Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

A Better Team; but we still wait to hear from Barry by Ed Stern

Marty; The morning paper brings us the news that the Giants exchanged Alfonzo for Finley. Yesterday we learned that the Yankees had signed Damon, to play center field and lead off, for four years, at thirteen million a year. The Yankees were competitive without Damon; by solving their center field problem they may have a lock on their division. The Giants improved simply by ridding themselves of Alfonzo. The addition of Finley cannot hurt. There may be a certain symbiosis accompanying these respective transactions.

Click below for more of Ed’s thoughts on the Giants.

While the Giants are certainly not among the increasing number of teams doomed to failure because of inadequate resources, no consideration will ever be given to the possibility that they could compete with the Yankees for the services of a player with the proven ability of a Damon. The Red Sox, for instance, were incapable of meeting the Yankees challenge. It is becoming more and more evident that baseball’s structure today will lead to greater disparity among the teams. The Yankees and Mets, with their TV income, have small concern respecting their payrolls. It is worthy of note that the Yankees, as a result of their exorbitant salaries, will pay a payroll tax of some forty million dollars. This doesn’t seem to cause Steinbrenner any loss of sleep. The Dodgers may be on their way to become a member of this exclusive club.

Of more immediate interest, with the addition of Matt Morris and the Alfonzo/Finley deal, are the Giants competitive in their division? Can they compete with the Dodgers who, with apparent abandon, are picking up first rate talent. They have added Furcal to play shortstop, Garciaparra to play first base, Mueller at third. When Izturis returns in mid-year, it is likely he will be moved to second, with Kent taking over at first. Garciaparra will become the most expensive utility man in the game.

With the removal of Alfonzo, finally and long overdue, from the Giants infield mix, we now know that Feliz will be the third baseman. Whether he will develop the discipline, at bat, necessary to develop into a consistent threat is open to considerable question. Niekro will be given a chance to show he can hit both left and right handed big league pitchers. Holding one’s breath would not be a good idea. If Niekro cannot make it, we are confronted with the thought of Sweeney, holding down first base. Not a pleasant thought. Durham and Vizquel will be at second and shortstop respectively. This doesn’t begin to measure up to the Dodger infield.

The Dodgers have added Lofton to their outfield.
Lofton is a jouneyman ball player. Gagne, if healthy, Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, and Derek Lowe are the nucleus of a decent pitching staff.

The pursestrings have been opened up for Colletti. He has taken advantage of it. This has to be the division’s favored team going into spring training.

If nothing else, the Giants are going to offer a scenario which might someday be turned into the unlikely tale of a bunch of ancients successfully holding off the younger generations. With the addition of Finley, forty-one years old,
joining the forty-one year old Bonds and the thirty-nine year old Alou, this is the oldest outfield, by far, which one can ever recall playing for a team with no pretensions to compete, much less one, such as the Giants, hoping to get a shot at the playoffs.

Winn, in center, at thirty-one, is the youngster. The Giants are letting it be known that if they get one-hundred and twenty games from both Alou and Bonds they will be satisfied. Finley, under those circumstances, will be playing enough to keep him happy. He,too, has his share of health issues to deal with. He claims to be in good shape today, recovered from the shoulder injury which bedeviled him last year. If so, he may end up in center with Winn taking over for either Bonds or Alou.

This brings us, inevitably, to the Barry Bonds story. If Bonds is close to the player he was two years ago, even with the uncertainties in the infield, not knowing whether they have a first baseman or a third baseman who can cut it, not knowing whether Vizquel has yet another year of outstanding fielding left in him, but with a pitching staff which has decided potential, this team could be hard to beat.

We do not know, however, which Bonds is going to be playing. If it is the player who couldn’t run, who limped off the field at the end of each inning during the handful of games he played at year’s end, they are destined to watch LA take over. A healthy Bonds makes an enormous difference. A healthy Bonds dominates each game in which he plays. His value cannot be exaggerated. The team will be as successful as Bonds health permits. It is doubtful though, if even management is aware today, whether Bonds has been successful in overcoming his three surgeries.

Assuming Bonds is capable of playing one hundred and twenty games in respectable shape, the pitching becomes the bellwether of the club. This is a management which over the years gave little or no consideration to the development of young position players. This is the reason for the aged outfield of this and all recent years. There are few, if any, teams, good or bad, which cannot show at least a few young position players who are a joy to watch. If you get pleasure from watching forty year olds cavorting in the outfield then the Giants are your team.

The Giants have, however, devoted themselves to the development of young pitchers. They have used them, in great part, to obtain the veteran players who have dominated their roster. In doing so they have, on occasion, seriously misread the ability of a pitcher they allowed to get away. The one who comes immediately to mind, of course, is Joe Nathan, one of the premier closers in the game. For the most part, though, they have not been hurt by those they have disposed of.

On their staff today are two young pitchers, Lowry and Cain, who, in combination with Schmidt and Morris, may constitute an outstanding rotation. The fifth starter is still unknown, Sabean apparently looking to the present roster to come up with a name. Schmidt and Morris have a greal deal in common. Originally hard throwing, they are, in their mature years, relying more on finesse than blowing the ball past the batter. They are, nevertheless, proven winning pitchers.

In the past two years Lowry has shown that he can win at this level. In a productive rotation, he is a third or fourth starter. He has shown that he can pitch well into the late innings. Given Alou’s propensity to lift his pitchers at the first sign of trouble, this can be of great value.

The pitcher who has yet to prove himself is Matt Cain. Cain pitched a few innings at the end of 2005. In those innings he did nothing to disabuse those who have been watching him progress through the farm system. They have nurtured him for three years, turning away every other team which has attempted to pry him loose. This is the pitcher of the future, as far as they are concerned, the pitcher around whom the team will be built in years to come. He throws 95 miles per hour, he can put the ball exactly where he intends it to end up, he can throw a huge curve for strikes, on any count. He is not afraid to throw inside. It may not take him more than this coming season to develop into the number one pitcher on the staff.

There remain uncertainties in the bullpen. A healthy Benitez
is, in the main, a reliable closer. He has problems which surface occasionally in key games, but he will save more than forty games over the year. The rest of the bullpen is still a work in progress, difficult to evaluate at this early stage.

Although predictions are treacherous this early, one may take one’s courage in hand and conclude that this is a better team than the one which ended the 2005 season. Morris makes a big difference. Getting rid of Alfonzo helps.

We still must hear from Barry.



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