Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Alou, Manager of the Year, Don't Be Surprised by Ed Stern

Marty, It is difficult to write about this team without returning constantly to the same observations which have been made over and over again this year. Nothing is new, a similar discontent, from a fan’s viewpoint, gets repeated until the refrain becomes tiresome.

Going out to the ballpark, watching the games on the tube, is anything but enjoyable. Seeing a team blow three and four run leads in the late innings, with a remarkable consistency, is maddening. Watching hitters, with runners in scoring position, hitting into double plays with greater regularity than any other team, irrespective of how good or bad that other team may be, is disheartening.

Click below for Ed’s Analysis!

It doesn’t start with the twenty five players on the roster. It starts with management. It starts with a general manager who has provided us with the sight of a closer pitching for a team in the American League who, in all likelihood will be acclaimed at the end of the year, as the preeminent closer in baseball. This is a pitcher whose promise was sadly underestimated by Sabean when he offered him to the Twins during the off season. This is the pitcher whose typical performance, in game after game this year, reads in the box score, as it did yesterday, eighteen pitches thrown in the ninth inning, three strikeouts.

Not to overlook last year’s twenty two game winner, pitching for Atlanta, and a likely winner of something in the neighborhood of twenty wins this year. A pitcher who was once a productive Giants starter and was then given away to the other team with no value received in exchange.

This, from the general manager of a team, the Giants, which is in the direst of straits for pitching help. A team with no closer and no prospect of getting one in the foreseeable future. Closers come up through the ranks. The Giants ranks are pitiable. A recent survey of the farm systems of all thirty teams, rated the Giants dead last among the thirty. This the work of a general manager of a team which is starting a pitcher today who has recently started one game in the majors, lasted four innings, wasn’t on the forty man roster at the beginning of the year. A team relying as it’s number two starter, with the team two games or so from the wild card lead, on a rookie recently up from Fresno, who has started two games, admittedly pitching well, but not yet Juan Marichal.

Why then,is this team in contention for the playoffs? It may simply be the result of the general condition of baseball these days. Some call it parity. There are more than a few teams still with a chance to continue playing in October. The Giants are one of them.

There are a few success stories on the team.

The best starting pitcher, probably in all of baseball and certainly in the National League, is Schmidt. Mulder, the leader in the American League, has won as many games, but his ERA is 3.49 as compared with Schmidt’s ERA of 2.59. Alou, this morning, is quoted comparing Schmidt to Marichal. Alou knew Marichal. He played on the same team. He pointed out that when Marichal was pitching the team was confident that it was going to be a winning effort. The same feeling exists when Schmidt is the pitcher.

The Giants are a team which seldom presents the same starting lineup day after day. Alou is the manager who takes this disparate bunch of players and manages to put together a lineup which meets the particular needs of the immediate game. The players who will be starting are not known until Alou submits tha latest lineup. The position in the batting order, with exceptions such as Bonds and Durham, is not known until game time.

Somehow, Alou has kept the team only two games or so from leading the race for the wild card.

Bonds, it goes without saying, is one of the success stories. He continues to bedevil every team he faces. He affects the outcome of every game, whether they give him a chance to hit or not. He will probably lead the league in hitting this year. He continues to hit more home runs per opportunity than any other player. When they walk him he ends up scoring and changing the pattern of the game.

Snow is another. Since coming off the DL he has become an exceedingly productive hitter. He has brought his batting average over .300. He is driving in runs. He is getting on base, waiting patiently for the right pitch and getting more than his share of walks. This is a player who seemed until recently to be on the slipperly slope towards retirement. He has never hit as well as he is hitting today. He certainly hasn’t hit nearly as well any time in the past three or four years.

Tucker is a player who seems to be coming into his own. In recent days he has been hitting with power. He has brought his average up to a respectable .284 and may be on his way to a .300 season. He is one of the few players on the team with any speed on the bases. He is playing a decent right field, in the toughest right field in baseball.

There are some less than successful performances, particularly in the pitching department. The hitters apparently have solved the mystery attending Rueter’s previous efforts. He has always thrown junk. It has forever been a puzzle to many observers how he has managed to get away with it. Manage he has, until last year and certainly this year, although his actual success in the past has been overrated. He has never been a pitcher who could be counted on to give you more than five innings of relatively decent pitching. Today he can’t be expected to achieve even that limited role.

The bullpen, collectively, has been and continues to be a disasater. Going into the 8th inning with a four run lead does not guarantee the outcome. It has been a painful experience to watch them take a typical fine outing by Schmidt, over seven innings, and turn it into a discouraging loss. The team’s hitting, even with the dismal record of stranding runners and hitting into double plays, still manages to score enough runs to win games which are then lost through pitching ineptitude. When this happens repeatedly, as it does with this team, it cannot but have a demoralizing effect on the rest of the team.

Alou’s ability to keep this team as close as they are should bring him the manager of the year award. Too bad that Sabean is not likely to repeat his general manager of the year prize.



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