Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

The Giants in the Playoffs? Start dreaming again.

Marty; Ten days ago, it was written here that one should stop dreaming about this season, the team was fifteen games under five hundred, and thinking about next year’s possibilities was the single comfort left for Giants fans as a result of this year’s miseries.

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Re-reading the article in which these words of wisdom were uttered, there didn’t seem to be very much wrong with it’s analysis of the club and it’s prospects for the coming year. It was the height of realism, or so it seemed on August 25th, to conclude that “it is past time to stop dreaming about the chances of the Giants competing in the playoffs.”

What has changed in these ten days? A simple question which calls for a simple answer. The team has started to win ball games. They have won eight of the past ten, the last six in a row. Instead of fifteen games under five hundred, they now are ten under. They still play in the worst division in the game, a division in which it’s playoff representative may very likely have lost more games than it had won during the season.

The more pertinent question is, why are they winning now when they couldn’t win before. The immediate answer is that the youth movement, in the pitching staff, began to pay off. In the past month the team has had the best ERA in the league. Their hitting hasn’t improved significantly. Winn, though, has been a major factor in the late success. Durham has remained healthy and, when healthy, he hits well enough to hit behind and protect Alou (although yesterday he may have, once again, pulled a hamstring), but, overall, the hitting, with the exception of Winn and Durham, hasn’t been a major contributor.

The pitching has benefited markedly with the return of Benitez. It has also benefited from the release of Rueter and Christiansen. It is noteworthy that, at a time when a half dozen or so teams are fighting for a playoff spot, no team thinks enough of Rueter to make him an offer. Lowry continues to be the most pleasing surprise of the Giants’ year. He has developed into an outstanding young pitcher. He may very well have supplanted Schmidt as the number one pitcher on the team.

Matt Cain has finally made his major league debut. Two games doesn’t turn a twenty year old into an established performer but it is heartening that, after all the anticipation his minor league experiences provoked, he has done nothing to disabuse any of those observers who were predicting a great future for him.

Hennessey and Correia are works in progress but they continue to pitch into late innings, although Correia has what is described as a minor arm problem at the moment. It will be interesting to see what Tomko does, starting in Correia’s place tonight, against the Dodgers.

The bullpen has been stabilized. Eyre has had and continues to have a great year. He has established himself as one of the best left handed relievers around, one the Giants should certainly be retaining next year, even in the face of what will be fierce competition for his sevices. Hawkins has pitched well, for the most part. Munter has returned from the DL. The young pitchers, brought up from Fresno recently, Taschner and Accordo, are promising talents.

They are only five games behind San Diego, which isn’t one of the greatest teams around. They have gained three games on the Padres in the past ten days. They have seven games left with them, four of those games scheduled near the very end of the season. We may be seeing two teams with losing records fighting it out for a playoff spot.

The Giants have momentum right now. September is the time winning teams make their move. The Giants may fit that description.

It is certain to be noted that no mention, to this point, has been made of Bonds belated appearance on the field during batting practice. The role. if any, which Bonds may play in the late season surge, defies prediction. One gets the feeling that the team would have been just as happy if Bonds delayed his appearance until the 2006 spring training. Things are going well for them right now. How much of a divisive force Bonds is in the locker room is unknown. There was an unpleasant, unverified, report in the morning press of an altercation between Bonds and a pitcher, no longer on the club. If true, it is well known that such an occurence would not come as a great surprise.

It is unquestionable that Bonds, performing at the level of 2004, would be a tremendous help and perhaps the determining factor in the team’s success. Without Bonds performing at that level, it is unlikely they will make an impact in the playoffs, assuming they get that far. It is probably unrealistic, however, to think of Bonds in 2004 terms. He hasn’t played in a year. He is a year older and a year slower, even if healthy. He may no longer be a National League player, although, as late as yesterday, he insists he is.

What all this adds up to is that the Giants’ season has finally become an entertaining one. The entertainment may end quickly,with a thud. If it doesn’t, it will be most welcome. There hasn’t been much delight in watching them play, up to now.

A few digressions. The Cubs are coming to town for four days. Dusty is always welcome. There may be an added interest in one of those games, if Jerome Williams pitches. He has had two outstanding performance in his last three starts. Despite Hawkins work in the bullpen, this may be one of those trades to be regretted.

Along similar lines, a story in the New York Times a few days ago mentioned that a couple of “afterthoughts” in the Joe Nathan deal were two young pitchers, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. The Giants, in their eagerness to acquire a catcher who lasted with them one year, felt compelled to sweeten the Nathan deal by including these youngsters.

Bonser leads the International League AAA with 161 strikeouts. Liriano has been called up by the Twins. Liriano is a twenty-one year old left hander, brought up to Class AAA Rochester in June, went nine and two with an ERA of 1.78, 112 strikeouts and 24 walks, in 91 innings. He was the International League’s Rookie of the year. The Twins have refused to include him in any trade talks. The Giants may not have heard the end of that Nathan deal.

What were the odds a month ago on the Giants making the playoffs and the A’s being left out? Of course, the A’s have to fight off the Yankees, the Giants have the Padres to deal with.That may account for the difference.



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