Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Rambling on about the 2006 Giants by Ed Stern

Marty: The season is only a few short weeks away. It is time to check in with you, to ramble on about the Giants and how they look for the coming one hundred and sixty two games. When I started thinking about the makeup of this club, I realized that Sabean had put together an intriguing collection of ancient, over the hill, ball players.

Ed’s fans have been waiting patiently for his award winning analysis of the Giants. Welcome to the 2006 NL West. Thanks Ed.


We have known for some time that Sabean has an affection for aging players. He had been successful, until last year, in keeping the club in playoff contention by signing veteran players to fill gaping holes, from year to year. One could glance at the roster of position players, attempt to find one or two youngsters trained in the farm system, to no avail. Young pitchers, showing promise, were nurtured and used for bait. They were exchanged for veteran players. For the most part, the decisions Sabean made, respecting the pitchers he was willing to part with, have not yet come back to haunt him. (Let’s not mention Joe Nathan)

The team Sabean will be fielding this year, however, will include four men each of whom has been an all-star, one of the four, Bonds, a first round Hall of Famer, a second one, Vizquel, a probable inductee into the Hall. Alou and Finley, while not likely choices for the Hall of Fame, have each been outstanding players who have played leading roles for years on a number of teams.

It was mentioned above that these are over-the hill players. That is true. These players have seen their best years. If they can stay reasonably healthy, however, over the hill or not, these are class acts. Bonds may not be capable of doing much more than walk, not run, to left field. He will still dominate the game when he is in the lineup. Before steroid became a curse word, Bonds was a Hall of Fame player, the winner of numerous Gold Gloves and MVP awards. It is unfortunate, for his sake and the game’s, that he was unwilling to let well enough alone, but felt the need to enhance his obvious talent.

Vizquel, last year, was the best shortstop the Giants have fielded in years, possibly the best ever. Finley and Alou, assuming good health, remain formidable talents. Bonds, Vizquel, Alou and Finley, playing together, will be a sight to make a fan who delights in watching great athletes playing the most difficult game in the world, forget, for a few hours, the sorry state of that world.

One might contend that this has been a lengthy digression from from what started out as a word or two about the chances for the Giants this season. It was tough to resist talking about the old folk and, perhaps, it hasn’t been such a digression. Going on forty or not, it won’t take much of a supporting staff, to make this the most interesting team, certainly in the division and possibly the league.

There are two problem positions, at the corners. Feliz has yet to show that he can hit consistently, with power. He is an ineffective two strike hitter, the inevitable consequence of failing to recognize where the strike zone begins and ends. Niekro may be able to hit right handed pitching but it still remains to be proven. Durham and Winn are among the best players at second and center field. They field the positions well, have shown they can hit and provide some welcome speed. There may be a problem with the bottom of the batting order. As now projected, Feliz, Niekro and Matheny, followed by the pitcher, are not going to strike fear in the heart of most pitchers. There isn’t a left handed hitter among the three hitting in front of the pitching spot.

Matheny may not hit much more than .250, but he does consistently come up with hits when runners are in scoring position. He is a strong .250 hitter. Coupled with this, is the fact that this is the best defensive catcher in the league, widely accepted as the best handler of a pitching staff.

This leaves us with a consideration of the pitching staff. This adds to the intrigue. This may be the best starting rotation the Giants have had since the days of Juan Marichal. Schmidt and Morris have been around long enough to establish themselves as among the best starting pitchers in the league—if healthy. Lowry has been up for almost two years and has shown that he can win at this level. Matt Cain is the more interesting story. The Giants have brought him up through their farm system, turning away every overture other teams have made. Thay are thinking of Cain as this decade’s Marichal. In the short time he spent with them last year, he didn’t disabuse them of this prediction.

There is no certainty that Lowry and Cain will come through in 2006 with strong performances. Nevertheless, the optimism is not unfounded. If they do, the aged foursome will have a strong supporting staff. The bullpen, assuming Benitez is of good health, has a combination of proven effective performers, Worrell, (last year’s Philadelphia problems notwithstanding), Kline, Munter,Taschner, and a few strong young arms to draw on.

A few closing words about the four ancients. There may be a circus atmosphere surrounding Bonds and the team. It is doubtful that Alou, Finley and Vizquel are going to get carried away with all the hoopla. If the team was to keep it’s sanity this year, it couldn’t have done better than to surround Bonds and the media with the proven, no nonsense skills of the other three. They have been around for a long time. If anyone can take it in stride, they should be able to do so. They may not be overly impressed with the two lockers, the reclining chair, the two personal trainers and the insufferable arrogance of the left fielder.

In addition, their manager is undoubtedly the best choice to remain calm and undisturbed by the cameras. He will continue to call on three or four pitchers to get him through one late inning, hoping that the game won’t go more than nine.

See you at the game. This season may be a blast.



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