Before I get busy looking at the playoffs, I thought I’d look at the Giants.
First thing to talk about is who will be the new manager.
…. Candidates are expected to include longtime major-league manager Lou Piniella, former Giants catcher and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly, Angels pitching coach and former Giants pitcher Bud Black, longtime Giants bench coach Ron Wotus and perhaps former manager Dusty Baker, if some burned bridges can be reconstructed.
Ron Wotus, Alou’s bench coach, will probably get the longest look, and I’d like to suggest they also look at Rags, who’s value as a pitching coach should certainly have come into question these last two seasons. His value as a company man, and his recognized ability to reach today’s player would seem to suggest the possibility of moving in a different direction.
Here’s my dark horse, (or more accurately, the man I’d most like to see take the reins), Joe Girardi. Championship player, worked under Torre a couple of seasons on the bench, took a team of nobodies as far as Alou was able to take Sabean’s “veterans.” All in all, almost certainly the best man for the job. And Sabean’s got some NY Yankee connections. I nailed it with Alou four years ago, maybe I can be right again.
As for Alou, in some ways, he did as well as he could with what he was handed. Except for the AJ “cancer” story, you never heard any bullshit from the clubhouse, backstabbing, crap like that. There have been several instances where the team has been demoralized, destroyed, or derailed. He has managed to get them back on track, rebounding like the pros they are supposed to be. This is a very important aspect of the job, and he was very good at it.
On the other hand, his handling of pitchers was pretty much as expected; which is to say, abysmal. It’s hard to know which mistake was worse; when he would leave the starters in for an extra 20 or 30 high stress pitches, or when he would use four relievers to get three outs five nights in a row. Either way, a substantial portion of the failures of the pitching staff must fall on his shoulders. There is no doubt that this was his biggest weakness, and, disappointingly, it was never really mentioned by the local press, or more importantly, the Giants brain trust. In point of fact, Sabean’s blind faith in Alou’s judgement on the use of his pitchers has to rank as one of the biggest mistakes on his shoulders.
As for the pitchers, who do we single out as a failure this season? Morris? Schmidt? Lowry, one reliever after another? I say no. As I’ve said before, there is not one Giants player that could have reasonably been expected to have performed any better than they did. If you accept the premise that Rags and Alou failed as coaches and managers, then you cannot come down on Lowry, Schmidt, Benitez, Morris, and whichever reliever you’re looking at. Many, many times, I questioned Alou’s decision to allow Schmidt to go over 120 pitches, or to let Lowry come out for the seventh, or to take out a pitcher who was cruising along to bring in a situation replacement. I believe Alou is the primary reason the pitchers were so inconsistent and, so often horrible. Morris struggled in the first inning all season long. How come no one in management could figure out a way around that?
Just look at the last two weeks. When we got to crunch time, there was nothing in the tank for virtually the entire pitching staff. Why is that? Whose fault is that?
Offensively, there’s nothing for me to say that I haven’t said a hundred times; we got exactly what we should have expected. Bonds hit 26 home runs, Durham had his best year as a Giant, while Winn balanced him out by regressing to, umm, a Winn-like level. We got nothing from first base, we got about a thousand outs from third, Alfonzo was a revelation filling in for Matheny, Vizquel continued to defy his age, Moises was hurt all year…. I mean, no one in their right mind could have thought that this team would have scored more runs than they did.
.500 team, give or take? You bet. Contender? Absurd, from minute one.