Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Mid-year; Any Hope for the Giants? by Ed Stern

Marty; One half of the season has been played. It has been an unhappy, miserable experience for the Giants. They are playing in what is probably the worst division in baseball, are nine losing games out of first and have three clubs in front of them, Looking forward to a significantly better second half might be an exercise in futility.

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In examining whether there is any reason to hope for meaningful progress the remainder of the year one must first focus on the pitching. The starting rotation has consistently been rewarding the faithful with the worst ERA in the league. Pitchers have been travelling up and down between SF and Fresno in the attempt to find a couple of starters. Late developments give some reason for optimism, that in Hennessey and Correia they have come up with starters to round out the rotation of Lowry, Tomko and Schmidt.

With respect to the these three, Schmidt may be rounding into something approaching his better years; Tomko had a great second half in 2004 and it is not a foregone conclusion that he won’t come close to duplicating that performance in 2005; Lowry had a great game against the best team in the league yesterday. He overcame a brutal second inning and closed out the Cards for the remainder of the seven innings he pitched. The second inning problems were not of his making.

The bright spot in the pitching outlook is the bullpen. Walker gives promise of developing into a closer who can actually save a one run lead in the ninth inning. Munter is the most welcome surprise the team has had to date. Alou relies on him to pitch effectively in the late innings and he has come through almost without a mishap. He fits the description of a pitcher who doesn’t put men on base without the benefit of a hit, he throws a heavy ball which he keeps low and induces the ground ball one looks for late in the game.

Eyre has been consistently effective all year. They have been pitching him too often. At some point he will tire. When Benitez returns there may be an opportunity to rest him, with Walker taking over a set-up role. Hawkins may put to rest the reputation he deservedly achieved in Chicago. He may not be worth having given up on Williams but at least some benefit will have been received from that trade. An absolute necessity is keeping Rueter out of the roation. The day he reclaims his spot is the day the Giants have given up on this season.

Assuming the best for the pitching, an assumption that takes some courage, one must then look at the outfield. This is not a pretty picture. Alou, Ellison, Tucker and Sanchez are the outfield which this season has produced more errors than any outfield in the major leagues. They have more errors to date than the outfield laid claim to all of last year. Sanchez’ outfield performance yesterday gave proof that the many clubs who have previously given up on him because of his fielding inadequasies didn’t release him without reason.

Ellison is a decent enough outfielder but he will never make anyone confuse him with Mantle, Mays or any center fielder who hits with the authority a center fielder should command.
This outfield needs at least one and possibly two players who deserve respect. Alou has done everything one expected of him and clearly wants to help his dad put a winning team on the field. However one slices it, this doesn’t leave one with the impression that this club is going to make a move towards the playoffs.

The infield has it’s share of problems. More was expected of Feliz. Now that he has been playing regularly at third base, the thinking was that his hitting would improve. He has always had difficulty in establishing a consistent strike zone. If anything, this difficulty has increased rather than diminshed. Niekro is the future, Snow the past. Niekro should be playing irrespective of whether the pitcher is throwing left or right handed. A short while back that was Alou’s announced position but he soon gave way. Durham has been mentioned in trade possiblities, repeatedly, because he can hit. His fielding leaves open the question whether he would be more attractive to a club which doesn’t play the traditional game with nine rather than ten players. The Giants should hang on to him in any event. They don’t have a second baseman in their system who can do the job. His fielding isn’t that harmful. His hitting compensates to a great extent.

Vizquel is a delight to watch, even at his advanced years. He is the consummate pro, in the field and at bat. They will need him next year.

This leaves us with the great unknown, Barry Bonds. We have been given no reason to form an opinion respecting whether he will return this year. If this team isn’t in the running for a playoff berth later in the year, which is the likelihood, Bonds should take the rest of the season off, recover from his three surgeries to as great an extent as is possible and come to spring training in as good shape as the old bones will permit.

If the prospects as outlined above do not appear promising, should one tune out the remainder of 2005? Not if the Giants are playing people such as Niekro, Correia, Hennessey, and possibly additions such as Cain. The future is in young players. This has it’s own interest.

The Cardinals, the best team in the league, has had more than it’s share of injuries this year. They have stocked their roster with ten rookies who are producing for them. This is the way in which a team maintains a winning effort year after year. Do not depend upon picking up veteran players, past their prime. Every once in a while, a team such as the Cards will be able to grab the chance to pick up an outstanding player, i.e. right fielder Walker. At a time when the Giants were in desperate need of a heavy hitting, good fielding right fielder such as Walker, the Giants made no move to acquire him. They were beset with ancient players, in their judgement drawing too heavy a salary to allow them to compete with the Cards for Walker.

What all of the above comes down to, is that the Giants will, in all probabability, not be competing meaningfully for a playoff spot this year. However, if management handles this properly, they could still be an entertaining team to watch, worthy of your trip to the park.

Be of stout heart. Don’t be a fair weather fan. See some ball games!



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