the one shopped, not a healthy Alfonzo if you have the choice. Alfonzo is hitting over .300 and would be fine if Bonds was in the lineup.
The rumor yesterday at the park was Alfonzo to the Mets for Ishii and/or Matsui.
I’d worry about Schmidt because the 5 mph drop in velocity suggests only one thing: he’s hurting.
Not much can happen for the Giants until you know if BB will play and at what level and when. Until then all these peripheral moves are nice to see, but not season saving.

2 Anonymous { 06.13.05 at 1:52 pm }

Marty; No one expects anything this year. They must make some productive moves this winter or else next year is not going to be much fun. Where do the Mets intend to play Alfonzo? His BA is misleading, at best. Bonds is the 600 pound gorilla. They have to make moves having in mind that Bonds, at best, won’t be around much longer. And without major pitching changes, the presence of Bonds or anyone else won’t matter.

3 marty { 06.13.05 at 2:28 pm }

If Alfonzo would agree to play second then perhaps the Matsui deal makes sense for NY. The Giants could then move Durham back to the AL where he could DH. If Alfonzo insisted on playing third, then the Mets couild have him split time with second year player David Wright who is killing them with his glove. You can’t win in Shea without pitching and defense and Alfonzo could help them at third late in the game.

4 Anonymous { 06.13.05 at 5:35 pm }

Marty; Eight million dollars for a part time player is a lot of dough; and how about next year’s salary? The Giants might be willing to pick up a piece of this year’s but Alfonzo is simply too expensive for everyone. Wright has problems in the field but this doesn’t sound like a solution. Ed

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